Thursday, 9 January 2014

Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies

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I tried various different recipes for the biscuits used in these sandwich cookies before settling on this particular one.
 
This recipe was given to my mum by the woman who ran the nursery school I went to when we lived in Hastings. Her name was Hilary, and so we named these Hilary Cookies. The biscuits are great on their own as well as with the slightly extravagant peppermint buttercream and chocolate coating, and can be mixed together and baked in a matter of minutes.
 
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These plain chocolate biscuits were the first thing my sisters and I learnt to bake and its a recipe we still make often. And so it seems fitting that this recipe will be the last one I post on my blog.
 
Writing the blog has been exciting and infuriating in equal measures and has taken up ALL of my spare time! I have so much respect for all those bloggers who keep going for years and continue to develop new and exciting content every single week – it is truly a labour of love.
 
I have now achieved what I set out to do and taught myself how to make many different kinds of patisserie, so in 2014 I'll be moving on to new things, and if you would like to see what I'm up to please take a look at my Etsy shop!
 
Wishing you a happy and productive new year,
 
Kate x
 
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Chocolate Peppermint Sandwich Cookies: makes 24 cookies or 12 sandwich cookies
 
Chocolate Hilary Cookies:
115g butter or margarine
85g caster sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
140g self raising flour
1½ tablespoons cocoa
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • Preheat oven to 190°C and line two large baking sheets with parchment
  • Melt the butter, sugar and golden syrup in a pan until just combined
  • Stir in the flour, cocoa and bicarb, mixing thoroughly
  • Place spoonfuls of the batter on the lined baking sheets and flatten each slightly with a fork
  • Bake for 10 minutes and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack
  • If making sandwich cookies, you can cut them to the same size with a cookie cutter whilst still warm
Peppermint buttercream:
115g butter
1½ cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon peppermint flavouring
  • Beat together the ingredients until thoroughly combined – the quickest way to do this is in a food processor
Assembling the sandwich cookies:
300g dark chocolate
Sprinkles of choice
  • Sandwich the cookies together with a thin layer of buttercream, ensuring it comes neatly to the edges of the cookies
  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave, or temper it if you have the patience
  • Dip each cookies into the chocolate and top with sprinkles
These cookies are best the day after they are made as the cookies will soften slightly and the flavours will develop


 

Monday, 30 December 2013

Chocolate and cocoa nib cookies

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Ever since I bought a big bag of cocoa nibs for the chocolate scones I have been looking for interesting ways to use them in baking. This is one of my favourites.

Things I have learnt from making these cookies...

You don't have to chill the dough overnight if you don't have time, but in theory it will make the texture better if you include this step.
 
Once the dough is chilled you can slice the logs and either bake the cookies or place them in the freezer. The best way to do this is to freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet for a few hours and then transfer to freezer bags, then you have cookies ready to be baked straight from frozen and can make as many as you need.
The cocoa nibs and chocolate chunks in this recipe can be replaced by just about any combination of nuts, seeds, dried fruit or chocolatey things you would like.
These will spread a lot whilst baking so make sure you leave ample space between them.
 
Chocolate and cocoa nib cookies: makes 48 cookies
(adapted from David Lebovitz's chocolate chip cookie recipe in his book 'Ready for Dessert')

350g plain flour
¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon salt
225g unsalted butter, softened
215g light brown sugar
150g caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
100g cocoa nibs
200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • Beat together the butter, sugars and vanilla until just combined
  • Add in the eggs and once incorporated, stir in the flour, bicarb and salt
  • Fold in the cocoa nibs and chopped chocolate
  • Shape the dough into four logs and wrap in clingfilm, chill in the fridge overnight
  • Preheat the oven to 175°C and line a baking tray with parchment
  • Slice the chilled logs of dough into 2cm thick rounds and freeze any that you do not need that day
  • Bake the cookies for 10 minutes turning the tray half way through cooking
  • Transfer to a wire rack to cool




Sunday, 29 December 2013

Blue cheese biscuits

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These salty, cheesy biscuits go very well indeed with all kinds of alcoholic drinks and are therefore just the thing for the festive season. They make a nice change from the usual boring party nibbles or alternatively a gift for someone lacking in a sweet tooth – always a challenge for someone that makes chocolate truffles instead of buying presents.

