Tuesday, 28 June 2011

We Should Cocoa - The Strawberry Round-Up

Strawberries proved to be a popular choice for this month's We Should Cocoa. We had our highest number of participants yet - 24 in total. As I have now come to expect with all the creative food bloggers out there, the diversity of entries is literally the proof of the pudding. It's good to see contributors new and old. I know I sound like a stuck record, but I'd like to try each and every one of these. Do take a look at these posts, they are well worth the effort. And don't forget to check out the Chocolate Teapot on July 1st for next month's challenge.

A creature of habit, I am listing these in the order that they came in.

Dom, making a departure from his usual late arrival got us off to an early start with his Chocolate Roulade with Strawberries and Cream. What's that I hear you ask, wasn't that last month's challenge? Well yes, Dom didn't quite make it for the May Roulade round-up so snuck in first for this month instead.

A first entry for Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen. She needed to use up some egg whites, well what could be better than Chocolate Pavlovas with Strawberries?

A great idea for fizzing cake balls came from Nic of Daydream About Food with her Strawberry Cake Balls with Popping Candy. A bag of these fascinating summer truffles would not go amiss with me.

Amazingly not everyone in Suelle's family likes strawberries. This meant she was unable to put strawberries in her actual baking, but served them on the side as recommended by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall! White Chocolate Blondies with Macerated Strawberries.

First timer Laura of Chocolate & Pears made these Chocolate Strawberry Fairy Cakes. These are deceptive, they look like simple chocolate cakes (nothing wrong with that), but are hiding a secret stash of strawberry jam.

Sarah of What I Baked This Weekend made a stack of Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes. I do so like this combination, but Sarah went one stage further and used rosewater in the cream filling.

Shortbread was a popular choice but Snowy of Cookbooks Galore had a different take on it. She used grated chocolate in her Strawberry Shortcake Stack and mascarpone instead of cream.

Carly of Tart to Heart always has such stunning photos of her creations that I always want to eat them straight off the screen. She's used her abiding love of eclairs for this month's entry with  these Chocolate Covered Strawberry Eclairs.

Excited about trying out my new Peyton and Byrne book, I thought I'd try and adapt one of the recipes. Although tasting fantastic, I did not get the results I was hoping for with these White Chocolate Fairy Cakes.

I'm getting the idea that stunning cakes layered with meringues are a speciality of Flourvonsponge of Sniff & Snort. This month she has given us Meringue, Chocolate, Butterscotch and Strawberries.

Something completely different from Working London Mummy. She has gone for a double chocolate whammy with her Dark Chocolate Ravioli with Creme Anglaise and Lemon Lavender Infused Strawberries. And get this, the pasta is actually stuffed with chocolate!

Time for a tart methinks. Luckily Kate of Kate's Cakes and Bakes thought so too. Along with her Double Chocolate and Strawberry Tart, she also provided a few interesting strawberry facts.

Although disappointed that her muffins hadn't risen into a dome, C of Cake Crumbs and Cooking had to admit that her White Chocolate and Strawberry Muffins tasted good. I'm very sure they tasted good and the inside looks particularly tempting.

Hanna of Corner Cottage Bakery came up with a great twist on the classic nachos with her Chips and Dips. A chocolate natcho shaped biscuit to dip into strawberry salsa.

First timer Paula from SweetHart Cakes and Bakes went for a great classic, strawberries dipped in chocolate. But it didn't end there, oh no, these were just the finishing touches to her Chocolate strawberries AND cream.

Aveen of Baking Obsessively had to think "mushy". She'd just had her wisdom tooth taken out and couldn't eat anything she had to chew. No problem, she came up with Stracciatella Ice Cream with Macerated Strawberries, which I defy anyone not to enjoy.

Not to be outdone and reasoning that it is indeed summer, Phil of As Strong As Soup plumped for ice cream too. Made with yogurt, you could kid yourself that this Strawberry and White Chocolate Ice is almost healthy! Phil even throws in a recipe for Langues de Chat - just in case anyone's starting to feel virtuous.

