If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you’re going to love these top tips from some of SBS Food’s sweet-loving TV hosts. With SBS Food Channel 33's 'Sweet Treats' month bringing an irresistible line-up of cakes, bakes, everything chocolate from fudge to home-made Freckles, divine desserts and more to your screen throughout June (6 pm every day from June 3), we’ve rounded up some of the best tips and tricks they share.
Some are super-simple ways to lift your sweet game. Others will make everything from honeycomb to marshmallows easier than you think. Nab chocolate queen Kirsten Tibballs’ technique for a dramatic chocolate dome, her nifty keep-it-in-the freezer chocolate crumble and homemade Freckles; make Rachel Allen’s crunchy sugary coconut, great to top any dessert; or discover the secrets to heavenly homemade fudge, honeycomb and marshmallows.
How to make marvellous marshmallow…
If you’ve never made marshmallow – or for that matter, honeycomb or fudge – Kirsten Tibballs wants to reassure you they are all easier than you think. “Marshmallow hands down is the easiest. It’s such a simple recipe. Fudge and honeycomb are also easy, just make sure you have everything laid out ready to go before you start,” she says when we chat to the patisserie and chocolate expert ahead of the start of her show, The Chocolate Queen, on SBS Food on June 3. In the series, Tibballs shares everything you need to know for making marshmallows. The key is temperature. Use a thermometer to get it right while making the mix and be careful with the gelatin. “What’s important to remember when working with marshmallow is that the gelatin starts to set at 28 degrees so if it goes too cold, it’s almost impossible to work with,” she says. Her recipe takes the classic fluffy squares and turns them into chocolate knots, by piping the marshmallow mix into paper tubes, but you can also set the mixture in a tin and cut it into squares.
In Rachel Allen: All Things Sweet (starts June 22), the popular Irish chef makes rosewater marshmallows. “People are always surprised at just how easy it is. Once you have a sugar thermometer then I think it's really easy and straightforward to make marshmallows,” she says. As well as being exact about temperature, she points out that it’s important to brush any sugar crystals down into the pan while cooking the water, glucose and sugar in the first stage of the recipe. “If there is some sugar, then just put a pastry brush in some water and brush around the sides.”
When it comes to colouring and flavouring, you’ll find a world of inspiration in Paul Hollywood’s Pies and Puds (starting July 2 on SBS Food), when the English chef invites Oonagh Simms into the kitchen. Simms, who has wowed London with her brilliantly coloured, all-natural marshmallows through her business, The Mashmallowist, flavours her creations with fresh fruit, herbs and spices. Her cannabis, grapefruit and pink peppercorn marshmallow has garnered plenty of attention, but other popular combinations include raspberry and champagne, and passionfruit and ginger, both of which get an enthusiastic thumbs up from Hollywood. (And if you’re wondering how a marshmallow fits into a show about pies and puddings, the answer is on top: Hollywood makes a sticky toffee pudding and tops it with squares of Oonah’s marshmallows to serve).
Allen, too, has great ideas for playing with additions – we especially like her suggestion of adding broken up biscuits or chopped nougat.
… and fab fudge
A large pot and a bit of bi-carb soda are the keys to success here. A kitchen thermometer will also help, but if you don’t have one, Tibballs explains in her recipe how to test the mixture in a bowl of chilled water. “The trick to making good fudge is… stopping the sugar cooking at the right moment,” Tibballs says in The Chocolate Queen. To do that, bring cream and vanilla to the boil and then keep it warm while cooking a sugar syrup – Tibballs uses a mixture of caster and brown sugar for extra flavour – to 145°C. “When it reaches that temperature, to stop the cooking any higher, I’m going to pour our hot cream and vanilla into the pot. That’s why I’ve got such a large pot because when you pour the cream in, it will boil and rise quite substantially. You must whisk it continuously while it does that.”
Next comes the addition of butter and golden syrup, and here’s where the bicarb helps out. “Because we’re adding a lot of fat… sometimes it’s hard to mix it together or emulsify it. Some bicarb soda helps bind those ingredients. It’ll also make the fudge a really nice, rich, dark colour.” Why is that, we asked Tibballs? “Whenever we add an alkaline product into a mixture it will always deepen the colour. Honeycomb is a great example — the sugar has no colour at that temperature until we add in the bi-carb soda and then it goes a beautiful golden colour,” she explains. (Get her honeycomb recipe, from her book Chocolate, here). The final step in her fudge is adding two lots of chocolate, milk and dark, and then mixing until the caramel turns into fudge. “If it looks grainy, keep whisking until it comes together.”
