How To Master The French Braid
If there's one time of year when many of us get the urge to bake cakes, it's Easter. Stockpiling icing sugar and vanilla essence this time of year is as traditional as DIY, lamb roasts and over-indulging on too many Easter eggs.That's why we were happy to hear that Great British Bakeoff winner John Whaite has just launched a new cookbook, so we've now got the perfect excuse to indulge our baking cravings.
In case you need reminding John was the cute one who had legions of female fans, who won GBBO the year before last, giving up a law job to pursue a career in food. Since then he's been writing cookbooks, the second of which is just out, called John Whaite Bakes At Home. This delicious tome is filled with classic recipes and stunning photography which is aimed at cooks - experienced or otherwise - who love to roll up their sleeves and hit the stove.
Because of the time of year, the two chocolate recipes, Mont Blanc Biscuit Butties and Rocher Pops, caught our eye, and John was happy to share his recipes for them, below. 'Easter for me is about the buns and the chocolate,' he told us. 'Whilst I love all of the savoury roast lamb and rosemary, roast potatoes and gravy, my heart really lies in the pudding. AND I always make sure I buy more than enough Easter eggs to keep me going through the year. Don't be an Easter egg snob; cheap and cheerful is just as good as pricey and prissy!'
'The only thing better than chestnut purée is a chocolate, marshmallow and chestnut purée combo, all together in one indulgent biscuit butty.' JW
For the marshmallow filling:
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6. Place the chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, and allow to melt slowly. Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and sugars until well combined. Beat the melted chocolate and butter into the sugar and egg, then sift over the flour, baking powder and salt, and beat to a smooth, glossy batter. Allow to cool and thicken slightly.
2. Scoop heaped teaspoons of the batter on to the lined baking sheets, well apart as they will spread in the oven. You should end up with about 36 blobs, so you might need to bake in batches. Bake for 10–12 minutes, or until well risen, shiny, and cracked over the surface. Allow to cool, out of the oven, on the baking sheet, before removing with a palette knife.
3. To make the filling, submerge the gelatine leaves, one by one, in a bowl of cold water. Place the sugar, syrup and water in a medium saucepan and heat on high until it reaches 118°C. Quickly squeeze the excess moisture from the gelatine, add to the pan and swirl to dissolve. Pour this into a freestanding electric mixer and whisk on full speed until very thick, sticky and only slightly warm: about 5 minutes. (Takes about 10 minutes using a handheld electric whisk.)
4. Turn half the cookies over so they are bottom up. Spoon a teaspoon of chestnut purée on to each. Pile the marshmallow into the piping bag, then pipe a ring of marshmallow around the chestnut purée. Sandwich the remaining cookies on top.
'I swore I would never bake a cake pop in my life – I just don’t see the attraction with baking fads. I was, however, given a gorgeous cake pop tin, and so I had to use it. Rather than making typical garish, claggy pops from old cake crumbs and a load of old buttercream, I make mine freshly baked using a special mould. Silicone moulds are available but I find the metal ones much more reliable. These are gorgeous as dinner party treats, or for cold, dark winter nights.' JW
Makes 18 -20
80g salted butter
- tsp bicarbonate of soda
75g golden caster sugar
For the ganache covering:
200g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
100g milk chocolate, roughly chopped
200ml double cream
For the hazelnut covering:
200g skinless hazelnuts, finely chopped but not pulverized
Gold leaf, to decorate
Disposable piping bag with end snipped off
12-hole cake pop mould, well greased
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/Gas 6.
2. Beat all the ingredients together into a smooth batter, scoop into the piping bag and pipe into one half of the cake pop mould, filling the half sphere well. Pop the other half of the mould in place, then bake for 7–8 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining batter and the cooled, re-greased mould.
3. Make the ganache by placing the chopped chocolates into a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream in a medium saucepan over a high heat until it just starts to bubble around the edges, pour on to the chocolate and leave it for about 30 seconds. Using a whisk, mix to a smooth, glossy ganache.
4. Sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts on to a plate. Dip each cake pop into the ganache to cover it well, then roll in the hazelnuts. Allow the ganache to set for a good hour, then place a little gold leaf on to each pop.
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