Sunday, June 26, 2011

Chocolate Tiffin (Fridge Cake)

The last time I was in England I had lunch at Pret a Manger and finished it with a ‘Choc Bar’, a British treat often referred to as fridge cake or chocolate concrete. Interestingly, this confection is also known as tiffin, a British Indian word used to describe a snack, light meal, or packed lunch.

Tiffin is usually a combination of dried fruit, cookie pieces, nuts, and chocolate. Although it is virtually unknown in North America, Cadbury’s makes a tiffin chocolate bar.

Tiffin is the perfect treat for summer since it requires no baking. It is also an excellent way to use neglected items in your pantry. This recipe helped me to reduce stores of dried fruit, agave syrup, and pecans that we had purchased in bulk quantities during a short-lived dalliance with Costco.

5 ounces graham crackers (9 double crackers) or digestive biscuits, broken into small pieces (not crumbs)
5 ounces whole dried peaches (approximately 5), chopped into small pieces
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup agave syrup (can substitute corn syrup, honey or golden syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cocoa (for dusting, optional)

1. Line a 8 x 8-inch baking pan with plastic wrap.
2. In a large bowl, mix graham crackers, peaches and pecans. Set aside.
3. In a large pot over low heat, melt butter, chocolate chips, agave syrup and vanilla extract.
4. Add dry ingredients to chocolate and mix well.
5. Transfer to a baking pan and pat down with the back of a spoon.
6. Cool in the refrigerator for 6 hours or overnight.
7. To serve either unmold and dust with cocoa or cut into individual squares in the pan and serve each slice with a dusting of cocoa.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Black Forest Cake

Black Forest Cake is the English name for Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (literally “Black Forest cherry torte”). The cake is named after a key ingredient – Kirschwasser (literally “cherry water”), a colorless fruit brandy which is double distilled from whole sour Morello cherries. The brandy is produced in the Black Forest region of southwestern Germany. The liqueur is a critical ingredient in this recipe; in Germany the cake cannot be marketed as Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte without containing Kirschwasser.

The origin of Black Forest Cake is the subject of much discussion. Some claim the confection was created in the 16th century. More recently, two men claimed it as their own. Pastry chef Josef Keller asserted that he invented the cake in 1915 at Café Agner in what is now a suburb of Bonn. A conflicting story is that it was created in 1930 by Erwin Hildenbrand at Café Walz in Tübingen. The cake is first mentioned in writing in 1934; at the time it was particularly associated with Berlin.

Since this cake is fairly elaborate and rich, I decorated it with simple whipped cream instead of making a rich buttercream frosting.

Apparently, National Black Forest Cake Day is March 28, but I decided to post this recipe now rather than depriving you of it for another nine months.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at room temperature
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
2 cups white granulated sugar
2 eggs
5 teaspoons vanilla extract

Sugar Syrup
2 cups white granulated sugar
1 cup water
1/2 cup Kirsch

2 15-ounce cans pitted cherries in syrup
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup Kirsch

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
chocolate shavings, for garnish
fresh or Maraschino cherries, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9-inch baking pans.
2. In a large bowl mix flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. Melt baking chocolate and 1/2 stick of butter together and set aside. Add milk to buttermilk and set aside.
4. In a large bowl beat remaining stick of butter and sugar together until fluffy.
5. Reduce beater to low and mix in eggs and vanilla.
6. Continue to beat and alternate additions of flour mixture and milk mixture until batter is well mixed.
7. Divide batter between pans and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake.
8. Remove cakes and cool at room temperature. Place cakes in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, use a long serrated knife to gently cut each cake horizontally into two layers. Separate layers with wax paper and put back into the fridge.
9. To make the sugar syrup, in a small saucepan bring sugar and water to a boil and stir until sugar dissolves. Cook for a further 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Mix in Kirsch and set aside.
10. To make filling, in another saucepan bring pitted cherries to a boil in their syrup. In a small bowl dissolve cornstarch in Kirsch and add to the warm cherries. Whisk mixture for 2 minutes or until it thickens. Remove from heat.
11. Remove cake layers from the fridge. Brush the freshly cut surface of each layer with 1/4 of the sugar syrup. Allow the liquid to soak in for 30-60 minutes.
12. To assemble, place a cake layer on the cake plate with the cut surface facing up. Cover with 1/3 of the filling (about 1 cup) and top with another cake layer with the cut surface facing up. Repeat with filling and third cake layer also cut surface facing up. Repeat with remaining filling and place fourth and final layer with the cut surface down (so that baked surface is facing up).
13. To make frosting, whip cream on high speed and spread evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Garnish with chocolate shavings, fresh cherries or anything else you fancy.