Wednesday, 29 February 2012

We Should Cocoa - the Savoury Round-Up

I knew this was going to be a bit of a tough We Should Cocoa challenge and indeed it proved to be so. There was much shaking of heads and dark mutterings going on in the blogoshpere. It started off with only a few hardened souls brave enough to attempt it. After stating in the rules that only one entry per person per month was allowed, I was so worried at the lack of entries coming in, that I broke the rule - just this once, you understand. Having allowed multiple entries, I was suddenly inundated right at the very end - hey ho!

So having laid down the gauntlet for something savoury and vegetarian, the WSC storm troopers came up with any number of imaginative and delicious sounding offering - 25 entries in total! There has been a lot of talk recently about cheese and chocolate pairing and as many of the bloggers who have tried it attest below, it seems to work remarkably well. What I'm wondering most is which one I'm going to make first. In fact I'm almost tempted to set myself the challenge of making each and everyone of these.

Don't forget to pop along to the Chocolate Teapot tomorrow to find out what is in store for us all next month.

Thankfully Homemade by Fleur was excited by the prospect of using chocolate in a savoury dish. She commenced proceedings with bean, pumpkin and chestnut chilli. I love chilli at the best of times, but this adaptation of Fleur's using Willie's 100% chocolate sounds gorgeous.




Hungry Hinny adapted a recipe using cocoa nibs to make chocolate and pecan crusted goat's cheese. Although somewhat dubious to begin with, she enjoyed the challenge and was pleased with the result - hooray!

This was the first time Kate of Turquoise Lemons has entered WSC and what a challenge to start with. These cocoa, rye, pumpkin cheddar scones sound intriguing and with my love of rye flour I shall have to try them out. Thank you Kate.

I love dips so was really excited to see this red bean chocolate hummus from Javelin Warrior's Cookin w/Luv. Served with pita chips, apple slices and radishes, it sounds like my sort of lunch.

These wonderfully elegant savoury goat cheese and chocolate canapés come from Suelle of Mainly Baking. I bet these would go down a storm at any party - am I invited?

A first entry from Jo of Comfort Bites brings us chocoholic's onion and goat's cheese tart. Crazy, she might have thought it, but it looks like a winner to me.

Chocolate, goat's cheese and beetroot must be a winning combination, for it also features at Lavender and Lovage with Karen's hot chevre and beetroot salad with chocolate and vanilla balsamic drizzle - this time complete with beetroot hearts. Is this a new trend emerging perchance?

As long as you don't look at this too closely, you might be able to convince yourself it's Quorn mince. It's certainly what Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen meant to use in this chocolate chilli con carne.

Having missed out on trying Mole when Laura of How to cook Good Food visited Mexico she decide to make her own with this roasted butternut squash and black bean mole.

For Pancake Day, first timer Kit of Lost In Austen made these amazingly beautiful cocoa crepes with carrots and cumin coconut cream - wow!

Normally I use lentils in my shepherd's pie, but this time I thought I'd try Quorn mince. Quorn is not my favourite thing, but the chocolate worked superbly in this chocolate shepherd's pie.

Another scrummy dip. This time from Phil of As Strong As Soup who always comes up with something interesting. This time he brings us this vibrant pepper dip with almonds and chocolate.

Baking Addict Ros really struggled with this challenge, but she was not to be defeated and came up with these very tasty looking chocolate and cheese twists.

I knew Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe would have no problem with this challenge. She's already produced a number of chocolate savoury veggie dishes. This time she came up with something uber original - green apple and white chocolate salad.

Dom of Belleau Kitchen was desperate for meat, so he very cleverly came up with something he could eat and that I too could partake of. I give you his chocolate roast pork belly with a caramelised cocoa and onion gravy and he's right, I want some.

Gill from Tales of Pigling Bland really threw herself into this challenge AND as I was worried about the sparsity of entrants this month, I said I would take whatever she came up with and she came up with a lot! First off:  vegetable cocoa nib nibbles.

Tales of Pigling Bland followed on with these mouth watering Paul A Young's chocolate water biscuits for cheese.

You can see Gill has been havng lots of creative fun in the kitchen finishing with  this vegetable tart with cocoa puff pastry - what a girl!

The entry from Chele of the Chocolate Teapot was a dish of pure nostalgia for me. I grew up on veggie "spag bol" made with lentils - only my mother NEVER made hers with chocolate!

Refried beans is another of my favourites - I think you can probably tell by now that I have my finger on the pulses. So these black bean enchiladas with chipotle & cocoa sauce from Yummy Choo Eats is right up my street.

