Yerba Mate & Blood Orange Bundt Cake

Recipes

If you’ve read The Great Steak Post (where I don’t only talk about steak), you’ll hear about Yerba Mate — the national drink of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil. It is known to have antioxidant properties, is caffeinated and is consumed 6 to 1 over coffee.

When I was visiting Argentina, I would pass by dozens of passerby drinking yerba mate from the traditional gourd known as guampaporongo or mate in Spanish, through a metal straw called bombilla in Spanish. It is also not uncommon to see the guampa being shared amongst friends, with constant refilling from a thermos. The Yerba Mate ‘kit’ can be found in any traditional store, marketplace or souvenir shops.

I myself am a big fan of tea and for that reason, I love to find ways to use it in baking, marinades, smoothies and cocktails. I was lucky enough to come across Love Tea, a Maltese Tea company that stocks a wonderful variety of quality teas. I was super, SUPER excited to find their product Green Yerba Mate Matcha in powder form because I’ve only ever come across Yerba Mate as tea leaves.

I thought hard what it would pair well with.  Eventually, I settled on the idea that citrus flavours would balance the essence of yerba mate nicely, due to their acidic sweetness. As we can’t get enough of blood oranges at home, I thought that it would be a fine contender for my bundt cake.  And the good news is, I had leftover Green Yerba Mate Matcha for a cuppa or my morning smoothie.

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Serves:  12 large pieces

Time: 2 hours

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

For the Cake Mix

  • 400g flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 tbsp. yerba mate powder
  • 100g coconut oil, softened
  • 170g butter, softened
  • 300g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 4 eggs
  • 170g greek yoghurt
  • Juice of one small blood orange
  • a little butter and flour for the pan

For the Icing

  • 1 small blood orange, juiced
  • 200g icing sugar

***M E T H O D***

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C and grease and flour a bundt pan
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, baking powder, salt and yerba mate.
  3. In another bowl, cream together the softened butter and the coconut oil with a mixer until well combined and then add the sugar and cream together, until the mixture is fluffy.
  4. Add the vanilla, juice of blood orange and eggs and stir to combine until mixture is homogenous.
  5. Alternately add the yoghurt and flour in batches and combine after each addition and mix until the dough is smooth.
  6. Fill the prepared bundt tin and bake for 60 to 90 minutes or until an inserted stick comes out clean.
  7. As the cake is baking, prepare the icing. Add the juice of blood orange to the icing sugar and mix well.
  8. Once the cake is baked, leave to cool for about half an hour before turning the cake out onto a plate and adding the icing.

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How to make Chocolate Marzipan Truffles

Recipes

Marzipan has always been something I’ve associated to travel. I have two distinct memories: one related to when I had my first Mozart Chocolate truffle which I remain devout to (and bought swats of in Vienna); and another associated with Brussels, because it’s not uncommon to come across marzipan chocolate cigars.

Whilst my experience has been somewhat limited, I’m still a huge fan of the sweet, almond paste. And you couldn’t have imagined my excitement when I discovered how easy it is to make.

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Makes: 24

Time: 45 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

  • 300g ground almonds
  • 50 ml maple syrup
  • 40 ml amaretto
  • 1 tsp lemon zest form an unwaxed lemon
  • 175 g dark chocolate
  • topping such as crushed, almond flakes, lemon zest, melted white chocolate (optional)

***M E T H O D***

  1. Mix the ground almond with the lemon zest in a bowl.
  2. Mix amaretto and maple syrup in a separate bowl.
  3. On a clean surface, empty the ground almond mixture onto the surface and create a well. Slowly add the liquid to the almond mixture and begin to knead. Once all the liquid has been combined with the almond mixture, knead until compact. Wrap in a piece of cling film and chill in the fridge.
  4. Break chocolate into small pieces and melt it gently over a bowl of boiling water (bain marie). Make sure the water does not touch the bowl with chocolate.
  5. Take the marzipan out of the fridge. Pinch small pieces of marzipan and roll them into equal size balls. They should weigh around 15g each before dipped into the chocolate.
  6. Dip the marzipan balls in melted chocolate and place them on a drying rack for the chocolate to dry. Place in the fridge if you want to speed up the drying process.
  7. Add the toppings before the chocolate dries. If you are adding melted chocolate, wait for the dark chocolate to set first.

