Monday, 28 January 2013

Spelt, Rye and Berry Cookies and a Cocoa Comparison

Biscuit recipes are my new obsession, especially easy biscuit recipes. I've always liked biscuits of course, but when it comes to baking, cake has always taken precedence over biscuits and cookies. I suspect being given Biscuit by Miranda Gore Browne as a birthday present last year has something to do with it. A whole book dedicated to biscuits puts a different spin on things. It stayed at the top of my pile of bedside reading for a long time. Despite this, I've only made one recipe from the book: blackcurrant and white chocolate biscuits - until now that is. We were off to spend the afternoon with friends and biscuits being quick and portable were an ideal bake to take along. To fit in with my supposed Healthy January, I went to Miranda's Almost Healthy Biscuits section of the book for inspiration. I got no further than the very first recipe, Super Berry Heroes - excellent, some healthy goji berries and blueberries to give a much needed nutrient boost would be my berries of choice. Not only did these contain an interesting flour mix of spelt and rye, but also included cocoa.

I was recently sent a jolly red pot of Food Thoughts fairtrade, organic cocoa powder to try out and I was very keen to do so. Green & Black's being fairtrade and organic is my go to cocoa, but it's always nice to have some choice. As soon as I saw the organic status was certified by the Soil Association, I felt reassured as they and Demeter are the only certifying bodies I really trust. Fairtrade is really the only way to go - cocoa is a luxury and the people that grow it should be properly recompensed for their efforts. This cocoa comes from the Dominican Republic.

I thought it would be fun to do a taste test with the three cocoas I happened to have in the house: Food Thoughts, Green & Blacks and Bournville. As well as the obvious colour differences, they were all quite distinctive in taste. Bournville is a very pale powder with a sweetish taste, but is rather insipid and lacks character. Green & Black's is very dark, robust and bitter. Food Thoughts is midway between the other two in terms of colour but has a richer chocolate taste than either. However, in terms of packaging, Bournville gets the brownie points. The Bournville pot is about 3/4 of the size of the Food Thoughts one and yet they both contain 125g - when waste is such a big issue for us, over packaging is unnecessary and undesirable.

We are a household of regular cocoa drinkers, but make it with no sugar, mostly water and just a dash of milk. I was interested to compare this with our usual Green & Blacks.  In addition to the colour difference, we immediately noticed it had a more refined taste. It was smoother and less bitter and we really liked it.

This is how I made

Blueberry, Goji Berry, Spelt & Rye Cookies


  • Creamed 120g salted butter with 100g vanilla (golden caster) sugar and 85g muscovado sugar until soft and pale.
  • Beat in 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and one duck egg.
  • Sieved in 60g wholemeal spelt flour and 80g rye flour, together with 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1/4 tsp baking powder and 1 tbsp cocoa powder (Food Thoughts).
  • Added 85g rolled oats.
  • Grated in 1/8 tsp nutmeg and mixed together.
  • Stirred in 40g goji berries and 50g dried wild blueberries.
  • Rolled teaspoonfuls of mixture between my hands to make about 30 walnut sized balls.
  • Placed well apart on lined baking trays and baked at 180C for 13 minutes.
  • Left to cool for a couple of minutes, then transferred to a wire rack to cool completely.
In CT's expert opinion, these biscuits were "rather good". Crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside with lots of texture. The cocoa added to the general flavour without being obviously chocolatey, which was absolutely fine. The spicy nutmeg flavour permeates the whole biscuit in a rather delightful way. Although there was no ginger present, they reminded us both of gingerbread in its best form.

Food Thoughts Cocoa is available at Sainsbury's and retails at £2.20

31 comments:

  1. well, there you have it... the definitive cocoa review and I like it!... not really a big cocoa drinker but I like that you seem to have it almost 'on-tap' chez choclette!... love those berry cookies, they look almost spiritual!

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    1. Dom, I'd be lost without cocoa - just love the stuff. No surprises there really. I get into a real panic if we've run out :-S

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  2. How interesting how different all the cocoas are. I am keen on fairtrade, and agree that it is the way to go, but only for mass market products, the entire certification scheme is very far from perfect, especially smaller, specialist producers. Another thngs I have to write about one day...

    Lovely cookies too, I am having a spelt love affair at the moment.

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    1. There is so much variation in cocoa and I've not really gone into it here - all depends on bean, whether it's been dutched, the harvest etc etc. I have been meaning to do a post on this for years now and have several half written versions. Your point on Fairtrade is absolutely valid. I know chocolatiers like Demarquette only use ethically sourced cocoa and it's not certified as Fairtrade. But the vast majority of people will only ever buy from the big boys and as you said, Fairtrade can then make a difference.