This recipe is adapted from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess – the book that first inspired my love of baking, and one I go back to again and again for the recipes that have become firm favourites.
 
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Things I have learnt from making these biscuits...

This dough is similar to pastry in that it should be worked as little as possible to prevent it from becoming tough once baked.

You can cut the dough out with small cookie cutters like the star shaped one I used here or by cutting out simple squares or diamonds with a sharp knife.

If you make tiny biscuits like these keep a close eye on them in the oven, the difference between cooked and burnt can be a matter of moments!
 
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Blue cheese biscuits:
(adapted from the Irish Blue Biscuits recipe in How to be a Domestic Goddess)
175g crumbly blue cheese e.g Stilton
100g unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg yolk
175g plain flour
1 beaten egg, for brushing (optional)
pinch of sea salt flakes
  • Preheat oven to 200°C and line 2 large baking trays with parchment
  • Mix together the cheese, butter and egg yolk
  • Add the flour and then knead together until just combined
  • Wrap the ball of dough in clingfilm and chill for about 30 minutes
  • Roll out the dough on a floured worktop to about half a centimetre thick
  • Cut the biscuits out to the desired shape either with a cookie cutter or a sharp knife
  • Place on the baking trays and brush with the egg glaze and sprinkle with sea salt
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown and crisp at the edges
  • Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week

 

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Chocolate orange and hazelnut biscotti

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You may have noticed that I use a rather lot of recipes from a handful of my favourite bloggers. I have to try and resist the urge to recreate their blogs on my blog, because their recipes are just so good and work so well that I go back to them time and time again.

I've had my eye on a chocolate biscotti recipe on David Lebovitz's website for years, but decided that as I was going to be using his chocolate chip cookie recipe later this month I should branch out and try a different biscotti recipe instead.

I dug out my Leith's Baking Bible and made a batch of their chocolate biscotti, but the results were mediocre at best – they had a dry crumbly texture rather than the crispness I was hoping for. After a little research I discovered that biscotti don't usually contain butter or any other fat (apart from that in the eggs), and are made by whisking up the eggs until light and airy to give it it's distinctive texture – both things which do not occur in the Leith's recipe. So I gave up the unequal struggle and went back to the David Lebovitz recipe in which I can have confidence that it has been tried and tested and tested again to make sure they turn out just right.
 
I made some minor amendments in reducing the quantities, adding the orange zest, and replacing the almonds with hazelnuts but it's otherwise quite true to the original – well if it ain't broke...
 
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Chocolate, orange and hazelnut biscotti:
 
185g plain flour
50g cocoa
¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
¼ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
130g sugar
Grated zest of 1 orange
90g dark chocolate, chopped
90g hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
200g dark chocolate, for dipping (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 180°C and line two large baking trays with baking parchment
  • Beat the eggs, sugar and orange zest until the mixture thickens and holds it's shape
  • Sift the flour, cocoa, bicarb and salt into the egg mixture and gently fold in to combine
  • Stir through the chopped chocolate and hazelnuts
  • Roll the dough into two logs and transfer to the baking tray
  • Brush with beaten egg or a little milk and sprinkle with some extra sugar
  • Bake for 25 minutes then leave to cool for 15 minutes
  • Use a serrated knife to slice through the logs at an angle
  • Place the individual biscuits cut side down on the trays and bake for a further 20 minutes turning over halfway through
  • Allow to cool and then dip one end in melted chocolate
  • Once the chocolate is set, store in an airtight container for up to 1 month


 

Friday, 27 December 2013

Florentines

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I didn't think there could be anything more wonderful than the combination of caramel, nuts and chocolate that is the Florentine. Those crazy American's (and more specifically Thomas Keller of Bouchon Bakery) have proved me wrong. The addition of a layer of shortcrust pastry in their florentines is pure genius, making them more substantial and biscuity than the original wafer-like kind, and possibly even more delicious.
 
