Entry 44: Molten Chocolate Cookies

Hello Koala fans, its been a while, hasn’t it?

Things have been gathering pace recently in other parts of my life. I’m applying for a job in Bournemouth, which may lead to a permanent place, the possibility of a new flat and hopefully a new kitchen that I can work out of. In addition, I’m going to be starting a course on psychotherapy and counselling at the local college in Poole. It will involve a lot of homework and will be pretty difficult for me, both academically and for personal reasons. Essentially I’m going to have my nose in a book for a long time to come and I don’t know what kind of impact it will have on the blog.

Some take it a little more literally than others.

Some take it a little more literally than others.

I didn’t have a lot of time to get ingredients together for this week’s episode, so I decided to have a rummage around in my ingredient cupboard to see what I had, and then hopefully match it to a recipe from one of my books. One thing I did have a lot of in my cupboard was chocolate.

"We're going to make something really cool with this!"

“We’re going to make something really cool with this!”

I took another look at the book the Koala was wedged in earlier. In it, there was a recipe for “chocolate flush” cookies. These cookies blur the boundary between what could be classed as a biscuit and a brownie and have this wonderful appearance that reminds me of shattered earth and rivers of lava. Hence why I tend to think of them as molten cookies.

Sugar, butter, flour....I can't help but feel we're missing a key ingredient for these things.

Sugar, butter, flour….Wait, where’s the chocolate gone?

I couldn’t find an online equivalent for these, so I’ll jot the recipe down for your consumption:

  • * 200g milk chocolate
  • * 90g unsalted butter
  • * 110g caster sugar
  • * 3 eggs
  • * 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • * 215g plain flour
  • * 25g cocoa powder
  • * Half teaspoon of baking powder
  • * pinch of salt

There’s some interesting things to note on this list. The cookies use an unusually large amount of chocolate, as opposed to more typical chocolate cookies and biscuits, which would instead have more cocoa powder. The relatively small amount of baking powder also means they don’t rise much, giving them quite a dense texture. Speaking of dense…

So that's what happened to the chocolate then.

“Does this mean we have to sacrifice our chocolate pyramid?”

The first step is to melt the chocolate and butter together over a low heat. As usual, you need to make sure you do this over a saucepan of water, without letting the chocolate bowl touch the boiling water. Slowly stir in the sugar.

I can't find the bit in the recipe about "bubbling ominously" though.

I can’t find the bit in the recipe about “bubbling ominously” though.

While the mixture is still warm but *not* boiling, the eggs need to be added. If you add them one by one while mixing in between, it makes their consistency a lot more even and for these cookies, this is critical. The temperature is also important as you don’t want to cook the eggs in the melted chocolate mixture. So – warm, but not hot. Add the vanilla to the mix as well.

The dry ingredients being mixed together.

Stirring is hard when you’re perched over the rim of a bowl.

The next bit is a little more straightforward and just involves combining the dry ingredients, which is to say the cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt until you have something that looks like the picture above. While the recipe in the book states to add the chocolate mixture to the dry ingredients, I chose to do it the other way around – adding small amounts of the dry mix to the chocolate and stirring frequently. The risk of doing it the other way is that it tend to clump together and needs a lot more stirring to even out. Once everything is combined, it needs to sit in the fridge for an hour or so to chill completely until firm. Finally, set your oven to Gas Mark 3, 160*C, 325*F or whichever arcane temperature scale you prefer and put small balls of the cookie mix on to a baking tray. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, so that you’re looking for smooth areas with the little fissures running through them.

What is it with you three and knives? oO

What is it with you three and knives? oO

The high chocolate content of these cookies means that they do spread out far, so make sure the mixture balls are well spaced on the baking tray or the above happens. Despite not being particularly neat, the cookies turned out quite well. A little rich for me but they went down well with the folks at work. No one was really sure whether they were cookies or brownies but they certainly vanished quickly.

The cookies in small, medium, large and Koala sized portions.

The cookies in small, medium, large and Koala sized portions.

