Don’t skip by this, thinking that it’s only for children. It’s most definitely not. Of course, children love it, but so does every grown-up I’ve ever given it too. This is another recipe that I’ve been making for years, although this one without much tweaking, since I’ve never felt the need to mess about with it. Although, having said that, I do have a hankering to try it with Snickers bars, just to see what happens. But that’s a recipe for another day. Obviously this is a treat, both tasty – it really is more than the sum of its simple parts – and a little bit naughty – you probably shouldn’t eat this every day, although it, to me at least, is highly addictive. Now, a couple of bossy instructions. The chocolate layer on top wants to be thick, hence the 300g in the recipe. You could probably get away with 200g, just, but as the old saying goes, if you’re going to get wet, you may as well go swimming. And, with all of that butter and everything else, a little extra chocolate will hardly hurt. Which leads me onto my second directive: use butter, proper butter, and not margarine or sunflower spread or anything else. However, when buying your chocolate, do bear in mind that, given the other ingredients, it would be a little redundant to go all out for the finest available. Use your favourite confectionary milk chocolate, and perhaps save the very best stuff for something a little more high-brow. That is not, however, permission to use anything labelled ‘cooking chocolate’, or worse still, ‘chocolate flavoured cake topping’.
3 Mars bars (about 60g each)
2 tablespoons golden syrup
100g puffed rice cereal, e.g. Rice Krispies
300g milk chocolate
Chop the Mars bars into smallish pieces, and cut up the butter. Dump the Mars bars and butter into a large pan with the golden syrup, and melt over a low heat, stirring often. I usually do this in a large, deep cast-iron casserole, but any large pan would do. You do have to keep an eye on it though, and keep stirring, not being tempted to turn up the heat to try and hurry things along, or the mixture may burn. It will take a while, but if you are more patient and can stand to stir for a little longer to minimise the risk of burning (which I haven’t yet managed, so don’t worry too much), you can melt everything together in a large bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water. Note that the three layers within the Mars bar, the butter and the golden syrup all melt at different speeds, so while everything is slowly melting, the contents of your pan may look a little disgusting and lumpy for a while. Stick with it, and keep stirring. Eventually, you’ll end up with a thick, glossy chocolate sauce.
Stir the rice cereal into the chocolate. You may need slightly more, but you should be able to coat 100g well enough, using a wooden spoon and a little elbow grease, with neither excess chocolate left in the bottom nor uncoated Krispies spoiling the sticky, shiny look of the finished bars. Tip into a 20cm square tin, lined with cling film or baking parchment, (just to make it easier to remove) and press down firmly to give an even-ish layer and a flat-ish top. Stick in the fridge to set until firm, perhaps about an hour.
When the base is set, break the milk chocolate into pieces and gently melt, stirring occasionally, in a suitable bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. When the chocolate is melted, pour over the base and spread to the edges with a silicone spatula. Return to the fridge and allow the chocolate to fully set, before removing from the tin and slicing into 16 chunky bars. I would add that these will keep for a couple of days in the fridge, although I doubt they’ll last that long, but do benefit from a little while at room temperature so they are not completely solid when you bite into them.
I have been making a version of these easy, no-bake chocolate ‘cakes’ for a long time, sometimes Rocky Road (which to my mind is specifically marshmallows, glace cherries, digestive biscuits and occasionally extras, but never substitutions), sometimes a different version more akin to the traditional British ‘tiffin’ with crushed biscuits and dried fruit. When I saw these three variations in the September Sainsbury’s magazine I knew I wanted to try them all, and a recent bring-a-plate style feast at a friend’s wedding provided the perfect opportunity. These are ideal party food – made in advance, transportable (although I did use a cool bag, just in case) and most importantly delicious. These also seemed like slightly more grown-up versions of the traditional fridge cake, what with their macadamias, pistachios, amaretti and crystallised ginger. The marshmallow ones went first, of course.
The butter and honey added to the chocolate stops it from setting hard like just chocolate alone would, and the honey helps give a glossy finish. The honey flavour is not particularly pronounced, although it is perhaps slightly noticeable in the white chocolate ones. If you don’t like honey or were perhaps, perish the thought, making these for children, you could substitute the same amount of golden syrup, which is what I have used in previous incarnations of these. Indeed, if you were making these for children, I would perhaps go with the first variation, leaving out the macadamias and adding a couple of handfuls of cornflakes to replace the crunch, and maybe altering the amounts of dark and milk chocolate, although still including both – either half and half or 300g milk and 100g dark.
Each recipe, set in its 20cm square cake tin, will slice into 16 good size portions, or as part of a party feast, 25 smaller, but by no means too small, ones, and perfectly proportioned if you were serving more than one version, since everyone will want to try them all.
