Vegetarian food blog featuring nourishing home cooked recipes, creative baking and luscious chocolate.

Apple Pie with Chocolate Pastry

Pudding, Tarts & Pastries | 31st October 2010 | By

I’m rubbish at pastry and don’t enjoy making it much, so I rarely make pies and tarts even though I love eating them.  But when I saw this post at 5am Foodie, I immediately wanted to make apple pie and thought I’d better do it quick before I chickened out.  There is something so nostalgic but also comforting about apple pie, it takes me straight back to my mother’s cooking of yesteryear.  I was going to make a straight forward shortcrust pastry, but when it came to it I couldn’t resist making a chocolate version.  So here is how I did it:

  • Rubbed 180g unsalted butter into 260g flour (160g white, 100g wholemeal), 20g cocoa, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1 tbsp caster sugar until mixture resembled breadcrumbs.
  • Added 3 tbsp water and bought mixture together forming it into a ball.
  • Placed this in the fridge and left for a few hours until I was ready to assemble the pie (as I understand it, resting pastry in the fridge before using helps to stop the pastry shrink when cooking).
  • Cut of just over 1/2 and rolled out to line a 9″ (23cm) pie dish
  • Baked this blind at 180C for 10 mins.  It shrank – hey ho, the best laid plans!
  • Peeled, cored and sliced 6 medium sized windfall apples and put them in a bowl.
  • Mixed in a tbsp lemon juice, 100g demerara sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon then left to go slightly syrupy.
  • When pie base had cooled, piled in the apples.
  • Rolled out remaining pastry until large enough to cover the top.
  • Pressed the sides down to meet the pastry base.
  • Cut shapes from remaining pastry and placed on top.  This is where I went slightly wrong, I blithely decided to ignore Michele’s instructions to cut slits in the top to allow the steam to escape!
  • Baked for 30 mins at 180C
Oooh, yum yummy apple pie; it was almost as good as I could have hoped it to be.  Now it’s all over, I can confess that I was a little dubious about apple pie with chocolate pastry – especially my pastry. But I’m pleased to report, it was a great combination, the cocoa giving the pastry a satisfying nutty quality and flavour but in no way overpowering the apple.  The pastry was cooked just right, short and melty in the mouthy.  You can perhaps tell by my language that this did indeed take me back to childhood.  The bit that went slightly wrong was my failure to let the steam out; I had quite a puddle of liquid in the bottom of the pie.  But having pre-cooked the pastry, the bottom didn’t go soggy, nor did it blow up – phew.  We had it hot with cream, then cold with ice cream the next couple of evenings – both ways were delicious.  Do you know what? I might even venture down this road again.

We Should Cocoa – The Hazelnut Challenge Round Up

We Should Cocoa Badge

We Should Cocoa | 28th October 2010 | By

Welcome to the second We Should Cocoa round up – hazelnuts this time.  The second it may be, but it’s my personal first and Chele did such a good job of the last one, it will be hard to meet her standard.  We didn’t get quite as many participants as we did for last month’s challenge – 16 in total, but the array is still impressive and entries no less inventive.  Again, I am amazed at how many different creations can be dreamt up using two simple ingredients.  And while last time their were some similarities in the recipes, this time everyone has come up with something quite different.  Thanks to all those who took part, I’ve really enjoyed seeing these mouth watering posts – a true feast for the eyes. I feel completely spoilt for choice and wish I could try all of them. Do go and take a closer look by following the links.  I’m sure comments would be appreciated too.

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Chocolate and Love

Chocolate Reviews | 25th October 2010 | By

 Two very nicely wrapped 100g bars of dark chocolate arrived on my doormat – oops, quite some time ago now.  Chocolate and Love is an online shop selling high quality chocolates which are ethically sourced from small producers.  As well as offering their own bars and those from Amedei and Beschle among others, they also sell more unusual items such as raw chocolate, cocoa nibs and chocolate tea.  If you are a chocolate lover, their website is well worth a look.