****

As I mentioned at the start of the blog, life is becoming pretty manic for me at the moment, so the koalas and I are going to take a break for a while. I have some time off at the end of August that I might be able to use for some baking. In the meantime, we’re going to take it easy for a month or so and be back in September refreshed and ready to go again. Until then, take care folks and we’ll see you soon. ❤

Entry 42: What Are Glutens Anyway?

Hello Koala fans!

A few weeks ago, two wonderful friends of mine asked if I’d like to stay with them for a couple of days (Hi Zel! Hi Nash!). We’ve known each other for about two years or so, playing World of WarCraft together. As always, I decided to put together something vaguely cakelike for them. I picked out all the ingredients, settled on a recipe well ahead of time and even managed to take photos for the blog. About two days before I was due to head up on the train, we talk online just to straighten out a few details like train times, bits I need to bring with me…

“Oh, you made cake for us? Really looking forward to it! 😀 ……it’s gluten-free, right?”

Uh oh.

Like most people, I’m vaguely aware of gluten-free stuff but no idea what’s actually involved with it or what I need to avoid. There was a slight, yet adorable, delay in looking up gluten-free recipes on the internet.

My niece receiving her first experience of youth-corrupting video games

My niece receiving her first experience of youth-corrupting video games.

My search proved rather more useful than I planned. I found a good website on gluten-free diets and it even had recipes for gluten-free cakes too. One of them looked like it might work:

https://www.coeliac.org.uk/gluten-free-diet-and-lifestyle/cooking-and-baking/gluten-free-cake-making/

I chose to go with the chocolate cake recipe. I also tried to enlighten the Koalas about coeliac disease and gluten fibres but I think I just ended up making them confused.

"Is this a gluten?"

“Is this a gluten?”

No, that’s the zergling I ordered off eBay. Glutens are a type of protein found in cereals such as wheat and rye. They cause an allergic reaction in people with coeliac disease, leading to stomach pains and other intestinal unpleasantness. Zerglings are creatures in StarCraft that rip through solid steel and eat people.

"Fascinating. I'm going to run away now."

“Fascinating. I’m going to run away now.”

While the Koala was setting a new world record for the 100 metre sprint, I assembled the ingredients to work on Zel and Nash’s cake.

"...*pant* *wheeze* ...I think I lost him..."

“…*pant* *wheeze* …I think I lost him…”

Eagle eyed readers may notice an extra ingredient in that photo – ground almonds. As I was reading up on gluten-free cakes, I often found comments that they were very dry compared to standard sponges. Mixing in a small amount of ground almonds can help to restore some of the missing moisture that comes from using gluten-free flour. Another hazard is that gluten helps to give a sponge cake form – as a cake rises, the gluten fibres start to form in the cake, trapping air and helping to make the cake firm. It can be helpful to use a little extra baking powder, even with self raising gluten-free flour, just for the extra security.

Sugar and butter. Gluten-free doesn't necessarily mean "slimming".

Sugar and butter. Gluten-free doesn’t necessarily mean “slimming”.

The gluten-free flours is interesting stuff. Despite being made from things like maize, tapioca and potatoes (!), it’s identical to work with as normal flour. I imagine that’s one of the things that scares people off about specialist baking like gluten-free or nut allergies; that they will find themselves in completely unfamiliar territory. Reassuring though it was to work with, whether it would actually *taste* like a normal sponge cake was still a cause for concern.

"Hang on, let me see if I can unjam the whisk from here!"

“Hang on, let me see if I can unjam the whisk from here!”

So far, it was coming together reasonably well, although the recipe did call for the drier ingredients to be mixed together first and the eggs last:

"Nope, no glutens in here. Or zerglings."

“Nope, no glutens in here. Or zerglings.”

The cake also took roughly the same length of time to bake as a standard one. After tipping out onto the rack to cool, I set about whipping together the icing to go on the top-

"Now, I know this looks bad, but it totally wasn't us..."

“Now, I know this looks bad, but it totally wasn’t us…”

And so *another* 40 minutes later, I finished *another* gluten-free sponge and decorated it.

The finished cake.

The finished cake.

