Friday, 30 July 2010

Green Tea & White Chocolate Cupcakes


Following on from last week's post and my quest to win some matcha tea for Matcha Madness, I am entering again with these green tea cupcakes. The inspiration for these came from these wonderful looking cupcakes at The Catty Life.  I have attempted to emulate matcha as best I can using the Japanese tea I had mistaken for matcha powder last week.  It is also CTs birthday tomorrow, so these double as his birthday cakes. Green tea brings back happy memories of his time in Japan, so these  seem particularly apt.

  • Melted 60g white chocolate (Green & Blacks).
  • Ground 2 tsp Japanese tea then left to infuse in 2 tbsp boiling water.
  • Creamed 50g unsalted butter with 125g vanilla sugar.
  • Beat in a duck egg.
  • Beat in chocolate.
  • Sifted in 125g flour (50g wholemeal, 50g white, 25g buckwheat), 1 tsp baking powder and 1/8 tsp bicarb of soda.
  • Stirred in 2 tbsp Greek Yogurt and the tea plus water.
  • Spooned into 12 muffin cases and baked at 180C for 20 mins.
  • Warmed 125ml double cream and stirred in 1 tsp Japanese green tea.  Left to infuse for an hour.  
  • Strained cream then brought to boil and poured over 40g white chocolate.
  • Stirred until combined then left to cool.
  • Whipped mixture until thick enough to spread on top of the cupcakes.
  • Topped off with Japanese sugar decorations.

This did not give the bright green that I was hoping for, but the shade was nevertheless distinctly green.  The sponge was light and moist with a good crumb structure.   It was delicious with a subtle hint of tea lingering on the palate.  The flavour was echoed nicely by the ganache topping. Combined with the richness of the white chocolate, it was first class according to CT, who snaffled a pre-birthday taster.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Chocrhutea - Matcha, Chocolate and Rhubarb Marble Cake

For once, I am ignoring the queue of posts I have waiting to be written and am aiming to post this on the actual day I made the cake.  This is because time is running out.  Catty is running a Matcha Madness competition to win some Teapigs matcha powder and the closing date is fast approaching.

Using matcha in cakes is something of a new and rather strange concept to me.  Green tea is something I drink very readily and I was more than pleased when CT brought home several packets of matcha, in both leaf and powder form, from a visit to Japan a couple of years ago.  I had no thoughts of doing anything with it except to steep it in hot water, until I came across a post on matcha cupcakes at Kitchen Butterfly.  As soon as I saw this, it went straight onto my list of things to bake, but my list is rather a long one and it didn't quite make it to the top - until now.

I have been pondering over the last couple of weeks what, exactly, I was going to make.  Cupcakes seemed like the obvious choice, but a combination of seeing so many wonderful marble cakes on Mainly Baking and then coming across this cake at Scandilicious made me think again.  I of course needed to get chocolate into the equation somehow and a marble cake seemed like a good way of including it.  Then my mother came along with some rhubarb from her garden - well I had to include that somehow.  Hey, why not really push the boat out and go for three flavours rather than two!  I'm calling this marble cake for want of a better name, but I wanted solid blocks of cake so they could be tasted as an entity in their own right, rather than swirled in true marble cake style.  This seemed like an ideal opportunity to use one of the Japanese sugar decorations that I received as a gift from one of CT's Japanese contacts.

This is what I did:

  • Creamed 125g unsalted butter with 175g vanilla sugar.
  • Beat in two duck eggs (large hens eggs can be substituted).
  • Sifted in 200g flour (half wholemeal and half white) with 2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp bicarb of soda and 1/4 tsp salt (Pink Himalayan).
  • Stirred in 100g ground almonds, 125g Greek yogurt and 2 tbsp water.
  • Divided mixture between 3 bowls.
  • Stirred 1 stick finely chopped rhubarb into one bowl.
  • Added 1 tbsp matcha powder to another bowl.
  • Sifted in 2 tbsp cocoa to the last bowl and stirred.
  • Dolloped out the mixture alternately around a 23cm cake thingie - 3x3 dollops to ensure the different flavours wouldn't get too mixed up.
  • Baked for 40 mins at 180C.
  • Left to cool for 10 mins then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Creamed 30g unsalted butter with 100g sifted icing sugar.
  • Stirred in 100g cream cheese.
  • Beat in 1 tbsp of matcha powder - except I didn't!  This is where things started to go a bit pear shaped.  I'd just finished off a packet of matcha powder in the cake so went to open my last remaining packet BUT it wasn't powder, it was leaves.  I ground it up as best I could in the coffee grinder, but the resulting "powder" was somewhat on the coarse side - hey ho, no choice but to use it.
  • Placed a Japanese sugar four leafed clover on the top.

Well what a revelation - I am now sold on matcha cake.  I have to admit I was, beforehand, rather dubious about how this would turn out, thinking it was just a gimmick.  Now I've tasted it, I realise why so many have been raving about it for so long: it's really delicious.  In an act of heresy, I have to admit that I preferred the matcha element of the cake to the chocolate one.  I love the colour too, it's an amazing shade of green - colour that is natural and very good for you as well.  Overall, the texture of the cake was moist and substantial without being heavy.  It cut really well, holding its shape and leaving few crumbs. It's like having three cakes in one - all would have been great cakes in their own right, but I loved having the combination of all those different flavours together - sometimes just a forkful of pure matcha, or rhubarb or chocolate and other times a combination of any of those three or all three - wonderful!  Chocolate and matcha maybe a bit old hat as a flavour combination now, but I reckon I am amongst a very select few who have tried it with rhubarb. Although the matcha and chocolate worked really well together, my favourite combination was the rhubarb and matcha, the sharp fruitiness of the rhubarb piercing the savoury undertones of the matcha tea.  Although the matcha cheese topping was not quite the uniform bright green I'd wanted, it didn't take me long to get used to the speckled look.  It was also a great flavour combination complementing every element of the cake most successfully.  When CT tried it, he compared it to a game of paper, scissors, stone, with each flavour trumping the other in succession depending on the proportions in each mouthful.  In my humble opinion, this is a roaring success and would make a great birthday cake for someone.

Now I've used up all of my matcha powder, I need some more.  All being well, I'm hoping to have another bash at entering this competition by making some more matcha cake next week - in time for CT's birthday.

Friday, 23 July 2010

I Should Coco - a Selection


Having stumbled across this wonderful chocolate shop, I Should Coco, on a recent visit to St Ives, I have great pleasure in reviewing a few of the chocolates made there.

Andrea Parsons is the mastermind behind this particular chocolate business which began life as a stall in the local farmer's market and then morphed into a shop a couple of years ago. Ethically driven, she is interested in producing real chocolate and exploring new flavour combinations. All chocolate sold in the shop is hand made in the workshop at the back.

Like Matcha Chocolat, these are fresh chocolates that are made to be eaten not stored - which is fine by me. This means no preservatives or unnecesary additives are used, making for a more natural product bursting with flavour. As many ingredients as possible are sourced locally from small independent producers - unfortunately cocoa trees are not yet abundant in Cornwall. The cream is supplied by a local dairy, Cornish sea salt is used and much of the fruit is also local.


Strawberry - An intense strawberry flavour courtesy of good old Cornish strawberries. It's great to have seasonal flavours in season. Encased in sweet white chocolate which endures after the delicious ganache has disappeared - double the enjoyment. The red & white checked top is redolent of a tablecloth all set for a summery strawberry cream tea.


Salted Caramel - At last, I've been wanting to try a salted caramel for some time now as they have been all the rage for a while. It's true what they say, that slight edge of salt really offsets the caramel flavour. One is definitely not enough. The milk chocolate casing worked particularly well with this filling.