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Praline Coffee Chocolate Cake – We Should Cocoa 2

 

It was the last day of my holidays and having seen the lovely scones created by two of my favourite food bloggers Kath of The Ordinary Cook and MangoCheeks of Allotment 2 Kitchen, I sort of thought it would be nice to invite some friends over for tea.  Scones, cake and tea, what could be better?

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Coconut and Ground Cherry Blondies

Brownies & Blondies | 17th October 2010 | By

I’m harvesting ground cherries (Physalis pruinosa) every time I get the chance these days.  It’s not an easy job as they are ready only when they have fallen to the ground and they do this over a period of several weeks.  Now the days have drawn in, I can’t get to our plot very often, so many of them are rotting in situ.  Harvesting generally means gingerly picking up what look to be the recently fallen and hoping that you don’t get a slimy mess or a handful of slugs.  Because we have had a lot of dry weather recently, this task has been made easier and I have managed to accumulate a tidy number.  This is the second batch of blondies I’ve made using ground cherries: the first were in far too small a tin, so neither the dough nor the ground cherries got much in the way of baking and ended up being almost unappetising.  Thankfully, neither CT nor I are easily put off by raw cake dough.  Anyway, the idea was too good not to try again and this time I sensibly used a larger tin.  I took the blondie recipe I made last year and adapted it to use coconut flour and ground cherries.

This is how I did it this time:

  • Melted 3oz unsalted butter with 100g white chocolate (Green & Black’s) and left to cool slightly.
  • Whisked 6oz vanilla sugar (use 1/2 or 1 tsp vanilla extract instead depending on how vanillary your chocolate is) with 2 duck eggs until mixture was very thick and pale.
  • Stirred in chocolate mixture.
  • Stirred in 4oz flour (spelt wholemeal), 2oz coconut flour and 1/4 tsp pink Himalayan salt.
  • Added 3oz ground cherries
  • Poured into a buttered 20 cm x 25 cm tin and baked at 180C for 20 mins.
  • Left to cool then cut into 12 squares.
Thankfully, they turned out well; they had a satisfying state of squidginess about them, with a nice crisp top and just about cooked through.  Suelle at Mainly Baking would have approved as these turned out to be about an inch thick, which she considers to be the optimum thickness for a brownie.  The coconut complimented the ground cherries which have a hint of pineapple about them.  In turn they gave a delightful tartness to offset the sweetness that the white chocolate brought to the mixture.  This is a good news story for ground cherries as we now have another way to eat them.  Last year I used them to make muffins and an upside down cake.  Having just revisited these two recipes, I think I’d better make them again too.

Tea and Chocolate Tasting

On what was meant to be a beautiful blue skied autumnal day but turned out to be a grey and extremely blustery one, we set off for the one of Cornwall’s posher parts, the Roseland Peninsula.  It was the beginning of Chocolate Week and we were heading down to a tea and chocolate tasting event at Smugglers Cottage & Tea House at Tolverne on the Tregothnan Estate.

This was to be a double act with Jonathan Jones, the tea expert at Tregothnan and Marc Demarquette. Can that be right? Not the famed London artisan chocolatier in the depths of Cornwall?  Yes indeed, it was National Chocolate Week and for once we were not going to be deprived of a top notch event.

But before I get carried away with chocolate and my new found enthusiasm for mixing the leaf and the bean, thanks to Matcha Chocolat, I’ll just insert a short garden tour. Trelissick is on the opposite side of the river Fal to Tolverne and as we don’t go down that way very often, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to pay a visit to these beautiful gardens.  I had imagined sitting in the autumn sunshine, warming my bones and banishing my cold whilst admiring the beautiful colours of the autumnal leaves.  What we got was a gale force wind, no sunshine and a fast stomp around the garden, actually it was more of a shuffle in my case – teeth chattering all the while.  We were more worried about avoiding falling branches from the trees than admiring their beauty.

To cross the river, we had to take the King Harry Ferry, which whilst rather romantic, had us reeling in shock after £7.50 was extracted from our reluctant hands for the privilege of the 5 minute crossing there and back.