Disappointed with the look of my Fairy Cakes, I am naughtily sneaking in another entry that I made earlier in the month - Strawberry and Chocolate Hearts.

These Strawberry Goat Cheese Brownies are a top selling item for Victoria of The District Chocoholic - is anyone surprised?

Michelle of Food, Football and a Baby gave us more of the delicious strawberry shortbread combination with her Strawberry and Chocolate Shortcake. Whilst you are drooling over this, do check out her home made cake stand.

Now you just can't have enough of strawberries, cream and shortbread in my humble opinion. This is obviously echoed by Baking Addict of The More Than Occasional Baker who made these Chocolate Strawberry Shortcakes.

After trying two recipes for strawberry truffles, Chele finally hit the jackpot and got her third time lucky with these beautiful heart shaped White Chocolate and Strawberry Truffles. Chele is a master temperer and I think I must pop up to Edinburgh for lessons.

Now what a hard choice to make, scones made with raspberries or scones made with strawberries? BrownieVilleGirl plumped for the latter on this occasion. Scone in No Time made with frozen butter also contained white chocolate.

First timer Jean of Baking in Franglais had Wimbledon very much in mind for this challenge. Her Strawberry & White Chocolate Muffins would be just the thing to munch on whilst watching a match.

Another first timer, Lesley of Sew Happy Me will have delighted her guests by making this Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake. I am particularly pleased by this entry as Lesley is my aunt and as far as I know, the only member of my family to not only read this blog but to also have a blog of her own.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Two Tone Crispies

Back along, feeling traumatised after my various roulade misadventures, I was in need of something a little simpler. Having skimmed through a chocolate baking book I was given a few years ago, but still hadn't actually used, I thought it was time I did so. Greatest Ever Chocolate is perhaps not the catchiest of titles and it doesn't have an author, only stating it was published by Papplewick Press in 2002 - this could be why I hadn't taken much notice of it up until then. However, Chocolate crispy bites using rice crispies had caught my eye after the pleasure derived from the cornflake Easter Nests I made earlier this year. So chocolate crispy bites it was. My only change was to use the Co-op's fairtrade dark chocolate with spices and orange oil rather than just plain dark, oh and CT suggested a catchier name: two tone crispies.
  • Melted 150g white chocolate (G&B) in a large bowl over hot water along with 55g unsalted butter and 1 tbsp golden syrup.
  • Stirred in 50g puffed rice.
  • Gently pressed into a 22cm round silicone flan dish.
  • Used same bowl to melt 125g orange flavoured dark chocolate with 55g unsalted butter and 2 tbsp golden syrup.
  • Stirred in 75g puffed rice.
  • Gently pressed this on top of the white layer and left to set.
  • Turned out of the mould and cut into squares, snaffling the round edgy bits as I went.
These were as good as I expected them to be - light, moreish and very simple to make. A nice twist on a children's classic, the two tones made for a visually interesting appearance. The orange flavour gave a hint of sophistication and the white chocolate made for a sweet contrast. I am now thinking these would make good party food using chilli chocolate for a suprise kick! 

This also seemed like a good opportunity to try out one of the new pieces of silicone ware I won recently. I was rather drawn to having this in slices, but at the last minute, changed my mind and went for the small squares prescribed in the book.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Strawberry and Chocolate Hearts

Three weeks late in the posting this one!

I had strawberries, I had mascarpone, I had two little heart shaped cake moulds to use and I was in the mood for pink. It was also going to be my initial stab at We Should Cocoa and given that I wasn't very happy with my Fairy Cakes, I might be naughty and put this one in too. For the cake I used the recipe from Baked & Delicious that came with these moulds. For the Strawberry Cream, I threw a few delicious ingredients together which I thought would work well - and they did.

