Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sandwich Cookies with Ganache: a Delicious Treat for Valentine!

For me baking is an act of love, something that fills me with joy and does good to my soul. As with any passion, you cannot keep what you are passionate about for yourself. Sharing your passion with others helps it to be more complete, after all sharing is caring, right? 

And now that Valentine is upon us, it´s a good excuse to bake and share the passion with the world. Of course, you don't need any excuse to bake but during  special occasions, especially one like this, you get more motivation to do so, especially if you intend to share your labor of love with that significant other whomever it may be.

Few days ago I discovered caramelized white chocolate, and of course I had to give a try. So I made a small jar following the recipe of David Lebovitz!

Initially I wanted  to make cookies with rose petals and rose water with white chocolate and pistachio ganache. However, after discovering the exquisite caramelized white chocolate I decided to make two cookie batches using this wonderful chocolate spread. This might seem complicated, however, the base cookie dough is the same to which you can add whatever extra flavor you want. Additionally, this dough is perfect if you wish to decorate the cookies for that extra effect.

Enough talking and let start baking:

For the dough you need:
  • 200 g butter at room temperature
  • 100 g powdered sugar (add more sugar if you just want plain cookies with no filling)
  • 1 egg (about 50 g) room temperature
  • 400 g of flour 
  • dash of salt

First, cream the butter and the sugar for a couple of minutes until the butter feels just light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat again for a couple of minutes until well incorporated.
Mix the salt and flour and add to incorporate to the wet mix. Don't over mix the dough, you just want it to come together.
Lightly flour a working surface and divide the dough.
To one half add a generous tsp of vanilla paste or extract and about 10 to 20 g of finely chopped white caramelized chocolate (you can use plain white chocolate instead).
To the other half add a tsp of ground rose petals (I ground them in a coffee grinder), and a tsp of rose water. Alternatively you can just add rose essence, but the rose petals give extra texture and color to the dough.

Knead each half of the dough gently to incorporate all the ingredients until the dough is no longer sticky. You may need to add a sprinkle of flour!

Leave the dough on the counter for few minutes, uncovered!

Place each batch of the dough between 2 baking papers and roll out. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or over night for best results.

Take the dough out and cut the cookies using the molds you like. I used several cutting molds including heart-shaped ones, after all it's Valentine! Refrigerate for an additional 30 min so that the cookies hold their shape while baking.

Bake the cookies in a preheated oven (180C) for 10 to 15 min. Baking time depends on the thickness and the size of the cookie! For cookies that I know I will decorate I opt for thicker base, around 6 mm is fine. For the sandwich cookies I make the base thinner, around 4 mm is perfect, and if you are feeling adventurous 3 mm.

For the caramelized white chocolate ganache you need:
  • 100 g caramelized white chocolate, chopped
  • 50 g cream (35% fat content)
  • tsp of vanilla essence or paste
On a gentle heat simmer the cream and then pour it over the caramelized white chocolate. Whisk until all the chocolate has melted then add the vanilla! The ganache is done.

For the pistachio ganache:
  • 100 g of white chocolate
  • 50 g cream
  • a tsp or 2 of pistachio paste (if you can´t find it, here is a link for a homemade recipe)
Follow the same steps described for the first ganache.

When the ganache has completely cooled you can sandwich the cookies together! Just put enough filling to cover three quarters of the base cookie, top with another cookie and press gently until the filling reaches the edges.

And if you are, like myself, a fan of cookie decoration, use your creative imagination to make something suitable for Valentine. Here's some of the cookies I decorated.

Remember, baking and cooking is an act of love. Enjoy baking, and Happy Valentine.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Caramel Celebration Cake!

I celebrated my birthday this week, and for the first time I have decided that I wanted to make my cake and not let anyone one buy it or make it. 

I wanted to develop a cake that is suitable for special occasions, that carries a wow factor and that is enjoyed by the people you hold the dearest to your heart.
For this I decided to use some of my favorite ingredients: chocolate and peanut butter!

I had a jar of peanut butter that I made a while ago and I used it to make the mini peanut butter cups that I used for the decoration for this cake. I don't have any issue with the ones you can find in the market, but strangely they're pretty hard to find in Madrid, although the normal larger sized-cups are available. I will make a future post on how to make mini chocolate peanut butter cups as they are easy to make and pretty delicious. 


The cake itself is not difficult to make but does require several steps. 

The ingredients presented below can be used to prepare a single cake or three thinner individual cakes. I opted for option one and used a 15 cm pan.

For the cake you need (serves 6 to 8):
  • 2 eggs at room temperature (abt 60 g each)
  • 50 g of unsalted butter and 50 g of peanut butter, melted together (over a gentle flame)
  • 100 g melted dark chocolate (I used chocolate with a minimum of 70% cocoa solids)
  • 130 g brown sugar (I used panela sugar, you can use castor sugar too)
  • 120 g flour
  • 5 g of baking power and 2 g of baking soda
  • 1 tbsp of bourbon or vanilla extract
  • 20 g cocoa powder
  • 125 g yogurt (or cream)
  • dash of salt 

For the sponge cake, first combine all the dry ingredient, mix well and set aside. Beat the eggs slowly start adding the sugar. Keep beating until the egg mixture doubles in volume and becomes rather thick, then add  the bourbon or the vanilla. 

Add the chocolate and mix at low speed. Pour the melted butter and peanut butter slowly and mix till well combined. 

Fold in the flour mixture using a spatula, then slowly mix the yogurt, again using a spatula.

Pour the mixture in the prepared (greased and lined with parchment paper) pan and bake for about 40 to 50 min in a preheated oven (180C).

For the buttercream frosting you need:
  • 115 g butter (room temperature)
  • 115 g peanut butter (room temperature)
  • 200 g of powdered sugar
  • tsp of vanilla extract
  • 2 to 3 tbsp of cream or milk
Combine the butters and sugar and start mixing at the lowest speed. This prevents making a mess in your kitchen. As the sugar is mixed into the butter, increase the speed until the mixture becomes lighter in color. Add the vanilla and the milk or cream. You can add more or less cream depending on the final texture you are looking for, but of course you want to use this cream for frosting so it shouldn't be runny! 

For the caramel you need
  • 75 g sugar
  • 30 g cold butter
  • 100 ml heavy cream
  • dash of salt
  • 1 tbsp of bourbon
Here you can find the steps you need to follow to make the caramel. Do note that for this specific caramel you don't need to add water. Once you add the cream add the bourbon and let the caramel simmer and stir every other while to make sure everything is combined!

Assembling the cake:
Cut the cake into 3 layers. Try to make the layes even, but if they aren't exactly the same thickness it's not a big issue. Brush each layer with a bit of caramel. Put a layer of the buttercream on the base layer of cake and top with the middle layer. Repeat the process with the middle layer. Frost the whole cake and decorate as you see fit.

As you can notice I covered the frosting with the bourbon caramel and the peanut cups I made. You can do the same or just serve the caramel with the cake, it's up to you! 

This decadent cake is surely a festive one and meant to be shared during special occasions. Try it next time you have a special day you want to celebrate and you will surely impress!