Recipes adapted from September 2011 Sainsbury’s Magazine
Marshmallow and macadamia chocolate fridge cake
300g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
100g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons clear honey
100g digestive biscuits (about 6)
100g mini marshmallows
100g macadamia nuts
Break the chocolate into squares, cut the butter into cubes and place both, with the honey, in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir everything occasionally until melted, smooth and glossy, being careful not to overheat. Meanwhile, chop the biscuits into small pieces, and roughly chop the macadamias, so some are halves and some are smaller pieces. Take the melted chocolate mixture off of the heat as soon as everything is melted, and add the chopped biscuits, nuts and marshmallows. I tend to try and scoop the biscuits and nuts from the chopping board, leaving behind most of the crumbs so that the finished bars aren’t too grainy. Stir everything gently to combine, making sure that everything is well coated in the chocolate mixture.
Line a 20cm square cake tin with cling film, pushing it into the corners and making it as smooth as you can. I am aware this is more easily said than done, but if I can manage it, you can. Tip the cake mix into the lined tin, pushing it into the corners and levelling the top (which of course will never be smooth, but I mean ensuring the overall cake is a similar thickness all over) with a spatula. Leave it to cool, cover the tin and chill for at least a couple of hours, longer won’t hurt, until set. (If you’re anything like me, you’ll know when it’s set from opening the fridge door every twenty minutes to check.) Once set, remove the fridge cake from it’s tin, carefully peel off the cling film, and cut into slices. Mine kept well in the fridge for a couple of days.
Almond and ginger chocolate fridge cake
300g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
100g unsalted butter
2 tablespoons clear honey
100g amaretti biscuits (the crunchy sort, not the soft ones)
100g crystallised stem ginger
First of all, toast the almonds by tipping them into a dry frying pan over a medium heat, and, watching vigilantly since they will go from raw to black the second you turn your back, cook, tossing them around frequently, until they start to turn golden. Remove from the heat and tip them out of the frying pan onto a waiting plate to stop them from cooking further. Then continue as for the first recipe, melting the chocolates, butter and honey slowly in a bowl over barely simmering water. While this is doing, chop the biscuits, toasted almonds and the crystallised ginger into pieces, the ginger into smaller pieces than the nuts and amaretti. Stir everything together, tip into the lined tin and cool, chill to set, remove and slice as before.
Pistachio and cherry white chocolate fridge cake
600g white chocolate
2 tbsp clear honey
100g shortbread fingers
100g glace cherries
100g shelled pistachios
The method here is similar again, so do read the first for more details, although this one contains no butter. Gently melt the chocolate with the honey, and while that’s doing, chop the biscuits, cherries and nuts. Stir everything together, and tip into the lined tin. Cool, chill in the fridge until set, and slice into bars.
Now, it wouldn’t be strictly correct to say that these were the result of a happy accident, but they were neither what I intended to make, nor did they turn out exactly how I expected them to. But that’s good, as were these – really good. The other half of the Danish pastry recipe I had made for my tarte tatin was calling to me from the depths of the freezer. I knew I wanted to use it up, and soon, and I had a vague idea that I wanted to make cinnamon rolls, of sorts, those spirals of pastry with a buttery cinnamon filling that go so well with an afternoon latte. So with this in mind, I first flicked through the ‘yeast’ section of Nigella Lawson’s How To Be a Domestic Goddess, from whence the original Danish pastry came, and these are heavily influenced by the Schnecken therein, combined with a few ideas from a quick Google of Cinnamon Roll. Finally, I had an idea in my head of what I wanted to end up with, including some pecan nuts for crunch.
You’ll notice there’s no cinnamon in either the name of these, or the recipe below. I absent mindedly forgot to include it when I first made these, intending to include it in the sugar and nut filling, and now I don’t want to change these, to take anything away from their, to my mind, sticky, buttery perfection. I was expecting a runnier caramel topping, but the result here was a rather pleasing hard caramel. Not teeth-shatteringly so, but crunchy nonetheless, and sticky too, which works really well with the soft, almost melting pastry beneath.
1/2 portion of this Danish pastry, thawed if previously frozen
For the caramel
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
7 tablespoons golden syrup
For the filling
50g caster sugar
50g demerara sugar
Preheat the oven to 180C / 160C fan. First make what is going to become the sticky caramel topping. Beat the butter, preferably with the aid of machinery, until soft, light and airy. Beat in the sugar and golden syrup. Roughly chop the pecans into large pieces. Divide the butter mixture between the cups of a 12 hole muffin tin, and drop a couple of pecan pieces onto the top of the mixture in each.
Next, make the filling for the pastries. Melt the 25g butter and leave to one side. Blitz the pecans into a sandy rubble, and mix together with the two types of sugar.
