Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Chocolate Brownie Ice Cream

When Kavey announced that her Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream challenge this month was for chocolate, how could I not enter? Making ice-cream without an ice-cream maker is not my favourite activity, but after the success I'd had with my chilli chocolate ice-cream a few months ago, I was willing to give it another go. Decision made, I turned immediately to Ben Vear's Make your own organic ice-cream to see what other chocolate delights he had waiting in store for me to try. Ah ha, a recipe for chocolate brownie ice-cream.

First thing to do was make some brownies then. I used this recipe for almond toffee brownies using 85% dark chocolate (G&B) and instead of using 3 eggs yolks, I used 1 duck egg yolk and 1 whole duck egg. Oh, a handful of chopped walnuts were also thrown in. I slightly overcooked the brownies, so they went crunchy rather than toffee like, but were certainly not cakey. This suited me fine as I thought the crunchy texture would go well with the smooth ice-cream.

This is how I made the ice-cream:
  • Placed a medium pan over a low heat and poured in 200ml double cream and 200ml milk.
  • Added 75g caster sugar and 80g 85% dark chocolate (G&B).
  • Whisked 1 duck egg in a bowl with 75g caster sugar until thick and pale.
  • Poured the hot milk into the egg mixture and whisked until all incorporated.
  • Returned the mixture to the pan and stirred over a low heat for about 15 minutes until the mixture had turned to custard, ie thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Poured into a plastic container and placed in the freezer for an hour.
  • Removed from the freezer and blended thoroughly with a stick blender to prevent ice crystals forming.
  • Returned to the freezer.
  • Repeated this process twice more.
  • Stirred in 1 large brownie cut into small pieces (about 100g).
  • Left to freeze completely.
As I expected, the result was delicious and the crunch of the brownie made an interesting contrast to the creamy smoothness of the ice-cream. The permutations for this are endless, you could use any number of different brownie recipes to give varying flavours and textures as well as flavouring the actual ice-cream with chilli, orange, cinnamon or whatever else grabs your fancy. Next time - yes I really think there might be a next time - I'd like to try a fudgy type of brownie to see how the it compares.

The day I served this up, it was really hot, so the ice-cream had virtually melted before I could take a photograph - that's my excuse for rubbish photographs this time! I served this with some of Dom's white chocolate sauce, although it really didn't need it.

If ice-cream is your thing, I suggest you have a look at the Bloggers Scream for Ice Cream round-ups on Kavey's blog Kavey Eats - you'll see some fabulous creations.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

White Chocolate Sauce - Random Recipes #16

Well how exciting. For the very first time, Dom is allowing us to have a choice for this month's Random Recipes - a limited choice perhaps, but nevertheless a choice. It's a chance for those sadly neglected first and last recipes in a book to have their day and hopefully shine. So I collected all of my chocolate books together (and they are slowly growing) and asked CT to do his usual and select a random number between 1 and 10. Dah dah - for the second time For Chocolate Lovers by our local celebrity chefs the Tanner Brothers took centre stage. The first recipe in the book was for banana and chocolate souffle pancakes, the last for white chocolate sauce. Oh a difficult choice here, which to go for? Actually, it wasn't in the least bit difficult because neither CT nor myself are particularly fond of bananas. White chocolate sauce it was then.

This hardly rates as a recipe at all. A simple process of melting chocolate with milk and stirring. I used a slightly less fussy method to the one in the book to reduce on washing up, but didn't do anything fancy. I used Green&Blacks white chocolate because it is particularly vanillary. It would be fun to experiment with other flavours though - chilli, citrus zest, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper to name but a few.

