Friday, 31 August 2012

Cocoa Boutique - a Review

Cocoa Boutique is a new chocolate club offering a monthly selection of artisan chocolates delivered by post. Each month a different selection is offered from a range of chocolatiers who are located in Britain and further afield. The boxes are sturdy and well finished with an elegant appearance. They are designed to fit through standard letterboxes, so need to return home to a delivery note when you're tired and hungry.  The boxes come with a description of each chocolate and a scoring card which you can use for feedback.

The selection I received for review contained chocolates from chocolatiers Barry Coleno, Pierre Ledent and Claire Hicklin. It was a good mix of dark, milk and white chocolates. There was plenty of contrast: from rich dark chocolate brandy truffles and strong dark chocolate coffee beans to creamy white chocolate buttons and pink champagne truffles. There were two of each chocolate, which theoretically makes it easier to share, although CT might disagree. In addition to these, there were also a handful of white, milk & dark buttons, some coffee beans and some chocolate covered honeycomb pieces.

If you like your chocolates teetotal, look elsewhere - there was plenty of alcohol sloshing around in the form of champagne, cassis, rum, brandy and Irish cream; the warming effect from these was welcome as the rain continued to lash down. As a general observation CT and I enjoyed most of these chocolates and found them to be rich, flavourful and not too sweet. The selection was interesting with a good range of fillings, textures, flavours and types of chocolate. Note to CT, I'd be happy to receive one of these on a monthly basis - assuming you think I'm worth £19.95 a month!

I've highlighted a few of my favourites:

  • Milk Chocolate Almond Praline - the combination of roasted salty pralined crunchy almonds covered in milk chocolate was as good as it sounds, if not better.
  • Cocoa Dusted Dark Chocolate Salted Caramels - need I say more!            
  • Raspberry with a Hint of Orange - raspberry and chocolate is one of my favourite flavour combinations. This one was particularly interesting as the hint of orange brought out the raspberry flavour without overpowering it.
  • Milk Chocolate Honeycomb - small pieces of honeycomb covered in chocolate gave a good ratio of chocolate to sweet, sticky honeycomb.
Others were the interestingly named Pamela, which was an unusual combination of pear and cassis ganache; a milk chocolate truffle which tasted alcoholic, although this wasn't mentioned in the description; a white strawberry cream which had lovely light mousy texture but was slightly too sweet for me; a pink champagne truffle the flavour of which hit almost before touching our tongues.  It was rich and sweet.

Coffee flavour not being one of my favourites, I left these for CT to try. He enjoyed the Vanilla Irish Cream, found the Rum Cafe Cream pleasant but lacking a distinctive coffee note. Not everything was to his liking, however: the coffee beans had an overly strong smoky and burnt flavour possibly due to over roasting. I tried one and had to agree.

If you'd like a chance of becoming a "taster" for Cocoa Boutique and getting a box of chocolates every month, they are currently running a competition to pick 25 tasters.

And if you'd like to get an introductory box to try for only £9.95, then click here.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Lemon Sherbet Tiffin - Random Recipes #19

It's time for that most exciting of blog challenges Random Recipes again. This month, Dom over at Belleau Kitchen has taken us back to the beginning with his simple, but not necessarily easy, formula of picking a book randomly and then picking a random page number. With a hundred and one things to do, I was somewhat trepidacious as to what I might be landed with. As usual, CT did the honours and came up with Cox Cookies & Cake by Eric Lanlard. I used my new method of including all of my baking books as well as my chocolate ones: if I don't get a chocolate recipe right away I just keep turning the pages until I come to the first one that includes chocolate. Well CT picked page 78 - fat-free jasmine & violet cupcakes. Hmmm, no chocolate there. Nothing on the next page either or the next one, nothing in fact until page 91 which was for chocolate icing. Well, much as I enjoy a good icing, I didn't fancy just eating a bowl of that on its own. Hmmm, ah, light bulb moment!

Let's start from the very beginning
Although I baked the biscuits for the Tiffin, this is not required as any bought biscuits can easily be substituted.
Whilst reviewing Honeybuns gluten free baking recently and pondering on what exactly I was going to make first, I spotted a new challenge. Sarah Maison Cupcake's new Zero Baking Required made the decision for me: chocolate orange tiffin. Actually, it would be chocolate lemon tiffin as I had some lemon curd that I'd made a while ago and it needed using up. So to get Dom's random recipe into the mix, it was a simple substitution of the Honeybun's chocolate topping for Eric Lanlard's one, or ahem, one based on Eric's. His used single cream which I didn't have, but I did have some double cream. I decided to make only half the quantity of tiffen stated in the book as it did seem rather generous and similarly half the quantity of icing. But first I had to make some custard creams.