This entry has a good and bad ending, regrettably. Unfortunately, the day after the cake was made, I came down with the flu and wasn’t in a condition to anywhere, let alone on a several hour train journey to see my friends. However, the cake was every bit as good as my other sponge cakes and tasted absolutely fine. So hopefully, when I head up to see my friends soon, I’ll be able to make them a gluten-free cake with confidence. ^_^

Entry 37: Koala in the Khristmas

Hello Koala fans!

Today marks a very special occasion – I’ve now officially bagged http://www.koalainthekitchen.com as my new web address. From your perspective, things won’t change too much – if you put in the old WordPress address, it’ll still take you to all your favourite Koala-y goodness. All it means is that if you want to spread the word about the blog, the address is a little easier to remember.

Not pictured: the mountain of empty energy drink cans and crisp packets.

Not pictured: the mountain of empty energy drink cans and crisp packets.

It’s been really relaxing back home with the family and Santa was nice enough to bring a few shiny bits and pieces this year. Highlights included a limited edition album, a PS4 I’m sharing with my brother in law and the usual Terry’s Chocolate Orange in the stocking.

Which was no longer mine. Or Terry's for that matter.

Which was no longer mine. Or Terry’s for that matter.

The new website address made me think about subtle changes and how they can make a big difference. It also put me in mind of Pokémon. For those unfamiliar with the game, Pokémon are small creatures that fight a lot and every so often undergo a very, very quick evolution into a slightly different form. The basic creature is still vaguely the same (e.g, it usually still keeps its wings, legs or ability shoot bolts of lightning out of its behind) but it has a slightly new twist to it (two sets of wings, standing on its hind legs or shooting lightning out of its ears). I decided to revisit an old recipe that I did waaaaay back at the beginning of the blog and give it a tweak.

I still wanted to make something for the folks at work and I suspected that by the time we all got back from Christmas, anything featuring mincemeat or fruitcake was liable to make people nauseous. This called for something light and not overly sweet and Lucy’s Mars Bar Cakes (hi Lucy!)  seemed to fit the bill. There were two potential “evolutions” I had in mind for this – one was mixing in a tiny amount of crushed peanuts and some crushed peanut butter M&Ms, with a few extra peanut bits scattered over the chocolate. The other idea was “50/50 Krispies”. Usually with Mars Bar cakes, you use standard rice crispies but I found myself wondering what would happen if I used a combination of rice crispies and coco pops.

Don't look at me like that - I thoroughly cleaned that bowl after evicting its occupants.

Don’t look at me like that – I thoroughly cleaned that bowl after evicting its occupants.

The coco pops would help offset a little of the sweetness but added an extra element of chocolate to it. While not necessarily a bad thing, I wanted to mix up the flavour a little more. Then I had another idea. A long time ago, when I was as young, sweet and adorable as a koala, there was a chocolate bar called Milky Way. Essentially, it was a Mars Bar without the caramel in it and made much smaller for young kids. A few years ago, they modified the recipe quite considerably so that instead of a chocolate nougat in the centre, they went with a creamy vanilla nougat. The texture was still the same but the flavour was quite different. I found myself thinking that if I swapped out one of the Mars Bars for a couple of Milky Ways, I could impart some of that creamy vanilla flavour into the 50/50s. It would still bind together as well (I hoped, although the loss of the extra caramel did worry me) and the vanilla flavour would be a nice counterpart to the coco pops.

Mars Bars, Milky Ways....thinking about it, I should have topped the whole lot off with Galaxy chocolate.

Mars Bars, Milky Ways….thinking about it, I should have topped the whole lot off with Galaxy chocolate.

The methodology was still exactly the same – melt the butter, the Mars Bars (or equivalents) and the golden syrup together and mix in the cereal. As with the previous version, the process tends to be a lot quicker if all the bits are diced up.

The Koala felt this was one of my better ideas but I suspect he was just trying to butter me up.

The Koala felt this was one of my better ideas but I suspect he was just trying to butter me up.

Fortunately, the golden syrup did not need to be divided up into squares. When my mum used to make these for my siblings and I years ago, she didn’t used any golden syrup in the process, relying instead on the stickiness of the Mars Bars to do the work of binding everything together. In this case however, I made sure to add the full 2 tbsps worth to offset the caramel lost by using Milky Ways instead of Mars Bars.