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Dulce de Leche delights (Alfajores)

Recipes

During my trip to South America, I commonly found biscuit treats called Alfajores. Alfajores is made of two crumbly biscuits sandwiched together by Dulce de Leche. Dulce de leche is a thick sweet paste with the colour and flavour similar to caramel. It is found in every grocery store in South America but can also easily be made at home. It is essentially milk and sugar or what we know as condensed milk. The quick way of making dulce de leche is to simmer a closed can of condensed milk fully submerged in water (with the water being 1-2 inches higher than the can) for two to three hours. The longer you leave it the thicker and darker it gets.

DSC_0154-2The special thing about alfajores is that the dough includes corn flour. This is important because it’s what gives the biscuits a silky, crumbly texture. You can also dress your Alfajores as you like: you could cover them in chocolate or you could roll the biscuits in desiccated coconut – or both. If the biscuits are not covered in chocolate, only the dulce de leche in between the biscuits will collect the desiccated coconut.

I decided to have a go at making the dough myself because store-bought shortcrust pastry doesn’t quite cut it. Again, the trick is to use corn flour, which you can mix with plain flour.

Quantity: 12 sandwich biscuits

Difficulty: Medium

Time: 1 hour 45

*I N G R E D I E N T S*

  • 130g cornstarch
  • 100g all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt
  • 225g butter
  • 45g granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 tbsp cognac
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 115g dulce de leche, at room temperature
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

*M E T H O D*

  1. Place the cornstarch, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and combine; set aside.
  2. Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl once with a rubber spatula, until the mixture is light in colour and fluffy, about 3 minutes. If you don’t have a mixer, be prepared to work your muscles.
  3. Add the egg yolks, brandy, and vanilla and mix until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, gradually add the reserved flour mixture and mix until just incorporated with no visible white pockets, about 30 seconds.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape it into a smooth disk, and wrap it tightly. Place in the refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 180°C and arrange a rack in the middle. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Roll to 1/4-inch thickness (the dough will crack but can be easily patched back together). Stamp out 24 rounds using a plain or fluted 2-inch round cutter, rerolling the dough as necessary until all of it is gone.
  7. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheets, 12 per sheet and at least 1/2 inch apart. Bake 1 sheet at a time until the biscuits are firm and pale golden on the bottom, about 12 to 14 minutes. (The biscuits will remain pale on top.) Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  8. Flip half of the biscuits upside down and gently spread about 2 teaspoons of the dulce de leche on each. Place a second biscuit on top and gently press to create a sandwich. Dust generously with powdered sugar before serving.

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Maltese Christmas Log

Recipes
I have many fond memories of Christmas thanks to my loved ones. I always find myself thanking my lucky stars for the wonderful people that surround me.
The Maltese Christmas log symbolises the start of Christmas celebrations as I remember I wasn’t allowed to eat any until my mum decided it was near enough to Christmas. Now that I’m an adult, I’ve broken the rules a few times and have made my own Maltese Christmas Log earlier than I should have. I’m talking beginning of December so I don’t think my mum would be too disappointed in me.
The beauty of the Maltese Christmas Log is that it takes very little time to make. It doesn’t require any baking but you would need to let it set in fridge overnight. You can also get creative with the filling. I omitted on having too much dried fruit and added chestnuts instead. You can either buy the chestnuts fresh and cook them or you can buy them prepared as I did.
It’s deliciously nutty, fruity, with a hint of booze (which is optional). I would choose this over Christmas pudding or mince pies any day.
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INGREDIENTS
  • 800 grams condensed milk
  • 2 packets tea biscuits
  • 200 grams mixed nuts. I used chopped hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts
  • 200 grams chopped glaced cherries
  • 100 grams chopped dates
  • 100 grams of cooked chestnuts (you can buy these already prepared)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons liqueur of choice (I prefer bourbon or whiskey)
  • ½ bar chocolate grated
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • One packet of cooking milk or dark chocolate to cover the Christmas logs
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Finely crush one packet of biscuits in a food processor.
  2. With the other packet of biscuits just roughly crush by emptying the biscuits in a plastic bag using a rolling pin to break them apart.
  3. In a large bowl mix all of the ingredients together except for the condensed milk and the packet of cooking chocolate which will be used to cover the logs.
  4. Now pour over the condensed milk and using your hands mix with all the other ingredients.
  5. Now divide the mixture into 5 parts and form each into a round cylindrical log shapes.
  6. Cover in cling film and place into the refrigerator overnight or at least twelve hours.
  7. Remove from the refrigerator and cover with melted chocolate. Decorate as you wish or leave as is.
  8. Wait until the chocolate has set and then serve by cutting into slices.