Three secrets to a show-stopper dessert topper
“People will think you’ve spent hours in the kitchen preparing it but actually it will take under an hour,” says Tibballs of her chocolate dome, which she uses in The Chocolate Queen to top a super-easy dessert made with layers of Bailey’s flavoured chocolate cream and butternut snap biscuits. “When we’re creating moulds for chocolate they must be flexible because the chocolate will contract. So a balloon is perfect,” Tibballs says. When you go to remove the dome from the balloon, don’t cut into the side of the balloon; just make a small nick near the knot in the neck of the balloon, and let the balloon deflate slowly. And finally, handle it as little as possible, so the heat from your hands doesn’t start to melt your show-stopper creation.
Stash chocolate crumbles in the freezer
One of those things that's so simple yet so good, this five-ingredient chocolate crumble is easy to make, versatile and you can keep the unbaked mix in the freezer, ready to cook off whenever you need it. Try it sprinkled over baked fruit, or mixed with yoghurt for a super-speedy dessert. “I like to call it chocolate soil, but you could also call it chocolate crumble. It’s really easy,” says Kirsten Tibballs, who shares the recipe in The Chocolate Queen. “You can freeze the crumble before baking, and then bake it off whenever you need it. I love it on top of poached fruits, it is a beautiful finish for any dessert [and]I love to put that in ice cream to make my own cookies and cream ice cream.”
Another great topper is Rachel Allen’s coconut crumb, which she sprinkles over her chocolate coconut cake in the Indulgence episode of All Things Sweet. It’s basically desiccated coconut mixed with sugar syrup and then baked for 3-4 minutes, stirring during cooking, to create crunchy golden coconut. “It's really lovely just to scatter over ice cream,” Allen says. (Get the recipe for the cake and the coconut crumb here).
Perfect pancakes in a sandwich press
You don’t need a stove-top or a frying pan to make pancakes with Kirsten Tibballs’ clever idea. She uses a sandwich press and egg rings to make pancakes that are easy to cook and all the same size. Get the details of how to make her light and fluffy chocolate pancakes served with caramelised bacon, ice cream and maple syrup here.
Baked nuts are better
Did you know there’s a key temperate for roasting nuts? Tibballs explains why when roasting hazelnuts to make her version of Nutella. “It’s important that you don’t roast them above 160 degrees because the outside will be nicely roasted but the inside will be raw. So we want it the same, the whole way through.”
A light-as-air lamington
Making lamingtons was Tibballs very first job as an apprentice, at the age of 15 and in The Chocolate Queen, she shares a recipe for a triple-chocolate version of the classic.
Tibballs has a great tip for keeping as much air as possible in the cake mix when making the sponge for lamingtons. After beating eggs, vanilla and sugar, and then folding in the cocoa, sifted flour and salt in her recipe, the next step is to add melted butter. If the melted butter is just poured straight into the mixing bowl, “it runs to the bottom of the bowl because it’s such a different consistency”. “So what I do is take some of the sponge mixture, add it to the butter, and bring it to a similar consistency to the sponge before folding it [the butter mixture] through. That way, we won’t lose as much air.” Her other top tips: “It’s important to preheat your oven with sponges, so they don’t collapse while you’re waiting for your oven to heat up.” After the cooked cake has cooled completely, put it in the freezer before cutting. “When I cut sponges, I always freeze them, because you get fewer crumbs when you cut them,” Tibballs explains.
This one is just sheer fun. In episode 12 of The Chocolate Queen, Tibballs shares a recipe for making your own freckles.
Her version uses tempered chocolate, and in the show and her book Chocolate, she’s got three methods and some great tips for that, too: Among them, use a plastic bowl, not glass; don’t over-heat the chocolate when melting it in the microwave - melt the chocolate 30 seconds at a time until you have half liquid, half solid chocolate, then stir vigorously; and if it’s a hot day and your kitchen is over 27°C, you might need to leave it for another day.
Quick-trick chocolate bark
In a lot of recipes, properly tempered chocolate is the key to success. But if you’re really short on time, try this: in Lyndey Milan’s Baking Secrets, Milan shares a shortcut take on tempering that she uses to make her chocolate bark. “Normally we temper chocolate to make it glossy and crisp. It’s science really. I’ve got a cheat’s way of doing it for you. You melt two-thirds of your chocolate and then take [the other] one-third and mix it through so that it melts but it also reduces the temperature of the chocolate that you’ve got [melted] already.” Pour the melted chocolate onto a baking paper-lined tray, spread it out, and then decorate with whatever toppings you fancy. Set it in the fridge, then break it up with your hands. You can give it as a gift, or use it to decorate cakes and desserts.
Want more great ideas? Tune in everyday at 6 pm from June 3 on SBS Food (Channel 33) and join Kirsten Tibballs in The Chocolate Queen (June 3 – June 15); Lyndey Milan in Baking Secrets (June 16 – June 21); and Rachel Allen in Rachel Allen: All Things Sweet (June 22 – July 4). Episodes will also be available on SBS On Demand after they air.