Things I have learnt from making florentines...

It took a surprisingly long amount of time to get the caramel dark enough when heating in the pan, and you do need to stir continuously otherwise it will catch and burn, leaving a bitter taste in your florentines

There is no need to spend too long trying to smooth the caramel covered nuts out beforehand. They tend to clump together rather, but when you bake them the caramel will softer again and the filling will even itself out

It is tricky to catch the chocolate at just the right moment to make the pretty patterns on the back. I ended up trying to do it too soon and then sweeping most of the chocolate off the top. I think it must take a lot of practice to pick just the right moment, which sounds like the perfect excuse to make some more!
 
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Florentines: makes 24 squares
(adapted from this florentine recipe)
 
For the pastry:
200g plain flour
100g unsalted butter
½ teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons cold water
  • Make the pastry as per the instructions in this link
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C
  • Line a baking tray with parchment and roll out the pastry to a thin sheet a little larger than the tray Place the pastry on top of the parchment, pushing the pastry into the corner and edges and trimming off the excess where necessary
  • Cover with another piece of parchment paper followed by some baking beans
  • Bake in the oven for 15 minutes before removing the parchment and baking for another 15 minutes
  • Leave to cool in the tin whilst you make the florentine topping
85g butter
150g caster sugar
3 tablespoons of golden syrup
1/3 cup double cream
1 cup of sliced almonds
½ cup chopped pistachios
½ cup diced candied orange peel
¼ cup plain flour
100g dark chocolate
  • Heat the butter, sugar, syrup and cream over a medium heat until the butter melts
  • Turn up the heat slightly and bring to the boil, stirring continuously to prevent the mixture catching
  • Boil until the mixture thickens and becomes a good caramel colour
  • Remove from the heat and quickly stir in the flour, followed by the nuts and candied peel
  • Spread the mixture over the pre baked pastry shell
  • Bake in the oven at 175°C for 20-25 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool
  • Trim off any rough pastry edges and flip over so the pastry layer is on top
  • Melt the chocolate and spread over the pastry in a thin, even layer
  • Leave to set for a minute or two before using a pastry comb to make wavey patterns in the chocolate
  • Cut into squares just before the chocolate is completely set
  • Store in an airtight container for up to a week


 

Friday, 29 November 2013

Wedding Cake

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Although I'm not very pleased with my first attempt at a wedding cake, it was at least a useful experiment in assembling multi-tiered cakes, working with fondant, and piping patterns with royal icing. All these skills are really quite useful for all kinds of celebration cakes, and so, whilst I don't think anyone is going to ask me to make their wedding cake any time soon, at least I have learnt some new techniques to use on birthday cakes!
 
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Things I have learnt from making this cake...

This cake should be made in two batches as there is just too much mixture for a normal electric whisk to cope with.
 
To ensure the cake stays light, beat the butter and sugar together for 10 minutes and add the eggs VERY slowly, 1 tablespoon at a time, in order to prevent the mixture splitting as this will destroy the air bubbles you have made in the butter.
 
Most people don't have six differently sized cake tins required for this cake, and neither do I, so I baked it in two round tins (of roughly the right size for the base tier) and a large sheet pan and then cut out circles from this to make the rest of the layers
 
I have made this cake before and loved it when iced with mascapone icing with some lemon curd stirred through it. However, I chose to make this one with buttercream as it is more stable when stacking the layers – this tasted far too sweet and sickly with what is a very sugary cake, so next time I would risk using the less stable icing.
 
Don't roll out the fondant too thinly as it will easily tear when you place it on the cake if less that ¼ inch thick.
 
