Saturday, 29 May 2010

Rhubarb & White Chocolate Muffins with a Garden Tour


In our old allotment we used to harvest masses amounts of rhubarb and it was always a challenge to try and use it up. I used to make crumble of course, rhubarb and ginger cake, rhubarb polenta cake and rhubarb vodka, I'd give it away and even managed to sell it at our local organic shop a few times. Since losing that plot, we have been rhubarbless for three years now and I've really missed it. We planted a crown in our new plot this year, but won't be able to harvest anything until next year. Luckily, we had passed a crown of our old rhubarb to my mother and a couple of weeks ago she gave me a nice bunch of it to use - hoorah! I'd already spotted this muffin recipe over at Chocolate Teapot, so I knew exactly what I wanted to make with it.

This also coincided with a wild food walk combined with a local tour of three vegetable plots of varying styles, one of which was ours. Tea and cake was to be had at the middle venue so these muffins were to be my contribution. As I had yogurt in the fridge and no buttermilk I made a substitution using part yogurt and part water. I also added vanilla, which wasn't in the original recipe.

This is what I did:
  • Chopped 400g rhubarb into small pieces
  • Chopped 150g white chocolate into small pieces (I used my usual Green & Black's which is very vanillary)
  • Creamed 80g unsalted butter with 150g vanilla sugar (I have a jar of granulated sugar with a vanilla pod in it permanently on the go.
  • Beat in 2 duck eggs and 100g Greek yogurt
  • Stirred in 225g of sifted flour (1/2 wholemeal, 1/2 white) and 1 tsp baking powder alternately with 50g water.
  • Added the rhubarb and chocolate pieces and mixed thoroughly.
  • Spooned into 12 muffin cases and baked at 200C for 20 mins.

Because of all the rhubarb, these were particularly moist but oh so good to eat. The tartness and flavour of the rhubarb was a great contrast to the sweetness of the white chocolate. I did notice one participant going back for a sneaky second. The walk and tour was a great success as we had a good turnout, the weather was fabulous, the plots were appreciated, lots of knowedge was shared and the tea was totally scrumptious. Unfortunately I forgot, again, to take much in the way of photographs as we went along!

Monday, 24 May 2010

Fudgy Coconut Brownies


Feeling somewhat depressed after the election results, I was in need of cheering up. Something really sweet was required and having just seen Lucie's Brownie post, I was sorely tempted. Not having much restraint in the food line, I very quickly gave in to the temptation and cooked up a batch myself. As follows:
  • Melted 250g unsalted butter in a large pan with 400g soft brown sugar and 100g cocoa.
  • Allowed to cool a little then beat in 4 duck eggs.
  • Stirred in 100g flour (80g wholemeal spelt & 20g quinoa), pinch of salt, 1 small tsp baking powder and 100g desiccated coconut.
  • Poured mixture into a 9" square cake thingie and baked at 180C for 30 mins.
  • Scattered over a spoonful of desiccated coconut as soon as brownies were out of the oven.
  • Left to cool and cut into 16 pieces.

Unusually these brownies had cocoa powder instead of chocolate. This resulted in an unusually chocolatey brownie which wasn't nearly as sweet as I was expecting. I was also somewhat ambivalent about using coconut, but it actually worked really well. They were not as dense as a normal brownie, but were delicious, dark, rich, and chewy with a lovely crunchy top. Adding the quinoa flour was a vain attempt to kid myself that these brownies would be good for me. They may not have done much for my waistline, but they certainly cheered me up.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Mushroom & Chocolate Risotto


Welcome to my 101st post (just noticed). Not quite the Cloud Forest Cake which I said was going to be the first thing I made from Willie's Chocolate Factory Cookbook, but a vegetarian dinner recipe instead.

