Millionaire's Banoffee Tarts

I'm so thrilled to finally reveal what I've been up to this past weekend: a special recipe for this Easter that will wow your family and your guests. These Millionaire's Banoffee Tarts go directly to my Top 5 favorite recipes of all times! They are a decadent, delicious and mouth-watering hybrid of two classic recipes: the Banoffee Tart and the Millionaire's Pie. It's like having the best of both in just one plate!
Let me describe you what these cuties are made of: a base of rich chocolate cake sprinkled with dark chocolate chunks, a layer of banana slices covered with one more layer of Chocolate Dulce de Leche and to raise the bar a little higher...the top layer is a disc of crunchy dark chocolate.
The recipe makes 4 large servings and this is a very rich dessert so you will feel full with one half, believe me. I couldn't even move after eating! But when you taste this tarts you just can't  have a small slice, and that combination of moist, creamy and crunchy is simply irresistible. My dad is not very fond of bananas and he ate the whole thing in just one day, he didn't even make his strange face nor asked me what was in it.
I suggest you to prepare this dessert a couple days before you serve them and make the chocolate dulce de leche in advance, the rest (cake base and layers) can be done one day before.
The recipe is from my favorite chocolate cookbook: Vegan Chocolate by Fran Costigan, it's her latest cookbook and a must-have if you are a chocoholic and a lover of luscious, tempting and beautifully served desserts as I am. Wether you are vegan or not (I don't follow a strict vegan diet) you seriously need this book in your life, and I swear no one payed me to write that, it's not my style. I simply love this book!
The recipes are very easy to understand and very detailed: from the step by step to how to serve and keep your desserts...and most importantly, you'll be thrilled by the results cause they all look so professional! The recipes I tried so far came out as good as Fran's.
Pure. Chocolate. Bliss.
Now let's get into the recipe!
Happy Easter!

Receta en español aquí!

Millionaire's Banoffee Tarts
(recipe adapted from 'Vegan Chocolate' by Fran Costigan)

(makes 4 large servings)
1 recipe Chocolate Torte (recipe here).
6 tbsp dark chocolate, coarsely chopped.
3 medium ripe bananas (but not overripe).
1 recipe Chocolate Dulce de Leche (recipe here).
8 ounces melted dark chocolate.

The recipe originally calls for 1/2 cup of cake crumbs but I wanted to make my tarts a little taller so I added 1 cup of cake crumbs to each one. 
My ring molds are also a tad bit taller than the ones Fran uses: mine are 4 x 1.77 inches (10 x 4.5cm), the recipe calls for 4 x 1.5-inch (10 x 3.8cm) ring molds.
I added 3 bananas instead of 2 large ones (depends on the size).

Line up four 4 x 1.7-inch (10 x 4.5cm) ring molds on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. 
Put 1 cup of the cake crumbs into each ring and press down to make a compact layer.
Melt the dark chocolate in a water bath (doube boiler method) and keep it warm.
Sprinkle the cake crumbs with about 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped chocolate.
Cut the bananas into rounds 1/2 inch (I cut them around 1cm) thick and place on the chocolate chunks to cover, distributing evenly among the ring molds.
Spoon 4 to 5 tablespoons of the Chocolate Dulce de Leche over the bananas to cover.
Pour 3 tablespoons melted chocolate over the Dulce, spreading to the edges of the ring. Refrigerate until the chocolate disk is set, about 30 minutes.
To remove the ring molds carefully run a knife between the sides of the mold and the chocolate. Press down on the chocolate disk to release the ring and lift it off. Put them on a serving plate with the help of a cake lifter.
Melt some chocolate and decorate with drizzles.
The tarts can be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated, but remember to let them sit at room temperature for up to 2 hours. As I told you in my previous post, the Dulce de Leche must be kept refrigerated and it hardens a lot. That's why you need to allow the tarts to come to room temperature so the Dulce gets soft again.


