alchemy in a biscuit

OK, so I guess I’d better come clean first up. You see with my day job I spend a serious amount of time thinking about, talking about and tasting biscuits (or cookies for our North American readers). Yes my friends I am lucky enough to work in the product development department of Australia’s largest biscuit manufacturer and yes, I love my job.

The only down side, apart from the threat to my waistline is that I tend to overlook biscuits as a sweet snack when I’m out of the office. Lets just say that they don’t have the same appeal when you’ve been working with them day in day out.

But recently I was leafing through some of my Mum’s old recipes and inspiration struck. And when I rocked up to work the next day and someone had left out packets of the key biscuit ingredient to my Mum’s masterpiece in our communal area of biscuits that are ‘free to a good home’. It just felt like it had to be.¬†Who was I to get in the way?

Now for someone who only drank a little champagne every now and then, my Mum was serious about boozy desserts. I remember being little and sneaking a taste of some leftover choc ripple cake from a rare dinner party the evening before and almost being bowled over by the strength of the brandy. Coupled with a serious amount of whipped cream it was one rich rich dessert.

So rather than recreate Mum’s efforts, I decided to posh things up a little. Dropping the sugar and using a blend of marscapone with the cream to make for a less sweet vibe, a reduction in the amount of cream coverage, a sprinkling of hazelnuts for crunch and a thick thick coating of dark chocolate ganache. Still super rich but not something that would make you nervous if you were faced with a random breath test.

So I guess you’re wondering where the alchemy comes into it. And I’m glad you asked. See with a little time the moisture from the cream ‘migrates’ (as we say in the baking business) into the biscuits leaving them soft and cakey and seriously yum. And then there’s the magic of how when you slice it on the diagonal you get the tiger striped effect. A pretty cake without even having to think about turning on the oven, just the thing for summer entertaining.

chocolate & hazelnut surpise biscuit cake
serves 8 – 10

I know you’re wondering where the surprise comes into it this and no it’s nothing like the ‘tuna surprise’ that my friend Kate’s sister Meghan invented when she was cooking at a pub in England. In that case the ‘surprise’ was that there wasn’t actually any tuna in the dish. I ‘m happy to report that here we have both chocolate and biscuits and hazelnuts present and accounted for and that the surprise is just how good a simple idea can actually be.

If you aren’t lucky enough to live in Australia or New Zealand and have access to Choc Ripple biscuits, I’m afraid that you’re going to have to experiment. What you’re looking for is a nice dark cocoa based plain rough topped cookie (think Oreo in colour) about 4 – 5cm in diameter. Good luck

Feel free to play around with this, I’d be tempted to halve the chocolate drizzle as it is quite decadent but it’s up to you really. I’ve also heard of it being made with ginger nuts and chocolate grated over the top. Something I must remember to try.

1C cream (35% milk fat)
1t vanilla extract
250g (1/2 lb) marsapone
1 packet (250g or 1/2lb) Arnott’s Choc Ripple biscuits
250g (1/2lb) dark chocolate (approx 70% cocoa solids), broken into chunks
1/2C cream (35% milk fat)
small pinch salt
1 egg yolk, optional
60g (2 oz) hazelnuts, peeled, roasted & coarsely chopped

Whip 1C cream until soft peaks form, you don’t want it to be too firmly whipped as the thick marscapone will thicken things up. Stir through vanilla and marscapone. Take a biscuit and spread with a thin layer of cream mixture on the top side. Place on a work surface cream side up then repeat with another biscuit and stack it on top of the first. Repeat until all the biscuits are used and you have made three stacks.

Take a long serving platter and lay biscuit logs on it to create on big log. Cover as evenly as possible with remaining cream mixture and refrigerate for 30mins.

Meanwhile, bring the 1/2C cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and add chocolate chunks and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. If the mixture starts to separate, whisk through the egg yolk. Allow chocolate to cool until still runny but not hot enough to melt the cream.

Remove log from the fridge and scatter hazelnuts over the top. Drizzle over chocolate and return to the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight. To serve remove from the fridge and slice on an angle so you get the striped ‘surprise’ effect with the biscuits.

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