Popcorn, Peanut Butter & Chocolate Fudge Torte

IMG_3739A word of warning – this one is not for the faint-hearted. John Whaite, winner of the Great British Bake Off 2012, came up with this blood sugar-spiking recipe as a bake he deemed suitable for enjoying on Christmas Eve, as described in the GBBO Christmas cookbook. Now, I don’t know about you, but the idea of spending Christmas Day fighting a stonking sugar comedown doesn’t quite tickle my fancy. But in any case, the marriage of toffee popcorn (a childhood favourite bought from Spar Express many a time), salty peanut butter and a decadent chocolate fudge had me waiting for an opportune moment to unleash this beast on unsuspecting hungry folks. It was admittedly nowhere near Christmas-time, but it went down a treat.

Ingredients

For the sponge

  • 5 eggs
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 120g plain flour
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 50g butter, melted

For the peanut butter & popcorn mousse

  • 75g toffee popcorn
  • 200ml double cream
  • 90g smooth peanut butter
  • 50g condensed milk
  • 100g soft cheese

For the chocolate fudge

  • 250g condensed milk
  • 50g smooth peanut butter
  • 50ml double cream
  • 200g dark chocolate

For the caramelised popcorn decoration

  • 100g caster sugar
  • 50g toffee popcorn

Method

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line the base of a 23cm round springform cake tin with greaseproof paper. My circular cake tins were all a bit too diddy, so I plumped for a square one. Break the eggs into a large bowl, and whip up with an electric whisk for 1 minute until they are light and fluffy.

IMG_3714Add the sugar and whisk on full speed for 5 minutes, until the mixture has quadrupled in volume and you reach the ribbon stage.

At this juncture, I had to jump ship and switch bowls, as the mixture seemed to take on a life of its own. I had created a monster.

IMG_3715IMG_3716IMG_3718IMG_3719Using your suitably XXL sized bowl, sift over the flour and cocoa powder, add the melted butter and gently fold together.

IMG_3720IMG_3721Pour into the prepared cake tin, and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

IMG_3722When the sponge is nicely risen, and an inserted knife into the centre comes out clean, invert it onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely, keeping it inside the tin.

To make the mousse, use a food processor to blitz the toffee popcorn into a chunky rubble.  IMG_3723IMG_3725IMG_3726Add the cream and mix for another 10 seconds, until it has just thickened. Add the peanut butter, condensed milk and soft cheese, then blitz again briefly until it has all come together. It should be a thick and spreadable consistency, so now you can transfer it into a bowl and pop it in the fridge until later.

IMG_3727Cut the cooled cake in half. Get rid of the greaseproof paper, and place one half of the sponge back in the tin, pressing down gently to make sure it’s at the bottom.

IMG_3733Scoop the entirety of your peanut butter & popcorn filling onto the sponge, and spread it out evenly. Use a palette knife or the back of a spoon, until it is smooth and reaches the sides.

IMG_3734IMG_3735Top with the other half of the cake, and pop it in the fridge.

My sponge flopped all the way down onto the wire rack and ended up with these indentations, but thankfully the ganache-to-come saved the day, and hid all unsightly grooves.

IMG_3736To make the fudge topping, put the chocolate, condensed milk, double cream and peanut butter into a saucepan, and stir gently over a low heat.

IMG_3728IMG_3729Allow everything to melt together, until it eventually becomes a smooth, glossy fudge. Pour it over the cake and put back in the fridge to set for at least an hour.

Finally, the last step! To caramelise your already caramelised popcorn. This may seem a tad unnecessary, potentially a case of over-egging the pudding? But nay! The topping was actually what most people who tried it exclaimed their love for. It kept them coming back for more, so don’t be scared to be generous with it and bloody well pile it on.

Firstly, place a sheet of greaseproof paper over a kitchen surface. Heat a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the sugar, and slowly let it melt, stirring occasionally for about 8 minutes, until it becomes a dark caramel.

IMG_3731 Add the popcorn, quickly stir to coat it all, and tip onto the greaseproof paper to cool down and solidify.

IMG_3732Remove the cake from the fridge at least an hour before serving. Run a blunt knife around the edge to release it from the tin, and transfer to your chosen plate. Decorate liberally with the broken up popcorn, et voila, you have created a rather festive masterpiece!

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Honey, Pistachio & Walnut Baklava

IMG_4142The other day, I was accompanying my Mum on her (what seems to me) daily mammoth trip to Boots, when we were beckoned over at the entrance by an interesting bunch of twenty-somethings with the offering of freshly baked pastries. A dreadlocked figure handed us both a diamond shaped sticky looking morsel in its own little paper boat, and we happily tucked into what was the tastiest baklava I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. My automatic next move was to ask for the recipe, but they insisted on educating us about the entire history of Israel first. Once we’d pocketed a library’s worth of notes, nodded and exclaimed at the appropriate moments, I deemed it suitable to strike up the baklava conversation again, but it turned out nobody knew the recipe after all because someone’s mum had made it.

So to the drawing board I went!

A mish-mash of cookbooks, blogposts and recipe websites gave me a delicious outcome of sweet, flaky, crispy goodness that lasted a good 10 days. It actually developed a much more intense flavour over time, so definitely think ahead and bake some a good couple of days before you’d like to serve it. Your taste buds, and your guests, will most certainly thank you.

Ingredients

  • 1 packet (270g) of filo pastry sheets, thawed
  • 200g butter, melted
  • 125g walnuts
  • 125g pistachios
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 150ml water
  • 90g honey

Method

To kick off proceedings, begin by making your syrup (it needs time to cool down, which is conveniently while you’re assembling the baklava). In a saucepan combine the sugar, lemon juice, water and honey. Bring to a boil over a high heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, and then let it bubble away for 5 minutes without stirring. Once it’s smooth, thick and glossy, remove it from the heat and set aside to cool.

IMG_4132Preheat the oven to 160°C. Liberally butter an 8×8 inch pan, and trim the filo sheets so that they fit snugly into your pan. Once they’re the right size, lay them out on a table top and cover with a damp tea towel so that they don’t dry out.

To make the nutty filling, pop the walnuts and pistachios into a food processor.

IMG_4128Pulse until finely chopped.

IMG_4129Transfer to a bowl, and mix in your cinnamon.

IMG_4130IMG_4131Place your first filo sheet into the baking pan, and brush generously with melted butter. Layer another sheet over that, and brush again with the butter. Repeat this until you have a layer of about 4-6 sheets of filo, remembering to brush each time.

IMG_4133IMG_4134IMG_4136Spread about half of your nut mixture over the top.

IMG_4135Repeat this with another 4-6 buttered filo sheets, followed by the other half of the nuts. Finish off with the last few layers of filo, and brush the very top with butter. Now this final step is very important, which I stupidly forgot to do. Cut the pastry lengthways into 4 strips, then cut across diagonally to create those lovely, signature diamond shapes.

In my haste to get these in the oven, I shoved them in and remembered halfway through the baking time that they hadn’t yet seen a knife. So as you can tell, my pastry was already crisp when I cut them, and I sadly didn’t end up with beautifully neat lines.

Luckily, this had no impact on the flavour, merely the aesthetics!

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Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the top is an even golden brown.

Remove the baklava from the oven and pour the cooled syrup over the whole thing. You should hear it sizzle, which means it will stay crisp, and not become soggy. Let it cool on a wire rack, uncovered at room temperature, preferably overnight. This allows the syrup to penetrate each layer, also acting as a bit of a preservative, making it last for 1  to 2 weeks.

IMG_4140IMG_4141Dig in, and marvel at your epic mid-morning coffee breaks to come. Mazel tov!