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Little Tiramisu Cakes

Recipes

When we are invited to friends for lunch and we need to prepare a dish that is quick, easy and a crowdpleaser, we usually resort to the classic tiramisu.

However, I wanted to do things differently this time. Instead of serving up tiramisu from a dish, I decide to have an attempt at tiramisu cakes, which can be served individually. I have small cooking rings at home and thought these would do the trick.

The main steps are as simple as making the classic tiramisu. We first made a biscuit base, which is as simple as crushing Digestives and mixing these with melted butter. We then prepared the tiramisu cream which requires the most effort but can be easily carried out. Making the coffee-soaked biscuits is fun (as long as you don’t soak the biscuits long enough for them to soften and break. This is why its best to have the espresso coffee cool down. Once put together, the result is perfect, semi-freddo tiramisu cakes, which we dusted with cocoa powder, crushed hazelnuts and cranberries.

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Serves: 4

Time: 1hr, plus overnight resting time

Difficulty: Easy

***I N G R E D I E N T S***

  • 8 Digestive biscuits
  • 50g salted butter
  • 2 eggs (cold)
  • 250g mascarpone (cold)
  • 50g sugar
  • 100g Lady Fingers (Savoiardi) biscuits
  • 4 espresso cups of coffee (cold)
  • Cocoa powder to dust
  • Handful of toasted hazelnuts, crushed
  • (Optional) Coffee Liquor (e.g. Tia Maria)

***M E T H O D***

  1. Place the eggs and the mascarpone cheese in the fridge for some time, as they need to be cold.
  2. Prepare the espresso and allow it to cool down.
  3. In the meantime, prepare the cheesecake base. Crush the biscuits and mix with melted butter. Once well combined, place the biscuit crumble into the ring moulds, pressing the base down with your fingers to ensure it is tightly packed and level. Once done, place the moulds in the fridge to set.
  4. Take 2 large bowls and begin to separate the egg yolks from the eggs white. It’s important to not have any yolk in the bowl with egg whites. Put the bowl with the egg whites in the fridge.
  5. With the help of a whisk (or a fork), being to gradually add half of the sugar to the egg yolks. Keep whisking until the mixture is well combined and airy.
  6. Now take the mascarpone from the fridge and add it in the same bowl, mixing gradually until you achieve a uniform, creamy texture.
  7. Take the bowl with the egg whites from the fridge, and with the help of a clean whisk (no residue of eggs yolk) mount the egg white until the become firm. Slowly add the rest of the sugar during this process.
  8. Next you need to mix the egg white to the rest of the mixture. Take a spoonful of the stiffened egg white and fold it into the cream.
  9. Here you can add 2 tablespoons of coffee liqueur of your choice (eg Tia Maria), but make sure that the resulting cream is not too liquid.
  10. Take the moulds with the cheesecake-base from the fridge.
  11. Break the Lady Fingers (Savoiardi) biscuits in 2-3cm pieces, so that they are centred in the middle. This will prevent them from peaking out of the cream.
  12. Take the moulds with the cheesecake base from the fridge. Fill them up with a little bit of cream, then soak the biacuits in coffee for a second or two and add them in the middle of the mould. Add more cream until until the biscuits are completely covered.
  13. Refrigerate over night to allow the cream to set.
  14. Check whether the cream has set by gently sliding the cake out of the mould. If the cream is too soft, place in the freezer for a short while.
  15. Take out just before serving. If the cake does not budge from the mould, run cold water over the mould until you can gently push the cake out.
  16. Place the cake on a serving plate and use a sieve to dust cocoa powder on top and add some crushed almonds and berries. I used cranberries but any berries will work.