Rose Cream - I can't resist rose, it's one of my favourite flavours, so I was particularly looking forward to trying this one. Encased in dark chocolate with a piece of crystallised rose on top, this rose fondant did not disappoint.


Raspberry - Beautiful pink ganache which blended particularly well with the white chocolate that encased it. The taste of raspberries was distinct and made for a delicious mouthful.





Honey & Thyme - I was particularly intrigued by the appearance of this one. Made using local honey, this beautiful golden nugget was full of smooth milk chocolate ganache with the subtle notes of honey and thyme hinting at warm cliff tops with buzzing bees as an accompaniment.


Passionfruit - A lovely stripy topped square of sweet white chocolate encases this most delicious smooth ganache tasting of ... you guessed it, passionfruit. Like her other fruit chocolates the aromatic signature of passionfruit was retained in all its glory. Yum.


Chilli Chocolate Truffle - Another smooth ganache curtesy of Cornish cream, no doubt, this is dark, rich and not at all sweet. The chilli had a smoky hint to it and the fiery quality began imperceptibly and grew in intensity leaving a wonderful warm feeling in the mouth, throat and stomach. Probably an ideal pick me up for a cold winter's night, it nonetheless tasted great in the summer too. I'm sure the Aztecs would have recognised and enjoyed these - I certainly did.

If ever you are lucky enough to be visiting St Ives or are in the vicinity, I strongly urge you to go and check out this wonderful little chocolate shop.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Raw Chocolates - a first attempt


I've been meaning to have a go at making some raw chocolate for a long time, but for one reason or another haven't actually got around to it - until recently! The raw chocolate products I have bought are really delicious, although quite unlike chocolate as we know it. Raw chocolate is meant to be actively healthy. The ingredients have minimum processing and the cocoa itself has not been heat treated which is the case with most of the cocoa powders we are familiar with. There is also no sugar involved. The downside is that the ingredients are all quite expensive, especially if using organic ones as I have done. Although some time ago I'd cut a recipe out from the Natural Store magazine, this was a bit of an experiment and I wanted to try some different flavours; these ended up as being plain, rose, lucuma and cinnamon.

This is what I did:
  • Melted 100g chopped raw cocoa butter in a bowl over hot water
  • Added 1 tbsp coconut oil.
  • When melted, mixed in 4 tbsp raw cocoa powder and a pinch of Himalayan pink salt.
  • Beat in 3 tbsp raw agave syrup (this is where I may have gone wrong as the recipe I was meant to be following suggested if not blended really well the agave syrup would sink - hey ho, guess what happened!).
  • Spooned 1/4 of mixture into some shell shaped moulds.
  • Added 1 tsp of whizzed up dried rose petals to another 1/4 and spooned that into rose shaped moulds.
  • Added 1 tbsp lucuma powder to the remaining mixture and spooned 1/4 into a mini silicone loaf tin.
  • Added a drop or cinnamon essential oil to the last remaining 1/4 and poured that into a mini silicone loaf tin.
  • Put them all into the fridge to set for a couple of hours.

This chocolate smelt wonderful as I was making it and I had high hopes. Oh well, it was my first attempt! The mixture containing the lucuma powder wasn't too bad and had only separated slightly but the shapes had separated out and the agave syrup ran all over the place when I turned them out. The rose flavour didn't come through at all and the bits of rose petal didn't add to the general enjoyment. Luckily, the taste was good, quite similar to the products I've bought and enjoyed. The texture certainly needs working on, but I think it is worth having another go. I will need to find a better way of creating a rose flavoured chocolate, but the cinnamon flavour worked well. They were very simple to make and although expensive are a lot cheaper than the ready made bars.

Any tips much appreciated.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

As I was going to St Ives


Not having visited St Ives for at least four years, I thought it was about time we renewed our acquaintance. It was my birthday and "I'll do what I want to" - that was my line of reasoning and I did have the day off work booked anyway. I dragged CT along with me and we boarded the train westwards. Parking in St Ives is a bit of a nightmare and taking the train is the most sensible option on all counts - it's a lovely ride.

