Thursday, 28 June 2012

Elderflower and White Chocolate Cupcakes

When I saw Linzi's Elderflower challenge over at Lancashire Food I didn't think I'd have a chance to participate, even though I wanted to. I just haven't managed to gather any elderflowers this year, even though they are plentiful and beautiful as ever. I'm hoping I haven't left it too late and I might still be in with a chance to make my annual batch of elderflower cordial. However, scrabbling around at the back of the cupboard, I came across a bottle of last year's cordial which is still in fine fettle - excellent, I can play along after all!

I've recently been sent a jar of Truvia to review by. Truvia is a sweetener derived from the Stevia plant. The compounds it contains are very sweet but are not sugar and have no calorific value. It also contains a bulking agent, erythritol, another non calorific sweetener - presumably to make it more practical to use. We've grown stevia for many years and use it to sweeten stewed fruit, tomato sauce and so on. Our plant was unfortunately killed in the hard winter of a couple of years ago, but we still have some dried leaf left. I was interested, therefore to try a commercial product which dispenses with all the green leaf material leaving just the active ingredients in a white caster sugar like form.

This challenge seemed like a good opportunity to try the product out. The advice is to use some sugar when baking cakes as Truvia has different properties to sugar. Due to the sugar present in both the white chocolate and in the elderflower cordial, however, I decided I'd try using Truvia without any additional sugar. Truvia is meant to be far sweeter than sugar and only 1/3 of the amount is needed. So instead of 150g of sugar I used 50g of Truvia. For more exacting bakers than I, the Truvia website has a handy conversion chart. It also has more information about the product and a number of recipes to try.

This is what I did:
  • Melted 125g unsalted butter in a pan over low heat with 50 white chocolate (G&B).
  • Sifted 100g flour (half spelt, half white), 50g ground almonds and 1 tsp baking powder into a bowl.
  • Stirred in 50g Truvia
  • Made a well in the centre and poured in the melted chocolate.
  • Mixed together then beat in 2 duck eggs, one at a time.
  • Stirred in 1 tbsp Greek Yogurt (2% fat) and 4 tbsp elderflower cordial.
  • Spooned into 12 cupcake cases and baked at 180C for 20 minutes.
  • Left to cool
  • Melted 100ml whipping cream in the butter pan I'd used earlier over low heat with 50g white chocolate (G&B).
  • Stirred until smooth.
  • Poured into a large bowl and left to cool.
  • Added 2 tbsp elderflower cordial and stirred.
  • Sifted in 80g icing sugar.
  • Added 200ml mascarpone and whisked until smooth and stiff enough to ice the cupcakes.
  • Used a palate knife to spread over the cupcakes, then decorated with some yellow sugar strands to tie in with the yellow cupcake cases.
The icing was delicious and turned out to be the exact colour of elderflowers which pleased me. I found it a little too sweet, so would reduce the icing sugar next time to about 50g. The flavour of elderflower was delicately present, but was later overpowered by the Truvia. Stevia has a distinctive taste, which to be honest, is an acquired one. It takes a while for the flavour to come through, but when it does it hangs around for a long time. So although this is a really useful way of cutting down sugar consumption, I would advise cautious use until familiar with its properties. The sponge tasted good, but was rather dense. I'm not sure if this was because of the lack of sugar or because of the method I used to mix the ingredients.

NB - I managed to raid my mother's garden this very evening and now have elderflower cordial brewing - hooray!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Green Seasons Cookbook - A Win & A Giveway #9

As some of you will know, I am a vegetarian and have been so for about twenty years. I have to confess that this is not a hardship as I'm not particularly keen on meat and never liked fish. One not so fine day at the village primary school, I sat for an hour chewing on a piece of gristle which I just could not bring myself to swallow; those were the days when you were not allowed to leave the dining room until you had cleared your plate. I had packed lunches from then on and although I always ate my mother's meat dishes, that was the day meat fell from favour.

So what's this got to do with chocolate you may well ask? Well, one of my go to vegetarian cookbooks is Rachel Demuth's Green Seasons. Rachel is a fantastic vegetarian cook and not only, in my humble opinion, has the best restaurant in Bath - Demuths, but also runs a vegetarian cookery school. I did a day's course there on Middle Eastern cookery a couple of years ago and it was fantastic.