Assuming you can get hold of Gyoza wrappers, these spicy chocolate Gyoza crisps from Helen of Fuss Free Flavours sound a really simple to prepare nibble to wow your dinner party chums with.

Feeling ill, Tart to Heart, nevertheless managed to pull, or should I say prod, this amazing bittersweet chocolate, sea salt and rosemary focaccia into existence. I've made chilli, chocolate and lime bread before, but this sounds even better.
I suspect Hannah of Corner Cottage Bakery will forever remember her mushroom & stilton tatin with a chocolate and port sauce. Half way through preparing this, she was rushed to A&E having sliced the tip of her finger off! Despite this, or maybe because of it, she reckoned this dish was a success. It certainly looks like one to me.

Chocolate pasta anyone? What an inspired idea. Ren of Fabulicious Food has made this fabulicious penne cocoa pasta with a creamy mushroom sauce - a simple supper fit to be served at the most sophisticated of dinner parties.

This round-up started with chilli and to round-it off nicely, it's finishing with chilli. Carl Legge's vegetarian chilli with chocolate is made with the unusual addition of burghul wheat for a different texture. He served his with yellow corn bread.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Black Bean Brownies - Tea Time Treats

There seems to be a sudden spate of black beans being used in chocolate cakes. I first came across the phenomenon with this cake on What I Cooked This Weekend and then these brownies from Hungry Hinny and then I just saw them everywhere. The idea is that the black beans, as well as giving a bit of extra fibre, can reduce the amount of fat in the cake without making it taste less delicious. I was sceptical, but wanted to try it for myself. It's taken me a while because getting hold of black beans was the hardest part. I adapted my recipe from one I found on Joy the Baker, who in turn got it from Martha Stewart - and so it goes on!

This is how I did it:
  • Rinsed 1/4 cup cooked black beans (from a tin) & blitzed with my hand-held blender.
  • Melted 2oz unsalted butter in a pan over a low heat with 5oz 85% dark chocolate and left to cool slightly.
  • Beat 3 eggs and 1 1/3 cups vanilla sugar (caster) until thick and creamy.
  • Stirred in the cooled chocolate carefully with the beans.
  • Folded in 1 cup spelt flour, 1/8 cup cocoa, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp salt.
  • Poured mixture into a 9" sq cake mould.
  • Placed 16 walnut halves in the middle of the future brownie pieces and scattered with some course Cornish sea salt.
  • Baked for 22 minutes, (making sure they were slightly underdone) at 180C & left to cool - err, slightly!
I couldn't wait for these to go cold before trying them, so I had my first one warm from the oven. All scepticism instantly disappeared as I bit into this most delicious, dark and moist brownie.  The crunch of toasted walnuts and spike of salt, made for a great contrast in texture as well as flavour. The salt was a bit of a surprise, especially for CT who was "ambushed by my own expectations" but once he got used to it, thought it was good. As for the beans, it was nigh on impossible to detect them. Despite the small amount of butter, these brownies kept really well, in fact they got fudgier with age and we managed, with commendable restraint, to make them last the week - nearly!

What could say love and romance more than brownies? I could think of a few things, but brownies certainly say it for me. With this in mind, I am entering these into Tea Time Treats - fun filled monthly tea parties hosted by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked. This month Kate has chosen Romance as the theme.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Pecan & Chocolate Streusel Cake - Random Recipes 13

It's Random Recipe time again and as a tribute to the birth month of this fabulous event, we have been given the task of picking a recipe from the book we used when we first took part in this challenge. I was mightily pleased about this as I was panicking rather at having to use the Valrhona chocolate book which CT gave me for Christmas. There isn't a single simple recipe in it - in fact they all look way beyond my capability. Divine by Linda Collister is a much more accessible book. Last year I made butterscotch swirl brownies which were a great success; what would this year bring I wondered?

This year, CT did the honours again and picked page 76, which is an American Pecan and Chocolate 'Coffee Cake' - so called because it is to be eaten with coffee rather than actually containing coffee. This was a relief to me as I don't like coffee, but a rather confusing name. The recipe required a bundt tin. I've been on the look out for a silicone ring mould for ages but have had no luck so far, so I used a loaf tin instead. I substituted yogurt for sour cream and added some chilli into the mix.

