Sunday, 29 July 2012

We Should Cocoa - the Blackcurrant Round-Up

Well it looks as though I pulled off my bad cop persona well for this month's We Should Cocoa as virtually everyone has been telling me that blackcurrants are a really challenging ingredient. Many have been unable to get hold of the fresh berries, some don't like them and a few didn't know what they were. Luckily the vast majority of sceptics were pleasantly surprised when they tried the blackcurrant and chocolate combination and have now been converted to its delights. Once again an amazing display of collective creativity and talent is abundantly displayed. Despite this somewhat difficult challenge, I've still received 37 entries, so a big well done to everyone. So if anyone is stumped as to what to do with blackcurrants in the future you now know where to come.

Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen will be hosting next month, so be sure to check out her blog on the 1st August to see what challenge she will have for us.

Chris of Cooking Around the World got things off to a flying start by tempting me with these very gooey blackcurrant caramel brownies made with blackcurrant jam. Not content with the calorific brownies alone, he served them with hazelnut semifreddo - oh boy!

Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen followed next with one of my absolute favourites, a pavlova. A chocolate and berry pavlova to be precise. Now if there is one thing better than meringue, it is a chocolate meringue topped with summer berries and cream. And just look at that mouth watering layer of chocolate on which the cream and berries are sitting. Cleverly she used frozen berries.

Janine of Cake of the Week used this blackcurrant opportunity to try out the new sugar alternative Truvia. She made chocolate cupcakes with blackcurrant icing. The topping was a new one on me, faux French buttercream made with egg yolks and flavoured with blackcurrant jam.

Here's some white chocolate and blackcurrant ice-cream looking fabulicious and professionally served in a cone with sprinkles and the whole works. Ren of Fabulicious Food reckons she may have found the perfect recipe with this one - an easy to make, no churn ice-cream. She was unable to find fresh berries so used frozen ones.

This amazing blackcurrant and chocolate cake was made by Rachel of Blissfully Scrumptious in honour of the first Dorset CCC meeting. If this cake is anything to go by, the name blissfully scrumptious is not an exaggeration - just look at the lovely stencilling on top. Adapted from a Peggy Porschen recipe, this was a chocolate cake with buttercream filling and topping using blackcurrant jam.

I was pleased to see my old childhood treat, Ribena, make an appearance in these blackcurrant glazed chocolate cakes. Angela of Garden, Tea, Cakes and Me used Ribena both in the cake batter and the glaze but suggested they would be rather good with cassis instead - now there's a suggestion.

Having recently been introduced to friands (little almond cakes), I was thrilled to see these blackcurrant chocolate friands. Made by Linzi of Lancashire Food with her own freshly picked blackcurrants, this was an experiment which looks as though it worked well.

Jill of Lapin D'or and More took the humble Jammy Dodger and transformed it into something else entirely. A hazelnut biscuit sandwiched with layers of chocolate hazelnut praline and homemade blackcurrant jelly then drizzled with chocolate, these would look at home in any top patisserie.

Biscuits were also my choice, although I did also make this blackcurrant rose and white chocolate ripple ice-cream. I really like the contrast of sweet white chocolate and tart juicy fresh blackcurrants and they worked really well in these blackcurrant and white chocolate cookies.

You can never have too many brownies in my book, which is just as well. These brownies from Galina of Chez Maxima have the added benefit of being gluten free. She used redcurrant jelly as a glaze and topped them with fresh blackcurrants.

Snowy of Cookbooks Galore selflessly participated in this month's challenge despite her lack of enthusiasm for blackcurrants. The things we do for the love of a good man! This chocolate torte with a blackcurrant sauce sounds utterly scrumptious to me and contains fresh blackcurrants in the torte as well as the sauce.

Suelle of Mainly Baking opted to use white chocolate for her pairing with the blackcurrants. Inspired by US jam cakes, Suelle used blackcurrant jam to make this blackcurrant jam cake and topped it with a cheese and white chocolate topping.

Everyone loves a good Victoria Sponge, so it was good to see the appearance of these delightful mini Victoria sponges with black fruits and basil cream. Nazima of Working London Mummy used blackcurrant jam to sandwich the sponges together.

The queen of hearts she made some tarts all on a summers day and so did lovely Laura of How to Cook Good Food. Using a chocolate pastry recipe from Chantel Coady, these chocolate jam tarts were filled with blackcurrant jam. Served with a good dollop of whipped, or better still clotted cream on top, these sound heavenly.