Chocolate Dulce de Leche

Ladies and gents, here's the most delicious and mouth-watering Dulce de Leche that will make your taste buds go to heaven. And this heaven is full of chocolate and deliciousness so they might never want to come back (I'm sorry if that causes you some kind of major conflict with your diet!). Did I say this is a chocolate version of the classic Latin America milky cream AND, to top it all off, it is vegan?! Yes, you can make a superbly sweet, gooey and yummy Chocolate Dulce de Leche without condensed milk (that counts as less fat so hey, you won't have to feel very sorry after your 'dulce-cheat day', hee hee).
It surprised everyone at home and they didn't even notice the coconut flavor after all, the bittersweet chocolate tempers the sweetness of this sauce as Fran Costigan (author of this recipe and my superheroine) says. Before adding the chocolate I gave it a taste and it had a really nice toffee flavor but chocolate definitely took it to the next level! A-mazing!

Chocolate Dulce de Leche (Vegan)
(Recipe from 'Vegan Chocolate' by Fran Costigan)

1 can (around 14ounces/400ml) unsweetened full-fat coconut milk.
1/4 cup whole cane sugar.
1/4 cup granulated sugar.
1 tbsp agave syrup.
1/4 tsp fine sea salt.
1/8 tsp xanthan gum (or guar gum).
2 ounces/58g dark chocolate (I used 70% cooking chocolate), finely chopped.
2 tsp pure vanilla extract.

Place coconut milk, sugar, agave, salt, and xanthan gum in a blender and blend from low to high speed for a minute approximately, until the sugar is dissolved.
Pour this mixture into a deep heavy saucepan (be careful once the mixture begins to boil cause it will bubble up furiously!). Cook over medium heat, whisking a few times until the mixture begins to bubble.
Raise the heat to high and now stir constantly, around 10 minutes, keeping a steady boil. 
The liquid has to reduce until it measures 1 1/4 cups/300ml or a little less. If you still have more liquid, pour it back to the saucepan and cook longer until it has finally reduced.
One minute after the reduction (when the steam is no longer visible) add in the chopped dark chocolate and the vanilla extract. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted and the sauce is smooth. 
Keep the sauce in a clean jar and use warm or at room temperature. This Chocolate Dulce de Leche can be kept refrigerated (inside the jar, covered) for up to two weeks but it keep in mind that it will thicken a lot once it's chilled so you will most probably have to warm it over low heat until pourable. 
If you are going to use it in the afternoon then take it out of the fridge early in the morning and let it warm at room temperature.
This Dulce can be used as a filling for cakes or cookies and also as a dip. It's great too for pouring over ice creams.


Quick Rustic Bread

A few posts ago I told you about my latest passion (read 'addiction'): bread. I've been on a bread-baking these weeks and finally I can share with all of you my first ever recipe of bread for Cinnamon Girl.
The house still smells so amazingly good of homemade bread, it has always been one of my favorite aromas ever since I was a child.
This is an easy and quick recipe perfect for beginners and those who don't have enough patience to wait for the dough to rise for hours and then let it cool completely. Even though it's a quick recipe (that can be made in approximately one hour) that doesn't mean this bread won't surprise you. It has a really nice, brown crust and the inside is tender and not too dry, something I love. Once it's baked you'll see how beautifully rustic it looks! I felt inspired and even made some impromptu cuts with the scissors on the top.
I found this recipe at Donna Currie's website, Cookistry. She has so many great bread recipes, tips and techniques...it's like a Bread-wipedia!
I hop you like it! :-)

Receta en español aquí!

Quick Rustic Bread
(recipe adapted from Donna Currie's Cookistry)

1 cup lukewarm water.
1 tbsp sugar.
1 package instant yeast.
3 cups all-purpose flour (or bread flour).
2 tsp salt.
1 tbsp olive oil.

In a medium bowl combine water, sugar and yeast. Stir this mixture a bit and set aside for a few minutes until it foams.
Add in the flour and salt and mix with your hands. Once the mixture starts to become sticky and has absorbed the water it's the moment to dust the counter with flour, pick up the dough and knead it by hand.
It's very important to fold in air in the dough during the kneading: we have to hold the dough in both hands and stretch it out, folding and turning it 90 degrees, repeating the process and working the dough until the dough is smooth. I like to add 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to add a little extra of rusticness and help me work the dough.
I give the dough a break and let it rest for a few minutes while I'm hand kneading, it's good for my arms too!
Once it's smooth form a ball, place it on a big sized bowl, cover it and allow it to rise for 30 minutes in a warm place.
Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC).
Lay the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Make some cuts with a knife on the top (let run your creativity and create some cool forms).
Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes approximately. Keep track of time and temperature because not all ovens are the same. Make sure the bottom doesn't brown too fast! It will be ready when the top is brown and the bread makes a hollow sound if you thump it.
Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.