This is what I did to make a meal for the two of us:
  • Soaked 50g mixed dried mushrooms in 600 ml hot water in a pan for 1/2 an hour, then brought up to a near simmer.
  • Added 1 tbsp of tamari and a few drops of hot chilli sauce.
  • Fried 1/2 a finely chopped onion and 2 cloves of chopped garlic in some olive oil on a low heat until translucent.
  • Added 15g butter and 125g arborio rice, stirred and left this for a few minutes for the rice to absorb some of the butter.
  • Poured some of the mushrooms and stock into the rice and stirred until liquid absorbed. Continued to do this until the stock was finished. Covered with a lid, turned the heat off and left for a few minutes to ensure liquid was fully absorbed and rice properly cooked.
  • Stirred in a scant tbsp of Willie's grated cacao, ground black pepper and a handful each of chopped parsley and rocket.
  • Served in bowls with shavings of Ilha Graciosa (an unpasteurised cow's milk cheese from Portugal).
I love mushroom risotto, it always seems to turn out well and has a satisfyingly earthy flavour. This is the first time I've ever made it with only dried mushrooms, and although it didn't have quite the bite to it that it does if made with fresh mushrooms, it was still very tasty. This is also the first time I've made it with chocolate and I thought it worked well, contributing to the depth of flavour without making itself obvious. By substituting a bit of extra olive oil for the butter and not adding the cheese on top, you have a tasty vegan meal. This is a nice simple supper dish as well as being a great store cupboard standby and I will most certainly be making it again.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Cocoa Nibbed Cookies & A Woodland Walk


It was the 1st of May, a traditional day off for the workers, so a group of us did just that and went off to explore Trenant Wood and to enjoy the bluebells which we hoped would be flowering there. This wood is a relatively recent acquisition of the Woodland Trust and lies at the confluence of the East and West Looe rivers. I had never been there before so was looking forward to this walk with eager anticipation.


Supplies of the edible variety were of course necessary, so it seemed like a good opportunity to get out my newly acquired copy of Adventures in Chocolate and have a go at making some cocoa nib cookies to accompany us on the trek. As I haven't yet mastered the art of tempering, I decided not to drench the cookies in chocolate as the recipe suggested, but other than that I tried to follow the recipe as stated - although I made only half the quantity.
  • Melted 110g unsalted butter in a pan with 75g demerara sugar and a pinch of Himalayan pink salt.
  • Mixed in 125g wholemeal spelt flour, 50g cocoa powder, a 1/4 tsp vanilla extract and an egg.
  • Stirred in 30g cocoa nibs.
  • Scooped spoonfuls (14) of the mixture and placed onto lined baking trays leaving plenty of room between them. Now this is where it all started to go wrong. The butter had separated out (I assumed it was because there was too much of it) so there was grease everywhere!
  • Baked for 8 mins at 180C. The butter carried on going everywhere, so the oven smelt of burnt butter and the cookies didn't spread at all, so there was no need to place them well apart as stated in the recipe.

Despite the over abundance of butter and not being impressed with Paul's recipe writing skills, I wasn't too disappointed. These cookies were really good - very adult, being rich and chocolatey and not too sweet with an impressively dark appearance to match. They had a great crunch and extra chocolate hit both coming from the cocoa nibs. I'm sure a coating of rich dark chocolate would have been delicious, but they stood up well to being unadorned. They were certainly appreciated at the time.


Amazingly, despite the lowering clouds, we were not rained upon. It was a wonderful walk through ancient woodland in a spectacular setting. There were views across the river to the woods on the other side as well as plenty of bird life to observe on the river itself. The woods were lovely although the bluebells were only just starting to come out, courtesy of the late spring. Luckily, there were plenty of other flowers to admire and the trees were in various stages of coming into leaf giving a rich tapestry of shapes and colours to draw the eye. Of course we said we would return to see the bluebells out, but CT and I haven't managed it yet!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Chocolate, Raisin & Ale Cake


This wonderful recipe came via Zeb Bakes who in turn spotted it on Dan Lepard's site. Not only did Joanne sell this to me as a "chocolate porridge" recipe, she also made it clear that it was a one pan cake - how could I resist? It's just taken me rather a while to blog about it. Not having any stout in the house, I substituted a bottle of real ale I had knocking about the place. I also followed Joanne's suggestion of making a creme fraiche ganache as a topping rather than the sweeter icing in the original recipe.

