flourless orange and cacao cake with spiced orange syrup. with hippy vic

clseupIt’s just passed three o’clock on Sunday afternoon. I’ve been up for approximately four hours, mostly spent in a sleepy daze whilst sitting in the dappled sun from our balcony window. Ice cubes clink in my water glass, dancing merrily in transparent liquid. Cheerios crunch against my teeth. I’m still a little dazed from the fullness of the Saturday-that-was.

‘Fullness’ is a good descriptive actually, in every sense of the word. We spent twelve hours of our Saturday between three beautiful houses, eating, drinking, laughing and cooking with wonderful friends. Yes. Twelve hours. That’s three meals with a little exercise and driving in-between (emphasis on ‘a little’ as to be honest; we mostly just ate).

beeThis massive day of food was the brainchild of my gorgeous friend Hippy Vic, who was first introduced to you in my Curing Olives post two months ago. Vic has spent the past month organizing a progressive, roving menu between her home and two mutual friends’ houses, all of whom live about 20 minutes north east of the Perth city centre.

wineRegrettably, Aaron and I spent most of the day eating and not taking photographs. However, I can provide the full day’s menu, as follows:

Breakfast by Floss and Simon: Soft-poached eggs with crispy bacon, herbed tomatoes, marinated mushrooms, hash browns and sourdough toast / tea and coffee / fresh orange juice

Lunch by Alex and Merryl: Hot Turkish bread with artichoke dip, extra virgin oil and dukkah / grilled chicken, vegetable and crisp-fried haloumi stacks with lemony crème fraîche foam / homemade vanilla bean ice cream, salted caramel apples, Cointreau, fresh strawberries and sweet hazelnut dukkah / fresh apple, triple sec and Hendrick’s gin cocktail / coffee

Dinner by Vicky and Laura: Slow-roasted lamb shoulder / mint pesto / lemon pistachio tabbouleh /  baba ghannouj with lemon oil / cucumber and cumin yoghurt with smoked sea salt / marinated eggplant with chilli and garlic / pomegranate salad with micro-greens, avocado, pistachio and soft-curd feta / Persian flatbread / flourless orange and cacao cake with spiced orange syrup (recipe to follow) / Grant Burge Cameron Vale Cabernet Sauvignon (2009)

Twelve hours of absolute food indulgence. Both Aaron and I left Vicky and Mark’s house in a state of slightly sleepy, full-bellied bliss.

candlechocNow, without further ado, let me introduce you to Hippy Vic‘s recipe for Flourless Orange and Cacao Cake.

Vicky and I made the cake at around 6:00pm last night. She states that the original recipe was transcribed from her friend Melissa’s recipe book (Mel originally found it in a recipe guide for the Thermomix appliance) but ingredients and quantities have been swapped around in reckless abandon, eventually creating an entirely different version of the original cake.

In flurry of nut meal and cacao, I snapped urgent photos of the cooking process as the last of the afternoon sunlight faded into blackness.

choccinnamonThe cake was eventually served at around 8:30pm, with the last minute addition of a fragrant spiced orange syrup (due to concerns about dreaded cake ‘dryness’ from Vicky… though she needn’t have worried).

I sliced up some home-grown Valencia oranges and threw them into a saucepan with a cinnamon quill, star anise, some raw sugar and fresh orange juice. After the simmering liquid reduced to a syrup consistency, it was poured over the rustic, warm cake and topped with spiced slices of chewy orange rind. It was perfect addition to the dense, dark cake… the rind contrasted beautifully against the chewy, chocolatey crumb.

*I must apologise for some of the poor quality, 60’s-magazine style photographs in this post. The finished cake was shot entirely in artificial light and has a resultant yellowish tinge (oh, it hurts).

straightoutovenFlourless Orange and Cacao Cake

  • 200g finely ground nut meal (we used 160g almond meal, 40g hazelnut meal)
  • 2 whole, unwaxed oranges
  • 2 cinnamon quills
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6 large, free-range eggs
  • 200g raw caster sugar
  • 40g organic cacao powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100g good-quality dark eating chocolate (at least 70% cocoa), coarsely chopped
  • Optional: 2 tbsp Cointreau or other good-quality Triple Sec

Half-fill a large saucepan with water, then add your oranges. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, for about 60-90 minutes or until a knife easily pierces through each fruit (if your water boils down too much, add more as required). Drain fruit and discard cinnamon quills. Leave for 10-15 minutes or until cool enough to handle.

blendmontWhen adequately cooled, slice each orange into pieces and add them into the bowl of a food processor.