Vegan Sachertorte

So many adjectives come to my mind when I think about this cake, all of them positive, obviously. Once again Fran Costigan, the author of the cookbook 'Vegan Chocolate' (and without a doubt the queen of vegan desserts) from which I made this recipe has left me in awe. Her new book is full of perfectly explained and detailed recipes that are yummy and plain irresistible. 
I've made several Sacher cakes (or Sachertorte, which sounds more professional and fancy to me) over the past years and I kid you not when I say this is by far the moistest and most chocolaty cake I've ever baked/eaten. Delicious, decadent, intense...it almost made me cry of joy when I tasted the first crumbs once the cake was cooled. Don't you feel a great sense of accomplishment when you try a recipe for the first time and it turns out perfect?! Happy dance, giggles, jumps and some spoon-licking are the consequences of such success. 
Okay, I think you actually got an idea of my excitement and love for this cake so let's go straight to the recipe!

Receta en español aquí!

Fran Costigan's Vegan Sachertorte

(makes 8-inch/20cm cake)
- For the chocolate cake (2 recipes):
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour.
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp cocoa powder.
1/4 cup granulated sugar, finely ground in a blender.
1 tsp baking powder.
1 tsp baking soda.
1/2 tsp fine sea salt.
1/4 cup mild tasting extra-virgin olive oil.
1/2 cup pure maple syrup.
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp soy milk (or any nondairy milk).
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract.
1 tsp apple cider vinegar.

- For the bittersweet chocolate ganache glaze (makes 2 cups, 1 recipe is enough):
8 ounces (227g) dark chocolate (70 to 72%), finely chopped.
1 1/4 cups soy milk (or almond milk).
2 tbsp granulated sugar.
pinch fine sea salt.
1 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract.
2 tsp mild tasting extra-virgin olive oil.

- Filling:
1/3 cup apricot jam.

I suggest to make this recipe two days ahead: make the chocolate glaze the first day and the cake, assembling and decoration the next day. Very importantly, once the cake is completely cooled keep it in the refrigerator so it will set and become more consistent. This type of cake is really soft, moist and tender, therefore quite difficult to handle.

- To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Grease the sides and bottom of a 9-inch (23cm) cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Place a wire mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Add the pastry flour, all-purporse flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt to the strainer and stir with a whisk to sift the ingredients into the bowl. If any small bits remain in the strainer, add them to the mixture in the bowl. Whisk to aerate the mixture.
Whisk the oil, maple syrup, nondairy milk, vanilla, and vinegar in a separate medium bowl until completely combined. Add into the dry mixture and whisk until the batter is smooth. Pour the batter into pan. Rotate the pan to level the batter and tap it lightly on the counter to get rid of some of the air bubbles.
Bake the cake on the center rack for 30 minutes approximately, or until the top of the cake is set, the sides have started to pull away from the pan, and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean or just with a few moist crumbs.
Place the cake pan on a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Run a thin spatula around the sides of the cake to release the sides of the cake from the pan. Invert the layer onto the rack, remove the pan, and carefully peel off the parchment paper. Invert again, top side up on the rack, to cool completely. When the cake is completely cool, slide a cardboard circle or a flat plate underneath. Don't forget to refrigerate the cake until cold before glazing! And keep it away from strong odors.