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    2. Interesting discussion - if you would like to talk about different types of cacao naunces, i would love to help. You might find this little info about the 4 types of beans useful https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H2fTx_T7JSo which is a light hearted way to describe the nuances between forestro, trinitario, and crillio and arriba nacionale (the 4 types of beans). If we think of it like wine, the terroir and genetics are the biggest influences of aroma and flavour, with processing being secondary. Therefore, a nice analaysis of cacao will come from there, and then looking at fermentation/drying techniques next (eg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AacO_5Vg3fk ) etc. etc. Hope this helps you with some thoughts, to distinguish nuances. Additionally vintage will make a giant difference, we notice with greater rains in certain terroirs the nitrogen in the soil will raise or lower creating fundamental differences on flavour, just like trees grown by the sea have sand and soil mixes, and just like wine, makes a lighter impact on bean flavours. Wish you all the best on your journey! alyssa jade from BLYSS chocolate :)

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    3. Thank you Alyssa, this is very helpful. I just need to find the time to write the posts.

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  3. I shall be heading to Sainsbos to try this one as don't like the bitter green and blacks myself so normally end up with bournville even though I don't find it that chocolatey so thanks for the comparison!

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    1. Hope you like it, it is very different.

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  4. These cookies do look great, I'm also in a cookie mania, especially with spelt!

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    1. Yay for cookies. Spelt works particularly well in biscuits and pastry I find as it gives a slightly nutty flavour and crumbly texture.

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  5. Yummy looking cookies. Great cocoa review too - I default buy Green & Blacks due to the fairtrade-ness but it can be a bit bitter in some recipes and I don't like upping the sugar to fight with it. Will have a look for the Food Thoughts one next time I think :)

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    1. Thanks Hannah, I think the bitter and dark qualities of G&B have their place for some things - I've not given up on it, but there is definitely a place for something smoother too.

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  6. Great cocoa review Choclette- Green & Blacks is my go-to cocoa too for the exact same reasons as those you've listed but nice to know there are other fairtarde cocoas on the market! Miranda's 'Biscuits' is on my birthday list, and I agree, biscuits are ever so easy portable snacks!

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    1. Thanks Kate. I think it all depends on what you are trying to achieve as to which cocoa works best, but it is good to have a choice. Good luck with Biscuits :)

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  7. How good to read a cocoa review and I am with you on the packaging issue. I can't believe the two pots both hold the same amount considering the varying sizes of the containers. As for taste, I have always gone for G&B because of taste, colour and Fairtrade. Now because I do trust your tastes I will certainly try out Food Thoughts. You know, I don't think I own a cook book that is solely about biscuits and the mixture of flours sells this recipe to me!

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    1. Thanks Laura. The packaging is really rather annoying and no reply to my this point on the review was given from the supplier - hey ho!

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  8. I totally agree about it being less bitter than G&B which is my usual choice. I really liked the flavour of Food Thoughts cocoa.

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    1. Thanks Janice, good to get corroboration :)

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  9. I do love a good cookie and they're so easy to whip up when you don't have a lot of time. These look and sound lovely.

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    1. Thank you, not sure why, but until recently, I haven't really made many cookies. Now realise how much I've been missing.

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  10. I've had a tub of this too and beyond having a spoonful in my Shrink Mummy Shake (We Should Cocoa entry for January) I haven't done much with it yet. I definitely noticed that G&B is way better stuff than Bournville, it's especially noticeable when you do chocolate buttercream. Bournville definitely makes pale insipid chocolate buttercream and given a choice I'd not buy it now.

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    1. Yes Sarah, to be honest, I don't really see the point of Bournville.

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  11. What a great post and with some very interesting results too......I usually use G and B, but found your comparisons very handy. Karen

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    1. Thanks Karen. G&B has been the most widely available decent cocoa - until now!

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  12. Great cocoa review, I find most supermarkets only stock one typr of cocoa and always wondered what the difference was. Ive always been naturally most drawn to Green & Blacks. I dont like to drink cocoa but I remember liking it as a kid, I cant imagine it without sugar though!

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    1. Although I have a sweet tooth Jayne, I don't like sweet drinks - strangely!

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  13. Interesting post, like the idea of trying all the cocoa's out. I got sent some but not tried it yet. The cookies look good, AND healthy (if cookies could be).

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    1. Thanks Nic, I did have another fair trade brand in the house and wanted to include that one too. But in the end sense won out, even I don't need 4 open tubs of cocoa!

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  14. I'll definitely look out for this cocoa powder - always good to have a recommendation. I usually use G&B and in comparison Bournville is very pale indeed. Your hot cocoa must have been an ideal way to compare them.

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    1. Bournville is not a cocoa I would buy by choice - luckily have good supply of G&B here, so don't have to.

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  15. These look like my type of biscuit - must try out this recipe. Thanks. I like to try new ones for a change to see if we like them.

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