The book is divided into the four seasons of spring, summer, autumn and winter for ease of using seasonal produce; it is also conveniently colour coded to help keep you on track. Each season is divided into seasonal vegetables, small eats, large eats and sweet eats and includes such delights as: sorrel fritata, beetroot tzatsiki, courgette filo pie and leek and potato hash. The book does of course have some chocolate recipes as can be seen by these very delicious breakfast muffins I made. Mexican chocolate pudding has been on my list since I first got the book, but for some reason I still haven't made it. Nor have I yet made the white chocolate cheesecake, the chocolate pistachio roulade and the chocolate cheesecake brownies.

Anyway, the real point of this post is that I was surprised and thrilled to be picked as a finalist in the recent Vegetarian Cookery School's veggie breakfast competition. Although, sadly, I didn't win the grand prize of a cookery school place, the ten finalists won a copy of Green Seasons. Now as I already have a copy of the book, I asked if it would be OK to use it as a giveaway on my blog instead. So you are now in the lucky position of having a chance to win your very own copy. You will need to leave a comment answering the question in the Rafflecopter below. This will then give you additional chances to enter.

Apologies once again to overseas readers, but this is only open to those with a UK mailing address.
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Vinegar Cake

Ros chose V for Alpha Bakes this month, oh my goodness! Other than Vanilla and Victoria sandwich, I wasn't having many ideas and although vanilla is fantastic, it's such a common ingredient in cakes, I wanted something a little different. I've seen Viennese whirls popping up all over the place which is a great idea, but again not quite what I was looking for. So I turned to trusty Pam Corbin in her wonderful book Cakes and there it was at the bottom of the V list, Vinegar Cake. Traditionally made when hens were off lay, this is an eggless fruit cake from East Anglia. I added a few ingredients not mentioned in Pam's recipe.

This is how I made it:
  • Placed 1 tbsp mesquite powder and 1 tbsp maca powder onto the scales than added white flour to make the weight up to 250g.
  • Sifted into a bowl along with 250g wholemeal flour and a pinch of salt.
  • Rubbed in 200g unsalted butter cut into bits, until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs.
  • Stirred in 500g dried fruit made up of sultanas, raisins, chopped dried apples, goji berries and crystallised orange peel (homemade).
  • Stirred in 50g chopped Maya Gold chocolate (G&B dark orange spiced).
  • Poured 300ml milk into a large bowl (didn't have a jug big enough) and added 50ml cider vinegar.
  • Stirred 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda into 1 tbsp milk.
  • Added this to the milk and watched in amazement as it frothed up and up and up!
  • Poured this onto the dry ingredients together with 2 tbsp golden syrup and mixed until just incorporated.
  • Spooned into a 23cm cake mould and smoothed the top.
  • Sprinkled 1 tbsp demerara sugar over the top and baked at 170C for 50 minutes.
  • Left to cool in mould for 20 minutes then turned out onto a wire rack to cool almost completely - couldn't wait any longer!

Watching the milk and vinegar mixture whoosh up when the bicarb was added was impressive. It reminded me of one those school science lessons which probably no longer occur due to health and safety reasons. Whatever the underlying chemistry of it all, it seemed to work: the cake rose really well. Unfortunately, I took it out a little too soon, so it sank in the middle. Surprisingly, the taste of vinegar was noticeable by its absence. It had a lovely  crunchy top and would have been great served warm with clotted cream or ice-cream. I'm not a fan of heavy fruit cakes, but this was just about right, plenty of fruit but plenty of cake too. CT is also not a fan of heavy fruitcakes, which he associates with being dense, dry &amp and desiccated with bucket loads of horrible mixed peel. This one, he opined, was pleasantly fruity with an unexpected sort of spritliness about it. It had a nice soft crumb and tasted slightly malty which I put down to the mesquite I added. We both felt thoroughly virtuous eating this because of the healthful properties of the maca I had included.