- To make the bittersweet chocolate ganache:
Add the chocolate to a heatproof bowl and set aside while you heat the milk.
Pour the milk into a small saucepan. Add the sugar and salt. Cook over medium heat, whisking a few times to a low boil.
Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat. Pour the hot milk over the chopped chocolate all at once. Make sure the chocolate is completely submerged. Cover the bowl with a plate and let stand undisturbed for 4 minutes.
Add the vanilla and olive oil and whisk from the center out only until smooth and glossy. If the chocolate is not completely melted you will have to follow the double boiler method. It is as simply as melting the chocolate in a water bath: set a heatproof bowl  with the chocolate on a saucepan that contains a few inches of water, make sure the bottom of the bowl sits above the water. Heat the water to a low simmer and wait until the chocolate is melted.
Keep the bowl of ganache at room temperature. If the glaze is too firm, add 1 tablespoon of room temperature milk.
Allow the ganache to thicken at room temperature for 15 to 25 minutes. Stir a few times before glazing.

- Assemble the cake:
Place the first cake layer on a cardboard cake circle that is exactly the same size or slightly smaller than the cake.
Spread about 1/4 cup of chocolate ganache on the layer. Allow the glaze to set in the refrigerator around 5 minutes.
Spread 1/2 cup of apricot jam (the recipe calls for 1/3 cup but I always like to add a bit more) over the glaze.
Spread the second layer of cake with 1/4 cup of the ganache glaze and refrigerate until set.
Place the second layer, glaze side down, on the apricot-coated layer.
Glaze the entire cake: place the cake on a wire rack set over a parchment-lined baking sheet. Pour 1 cup of the bittersweet chocolate ganache onto the cake, holding the cup at about the center of the cake. Using an offset spatula, coax the glaze to the edges of the cake.
Allow the glaze to set undisturbed for 15 minutes, and then refrigerate the cake for 10 minutes.
Refill the measuring cup with the remaining 1/2 cup of glaze and add another coating on the top of the cake. Refrigerate to set the glaze.

- Decoration (optional):
Write "Sacher" or an 'S' on top of the cake with chocolate.

For the neatest slices, cut the cake while it is cold but serve at room temperature.


Carrot Pancakes

Hello guys!
How's your week going? I've just eaten a slice of delicious homemade olive oil bread that my mom baked just a few hours ago. As I told you in my last post I'm in a serious bread-baking frenzy and seems like I passed on this interest to my mom, (hehe). I'm so in love with the smell of freshly baked bread!
This recipe will please everybody because, who doesn't love pancakes?...and who doesn't love carrot cake? You can have both of them in one dish if you make these Vegan Carrot Pancakes, obviously it won't be as heavenly and decadent as having a slice of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting but it's a great breakfast that will brighten up your cold and grey winter mornings, or any other day of the year...or if you have had a crappy day and all you want is to get home and hide under the covers. Try making these pancakes (or ask your hunny to cook for you) and I'm sure you'll feel better once you smell their sweet spiced aroma, you can hide under the covers after that if you still want to. ;-p

Receta en español aquí!

Vegan Carrot Pancakes
(yield: 10-12 pancakes)

2 tbsp ground flaxseeds.
1 cup soy milk.
1 tsp apple cider vinegar.
1/4 cup water.
1/4 cup maple syrup.
2 tbsp sunflower oil.
1 tsp pure vanilla extract.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour.
2 tsp baking powder.
1/2 tsp salt.
1 tsp ground cinnamon.
1/4 tsp ground ginger.
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg.
1/8 tsp ground cloves.

1 cup peeled and finely grated carrot.
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped.

Grate the carrots finely and make sure you drain the excess liquid, it's something I always like to do when using carrots for a cake or any other dessert.
In a small mixing bowl whisk together the flaxseeds and milk for a minute approximately. Add the vinegar, water, maple syrup, oild and vanilla. Mix until well blended.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves. Make a well in the center of this dry mixture and add the wet ingredients. Mix with a whisk just until combined (don't mix vigorously). Fold in the finely grated carrot and walnuts. Let batter rest for 10 minutes.
Lightly coat a griddle or heavy skillet with cooking spray or oil using a kitchen brush and preheat.
Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter for each pancake. Let the batter set for a few minutes (around 4 minutes) before flipping. 
When bubbles start to form on the top of the pancakes and the edges just begin to dry, flip them over and cook the other side about 2 more minutes, until lightly browned. 
If you are not going to serve them immediately, once they are cooled, store them in an airtight container wrapped with tin foil.
Serve with pure maple syrup and your favorite fresh fruits, like some banana slices.