This is how I did it:
  • Broke up 100g bar of white chocolate (G&B) into a pan.
  • Added 125ml milk.
  • Placed on a low heat and left until the chocolate had melted.
  • Stirred until smooth.
  • Poured into a jug.
This was very sweet but quite tasty and was especially good over unsweetened strawberries. I also tried it over the chocolate ice-cream which will be featuring in my next post. As it's such a quick and easy sauce to make and works well either hot or cold, it would be good served hot to spruce up anything that would normally be served with custard or cold as a substitute for cream.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Nigella's Dense Chocolate Cake for Clandestine Cake Club

Less than two weeks after my first Clandestine Cake Club, I was getting ready for my second event. This one was themed A Fairy Tale and was set in a yurt in the middle of a big wood, Cardinham Woods to be precise, not too far from where we live.

One of my go to chocolate cakes, before I started my chocolate blogging adventures, was Nigella's dense chocolate loaf cake from How to Be a Domestic Goddess. Somehow, this seemed like the right time to make it again. It's a very simple cake to make and is so delicious it doesn't really need any adornment. However, as this was a particularly special occasion, I decided to cover it with ganache.

Clever decorating not being a particular forte of mine, I was at a bit of a loss as to how to turn this into a fairy tale. Inspiration finally struck (actually it was CT's idea) - the Fairy Godmother's Wand.

This is how I made it:

  • Melted 150g 85% chocolate (G&B) in a bowl over hot water and left to cool a little.
  • Creamed 500g dark muscovado sugar together with 300g unsalted butter until light in colour and texture.
  • Beat in 1 goose egg (about 3 large eggs) until all incorporated.
  • Beat in the melted chocolate and 3 tsp rose water.
  • Folded in 300g flour (half white, half wholemeal) and 1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda alternately with 350ml boiling water.
  • Poured into a 23cm cake mould and baked at 190C for 25 minutes then for a further 20 minutes at 170C until well risen but still slightly gooey inside.
  • Left to cool completely before tuning out.
  • Melted 150g dark 70% chocolate (G&B) in a pan over a low heat with 150ml double cream.
  • Added 15g unsalted butter and 1 tsp of rose water and stirred until smooth.
  • Left to cool until just firm enough to stay on the cake without running down the sides.
  • Spread over the top of the cake.
  • Cut the tops off two chocolate fingers and placed together on the cake to form a wand - that was the idea anyway!
  • Sprayed the top with gold shimmer.
  • Added stars sparking out of the wand's tip and then dusted the cake with edible gold glitter.

This was as good as I remembered it. Dense and slightly sticky like good gingerbread, it was totally delicious with a smooth mouth feel and just got better as it got older. I bet Hansel and Gretel would have loved it.

As for the other cakes there that night, I was completely wowed and slunk my pitiful effort into a corner out of sight.

Organised by the indefatigable Ellie and hosted by the Woods Cafe, the evening was great fun. There were some familiar faces from my first CCC and many new ones. I was especially delighted to meet a We Should Cocoa regular, the Hungry Hinny, who made a most spectacular castle - a chocolate and raspberry Rapunzel one to boot! My picture wasn't that great, but you can see it on her blog. We ate far too much delicious cake and got to take a plateful home with us again - what a wonderful way to spend an evening.


Little Red Riding Hood

The Three Bears

Cinderella's Pumpkin

Shed in the Woods

What a Fairy Cake

Sadly, I'm not likely to be able to make any more CCCs for a while, but I live in hope I'll get to another one at some point!

As Tea Time Treats, hosted by Karen this month, has a floral theme, I waved my magic wand and turned this plain old chocolate cake into a floral rose and chocolate delight. TTT is alternately hosted by Kate of What Kate Baked.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

ABC of Me

Having commented on what a fun post Sheelagh of An Irish Village Pantry had done on receiving the Awesome Blog Content Award, she kindly passed it on to me! Now I have to think of 26 words that are meaningful to me - whatever am I going to put for X?