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Hacked Hash cake

Recipes

Yes, yes. I know what you’re all wondering. No, this isn’t THE hash cake as we know it. The only thing you’ll be OD’ing on is pistachios.  At least it’s green. And makes you happy. 

Inspired by The Barbary’s Hash cake, this cake is not too different to a frangipani – an almond-based pastry filling, except this recipe, favours pistachios. Atypical I know, but green does win.  

Did you know that pistachios grow in clusters, similar to grapes?

However, unlike vines, they grow on bushy branches atop a narrow trunk. Whilst pistachios grew favourably in Central Asia, they had been introduced to Europe. You can find a concentration of pistachio trees in eastern Sicily, (the western slopes of Mount Etna volcano). The Sicilian districts known for their pistachio cultivation are called Bronte and Adrano (Catania Province).

Although not ABSOLUTELY necessary, I used 100% pure pistachio paste from Bronte (no, I wasn’t frolicking under the pistachio trees in Bronte – I purchased this online). The rest is pretty straightforward in terms of ingredients. The pastry and the filling together only amount to six ingredients: Butter, sugar, eggs, flour, almonds and pistachios. Baking this is going to be a piece of cake! Enjoy! 

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Serves:12

Time: 1hr 30 minutes, plus 1 hr resting time 

Difficulty: Easy

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***I N G R E D I E N T S***

 Pastry

  • 125g of butter
  • 75g of sugar
  • 1 eggs
  • 25g of ground almonds
  • 200g of plain flour, sifted

Filling

  • 200g of butter
  • 150g of brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 75g of pistachio nuts, blitzed
  • 50g whole pistachios
  • 75g of ground almonds or 25g pure almond paste 
  • 75g pure pistachio paste (this would contain no extra sugar)
  • 1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out (or equivalent in vanilla paste)

Decoration 

  • Icing sugar, sprinkled 
  • A dollop of cream (Optional)

***M E T H O D*** 

  1. To make the pastry, place the butter (cold) and sugar in a mixer and cream together. Mix in the eggs, then slowly add the flour and ground almonds, mixing slowly until it comes together into a thick crumb – do not over mix
  2. Tip out onto a work surface and lightly bring together into a dough with your hands. Wrap the pastry in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour
  3. Meanwhile, make the pistachio filling. Beat the butter and sugar together until light in colour, then beat in the eggs. Add the blitzed pistachios, paste, almonds and flour and mix until incorporated. Refrigerate until needed
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  5. Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll out until big enough to line the loose based tin. Carefully lay the rolled-out pastry over the tart ring and gently press into the edges, leaving a slight overhang of pastry all the way around. Any leftovers can be wrapped and stored in the freezer for 3 months
  6. Prick the pastry all over with a fork, line with a sheet of baking parchment and add a layer of baking beans. Blind bake in the oven for 8–10 minutes, then remove the parchment and baking beans and place back in the oven for a further 6 minutes. Decrease the oven temperature to 160°C. Take out and trim the excess pastry from the edges.
  7. Add the pistachio filling, filling only half the tin, spreading out evenly with a palette knife or spatula. Add a layer of pistachios and top with the rest of the pistachio filling. Make sure to even it out. 
  8. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until just cooked, then remove and allow to cool. Remove from the ring. Serve with sprinkled icing sugar and a dollop of cream. 

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