This is what I did:
  • Creamed 50g unsalted butter with 50g molasses sugar until pale.
  • Beat in 1 small duck egg and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Sifted in 100g wholemeal spelt, 1/4 tsp baking powder and 1.5 tbsp of cocoa.
  • Mixed this in with 2 tbsp milk.
  • Divided the mixture between 2 xxxx heart shaped moulds and baked at 180C for 12 mins.
  • Turned out onto a wire rack to cool.
  • Blitzed some strawberries with a little caster sugar until I had a smooth red sauce.
  • Whisked a bit of double cream until soft peaks formed, then whisked in some of the strawberry sauce.
  • Beat some mascarpone with some of the strawberry sauce until well incorporated and slightly runny.
  • Whisked this into the double cream until it was firm enough to spread over the cakes and stay put.
  • Spread strawberry cream over one cake, laid the other one on top and covered with some more of the strawberry cream. Quartered two strawberries and placed these on top of the cake - hoping this might look a little more elegant than the Fol-de-rol (I haven't forgotten that comment Dom).
  • Tried not to polish off the rest of the cream - there was quite a bit left over!
In retrospect I would have used a little more mixture to make for a taller cake, so 75g of butter, sugar and flour and a large egg, but otherwise I was very happy with this. CT was happier still as he wasn't expecting such a show of affection. The strawberry mascarpone cream was sooooo delicious - it was surprisingly light as well as creamy and tasted a bit like Angel Delight, only not as artificial and not as sweet. A sure fire winner I will be making again.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Choc Chip Honey Cornbread

New challenges are popping up all over the place at the moment and I can't keep up. However, Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes recently revived an old event, Bookmarked Recipes, founded by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments. The idea is to actually use some of those recipes we all bookmark and then somehow don't get around to actually using - I have an awful lot of those. Recently, I saw a post on honey cornbread on Black Book Kitchen Diaries and for some reason it immediately appealed and I bookmarked it. Unusually, it hasn't been hanging around that long in my bookmarked folder either. On day 9 of a summer cold (I wrote this a while ago and am happy to report the cold only lasted 15 days!) and feeling rather lacking in energy, I wanted to make something really quick and easy. This fitted the bill: throw the dried ingredients together and then add the wet - simples! The original recipe comes from All Recipes, but I've adapted it from the American measures, replaced the vegetable oil with olive oil and also added some chocolate - how could I not? This is how I did it:
  • Sifted 125g wholemeal flour, 130g fine polenta, 30g caster sugar and 1 scant tbsp baking powder into a bowl.
  • Chopped 50g 70% dark chocolate and mixed this into the flour.
  • Made a well in the middle and broke 2 duck eggs into it.
  • Started to mix these in, adding 3 level tbsp runny honey and 50ml olive oil as I went.
  • Mixed in 225ml double cream.
  • Poured into a 9" x 9" square mould and baked at 180C for 25 mins.
  • Spooned a little honey onto the hot cake and spread this around to give it a shiny top.
  • Left to cool then cut into 16 pieces.
Half way between bread and cake, this is not for those with a really sweet tooth, but if you like honey and something with a bit of texture, you will find these very moreish. Despite the fact I used wholemeal flour, the lovely yellow colour still came through. CT was particularly taken with these and they didn't last quite as long as I was expecting.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Strawberry & White Chocolate Fairy Cakes - We Should Cocoa 10

Much as I try fight it, I am irresistibly drawn into bookshops if ever I'm passing one, especially into the cooking section. On one such occasion, I was flicking through the rather gorgeous copy of British Baking by Peyton and Byrne when I came across a recipe for Strawberry Jam Fairy Cakes; the picture was just too scrumptious and I not only had to buy the book but I had to make these cakes at the earliest opportunity. I have to confess, I created the opportunity myself by choosing strawberries for this month's We Should Cocoa. However, it was also the recipe for Strawberry Jam Icing which drew my attention. It used the Italian meringue method of making the buutercream and although I'd promised myself to have a go at this, I still hadn't managed it. The only change I made to the fairy cake recipe was to add some white chocolate and use less sugar to compensate for the additional sweetness in the chocolate. Oh yes, I also used vanilla sugar and vanilla white chocolate instead of the vanilla extract. For the icing, I halved the recipe as it seemed as though there would be way too much. I was all ready with some beautiful Cornish strawberries, a jar of a friend's strawberry jam and some pink fairy cake cases.