This is how I made Gluten Free Chocolate Lemon Tiffin:
  • Melted 50g unsalted butter in a pan with 2.5 tbsp of golden syrup and half 1 scant tbsp of cocoa.
  • Crushed 31 of the heart shaped custard biscuits I'd just made so lovingly with the end of a rolling pin.
  • Poured in the melted butter mixture and stirred until all incorporated. At this point I was rather concerned that the mixture was way too dry and wouldn't hold together. But I decided to trust the recipe and stick with it.
  • Pressed this into the base of a 21 cm (8") sq tin lined with baking paper.
  • Placed in the fridge for 1/2 an hour to set.
  • Creamed 25g unsalted butter with 100g icing sugar until incorporated.
  • Beat in 2 heaped tbsp of home made lemon curd.
  • Spread this over the biscuit base.
  • Placed back in the fridge whilst getting on with the next stage.
  • Heated 100ml double cream in a pan until just about boiling.
  • Poured this over 125g chopped dark chocolate (25g G&B Maya Gold & 100g G&B 72%).
  • Stirred in 25g unsalted butter and 1/2 tsp of orange flower water.
  • Poured this over the lemon cream layer.
  • Placed back in the fridge to set.
  • Slid out of the tin and cut into 16 squares.
I was very glad I trusted the recipe, as the tiffin held together really well and cut beautifully. Even using half the amount, I still got 16 decent sized squares. Using double cream for the chocolate icing worked well, as it set more solidly than I suspect it would have done using single cream. These not only looked appealing, but were delicious too. They were not overly sweet, tasted of chocolate covered lemon sherbet and had a great contrast of textures and flavours - although the orange was rather lost to the lemon. The smooth chocolate, creamy zingy lemon and a really nice crunch from the biscuits worked very well. CT thought these looked very similar to millionaire's shortbread but were far superior. The sweet cloying quality he associated with them was absent and he found them much more refreshing.

As this was the first time I've ever made my own biscuits for a refrigerator cake, I am also submitting these to Javelin Warrior's Made With Love Mondays where everything must be made from scratch - even the lemon curd was my own.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Custard Creams & a Review of Honeybuns Gluten-Free Baking

For those not in the know, Honeybuns is a gluten free bakery selling all types of cakes and biscuits throughout the UK. Established by the appropriately named Emma Goss-Custard in Oxford in 1998, Honeybuns has moved from a lone bicycle delivering homemade cakes, to a company employing 25 people. It is now located at Naish Farm in Dorset, where a nature reserve has taken the place of conventional agricultural activities and the farm buildings have been converted into a bakery. An old chicken shed now houses the Bee Shack cafe, which claims to serve the best gluten free cream tea in Dorset. Canny punters head there to get their fix. For those keen to try this exclusive experience, make sure you turn up on the first Saturday of every month - that's the only day it's open.

The Honeybuns website is quirky and fun and features a blog, a web cam of Joaney the donkey as well as the promotion of Bee Green and local produce. It also has an online shop available if you are unable to source their products locally.

The book is equally quirky and reflects Emma's ethos of caring about good quality food, the environment and the local community. The first thing I noticed when I opened the book, was a little box accompanying each recipe stating what could be composted. Eggshells, tea bags and orange, for example, can be composted from the delightfully named Bumble Barrow fruit cake.

I have to say I fell in love with this book the moment I saw it. Written by Emma, it has its own style, homely and based on real life experience but with a modern twist. I liked the look and feel of the book with its robust hardback cover featuring not only a scrumptious looking cake, but also a Cornishware jug. The pages are well laid out with clearly written instructions. Tips and alternative ways of doing things are scattered throughout. The accompanying photographs made me want to set to immediately with my trusty bowl and wooden spoon or better still grab a fork and get stuck in. In keeping with the rest of the homely nature of the book, the pictures are not highly styled and have a mat finish which appeals to me. Some of the pictures featured a number of vintage tea plates, which I'm now coveting. Although there are plenty of pictures, not all of the recipes have one, a common but disappointing feature of many cookery books these days. Pages are also enlivened with little sketches, such as cups, teapots, jugs and bees.