Alpha Bakes is a monthly blogging challenge where a random letter is picked from the alphabet which then inspires the theme of the bake. It's hosted alternately by Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Summer Cocktails - Rhubarbarella & Chocadoodledoo

Rhubarbarella
Cocktails are not something I know much about. There was a certain bar in Baker Street we used to frequent when I was a student, where a certain Aussie barman gave us half price cocktails when he was in a good mood. But sadly his moods took a turn for the worse when his overtures were rebuffed by one of our group. Other than that, I can probably count my cocktails on the fingers of one hand - maybe two if pressed. However, there is something rather alluring about them and I expect if I had an independent income I'd drink more of them. So when Urvashi of Botanical Baker challenged us to come up with some summer cocktails, I just couldn't resist.

Chocadoodledoo
Although I'm not much of a drinker - honestly - I do make my own liqueurs: sloe gin, cassis, rhubarb schnapps and various other vodka infusions. I've had some cocoa nibs soaking in vodka now for over six months, so I figured it was time to test out my attempt at chocolate extract and concoct some chocolate cocktails. Having used three rose flowers to make some rose sugar, I was left with one glorious bloom. Sadly the weather  was not favourable, so I thought I'd harvest it before it got blown away. What better use than to make rose syrup which would be perfect for a summer cocktail.

This is what I did:

Rhubarbarella (Rhubarb & Rose Cocktail)
50ml rhubarb schnapps
50ml lemon balm tea
10ml chocolate extract
rose syrup*
squeeze of lemon juice
ice cubes

Ran a little lemon juice around the rim of a glass then dipped the glass into a saucer of rose sugar (caster sugar). Placed all the above ingredients in a well sealed jar and shook. Strained into the glass and added a sprig of lemon balm.

Chocadoodledoo (Chocolate & Mint Cocktail)
50ml Mint schnapps
10ml chocolate extract
50ml single cream
ice cubes

Placed the above ingredients into a glass and shook well. Strained into a glass and added a sprig of mint

Rhubarbarella was the star of the show. Rose and rhubarb had already proved themselves as a flavour pairing in the last lot of Nonnettes I made so I had high hopes. It was delicious, fruity, refreshing and with a definite kick - of chocolate as well as alcahol. The rose flavour added a layer of sophistication, or so it seemed after a few sips ....... The colour was alluring and I impressed myself with the sugared glass. I'd be happy to drink this all summer long, which by latest reckoning, ends tomorrow.

Although the chocolate came through quite powerfully, I wasn't quite so taken with chocadoodledoo due to a slight bitterness from the mint schnapps. Next time I'll add some sugar to counteract this. It was certainly bracing, the mint schnapps being noticeably stronger than the rhubarb. However, I'm not giving up on this one, there will be a next time.

Rose Syrup
* Rose Syrup The rose syrup was absolutely delicious and I can see many uses for it, not least added to sparkling water and used as a drink. I made it by adding 200g golden caster sugar to 200ml water and putting this on a low heat until fully dissolved. I added the petals of a deep red rose and left to not quite simmer for half an hour. I then strained the syrup into a bottle and left to cool.

As I have used mint and lemon balm in my cocktails, I am submitting this to Karen's Herbs on Saturday. A challenge I keep meaning to join in, but somehow keep forgetting about.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Cornwall's Best of British Round-Up and Prize Winner plus a little about the Cornish Pasty

Clotted cream and pasties vied for centre stage in this round-up of Cornwall's Best of British. I was pleased to see that seafood, cheese, honey and fruit made an appearance too - all good Cornish produce. In total there were fourteen fabulous entries, thank you all. Fiona is also doing a round up of this first ever Best of British challenge over at The Face of New World, so do check out her blog.  The next challenge is for Scottish food and is being hosted by Janice. Lots of lovely produce to choose from there - you can find out more at Farmersgirl Kitchen.

Pasties and Cornwall seem to be synonymous in most people's minds; they were certainly the most popular entry here, so I thought I'd better do a little background research. According to Lindey Bareham in her book Pasties, pasty is an old English word for a meat pie made without a dish. Due to Cornwall's far flung location, the name continued to be used here after it had died out in most other places. The pasty is of course well known for being the staple food of Cornish miners. A meat, onion and swede filling wrapped inside a pastry case with a crimped "handle" used to hold the pasty whilst eating with dirty hands; this was then discarded along with any adhering contaminants such as arsenic.