Kit from I-Lost in Austen always wows me with both her stunning photography and creative recipes. This almond cream tart with violet & white chocolate cream frosting is no exception. Kit is another who is not a fan of blackcurrants, but these tarts using fresh blackcurrants won her over  I think!

Kate of What Kate Baked, who has been working as a volunteer for the Olympics and is a great enthusiast, has been doing a series on Olympic baking. This, her fourth, is a tribute to athlete Jessica Ennis, one of our hoped for gold medalists. It uses blackcurrant jam - Jess Ennis chocolate and blackcurrant loaf cake.

Hooray, I was hoping some one would use creme de cassis and they have. Claire from Under the Blue Gum Tree, who always wows me with her creative bakes, happened to have an old bottle of this blackcurrant liqueur, which is just as well as fresh blackcurrants probably don't even grow in South Africa, never mind in winter! Inspired by Spanish blogger Collette, these chocolate and cassis pear tarts look fabulous.

I'm very pleased to welcome Maria of Box of Stolen Socks to WSC as she has come up with a pudding which sounds delicious and is positively good for you. Her chocolate berry pudding not only contains frozen blackcurrants, but also avocado and raw cocoa powder. It's also nice and simple to make.

And for something else that's completely different. This time it's from Hannah of Corner Cottage Bakery who has given a savoury twist to this month's theme with her duck breast with red wine blackcurrant and chocolate sauce using blackcurrant jam.

Another WSC newby, Mari of Nutty Tart has rocketed in with an absolute masterpiece. Using fresh blackcurrants, she has made this visually stunning three layered blackcurrant and chocolate mousse cake - it sounds rather tasty too!

Fellow Cornish Blogger the HungryHinny hunted high and low for fresh blackcurrants only to be told they were late coming into season this year. In the end she made a dark chocolate blackcurrant cake using blackcurrant jam. She bit into this very tentatively as she'd once had an allergic reaction to Ribena and hasn't tasted blackcurrants since. Luckily all was well and the HungryHinney can now eat blackcurrants.

Blackcurrant cheesecake is a classic. These oh so pretty blackcurrant and white chocolate cupcake style cheesecakes take it to a whole new level.  Using fresh blackcurrants and cassis, Fleur of Homemade by Fleur made these to look like cupcakes so she could fool her guests.

Another new entrant this month is Steph from Kokopeli's Chocolate she has finally decided to enter after years of reading other people's entries. With these blackcurrant triangles, she is more than welcome. Using fresh blackcurrants and cassis, blackcurrant and white chocolate ganache is topped off with blackcurrant compote and then enrobed in milk chocolate - wow!

Hooray for creme de cassis. Mel of Sharky Oven Gloves, currently residing in New Zealand where blackcurrants are very much out of season at the moment was able to resort to alcohol! Kir in fact, a mixture of white wine and cassis which she used to make these magnificent kir macarons.

Described by Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe as a cross between a brownie and a jammy dodger, I for one am not going to be able to resist making a batch of these most scrumptious sounding chocolate walnut thumbprint biscuits with blackcurrant jam. As already stated blackcurrant jam was the topping of choice, but the biscuits unusually contained walnut oil as well as ground walnuts - mmmm!

Mini bakes are "in" at the moment as has been witnessed by many of the entries this month. Helen of Fuss Free Flavours continues the trend with her mini chocolate and blackcurrant cakes. Using Ed's blackcurrant & chilli jam (sounds gorgeous all by itself), to not only form part of the cake batter she also used it to sandwich and top the cakes along with buttercream.

Caroline of Cake, Crumbs and Cooking was chuffed to find that her rather neglected blackcurrant bush had actually produced some fruit this year. She wanted to bake a simple cake to show of her berries which she's done to great effect in this rather delicious sounding white chocolate, blackcurrant and apricot cake.

This rich and indulgent torte like chocolate and blackcurrant cake comes from Jean of Baking in Franglais. Jean managed to buy a punnet of fresh blackcurrants on a visit to Cumber Park where they had been picked from the garden that morning.

More mini cakes, this time from Maggie of Kitchen Delights who produced these chocolate and blackcurrant cupcakes. Maggie used fresh blackcurrants in the cake batter and then frosted some for decoration where they look absolutely splendid.

And for something completely different again. Ros, The More Than Occasional Baker made chocolate marshmallows with blackcurrant jam filling. Ros wasn't too happy with the result as she didn't think they set properly and were more jelly than mallow. Luckily, she reports that they tasted delicious, which after all is the thing that really counts. I know I would have been very happy eating my way through them.

