I thought I’d do something simple and fun this Halloween. Say hello to my chocolate bats! The process is fairly straightforward – pretty much the same method as the chocolate butterflies that I have made in the past with a different template and some flower wire. Also, the eyes of the bats are drawn in with toothpicks dipped in edible gold dust and vodka. If you’re desperate for a template – any template – to get started now, below is a scanned sheet of my roughly sketched bats and tree stump. I will eventually attempt to make a proper template but for now this will just have to do, internet people! I also tried out a new chocolate cake recipe which was amazing. The cake turned out extremely moist and dense with no grief in regards to technique or complex ingredients. Recipe from here. In terms of photography, I set up a black board on the dining table as below and took the photograph with a 60mm f2.8 lens. I hope you guys enjoyed this little project – I had fun making it. It’s been a while since I did anything fancy.
My current challenge is to clear out my pantry that’s bursting with ingredients that I have acquired over the years and the first item to go was almond meal.
I had a massive stockpile of almond meal because I went through a macaron phase at one point (from now on I’ll just buy them, thank you very much!)
Anyway, we had friends over for dinner a couple of weeks back and I decided to go for a flourless chocolate cake – recipe from here. The only difference is that I substituted the hazelnut meal with almond meal.
I have this bright idea of decorating my Christmas tree with edible objects every year. I decided on pretzel wreaths this year – simple, effective and long-lasting.
This isn’t a particularly original idea – I saw this on Pinterest a while ago but wanted to make my own and put my own spin on them. I used up my extra leaves and flowers from a different project and did some of the others with a variety of sprinkles.
Ingredients and Materials
Chocolate, melted (read how I melt chocolate the easy way)
Sprinkles or desired decorations
Watch the YouTube video I made below:
And here they are on my Christmas tree! I thoroughly enjoyed the process and I hope you did as well!
Guess what? I finally bought myself a camera after years of sponging off my housemate!
To celebrate the fact that it can record HD videos, I decided to make a chocolate butterfly tutorial. I have actually made a template for it in a previous post (Butterfly Chocolate Tart) but I figured this time I’d actually do a tutorial on it as well! You can probably tell I am quite the amateur (half the video was out of focus… oops!) but hopefully they get better as I go along.
The chocolate cakes were tasty – soft on the inside with a slightly crunchy texture on the outside. The addition ganache made everything taste even better – it always does!
Recipe as follows:
Mini Butterfly Chocolate Cakes
Chocolate Sponge Cake
Ingredients (makes 6 small cakes)
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup self raising flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/4 cup butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 160°C (fan-forced).
- Grease baking tin with cooking spray.
- Whisk egg and sugar together until light in colour and thickened in texture (3-5 minutes).
- Fold in flour and cocoa powder.
- Pour in butter and fold until incorporated.
- Place mixture into a piping bag and pipe into cupcake pan or mini bundt tins.
- Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cakes spring back when pressed.
30g dark chocolate
- Place chocolate and cream in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 20 seconds.
- Remove from microwave and stir. Repeat step 1 until mixture is smooth and shiny.
For this project, you will need a Butterfly Template (click on link to acquire).
Tips on how to melt chocolate easily also available if required.
Video tutorial link at the top of this page.
- Pour ganache over chocolate cakes.
- Place completed butterfly on cake.
Above is my photography set up for this project. It was a frantic race against the sunset and I have to say the good news about that is that I’m forced to take a photograph – any photograph – instead of wasting half an hour rearranging various things. The background is a very well worn baking sheet, which you will all be familiar with by now. The light is coming in from the right hand side of the photograph.
Lens: 60mm 2.8f
Photo editing: Lightroom 4
I’m actually getting very sick of my props but I just have not had the time to go and acquire more!
Am hoping to make more video tutorials from now on so if you are interested in that sort of a thing, subscribe to my YouTube channel. I’m pretty excited about it all.
So you made a batch of biscotti, attempted to bite into them and failed because they were rock hard.
Instead, you succeeded in breaking a tooth in the process and now you need to schedule an appointment with me. Or your local dentist. Yes – I am a dentist in real life. Of all the things in the world!
In case you’re shaking your head at the high sugar content of my blog posts in direct juxtaposition to my real life profession, it’s all good - looking at sugary food never hurt anyone. ;)
Anyway, I thought I’d share my favourite biscotti recipe that is crunchy but not tooth cracking-ly so. It is still nice and crispy but breaks up easily for effortless chewing. Also, it uses whole eggs, which means I am not left with a stray egg yolk wandering around aimlessly in the fridge for a week.
