Sunday, 19 May 2013

Baking Sunday: Concorde Cake

I was a big fan of Edd Kimber (aka The Boy Who Bakes) on the Great British Bake Off and he was a worthy winner of the show.  He has since released two baking books, both of which I really love.  This chocolate concorde cake is from the second of his books, Say It With Cake, which I'd thoroughly recommend.  In this day and age where anyone from telly that's ever appeared near an oven seems to have a baking book out, it's rare to find one with original ideas and definitive takes on classics.  What this book really excels at though is the big impressive show stopping numbers which I happen to love making.  I made this cake at an Edinburgh Bakers event rather a long time ago now (two further EB events have since passed, eep!), when the Edinburgh Bakers met the Glasgow Bakers.  With over twenty bakers attending there was a lot of cake that day!  There was friendly banter over which side would have the best cakes and the theme was, accordingly, show stopper cakes.  It was a fun theme to research with plenty of time spent on Pinterest and Tastespotting looking at beautiful cakes! I decided to make this cake as I was after something light but chocolatey and that would look beautiful and unusual.  This ticked all the boxes I think!  It consists of three layers of chocolate meringue, filled with a chocolate whipped cream mousse and covered with small meringue pieces.  I personally wanted to add a bit more of a wow factor and added an extra step of covering the cake in a chocolate mirror glaze before covering with the meringue pieces, which can be made in advance and reheated.  It adds another layer of texture to the cake and is darkly delicious.  I also added fresh raspberries between layers along with the chocolate mousse, just to freshen the cake up a bit.  It was a real hit on the day and I'm looking forward to when I have an occasion to make this again!

Concorde Cake
Recipe from Say it With Cake
6 large egg whites
60g caster sugar
300g icing sugar
30g cocoa powder
icing sugar or cocoa powder, for dusting

For the simple chocolate mousse:
185g dark chocolate, finely chopped
500ml double cream

1 quantity of Chocolate Mirror Glaze, recipe below

1. Preheat the oven to 110° Celcius (90° fan oven) and line three baking sheets with baking parchment.  Using a 20cm cake tin as a template, draw a circle on each piece of parchment with paper, then turn it over so that the drawing is underneath.
2. Put the egg whites into a lcean, grease-free bowl, and, using an electric mixer, whisk until they form stiff peacks.  Slowly pour in the caster sugar and whisk until the meringue is stiff and glossy.  Sift the icing sugar and cocoa powder over the meringue and gently fold together, being as gentle as possible.
3. Spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm wide plain piping tip and pipe three discs on the baking parchment using the drawn templates, piping in a spiral starting at the centre and working outwards.  Using the remaining meringue, pipe long strips onto theprepared rays alongside the discs.  Bake for about 1 hour and 40 minutes or until firm and crisp.  Turn off the oven and allow the merinuges to cool in the oven for two hours.
4. to make the mousse, melt the chocolate in a large heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water.  Remove from the heat and leave to cool.  Whisk the cream to soft peaks the pour it into the bowl with the chocolate and whisk to combine.  The resulting mousse should be fairly thick and be able to hold its shape, but not so thick it can't be spread easily.  If it is too thick and looks overwhipped, pour in a little extra cream or milk and stir to loosen the mousse.
5. To assemble the cake, use a little of the mousse to stick the first meringue disc to a bardboard cake board or serving plate.  Spread about a third of the mousse over the meringue and then add another meringue and repeat the process.  Top with the final meringue and then coat the top and sides of the cake with the remaining third of the mousse.  Ensure the sides of the cake are smooth and even all over and freeze the cake for at least 30 minutes.
6. To finish the decoration, use a serrated knife to gently cut the meringue strips into pieces.  Take the cake from the freezer and slowly coat the cake with a third of the Chocolate Mirror Glaze.  Cover three times (if it becomes too sticky, reheat in the microwave on low for 30 seconds).  Freeze for 10 minutes and then trim the ends with a hot and sharp knife.  Lightly press the meringue strips over the cake, dust with either icing sugar or cocoa powder and place back in the freezer for an hour (this will soften the meringue slightly).  Thaw in the fridge before serving.