So to the chocolate.  We were greeted warmly on arrival and offered a cup of tea to help stave off the cold whilst we waited for the others to arrive.  Tregothnan is the only grower and producer of tea in the UK and is now in its 5th year of production. Most of the teas they offer are grown on the estate in Cornwall. We were already familiar with their green tea, which we find clean and refreshing, so that’s the one we both chose.  We were also given a much anticipated and thus much appreciated chocolate to try, one from the beautifully decorated Demarquette Ganache Collection, Thai Lemongrass.

The Tea House is currently a temporary structure and more like a tea tent; plans for a more permanent (and hopefully more aesthetic) one are in the pipeline. We sat huddled around the stage with thoughtfully-provided blankets draped around shoulders and laps. Trying to tune in above the flapping canvas and the roaring wind, we were reminded that we don’t really have a climate in Cornwall, just weather – it could just as easily have been midsummer or midwinter.

Jonathan Jones kicked off proceedings by explaining about tea growing in general and tea as grown on the Tregothnan estate in particular.  Plants were handed around to examine along with dry and used tea leaves.  He is passionate about promoting high quality loose leaf tea in this country – quite right too.  We had samplings of various brews to match the selected Demarquette chocolates.  Marc explained how the chocolate flavours were more powerfully released from the warmth the tea left on the tongue. We started with Afternoon Tea and some dark chocolate from Brazil.  He was right.

Just in case you don’t know, Demarquette – Fine Chocolates is one of the top chocolatiers in London.   All of the chocolates are hand made using some of the finest quality chocolate to be grown and produced.  Marc Demarquette is as passionate about chocolate as Jonathon is about tea if not more so.  Ethically sourced and harvested produce is very high on his agenda; he featured in the Panorama documentary Chocolate – the bitter truth.  He spoke a little about the history and the ethics of buying truly “fair traded” chocolate.  He spoke to us about the importance of provenance as well as of production.  Real chocolate is slow chocolate – it takes a lot of time to ferment, roast and conch. Time is money and if poor people are not to be exploited along the supply chain, we the consumers should expect to pay a fair price. As with all top quality products, less is more.  Talking of luxury products, he has created three exclusive chocolates for Tregothnan, Kea Plum, Earl Grey and Honey.  All ingredients, other than the cocoa, come from the estate.

As I’m sure you are already aware, good quality chocolate contains cocoa butter, an ingredient much prized by the beauty industry which makes it a rather expensive commodity. The temptation for chocolate manufactures is to substitute this for vegetable oil and indeed this is what is used in most mass produced confectionery.  Samples of both deodorised (as used for skin products) and pure cocoa butter (as should be used by chocolate makers) were passed around for us to touch and sniff – we could certainly smell the difference.

Ganache emulsified
2nd batch of cream added

Marc also demonstrated how to make a “simple” (his words not mine) ganache.  This was the part I was most excited about, given my propensity for splitting ganache and making a total mess. He made a Tregothnan Earl Grey Tea ganache using the tea, cream and honey from the estate.  He made it look very easy, but the secret appeared to be in using a whisk to slowly fold the ingredients together.  We all then had the unenviable task of eating up the ganache whilst it was still warm. Awful, but someone had to do it.  Again the flavours exploded on the tongue, the secret being in the warmth of the chocolate, although I suspect that the ingredients had something to do with it too. I will be attempting his method sometime soon and if works I will tell you how to make a successful ganache!