The book starts with the Honeybuns story and goes on to describe gluten free baking and what different ingredients and techniques are needed. It is then divided into seven specific chapters relating to a different type of bake: cakes, muffins, traybakes, brownies & other chocolatey things, flapjacks, cookies & biscuits and puddings. It finishes with a list of gluten free storcupboard ingredients and where you might be able to buy them.

Unsurprisingly, the chapter on brownies and other chocolatey things drew me in rather quickly - I might even have, err, jumped directly to it! And no regrets, there was plenty there to keep me interested, including two types of brownies, some chocolate and prune cakes topped by chocolate dipped prunes, a chilli chocolate cake and double chocolate and raspberry tartlets.

Each recipe features an introduction, giving a bit of background to the recipe and mentioning any specific health benefits the featured ingredients have. We are told, for example, that the toffee-topped almond and rhubarb cake contains vitamins A and C from the rhubarb. Many of the recipes are also dairy free.

The ingredients used are not just a mere substitution of gluten free flour for wheat flour, the recipes are interesting, appealing and worthy in their own right. Ground almonds, ground hazelnuts, polenta and gluten free oats are the main ingredients used, although linseed, sorghum, tapioca and rice flours are also used in some recipes. Any pre-conceived ideas of what gluten free cooking is like should be abandoned: there is no hardship or deprivation to be found here.

So, out came my trusty bowl and spoon and into it went the ingredients for custard cream biscuits. What have custard creams got to do with chocolate you might ask? Well the chocolate recipe I really wanted to make needed some custard creams (without the cream) as a base - what is a poor girl to do?

Custard Creams

This is what I did:
  • Creamed 150g unsalted butter with 150g caster sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in 1 duck egg and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Stirred in 150g polenta, 150g ground almonds and 100g custard powder.
  • Brought together into a ball, covered in plastic and placed in the refrigerator to firm up a bit as it was very soft and sticky.
  • Dusted work top very liberally with gluten free flour as dough was still quite soft.
  • Rolled out to about 1/4 cm thick and cut into heart shapes with a 4 x 5 cm cutter.
  • Gathered all the bits into another ball and repeated the rolling and cutting process.
  • Placed them slightly apart on lined baking trays as they were said to spread.
  • Baked at 180C for 10 minutes until slightly browned - well a few were more than slightly browned, but it's hard to get an even bake in my oven.
This made 62 biscuits in total.
  • Creamed 25g unsalted butter with 20g icing sugar and a tsp of custard powder.
  • Added a drop of vanilla extract and creamed some more.
  • Spread this over 8 of the biscuits and placed another on top.
  • Dusted with icing sugar.
  • Put aside all other biscuits to be used for another recipe.
These turned into a great crunchy biscuit with a pronounced granular texture from the polenta. They tasted sweet and buttery with a good dose of vanilla. The butteryness reminded CT of Bonne Maman Galettes - I had no luck whatsoever in restraining him. Although the texture was very different, I thought the custard creams tasted quite similar to the shop bought variety I remember - only better.

Disclaimer - this book was sent to me by the publishers, Anova Books, for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Raspberry & White Chocolate Friands

My friends the friands are back. This time it's with a bright pink fruity version. I give you my very own mini raspberry & white chocolate friands, made for after dinner nibbles with friends.

This is what I did:
  • Melted 60g unsalted butter in a small pan and left to cool.
  • Crushed 50g raspberries in a small bowl with the back of a fork.
  • Whisked 2 duck egg whites until frothy in a larger bowl.
  • Whisked in 80g sifted icing sugar.
  • Gently stirred in the melted butter and crushed raspberries.
  • Stirred 30g buckwheat flour and 40g ground almonds.
  • Stirred in 50g white chocolate chips.
  • Placed a teaspoon of the mixture in 12 mini silicone cupcake cases.
  • Placed a whole raspberry on top then filled the cases up with more mixture.
  • Divided the remaining mixture between 4 larger silicone cupcakes cases.
  • Baked for about 15 minutes at 180C until firm and well risen.
  • Left to cool for a little, then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Dusted with icing sugar.
Utterly scrumptious, these little friands had just the right balance of sweetness and fruity acidity.  The juicy texture combined with the bright colour made these gorgeous to look at and just as good to eat. These were so moist they needed to be consumed on the day, but to be honest, this was not a difficulty.

These are the other scrummy friands I've made so far.