A - Arabic, the language of my father.
B - Bodmin Moor, where I grew up.
C - now I have a bit of a quandary here, is it Cornwall or Cake or Chocolate or CT?
D - Dartington - I was fortunate enough to attend school here for a few years and they were some of the best years of my life. It is still one of my favourite places and I visit as often as I can.
E - Egypt, the land of my father.
F - Friends in far flung places (ie out of Cornwall) who I miss and rarely get to see.
G - Gardens and Gardening and Growing our own food.
H - Hedges, just love love love Cornish hedges. So pretty, so much diversity and forever changing.
I - iPhone. From no mobile phone to a most amazing one. How did I get by without it?
J - July, the month I was born in.
K - Klout - give me more, especially for Chocolate & Cornwall please :)
L - Librarian - that is my day job!
M - Moors - much as I love the sea, I love the moors more. Whenever I've lived away from them, I started to pine.
N - Names, secret and otherwise.
O - Online, this is where I seem to spend much of my life these days and it's all down to this blog.
P - Primroses, my favourite flower ever.
Q - Quilt - I have a beautiful quilt made by my quilting aunt which I treasure greatly.
R - Reading, although I find precious little time for reading print these days.
S - Spring, my favourite season.
T - Trains, I catch them most days to and from work. The journey is beautiful and quite breathtaking in some places especially when the tides and weather are right.
U - Ukulele, I do sometimes wish CT would stop playing it!
V - Vegetarian, is what I am.
W - Walking, the best form of transport ever.
X - Xinmei, a blogger whose name immediately sprang to mind for her amazing bento boxes which sometimes feature on her blog Pudding Pie Lane.
Y - Yellow, one of my favourite colours and so reminiscent of spring and sunshine & hope.
Z - Zebra, not so much the zebra itself, but as a representation of our fascinating and diverse wildlife which we ought to do a much better job of preserving for future generations.

The idea is to nominate as many bloggers as I wish, but being a bit of a maverick, I'm going to let you choose. If you think you'd like to have a go at doing a post like this, let me know and I'll add your blog and link onto the bottom of this post.

Hooray for the following:

Green Gourmet Giraffe
Allotment 2 Kitchen
Farmersgirl Kitchen
A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Caramelised Banana, Coconut, Chocolate & Peanut Butter Cake

Undercover in the undergrowth
Did you know it is World Baking Day on Sunday 20th May? Sponsored by Stork, the idea is to have some fun baking a cake and then sharing it with others - whether that's in actuality or sharing a picture. Ideally, photograph your cake "somewhere interesting" in an unusual place or setting, then share the photographs via Twitter using the hashtag #caking or go direct to the World Baking Day website. Stuck for ideas? You will find plenty on my blog or again you could take a look at the World Baking Day site.

I was lucky to be given some encouragement by the organisers in the form of an an amazing box of goodies to use in the making of my cake. This not only included flour, baking powder, sugar, cocoa, Stork margarine and various cake decorations, but also a splendid silicone spatula which has a built in rest to keep the blade off the work surface and a very handy recipe journal.

So what to make was the big question? Well it didn't take me too long to figure out. Last week I couldn't resist buying up a load of bananas I saw going cheap. Then, serendipitously, the very same day I saw the most amazing banana, chocolate, peanut butter layer cake on Buttaz Blog. Although I wasn't quite ready to make anything as grand as that, it did form the inspiration for the flavours I wanted to use. I was going to make a banana cake with chocolate chips sandwiched together with peanut butter icing. At Christmas last year I'd made Dan Lepard's Butterscotch Banana Cake, in muffin format for the guys next door, using that most excellent of books Short & Sweet. Well caramelising the bananas was a revelation and transforms a simple banana cake into something else entirely. Inspired by this, I upped the quantities, omitted the spices and nuts, added coconut and then some chocolate, of course. The icing I based loosely on a recipe by Eric Lanlard in Cox Cookies & Cake.