I'm a vegetarian so my idea of a good Cornish pasty is a cheese and onion one, which is definitely not traditional. My mother, however, is a bit of a fan, so I do know what a typical Cornish pasty should be like. It should have a juicy filling with a pastry case which is crusty on the outside and tender on the inside. The meat should be beef steak, cut into chunks, never minced with sliced or chopped potatoes, chopped onion and chopped swede - known as turnip in Cornwall. Ingredients are layered raw onto the pastry case and seasoned with salt and pepper. The pasty is then sealed by crimping the sides together along the top or along the edge and then baked. Crimping is a bit of an art and is taken very seriously; whether the crimp should be at the top or on the side is still hotly debated. In 2011, the Cornish pasty was awarded PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status by the EU, which protects it from being made anywhere outside Cornwall. Interestingly, they say that the crimp must be on the side. This is probably because it is easier for large scale bakers to make them this way; home bakers often prefer the top crimp which makes for a plumper pasty, but is more fiddly to do.

Personally, I've never been able to make a decent pasty, my pastry falls apart and I'm rubbish at crimping, so I am truly impressed with the abilities showcased here.


Fiona of London Unattached, whose brainchild this Best of British challenge is, felt suitably responsible and kicked things of with her Somerset version of the Cornish pasty as made by her mother. Crimped on the top and containing no swede, Fiona has made it with her first ever flakey pastry, which worked a treat.

Karen of Lavender and Lovage also had a hand in dreaming up this challenge. She decided to showcase Davidstow Cheddar with her mum's cheese and potato pie - made by her mother just as she used to make it when Karen was growing up in Cornwall. On the other side of Bodmin Moor, my mother used to make something very similar and I can vouch for it being great vegetarian comfort food.

Less well known than the pasty, stargazey pie is another Cornish classic. I wasn't really expecting anyone to give this a go, so I was delighted when Claire of Under the Blue Gum Tree made this prawn and Kingklip stargazey pie and all the way from South Africa no less. There is a strong link between Cornwall and South Africa as many Cornish miners were highly regarded for their expertise and went on to work in the gold fields and diamond mines. Traditionally made with pilchards, this pie has the fish heads poking out of the pastry crust and "gazing" at the sky. Claire has used prawns instead and why not?

Clotted cream is another ingredient we are very lucky to have in abundance in Cornwall. I grew up with it and have always missed it when living elsewhere. Janine of Cake of the Week was also feeling homesick for Cornish food, so decided to showcase one of the things she could get: clotted cream. Her format of choice was a cake for the Jubilee. Her strawberry and clotted cream Jubilee cake has a right royal wow factor.

I couldn't let this opportunity pass me by without trying something I hadn't made before. Cornish splits are the traditional vehicle for carrying cream and jam for the highly renowned Cornish cream tea. They've been much neglected in recent years in favour of the easier to make scones, so this seemed like the ideal opportunity to stage a revival. I also managed to use a number of Cornish ingredients, including Cornish sea salt.

Clotted cream and strawberries continue their meteoric rise with this Cornish strawberry-rhubarb tiramisu from Chris of Cooking Around the World. A very special tiramisu this is, not only does it feature delicious Cornish ingredients, but it doesn't contain coffee. This means I can make tiramisu AND be able to eat it. Do hop over to Chris's post if you haven't already done so as he has some lovely pictures of a sunny Cornwall - not something we've seen much of recently!

Following in the cream tea tradition, Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker decided to do things even more differently. Clotted cream and strawberries were the first thing that came to Ros' mind when thinking of Cornish food and thus these mouthwatering clotted cream and strawberry tarts and cookies were born.

Enough of the sweet stuff, we're back to seafood with this smoked mackerel kedgeree from Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen. Mackerel is one of the fish that Janice associates with Cornwall. She was unable was unable to source Cornish mackerel for this dish, but figured that the Scottish mackerel she used had quite likely swum up past the Lizard, so could be counted.