DISCLAIMER: If you do break a tooth eating these I am not liable – you probably needed a new filling anyway if that happened!
Double Chocolate Walnut Biscotti
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 cup self raising flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 160° Celcius (fan-forced).
- Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
- Add egg and beat until well combined.
- Stir in all other ingredients thoroughly, forming a stiff dough.
- Form dough into a log roughly 12 inches long and 2 inches wide and place on baking tray covered with a sheet of baking paper.
- Bake for 35 minutes.
- Remove from oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes. Wrap log in cling wrap and leave in freezer for a few hours, preferably overnight.
- Take frozen log out of freezer and slice with a serrated knife diagonally into preferred thickness.
- Arrange biscotti slices flat on baking trays and bake at the same oven settings for about 10-15 minutes, or until biscotti is crisp.
Note: This recipe makes a biscotti dough that does crumble a little more easily than other recipes – which may seem like a bit of a pain. However, it is well worth the effort for the texture and flavour of the end result!
Tips for Perfect Biscotti
Cream Butter And Sugar Really Well
This is essential because it is a major contributor to the non rock-hard texture I was talking about. To be honest with you, it was a good couple of months into baking before I truly understood what creaming entailed. I will be dedicating an entire post to this at some stage in the future but for today’s exercise, make sure the mixture has:
- lightened in colour – it will no longer be yellowish, but rather a light shade of well… cream.
- increased in volume
If it hasn’t done the above two things – keep on creaming. It’s still not there yet!
Ensure Space Between Logs Is Adequate
So you doubled up the recipe and decided you want to have two logs on the same baking tray because life is too short to prepare a second one. If you have a large tray that’s all fine and dandy. Otherwise, unless you want a large puddle of dough in the middle of the pan, it will be wise to keep them on separate trays. This may have come from personal experience. This rule applies to all cookies that have the potential to spread.
Freeze Logs Of Dough Prior to Slicing
Does it make your job harder because the dough is frozen? Yes, and no. Yes because it is firmer and therefore requires more force, but no because it doesn’t smoosh on itself and the nuts don’t fall out of the dough! Plus, you’ll get beautiful clean slices at the end of the exercise. And stronger and more muscle tone in your arms. So I tell myself. Interested in clean slices in other baked goods? Read How To: Cut Brownies.
Also, if you’re lazy just make your biscotti nice and thick and call them rustic, rather than thin delicate slivers.
Set up for both of the photographs were on a neutral sheet of paper (as you can see, I have an entire roll of it!) on my trusty piano stool. Shot in natural daylight. The aperture was set at 4.5 for the thin biscotti and 2.8 for the thick ones and shot with a 60mm macro lens.
And that’s it! What is your preference – thick or thin biscotti? Let me know in the comments. I ate the entire batch in 4 days and have concluded I prefer the thick ones better but the thinner ones are prettier and more dainty.
So you’ve baked a batch of brownies, thought they looked amazing, sliced them and ended up with…
Mushed up pieces that ressembled squares rather than actual nicely cut slabs. Like these:
Brownies that I baked in 2011. Sad and uncrisp.
Oh well – you and your lucky friends and family eat them all anyway. However, if the appearance of them irked you, perhaps this article may come like a knight in shining armour to your kitchen to rescue your beautiful brownie slab before they face the kitchen knife.
This is a particularly common problem if you, like me, love chewy moist brownies rather than the firmer cake-y variety. I have baked many a batch of brownies in my lifetime and today I thought I’d share with you my personal experiences with them and how I finally got my act together and learned how to cut brownies properly. It’s really not that difficult. All it takes is some patience and planning. Yes – I said patience and brownies in the same paragraph. It’s okay – you can get through this!
Still reading? Great!
Alright, let’s start with baking the brownies! This happens to be my favourite brownie recipe of all time – moist, fudgy, extremely chocolate-y and extremely simple to make. I managed to get a few sequential photos (Hurrah! Gave myself a pat on the back for remembering). In case you’re wondering, the chocolate I’ve used is Lindt Dark Bittersweet Picolli 58% – I bought a 2.5kg bag so that’s going to be the chocolate of choice for the foreseeable future!
125g butter, melted
250g caster sugar
20g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
125g dark chocolate, chopped
60g nuts of choice (walnuts in my case), chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- Preheat oven to 160°C (fan forced). Line a 7×7 inch tin with greaseproof paper.
- Place all ingredients listed into a bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Pour into prepared tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until centre is still slightly unset but sides are firm.
- Put into refrigeration to chill for at least 2-3 hours before slicing.
