On Friday I got a delivery from the lovely people at Forest Feast. In case you managed to somehow miss the barage of gift adverts on the telly and oversized red hearts in store windows, I need to tell you that Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us. And because at least one person over at Forest Feast seems to have a great eye for puns, I received an invitation to celebrate the love with a different kind of “date”.
They supplied me with a healthy date truffle recipe which you can see at the end because, for some reason, the moment I saw the box I thought of cake.
Maybe not the point.
I guess on some level I’m always thinking of cake.
Not the cream and icing kind, though. My mind went to the likes of panettone and other sweet bread-like bakes that go great with a cup of tea or coffee. This is for those of you fancying a bit of afternoon tea, a cozy evening in or a different addition to your breakfast in bed for Valentine’s Day.
Braided Date, Walnut and Chocolate Cake
500gr self-raising flour
75gr caster sugar
2 heaped teaspoons of yeast
2 egg yolks (+1 extra one to brush on top before baking)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
100gr cocoa powder
The number 1 thing to bear in mind is that you need all ingredients to be room temperature. This might mean taking them out of the fridge up to an hour before actually starting the bake so don’t say I didn’t warn you!
You start by warming up the milk. Careful not to make it too hot and definitely don’t boil it! Add the yeast and 1/2 a tablespoon of your sugar and mix together.
Let it sit for a couple of minutes while you get the rest of your ingredients together.
Separate your egg yolks and add them, the butter (make sure it’s soft and smushy), the salt and the vanilla extract, alongside the rest of the sugar.
Mix them all together until you get something resembling this. If it all doesn’t come together smoothly (i.e. your arms might fall off from all the stirring) then transfer the mixture to a pot and place it on a low flame. Keep mixing for a couple of minutes and it should all blend!
Transfer back to the bowl and start adding the flour, little by little, mixing vigorously. You want to be most active as you incorporate the first 250gr of flour as it’ll still be fluid enough to move.
Keep adding the flour until it’s done and your mixture actually looks like dough!
Pop a towel over your bowl and put it somewhere away from drafts – preferably warm. I usually heat up the oven to a small temperature, turn it off and pop the mixture in. You’ll want to leave it in for an hour.
While we wait, it’s time to move onto the mixture. You need ground walnuts. You’ll preferably achieve this with some sort of a food processor. Unless you’re me who realized I had nothing reasonable to ground the walnuts with. So I did the next best thing – I bagged the walnut halves, wrapped them up in a towel and used a meat tenderizer on them!
Bonus: Excellent for any pent up emotions you might have!
Next I pitted the dates, chopped them up into smaller pieces and added them to a bowl. I plopped the now ground walnuts, the cocoa powder, sugar and a splash of warm milk on top and mixed it all together.
By the time you pull your dough back out it should look, in one word, BIGGER because sometimes it is all about size. It looks like it doubled in size and definitely appears fluffier.
Now it’s time to get dirty. Cover your work surface in flour. I know, it’s a pain to clean after but if you get stingy with the flour then the dough will stick to the counter and it’ll never work. This is also the point where you migth still find the dough a bit “wet” because yeast bakes are a bit fickle like that. Don’t be afraid to work in a bit more flour but do it gently so you don’t flatten the dough.
Divide the ball of dough in half and roll each half out into equal sized sheets. Don’t roll themout too thin though. Remember they need to support the weight of the filling!
Spread the filling on and try to not be too generous. I know it’s tempting to smack it all on but remember you need to roll it and it will burst through the sheet if there’s too much of it.
After you’ve rolled each sheet comes the fun part. Now you have to weave them together in a braid. Hopefully you’ll have years of practicing this technique on your hair! Work slow so you don’t break one because you will want to cry. And then you’ll need to start over.
Now comes the difficult part. Get a baking tin and butter it up. Wait, don’t laugh – we’re not at the difficult bit yet but we’re getting there. You need to move the dough braid into the tin. Yes, you have to lift the fragile braid off the counter and place it in the tin. Yes, a mistake here could possibly ruin all your previous efforts.
You can use a normal loaf tin and make your life easier by just plopping the braid in or you can be me and want to artfully arrange it in an Oroboro design. Either way, get the tin as close to the dough as possible before moving it. Trust me, you don’t want to be scrapping the dough off the floor. This may or may not have happened to me on a previous occasion.
Preheat your over to FAN 125 and brush 1 egg yolk over the cake before popping it in the oven. Or rub it in with your fingers because you can’t find your brush and your hands are covered in flour.
1 hour later and this is what it should look like.
Enjoy and let me know if you give it a try! #maralovesfood
Bonus: Date Truffles
7 Forest Feast Medjool Dates, pitted
85g Ground Almond
30g cocoa powder + more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of sea salt
I admit that I am not one that usually partakes in healthy desserts. The whole craze whooshed right past me as I was pouring whip cream on everything. I’m not adverse to healthy options. I cook at home and it’s mostly veggie-rich and made from scratch. I love my fruit and nuts as snacks.
As such, I was more than a little intrigued when I saw the date truffle recipe. It’s super fast and easy to make which helps on this first foray into the realm of healthy desserts. All you need to do is soak the dates in hot water for a few minutes before squeezing out the excess water. Then you chuck them in alongside all the other ingredients into a food processor and mix until you get a sticky mixture.
I used brute force to grind the nuts again before putting everything into my blender. Because after the smoothie revolution, who doesn’t have a blender? It worked just as well too! I really do need to invest in some kitchen gear though. There’s only so many baking tools you can subtitute with meat tenderizers.
I took bits of the mixture and tried to stuff them into the moulds in a semi-attractive fashion before putting them in the freezer overnight.
Alas, they’re gone now as I’ve eaten through them while writing this post! Just enough time to make another batch for Valentine’s Day though!