Once visited, Cornwall is not easily forgotten and Chris of Cooking Around the World, found that once he started thinking about Cornish food, he couldn't rest until he'd made a pasty. Having taken an Italian dish for his first entry and turned it into a Cornish one, he reversed things this time by using olive oil and rosemary in this Cornish icon. Do visit his blog to find out what other surprising ingredients made their way into this pasty.

And another pasty makes an appearance. This time on Lavender and Lovage where Karen's enthusiasm knows no bounds. In her second entry, she gives us the secrets of her friend Annie's true Cornish pasty. There is plenty of information to be found about Cornish pasties in her post, so do take a look. A word of warning though, she is passionate about the side crimp, so I have to be careful we don't come to blows.

At last a pasty I can eat! Fellow Cornish blogger Natalie of the Hungry Hinny came up with this most delicious take on the Cornish classic - mushroom, cheese and potato pasties. Filled with thyme and sweet potato as well as the title ingredients, this pasty used Davidstow cheddar and was given the full crimping treatment. Tis a real pasty, me han'some.

Another Cornish blogger, Beth of Jam and Clotted Cream decided to use Cornish honey from the Tregothnan estate in her entry. Tregothnan is mostly famed for its tea production, but it does have a number of other enterprises, including beekeeping. Beth reckons her ginger spiced honey cake would be especially good served warm with a dollop of Cornish clotted cream ice-cream. I'm definitely up for giving that a go.

I was really hoping someone would make saffron cake, another of Cornwall's well kept secrets and something I've not yet got around to making. I wasn't to be disappointed. Jill of Lapin d'Or and More, blogging over the border in Devon, came up with her own interpretation - one that included less sugar and less fat. Her saffron buns turned out a beautiful pale yellow and sound delicious.

Having started with a pasty, we end with a pasty - of sorts! Susan of the delectable blog, A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate was a little concerned that Cornwall would be up in arms about her splendid rustic Cornish pastie pie. I don't know why. It has all of the classic Cornish ingredients you'd expect and looks absolutely magnificent - it's just that lugging such an enormous pie down the mine might have proved a little difficult. They like things bigger in Lancashire apparently!

Sponsored by The Face of New World, we have a £50 Amazon voucher for one lucky entrant who has been picked at random using Random.Org. There will be another £50 voucher next month and so on for the first six months of the challenge. At the end of the process entries submitted over the whole six months will be judged with a grand prize of a £300 voucher.

So, congratulations go to .......... The More Than Occasional Baker

Friday, 15 June 2012

Teapigs Chocolate & Matcha Teas - A Review

Quite some time ago, Teapigs sent me a small sachet of matcha tea to try, along with three chocolate flake tea temples (otherwise known as funny shaped teabags). The matcha I tried straight away, but the tea temples I managed to mislay until this week. The weather was thoroughly cold, wet and unpleasant so it seemed like a good day for a tidy up and that's when I found them.

Tea temples are Teapigs' answer to loose leaf tea without the bother and mess that comes with teapots, tea strainers and associated paraphenalia. The bags are see-through allowing good visibility of the tea leaves within. They are tetrahedrons with plenty of head room for the tea to infuse properly rather than being straight jacketed in a teabag. And on top of all this, they are also biodegradable - genius.

Chocolate tea sounded like an exciting concept and I was keen to try it - once I'd found the lost tea temples. The tea smelt both fruity and chocolatey and looked as though it contained black tea leaves as well as flakes of chocolate. I placed a temple in a teapot, poured on two cups of boiling water (I like my tea weak) and left it to brew slightly longer than I meant to. By the time I'd managed to find somewhere light enough to take a half decent photograph, the tea was cool enough to drink. On first slurp, the overriding taste was fruit and quite sweet fruit at that. Second slurp, I tasted chocolate - aha - but still not coming through as strongly as the fruitiness. Third slurp and the distinctive astringent drying quality of black tea was there. When I had a look on the Teapigs website for ingredients, I found the tea consists of black tea, chocolate chips, cocoa bean and natural flavouring. Ah, natural flavouring, that's what must give it the predominant fruity flavour. Unfortunately there were no more details than this, so I was unable to ascertain what type of black tea was used or what the chocolate chips consisted of. I think it's a shame fruit flavours (if that's what they were) were added to the tea; it would be far better without and would allow the chocolate to come through a little more. I have to say I was not overly impressed with this particular tea.