Process the fruit until smooth, then tip the blended oranges into a large mixing bowl. Add the ground cinnamon, cacao powder, nut meal, caster sugar, baking powder, bicarbonate, chopped dark chocolate and Cointreau (if using). Mix well.

eggchocPreheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Grease and line a 22cm round springform cake tin (or just shove baking paper in and force it to conform, if you’re Vic!), then set aside.

In a separate bowl, beat your (happy) eggs to soft peaks. Gently fold them into your orange mixture, then pour the lot into the lined cake tin.

stircacaoBake for 30-45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake emerges with only a few moist crumbs attached. Serve as it is, with cream and/or ice cream, or topped with the spiced orange syrup (to follow).

cakesideSpiced Orange Syrup

Makes about 1/4 cup syrup

  • 2 (small) whole, unwaxed oranges
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup raw caster sugar (to taste, we only used about 1/4 cup)
  • 1 cinnamon quill
  • 1 star anise

Slice your whole oranges into 0.3cm slices, then place into a medium saucepan with the other ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce temperature to a gentle simmer. Simmer for around 20 minutes, or until the orange peels have softened and the liquid has reduced to a syrupy consistency.

orangesRemove your orange slices from the syrup, then set aside. Discard star anise and cinnamon quill. Whilst still in the tin, pierce holes all over the top of your cake with a thin skewer, then pour over the spiced orange syrup. Allow to soak for about 5-10 minutes before removing from the tin and transferring to a serving platter.

Top your cake with the orange slices in a circular pattern. Dust with icing sugar to serve, if desired.

cakechocmontNote: If you’d like a good read, the beautiful Hippy Vic has a couple more posts up on her own site, including her latest post which includes a recipe for Mauritian Goat Curry (from fellow bloggers Alex and Priya, aka Boy Meets Girl Meets Food. Also worth visiting for fantastic recipes and travel posts)

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marshmallow cocoa treats

table

A couple of months after we started dating, my then-boyfriend Aaron mentioned to me that he had a recipe for a particularly addictive chocolate-coated marshmallow confection. It was something that his mother used to make throughout their teen years for consumption during the Summer months, and the family would store them in the freezer for an icy cold, chocolatey treat.

At this point, my mind drifted. Frozen chocolate-coated marshmallows? Being a child of the British Empire, I’ve always associated this combination (sans freezing) with products such as the delightful Tunnock’s Tea Cake, which is eaten at room-temperature with a nice hot cup of tea. However, scattered throughout the conversation were phrases such as ‘the best thing ever’ and ‘you can’t stop at one’. His enthusiasm was infectious, so as our tastes are quite similar (uh, we’re both chocaholics) I remained rather keen to try them.

Some weeks later, Aaron turned up at my apartment bearing a slightly smudged, handwritten recipe card entitled ‘Marshmallow Treats’. I had a skim through the ingredients, quickly realising that the recipe was similar to chocolate marshmallow snowballs, a confection that I had oft sampled but never created from scratch.

recipe

Now, this is the point where my seed of doubt started to grow into a sizable seedling. Chocolate marshmallow snowballs have always fallen into the category of ‘fake’ chocolate for me, mostly because the samples I’ve tried have been dry, obviously biscuity and devoid of real chocolate flavour. However, a couple of days later Aaron brought home the ingredients and we spent a warm Saturday morning melting butter, sifting cocoa and rolling out a ginormous double-batch.

milkcookies

At this point, I need to specify that we followed Aaron’s family tradition by placing our trays of little treats directly in the freezer to set. Around an hour later, they emerged: frosty cold, deep cocoa-red and flaked with coconut.

As I earlier confessed my seedlings of doubt about this recipe, I’ll also be completely honest about my first reaction when eating a frozen marshmallow treat. They’re frosty cold, with slight resistance as your teeth penetrate the chocolate coating towards the soft marshmallow centre. As you chew, the coating melts into a sweet jumble of cocoa, crunchy biscuit and fragrant coconut… it’s an absolutely delicious, uniquely cold chocolate treat. Oh, and Aaron was also completely correct about the difficulty you’ll encounter when attempting to stop at one of these little mouthfuls. At our first sitting, we consumed… uh, about ten or so? Each. This was followed by a sudden bout of nausea, so I’d discourage you from following in our rather foolish footsteps.

mallows

So, whether you’ve experienced a dry chocolate snowball or a soft, pillowy Tunnock’s Tea Cake, I’d encourage you to set aside prior associations whilst sampling these frosty little marshmallow treats. Yes, they’re still skirting in ‘fake’ chocolate territory, but with genuine, high-quality Dutch-process cocoa they’re as chocolatey as can be.

You’ll see that we’ve made some adjustments to Aaron’s original family recipe… namely, a reduction in sugar and coconut. Admittedly, this does result in a slight textural variance from the original product (due to aspects of food science that I won’t describe here) however it allows the complexity of the cocoa to shine through.

