2014 Chocolate Kings Cake With Crumble

A very traditional cake we usually do every Christmas in Greece & Cyprus with a chocolate twist! The King Cake (Vasilopita in Greek or galette des rois in French),  is a New Year’s Day cake which contains a hidden coin or trinket which gives good luck to the receiver. It is associated with Saint Basil’s day, January 1, in most of Greece, but in some regions, the traditions surrounding a cake with a hidden coin are attached to Epiphany or to Christmas.

On New Year’s Day families cut the vasilopita to bless the house and bring good luck for the new year. This is usually done at the midnight of New Year’s Eve. A coin is hidden in the cake by slipping it into the dough before baking. At midnight the sign of the cross is etched with a knife across the cake. A piece of cake is sliced for each member of the family and any visitors present at the time, by order of age from eldest to youngest. Slices are also cut for various symbolic people or groups, depending on local and family tradition.  In older times, the coin often was a valuable one, such as a gold sovereign. Nowadays there is often a prearranged gift, money, or otherwise, to be given to the coin recipient.

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INGREDIENTS:

VASILOPITA:

  • 250 g. dark chocolate 72% cocoa
  • 400 g. butter
  • 300 g. brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 bulb fresh ground nutmeg
  • 400 g. almond powder
  • 10 eggs
  • 175 g. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Decorative nuts and bonbons

ALMOND CRUMBLE:

  • 125 g. butter
  • 150 g. brown sugar
  • 30 g. dark chocolate 72% cocoa
  • 125 g. flour
  • 50 g. almond powder

METHOD:

  1. Melt the chopped chocolate with the butter in the microwave.
  2. In a bowl add the eggs and beat with a hand blender or whisk.
  3. In another pan , place the melted chocolate with the butter , add the brown sugar , cinnamon, cloves , nutmeg , the almond powder , beaten eggs , flour and lastly the baking powder.
  4. Mix well and pour the mixture into a 28cm diameter tin, with a built bottom foil.
  5. Bake in preheated oven at 170 degrees C for 30 minutes and at 160 degrees C for another 30 minutes.

FOR THE ALMOND CRUMBLE :

  1. Melt the chocolate in the microwave.
  2. In a bowl add the butter, brown sugar, almond powder and stir briefly with an electric mixer.
  3. Add the melted chocolate and flour, continuing to stir.
  4. Take it out of the bowl and roll it out into a thin sheet of thickness 3 mm with a roller pin and place it in the fridge.
  5. When frozen cut a disc diameter smaller than the hoop of the Kings Cake.
  6. Cover the surface of the almost cooked cake with the crumble and continue baking for 15 minutes until the crumble is cooked.
  7. Garnish with decorations of your choice .
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Cinnamon Apple Macaroons with Apple Butter Buttercream & Tart Green Apples

INGREDIENTS:

Apple Butter
makes ~20 oz. apple butter, far more than you’ll need for apple butter buttercream, but delicious to have around for other uses!

  • 2 lbs. apples, peeled, cored, and in chunks
  • 4 cups unfiltered apple juice
  • 1/2-2/3 cup light brown sugar*
  • 1 tspn cloves
  • 1 tspn ground cinnamon
  • juice of half a lemon

METHOD:

  1. In a large pot over medium high heat, combine the apples and apple juice and cook until the apples are completely tender, about 15-25 minutes, depending on the size you chop the apples. If a foam forms, you may skim it off if desired.
  2. Remove the pot from the stove and let cool briefly. Puree the apples and apple juice in a food processor or blender until completely smooth.
  3. Return the puree to the pot and add the brown sugar, cloves, cinnamon, and lemon juice.
  4. Return the pot to heat and simmer on medium/medium-low heat, trying to maintain 105 degrees C. Cook for 1-2 hours, stirring regularly, until mixture really thickens and darkens and bubbles/splatters. Remove from heat when desired consistency is reached.

*Add only 1/2 cup sugar for a less-sweet apple butter. I used 2/3 cups sugar and while still really good, it was a little on the sweet side for me.

