23 April 2018

Vanilla Magic Custard Cake

I first saw these "magic" cakes ages ago and it's remained fascinating to me ever since. I was going to jump ahead and go straight to the carrot magic cake, but I'm still getting used to my food processor and didn't puree the carrots enough. So, that will have to wait until another time for now. As I already had all the other ingredients ready, I thought it would be silly not to do something, then I realised that the vanilla magic cake was probably the same or at least very similar.

I must admit, I was a little worried that I would mess it up somehow and end up with the entire cake being one texture. I followed each step very carefully. Even when it went into the oven, I was sceptical that I would end up with three layers. The worry didn't stop when it came out of the oven and then there was an agonising three hour wait for it to cool before I could cut into it. I'd recommend you don't try to cut it sooner, as I'd imagine the middle layer might not be set enough. Mine did work, but I followed the recipe by the book. Sometimes I tweak times, ingredients and method, but this didn't seem like the recipe for that.

I think this seems magical until you actually make it for yourself, then you realise how it works because of how the mixture is when it goes into the oven. If you want it to remain magic, look away now! So, the mixed in beaten egg whites rise to surface which I think creates the top light sponge layer (they almost look curdled on top as they go into the oven - it looks wrong, but it is right). The bottom is mostly egg yolk, so this remains more custardy. The outer edge is always going to cook quicker than the middle, so the bottom layer is cooked more creating a thicker more set custard. The middle reminds me of those egg custard tarts we get in the UK. I love those, especially with lots of nutmeg on top, so for me this was perfection.

It's not actually that difficult as long as you're ok separating eggs and perhaps understand how much to whisk egg whites. I baked mine in my 20cm Pyrex dish as that seemed the best for the job and it was the perfect choice to allow the cake to rise. As it cools it will drop again and it's supposed to do that, so don't freak out! Mine took about 10 minutes longer than 1 hour to bake, but it's probably dependant on your oven. Keep an eye on it after 30 minutes, just in case the top is browing too much. You can put a layer of foil over the top for the remaining cooking time to prevent it burning. Mine didn't need the foil but, again, I imagine it's different from oven to oven.

If you're a custard fan (and I know many people who are) then you're going to love this cake. Although it is all the same flavour, it doesn't seem like it because the three layers are so distinct. It could be boring, but the different textures make it special. I have tried freezing it, so we'll see if that works.

Vanilla Magic Custard Cake
Serves 8

4 large eggs, separated (room temperature)
4 drops lemon juice
150g caster sugar
1 tbsp water
2 tsp vanilla extract
125g unsalted butter, melted
115g plain flour
500ml milk, lukewarm (I used skimmed)

1. Preheat oven to 160C fan/325F and grease & flour a 20cm baking dish (I used a Pyrex casserole-style dish).
2.Whisk egg whites with a stand mixer or electric hand mixer until stiff. Whisk in the drops of lemon juice to stop the egg whites from "falling".
3. Beat the egg yolks, sugar, water and vanilla extract together until it becomes light in colour. Add the melted butter, then beat for another minutes. Mix in the flour.
4. Mix in the flour until fully incorporated, then beat in the lukewarm milk (it really has to be lukewarm or it will make the butter harden).
5. Fold in the beaten egg whites gently with a spatula or large spoon. Be careful not to lose any of the air from the egg whites. It will look a bit curdled and the egg whites will rise to the top, so don't worry about the way it looks.
6. Pour into prepared dish and bake in the oven for approximately 60 minutes. If it starts to brown too much, cover with some foil. When it's done it won't be wobbly anymore and soft & golden on top.
7. Allow to cool for at least 3 hours. Sieve icing sugar over and slice to serve.

29 March 2018

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie Tarts

So, Easter weekend is upon us and I always feel like it's a season I tend to neglect. I'm not even sure why, but perhaps because there aren't as many flavours I'm interested in as Christmas. There's a lot of chocolate and, while I like chocolate itself, I'm not really a fan of chocolate flavoured things. I had spotted micro eggs in the shops a couple of weeks ago - they're like mini Mini Eggs. They were just too cute to leave behind and I was sure I could do something with them, even if it is a bit silly. I do like a bit of silliness every now and again anyway.

I did think about buying chocolate and Shredded Wheat to make little nests, but it seemed a shame to not do something a bit more exciting. I'd also fancied getting a mini muffin tin recently (I can't even remember what started that...) so I figured it might be worth incorporating that into this. This is a bit of a departure for me because I knew I wouldn't be interested in eating this. I love cookies, but I don't really like brownies. I do like to bake a variety of things and don't like to just rule a recipe out because I won't eat it. Besides, I imagine the majority of other people really do like brownies, so there's no shortage of anyone to eat them up! The idea of brownie filled cookie cups just sounded so sweet and I guess they do look a little bit like a nest.

This was a pretty straightfoward recipe, although it is really difficult to find mini chocolate chips in the UK, so I ended up having to chop regular ones in half which was quite laborious. There's a bit of delicate work needed when shaping the cookie dough into the muffin tin and if you have warm hands you might find it harder. I almost always have cold hands, which does prove useful for pastry work, even if it can be uncomfortable the rest of the time! I'd say be careful to only lightly grease the tin, as the cookie dough does have butter that will seep out a bit as it cooks. I did wonder if it even needed greasing at the end, but I guess that's something I'll test out if I make them again. I also ended up with some leftover brownie filling, which I used up on a couple of extra cupcake sized cakes.

I did manage to achieve a soft-ish cookie "crust" with a fudgy brownie filling. There's always a worry the cookie would be hard and the brownie dry. And if a brownie is dry, it's not a brownie anymore, it's just chocolate cake. They did sink a little in the middle, but as I was planning to top with the micro eggs, it didn't really matter. I thought they looked really cute in the end. I'd be interested to use the cookie cup idea and fill with something else, perhaps something speculoos flavoured, a blondie or even just some ice cream.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Brownie Tarts
Makes 12


Cookie dough
75g unsalted butter
40g light brown sugar
1 egg yolk
95g plain flour
A pinch of salt
50g mini chocolate chips

Brownie filling
90g unsalted butter
100g granulated or caster sugar
30g cocoa powder
1 large egg
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
30g plain flour

Milk or dark chocolate and micro eggs to decorate

1. Preheat oven to 160/180C fan/350F and very lightly grease a mini muffin tin.
2. For the cookie dough:- beat together the butter and sugar until it becomes light and fluffy (best achieved with an electric handwhisk or stand mixer). Add the egg yolk and mix again until it is combined.
3. Add the flour to the mixture bit by bit, waiting for it to come together each time. Once the flour has been used up it should form a soft dough. Mix in the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon and chill while you make the brownie filling. It will firm up and be easier to handle.
4. For the brownie filling:- gently melt the butter, then (off the heat, if using a saucepan), whisk in the sugar and cocoa powder until the mixture is smooth. Leave to cool for about 5 minutes.
5. Stir in the egg and vanilla extract until it is fully incorporated, followed by the flour. Make sure the mixture is completely smooth.
6. Remove your chilled cookie dough from the fridge and divide into 12. Press into the mini muffin tin to form a crust shape shell. Pour the brownie mixture into each cookie shape and bake for approximately 15 minutes. They are done when cookie looks lightly golden, so keep an eye on them after 10 minutes in the oven.
7. Leave to cool to room temperature in the tin, as they crumble if you try to remove them when they're still warm.
8. Melt a small amount of chocolate and put a small dollop in the centre of each tart, then top with as many micro eggs as you wish.