Sunday, 20 May 2012

Edinburgh CakeFest

This week cousin Helen and I went on a day trip to Edinburgh to see how much food we could cram into our faces before the 9pm train home.

We started at the legendary Hendersons which has been serving vegetarian food in Edinburgh for nearly 50 years. I I had vegan haggis and clapshot, a word that I’d never heard before and which means neeps and tatties. It was delicious and had a taste like Christmas. It was probably a mistake to fill up so heartily so early in the day, but it’s a mistake I’d gladly make again.

I’d asked Twitter carefully researched the best Edinburgh cake shops and it turned out that several were within staggering distance of each other in Morningside, a short bus ride on the number 11, 15 or 16 from the city centre. I’m slightly scared of Edinburgh buses with their exact money only tickets and the grumpiest drivers in the world, but the chap who cheerily dropped us off on Bruntsfield Place was the epitome of charm (to restore balance, the driver on the way home had a face like a bucket of shit).

We started at The Chocolate Tree, an artisan chocolatier and cafe with a slightly hippyish twist. They sell chocolates, chocolate cakes and tarts, ice cream, tea, coffee and hot chocolate, offering vegan and gluten free treats as well.

I had a hazelnut chocolate tart, Helen went for pear and chocolate and a huge mug of hot chocolate. Both were absolutely delicious.

A lady on Twitter alerted me to their dark chocolate sea salt caramel, vouching that after extensive research it was the best she’d ever had. It was amazingly rich. My dad, a northern man not given to over-enthusing, tried some and burst out “oh God this is gorgeous!’ The bar breaks up into a sticky mess like a large After Eight, so it’s a bit tricky to share. But who’d want to share? Certainly not my dad. Next time I looked at the plate the chocolate was gone.
Next on the list was Falko, a Konditormeister or master pastry chef bringing his passion for traditional German and Austrian baking to Edinburgh. There are a lot of things Germans really excel at: cars, cakes, Christmas, comedy (heh) and the focus here is on taste and quality.
We were too full to eat more cake but we bought delicious raisin breads for breakfast.

We crossed the road to France and La Barantine. Look how French it is! They even had French radio on. I found out that pain au levain means sourdough (Who knew?! You did? Oh.) and bought one to take home.

We didn’t have time for Loopy Lorna’s or Elephant House or Patisserie Florentin but needed to leave some places to try next time and some room for dinner at Calistoga, a taste of California on a cold wet day. Oddly enough, we didn’t manage pudding...

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Pouring chocolate ganache

Recently I've become fixated with chocolate ganache. I don't know what it is about covering a cake with melted chocolate that is so much fun but I think it's got something to do with covering a cake with melted chocolate.

Here is the recipe - note that the quantity of chocolate varies on whether you're using dark, milk or white:

Dark chocolate (min 54% cocoa solids)
125g double cream, 30g liquid glucose, 175g chocolate

Milk chocolate (min 33% cocoa solids)
125g double cream, 30g liquid glucose, 250g chocolate

White chocolate (min 26% cocoa solids)
125g double cream, 30g liquid glucose, 300g chocolate

These quantities should be enough for an 8 inch round cake.

You can buy liquid glucose in the supermarket in the homebaking section, it looks like this

To make the ganache, break the chocolate into small pieces. Heat the cream and glucose to boiling point and pour it over the chocolate. Leave it for a minute to melt the chocolate, then stir well until you have a smooth, glossy mix. Allow it to cool for a couple of minutes and while it is still runny, pour it over the cake. It might need a helping hand with a palette knife to cover the sides completely.

I like to cover the cake first with marzipan but if you're one of those people who think marzipan is the food of the devil, you can use chocolate paste or just pour it straight onto the sponge.
I used honey flavoured chocolate on my dad's birthday cake.
The mix of honey, chocolate and almond tasted like a massive Toblerone bar.
I was so pleased with the honey-flavoured chocolate that I used it again on my cake for Clandestine Cake Club last week, which had the theme "a novel idea - inspired by a myth, fairytale, poem or story".
Lunchbox in John Lewis. I was not allowed to buy it as a) I don't eat packed lunches and b) I'm 39.
I took The Owl and the Pussycat as my inspiration because it mentions honey and it's a poem my dad used to recite to me a long time ago. It was the first single I ever bought on Blyth market, so cheap it didn't have a record sleeve. I made one myself and crayonned a picture. For a darker take on the same story, I'd recommend Stewart Lee's Pea Green Boat, available for purchase or download from the brilliant Go Faster Stripe
Honey cake from Marian Keyes' Saved by Cake; five pound note is printed on sugar by Eat Your Photo
If you'd like to try a dairy-free vegan chocolate ganache, use the dark chocolate recipe (make sure you have good quality milk-free chocolate) and substitute coconut milk for cream in the recipe above. The result is delicious - there is a slight taste of coconut under the blast of dark chocolate that I really like.
Vegan chocolate ganache
The chocolate ganache sets but remains tacky enough to hold decorations and not to crack when you move or cut the cake. It has a beautiful gloss and is useful for covering tricky shapes like numbers.  

If you have any ganache left over, you can make chocolate truffles: once the ganache has set, roll it into balls, chill them for half an hour in the fridge and roll them in something tasty like chopped nuts or cocoa powder. I hope this gives you as much pleasure as it gives me.