This is what I did it:
  • Poured 150g caster sugar and 50ml of water into a heavy bottomed pan and placed on a low heat until the sugar was melted.
  • Brought the mixture to a boil, until it turned into a light brown caramel.
  • Added 4 chopped bananas and turned down the heat to a simmer.
  • Added 40g unsalted butter and let the mixture simmer for about 5 minutes until the bananas were mushy.
  • Added 50g desiccated coconut & 2 tsp vanilla extract. Stirred and left to cool.
  • Creamed 175g Stork margarine (I'd normally use butter, but as this was sent to me, I thought I'd try it out).
  • Added 120g light brown sugar and creamed until pale and fluffy.
  • Beat in a goose egg (4 medium hens eggs).
  • Beat in the banana mixture.
  • Stirred in 1 tbsp yogurt.
  • Sieved in 200g self-raising flour, 60g rye flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp bicarb of soda and folded until just combined.
  • Gently stirred in 50g of chopped dark 70% chocolate (G&B).
  • Divided mixture between two 22 cm cake moulds and baked at 180C for 30 minutes.
  • Left to cool for 15 minutes then turned out onto wire racks to cool completely.
  • Creamed 50g unsalted butter.
  • Added 150g smooth peanut butter & creamed some more.
  • Sifted in 200g icing sugar and creamed until pale.
  • Added 4 tbsp whipping cream and 1 tsp vanilla extract & beat until light and smooth.
  • Sandwiched the two cakes together with half of the mixture and spread the other half on top.
  • Decorated with various chocolate sprinkles.
Doorstep Delivery
I can only describe the result as being the Rolls Royce of Banana cakes. It had a good crumb structure and was really light - so light in fact, as CT stated, that you could have a really big slice and not feel full. The taste was fairly sublime too and neither of us are ordinarily big fans of banana cake. The peanut butter icing I could have happily polished off with a spoon before ever it got to the cake, but I held fast. The flavours balanced out really well with the sweet, salt and bitter each playing their part. The individual flavours of banana, peanut, coconut and chocolate could be tasted separately, but also formed a sublime whole. As Alexander Dumas would have put it: "All for one and one for all".

So get your pinnies on ready for Sunday and join in the fun.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Rhubarb & Rose Honey Cakes - Nonnettes

When I found that rhubarb had been picked for the One Ingredient blogging event in April, I so wanted to take part. But our rhubarb was ailing and I just can't bring myself to buy something that we used to produce in prodigious quantities on our old allotment plot. The other day, however, my mother, called in with stack of rhubarb from her garden - plants we had luckily given her from our old plot. Hooray, the one ingredient challenge might be over, but I could bake with rhubarb. Since I saw the rose and rhubarb combination over at Laura of How to Cook Good Food, I've been itching to try it. My only dilemma was in what form? Actually, the dilemma was easily solved;  my one remaining duck egg supplier was attending a wedding this week and I had run out of eggs. An egg free bake was needed. Bingo! Nonnettes it had to be - not exactly a hardship in my experience! Since first trying Nonnettes back in December, I have become enraptured with these very tasty honey cakes. What with Friands as well as the Madeleines I have yet to bake, the French are little cake bakers par excellence.

I was quite excited at coming up with a Nonnette nouvelle. The combination of rose and roasted rhubarb jam has probably never been used before. This in conjunction with some delicious Cornish honey, ought to be irresistible, I thought. As we still had quite a bit of cake in the house from my recent Clandestine Cake Club event, I used half the normal quantities to make six rather than twelve individual cakes.