I was hoping to make a cake with the matcha as I really like it in cooking - do have a look at some of the matcha bakes I've made so far. But there wasn't enough for that, so I consoled myself by drinking it instead. Matcha as I have mentioned on numerous occasions is meant to be very good for you. I also like it - both colour and taste. I had no complaints about the matcha powder from Teapigs. It was ground beautifully fine (by granite rollers) and tasted as good as the matcha tea that CT brought back from Japan when he went there a few years ago. It got additional bonus points for being organic too. This tea I was very happy with.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Banana, Coconut & White Chocolate Flapjacks

I've seen various recipes for using banana in flapjacks over the years, but keep forgetting to try it myself. When I saw this recipe over at Jam and Clotted Cream last week, I bookmarked it immediately. I had two old bananas left over from the banana and peanut butter cake that were in dire need of using up and sadly, for a Jubiliee weekend, we had no cakes, bakes or other goodies in the house. Time to try out some banana flapjacks!

This is how I did it:
  • Melted 150g of unsalted butter in a pan with 1 tbsp of syrup and 50g white chocolate (G&B)
  • Mashed 2 bananas in a large bowl.
  • Stirred in 60g soft brown sugar.
  • Stirred in 50g desiccated coconut.
  • Mixed in butter mixture until all incorporated.
  • Stirred in 300g rolled oats.
  • Pressed into a 9" square silicone mould and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
  • Baked for 20 minutes at 180C.
  • Left to cool then cut into 16 squares.
These smelt gorgeous whilst cooking and were very tasty to eat - not too sweet and not too bananary (if such a word exists). Banana and coconut are a well matched pair and the tropical flavourwas really good. They were just how I like flapjacks to be, crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle.

I am submitting this to Bookmarked Recipes run by Jac of Tinned Tomatoes and started by Ruth of Ruth's Kitchen Experiments.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Espresso & Cappuccino Cupcakes - We Should Cocoa 22

With the combined incentives of a visit from a coffee loving friend and this month's We Should Cocoa ingredient being coffee, it was time to revive a couple of bakes I used to make regularly when hosting a party: Nigella's Espresso and Cappuccino Cupcakes from How to be a Domestic Goddess. I haven't made these since I started this blog. I'm not sure why, ahh, is it because I don't like coffee? If truth be told, coffee is not a flavour I'm particularly fond of. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee I find most tempting, but unfortunately, not the taste. CT on the other hand, whilst not particularly fond of the drink, likes the flavour in bakes & chocolates - guess who always gets passed the coffee chocolates? Lucy blogging at The KitchenMaid is hosting this month's We Should Cocoa and she has chosen coffee - I could hardly demur!

Although I made a few changes to Nigella's recipe, I can't for the life of me remember what I did; it was a few days ago and I foolishly didn't write it down after baking. I remember using half spelt flour and adding yogurt to the cake mix to lighten them a bit and some maca powder for its health benefits. So I am, sadly, unable to tell you exactly how I made them, but I do remember used lots of dark chocolate as well as white chocolate and I only made six of each.

Anyway, reports were good and despite my lack of enthusiasm for coffee, I did try them both. The espresso cakes were dark and bitter and gave a real jolt from the combination of dark chocolate and strong coffee. The rich espresso ganache topping and chocolate covered coffee bean on top added to the indelible stamp of a good espresso - so I'm told. The cappuccino ones, I found more palatable. They tasted of coffee for sure, but not as strongly and the creamy mascarpone and white chocolate top helped calm things down a bit. The cream and dark coffee colours looked quite spectacular together, although, due to the bad weather, my photographs don't capture this very well.

The cakes were enjoyed after a session with the bees. Yes, that's right, bees. Three years after having a top bar hive built for my mother, we have finally sourced some bees. They arrived less than two weeks ago and this was the first time the lid was being taken off to check that all was OK - a momentous occasion. We were somewhat concerned as a) the weather has been atrocious and b) there was the possibility of the comb being built the wrong way. When I say session, I mean CT and my mother; both I and our friend kept a wary distance. As it happened, all seemed absolutely fine. A comb had been built and in the right place too (we think)!