This is what I did:
  • Melted 50g white chocolate in a bowl over hot water and left to cool slightly.
  • Creamed 100g unsalted butter with 100g vanilla sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Beat in the white chocolate.
  • Beat in 2 duck eggs.
  • Sifted in 150g flour (1/2 wholemeal, 1/2 white) and 3/4 tsp baking powder.
  • Stirred in 2 tbsp Greek yogurt and 2 tbsp strawberry jam.
  • Spooned into 13 cupcake cases (meant to be 12, but I had a bit too much mixture) and baked at 180C for 15 mins. This wasn't actually long enough for six on the bottom shelf - they sank. I put them back in for another 5 mins, but it was too late by then.
  • Whisked 1 large egg white (duck egg in my case) with 75g caster sugar over a bowl of hot water until the sugar had dissolved and the mixture was thick (about 8 mins).
  • Took of the heat and continued to whisk with a balloon whisk until the bowl was cold and my arm couldn't stand it any more. By this point the soft peak stage was meat to have been achieved. Mine was thick, but still a bit runny. I gave up hoping it would all come right in the end!
  • Whisked in 80g very soft butter, bit by bit, ensuring all was incorporated before adding the next bit.
  • Stirred in 2 large mashed strawberries and 2 tbsp strawberry jam.
  • Placed in the fridge and crossed fingers the mixture would firm up.
  • It didn't. Luckily, when I related my tale of woe to CT when he arrived home that evening, he managed to talk me into whisking it all again with the electric beater; this time the mixture came together enough to stay on top of the cakes.
Oh, I had such high hopes for these and oh I was so disappointed! First off the cakes on the bottom shelf sank. Then when I turned them out, the specially chosen pink papers pulled away making the cakes look shrivelled and messy. My icing was runny and the day was so dark I couldn't take any decent photographs anyway.

Now the question is, do I blame Peyton and Byrne or do I just try to make them again using different cases and cooking them a little longer? The icing? I really don't know, it's the sort of thing I'd like to see someone doing to be convinced it could really work.

However, in the end, I managed to get five fairy cakes looking reasonable enough to take to friends that evening, where we'd been invited over for supper. And I have to say, both slightly underdone cake and rather runny icing both tasted extremely good, delicious even. The flavour of the strawberries was very much present in both cake and icing and the white chocolate added a certain touch of unctuousness. They may be a little on the sweet side, but they are the sort of cakes where this seems highly appropriate.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Hotel Chocolat: The Sleekster Summer Desserts Selection

As you know, I am never one to say no to chocolate, so when I was given the opportunity to review some more goodies from Hotel Chocolat, I gave a graceful (possibly) assent. Having been rather spoilt by artisan chocolate which I've been lucky enough to try over the past year or so, I am not as enthusiastic about Hotel Chocolat as I once would have been. But for a high street chain and a large online seller, Hotel Chocolat are probably the best. As summer is reportedly here, I chose the Sleekster Summer Desserts Selection to review. A 300g box of 8 assorted flavours, all "inspired by the classic desserts that we all simply adore". Well the proof of the pudding is in the eating - so without further ado, here goes.

Summer Pudding - This white chocolate truffle didn't much resemble the summer pudding I know, very fruity and rather tart. These were creamy rather than fruity and not at all tart, although the berry flavour was there. It reminded CT of that good old 70s favourite raspberry ripple ice-cream, enjoyable but a bit articficial.

Chocolate Brownie - This was a rather yummy milk chocolate praline, which is one of my all time favourite chocolates. It was a good chunky one too with a pronounced nutty flavour. It didn't remind me of a brownie, but who cares. CT tasted hazelnut immediately and was pleased by the rich and creamy flavour.