This is what I did:
  • Chopped up 4 sticks (about 300g) of washed & trimmed rhubarb into 1 cm lengths.
  • Placed these in a greased Pyrex dish and sprinkled a teaspoon of rose water over the top.
  • Spooned 50g cardamom sugar (caster sugar) over the rhubarb.
  • Roasted at 200C for 30 minutes.
  • Left to cool, then spooned into a jar.
  • Melted 40g unsalted butter in a pan.
  • Added 100g local Cornish runny honey and 50g light brown sugar.
  • Turned off the heat and added 50g milk, 40g water and 10g of rhubarb liqueur (homemade) with a tsp of rose water.
  • Stirred until smooth then left to cool.
  • Ground the seeds from two cardamom pods in a pestle and mortar.
  • Sifted 100g plain white flour, 50g rye flour, 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda into a bowl.
  • Added the cardamom and the grated zest from 1/2 a small orange.
  • Stirred in 25g chopped white chocolate.
  • Made a well in the centre and poured in the honey mixture.
  • Stirred until all combined.
  • Divided the mixture between 6 buttered muffin moulds and placed in the fridge for an hour.
  • Placed a spoonful of rhubarb jam on the top of each one.
  • Baked at 180C for 20 minutes.
  • Left to cool
  • Mixed 1 tbsp icing sugar with a little rhubarb liqueur (homemade) and a drop of rose water to form a slightly runny icing.
  • Drizzled these over the cakes whilst they were still warm.
These turned out even better than I could have wished. After the first bite, I was very much regretting making six rather than twelve. They were absolutely scrummy and as CT stated later, tasted French - I think this was a compliment. They had a lovely soft texture which I attribute to the presence of rye flour. The rose made its presence felt but was not in the least overpowering and contrasted well with the distinctive tartness of the rhubarb. The roasted rhubarb jam was a delight in itself and has adorned various slices of toast all this week.

When making these Nonnettes, I had not one, not two, not three, but four blog challenges in mind:

Simple and in Season - a monthly challenge to get us to cook uncomplicated food using seasonal ingredients by Ren of Fabulicious Food. This month it is being guest hosted by Urvashi of The Botanical Baker.

Alpha Bakes - Caroline Makes and Ros of The more than occasional baker take it in turns to pick a random letter from the alphabet which inspires the theme of the bake. This month Caroline picked H and my H is for Honey Cakes.

Tea Time Treats - the fabulously sugar overloaded monthly tea time party run alternately by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked. The theme this month is floral. Rose is my flower of choice, because I love roses as mentioned in previous posts and one of the reasons why I chose Rose as one of the We Should Cocoa challenges.

Made with Love Mondays - Javelin Warrior's weekly challenge to get everyone making dishes from scratch from Javelin Warrior's Cookin w / Luv.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Best of British Blogger Challenge - Cornwall - Giveaway #8

Those human whirlwinds, Fiona of London Unattached and Karen of Lavender and Lovage have come up with a new challenge in order to celebrate British Food. As local food is a topic close to my heart, I'm really chuffed to be hosting the very first challenge. The idea is that each month for six months, a county or region around the UK will be selected and bloggers will post their interpretation of a recipe or dish from that region.

As Cornwall is the first (and dare I say best) county in the UK, it is no surprise that Kernow kicks things off. I am somewhat partisan, I confess - Cornwall is my home after all.

So to the challenge. I am looking for you to showcase something that embodies Cornish food. This could be the good old Cornish pasty, or for those that love fish, Stargazey pie. For those with a sweeter tooth, there is of course saffron cake or how about a good Cornish cream tea? Not forgetting, of course, that the jam goes first with a hefty dollop of clotted cream on the top - unlike the heathen practices of other counties. Or you may prefer to use some great Cornish ingredients. Famed for its dairy, seafood, vegetables and soft fruit, Cornwall has a wealth of fresh and delicious produce to choose from. Our new potatoes are second to none, our cauliflowers famous and I had my first punnet of local juicy and flavoursome strawberries this weekend. Clotted cream everyone knows about, but we also have some amazing cheeses, including Cornish Blue, winner of the World Cheese Awards 2010, Yarg, a semi-hard cheese wrapped in stinging nettles, Cornish Camembert, Allet Dairy Goat's Cheese and the Cornish Crackler, an award winning cheddar.

I'm not sure how local chocolate is to Cornwall, but I shall endeavour to sneak it in anyway!

There are prizes to be had too. This challenge is being sponsored by New World Appliances, which is one of only a few British manufactures of kitchen appliances. Each month an entrant will be picked at random and will win a £50 Amazon voucher. At the end of 6 months all entries will be judged and the best will be awarded a £300 Amazon voucher, so get your aprons on and cook up a Cornish storm in your kitchens.