Cinnamon Apple Macarons
makes ~50 small macarons or 20-30 large macarons
INGREDIENTS:
for macaroon shells*:

  • 200 gr powdered sugar
  • 120 gr blanched and slivered almonds
  • 10 gr freeze-dried apple
  • 1 heaping Tbspn ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tspn green powered food coloring, if desired
  • 30 gr granulated (superfine, opt) vanilla sugar
  • 100 gr egg whites, aged 1-2 days at room temperature or a week in the refrigerator, at room temp
  • 1/4 tspn cream of tartar

METHOD:

  1. Prepare two baking sheets lined with silpats or parchment paper and a pastry bag with a large round piping tip.
  2. Combine the powdered sugar, almonds, dried apple, cinnamon, and green food coloring, if using, in a food processor and grind until a fine powder. Sift thoroughly through a fine mesh strainer and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, have ready the granulated vanilla sugar.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and the cream of tartar. Using a balloon whisk, quickly stir the mixture until the entire surface is covered with foam. Then, start whisking the egg whites, gradually adding in the granulated vanilla sugar. Whisk until you reach glossy, almost-stiff peaks.
  5. Gently fold the sifted almond and powdered sugar mixture into the egg whites in three to four stages, just until the ingredients are incorporated and the batter slowly re-absorbs peaks.
  6. Transfer the macaroon mixture to the prepared piping bag and pipe rounds on to the lined baking sheets. Tap the baking sheets on the table a few times to release air pockets.
  7. Rest the macaroons for at least 30 minutes (and up to 60), until the outside shells are no longer tacky and sticky to a light touch.
  8. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C, with the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven.
  9. Bake the macaroons in the oven, one sheet at a time, for 24-28 minutes total, rotating the sheet half-way through the baking time to insure even baking.
  10. Remove from oven and let cool.

*Note: the resting and oven temperature and times are adjusted to what works in my kitchen and oven (which, to my knowledge and according to two oven thermometers, is quite accurate). Please note that you may have to adjust according to what works in your kitchen and oven.

for apple butter buttercream:

  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup apple butter

METHOD:

  1. Whip the egg yolks until light and shows definitive streaks when you move your whisk through them.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water and stir until the sugar is completely wet. Cook over medium high heat, without stirring, until the sugar reaches 114 degrees C. Immediately remove from heat and (carefully!) gradually pour into the egg yolks while whisking, being careful not to hit the whisk wires.
  3. Continue whipping the egg yolks on medium high until the the outside of the bowl is no longer hot or warm to the touch.
  4. Add the butter in while beating, one tablespoon at a time.
  5. Once the butter is incorporated, beat in the apple butter. Use immediately to fill the macaroons (or, if you refrigerate the buttercream, bring to room temperature and beat to restore texture before using).

for assembly:

  • 1 small tart green apple, in small, thin chunks (thick enough to still have crunch, though!)
  • lemon juice
  • ground cinnamon

METHOD:

  1. Toss the apple chunks with a light coating of lemon juice. Then, sprinkle with cinnamon.
  2. Fill the macaroons with the apple butter buttercream and apple chunks. Let the macaroons “cure” in an airtight container in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Drunken Pear Frangipane Tart

INGREDIENTS:

Please note that the amounts in the recipe for poached pears are approximate.

  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 Tbspn cloves
  • 2 extra ripe Anjou pears
  • 10 firm ripe Seckel pears (4 Bosc pears also work, if Seckels aren’t available)

METHOD:

  1. In a deep medium saucepan, combine the wine, water, and sugar.  Split the vanilla bean; scrape the seeds into the saucepan and add the entire bean.  Add the cinnamon sticks and cloves.
  2. In a food processor, puree the extra ripe Anjou pears.  Strain the puree through a fine sieve into the wine mixture in the saucepan.
  3. Bring the contents of the saucepan to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  4. Meanwhile, use a melon baller to remove the center of the seckel pears, starting from the bottom.  Peel each pear.
  5. Once the wine mixture has come to a simmer, add the seckel pears.  Cook at a simmer until done, about 10 minutes, depending on the original firmness of the pears.
  6. Strain the pears from the liquid once they are done and set them on a cooling rack to cool and drain.  Keep the remaining poaching liquid in the refrigerator for future use.