In my naivety, I had assumed a midweek visit before the school holidays would be fairly quiet. How wrong I was, the place was heaving - note to self: remember this for next year. We tried to make the best of it and as is usual, in honey pots like this one, we managed to find a few tranquil spots.


As a local, it's easy to forget how beautiful this county is, so making irregular pilgrimages to the more scenic spots is a good reminder. St Ives is a typical fishing village with narrow streets and small cottages perched on rocky slopes with the ocean an ever present force. On this particular day, thankfully, the weather was kind, so the sea was blue and the beaches looked particularly inviting.

Having disembarked at the station, we followed the throng through the maze of streets. Buskers, punters and shops provided us with entertainment. The real highlight for me, was, cue fanfare, a chocolate shop offering its own artisan chocolates - I Should Coco. As it was my birthday, I felt no compunction whatsoever in treating myself to some of the gorgeous looking creations within.


Gorge, I have to confess, is exactly what we did. Unfortunately, the pristine designs became rather smudged with cocoa powder from the chilli truffle which I could not resist, so the only picture I actually took was not a particularly pretty sight and hence, does not appear here. Luckily, the taste was not affected and they were truly excellent. I will, however, be reviewing some of these chocolates in a later post, so pictures will be available then.


Amazingly, we later came across another chocolate shop, Chocolat St Ives which included an interesting selection of baking bits and bobs. Sad, but true, we'd had enough of chocolate by this stage, so we looked but didn't purchase.


St Ives is, of course, more famous for its artists than its chocolate. This time, we gave the Tate a miss, but spent some time at the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Garden instead. This was her studio for the last 25 years of her life and her sculptures are displayed both inside and out. They are truly wonderful - they have such a tactile look about them, I just wanted to go and touch every single one.







After a brisk stroll along the sea-front and a paddle in the sea, our interest in chocolate had returned. Tea and brownies at the Digey Food Room satisfied this need. There was a wide range of Teapigs to choose from and the brownies were really good. This gave us the energy to puff up the hill to the station and on to the train home. A long, but satisfying day out.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Pineapple Upside Down Cake - a chocolate version of course


I blame Chele at the Chocolate Teapot for this one. I don't think I would have thought of doing this in a million years - pineapple rings with cherries in the middle were the stuff of nightmares for me when I was a child. Well, I may be exaggerating a tad here, but pineapple upside down cake was not my favourite. However when I saw this, made with fresh pineapple, it got me interested. Then, whilst out shopping, I saw a half price pineapple which was just about perfectly ripe. What option did I have?

Here's how I did it:
  • Dissolved 200g demerara sugar in a pan with 1/2 cup water and boiled for a few minutes until syrupy and golden.
  • Took off the heat and stirred in 75g unsalted butter.
  • Poured caramel into a 23cm cake thingie.
  • Faffed around with a pineapple trying to skin and chop it into small segments - which I eventually achieved.
  • Placed segments on top of the caramel.
  • Melted 100g 85% cocoa with 125g unsalted butter.
  • Beat 4 duck eggs with 225g vanilla sugar (you could use 1 tsp vanilla extract instead) for ages until really pale and thick.
  • Poured in chocolate mixture and stirred to combine.
  • Sieved in 170g flour (150g wholemeal spelt and 20g coconut flour) and 2 tsp baking powder then folded into mixture until just combined.
  • Spooned mixture over the pineapple and baked at 160C for 50 mins.
I need not have worried, this cake was delicious - moist, sweet and pineapply. It was great as a dessert served warm from the oven with ice cream, but was equally good as cake the day after and the day after that!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Chocolate and Cardamom Shortbread