Not having taken part in the Forever Nigella challenge, the brainchild of Sarah of Maison Cupcake, for a while, I thought it was about time I did. So, I was really pleased to find out that this month's theme, guest hosted by Homemade by Fleur is Afternoon Tea. Well, what a relief for those tea sceptics to find some very welcome coffee! So please find my espresso and cappuccino cupcakes sitting demurely at the Afternoon Tea table - but be warned, they are anything but demure!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Cornish Splits - Best of British: Cornwall

Now what could be more perfect for a Cornish cream tea or English tea party than these Cornish splits? A Diamond Jubilee street party was not something we thought we would be attending - we'd planned to use the additional time to catch up down at our plot - but at the last minute we received an invite to a small one up the road and thought it would be churlish to refuse. I'd been planning on baking Cornish splits for my entry into Cornwall's Best of British challenge, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to make them. I had Cornish sea salt, Cornish strawberry jam, Cornish Strawberries and Cornish clotted cream to use.

So what exactly is a Cornish split? It's a yeasted bun which pre-dates the Johnny come lately scone as the original receptacle for jam and clotted cream - the Cornish cream tea (jam first every time, whatever they say in Devon).

I had to get chocolate in, of course, now how best to do it? I thought I'd try substituting some of the butter with white chocolate as mentioned by Dan Lepard in his wonderful book Short and Sweet (he'd referred to it as a lard substitute, but what the heck!)

The Face of New World Appliances
You still have until 15th June to enter this challenge and not only show off your Cornish inspired creations, but also get a chance to win £50 worth of Amazon vouchers.

So this is how I made Cornish splits and like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way!
  • Melted 30g unsalted butter in a pan with 250ml milk and 100ml water over a low heat.
  • Added 50g white chocolate (G&B) and left to melt.
  • Placed 500g strong white flour into a bowl with a scant tsp of Cornish sea salt and 2 tsp dried yeast.
  • Made a well in the centre and poured in the liquid, ensuring it was warm but not hot.
  • Stirred until all fully incorporated then left for 15 minutes.
  • Oiled work surface and eased dough out onto it and kneaded briefly and then gave it the Dan Lepard turn and fold treatment as interpreted by Carl Legge in his folding bread video.
  • Returned to the bowl, covered with a tea towel and left to rise for 30 minutes.
  • Did another brief knead followed by three turn and folds.
  • Returned to the bowl, covered and left to double in size.
  • Divided into 12 pieces and formed into rolls.
  • Covered with a tea towel and left to double in size.
  • Baked at 200C for 16 minutes.
  • Melted 60g 72% dark chocolate (G&B cook's) in a bowl over a pan of hot water.
  • When melted added 15g more to temper the chocolate.
  • Stirred until smooth.
  • Cut 12 strawberries in half and spooned chocolate over one side.
  • Left to set then turned them over and spooned chocolate over the other side.
  • Allowed splits to cool, then cut them in half & spread with strawberry jam (homemade by a friend with her own Cornish strawberries).
  • Dolloped a spoon of cream on top, then placed a chocolate strawberry on top of the cream.
The storm abated as we trudged up the hill with the splits safely ensconced in a weather proof box. The party had migrated under cover and there was little space on the groaning table for my offering. I needn't have worried as they disappeared really quickly. In fact they were a roaring success. I was particularly pleased when a local farmer's wife, who has been making them for many years gave them her seal of approval.

The splits were soft and slightly sweet and made the perfect foil for the lashings of jam and cream. The dipped strawberries were perhaps not the most elegant, but when they were perched on top of the cream, they looked just right. All in all, I have to say I was quite proud of my first attempt at Cornish Splits.

I'm also entering this for the fabulous Tea Time Treats table which has a summer fruits theme this month chosen by Kate of What Kate Baked. Karen of Lavender and Lovage is also running a giveaway on her blog to coincide with this month's theme.

