Cardamom and orange brownies with candied orange


First published in 2015
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I have witnessed first hand, on many an occasion now, what it takes to quenelle ice cream. And when you watch someone do it confidently and deftly, with two spoons, floating, crossing and spinning in this kind of fluid motion, to create this perfectly smooth egg; well, it's quite hypnotic. More to the point, when you watch someone who knows what they are doing, it also looks quite easy.

The last time I saw someone quenelle under my nose was when I attended a masterclass in pastry at The Cookery School in Great Portland Street, as organised by Great British Chefs and led by Graham Hornigold, who is Executive Pastry Chef for the Hakkasan Group. We covered various desserts and techniques, including a fantastic twist on apple tarte Tatin with vanilla ice cream and leading the way on the quenelling front wasn't Graham himself but his right-hand man Daniel Pearse. And he was doing it with one spoon.

Holding a tub of speckled, yellow frozen cream, a quick skim across the surface was all it took, before quickly drawing it back over again, to add an extra layer. Daniel then ran the spoon, oh so quickly across the base of his palm, along his life line and then placed it on the plate. On and on he went, continuing in this way, zipping down perfect ovals on to china. Down on twenty plates all told and all within the blink of an eye. I don't think I can reiterate how quick he was. Apart from saying, he was very, very, very quick and it was a marvel to behold.

It was also mildly annoying because I can't quenelle for toffee. I have been trying for years now and I still haven't quite got the hang of it. Despite lolloping tongue and squinting eye, my efforts always resemble a whizz-bang delivery from a hen that has been egg-bound for five days.

I really don't know what to do about it. Although I suspect the key factor is to let your ice cream come up to the perfect temperature before attempting any artful ellipsoidalising (sic). I know Häagen-Dazs recommend that you leave their ice cream out of the freezer for a required 12 minutes before any attempt is made to scoop. And this does seem to be the right amount of time. But the window of opportunity to work in after that always seems to be so narrow. So, so narrow.

At least, this is what I found when I came up with this recipe to showcase the release of a new ice cream from Häagen-Dazs, a luxuriant coffee flavour that has been on the market around the globe for a while but never in this country. Interestingly, when I tweeted that I had got my hands on a tub of the stuff, a gleeful and slightly jealous thrust of hands went up, rejoicing that at last it was on these shores. Personally, I had some doubts at first, having blasted my tastebuds on some harsh bitter incarnations in the past. However, in their indomitable way, those Scandinavians from 'New Yoike' have nailed it again, with a creamy, frothy mouthful of java that really is quite delightful.

To match the rich coffee notes of the ice cream, I decided to pair up two tried-and-tested partners in the shape and form of chocolate, cardamom and orange. Wait, that's three, but all three flavours do work very well with coffee. I would say that this combination of smooth coffee; astringent, dark cocoa; spicy, warm, almost gingery tang; and a sharp, sweet citrus kick is one of my most accomplished desserts to date. But then I would be bragging and no one likes a bragger. Especially one who can't really quenelle.

With that in mind, when plating this up, you might want to go for good old fashioned dollops of ice cream, rather than the egg-shaped ones. Unless of course, you are as fast and accomplished as that Daniel Pearce. I haven't seen anyone as quick as him yet though.





Candied orange

  • 2 oranges
  • 350ml of water
  • 150g of caster sugar

To serve

  • ice cream, 1 tub of Häagen-Dazs coffee flavour
  • icing sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 20cm square baking tin with baking parchment, leaving an overhang of paper to help you lift the brownie slab out
Add the chocolate pieces and butter cubes to a large bowl, and place over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water. Allow to slowly melt together
Meanwhile, crack the cardamom pods and take out the black seeds. Crush these in a pestle and mortar to create a fine powder. When the chocolate and butter have melted, add in the cardamom powder, orange zest and juice, and stir to combine
Take the pan off the heat, leaving the bowl on top to stay warm and to allow the flavours to infuse
In a separate bowl, add the eggs and sugar and whisk with an electric whisk until the mixture becomes light and fluffy. Sift in the flour and cocoa, then gently fold through until incorporated. Slowly pour in the melted chocolate mixture and fold gently through, trying not to beat any air out
Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared tin and give it a gentle shake to evenly distribute the mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, or until the top is firm to the touch (don't worry if the centre still has a slight wobble, this will create a gooey brownie). Leave to cool in the tin
For the candied orange, halve each orange, then thinly slice each half into moon-like segments. Add the water and sugar to a small pan and bring to the boil. Add the orange segments and boil for another 10 minutes, turning the segments every now and again
Reduce the heat to a low simmer, and leave to gently bubble away for 30 minutes; the syrup will reduce and the orange will be cooked through and completely glazed. When done, lift out the orange segments and leave to cool on a wire rack, reserving the syrup
Before serving, allow the ice cream to soften at room temperature for about 12 minutes, then arrange five segments of candied orange on each plate in a fan. Dust the brownie slab with icing sugar, then cut into rectangles. Place a brownie on each plate, and add a quenelle of ice cream, before finishing with a drizzle of the reserved orange syrup
First published in 2015
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