Marses? Marss? Marsii?

Marses? Marss? Marsii?

Being Christmas in the UK, it meant that it was absolutely freezing outside. So after spreading the basic mixture into the tray…

"It's like a luminescent spanking paddle!"

“It’s like a luminescent spanking paddle!”

…I added the chocolate and left it on the windowsill to set.

"Do you have ANY idea how cold this thing is to sit on?!"

“Do you have ANY idea how cold this thing is to sit on?!”

The white chocolate buttons were more for decoration than flavouring. My initial plan was to divide them up and while the chocolate was still hot, drop them in so that they would melt and be swirled across the top with a fork. Dividing them up took longer than expected and by the time came to scatter them, the chocolate had cooled too much.

"Seems fair."

“Seems fair.”

I was a little nervous as to how well they would turn out, given that my previous baking Frankensteins have been less than stellar, but I pleased to say these turned out reasonably well. When snacking in front of Frozen for the 20th time (and a big hello to niece Lily if she can tear her attention away from Disney princesses for two seconds), they taste like standard Mars Bar cakes. If you give them a little time to sit on the tongue, you really can taste the extra vanilla and cocoa. As I said at the beginning, subtle changes can make a difference. =)

*****

"Oh no you don't, fuzzball! This is MY tree!"

“Oh no you don’t, fuzzball! This is MY tree!”

I've never heard an angel use language like that before.

I’ve never heard an angel use language like that before.

 

Happy 2015 from http://www.koalainthekitchen.com! Let’s hope for more baking and marsupial adventures this year! ^_^

Entry 34: Koala Wars – The Fat-Tum Menace

Help me. For the love of God, HELP ME!

My once peaceful and tranquil kitchen has now been turned into some kind of marsupial battleground; it’s only going to be a matter of time before someone gets hurt…..

"That's not a knife, mate..."

“That’s not a knife, mate…”

"...THAT'S a knife!"

“…THAT’S a knife!”

At this point I felt something had to be done, otherwise the Koala would be rummaging through the loft for my old katana. If I could show the Koala and the Twins (as I’ve come to call the newcomers) that working together can be a positive thing, then perhaps peace and quiet could return to my kitchen. This week I decided to try something special. Although my attempt at Turkish delight turned into a huge failure, the rose water I used to flavour it was still begging to be used. So rather than follow someone else’s recipe, I decided to try and create my own.

 

Turkish Delightful Cupcakes

100 g   plain flour

20 g   cocoa powder

140 g   caster sugar

1.5 tsp   baking powder

40 g   unsalted butter, softened

120 ml   milk (I used semi skimmed for this but whole or skimmed should be okay as well)

1 egg

**** Centre ****

50 g semi dark chocolate (around 40-53% cocoa – don’t use 70% as it will be too bitter)

10 g butter

20 ml double cream

1 tsp caster sugar

**** Icing ****

0.5 tsp   rose water

80 g   butter

250 g icing sugar

20 ml milk

A few drops of pink food colouring

 

This made about 12 cupcakes, although as a word of caution, the amounts for the icing and chocolatey centre may not be 100% accurate. As with a lot of my previous experiments, there was a little fine tuning to be done before the consistency and flavour were the way I wanted them. One other thing I discovered is that American cupcakes are larger than their British counter parts; the first part of the recipe, which makes the sponge base, is for 12 British cupcakes or 6 American cupcakes. Your mileage or kilometreage may vary.

Well, at least they're not fighting at the moment...

Well, at least they’re not fighting at the moment…

The first step involved making the sponge bases for the cupcakes. The recipes I looked at recommended a devil’s food cake mix, which involves mixing the dry ingredients separately, the wet ingredients separately and then very gently mixing the two together. This makes the cupcakes very light, as long as you don’t over combine the two mixtures. Idle paws are the devil’s playground, so I decided to set the koalas to work:

"Back a bit, up a bit...no, no, the other left....."

“Back a bit, left a bit…no, no, the other left…..”

Mix the flour, cocoa, baking powder, butter and caster sugar together so that you have something that looks like Martian sand:

No Mars bars were harmed in the making of these cupcakes.