The full rules are posted on The Face of New World Appliances. But in essence this is what you need to do:
  • Post your recipe on your blog with a link back to The Face of New World Appliances AND to this post.
  • Add the Best of British badge to your post.
  • Add "Best of British" to your post or as a tag.
  • E-mail bestofbritishchallenge@gmail.com with your recipe title, a link to your post and a photograph by Midnight of 15th June.
  • If you post on Twitter, you can use #BestofBritish and if you mention @fionamaclean or @Choclette8 or @newworldapps, we will try and retweet.
  • The round-up of entries will be posted on or before the 20th June on The Face of New World Appliances and here on my blog too.


Sunday, 13 May 2012

Passionfruit Curd Sponge Cake & Clandestine Cake Club

Finally, I was getting to go to my very first Clandestine Cake Club (CCC) event. Cornwall CCC started up a few months ago, but as it held mostly during week days or if in the evenings has been quite some distance away, I hadn't been able to get to any earlier ones. I was ridiculously excited; this was an opportunity to meet other cake bakers and talk cake for two hours. It was also a fine excuse to eat lots of cake - how good is that? I was a little nervous, I didn't know anyone else who was going to be there, or at least I thought I didn't. This meeting was a mid-week morning one and was way down west. I happened to be on leave, however, so it seemed a good opportunity to take part and also visit Heartlands, which had newly opened just a 15 minute walk away from our venue. CT, lured by the promise of a look around the newly created botanical gardens there as well as indulging his love of cake, bravely accompanied me. The venue was Baker Tom's newly opened cafe in Pool, half way between Redruth and Camborne.

The cake theme was "fruity". Having recently made passionfruit curd, I was keen to make a cake using it. After my disaster with the apple & lemon curd cake, I was slightly concerned, but hoped all would be well if I took a bit more care when turning out the cakes. Thus my Passionfruit Curd Cake was born.

This is what I did:
  • Creamed 225g unsalted butter with 225g cardamom sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Beat in two large tbsp of passionfruit curd.
  • Beat in 1 goose egg.
  • Folded in 225 sifted flour (100g wholemeal, 100g white, 25g coconut) with a heaped tsp of baking powder.
  • Stirred in 3 tbsp milk.
  • Spooned mixture into two 21 cm cake moulds and baked at 180C for 25 minutes.
  • Left to cool for a few minutes then turned out onto wire racks.
  • Melted 50g white chocolate in a bowl over hot water.
  • Creamed 75g unsalted butter with 125g icing sugar until very pale.
  • Beat in the cooled chocolate.
  • Beat in 2 tbsp passionfruit curd and a couple of teaspoons of orange juice.
  • Used this to sandwich the two cakes together.
  • Mixed 75g icing sugar with enough juice from a mandarin orange to make a slightly runny icing.
  • Spooned this onto the cake and spread it a little to the sides so that some of the icing dripped down the cake in what I like to think is a decorative fashion.
  • Decorated the top with the little sugar daffodils and the citrus sprinkles I won recently.
Thankfully, the cakes both turned out of their moulds with no mishaps whatsoever - a huge sigh of relief was heaved at this point. All I had to worry about was getting it to the meeting in one piece. This was achieved successfully. The cake cut well, was eaten by many and was, I'm pleased to say, delicious with a pronounced passionfruit flavour.

And what of the CCC? Goodness, what an array of amazing looking cakes there were. I didn't manage to get a picture of the whole spread as more kept arriving throughout the morning. Sadly, there was no way I could try all of them, even CT couldn't manage that. But I really enjoyed each and every one I did try and it was very hard to decide which was my favourite. Luckily, we got to take cake home with us too, a nice plateful in fact - yum, what an excellent idea.