I am submitting these to the fabulicious Simple and in Season event. Having been on tour for a few months, this is now back home with Ren of Fabulicious Food.

I'm also submitting them to Let's Cook with Fruits, a one off event this month hosted by Simply Food.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Chocolate Swirled Clafoutis - We Should Cocoa 24

As soon as I heard that Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen had picked cherries as the special ingredient for this month's We Should Cocoa, I had clafoutis in mind. For Christmas I received a beautiful red clafoutis dish from my mother and although much admired, I hadn't actually used it yet. This was the spur I needed.

Clafoutis is a simple dish which hails originally from the Limousin region of France where black cherries grow in abundance. The cherries should be cooked in the batter unpitted as the stones are meant to impart an almond flavour to the batter if left in. This is certainly how I remember it being served when I was living in Switzerland. In fact the very mention of clafoutis takes me straight back to my au pair days there many years ago. It was my first taste of the dish and also my first and only experience of an abundance of cherries - they seemed to grow everywhere. It should be served warm, rather than hot which allows the batter to firm up a bit and the flavours to be more prominent. If any fruit other than black cherries are used, it is no longer a clafoutis, apparently, but a flaugnarde.

When I checked through my books, using the wonderful Eat Your Books (head to my sidebar), I only had one recipe for a classic clafoutis (Clafoutis Limousin) and that was in The Cranks Bible by Nadine Abensur. It just needed a little extra something of course - chocolate. Cherries and dark chocolate are a classic combination, you only have to think Black Forest Gateau. So I thought I'd try swirling some chocolate through the mix to add a nice contrast and hopefully look good too. I made half of the quantity given, substituted reducrrant liqueur for cognac and left out the additional egg yolks. I also stuck to tradition and didn't pit the cherries as Nadine directed. Apart from anything else, they are a pain to remove and easy enough to spit out, or did I mean delicately extract, when eating.

This is what I did:
  • Buttered my clafoutis dish.
  • Sprinkled a dessertspoon of rose (caster) sugar over the base.
  • Scattered 250g of large washed sweet black cherries around the dish.
  • Whisked 30g of rose sugar with 2 large hens eggs until well incorporated.
  • Whisked in 1/4 pt double cream and 1/4 pt milk.
  • Sifted in 1 tbsp wholemeal flour, 1 tbsp white flour and a pinch of Pink Himalayan salt and folded into the egg mixture until just about smooth.
  • Poured batter over the cherries.
  • Melted 50g milk chocolate (G&B 35%) with 20g of unsalted butter in a pan over low heat.
  • Poured this over the batter in an attempted swirly pattern.
  • Spooned 2 tbsp redcurrant liqueur over the top.
  • Baked at 190C for 30 minutes.
The chocolate effect was more of a drizzle than a swirl, but I was nonetheless pleased with the result and I'm raring to do it again. Because it looked so good, I didn't dust icing sugar over the top as tradition demands.

Simple thought it may be, the clafoutis tasted absolutely delicious. The batter had transformed into a creamy custard which reminded me of creme caramel. CT thought the chocolate gave it a caramel quality which supported my finding. The cherries were delicious and the stones really did give an extra hit of almond. We both liked chocolate being swirled through the batter rather than thoroughly mixed in as it gave a nice contrast of flavours. In one of CTs mad moments, he reckoned that the chocolate taste punctuated his consciousness intermittently as it swirled around his mouth. It was not overly sweet, but very very tasty. We both agreed that this was comfort food at its most satisfying but without the stodge factor which is what you want in the summer, even though summer has failed to materialise this year.

I am also linking my clafoutis to Cook.Eat.Delicious-Desserts, a monthly event created by Cook Eat Delicious. Hosted this month by Culinary Vibes, the theme is chocolate - how could I resist!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Chocolate by Genevie - Review & Giveaway #11

Up in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, there is a new chocolatiere on the block - Chocolate by Genevie. As you can probably guess, in my opinion, you can't have too many chocolatiers. All of the chocolates are sourced from Belgium "using only the finest ingredients". At this moment in time, these chocolates can only be bought via the online shop. The boxes come in many shapes and sizes with various price tags to match and all are delivered free within the UK.

I received a beautifully packaged box of sixteen chocolates to review. As some of you may have gathered from the Tower of Gold Boxes giveaway (still running), I am rather partial to gold. The box was gold, tied with a gold silken ribbon with a golden butterfly attached. Butterflies seem to be Genevie's signature as I noticed many of her boxes have one or more butterflies strategically located.