Frangipane tart filling

  • 3/4 cup blanched and slivered almonds
  • 2 tspn AP flour
  • 1 tspn cornstarch
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 Tbspn butter, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg white
  • 1 tspn vanilla
  • 1 tspn almond extract
  • 1 tspn brandy

METHOD:

  1. n a food processor, combine the almonds and flour.  Grind finely.
  2. Add in sugar, butter, and flavorings.  Blend.
  3. Finally, blend in the eggs until the mixture is smooth.
  4. Allow the filling to rest in the refrigerator for two to three hours.

Sweet tart pastry crust
makes enough for a 9″ round tart

  • 1 3/4 cups AP flour
  • 7 Tbspn cold butter
  • 4 Tbspn sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 Tbspn water
  • 1/2 Tbspn almond extract

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees C.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Blend just until a dough begins to form.
  3. Remove from food processor and place the dough on a floured work surface.  Knead gently just until the dough comes together.  Chill if the dough is too warm.
  4. Roll out the pastry or pat down evenly into the bottom of the pan. (The patting works perfectly for this crust.)
  5. Chill the dough for about 20 minutes in the freezer.
  6. Using a fork, prick the bottom of the pastry several times.  Top with a layer of foil or parchment paper and then fill the crust with pie weights.  (I use dried beans–multi-purpose! Don’t waste your money on pie weights.)
  7. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until almost done.  Remove and let cool.

Tart assembly and final baking

  • additional ingredient: apricot jam/preserves

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Spoon the frangipane filling into the baked tart shell and smooth.
  3. Slice the poached pears thinly and arrange on top of the frangipane filling.  The filling will puff up during baking, so keep that in mind when you make your pear arrangements.
  4. Bake the tart for 40-50 minutes, until the frangipane is puffed and firm to the touch.
  5. Remove from oven and let cool.
  6. Heat the apricot jam in the microwave until it is liquid.  Using a pastry brush, brush a thin layer of glaze onto the tart.

Apple & Cinnamon Layer Cake

INGREDIENTS:
For the crisps:

  • 65g caster sugar
  • 40ml water
  • 1 firm eating apple
  • a few pinches of ground cinnamon

For the cakes:

  • 4 eggs
  • 340g plain flour
  • 2 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2-3 eating apples – you need 200g grated
  • 200g coconut oil, solid
  • 340g light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

For the icing:

  • 350g mascarpone
  • 40g icing sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 130C for the crisps. Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves and it starts bubbling. Pour into a bowl to cool.
  2. Cut the apple in half, top to bottom, and remove the stalk. Use a mandolin to cut thin slices of the apple – I used my thinnest setting. Set the slices onto a parchment lined baking tray. Use a pastry brush to thinly coat the slices with some of the syrup. Sprinkle over a little cinnamon. Put the tray into the oven and bake for 30 minutes then turn the oven off and leave to cool inside. Remove from the oven and place into a sealed tin or box.

  3. To start the cakes, preheat the oven to 180C. Grease two 6″ cake tins and line the bottoms with baking parchment. Wipe a clean mixing bowl down with a piece of lemon (to remove any little bits of grease). Separate the eggs, putting the egg whites into the lemony bowl (to be whipped later) and the yolks into a cup/bowl. Sieve the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and sea salt onto a plate or bowl. Peel the apples then grate them – weigh and make you have 200g (don’t add extra, it’ll throw the liquid balance off
  4. Put the coconut oil and brown sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium until fluffy and paler than before – about 4 minutes. Add the yolks one by one, beating well and scraping down in between each addition. Take off the machine and tip in the 200g of grated apple and the lemon juice. Fold together. Get your egg whites and whip them (I do this by hand because I think it’s simpler, but you could transfer the apple mix to another bowl and very throughly clean the mixer bowl and use the machine, or use a hand beater) until they hold stiff peaks (be careful not to overdo it – a spike on the end of the beater should hold upright with a little waver – it won’t be as firm as meringue).
  5. Fold half of the sieved dry ingredients into the apple mix, carefully but throughly, scraping the sides and bottom. Add half of the whipped egg whites and fold them in, followed by the rest of the flour, then the rest of the egg whites. It takes a little bit of patience but you need to get it evenly combined (no lumps of flour or big streaks of egg white) without losing too much air. Divide the mixture between the two tins, level, then form a dip in the middle.
  6. Bake for 40-45 minutes until domed, cracked, golden and a skewer comes out cleanly from the middle. Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes then remove from the tin and leave to cool. When the oven has turned off and cooled down a little, I gave the crisps a crunch boost by leaving them in there for a few minutes.
  7. Make the icing as the cakes bake or cool. Place the mascarpone into a bowl and beat until smooth. Sieve over the icing sugar, pour in the lemon and beat again. Keep in the fridge until you need it.
  8. When the cakes are barely warm (or cold) you can start cutting – use a sharp serrated knife to cut the dome away from the top, trying to keep as flat as possible. Work out where the halfway line is on the remaining cake and carefully score all the way around with your knife, then go around cutting deeply to split the cake (this should help guide the knife so you get an even cut).
  9. Place one of the cakes onto a clean serving plate. Smooth over 1/4 of the icing, going right out and almost over the edge. Add the next layer and repeat until finished. Finally arrange the crisps on top. Best immediately, keeps assembled for a day in the fridge (will be quite different to fresh), plain cake for 3-4 days in a tin.