Chocolate Mirror Glaze (Glacage Miroir)
Recipe by Pierre Herme
75g water
150g caster sugar
150g glucose syrup
100g sweet condensed milk
70g masse gelatine (soak 10g gelatine leaves into cold water then weight the soaked gelatine leaves and make up to 70g with the soaking water)
150g dark chocolate

Put the water, sugar and glucose syrup into a pan and bring to the boil. When the syrup reaches 103°C, turn off the heat and mix in the condensed milk and masse gelatine.  Pour over the milk chocolate and mix with a rubber spatula until smooth.

It was a popular cake!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Weekend Brunch: Hotel Du Vin

Ahh poor neglected blog.  It's been a busy old year, time has whizzed by and all of a sudden I find myself in mid-May wondering how on earth the middle of the year has crept up on me.  I've been busy working on some other projects, most notably a new Edinburgh lifestyle blog as well as preparing for my dad's imminent visit.  He'll be staying with me for a month and I'll be delighted to see him; it has been a lot of fun researching places in Scotland to visit and places to eat in Edinburgh - he's got a big appetite, which I've happily inherited.  With that in mind, Hotel Du Vin has firmly secured itself on the list of places that I'm sure my dad will love.  They have a four course Le Brunch which can only be described as epic.

As I've previously mentioned on the blog, Edinburghers seem very keen on brunch, with the love veering more towards an all-day breakfast than southern style Sunday roasts.  Hotel Du Vin are bridging the gap between the two with their Sunday brunch where you start off with a soup and then get all of your continental breakfast needs from their French market table. There is a choice between breakfast favourites and lunch options for your main course (from the a la cart menu) and finally some dessert to round it all off.   Brunch runs from 12 to 4pm, leaving you ample time to enjoy the feast at your leisure.  It is priced at £19.99.  

To start from the top, the first course of the brunch feast is vegetarian soup du jour and on my visit this was a vegetable soup with fresh parsley garnish.  The soup isn't served with bread (you don't want to fill up on the first course!) but was packed with flavour with a perfect velvet texture.  Next up is a trip or two to the French Market Table, where you can help yourself to freshly baked breads and croissants, charcuterie, rillettes, pates, vegetables and, if that wasn't quite enough, plenty of fresh seafood.  The table was heaving with food and soon my plate was too.  I took full advantage of the beautiful seafood on offer and came away with dressed crab, a few king prawns and a freshly shucked oyster, along with some fresh bread, pates and salad.  A plate full of cockles was also on offer along with a rather delicious potted shrimp.  A leg of serrano ham being freshly carved at the table was also a nice touch.  It really is very generous and you can go back again if you so desire.  By now though, I was starting to feel a little full - worryingly so, considering I'd ordered my main course of Sunday roast.  But that's the beauty of Le Brunch - there's no rush so you can just kick back with a cocktail and enjoy eating at your own pace.

The main course options range from Omelette Arnold Bennett (with haddock and Gruyere) and salmon hollandaise to heartier options like a pie du jour, bistro burger or steak frites.  On this occasion I thought I would go for the Normandy roast chicken as I was in a Sunday roast kind of mood.  It was accompanied with a gravy boat and a good selection of veg - the essential roast potatoes, some carrots, parsnips and the obligatory green vegetable selection.  The chicken was not the boring option here: a very generous portion which was lusciously moist and crispy skinned. 

Finally, just when I thought I could eat no more, we were handed the dessert menus and had to make a decision on the final course.  I did worry this was going to be the 'wafer thin mint' that would tip me over the edge however I can't resist dessert and there were some tempting treats on offer, with rhubarb crumble, traditional trifle and profiteroles being among them.  However I chose what I considered to be the lightest thing on the menu, the Bistro Du Vin coupe which comprises a vanilla and pistachio ice cream with chocolate sauce and pistachio nougat.  It was a fun and simple dessert which rounded off the meal well.  I did have slight plate envy when I saw a huge creme brulee pass me by but I'm glad I finished with ice cream and didn't physically have to be rolled out of the hotel.  

Le Brunch was such a lovely way to spend an afternoon and is perfect for when you want to treat someone to an extravagant daytime meal.  It's incredibly good value and I'd thoroughly recommend it for a long leisurely afternoon with an optional walk across the Meadows afterwards being an enjoyable end to the day.

* French Market Table picture courtesy of Hotel Du Vin