The chocolates were all good and chunky with a mix of thick shelled plain, milk and white. There were a good range of fillings, with only a couple of duplications. There was no accompanying menu so I had to guess at what the fillings were and hope I didn't get a coffee one by mistake. There were some clues however, coffee beans and orange slices on the top weren't really too difficult to work out. CT had the pleasure of trying the ones topped with coffee beans which he thought were quite pleasant. I think some of the other flavours were rum, strawberry, citrus and pistachio and alcohol featured quite strongly in a couple of them. Fillings were various from soft ganache and mousses to sturdier truffles and marzipan. Luckily there were three of the marzipan variety covered in both dark and milk chocolate - marzipan has always been one of my favourites and I enjoyed these. The chocolates were a little too sweet for our tastes, but that is a common finding for us and I suspect that this would not be an issue for most chocoholics.

Genevie has kindly offered a similar box to one of my readers, although this is only open to those over 18 with a UK postal address. To enter this fabulous giveaway you will need to use the Rafflecopter below and leave a comment on my blog - as instructed by Rafflecopter. There will then be additional chances to enter if you so wish. Rafflecopter will pick a winner at random from the entries received. If you are commenting anonymously, please give me some way of identifying you as I will be verifying the validity of entries.

Any automated entries will be disqualified.

Closing date is Monday 10th September.

11 September 2012 - Thanks to everyone who entered. I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts on Edinburgh - some of them were very entertaining.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

White Chocolate & Whey Scones

It's that time of year again! Yes, it's International Scone Week over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial - only it seems to have morphed into International Scone Fortnight this year! Actually, it looks like I've missed the boat and the round-up is already posted. Do check it out as there are a number of very different and delicious scones to admire.

I've always had a bit of trouble with scones, but last year's International Scone Week, galvanised me into action and I decided I was going to get to grips with making light and delicious scones once and for all. The resulting chocolate scones were perhaps not the lightest ever, but they were still at the upper end of the scale of good and tasted delicious.

Having just made curd tarts, I had rather a lot of whey left over, so the obvious thing to do with it was to make scones. I made these fabulous white chocolate scones earlier in the year so I used similar quantities, only this time without butter and whey rather than sour milk. I crossed my fingers that they worked out OK.

This is what I did:
  • Finely grated 2oz white chocolate (G&B)
  • Sieved 8oz flour (2oz wholemeal, 6oz white) into a bowl with 1 tsp cream of tarter and 1/2 tsp of bicarb of soda.
  • Added the chocolate and gave a good stir.
  • Made a well in the centre and added 1/4 pt of whey.
  • Stirred until all incorporated.
  • Brought mixture together with my hands handling it as little as possible.
  • Rolled it out to about 3/4 " and cut into 9 rounds.
  • placed on a lined baking sheet and brushed with whey.
  • Baked at 185C for 15 minutes.
Those crossed fingers seemed to do the trick: the scones were delightful, light, but moist with a nice hint of vanilla from the chocolate. They were so simple to make too, not rubbing butter into flour, which for some reason I particularly dislike. They went remarkably well with some of my mother's homemade blackcurrant jam and a good dollop of Cornish clotted cream.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Yorkshire Curd Tarts - Best of British Yorkshire

As some of you might have gathered by now, there is a monthly blog challenge for the Best of British created and supported by The Face of New World Appliances. Each month, a different region or county within the UK is featured and the challenge is to make either a dish from that area or using ingredients that come from it. I'm keen to support this as it is very much about promoting British produce AND I did kick things off with the Best of British Cornwall back in May. There is also an incentive of a possible £50 Amazon voucher for one lucky entrant. Janice of Farmergirl Kitchen hosted a Scottish challenge in June and the current one, for Yorkshire is hosted by the exuberant and energetic Karen from Lavender and Lovage.

Now, since trying my first (and only) Yorkshire curd tart when I was in York last year - from the famous Betty's Tea Rooms no less - I've been wanting to try my hand at making them myself. Needless to say, it took this challenge to get me kick started. A couple of nights ago a group of us went to see No Fit State, an amazing animal free circus that is performing at the Eden Project throughout August. We were all meeting up for a picnic beforehand, which seemed like a perfect opportunity to try out the tarts. Of course, these  were my interpretation of this classic recipe - I had to get chocolate in somehow! I based the filling on this Hairy Bikers recipe.