No Mars bars were harmed in the making of these cupcakes.

In a separate bowl (I used a jug for this bit – makes the wet ingredients easier to pour), whisk together the egg and the milk. Once this is done, be sure to move your whisk out of the reach of tiny paws:

Coming soon on the popular web series "Will It Blend?"...

Coming soon on the popular web series “Will It Blend?”…

When combining the wet and dry ingredients, add a third of the wet mix and whisk slowly and gently for about 30 seconds, or until its absorbed. Add another third, mix gently and then finally the remainder. Avoid mixing it for ages as this will make your sponge thick and stodgy. Ideally, you should finish up with something like this:

It's somewhat unsettling having three koalas staring at you...

It’s somewhat unsettling having three koalas staring at you…

The first batch of these, I tried using 6 American cupcake cases (pro tip – if you’re looking for these in your local UK supermarket, they’re classed as muffin trays) and they went in at Gas Mark 3/170*C for about 20 minutes, turning them around half way through.

"And here, we see a wild pack of koalas, circling their prey, waiting for the opportunity to strike..."

“And here, we see a pack of wild koalas, circling their prey, waiting for the opportunity to strike…”

This is where the fun starts. After the cupcakes had cooled, I used an apple corer to make small hole in the top of each one. Aim for a depth of about 3/4 of an inch, shallower if you’re doing British cupcakes. Do not bore all the way through.

"Unlike this blog, bwahahaha!"

“Unlike this blog, bwahahaha!”

Thank you, Statler and Waldorf. -.-

The more eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that the ingredients for the chocolate centre are the same as the truffle mix I’ve made in the past. Melt the chocolate over a saucepan of water (or about a minute in the microwave >.>) and add the butter and cream. Mix quickly together and spoon into the hollows on each cupcake. For a good finish, run a palette knife over the top to make sure the truffle mix is firmly pressed in and level with the top of the sponge. You may have some mixture left over.

Although probably not for long.

Although probably not for long.

Again, leave a little time for the truffle mixture to cool and harden – about five minutes should be enough. Whilst they cool, start mixing the rose icing. Sift your icing sugar so that it’s smooth and then mix with the butter. As you whisk it together, add the milk, rose water and food colouring. Tweak the icing sugar/rose water/milk until you’re happy and then pipe over the cupcakes.

"Do a backflip you land!"

“Do a backflip before you land!”

For an extra special touch, if you have any dark chocolate leftover, grate it over the top of the cupcakes and you should get something that looks like this:

A finished Exquisite Sin cupcake.

A finished Turkish Delightful cupcake.

If we slice the cupcake in half, you can see all the secrets:

WP_20141002_15_48_43_SmartShoot

I apologise for the poor quality of the photo but I hope it’s clear what’s going on. These cupcakes have an incredible mix of flavours and textures. The sponge provides a mild and familiar chocolate taste, just like any other chocolate cake. The rose water icing tastes just like Turkish delight and the dark chocolate centre prevents the sweetness of the icing from being overpowering. All in all, these were a resounding success with the family and I suspect I will be asked to make more.

I’m also happy to see that things are starting to settle down between the Twins and the Koala. I hope they learned a little something about working together. =)

"We certainly have! For example, I keep you distracted, while the Twins steal the cupcakes for us."

“We certainly have! For example, I keep you distracted, while the Twins steal the cupcakes for us.”

What the…

HEY!

HEY!

Goddamn it,

Goddamn it,

Money is starting to become a little tight for me at the moment, so although I will try to have another update out in two weeks, just to let you know I’m okay, you might have to wait until the next entry after that for a new recipe. Stay tuned, Koala (and Twin) fans.

Entry 25: Oh Fudge

Hello Koala fans!

I meant to have this update ready last week but things have not been going well for me. A leaking flat, coursework and some fairly major depression hammered any motivation I had to do kitchen stuff. I’m starting to get back on track though and as always, thank you for keeping me going.

This week’s recipe is probably the easiest I’ve ever done – it took me about 40 minutes from start to finish. So I’m going to use a little of my time here today to discuss one of my favourite topics – chocolate. 

"Yay, chocolate!"

“Yay, chocolate!”