This is how I did it:
  • Roughly ground 100g toasted pecans in a coffee grinder together with 100g 70% dark chocolate (G&B), 4 tbsp light muscovado sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper.
  • Put aside until needed.
  • Creamed 250g unsalted butter with 150g cardamon sugar (caster) until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in 2 eggs, one at a time.
  • Beat in 250ml yogurt.
  • Sifted in 300g flour (half wholemeal spelt, half white), 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda and a pinch of salt.
  • Folded this in as gently as I could.
  • Greased and lined the bottom of a 900g loaf tin.
  • Spooned nearly half of the mixture into the tin - nearly half as it looked as though there was going to be too much mixture AND I was right.
  • Sprinkled nearly half of the chocolate mixture over the top.
  • Spooned in most of the remaining mixture.
  • Sprinkled on most of the remaining chocolate mixture.
  • Pressed this down with the back of a spoon.
  • Carried out the same process with the remaining mixtures using a mini loaf mould.
  • Baked the large loaf at 180C for 45 mins (with tin foil over the top for the last 15 minutes to stop the top burning) and the little one for 17 mins.
I had the mini loaf warm from the oven and it was heavenly. It had a crisp crunchy crust and a soft interior interspersed with bits of spicy chocolate streusel. It was deliciously buttery and not nearly as sweet as I had imagined. It was well flavoured and had just a touch of chilli warmth to it that wouldn't have been easy to identify if you didn't know it was there. The cake looked really pretty with the dark struesel layers contrasting with the pale coloured crumb. All in all I was truly impressed and will be making this one again for sure. Thank you once again Dom for getting me to bake something I probably wouldn't have contemplated and all because of the word "coffee".

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Chocolate Shepherd's Pie - We Should Cocoa 18

Well this may not bear much resemblance to shepherds pie as most know it - it is vegetarian after all - but it's what I call shepherds pie. Normally I make this with lentils, but I thought I'd try a version using Quorn mince this time instead as I happened to have some languishing in the freezer. I was also keen to incorporate chocolate, as this month's We Should Cocoa challenge was to make a savoury vegetarian dish and I thought chocolate would give an added depth of flavour to a much loved (by me at any rate) dish.

This is what I did:
  • Scrubbed some of our Sarpo potatoes.
  • Placed in a pan with a large clove of garlic and boiled until soft.
  • Drained off the water and mashed with some sour cream and 1/8 tsp sea salt.
  • Put a glug of olive oil into a large pan.
  • Threw in 1 large onion - chopped.
  • Diced 3 large carrots and put those in too.
  • Added a few sprigs of thyme, a couple of bay leaves and 3 Cornish pepper leaves.
  • Fried until the onion was soft.
  • Added two large cloves of garlic - chopped & a 1/4 tsp dried thyme.
  • Threw in 300g Quorn mince, rather more frozen sweetcorn than I intended as my hand slipped when adding it to the pan and a tin of mixed beans.
  • Ground in some black pepper, added some shoyu and a pinch of sea salt.
  • Left to simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes.
  • Took off the heat.
  • Added 40g 70% dark chocolate (G&B) and left to melt.
  • Buttered a casserole dish and spooned in the mince.
  • Spread the mashed potato over the top and dotted with small pieces of butter.
  • Baked at 180C for 30 minutes until bubbling and nicely browned on top.
The photographs are not great: firstly it was dark and secondly, it's just hard to make brown mush look really appealing in a photograph. It was, in actuality though, very appealing. The Quorn mince worked well, although I think I prefer my lentil version. I was absolutely right about the addition of chocolate though. It made this savoury dish, somehow even more savoury. Does chocolate, perhaps, contain that elusive umami flavour? It also gave a nice rich brown colour to the gravy and had a thickening effect too. This is perfect winter fare and I shall be using chocolate in my shepherd's pies from now on in.

For further inspiration - or not - here are some other chocolate savoury posts I've done:

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake Truffles

To celebrate my blog's third birthday and to give to CT as a Valentine's gift, what could be more appropriate than chocolate truffles? The excellent hazelnut sherry cake was so large that it lasted us the whole week. By day eight, I had one slice left and it was starting to look a little dry - just right to be turned into cake truffles. As it happened, I received my chocolate competition win in time for the big day, so featured that instead of the truffles.