Everyone was very friendly and it was interesting to put a few twitter names to faces and meet the organiser Ellie Michell. A pleasing amount of time was spent talking cake. As it happened The Cow Lady, who we know from a previous incarnation and lives near Liskeard turned up as well, what a surprise to find she was into cake baking too.

Ellie has organised some fantastic venues for the Cornwall CCC meetings and this one was no exception. Baker Tom's cafe was really interesting, it was brand spanking new with enough room to set out our wares on wooden table tops. The bakery itself was in full view behind the counter. Despite being a real fan of Baker Tom's pain aux raisins - (I've not yet had better), I'd never met the man behind the bakes before. He was lovely and made us all very welcome. I got to have a tour of his bakery and a look at his rye sourdough which I was particularly interested in to see how it compared to mine. He also allowed us all to have a go at shaping some Fougasse which we then got to take home with us - an unexpected pleasure.


Thursday, 10 May 2012

Passionfruit Curd

Passionfruit curd is something that has been niggling away at the back of my mind since I saw the post about it on Chocolate Teapot nearly three years ago. This reminded me of the recipe in Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess, which I'd been meaning to make since I bought the over a decade ago ago. You can perhaps see a pattern emerging here - fast is not my middle name! Although both of these recipes sounded good, I preferred a version without seeds as I wanted to use the curd in a cake, so back in March, I finally got around to making what promised to be the best fruit curd ever. I based my version on a recipe I saw over at thepassionatecook.

This is how I did it:
  • Cut 3 passionfruit in half and scooped out the flesh.
  • Rubbed through a sieve to remove seeds trying to extract as much juice as possible.
  • Placed juice in a bowl with 40g cardamom (caster) sugar and 1 duck egg.
  • Whisked thoroughly.
  • Placed bowl over a pan of simmering water and carried on whisking,
  • Added 25g unsalted butter & continued to whisk for about twenty minutes until thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon.
  • Poured into a jar.
This was indeed the best fruit curd ever, I loved the colour and I loved the taste. It was so delicious and there was so little of it, I thought it would be rather a waste to use it in a cake, so instead we had it on scones one day and on toast the next. However, when I found out that my first Clandestine Cake Club meeting had a fruit theme, my idea for a passionfruit curd cake began to re-form. So, it wasn't long after making my first batch of passionfruit curd, that I then made my second.

I am submitting this to Jac's Bookmarked Recipes over at Tinned Tomatoes which was founded by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

French Chocolates by Post

Rarely one to say no to chocolate, especially to chocolate that promises to be of a particularly good quality, I was looking forward to receiving a review box  from Club Chocolat Français. 

Club Chocolat Français is a family owned business in the South West of France producing handmade chocolates. Ingredients are sourced as locally as possible and the chocolate comes from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms in countries from Ecuador to Ghana. New to the English market they have recently launched a UK website. Their intention seems to be to run the club along similar lines to Hotel Chocolat. In this case a monthly box of 34 chocolates are sent out to members along with an invitation to submit tasting notes and suggestions to help inform future products.

When opening the box rich & heady aromas of chocolate and nuts assailed my nostrils - pure heaven. What met my eyes, one month after Easter had passed, were a number of chick, rabbit, hen and egg shapes which I found somewhat surprising. Oh well, I shrugged and got on with the important task of tasting.

Thankfully, I was not disappointed by the quality of the chocolates; pure cocoa butter and no artificial additives here. They tasted of real ingredients and had satisfyingly nutty and fruity flavours. Although the majority were pralines of one sort or another, they were all quite different. There were also a few fruit purees, including strawberry and passionfruit with the raspberry covered in dark chocolate being my absolute favourite. I often find pralines way too sweet, but being French, these chocolates were just the right side of sweet. The textures were varied and made for an interesting mouth experience - some were smooth, some soft, some contained what I took to be feuillitine and others had small nut pieces contained within or on top.