Neapolitan - Meant to be reminiscent of another 70s classic, I thought this was rather nice. CT, however found it a bit cloying. Strangely, he thought it smelt of dark chocolate although it actually tasted of white and had a sweet strawberry flavour.

Eton Mess - For me, this is the one that most resembled its name and my favourite. Just like a dish of Eton Mess, it was creamy with a good strawberry flavour and the regulation bits of meringue were present and correct. CT identified this as strawberry meringue and enjoyed the lightness of the truffle.

Coconut Bombe - This reminded me of an upmarket bounty with its milk chocolate and pieces of coconut. It reminded CT of balti houses rather than bounties: that strong flavoured coconut ice-cream that cooled your mouth after an ill chosen searing hot curry - happy days!

Chocolate Mouse - Much sweeter than I would have expected for a dark chocolate, this was not as moussey as I would have liked. CT smelt the dark chocolate and enjoyed the cripsness of the shell, but was not enamoured of the liquid filling. Neither of us tasted anything other than chocolate - perhaps that's the point.

Lemon & Passion Fruit Tart - This was the tartest of the chocolates and really quite delicious with its lovely lemon and passion fruit flavours coming through loud and clear. When bitten into, this chocolate looked particularly good: a white chocolate outer shell covering an inner dark chocolate shell, which in turn held a fruity ganache - I meant to take a photo of the inside, but annoyingly forgot. CT was not so impressed; he tasted grapefruit and the flavour persisted rather longer than he cared for.

Red Berry Mouse - This milk chocolate shell with a raspberry and strawberry mouse was quite fragrant. I couldn't taste the strawberry as the raspberry was quite strong, but I like raspberries so that was fine. CT, whose palate was obviously shot by now, tasted rose mixed with raspberries. Right or wrong he enjoyed it anyway.

Actually, considering this was a blindfold tasting for CT, he didn't do too badly. Overall, we thought this was a very nice box of chocolates to receive, but I do wish they were not so sweet.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Rose & White Chocolate Meringues

As a result of making some hollandaise sauce one night to go with some delicious Cornish asparagus (sadly not our own - yet), I had a couple of egg whites knocking around in the fridge that needed using up. I also had a rose which was just about to open  - a beautiful deep red scented rose that was going to have the elegance bashed out of it by the high winds we were experiencing that day. My mind went back to a party I'd hosted a few years ago when I'd made rose meringues to much adulation and applause (well perhaps only the latter). Brilliant, I'd make those.

Could I find the recipe anywhere? No, of course not. Oh well, it shouldn't be that difficult to work out I thought. And actually it wasn't. I was rather surprised though to find the egg whites went blue rather than pink when I added the rose petals. I'm a bit cross with myself for not taking a picture at this stage, because it was such an unusual colour. In fact I'd just read a post by Johanna GGG all about blue foods or the lack of them that very morning. I shouldn't have been surprised because remembering back, the very same thing had happened the last time. Egg whites must be quite alkaline I guess. To my disappointment, the meringues lost their blueness in the oven.
  • Whizzed the rose petals (having removed the bitter bases) in a food processor with 100g granulated sugar until they were finely chopped and the sugar had turned a deep pink.
  • Whisked the egg whites until firm.
  • Continued to whisk adding the sugar spoonful by spoonful until the mixture was stiff.
  • Dropped spoonfuls onto a lined baking sheet and baked for 1 hour at 125C.
  • Left to cool on a wire rack.
  • Added 1 tsp rose water to 100ml double cream and whipped until softly peaked.
  • Stirred in 120g 0% fat Greek yogurt.
  • Grated 50ml white chocolate (G&B) using my new grater. This time I more sensibly used a bowl whose rim fitted under the grater and I didn't lose any of the gratings at all.
  • Stirred this into the cream and sandwiched the meringues together with it. 
  • If I was into dainty, I could have made twice as many as I did, but as you can see I went for 4 doorsteps instead leaving me with one half left over to try out as cook's treat (as if I didn't get enough treats).
The meringues had a lovely subtle rose flavour to them. They were crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle, which is just how I like them. The tartness of the yogurt offset the sweetness of the meringues and to be honest, I'm not really sure what the white chocolate brought along. I'd added just the right amount of rose water for the cream to echo the taste of rose in the meringues without being overwhelming or too sickly. At least I now have a recipe for the next time I'm inspired to make rose meringues!