About a year ago, I had the good fortune to win a competition from Montezumas and the prize was a chocolate hamper with several different flavours of chocolate. I didn’t really think there was going to be much difference; after all, one type of dark chocolate is much the same as another. It’s like when people talk about wines having hints of oak or cherry blossom (how do you even know what oak tastes like, unless you’re a woodworm or something?).

But as I shared the hamper with the folks in the department next to me, I soon began to learn the difference. Taking the time to smell the chocolate, biting off small pieces and letting it melt on my tongue – properly tasting it. Ecuadorian chocolate has a slight perfume to it, like a tea or a smoky flavour. Swiss chocolate is much more bitter  but creamy as well. There are actual flavours to chocolate, beyond being simply dark, milk and white.

Anyways, we’re here to put this chocolate to use and we’re making Black Forest Fudge this week. I’m using this recipe as the template:

http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/chocolate-pistachio-fudge-96

I’ve swapped the pistachios out for morello cherries and white chocolate drops. It’s not that I’m not a fan of nuts but I had some cherries leftover in my cupboard that needing using up. The first step is breaking up the chocolate into chunks, as this makes it easier to melt.

"It's Mount Chocmore!"

“It’s Mount Chocmore!”

 The process is not a million miles away from the one I use to make truffles with. As with them, it’s *critical* that when you’re melting the chocolate over a pan of water, you don’t let the bowl touch the water itself. If you do, the chocolate gets burnt and becomes difficult to stir. Once the chocolate has melted, add the condensed milk.

When working in a kitchen, it's important to have a can-do attitude.

When working in a kitchen, it’s important to have a can-do attitude.

Then simply tip it into the bowl:

Molten chocolate. Only slightly healthier for you than molten lava.

Molten chocolate. Only slightly healthier for you than molten lava.

Once the chocolate has a smooth texture to it, add the condensed milk and slowly stir it in. You’ll also need a small amount of butter as well.

One of these days, I'll get a proper butter knife.

One of these days, I’ll get a proper butter knife.

Once the butter is in, make sure it’s fully melted amongst the chocolate and milk – with fudge, it’s really important to make sure everything has a smooth texture. Only then you can start to add the extra bits and pieces.

Stoned cherries. Absolutely nothing to do with Amsterdam.

Stoned cherries. Absolutely nothing to do with Amsterdam.

By this point, take the molten fudge off the heat and give it about 10 minutes or so to cool. If you add the white chocolate drops too early, they’ll melt. Then tip the mixture into a baking tray.

I scattered a few extra chips on the top as some of the ones in the mixture had melted.

I scattered a few extra chips on the top as some of the ones in the mixture had melted.

Even the simplest recipe can have problems though. While I was clearing away the kitchen surface, I cut my finger on the empty tin lid. It hurt. -.-

"Owie."

“Owie.”

The fudge then went in the freezer for about 30 minutes or so. When I took it out, it was still soft enough to chop up into squares but firm enough to keep its shape.

"I'm suddenly feeling a lot better."

“I’m suddenly feeling a lot better.”

The fudge turned out to be very rich – a couple of squares at a time was enough to cure any chocolate cravings I had. The choice of morello cherries over glace cherries made a big difference as well; the flavour goes really well with the high cocoa content chocolate bars I used. Overall I’m pretty pleased with how the fudge turned out and there’s certainly a lot left over. Because it freezes well, it’ll keep for quite a long time too. =)

Entry 22: Brandy Snaps – Ow, ow, ouch.

Hello Koala fans!

Christmas is over and with it comes the usual post-Christmas hangover of having eaten a lot, drunk even more and the annual solemn vow never to touch another piece of chocolate again. It was nice seeing the family though. ^_^

As promised, here’s a bonus for you this week. I made these at the same time as I made the mince pies for work. The recipe I used was one from a TV guide magazine, so as there’s no online version, I’ll  copy it up here for you folks to enjoy. As far as I know, it’s a pretty standard recipe:

  • 50g butter
  • 50g Demerara sugar
  • 50g golden syrup
  • 50g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp brandy (or lemon juice if you prefer)
  • Pre-heat your oven to 180*C, 350*F or G#gas mark 4
  • Have a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper
It's really hard to come up with a good pun about brandy snaps.