This is what I did:
  • The night before, brought 2 pints of milk to a simmer.
  • Squeezed in the juice of a lemon and left the milk to cool down, stirring very briefly.
  • Poured the mixture into a sieve lined with a cheesecloth and left overnight for the whey to drip out.
  • Placed 150g of wholemeal flour in a bowl with 25g cocoa powder and 15g icing sugar.
  • Added 100g of cold cubed unsalted butter and rubbed the mixture between my fingers until it resembled breadcrumbs.
  • Threw in an egg yolk and a splash of cold water.
  • Stirred and brought the mixture together into a ball.
  • Placed in a plastic bag and put in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  • Creamed 65g of unsalted butter with 65g cardamom (caster) sugar until very light and fluffy.
  • Grated in the zest of an organic lemon and creamed some more.
  • Beat in an egg until thoroughly combined.
  • Stirred in the curd cheese.
  • Added 25g of raisins (would have used current, but didn't have any).
  • Rolled out the chilled pastry and cut into rounds to fill four 9cm tart cases and 7 jam tart sized dimensions - I used my muffin moulds.
  • Divided the mixture between the tarts and baked at 180C - 20 minutes for the larger tarts and 13 minutes for the smaller ones.
The tarts were delicious, just as good as I remembered the one from Betty's Tea Rooms. The chocolate pastry offset the sweetness of the filling and the overall effect was very satisfying - certainly everyone seemed to enjoy them. We picnicked in the evening sunshine, a rare event this summer. We then enjoyed a fabulous performance of flying trapezes, rope climbing, hula hoops, trampolining, contortionism and pole dancing like you've never seen before. Oh and the music was good too.

As these are tarts and they were baked especially for a picnic - where they were all consumed I might add, they fit very well into this month's Tea Time Treats. Hosted on alternate months by Kate of What Kate Baked and Karen of Lavender and Lovage, this month's theme chosen by Kate is picnic pies. I might almost have planned it ;-)

Friday, 10 August 2012

Organic Seed & Bean Chocolate Bars - a review

Seed & Bean are a UK chocolate company selling organic and fair trade chocolate, handmade in Northampton. This is the only company I know of in the UK making chocolate bars which tick both of these very important boxes. The organic certifying body is the Soil Association, of which I'm a keen supporter, so Seed & Bean get extra points for this too. If you are interested in finding out more about their ethical credentials, there is plenty to be found on their website.

Not only is this an ethical company, but it has won two great taste awards from the Academy of Chocolate. It has an interesting and unusual flavour range including coconut & raspberry, lemon & cardamom, pumpkin seeds & hemp oil and Cornish sea salt. They have recently brought out a range of new flavours and a while ago I was sent two of their new bars to review. The chocolate they use for the majority of bars is a good quality Trinitario from the Dominican Republic, so I was expecting to like them. Luckily, I wasn't disappointed and after tasting them, all I can say is I wish I'd been sent more.

Lemon & Poppy Seed - Creamy White Chocolate cane sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, poppy seeds, lemon oil, soya lecithin, vanilla powder.
Whilst I am a big fan of using white chocolate in baking, I usually find it too sweet and sickly to eat on its own. However, this bar is neither overly sweet nor sickly and if CT hadn't been around I would have happily eaten the whole bar all by myself. The lemon offsets any excessive sweetness that might linger on the palate. I was also pleased to discover that the lemon is quite subtle and tastes more zesty than sour. The poppy seeds give a delightful crunch to proceedings and have a delicate nutty flavour all of their own. I've made lemon and poppy seed cake many a time and now I'm wondering why I've never added white chocolate to it - something which needs to be remedied I feel. I'm almost tempted to use a bar of this chocolate to make the cake, but surely that would be a waste of a good bar - it did get a great taste gold award after all.

Mandarin & Ginger - Extra Dark Chocolate 72%. cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla extract, mandarin oil, ginger oil.
The flavour of mandarin hit first followed by a really rich punch from the dark chocolate finishing with a hint of gingery warmth which lingers in the mouth - nice. Neither too sweet nor too bitter, the ginger gave a subtle support to the mandarin and the two flavours were well balanced. The chocolate melted smoothly in the mouth and was more refined in character than many chocolates I've tasted. Dark is not my first chocolate of choice, but I really enjoyed this one. The great thing about good dark chocolate such as this, is that a little goes a very long way. A couple of squares and the chocolate craving has been satisfied - for a while! A very enjoyable bar.