Friday, 10 June 2011

It's Summer - Time for Hot Chocolate?

Well summer it may be, but it doesn't really feel like it. It's grey and a cold wind has been blowing for days. Now rain I would welcome, our garden and plot are parched and nothing is growing, but all we've been blessed with in this current bout of wintery weather is the odd splash here and there that gets blown away by the wind almost as soon as it has landed. Anyway, enough of that. The point I'm trying to get to is that despite it being summer, it feels very much like the weather for hot chocolate. This is probably just as well, as I was recently the recipient of two tins of organic drinking chocolate from the good folk at Steenbergs. I was particularly delighted by this as, not only do I like hot chocolate, but Steenbergs is a small family run company driven by ethics which started by selling organic and fairly traded herbs and spices. In addition to this, they have good eco credentials which always meets with my approval. Steenbergs have steadily been increasing their range to include teas, baking ingredients and other ethical products.

The tins arrived plain and unadorned as these are new products and Steenbergs are still waiting for the labels to be produced. I was quite happy with this as the tins are attractive as they are and I can think of many uses to which they can be put - keeping drinking chocolate or cocoa in for instance! I was hoping I would receive some cocoa as I actually prefer this to drinking chocolate which I generally find too sweet, but it was not to be on this occasion. What I did receive was a tin of plain drinking chocolate and a tin of Christmas drinking chocolate - sadly I am unable to give the ingredients due to the lack of labels. All I needed to do was heat some milk in a pan and whisk in a couple of heaped teaspoons of the drinking chocolate mix. The flavour of both were good, but as a drink, they were sweeter than I was hoping. I am looking forward to using them both in baking though and have some recipes which call specifically for drinking chocolate rather than cocoa. The Christmas drinking chocolate had some intriguing flavours that I found quite hard to identify but I thought perhaps nutmeg stood out. There is also a chilli drinking chocolate, which being a chilli fiend, I would like to have tried too.

They will be retailing from between £4.50 and £5.50

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Chocolate and Mint Cookies

I was trawling through my recipe cuttings and scrawled scraps of paper the other day, trying to find my rose meringue recipe. I failed to find it, unfortunately, but I came across this one from the Bodmin Plant & Herb Festival using fresh mint. This is the first year we forgot to go to this annual event hosted by the Bodmin Plant & Herb Nursery and we are feeling rather aggrieved about it. As well as lots of plants and herbs for sale, there are a number of related stalls and events. One of the highlights for me, is tasters of various recipes using fresh herbs that are walked around the place like a cocktail party -this year I missed out on Peppermint Truffles apparently. The recipes are all printed out and free for the taking. There is usually at least one I want to take away and this one for chocolate and mint cookies must have caught my fancy one year - can't think why!

This is what I did:
  • Melted 100g plain chocolate over a bowl of hot water.
  • Whizzed 90g brown sugar in a food processor with 3 sprigs of fresh spearmint (about 10 smallish leaves) until the leaves were finely chopped.
  • Beat in 1 large duck egg.
  • Mixed in the melted chocolate.
  • Sifted in 100g spelt and 1/4 tsp baking powder.
  • Left to cool for an hour.
  • Spooned teaspoonfuls onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.
  • Baked at 170C for 10 mins.
  • Left to cool for a couple of minutes then lifted onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Quick and easy to make, these were crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. The flavour of mint was subtle and very different to using peppermint essence or peppermint oil. Nice.

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