You're supposed to use two fondant smoothing tools to make a neat straight edge around the top of the cake, I had great difficulty with this. I found that using the smoother on the top and then one hand on the side of the cake much more effective.
 
Proper cake decorators would use wooden dowels rather than straws to support a tiered cake, but straws are much more practical for anything other than really large cakes as you can snip them off with scissors rather than pfaffing with measurements or the special cutters that dowels require.
 
When making the template for the decoration you need to press quite firmly with a soft pencil to make sure it will transfer to the fondant.
 
I piped my royal icing with a size 1.5 nozzle – this was really far too small for piping such thick icing and meant it was really hard work to squeeze the icing out the piping bag. I would use a 2 or a 2.5 next time.
 
You need to have at least two days but preferably three to make this wedding cake. Bake the cake on the first day (or bake in advance and freeze), make the buttercream and ice and coat in fondant the second day, then pipe the designs around the outside on the second day – allow a whole day for piping a design like this so you can take regular breaks, or your hand will seize up from squeezing the piping bag for so long!
 
 
Lemon and Ginger Wedding Cake:
(adapted from Felicity Cloake's perfect ginger cake recipe)
400g butter
400g dark muscovado sugar
pinch of salt
700g self raising flour
16 teaspoons ground ginger
700g golden syrup
4 tablespoons ginger wine
8 free range eggs, beaten
4 walnut-sized pieces of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
200g crystallised ginger, finely chopped
  • Preheat oven to 160°c and line six cake tins (or two 18cm round tins and a 11x15 inch tray)
  • Cream together the butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy (10mins)
  • Pour in the golden syrup and ginger wine and beat to combine
  • Beat in the eggs very gradually
  • Mix in the flour and ground ginger before folding in the crystallised and fresh ginger
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepared tins and make for 50 minutes
  • Cool in the tin
Lemon buttercream:
375g unsalted butter
4½ cups of icing sugar
4 lemons, zest and juice
a little milk or cream
  • Beat together the butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy
  • Add the lemon zest and juice and beat again to combine
  • If the mixture is still a little stiff, add some milk or cream to loosen to a good spreading consistency
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Icing the cake:
  • Cut out the cake so that they measure ½ cm smaller than the size of the cake boards you are using (mine were roughly 17cm, 14cm and 11cmin diameter)
  • Level the tops of each layer to make a flat surface
  • Place the first layer on the centre of the cake board, sticking it on with a dab of buttercream
  • Sandwich the two layer together with buttercream and coat the top in a thin even layer
  • Place the second cake board of the same size on the top and ice the sides of the cake by using a palette knife to make sure the sides are straight and flush with the cake boards
  • Repeat with the other two layer and chill for ½ an hour
  • Slide a sharp knife underneath the upper cake board and slice off
  • Use a palette knife to smooth any rough patches in the buttercream
  • Return to the fridge until you are ready to cover in fondant
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Covering cakes with fondant:
  • You will need 1.5kg of ready to roll fondant icing for this size of cake
  • Dust your worksurface and rolling pin with cornflour or icing sugar
  • Take 1/3 of the fondant and roll out to no thinner ¼ inch thick, making sure that it is also large enough to cover the cake, to do this measure up one side, across the top and down the other side – this will give you the minimum size that your fondant needs to be in order to cover the cake
  • Carefully slide your hands underneath the fondant and gently lift over the top of the cake
  • Smooth across the top to make sure there are no air bubbles, before working down the sides of the cake, smoothing the fondant from the top and lift out from the bottom,which will get rid of any excess fondant without the need to cut and smooth over (might be best to look at a video on this point as it doesn't look like it should work, but it does!)
  • Once smoothed down to the base, trim off the excess fondant with a sharp knife
  • The cake will have naturally rounded edges, but if you want straight cornered edges you need to use a fondant smoother on top of the cake and you hand on the side and gently squeeze them together with very light pressure and circular motion with the smoother (again a video might be handy here)
  • Once all the fondant is neat and square you need to dowel the bottom two layers: poke drinking straws (or wooden dowels) straight down into the cake underneath where the next to layer is going to sit and snip off the excess flush with the top of the fondant.
  • Place in the fridge until you are ready to stack and decorate the cakes
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Royal icing decorations:
  • You will need 250g of royal icing mixed with water to the instructions on the packet
  • Make a template of the pattern you would like to use and trace it onto greaseproof paper with a soft pencil
  • Place this template along the top or bottom edge of the tier, pencil side down, and use a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon to gently rub the pencil marks onto the fondant
  • Pipe the royal icing onto the template using piping nozzle size 2 or 2.5
  • Pipe a beaded line (called a snail trail), by piping a series of dots with a line between them, along the top and bottom edge of each tier
  • Leave to the icing to set for a few hours until it is completely solid
  • Paint the raised pattern with edible metallic paint, top with flowers