As I didn't take note of quantities and can no longer remember exactly, this is an approximation of what I did:
  • Creamed 1/2 oz unsalted butter with 1oz icing sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Added a glug of hazelnut oil and creamed some more.
  • Blitzed the cake leftovers in the coffee grinder - I did this rather than crumble the cake because of the large pieces of hazelnut contained in the cake.
  • Beat the crumbs into the creamed mixture until well incorporated.
  • Added a sloosh of hazelnut syrup (I expect frangelico would have been good, but I don't have any of that) and mixed some more.
  • Placed teaspoonfuls of the mixture into 13 round chocolate moulds and pressed in firmly - could have just rolled between hands to form balls, but I wanted something a bit more uniform for a change.
  • Left to cool for half an hour - there was no need to put these in the fridge as my kitchen was virtually freezing at the time.
  • Melted 100g G&B cooks 72% dark chocolate in a pan over hot water.
  • Removed the cake balls from the mould and dipped them into the chocolate.
  • Placed suitably chosen love hearts on the top and left to set.
CT was delighted to receive this bounty. Here's what he said in between mouthfuls. "From the ridiculous to the sublime with the fizzy love heart, which is frankly a pink stained toothed kiddy sweet to a truly delicious, sophisticated, nutty, delectable truffle. Two ends of the spectrum of sweets, represented - from utterly artificial to something hand crafted and made with care and love. It's artisan chocolate, but fun!

The truffles had good chocolate shells which had just the right crispness about them, cracking in a satisfying way to release the treasure within. They had a heady hazelnut flavour with a smooth mouthfeel punctuated by granular pieces of hazelnut which gave a good contrast. The ganache itself wad , in CTs words authentic, not some generic paste. The following day, CT said rather despondently "very sorry to see the end of those".

I'm submitting this to Caroline and Ros's Alpha Bakes hosted this month by The More than Occasional Baker - L is for Love!

Friday, 17 February 2012

Champagne Truffles

A small box I'd been awaiting with some anticipation, was finally delivered by the postman. The Chocolate were sending me some of their luxurious dark chocolate truffles complete with real gold for review purposes.

As I opened the box a wonderful aroma of fruity chocolate wafted upwards making me feel like I was in for a treat; this is a smell I associate with good quality chocolate. I was a little disappointed to find only two fairly small truffles in the box, but they were flaked in 24 carat gold and this gave them the lustre of real luxury. And sometimes less is more.

Biting through the shell, I savoured their sophisticated dark, rich and not too sweet qualities. The chocolate was tangy with wonderful fruity notes and had a slight refreshing tartness about it. The beauty of these chocolates was more than skin deep, the smooth creamy ganache had a noticeably bubbly champagne persona. The flavours lingered on long after the chocolate had disappeared, another sign of good quality chocolate in my experience.

These are handmade artisan truffles at their finest. The chocolate used is award winning Toscano Black 63% from Italy; the ganache ingredients are a closely guarded secret. Eating these chocolates make you feel good just by their sheer luxury and deliciousness, but you can find out more about the well-being benefits claimed for both the chocolate and the gold here. My only complaint was that two, just weren't quite enough - CT didn't get a look in!

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Chocolate Log Blog - Three Years On

Can you believe it? I certainly can't. This blog is three years old today!

Thank you so much to all the wonderful folk who follow my blog, leave comments, bear with me, visit and join in the We Should Cocoa challenges. I really couldn't do it without you. Much as I started this blog as inspiration to make me bake a more diverse range of chocolate goodies, it has morphed into something else and I don't think I would have come nearly as far as I have if it hadn't been for all of you.

For this, my third blogiversary, I wanted to take a highlight from each month of the last year. This proved to be much harder than I'd anticipated - there were a number of significant events worthy of inclusion, but I made myself stick to only one - cue applause. Here they are:

February 2011 - really excited by the quality and quantity of entries for the We Should Cocoa tea challenge and to have the brilliant prize of a box of Matcha Chocolat tea chocolates.  
March 2011 - having fun playing with some of the words associated with my blog on this wordle cloud

April 2011 - rolo cake for a friend's 3rd birthday

May 2011 - baking with my first ever goose egg

June 2011 - a triple chocolate matcha cake for a dear friend's birthday

July 2011 - weather and time permitted a miracle tea party down at our plot
August 2011 - my first time joining in with Celia's wonderful In My Kitchen series

September 2011- another friend's birthday and a 2nd and more successful attempt at piping with these chocolate and ginger cupcakes

October 2011 - my mega baking session for a friend's all weekend party

November 2011 - a weekend of food blogger meet ups with Vanessa's Lets Make Christmas in London and Annie Ko's Bite n Write in Birmingham

December 2011 - one of several Christmas Hampers I made - a true labour of love

January 2012 - not much of a picture, but I was inordinately proud of these top tea cakes - the most delicious I have ever eaten

February 2011 - hooray and just in time for the double celebration of my blogiversary and Valentine's Day, I won this amazingly hug box of chocolates from Simply Food - and I haven't touched a one yet! The chocolates that I made for CT and in anticipation of this post will just have to feature another day.

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