Sunday, 28 September 2014

FSC Chocolate Stout Cake...and the time I got a second chance at university.

Life is full of second chances.
It's been a little crazy lately. I didn't mean to take a break from the blog over the summer, but so many changes were taking place that I thought it'd be best to just take a step back from writing and focus on what was going on. One of the major changes that has happened is that I've had to change my degree pathway from a Bsc. Psychology, to Bsc. Biology. Well...I say 'had to' but honestly? It's working out better than I ever imagined it would.

Doing biology has been one surprise after another. The most basic one? that I actually do enjoy it. Looking back, I probably didn't hate the subject so much in first and second year. More like... I deemed it unnecessary? Because this wasn't what I planned to do with my life! I didn't plan on actually wanting to study about how bees pollinate flowers. I was supposed to be on my way to getting a psychology degree and helping children from troubled homes. I've been raised with the idea that I would choose to do something in university and that would determine the course of my entire life. Literally. Dad has been in medicine practically his whole life, starting off as a medical student and staying a doctor till this day. Mum went to nursing school, and while she's not a nurse anymore she still works in hospitals. Hell, up till about last year, she was still working in the same hospital that trained her all those years ago. At the time, doing Psychology seemed like the most sensible choice...but now I'm not so sure.

But anyways, giving Biology a second chance has been the most amazing thing that has happened to me in a while. I'm enjoying my classes, I've made new friends and rediscovered old ones and this year is really setting off with a bang. I'm not sure what this second chance in bio is going to lead to, but I hope it ends up the same way as my second chance with stout.

Dad first gave me a swig of stout when I was 16 and I ABSOLUTELY hated the stuff. Thought it was horrible and bitter...couldn't understand why anyone would like to drink it. Vowed I would never touch the stuff again. Well, I found this recipe in a cake chart being sold at the center where I did a biology field course just before classes started again this year. Saw the recipe, went meh, and left it forgotten in my bag till this week.

So I just turned in the lab report on Friday that I had to do for that course, and surprise, surprise found the cake chart I had bought in my bag. Open to the chocolate stout cake recipe. Well guess what? I'm a girl who knows a sign when she sees one. Hightailed it over to the St. Andrews Brewing Company and got myself a bottle of their oatmeal stout.

Ok...not gonna lie I haven't fallen madly in love with stout. But I'm not as repulsed by it as I was when I was 16. In fact it tasted pretty good. No where near as bitter as my first one was, very smooth and rounded. And in this cake? It works miracles. Thanks to the stout what would normally be a regular chocolate sponge becomes moist, and dense and very, very moreish. But at the same time it's light enough that you could comfortably eat a second slice without feeling too bloated.

And so I leave you with this recipe in good faith of second chances. However the cards may fall, I wish your tough decisions end like so; in acceptance, stout, and above all, chocolate.

Chocolate stout cake*
*The recipe for the cake comes by way of the Field Studies Council 70th anniversary cake chart. All proceeds from this recipe chart go towards the FSC Kids Fund, which provides financial support for groups of disadvantaged young people who would like to visit one of their centers for an FSC experience.

- 100g soft butter
- 250g dark soft brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 150g a.p. flour
- 1/4tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 50g cocoa powder
- 200ml stout

+ Preheat your oven to 180'C (160'C for a fan oven). Grease and line 2 20cm round cake tins.
+ Cream the butter and sugar together, then gradually mix in the beaten eggs.
+ Sift in the flour, baking powder, bicarb and cocoa in then fold through. Stir in the stout, and mix till well combined.
+ Divide between the two baking tins, and bake for 35 minutes, or till cake tester comes out clean from center. Allow to cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Then unmould from baking tin and allow to cool completely.

Marscapone Cream
- 250g marscapone cheese
- 1/3 cup double cream
- 1/3 cup icing sugar.
- 1/2 punnet of raspberries
- grated chocolate
+ Beat together the cheese, double cream and icing sugar till nice and thick.

To assemble
- Put down a layer of cake and top with 2/3 of the marscapone cream. Dot the raspberries over that layer, reserving the prettiest one as a topping. Cover with the second layer of cake and pipe the remaining marscapone cream on top. Finish with a raspberry in the center, and chocolate shavings.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread...and the time I wanted a legit excuse to have chocolate for breakfast.

Seriously guys, this is ridiculous. I could've sworn I started second year just last week. How are we a month away from the summer holidays? How? This is outrageous. Unthinkable. WHAT EVEN?

It's times like these that really frighten me...cause so much has gone past and it really feels like I've barely accomplished anything. Well...maybe a few things. I'm slowly starting to branch out and figure out my own recipes for one thing. It's exciting and wonderful and quite the adventure I must say. Eventhough most times it's less about figuring out the right ingredient ratio and more about working around what I have left in my pantry.

This banana bread was something I've wanted to make for a while. It's very moist and full of rich bananana flavour. A lot of that will depend on how ripe your bananas are. You really need to let them go as spotty and black as you possibly can. Not like the ones in the first picture. I had to wait a couple of days for them to be really ready.  Overripe is the only way to go here. If they reach that perfect all-black stage but you haven't got time to turn them into banana bread, just bung them in the freezer, and defrost when you're ready.

Chocolate chunk banana bread.
- 2 large VERY ripe bananas
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup of 1 part vegetable oil and 1 part melted butter (I'm sorry, I know that sounds super weird but that's how it gets so moist without tasting oily)
- 1/4 cup yogurt
- 1 egg
- 1 cup flour
- 1/4tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 150g semi-sweet chocolate, cut up into chunks

+ Preheat oven to 180'C
+ Mash the bananas with the honey and vanilla. Beat in the yogurt, oil, butter and egg.

+ Shift in the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Stir until just combined.
+ Stir chocolate chunks through batter.
+ Pour batter into well buttered loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until cake tester in center comes out clean.
+ Let cool in pan for 5 minutes, before turning out onto wire rack to cool completely.

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