This is what I did:
  • Poured 330ml ale (Badger Original) into a large pan and added 50g rolled oats and 25g cocoa.
  • Brought to the boil and simmered for 1 minute.
  • Removed from heat and stirred in 75g unsalted butter and 100g 70% dark chocolate.
  • Added 225g brown sugar (I think muscovado would have worked well here) and stirred well.
  • Beat in one duck egg and 2 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Mixed in 150g rasins
  • Beat in 250 wholemeal spelt and 1 tsp baking powder
  • Spooned into a 9" cake thingie and baked for 30 mins at 18oC.
  • Whilst cake was cooling, I melted 100g dark chocolate with 100 ml creme fraiche and stirred gently. I don't seem to have much success with ganache, it started to split so I very quickly stopped stirring.
  • Spread this on top of the cooled cake as best I could and cut into 16 squares.
Voted by CT as his favourite cake in a long time, this was rich, dense, chewy, moist and delicious - need I go on? Well, one other thing, it wasn't too sweet, which is how we both like our cakes (mostly!). Despite the ganache not being quite perfect, it still tasted good and it worked better than I think the original fudgy icing would have done. It lasted well and was just as delicious, if not more so, one week on. As I'm sure the ale will have given a different result to the stout, this gives me a good excuse to make it again. Thank you Joanna.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Tea Chocolates - A Review

Since hearing quite a bit recently about combining chocolate and tea, I have been intrigued by the concept. I have been wanting to try making my own matcha or Earl Grey cakes and/or biscuits but still haven't managed it yet. So, I was very excited to receive a box of tea chocolates from Matcha Chocolat in the post.


This box of tea chocolates was the Emperor's Selection and was beautifully presented in pink with Matcha Chocolat's distinctive Chinese teapot logo on the sides. The chocolates looked so good when I lifted off the lid, that I experienced conflicting emotions - get stuck in or just look at them with awe. These are definitely chocolates for savouring rather than wolfing down in the traditional British boorish style (or maybe that's just us). Patience was called for however, as I first had to charge up the camera batteries and take photographs. As consolation, I had a good sniff and picked up a rich fruity scent. This could have been the result of the Valrhona chocolate used to enrobe some of the tea ganaches, which is renowned for having fruity qualities.

The chocolates are all handmade using fresh and often organic ingredients from an artisan choclatier whose ethics are very much at the heart of what she does. This of course gets my vote!


Uji Matcha - Beautifully decorated in a way that would be instantly recognisable to a Japanese person, this green tea ganache was enrobed in milk chocolate with a floral design. There was a slight, but noticeable green tinge to the ganache which was particularly smooth in the mouth. The matcha flavour is pronounced but not overpowering but leaves an almost savoury aftertaste on the palate - which is much nicer than it sounds. CT was transported straight back to Japan as the flavour of matcha is so distinctive and captured the taste of Japan for him.


Jasmine Silver Needles - This was the most stunning to look at with its beautiful creamy white dome topped off with gold leaf which glittered delightfully. There was no detectable fragrance of jasmine before biting through the chocolate, but once inside the scent was released. The ganache was particularly creamy with a delicate but penetrating flavour of jasmine tea.


Masala Chai - There was no mistaking this one, it tasted just like a good cup of chai should do, warm, spicy, milky and sweet with the tea notes coming through loud and clear but by no means overwhelming the whole chocolate experience. The firm dark chocolate contrasted well with the soft milk chocolate ganache inside. The spicy notes of cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, pepper, cloves and aniseed lingered on for quite some time after the last vestiges had disappeared. Topped off with a sliver of crystallised ginger, this was a classy comfort food.