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Blackberry and Apple Entremet

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This cake is completely bonkers. I'm not entirely sure how this happened, it looked so much more subtle in my head!

My blackberry and apple entremet was made of seven layers, and on reflection I think keeping it to a maximum of five is probably sensible. The two layers I found unnecessary were the marshmallow and the macaron layer. Both of which added a lot to the time it took to make, and added little to the flavour. So here is the final list:
Biscuit base with hazelnut praline and popping candy
Blackberry mousse
Blackberry and almond cake
Caramelised apples
Vanilla custard
 
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All this is surrounded by a layer of joconde sponge decorated with tuile batter to create a patterned outer layer which holds all the fillings together.

This takes a whole day to make, so it's not a baking project for the faint-hearted, but it creates a satisfyingly spectacular cake in return for your efforts.
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Things I have learnt from making this entremet...

Don't whisk together the tuile ingredients for too long,you want a batter rather than a fluffly sponge so try not to incorporate too much air.
 
To get neat diagonal lines in the tuile batter, spread an even layer over the baking paper whilst in the tin, then lift the paper on to the worktop before scraping the pastry comb across the whole surface. You will end up with excess tuile batter over the edges of the paper which you need to scrape off with a palette knife, but otherwise you will not be able to get the comb into the corners of the tray and the edges will be wasted.

Fill your washing up bowl with cold water before you start making the custard – mine started to split but I had this ready so was able to put the base of the pan in the water and whisk it up so it became smooth again. I didn't actually believe this would work so was quite pleasantly surprised that it did.

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Tuile batter:
110g unsalted butter
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon icing sugar
4 tablespoons egg white
5 tablespoons bread flour
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth
  • Slowly add the egg whites whilst continuing to beat
  • Add flour and food colouring and beat until combined
  • Spread the mixture over the base of a 30cm square baking tray lined with baking parchment
  • Use a pastry comb to scrape lines or patterns into the batter
  • Freeze for 1-2 hours or until frozen solid
  • brush each of the gaps with gold lustre dust using a small paintbrush and return to the freezer whilst you make the joconde sponge
Joconde sponge:
85g ground almonds
85g icing sugar
30g plain flour
¼ teaspoon salt
3 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2 egg whites
30g caster sugar
30g unsalted butter
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C
  • Melt the butter in the microwave and set aside to cool
  • Pulse the ground almonds and icing sugar in a food processor until very finely ground
  • Add the flour, salt, whole eggs and egg yolks and whizz up to combine
  • In a clean mixing bowl whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, begin gradually adding the sugar and whisk to stiff peaks
  • Pour the contents of the food processor onto the egg whites and stir together, you don't need to be too delicate at this stage as you need to get a lot of the air out of the mixture
  • Fold in the cooled melted butter
  • Set aside 1/3 of the mixture to make the blackberry sponge layer, and put the rest of the mixture in a piping bag
  • Pipe the joconde batter over the frozen tuile batter, smoothing out very gently where necessary to prevent smudging the pattern underneath.
  • Bake for around 8-10 minutes, turning a few times whilst baking, until the middle springs back when lightly pressed
  • Peel off the parchment whilst still warm and transfer to a wire rack to cool
  • Cut out two strips 8cm wide and use to line the insides of an 18cm cake tin