Important Note: Do not overbake – the point of this recipe is that it produces a fudgy chewy brownie rather than a hard firm one.
Alright. You have brownies now. Let’s get onto the slicing and subsequently, the eating! Listed below are my personal tips – I hope they are helpful to you.
Top 5 Tips on Cutting Brownies
1. Chill Brownies For At Least 2-3 Hours Before Cutting
I know – you want to eat the brownies right now. But chilling the brownies is an essential step if you would like crisp, sharp cuts as it firms up the brownies enough to not buckle under the knife. Leaving it in the fridge will suffice but for really, really sharp cuts, the freezer is a great option too. However, it can get it a little too firm so you might have to keep an eye on it if you choose that route.
2. Ensure Knife is at 90° Angle to Brownie Surface
Before making any cuts, make sure that the knife is as close to 90° as you can. This is to ensure that you get beautiful cuts that are at exact right angles, rather than creating undercuts or tapers. You will notice that I got a little too eager and unintentionally tapered the edge of the top brownie in the photograph at the top of this blog post. To ensure this doesn’t happen to your brownie, line the knife up carefully.
3. Use a Serrated Knife
I have experimented with a few knives and have concluded that a serrated knife creates the best and cleanest cut. In case you were wondering what knife I use, I have a Wusthof Classic Bread Knife which has served me well over the years. In case you were wondering even more – my 2011 brownie and the cover photo were cut with the exact same knife, which suggests that perhaps the other steps in this write up are more crucial.
4. Use Sawing Action When Cutting
Ensure that you use a gentle sawing motion when cutting the brownie – this ensures that the serrated edge of the knife does not leave an unsightly wavy indentation on the surface of your brownie. I also like to slide the blade backwards at the end of the cutting motion right against the brownie surface to kinda smooth of the edges when I finish the slice.
5. Clean The Knife After Each Cut
After each cut, you will notice that the knife would have picked up some crumbs or gooey bits (especially with moister brownies). Wipe them off with a paper towel and rinse the knife under hot water and dry off before making the next cut. This will eliminate crumbs from sticking onto the top of the brownie or the next cutting surface.
And there you have it! Please comment if you have any other tips that you would like to share with everyone.
I used to bake 8 inch cakes. I then baked 6 inch cakes because we didn’t need so much cake. I took it a step further and decided to bake a 4 inch cake because let’s face it – two girls experiencing the sad slowdown of metabolism in their late 20s do not need to eat any more than what’s absolutely necessary.
Broke out my trusty chocolate cake recipe and decided to go with a coffee flavoured buttercream. I was extremely pleased with how the flavours turned out – a nice balance of chocolate and coffee with just the right amount of moistness.
Then came the decoration dilemma.
I tried to pipe swags and failed miserably – I’m still not quite talented enough for that sort of thing. I then tried to pipe cornelli lace and failed miserably on that front too!
Things were getting desperate. After more brainstorming I decided on a walnut border at the bottom. And then it hit me – I’ll have a squirrel holding a walnut as the cake topper!
Squirrel walnut silhouette
Once again, I apologise for my extremely non step-by-step series of photographs of this cake. I just can’t remember to stop at every step to take a photograph!
Squirrel Coffee Walnut Cake Recipe
The recipe used in this cake has been outlined in my previous post, Caramel Spiral Cupcakes. It makes 2 rounds of 6 inch cakes, enough to complete a layered 6 inch cake.
250g butter, softened
250g icing sugar
1 packet instant coffee
- Dissolve instant coffee in 3 tablespoons of boiling water and leave to come to room temperature.
- Cream butter and sugar together until pale in colour and increased in volume. Add instant coffee solution into batter slowly, mixing until well incorporated.
Squirrel template (click link to download)
Plastic piping bag
- Melt chocolate (my favourite technique explained here).
- Placed melted chocolate into piping bag and snip a very small hole at the top.
- Place squirrel template under waxed paper. Pipe squirrel outline and then flood entire area.
- Press a piece of walnut into the squirrel’s hands before the chocolate sets and leave until fully hardened. Peel off wax paper carefully and leave to set.
- Fill cake with buttercream and cover completely.
- Press walnuts into the bottom of the cake to form a border.
- Place squirrel on top of cake – squirrel should be able to stand on its own. If not, prop up with a walnut.
I hope you enjoyed this project as much as I did making it. I thought the cake turned out quite well and it’s a simple technique that can be applied by anyone.
P/S: I’m obsessed with Instagram at the moment, admittedly a little late to the bandwagon but better late than never, apparently! If you’re interested in random photos from my daily life as well as my projects click here.