It’s really hard to come up with a good pun about brandy snaps.

* The first step in the recipe is to remove any small furry creatures from your kitchen scales, as they make it difficult to weigh things accurately. Once your scales are marsupial-free, weigh out the butter and dice it up into small chunks.

* Next, melt the butter in a small saucepan and then add the sugar and syrup:

Brandy snaps - keeping dentists employed since 1825!

Brandy snaps – keeping dentists employed since 1825!

* In the recipe, it says to melt all this together on a low heat until the sugar dissolves. I found with this that even after a long period of time, the sugar won’t completely dissolve. You do need to avoid letting it boil though, so if it starts to bubble and the sugar still hasn’t completely melted, don’t fret too much. It should take around 10-15 mins, with occasional stirring.

When the mixture has turned a smooth, brown colour like this, you're golden.

When the mixture has turned a smooth, brown colour like this, you’re golden.

* This is the point where you weigh out the flour and add the ground ginger to it:

"Be careful - the pan is still hot!"

“Be careful – the pan is still hot!”

* Before you add the dry ingredients, add the brandy or lemon juice to the pan mixture:

Assuming, of course, your bottle hasn't been commandeered by a bear with a drink problem.

Assuming, of course, your brandy hasn’t been commandeered by a bear with a drink problem.

* Slowly pour the flour and ginger into the pan, stirring and adding a little bit at a time:

Raw brandy snaps!

Raw brandy snaps!

* Find a wooden spoon and lightly brush the handle with a little sunflower oil.

* Now you may be wondering about the title of this entry. This is where things get a teensy bit hot and I advise you to have a small bowl of icy cold water within arms reach. Add about half a teaspoon of brandy snap to the baking tray *and do no more than two at a time*.  Bake for about 10-15 mins until you have a thin, lacy biscuit.

* “But Koala, I can easily fit more than that on the tray!”

* This is true but the next bit is going to require quick fingers and you will not have a lot of time. After removing the snaps from the oven, give them about 30 seconds to cool down. They need to be just firm enough to lift with a palette knife but still soft.

* Take the pre-oiled wooden spoon and wrap the soft brandy snap around it. *THEY WILL BE HOT*, hence the bowl of icy water. Your fingers will thank you for this.

* What you’ll find is that by the time you’ve finished the second one, the brandy snaps will almost have solidified. Pop the rolled brandy snaps on a wire tray to finish cooling.

* There’s enough mixture for about 14 brandy snaps:

"What happened with these ones in front of me?"

“What happened with these ones in front of me?”

* That’s what happens when you try to do too many at once – they solidify before you get a chance to roll them.

* They still taste good when dipped in chocolate and chopped nuts:

"I greatly appreciate the sacrifice your singed fingers made."

“I greatly appreciate the sacrifice your singed fingers made.”

They seemed to go down well with folks at work – I found they taste really nice if you let them slowly melt in your mouth. You could also use a little whipped double cream and brandy and pipe it through the centre of each one. There’s a lot of room for experimentation with these.

But seriously – keep the bowl of icy water there when you’re rolling them!

Entry 20: Say Cheesecake!

Hello again, Koala fans!

A little while back, I made a small box of truffles for my sister’s birthday, similar to the ones I made in Entry 2. They went down very well, especially with my older brother, who may have “availed” himself of one or two of them…Anyways, given that my brother’s birthday was coming up, I asked my sister in law if there was anything in particular he would like and she suggested a cheesecake. Not a problem, I thought – I’ve made one before – twice, now I come to think of it. After a little casting around, I found a really cool looking chocolate cheesecake here:

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/8248/double-chocolate-cheesecake

With several different kinds of chocolate, a thick layer of cream on top and a calorie count best described as “yes”, I set to work:

"Wait, what's this I'm sitting on?"

“Wait, what’s this I’m sitting on?”

What the Koala is sitting on is a little birthday present from my folks, which I received a couple of weeks ago. My old red weighing scale has been replaced with a shiny new digital scale, which is considerably more accurate than its predecessor:

The bowl on this one is considerably shallower. One might almost say non-exsistent.