I'm not sure how easy these 85g bars are to source, but they can be purchased from the Seed & Bean online shop at a cost of £2.29.

Disclaimer - I was sent these two bars for review purposes and as always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Chocolate & Rose Summer Fruit Tiramisu / Trifle

Is it a trifle? It doesn't have jelly or custard. Is it tiramisu? It doesn't have coffee.  However, I had a pudding to make for a 40th birthday party and after seeing Chris's strawberry-rhubarb tiramisu over at Cooking Around The World, I felt inspired to create my own chocolate version using the redcurrants we'd picked from a friend's garden.

This is what I did:
  • Whisked 4 large eggs with 200g rose (caster) sugar with electric beaters until tripled in volume.
  • Folded in 170g of sifted plain white flour and 30g of cocoa powder being careful not to knock the air out of the sponge.
  • Spooned into a lined large baking tray 26x38 cm and baked at 180C for 12 minutes.
  • Left to cool then cut into fingers.
  • Lined a large pizza bowl (the only large dish I have) with the sponge fingers.
  • Sliced 3 slightly under ripe nectarines - each one into 16 pieces.
  • Dipped the slices in rose sugar then placed in a buttered dish and roasted at 200C for 10 minutes.
  • Scattered these, whilst still warm (so they didn't turn to toffee), over the sponge fingers.
  • De-glazed the dish with a large sloosh of redcurrant vodka and 4 tbsp of rose syrup.
  • Dribbled some of this over the sponge fingers.
  • Rolled a punnet of blueberries - (minus 18 for decoration) and a large handful of redcurrants in the rest of the glaze then scattered everything over the sponge fingers.
  • Scraped the seeds from a vanilla bean and beat into 250g mascarpone with 1 tbsp rose syrup.
  • Whisked 600ml double cream with electric beaters until soft peaks.
  • Stirred the two together and spooned over the fruity sponge.
  • Scattered a load of grated chocolate over the top and used the remaining blueberries and a few strigs of redcurrants to decorate.
Whether, trifle, tiramisu or something else all together, it was absolutely delicious. The caramelised nectarines were a revelation with the flavours really intensifying during the roasting yet still remaining juicy. The sweet chocolatey sponge soaked in alcohol combined brilliantly with the rich vanilla and rose mascarpone cream, which in turn was offset by the tart and flavoursome fruit. Who needs coffee or custard?

I am entering this into the One Ingredient challenge, hosted this month by Nazima of Working London Mummy, but hosted on alternate months by Laura of How to Cook Good Food. The chosen ingredient is peaches or nectarines.

I'm also entering this into Alpha Bakes which is T for Trifle or Tiramisu this month. Alpha Bakes is hosted alternately by Caroline of Caroline Makes and this month by Ros of The More Than Occasional Baker.

And last but by no means least, I'm submitting these to Javelin Warrior's Made With Love Mondays. This celebrates food that is made entirely from scratch and as I made the sponge fingers for this, I think it counts.

And another event I've just found which, given that the theme is chocolate desserts, I really can't miss out on! CookEatDelicious-Desserts is the brainchild of Cook Eat Delicious, but is being hosted this month by Culinary Vibes.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Chocolate Hamper Tower Giveaway #10

When it comes to colour, subtlety is not my thing. I love bright, bold and some may say garish colours. I especially love gold. So, when I was given the opportunity to try this gold hamper tower from Hamper Gifts, I couldn't resist it - never mind the contents.

As it happened, the contents of this Deluxe Golden Tower Hamper were worth having too - it is mostly filled with chocolate after all.  The mix was eclectic with all sorts of unusual items packed in together, some of which we've already eaten, some will be good for taking on walks and others I shall use for cake making and decorating purposes.

The boxes were literally crammed with goodies including marzipan, chocolate pecans, sugared almonds, white chocolate pieces, honey roasted nuts, chocolate stones and a mini fruit cake. Various truffles and individual chocolates were scattered throughout, cleverly filling in any any gaps. Whilst they may not be top flight artisan products, they are well worth having and I was like a kid in a sweet shop, not knowing where to make a start! Whilst I haven't yet eaten the chocolate stones, I was particularly thrilled by these as they are a novelty I remember from childhood and have not seen them again since.