On a well floured surface (and see the introduction to the Danish pastry post), roll out the dough into a rectangle around 50cm by 30cm, with the long edge facing you. Brush the surface of the pastry with the melted butter, and then sprinkle over the nutty-sugar filling, going right up to the edges. Now you want to roll up the pastry, rolling up the long edge, away from you, pressing down firmly enough so you end up with a not squashed but tightly rolled sausage. Slice this into 12 pieces, and pop a piece, cut side up, into each cup of the muffin tin, pushing it down a little into the butter and nuts. Put to one side for around 20 minutes or so, to let the rolls rise a little. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden. Meanwhile, line a baking tray, larger than the muffin tin, with foil or baking parchment.
Once the pastries are out of the oven, place the upside-down, parchment or foil lined tray over the muffin tin. Using oven gloves and a balance of caution and bravery, turn the whole thing upside-down, so that the muffin tin is now at the top of the pile, bottom up. Carefully lift off the muffin tin, leaving the rolls, now with their caramel-nut tops, on the lined tray. Spoon any nuts or caramel left in the muffin tin back over the rolls. Let them cool slightly, if you can manage it.
Welcome to the first of at least three rambling posts on the joy of Danish pastry. This first is the introduction, providing you with the instructions for making the pastry itself, which you can subsequently turn into all manner of delicious things. You might not need me to tell you that Danish pastries are good, although admittedly they are one of my weaknesses and so I’m somewhat biased (case in point – long weekends in Paris ignoring the no doubt wonderful restaurants on offer and gorging myself on only bread, pastries and patisserie), but I had never intended to make them. So this is the story of how I made my first batch of Danish pastry, followed soon by the story of how I made my first delicious but probably not a bona-fide Danish Danish.
So, I had friends coming over for dinner. Friends For Dinner is where many of my more extravagant adventures in Rupert’s kitchen begin, by which I do not mean fantastic, multiple-course fancy meals (dinner is always relaxed and informal) but that cooking for a larger number than two simply means I can make something with a whole pack of butter in and not reckon on eating half of it myself. Anyhow, I digress. I got it into my head that I wanted to make a tarte tatin. I started with my usual go-to for baking something new, Nigella’s ‘How To Be A Domestic Goddess’ and found the recipe. Unusually (or perhaps not, it’s my first) this tarte used Danish pastry as its base, and an easy, processor-made pastry at that. The best part – the recipe makes twice as much as you need for the tarte, and the other half can be frozen for a later date. So this is how I ended up making my first batch of Danish pastry. Perhaps I thought Danish would be challenging, I’d never considered trying it before, but this method is easy, and, perhaps to reassure purists (in the sense that I suppose Danish has been around longer than processors), not only does this come via Nigella, but she cites her own sources as Beatrice Ojakangas via Dorie Greenspan’s Baking with Julia. How’s that for provenance?
It’s easy to make, but be warned, when I refer in the recipe to the resulting gooey mess, gooey mess it is – it’s really sticky, perhaps not the easiest to work with (please don’t let that put you off, it’s so worth it), and you’ll need a lot of flour to roll it out with, whilst at the same time trying not to incorporate the extra flour into the dough. For proof, and to stop you thinking it’s not working, see the photographic evidence (and apologies for the quality of this particular picture) – if you have a sticky, lumpy mess and it looks like it’s all gone wrong, it’s perfect. Well done. Below is the recipe for the pastry, and coming shortly will be the tarte tatin, followed by the most amazing sticky-caramel-pecan Danish pastries. Yum.
From Nigella Lawson’s How To Be a Domestic Goddess
60ml warm water
125ml milk, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
350g strong white bread flour
1 sachet (7g) easy-blend dried yeast
1 teaspoon salt
25g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2cm slices
Beat together the water, milk and egg in a jug. Put the flour, yeast, salt and sugar into the processor and briefly pulse just to mix it up. Drop in the butter, and process briefly to chop up the butter. Don’t overdo it, you’re aiming for visible, 1cm chunks of butter rather than completely cutting the butter into the flour as with normal pastry. Tip the lot into a large bowl and pour over the milky egg mixture. Fold the ingredients together, but not too much – just until the flour is incorporated well. At this point, you should have the gooey mess, with accompanying lumps of butter, discussed and pictured above. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave it in the fridge overnight.
The next day, your gooey mess is ready to become pastry. Let it get to roo temperature, generously flour a surface (and see introduction) and roll it out to a 50cm square. Fold it into thirds. Nigella says like folding a business letter, and I can’t think of a better example, so let’s go with that. Lift the right hand edge and fold the first third, followed by the left hand edge, so you have a three layer rectangle, still 50cm long but now only a third the width. Roll back out to a 50cm square, and repeat the whole process three times. After this, cut it in half, wrap both pieces in clingfilm and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes, and up to 4 days if you like. If you aren’t using both pieces right away, wrap the second in two layers of clingfilm, place it in a freezer bag, and freeze for a later date. You’ll need to defrost it thoroughly before using.