Cognac-Caramel, Pecan, and Pear Pudding Cake

INGREDIENTS:
for poached pears:

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 Tbspn sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1/2 tspn cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 6 mini pears

METHOD:

  1. In a small pot, combine the water, sugar, and spices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer.
  2. Meanwhile, peel the pears and hollow out the seeds using a melon baller from the bottom end.
  3. Poach the pears in the simmering water until fork tender all the way through, about 10 minutes, depending on the size of the pears.
  4. Remove the pears from the liquid and set aside.

for cognac caramel:

  • 2 Tbspn butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 tspn coarse salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup cognac

METHOD:

  1. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
  2. Once the butter is melted, add the brown sugar and coarse salt. Cook until the sugar has melted.
  3. Slowly add the water to the sugar and bring to a bowl. Reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and add the cognac. Set aside.

for pudding cake:

  • 6 Tbspn butter
  • 2 oz. pecans, toasted and finely ground
  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 2 tspn baking powder
  • 1/2 tspn salt
  • 1 1/2 tspn ground cinnamon
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 tspn vanilla extract
  • powdered sugar, optional
  • heavy cream, optional

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 165 degrees C.
  2. In a small saucepan with a light-colored bottom, melt the butter. Cook over medium heat until the solids in the butter drop to the bottom and brown. Remove from heat and set aside. Solids will continue to brown as it sits.
  3. Combine the ground toasted pecans, flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together lightly beaten eggs and brown sugar. Add the milk and vanilla extract. Mix to combine. Slowly add the brown butter, making sure to incorporate it fully into the liquid.
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in two stages, combining thoroughly. Do not overmix.
  6. Divide the batter amongst the six ramekins/mini cocottes. Pour the cognac caramel over the batter, diving amongst the six ramekins. Place a single poached pear in the center of each ramekin, pressing down into the batter. Batter should reach the near the top brim of the cocotte.
  7. Bake for ~30 minutes, until the tops of the cakes are dry and a toothpick insert 3/4 of the way in the cake comes out cleanly. Remove from oven and let cool at least five minutes before serving.
  8. Serve with a light dusting of powdered sugar or heavy cream.

Double Strawberry Cinnamon Muffins

https://i1.wp.com/www.jerseygirlcooks.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/muffin-three.jpg

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup fat-free or light strawberry yogurt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tbsp fat free milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup strawberry jam
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

METHOD:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190.  Line a muffin tin with papers and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and whisk to combine.  Make a well in the center and set aside.
  3. In another bowl add the yogurt, butter, milk and egg and whisk to combine.  Pour into the well in the flour mixture and using a scraper/spatula, lightly mix the wet into the dry until just combined.
  4. Drop one tablespoon of batter into the prepared muffin cups and top with 1 teaspoon of jam.  Top evenly with the remaining batter.
  5. In a small bowl, combine the 1 tbsp of sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the tops of each muffin.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until centers are done.  Cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Note: you could change this recipe by adding different flavored yogurts and jam.  Blueberry or Blackberry would be outstanding.