Vikki from Cake Fairy Blog was looking forward to using tart juicy, colourful blackcurrants, but was also unable to source them. She did, however, discover yogurt coated blackcurrants - at two o'clock in the morning! I didn't know such things existed. With them she made some delicious chewy chocolate and yogurt coated blackcurrant cookies.

Seeing a load of blackcurrants at London's Borough Market, Lottie of Lottie's World of Cakes grabbed some with the idea of making a cheesecake. Having seen so many brownies on sale whilst she was there, she was inspired to make this blackcurrant cheesecake with a brownie base, which I have to say looks absolutely delicious. As well as using fresh blackcurrants Lottie also used blackcurrant jam.

Blackcurrants made Gill of Tales of Pigling Bland think of crumble and custard, so she did the obvious thing ...... and made a dark chocolate, custard and blackcurrant crumble cake! Gill used tinned blackcurrants but stated she couldn't taste the custard. Custard or no custard, I wouldn't say no to one or two of these cakes.

Lucy The KitchenMaid made a wonderful sounding Queen of puddings for We Should Cocoa, but was unable to take a photo. A jar of plum, blackcurrant and lime jam made by a friend, found its way into this old favourite - as well as chocolate of course. Luckily, she also made some no churn blackcurrant ice-cream for which she did have a photo. Of the three blackcurrant ice-creams, mine, Ren's and Lucy's, all were made with condensed milk, chocolate and blackcurrants, but all were different.

Missing her opportunity to get hold of the fresh blackcurrants sold locally, Susan of A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate resorted to blackcurrant preserve and made these scrumptious looking chocolate and blackcurrant thumbprint biscuits. I'm looking forward to seeing the chocolate and blackcurrant mousse she'd originally had planned.

Now if there is one thing better than brownies, it's probably brownies on the beach. The magnificent Dom of Belleau Kitchen made blackcurrant beach brownies using fresh juicy blackcurrants for his mother's birthday. Despite his worries about using salted butter, they turned out beautifully - of course.

Karen of Lavender and Lovage has such a way with words and always great pictures. The title of her bake alone makes me want to dive straight in. Using her own homegrown fresh blackcurrants, Karen has given us double chocolate and summer berries truffle slice.

I shall be adding these onto the We Should Cocoa board on Pinterest in due course, so do feel free to pin away when I've done so!

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Elizabeth Shaw Chocolates - A Review & Giveaway

Elizabeth Shaw, that well known purveyor of chocolate mint crisps has recently launched a new range of flavours. As a confirmed chocoholic (in case you didn't know), I was happy to accept a hamper of goodies to try out - get your fix where you can, I say!

A large box duly arrived in the post and I was excited to see a variety of goodies in it. Pretty much anything wrapped in pretty coloured tissue paper pleases me and the hamper was packed with a generous amount of maroon coloured paper - lovely.

Although I have been known to say on many an occasion that I don't like my chocolate too sweet, I do have a weakness for caramel, butterscotch, toffee and honeycomb flavours. So despite knowing these were likely to be very sweet, I was not deterred. And I was right, I did find them very sweet, but also very hard to stop eating once I'd started. CT thought that although they were sweet, they didn't hit his palate in the way that many other sweet chocolates do. Each flavour is denoted by a different coloured foil wrapper in the type of autumnal colours I appreciate. CT and I both did our taste testing without knowing what the flavours were.

Dark Brown - This dark chocolate (45%) containing cocoa nibs smelt predominately of chocolate and CT thought it tasted more like a straight piece of dark chocolate than any of the other varieties. We both really liked the presence of cocoa nibs which helped counteract the general sweetness and gave an and extended presence in the mouth. I like cocoa nibs and use them regularly, but some may find the crunch of these a little too dry and bitter.

Orange - Milk chocolate with pieces of honeycomb which had the enticing aroma of toffee and condensed milk. I found this the sweetest of the four, but CT thought it wasn't as sweet as he was expecting and certainly not as sweet as the gold. I thought the crunch pieces had a delicious butterscotch / toffee flavour, but apparently I was wrong as this is the honeycomb.

Maroon - I found it harder to identify the flavour of this one, but it smelt more chocolatey than the orange or gold. It was certainly my favourite, being less sweet than the two previously mentioned, but with that "burnt" sugar flavour that I like so much. CT thought it had a nice fruity note to it. As it happened, I got this one right - caramel flavour.