If you’d prefer, get back-to-basics with the sugary recipe card above, an apron and a wooden spoon. Either way, try them straight from the freezer – you’ll be very glad you did.

cocoamont

Marshmallow Cocoa Treats

Makes approx. 35 golf-ball-sized treats

  • 200g unsalted organic butter
  • 400g can of condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup (firmly packed) brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa, sifted
  • 2 tsp natural vanilla essence
  • 250g plain, sweet biscuits (e.g. Arnott’s Marie or Milk Arrowroot, graham crackers or malt biscuits)
  • 250g marshmallows
  • 1 cup finely dessicated coconut

Combine the butter, sugar, condensed milk, vanilla essence and cocoa in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir regularly, without boiling, until glossy and smooth. Remove from the heat and set aside whilst you prepare your biscuits.

biscuitsmont

If you have a food processor, place all of your biscuits into the processor bowl and crush them until you have a fine consistency. If you don’t (like me), place half of the biscuits onto a clean tea towel, then fold to enclose. Bash your biscuit parcel with a heavy rolling pin or other kitchen implement until the biscuits are finely crushed. You may need to open the tea towel and give any resilient large pieces a direct hit with the rolling pin. Repeat the process until all your biscuits are of a finely crushed consistency.

Add the crushed biscuits to the chocolate mixture, then stir to combine. Set aside until the mixture thickens and reaches room temperature.

bowl

Now for the fun part: set up your ‘marshmallow treat assembly area’. You’ll need a clean tray lined with greaseproof paper, your bowl of chocolate mixture, a shallow plate or dish filled with dessicated coconut (for rolling your marshmallow treats in) and a bowl filled with clean, cool water.

Dip your hands into the water to slightly dampen them. Scoop take about one tablespoon’s worth of chocolate mixture, then form it into a flat disc with your fingers. Place a marshmallow in the centre of the disc, then fold around the edges until the marshmallow is completely enclosed. Roll the ball in the palms of your hands until it becomes smooth, spherical and shiny.

processmont2

Place the ball onto your plate of dessicated coconut, and gently roll it around until the outside is well coated. Carefully place your finished marshmallow treat onto the lined baking tray, then repeat the process as required.

processedited

When your marshmallow treats are finished, place them in the fridge or freezer to chill for at least half an hour before eating. As above mentioned, our preferred storage method is in an airtight container in the freezer, for icy-cold consumption on warm Summer days.

treatbitten3

Notes:

  • I’m not going to kid you by saying that there are amazing health benefits within these little balls of chocolate deliciousness. Yes, there are beneficial antioxidants in cocoa, but they’re definitely not enough to outweigh all the butter and sugar you’ll be consuming. Let’s just say that these are a ‘sometimes’ food, ok? Don’t start at ten serves like we did.
  • Make sure that you keep your hands moist throughout the rolling process, or you (and possibly, your kitchen) will soon be covered in a sticky, coconut-flaked chocolate mess. Keep refreshing your bowl of water if it gets dirty.
  • If you’re not fond of coconut, you can roll these balls in toasted, crushed almonds or hazelnuts, more cocoa, chocolate sprinkles or (one of my favourite things) Swedish pearl sugar. If you’re unfamiliar with this ingredient, it’s basically little crystals of sugar (a little like rock salt) that add textural crunch and sweetness to baked goods. They’re traditionally used atop kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon rolls).
  • You can also dip these delicious treats into melted milk, white or dark chocolate to completely gild the lily.
  • If the idea of marshmallows isn’t enticing, feel free to substitute a glace cherry, toasted nut or whatever else you desire as the centre filling. You can also just use the coating mixture to roll plain cocoa balls.
  • Extra note: you’ve probably identified that the hands in the initial ‘rolling’ illustration are not mine. They belong to Aaron, my much more masculine and ultra-talented counterpart. I’m the one with the peachy nail-polish doing an unintentional ‘running girl’ hand pose. Ha.

poppiestreats

For those who were wondering what happened to our little bean-birds during the prolonged stint of hot weather, I’ve included a more recent photo. Their mother successfully shielded them from the sun’s penetrating rays and they’ve quadrupled in size over the past two weeks.

Each day, their beautiful little heads pop up to be fed in a flurry of activity, translucent necks straining in the filtered sun. Their mother has also reached a new level of fierceness in her efforts to protect them. She performs air attacks on unsuspecting unit residents (a.k.a possible predators) every day.

I’ll be sad when they eventually leave the nest, as their little chirps and wobbly movements add a bit of joy to our everyday routines. I’ll keep you updated on their exceptionally fast progress… hopefully the next photo will be of little fluffy bean-birds in flight.

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