The bowl on this one is considerably shallower. One might almost say non-existent.

I don’t know whether its a good thing or bad thing that I’m able to say 97g of solid butter went into making the base of this thing. In place of Oreos, I went with something simpler this time. Ideally, I was trying to find a cross between a digestive biscuit and a double chocolate cookie. Unfortunately the only ones I could find had a layer of chocolate on top and I was uncertain how well it’d form a base. In the end I went with a normal plain digestive base; I felt that there was probably going to be enough chocolate in the main cheesecake itself, along with the chocolate sauce on top, that further chocolate would be surplus to requirements.

"Yay! More wanton destruction!"

“Yay! More wanton destruction!”

Given that I’m the one that has to clear up the kitchen after these things, I wasn’t keen on the idea of just crushing the biscuits as they were, for the simple reason they would end up all over the kitchen. Fortunately, I had a brainwave and wrapped them in clingfilm:

A crushing victory for tidiness.

A crushing victory for tidiness.

After that, it was pretty simple to melt the butter and turn it all out into the tin:

A buttery biscuit base. As alliterative as it is tasty.

A buttery biscuit base. As alliterative as it is tasty.

With the easy part out of the way, it was time to work on putting the cheese in the cheesecake:

If you felt bad about the 97g of butter in this, then you really don't want to see this photo.

If you felt bad about the 97g of butter in this, then you really don’t want to see this photo.

The ingredients were pretty close to the ones I used in the Bailey’s cheesecake, along with the methodology itself. After beating the cream cheese and sugar together, it was just a matter of adding the other ingredients one at a time and whisking between them. The part where the recipe talks about using half the melted chocolate in the cheesecake and saving the other half for the sauce was quite interesting. However, it is very, very important you pick the right type of chocolate to do it though. I went with an 85% cocoa bar and the “chocolate sauce” was very distasteful. Fortunately, I had a plan for that, which I’ll cover in a bit:

The various cheesecake ingredients being swirled together.

The various cheesecake ingredients being swirled together.

Not pictured – the part where I realised I’d forgotten the sour cream and had to run to the shop to get some. >.>

After following the baking instructions, the cheesecake seemed rather underdone, which was confirmed with the skewer test. (Pro tip – if you’re going to try any of the cakes or cheesecakes on here, get yourself a skewer. It makes all the difference between a good cake and a bad one). I put it back in the oven for another 10 mins at 220*C, which really helped to firm up the middle, although the top got a little singed as well. It was at this point that I made a fatal mistake. After you take a cheesecake out of the oven, RUN YOUR KNIFE AROUND THE EDGE OF IT. The reason being, as the cheesecake cools, it shrinks. If it’s still firmly gripping the sides, then you end up with a little cheesecake Grand Canyon running through your masterpiece. I was lucky in that it was only a tiny split but it could have been much worse.

With the cheesecake itself done, I took it down to my parent’s home so that my brother could pick it up. Given the amount of travelling, I waited on doing the cream topping until I was there, to save it getting damaged. I also stopped by Hotel Chocolat on the way through. Although they mainly do boxed chocolates, they also do individual bars and other bits that, in theory, would make great cheesecake decorations. There was, however, some risk involved:

We will never speak of what transpired after this photo was taken.

We will never speak of what transpired after this photo was taken.

I eventually left the shop with some caramel flavoured chocolate sticks, some chocolate gemstones, an extremely fat koala and an empty credit card. Once I was safely at my parents, I set to work on making the chocolate sauce:

Caramel and cream. There's probably a song in there somewhere.

Caramel and cream. There’s probably a song in there somewhere.

It was actually an idea I picked up from when I made the truffles. If you add too much cream, the ganache doesn’t set properly and it’s hard to roll into a ball for truffling but if you apply the same idea here, it makes an amazing caramel sauce. A few chocolate curls later and the cheesecake was ready:

The finished cheesecake.

The finished cheesecake.

I did manage to try some of the off cuts as I was trimming the edge and the cheesecake seemed pretty good but I’ll have to wait until I hear from my brother or sister-in-law for the full report. Looks really neat though! ^_^