Midnight Peony - The dark chocolate casing had a strong fruity aroma which reminded us both of berries. However, once bitten into there was an immediate heady smell of alcohol followed very soon after by an unexpected smokey taste as though we were transported back in time to the Verandah of the Raffles hotel, white suited & posh frocked with mandatory cigarette holders in hand. The smokey flavour was certainly strong, but by no means unpleasant and combined well with the milk chocolate ganache. Interesting.


Blackcurrant Bliss - A smooth milk chocolate ganache enrobed with milk chocolate and a blackcurrant on top. We left this one until last as I thought the blackcurrant would dominate our palates for subsequent tastings. In fact it was quite subtle and very different to the crudity of certain blackcurrant and sugar beverages. Less is more in this case. The taste of black tea, Assam in this case, was noticeable though not overpowering.

As a drinker of green and white tea, I am not particularly fond of the black stuff, but I really loved these tea chocolates - all of them. I'm not even sure I could pick out a favourite if truth be told. They all challenged perceptions of what a chocolate should be and they all did it in the nicest possible way. Now I feel I should really do what I've been wanting to do for so long and make my own tea confections.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Chocolate Mocha Layer Cake


A few weeks ago, we were invited to a 60th birthday party, so something a bit special was called for. Having been impressed with the chocolate cupcakes I'd made from the Primrose Bakery cookbook, I thought I'd try their recipe for chocolate layer cake - only with a twist, a coffee twist.

This is what I think I did (hmm, it was a while ago now):
  • Melted 200g dark chocolate 70% & left to cool slightly.
  • Creamed 170g unsalted butter with 350g soft brown sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Beat in 3 duck egg yolks followed by the chocolate.
  • Sifted 370g flour (1/2 wholemeal & 1/2 white) together with 1.5 tsp baking powder, 1.5 tsp bicarb of soda and 1/2 tsp salt.
  • Added this to the butter mixture alternately with 250ml water.
  • Stirred in 250g Greek yogurt and 2 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Whisked eggs whites from the 3 eggs until still and folded this into the mixture.
  • Divided mixture between two 21cm cake thingies and baked at 180C for about 30 mins.
  • Left to cool for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
  • Mixed 150g unsalted butter, 300g icing sugar, 2 tsp instant coffee (dissolved in a little water) and 1 tbsp milk together.
  • Used half of the mixture to sandwich the cakes together and the other half to ice the top.
  • Decorated with chocolate coffee beans.
Again, I was impressed with this cake and give the yogurt some of the credit for the lightness and superior texture - yogurt was not in the original recipe. Being in a bit of a hurry, the cake had not sufficiently cooled when I put the icing on, hence its tendency to slip off, as can be seen from the photo. All I can say is, the Birthday Boy and party goers seemed to be happy with the end product.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Chocolate, Chilli & Lime Bread


Have got my posts completely out of sync now and have rather lost the plot on what I did when. But I was so excited at having made this bread, that I had to post about it sooner rather than later.

Sunday is usually my bread making day, as well as washing and tidying up the house day - all ready to go back to work on Monday. But this week, Monday is a bank holiday so I thought we should mark the occasion by having a leisurely breakfast for once. And what could be more appropriate than trying out Suelle's competition winning suggestion of bread with chocolate, lime and chilli. So, yesterday I not only baked my normal two loaves of rye sourdough, but also the aforementioned bread from Unwrapped.

Kneading is not my favourite pastime - it always seems to take a lot of time and creates a lot of mess in my rather small kitchen - hence the reason I don't make wheat breads very often. I tried some of Andrew Whitley's air kneading (that I learnt on his bread course) as the mixture was very wet, but as all of the chocolate kept flying out all over the cooker and floor, I went back to managing as best I could on the work surface.