Working London Mummy has chosen strawberries as this month's One Ingredient, so how could I resist? Nazima co-hosts this monthly challenge with Laura of How to Cook Good Food.

The monthly Simple and in Season hosted by Ren of Fabulicious Food is being guest hosted this month by Laura of How to Cook Good Food. And as Strawberries are very much in season during June, I am sharing my splits with this one too.

Finally (I think), I am also submitting this to Javelin Warrior's Made with Love Mondays where all submissions must be made entirely from scratch.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

French Chocolates Giveaway #7

To celebrate today's extra holiday here in the UK in style, despite the weather, I am offering a giveaway to mark the occasion. Some of you may have seen the review I did last month on French Chocolates by Post. If not, do take a look, because I have a very special treat for one lucky person, who will win a 320g box of delicious chocolates similar to the one you see in the picture. It won't be exactly the same though, as the selection changes each month.

In addition to this large box of chocolates, Club Chocolat Francais have offered three runner up prizes - YES THREE. These are tasting boxes containing six chocolates to give you an idea of what the Club is all about.

Do find out more by taking a look at the Club Chocolat Francais website where you can salivate over pictures of lush looking chocolates which put my own photograph very much to shame.

This time, rather than make you submit numerous comments, I am giving Rafflecopter a go. There is one mandatory question and five additional chances to enter using Twitter and Facebook. Apologies to overseas visitors once again, but this is open to those with a UK postal address only. Closing date is Sunday 17th June.

The winner will be selected at random by Rafflecopter and you can tweet daily to gain extra chances of winning.

The winners were:
Main prize - Mrs J Young
Runner up prizes - Ruth Khaw, Ian Campbell & Lynne O'Connor



a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Chocolate Granola

Back in January when I saw the We Should Cocoa entry from Carol Anne's Kitchen for chocolate and coconut granola, I bookmarked it straight away. As usual with these things it has sat neglected in my bookmarks folder along with many much older items. The spur I needed came in the form of this month's Breakfast Club, founded and hosted by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours. The theme is Fairtrade. Now I know fairtrade is not all about chocolate, but chocolate was one of the very first things to be given the fairtrade label and it is this wonderful substance I associate most with Fairtrade. So time to trawl through my bookmarks where I was very sure I had a chocolate granola recipe!

As is my wont, I adapted the recipe quite considerably. First off, I had bought a bar of Divine's fairtrade 85% dark chocolate specifically for the purpose of this challenge. When I read the recipe however, it was cocoa that was used. Well blow that, mine was going to contain a bar of real live chocolate. As this was for breakfast I wanted something healthy - to me healthy means NO SUGAR. So instead of using sugar, I used a mixture of date syrup, agave syrup and honey. OK I know chocolate has sugar in, but there is very little in an 85% bar, so I let that one go.

Anyway, this is how I did it:
  • Put 250g of rolled oats into a bowl.
  • Added 30g sesame seeds, 20g sunflower seeds, 60g apricot kernels, 30g goji berries, 50g coconut chips, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/4 tsp fleur de sel (sea salt).
  • In a pan warmed 40ml date syrup, 40ml agave syrup, 1 flat tbsp honey and 50ml walnut infused rapeseed oil.
  • Added 50g of 85% dark chocolate (Divine) and stirred until melted.
  • Poured this into the bowl of dry ingredients and mixed until everything was evenly coated.
  • Spread this onto a large baking tray and baked for 50 mins at 125C, turning the mixture a couple of times during the process.
  • Left to cool
  • Stirred in 50g of chopped 85% dark chocolate (Divine). What I wanted to achieve here was to add the chocolate at a point where it would melt a little and clump with the granola mixture, but not so much that it melted completely. I didn't manage it, so the chocolate remained unmelded.
The aroma of chocolate, coconut and roasting seeds emanating from the kitchen whilst this was cooking was mouthwatering and it scented the whole house wonderfully. Of course, I couldn't wait until breakfast the next day to try some, so out came a bowl, spoon and milk and in went the granola. It was delicious and not too sweet; crunchy with the kind of texture which encouraged you to chew and enjoy the diverse flavours. I don't think it will last long.

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