Everything arrived in good condition and most items were not over packaged. The biscuits were the only item I found disappointing in this respect. They were more wrapping than edible substance - they came in quite a substantial hessian sack, but when opened were small in number and size and the individual wrapping seemed quite unnecessary.

There are eight very pretty golden oval boxes which all have a slightly different embossed pattern on them and stack neatly on top of each other. They are tied together with a matching ribbon which fits snuggly around them but can easily be removed and replaced again and again. The boxes themselves are quite sturdy and could be used for a myriad of purposes including reuse as gift boxes. When we manage to get through the contents, I'm thinking they will become my new jewellery case(s) or then again they would be good for storing cake decorating materials - decisions, decisions!

Disclaimer I was sent a tower to review and as always, all opinions are my own.

There are a huge range of other sumptuous looking hampers on the website such as these champagne gift hampers and they would make an excellent present for anyone who likes their food and drink. However, Hamper Gifts are offering one of my readers their very own tower in this fabulous giveaway.

Deluxe Golden Tower Hamper

Milk Chocolate Coated Pecans 150g
Chocolaterie Diane Belgian Milk Chocolate Truffles 50g
Duc d'O Mini Praline Chocolates 50g
Lindt Lindor Milk Chocolate Assorted Cornet Truffles 50g
Continental Sugared Almonds 110g
White Chocolate Chunks 150g
Honey Roast Peanut & Cashew Mix 150g
Luxury Lemon Butter Cookies 100g
Chocolate & Dried Fruit Medley 200g
Rich Fruit Cake 150g
Gourmet Chocolate Stones 200g
Baronie Belgian Chocolate Vanilla Crisp Pieces 75g
Baronie Belgian Milk Chocolate Hazelnut Praline Pieces 75g
Kathy Chocolaterie Belgian Dark Cappuccino Pieces 100g
Kathy Chocolaterie Belgian Dark Coco Pieces 100g
Kathy Chocolaterie Belgian Milk Bouchée Pieces 100g
Zentis Dark Chocolate Coated Marzipan 100g

Terms and Conditions
The winner will be selected at random from all correct entries received. The winner will be notified within 28 days of the closing date. The prize is as stated: no cash alternatives are available. This competition is open to UK entrants only. No persons under 18 years of age may place an order or receive Goods from Hampergifts if the Goods contain alcohol. 

Closing date is Monday 20 August 2012

How to Enter
Entry is via Rafflecopter below. You must leave a comment on my blog. Additional entries are then available if you wish to make them.

22 August 2012 - Thank you to everyone who took part in this, I really enjoyed reading what you would have done with the the boxes. I've been moved, a good chuckle and gained lots of ideas. The boxes were won by Baked with Kindness.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Raspberry & Rose Curd Cupcakes

Having seen some lovely looking raspberry curd over at the HungryHinny back along, I was determined to make some as soon as possible and as it happened just in time to use in cakes for my birthday tea. I had some rose sugar just waiting to be used and some local raspberries - raspberries and rose are a heavenly combination.

This is what I did to make the raspberry & rose curd:
  • Squished 200g of raspberries in a bowl & placed this over a pan of simmering water.
  • Added 150g rose sugar - complete with rose petals.
  • Grated in the zest of an organic lemon.
  • Squeezed in the lemon juice.
  • Blitzed with a stick blender.
  • Added 60g unsalted butter and stirred until melted.
  • Whisked in 2 duck eggs (equivalent to 2 large hens eggs).
  • Stirred over the heat for a good twenty minutes until thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  • Sieved mixture and poured into two sterilised jars.

Each time I make a new curd I think it has been the best ever. When I tried this one, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.

For the raspberry & rose white chocolate cupcakes I pretty much followed my recipe for the apricot curd cupcakes with the following exceptions:
  • used rose sugar rather than cardamom sugar in the cake batter.
  • creamed the butter & sugar then beat in the melted white chocolate.
  • substituting the curd for raspberry rather than apricot, both in the batter and the mascarpone topping.
  • swirled the curd through the batter rather than layering it in the middle.

These too were completely delicious and although the lemon curd cupcakes I also made were very good, these definitely pipped them at the post. Mascarpone and fruit curd is another match made in heaven! My one disappointment was that the lovely spotty pink cupcake cases I bought especially for these cupcakes came away from the cakes soon after baking. So the beautiful presentation I'd envisaged was not to be. I tried sorting them out with elastic bands, but this gave them a crazed dancer look which I think might have been even worse.


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