Perfection is not easily attained and I have a few quibbles. The first thing I noticed was the size of the box: way too big for our letterbox (standard letterbox size). This brings with it all the difficulties of trying to get hold of your much anticipated chocolates, if you don't happen to be in when the postman calls. Secondly the "menu" was all in French, perhaps not the best way of winning over English chocoholics. Luckily for me, although rusty, my French was just about good enough to make it out. The next area where I came unstuck (or do I mean stuck?) was when I tried to get the chocolates out of the box. This proved to be no mean feat, especially as I was trying to extract them for photographic purposes. My conclusion is, therefore, that some work is needed to improve their packaging. Although, the chocolates were indeed of a high quality and were quite delicious, I felt their flavours were somewhat conservative. Our palates have become increasingly sophisticated and many of us like to explore more exotic flavours.

The tasting club cost £19.95 a month, although for a limited time, the first box is being offered for £9.95

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Brown Butter Choc Chip Friands - We Should Cocoa 21

Newly introduced to friands, I am now a real fan. Half way between a macaroon and a cake, these are gloriously crisp on the outside, soft and delectable on the inside. As soon as Laura of How to Cook Good Food announced this month's ingredient for We Should Cocoa was to be almonds, friands were the first thing that popped into my head. And that idea has not gone away. Friands it is then.

Friands are very similar to financiers. Without being an expert on the subject and unable to find much information about these little cakes, it seems that friands are the antipodean version of the French financier. Financiers are traditionally baked in a rectangular shape and are made with brown butter or hazelnut butter (beurre noisette) as it is known in France. Friands are, apparently, baked in oval moulds. Mine are baked in round moulds because that's all I have. Anyway, I thought I'd try baking some friands with the traditional financier brown butter to see what difference it made.

Co-incidentally, minutes before I was about to bake these, I read a post for brown butter chocolate chunk cookies over at The Little Loaf. As well as using buerre noisette in her cookies she had also used buckwheat flour to make them gluten free. Well what a brilliant idea. Friands don't have much flour, relying mostly on ground almonds, so it seemed an opportunity not to be missed to make them gluten free.

It is always useful to have a few good gluten free recipes up ones sleeve. Coeliac disease is something we are becoming increasingly aware of. However, although CT has a friend who suffers from it, I had no idea it was quite as prevalent as it is, with 1 in 100 people being affected by it in the UK. It is an autoimmune condition affecting the lining of the small intestine and is triggered by the consumption of gluten. Gluten is found in a number of grains, but specifically wheat, rye and barley. Katie of Apple & Spice who was diagnosed with the disease about a year ago is running a coeliac awareness raising challenge to coincide with National Coeliac Awareness Week (14th-20th May).

This is what I did:
  • Melted 90g unsalted butter over a low heat and left to bubble gently. Checking every now and again, left it until the solids had sunk to the bottom and turned a light brown. Immediately took off the heat as I didn't want the butter to burn. Left to cool.
  • Whisked 3 duck eggs whites until frothy (not stiff).
  • Stirred in the cooled butter.
  • Sifted in 120g icing sugar, 45g buckwheat flour and 60g ground almonds.
  • Chopped 50g dark chocolate (85%) and stirred in as lightly as possible.
  • Spooned into 12 silicone mini muffin cases and divided the remainder between 6 larger ones.
  • Sprinkled the tops with slivered almonds.
  • Baked at 180C for 15 minutes and removed the mini friands. Baked the larger ones for a further 3 minutes (18 in total).
  • Placed on a rack to cool a bit, then turned out of the cases to cool completely.
  • Dusted with icing sugar.
The aroma of the nut like butter as it turned brown was delicious and filled the house with its fragrance. The mini friands were destined to go to friends, but CT and I got to try the larger ones. These were as good as I remembered the cinnamon choc chip ones to be, if not better. the buckwheat flour worked really well, although we couldn't detect anything specific. The brown butter gave an added depth to the almonds bringing out the nutty flavour as well as adding a slight richness to the whole. The mellow sweetness of the friand combined well with the dark bitter chocolate and made for an excellent and varied taste experience.

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