Just before Christmas, I bought a new baking book, Bake It Great by Luis Troyano. As I have lots of baking books, I am quite fussy about what I buy now - the standard cakes, pies and tarts won't cut it for me anymore. Although I had no idea who Luis is (I now know he was on Season 6 of Great British Bakeoff), I bought this book because it had innovative, interesting recipes that looked great without being too hard or intricate. There are lots of recipes in this book that I would like to try.
I kicked off with the Chocolate and Nut Clusters as an Epiphany bake. I had meant to make the impressive Spanish equivalent of a king cake, but I messed up and made the wrong recipe. However, this one is a good stand in, I think - it is bright and colourful, just like an Epiphany cake should be.
The chocolate and nut clusters are not a cake at all, but are little bread buns studded with chocolate chips, and each one concealing a single nut, a bit like the baby in a king cake.
The only tip I have for making these buns is not to start them at night after work - I was up until 11.30pm making them because of the rising process.
To make Luis' Chocolate and Nut Clusters, you will need:
150ml boiling water
zest of 2 oranges
1/4 teaspoon salt
100g butter, softened
100g chocolate chips
15 glace cherries, halved
10 pecan halves
writing icing (I substituted this for Luis' kirsch fondant icing)
Put the boiling water and milk together in a jug to make a warm liquid.
Place the flour, zest, yest, sugar, salt and 1 of the eggs (beaten) into the bowl of a stand mixer, keeping the salt away from the yeast. Place the bowl in the mixer, and add 2/3 of the fluid. Using the dough hook, combine the ingredients. Add the remaining fluid a bit at a time until you have a coherent soft dough (you might not need all of the liquid - I didn't).
Cut the butter into small pieces, and beat the pieces, one at a time, into the dough until it is fully combined and glossy.
Place the dough into a large, well oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place in a warm place and allow the dough to rise to twice its size (~2-3 hours).
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured bench, punch it down, and press it out into a large circle. Add the chocolate chips to the dough and knead them in until evenly distributed throughout the dough.
Line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces, and roll each piece into a sausage shape. Divide each of the three pieces into ten equal size pieces (30 in total). Take each of these smaller pieces and roll it into a ball between the palms of your hands. Place a single nut in the centre of each ball, then fold the dough over the nut and roll the dough back into a ball. Place the ball onto the lined baking tray. Repeat with each of the balls, placing them ~ 1cm apart on the baking tray. Place the baking tray in a large plastic bag (taking care to ensure that the buns don't touch the bag) and allow the buns to rise for an hour or until approximately doubled in size.
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
Beat the remaining egg and brush the egg liberally over the top of the buns, then top each bun with a cherry half. Place the buns in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden.
Remove the buns from the oven and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack. Once cool, pipe a spiral of icing around each cherry. Serve with butter.