Gold - milk chocolate containing what I thought were honeycomb pieces - turns out I was wrong again. This one was butterscotch, or at least that's what it said on the label. Identity notwithstanding, it had a lovely crunch and flavour, although it was quite sweet. CT detected a certain drying quality in the mouth after eating this, which once pointed out, I also noticed.

The mint crisps are a classic. Dark chocolate (57%) with mint honeycomb crisp, these are crunchy, minty and rich. We tried the 100g chocolate bar which is divided into eight large squares. Two squares were plenty and although they were good, the richness of the chocolate and the intensity of the mint stopped me indulging further. CT, likewise, thought this chocolate was just the right side of being too strong.

Four packs of flutes were included:

  • Latte - white chocolate batons with a coffee chocolate centre.
  • Amaretto - milk chocolate (30%) batons with amaretto.
  • Orange - dark chocolate (50%) batons with an orange milk chocolate (30%) centre.
  • Mint - dark chocolate (50%) batons with a mint fondant centre

We tried the Amaretto ones. As soon as I opened the packet a powerful smell of almonds was released - no surprise there. And not also not surprisingly they tasted of Amaretto too. I was slightly concerned that they would taste like the product of a chemistry set, but they were actually rather good. CT thought the flavour was reminiscent of a Bakewell tart - he likes Bakewell tarts.

These chocolates may not be top notch artisanal products but they are real chocolate with no nasty additions and they are also reasonably priced. A 175g box of chocolate crisps costs around £3.50.

If you don't mind signing up to their newsletter, Elizabeth Shaw are giving away a hamper with even more in it than the one I received. To be in with a chance of winning you will need to go here to their website.

Disclaimer: I was sent a variety of Elizabeth Shaw products for review purposes and as always all opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Blackcurrant, Rose & White Chocolate Ripple Ice-Cream

When I set this month's We Should Cocoa challenge for blackcurrants, I couldn't get that fruit out of my head and various ideas kept coming and going. One of these was to make semifreddo using blackcurrants and white chocolate - somehow blackcurrants and dark chocolate just didn't seem right. I've been wanting to try semifreddo for a long time now as I keep hearing various bloggers rave about it and more importantly it doesn't need churning. As I have no ice-cream maker that has got to be a good thing. However Kavey set condensed milk for her Bloggers Scream for Ice-Cream challenge this month and as this is also a no churn ice-cream, I had a rethink. Semifreddo would have to wait for another time.

As it happened, although I'd already made blackcurrant and white chocolate biscuits for We Should Cocoa, I still had blackcurrants in mind for ice-cream. I also had some left over that needed using up. I've never tried rose with blackcurrants before, but as it works so well with rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries, I thought it would do the same for blackcurrants and was keen to try it out. Ren Behan actually got there before me with this delicious looking ice-cream. However, it was too late to change my mind and I was going to do things a little differently anyway. I based my recipe on this Good Food one, but changed it quite considerably.

This is what I did:
  • Simmered 110g of blackcurrants in a small covered pan with a dessertspoon of rose sugar and a desertspoon of water for about 5 minutes.
  • Squished this through a sieve to remove the tops and seeds.
  • Added 1 tbsp of rose syrup.
  • Left to cool.
  • Melted 40g vanillary white chocolate (G&B) over a pan of hot water then stirred in a 100ml condensed milk.
  • Whipped 300ml double cream until soft peaks formed.
  • Added 100ml condensed milk and whipped again.
  • Stirred in the white chocolate mixture until all incorporated.
  • Poured in the blackcurrents and tried to stir it through the mixture to cause a ripple effect.
  • Spooned into containers and placed in the freezer.
This ice-cream really surprised me. Not a hint of ice crystals and a beautifully smooth unctuous feel to it. I had been expecting it to be sickly sweet with all that condensed milk. Although it was sweet however, the blackcurrants balanced it out nicely and it was absolutely delicious. The main flavour was of course blackcurrants, but the richness of the white chocolate gave it body and just a hint of rose pervaded the whole in a delightful way. As I'd hoped, rose pairs very well with blackcurrants too. And of course I just loved the colour of the blackcurrants. All in all I was really satisfied with this easy to make ice-cream and will be making it again for sure. Next time I might try adding less condensed milk and a bit more cream to make it less sweet, but no other adjustments needed.

I am also submitting this to Fabulicious Summer Ices over at Lancashire Food where there is an Emma Bridgewater cool bag to be awarded to one lucky entrant.

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