The wonderful weather we have been experiencing over the past few weeks (thirsty plants notwithstanding) has meant we've actually enjoyed a few meals outside this year. Eating food outside always seems to taste so much better somehow, I don't know whether it's all in the mind or if our senses are energised by the fresh air and sunshine. Outdoor meals for us have mostly been with friends as our garden is a little on the small side and not really suitable for outdoor eating. I keep thinking I must plan a tea party down at our plot, but the best I have managed so far was to have a take away supper down there. Our latest meal was a BBQ eaten out in a garden surrounded by flowers, fields and views. I had just read about Strawberry and Clotted Cream Shortcakes at Clotted Cream Diaries, which I really liked the sound of. This reminded me of the delicious Chocolate and Cinnamon Shortbread that I made back in May last year. Marrying these two things together, I took along chocolate cardamom shortbread, strawberries in a little cardamom, rose and mint syrup and clotted cream for pudding. I based this recipe on the cinnamon one, substituting the semolina for polenta and the cinnamon for cardamom.


This is how I made the shortbread:
  • Creamed 175g unsalted butter with 75g caster sugar
  • Sifted in 20g cocoa, 60g polenta, 170g plain flour, a pinch of salt and the ground seeds from 6 cardamom pods.
  • Formed this into a ball with my hands and rolled out to about 1/2 cm thick then cut into rounds.
  • I wasn't expecting this mixture to spread so placed the rounds quite closely together on a lined baking sheet. They spread, so I didn't get perfect rounds!
  • Baked at 180C for 8 mins.
  • Left to cool slightly then transferred onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Dusted lightly with caster sugar
Although the recipe was virtually the same as the cinnamon squares I had previously made, these were completely different, but equally delicious. Last year's version was deep and soft in the centre, these ones were like biscuits and had a lovely crunchy texture. The cardamom gave a really intriguing exotic twist which went well with the strawberries. The clotted cream made it into a virtually unbeatable outdoor desert!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Sunshine Award

A while back I was given this bright and cheerful award not only by Lucie at Cooking at Marystow but also BrownieVille Girl. I was really pleased and touched to get this from two such lovely and prolific bloggers and would like to apologise for taking so long to mention it here on my blog.

The reason it's taken me so long, was that I've been spending all this time trying to work out how to put this in my side bar whilst linking to both blogs. I could do it for one but not for both, so I've finally given up that idea in favour of doing a post instead. So thank you both very much.

There are so many lovely food and baking blogs out there and I am discovering more all the time, but I just wanted to highlight some of those that I visit most regularly when looking for chocolate inspiration.









Thursday, 1 July 2010

Dulce de Leche Brownies


Having read loads of brownie recipes recently on various blogs I had brownies on the brain - nothing new there of course. So finding a rather ancient jar of organic dulce de leche gathering dust in the back of the cupboard, I knew exactly which brownies I was going to make. I took the recipe from Celia's wonderful blog Fig and Lime Cordial where the pictures looked most mouthwatering.

This is how I did it:
  • Melted 125g unsalted butter in a large pan with 100g 70% dark chocolate and 200g dark brown sugar.
  • Mixed in 30g cocoa and removed pan from heat.
  • Beat in 3 duck eggs, one at a time.
  • Stirred in 1 tsp vanilla extract and pinch of sea salt.
  • Sieved in 140g wholemeal flour and stirred until all incorporated.
  • Poured mixture into a 9" cake thingy.
  • Spooned blobs of dulce de leche (250g) over the brownie mixture and then ran a knife through the mixture a few times to create a swirl effect.
Oh me, oh my, but what did I do? I went and overcooked the brownies! What a shame, I really like my brownies gooey, not cake like and I was so disappointed. CT tucked into them with relish and said they were delicious, if a tad on the sweet side. I thought they were OK. I liked the contrast between the soft bits of toffee and the cakey texture and thought the swirly patterns were fun. If someone had offered me this as a slice of cake I'd probably have been quite happy, but as a brownie, it just didn't do it for me. Next time I'm in the mood for brownies I shall try making Celia's butterscotch brownies, which look even more delicious and I shall probably go and muck those up too!

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