Blackberry sponge:
1/3 of the joconde batter
75g frozen blackberries, defrosted
  • Line a 15cm round cake tin with baking parchment
  • Stir the blackberries into the sponge and bake for 10mins whilst the rest of the joconde is in the oven
Hazelnut praline and digestive biscuit base:
70g porridge oats
70g wholemeal flour
70g cold unsalted butter
40g light brown sugar
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
25-40ml milk
½ batch of hazelnut praline
40g popping candy
  • Pulse the porridge oats in a food processor to break them down to a finer texture
  • Add the flour, butter, sugar, salt and baking powder and pulse until it forms crumbs
  • Slowly add the milk until it just starts to come together
  • Tip the mixture on to a piece of clingfilm, wrap up and chill for 30 minutes
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C
  • Roll out the chilled dough to 3-4mm thick (which is easiest between two pieces of greaseproof paper)
  • Tear up into rough strips and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment
  • Bake for 10-15mins before transferring to a wire rack to cool
  • Put the cooled biscuits it a plastic bag and and crush up with a rolling pin
  • Mix with the hazelnut praline paste and popping candy before pressing into the base of the cake tin lined with the joconde sponge
  • Chill in the fridge whilst you make the blackberry mousse
Blackberry Mousse:
400g frozen blackberries
110g caster sugar
150ml double cream
½ teaspoon powdered gelatin
  • Cook the blackberries and sugar over a low heat for 10-15 minutes
  • Pour a tablespoon of water into a cup and sprinkle over the gelatin
  • Push the cooked blackberries through a wire sieve with the back of a spoon to remove the seeds
  • Stir half the blackberry purée with the soaked gelatin over a low heat for 5 minutes or until the gelatin has dissolved
  • Whip the cream and fold in the purée
  • Pour on top of the biscuit base and chill for an hour before spreading over a thin layer of the reserved blackberry purée
Caramelised Apples:
6 small dessert apples
40g soft brown sugar
50g unsalted butter
pinch of salt
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C
  • Peel, core and chop the apples into thick slices, place in an oven proof dish
  • Heat the sugar, butter and salt in a saucepan
  • Bring to a gentle simmer and continue to cook whilst stirring occasionally
  • Pour the caramel over the apples, cover with tin foil
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes until the apples are soft and barely holding their shape
  • Set aside to cool before spreading on top of the blackberry mousse/purée
Custard (that will hold it's shape):
2 eggs
70g sugar
1½ tablespoons cornflour
260ml double cream
  • Whisk together the eggs, sugar and cornflour
  • Heat the cream until just before it begins to simmer
  • Pour the cream onto the egg mixture whisking continuously with a balloon whisk all the while
  • Return to the pan and, continuing to whisk, heat very gently over a low heat
  • Continue stirring until the mixture becomes very thick and ill hold its shape
  • Place the pan into a bowl of cold water and whisk until cool
  • pour over the apple layer and fill to within few millimetres of the top edge of the joconde sides
Sparkly gold glaze:
3g (¼ sachet) powdered gelatin
¼ pint hot water
½ teaspoon gold lustre dust
  • Pour 2 tablespoons of cold water into a cup, sprinkle over the gelatin and stir
  • Leave to stand for 5 minutes for the gelatin to absorb the water
  • Add the gelatin to the ¼ pint of hot water and stir until dissolved
  • Mix in the gold lustre dust and leave to cool, stirring occasionally to prevent the dust settling to the bottom
  • Once it is thick but not set, pour it over the custard to form a very thin even layer and being careful not to let it spill over the sides of the cake
Leave to set in the fridge for 2 hours or overnight before arranging any decorations and serving
 
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