Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Dark chocolate, peanut and coffee torte with salted peanut praline and buttermilk ice cream

This week I’ve got something a little special and different for you. Earlier last month I was contacted by the lovely people at ActionAid asking if I could write a recipe for their Bake A Difference campaign. This year they are specifically targeting 2700 of the world’s poorest children who will spend this Christmas hungry, sick and in danger, and it’s an absolute privilege to support the campaign and help spread the awareness of this in my blog. More information on the great work undertaken by ActionAid, and how you can sponsor a child can be found on this link. Today also marks Giving Tuesday, which hopefully puts things back into perspective after all of the gluttony and silliness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 

My brief was to design a recipe inspired by ingredients from one of the six countries that ActionAid are focussing on this Christmas; Afghanistan, The Gambia, Malawi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and Myanmar. All of these countries traditionally produce and use amazing ingredients in their dishes, from cardamom and rose water in Afghanistan to sweet potatoes and bananas in Malawi, giving me a hard decision in picking just one! In the end I opted for the Democratic Republic of Congo. The swaying factor was the combination of cocoa, peanuts and coffee; just the sort of thing that I would order if I was out at a restaurant. Traditionally a Congolese sweet dish is something called Mikates, a sweet doughnut, but for this post I wanted to take the ingredients produced in the DRC and incorporate them into something that reflected my style of cooking. 
I thought that the idea for this campaign was a brilliant one and something that really resonated with me. Although baking has really taken off in the last few years and turned into quite a fashion, the fundamental routes of it have remained the same. Baking makes people happy. It is joyful to start off with basic ingredients and a relief to pull a fantastic finished product out of the oven. But the satisfaction really starts when a cake is given to friends or family. My whole interest in cooking started with baking. I haven’t got a particularly sweet tooth, but what spurred me on was the happiness that a cake as a gift gave others. And I think that this is a universal thing, something that spans countries, cultures and ages. 
Although there are a few different elements and stages to this recipe, it is fundamentally an easy cake to make. It is something to have a crack at even if the thought of baking sends a chill down your spine, and it’s a great one to get the kids involved in. Aside from the careful nature of making caramel they can get stuck into pretty much anything; from whisking the egg whites into a satisfying froth to bashing up the praline with a rolling pin. 
I added the soured ice cream to take the edge off the rich cake, but really any of these elements work just as well on their own. I will certainly be sneakily tucking into a bowl of that ice cream when no-one is looking, and the salted peanut brittle is addictive stuff. 
Serves 6-8    

For the cake: 
225g good quality dark chocolate, 70-85% cocoa solids preferably 
225g unsalted peanuts 
100g golden caster sugar 
125g light brown soft sugar 
225g unsalted butter, softened 
4 large eggs, separated into yolks and whites 
1 tsp instant coffee mixed with 1 tsp boiling water 
1 heaped tbsp cocoa powder 
For the buttermilk ice cream: 
80g golden caster sugar 
400ml double cream 
150ml whole milk 
200ml buttercream 
3 large egg yolks 
A pinch of salt 
For the praline:
120g unsalted peanuts 
200g golden caster sugar 
1 tsp sea salt flakes 

First get the ice cream on. Combine the milk, buttercream, sugar and cream in a saucepan and slowly bring to the boil. When up to temperature, remove from the heat. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks and salt together, then pour over half of the hot cream mixture. Whisk until the yolks are emulsified, then pour the liquid back into the pan. Return to a low-medium heat and stir continuously until the temperature reaches 85⁰C. Take off the heat and allow to cool quickly, then transfer to an ice cream machine to churn as the manufacturer suggests. 
Pre-heat the oven to 150⁰C. 

For the cake, blitz up the chocolate and the peanuts in a food processor until they are the texture of coarse breadcrumbs. Tip into a bowl and set aside. 

Cream together the sugars and butter using a whisk until well combined and very light. Incorporate the egg yolks one at a time, then beat in the chocolate, nuts, coffee and the cocoa powder. 

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Using a spatula, beat a small amount of this into the chocolate mixture before carefully folding in the rest. Spoon the batter into a lined, 20cm round baking tin and bake for about an hour, or until a skewer is clean when removed. 

To make the praline, heat up the sugar in a dry saucepan on a medium-high temperature. As the sugar starts to melt, sway the pan carefully to combine, don’t be tempted to stir. When the colour of the caramel is a deep golden colour, add the peanuts to the pan and mix well with a spoon. Tip the mixture out onto a lined baking tray and allow to set. When cooled, bash into small pieces with a rolling pin. 

When the cake has cooked and cooled, dust with a little extra cocoa powder and sprinkle with some of the praline. Serve with a scoop of the buttermilk ice cream.

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