Instead of sticking to the method as prescribed in the book, I decided to go my own way as usual and used a basket rather than baking it in a tin. I haven't got this method properly sussed and as I've already said, the dough was particularly wet, so it collapsed as soon as I turned it out prior to baking. The slices are thus a little thin - hey ho!
  • Measured 450g wholemeal spelt into a bowl with 1 tsp sea salt (Cornish), 25g brown sugar and 9g organic yeast mix.
  • Threw in about 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes, 100g dark (70%) chocolate - roughly chopped and grated zest of 1 lime.
  • Cut 1/2 of lime into thin slices and then cut the slices into bits then threw this in.
  • Made a well in the centre and added about 375 ml warm water and the juice from remaining half of lime (the recipe actually stated 400 ml water, but I found even what I used made the mixture a bit too wet).
  • Kneaded mixture as best I could for about 20 mins then placed into a floured dough basket. Put this inside a plastic bag and left in a warm place to rise for about an hour.
  • Realised at this point that I'd forgotten to add the 50 ml of olive oil that was stated in the recipe - oh well!
  • Turned out onto a lined baking tray and left to rise for a further 15 mins. Baked at the bottom of the oven at 220C for about 20 mins. When tapped bread sounded hollow which indicated it was done.

The whole house smelt wonderfully sweet and zesty as this was baking. I wanted to tear into it as soon as it came out of the oven, but managed to resist - this was meant to be the morrow's treat after all! However, as you will see from the photo I couldn't hold out that long and CT and I just had to try a couple of slices at tea time. It was as good as I was hoping for - fragrant and soft but with a good bite to it and oh so flavoursome. Although not a sweet bread, the chocolate chunks gave a soft chewy cocoa hit every so often. There was enough heat from the chilli to know it was there without it overpowering the whole. The lime was the best of all though, permeating the whole loaf with a fresh and zesty zing. Breakfast was all that I hoped for, although in the end we didn't get it until nearly 12:00. Wanting to take advantage of the early morning sun, we headed off to work in our plot. The bread worked well as soldiers for boiled eggs, was delicious both with and without butter and was particularly tasty with some orange curd on it.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Chocolate & Peppermint Cupcakes


Finally I have got around to making a recipe from the Primrose Bakery book. I bought this sometime ago (well before Christmas in fact) and it's been sitting by my bed, much read but little used - until now! Of course I couldn't bring myself to follow the recipe to the letter; I've really liked how cakes have been turning out since using the Greek yogurt, so some of that had to go in for sure. To balance this inclusion, I substituted the milk with water and used less of it. I also used the same method I did for the white chocolate & passionfruit cupcakes rather than the more involved one from the book - I was in a hurry.

This is what I did:
  • Melted 100g 85% dark chocolate with 85g unsalted butter.
  • Stirred in 175g soft brown sugar.
  • Beat in 2 duck eggs.
  • Sifted in 185g flour (1/3 wholemeal, 1/3 white, 1/3 buckwheat), 3/4 tsp baking powder, 3/4 tsp bicarb of soda, a pinch of salt and 2 heaped tsp cocoa.
  • Stirred in 2 tbsp Greek yogurt (TOTAL 0%), 1 tsp vanilla extract and 150ml water.
  • Filled 12 cupcake cases up to 2/3 full and then divided remaining mixture between 2x4" mini cake thingies - thought I would use those for something slightly different.
  • Creamed 50g unsalted butter with 100g sifted icing sugar.
  • Beat in a tbsp milk & 1 drop peppermint essential oil.
  • Spread this on top of cupcakes and decorated each with a peppermint cream.
All who tried these at my Easter Tea were impressed with the texture and flavour of these cupcakes. The sponge was moist, light and chocolatey. The mint icing was fun to try and made the whole cupcake seem like one big peppermint cream. I'm not really a fan of food colourings, but rather wished I'd put in a drop of green, just to give it that final finish. I've heard that the recipes from this book turn out well - this one certainly did.

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