At various points during the afternoon, we tried two more from the Ganache Collection, Fleur de Sel and Blanc Manger des Antilles.  This collection has the names of the chocolates printed on the chocolate itself, an ingenious method of being able to select just what you want from the box. Both were delicious indeed.  The salty sweet caramel really set off the slightly sour dark chocolate and the Antilles had one flavour chasing another across the tongue (nutmeg, cinnamon, coconut and rum) – wonderful stuff.  As well as another dark chocolate whose identity now escapes me, we also got to try the recently launched Vietnamese Ben Tre bars, both dark and milk.  In addition to being ethically sourced, £1 from every bar bought is donated to Action Against Hunger.  The 70% dark was robust whilst the 40% milk was creamy and tasted of honey and both have won awards.  Among some of the teas we tried were the Breakfast Tea, which not being a black tea fan, was way too strong for me and manuka tea.  This comes from the Leptospermum scoparium bush, also known as tea tree in New Zealand, where it seems to cover virtually every hillside.  It has a delicious warm aromatic quality and grows extremely well in Cornwall.

Unfortunately, I was not feeling so great and thus missed most of the photo opportunities that were presented – I could kick myself now.  Apart from forgetting to take some of the actual chocolates that we ate, I didn’t take any pictures of the venue.  Smugglers itself was a really picturesque thatched cottage.  We had a guided tour later and inside, it was cosy  and snug and was a good setting for a romantic meal. I was rather sorry we weren’t staying for the three course chocolate dinner that followed our event.  Eisenhower’s chair presided by the fireplace; he apparently stayed one night at the cottage when planning for the D-Day landings.  The location itself was stunning. remote – a mile down a wooded track with the Fal estuary lapping almost on its doorstep; indeed a visit by boat would probably be the best option. Fortunately, they have some pictures on their website, so you can see what it looks like there.

Both Marc and Jonathan waxed lyrical about their chosen subjects and I just wished I’d come better prepared with pen and paper so I could record every nugget of information.  It was a very friendly, relaxed and good humoured occasion with questions from the audience being answered throughout the session. Even CT, initially a reluctant participant, cheered up remarkably quickly when presented with tea and chocolate. Despite feeling under the weather this was a wonderful way to celebrate Chocolate Week, very different to what I did last year, but no less fun.

Four Bar Chocolate Fudge Cake

Cake, Layer cakes | 7th October 2010 | By

An extra large birthday cake was needed recently for a combined birthday and house warming celebration.  I was so impressed with the sponge that I made for the Chocolate Mocha Layer Cake earlier on this year, that I was determined to make it once again.  It is also quite a large cake.  The dilemma was what to sandwich and top it with.  As I was a bit unsure of the audience involved, I thought a general crowd pleaser would be the best option, so chocolate fudge icing it had to be.  This is what I did:

  • Melted 200g 70% dark chocolate and left to cool slightly.
  • Creamed 170g unsalted butter with 350g soft brown sugar until my arm was incapable of beating any more and the mixture was light and creamy.
  • Beat in the chocolate.
  • Beat in eggs yolks from 3 large eggs (reserving the whites for later use).
  • Sifted in 370g flour (20g quinoa, 175g wholemeal, 175g white), 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda and 1/2 tsp salt.
  • Stirred in 250g Greek yogurt and 250g water.
  • Whisked eggs whites until soft peaks formed then folded into the batter with a metal spoon.
  • Divided between two 22cm cake thingies and baked at 180C for 30 mins. 
  • Melted 100g 70% dark chocolate and 100g 35% milk chocolate with 30g unsalted butter then stirred until smooth.
  • Put 50ml water, 2 tbsp golden syrup and 1 tbsp cocoa in a pan.  Gently heated and stirred until mixture was smooth.
  • Stirred this into the chocolate together with 100ml double cream.
  • Left to cool completely then used half of the mixture to sandwich the two cakes together and spreading the remainder on top.
  • Decorated with little gold stars.

For once nothing went wrong with this cake and with four bars of chocolate in it, I was mightily relieved. It turned out as good as I could have wished for – in fact I was particularly proud of this one.  The cake disappeared as soon as it was cut into and I only just managed to save a couple of pieces for the host and hostess – it obviously wasn’t big enough after all.  Luckily, a friend saved me a bit of her slice or I would not have been able to verify that it was indeed as good as it looked.

Matcha Chocolat – Lotus Collection

Chocolate Reviews, Tea | 4th October 2010 | By

I was thrilled to get the latest tea chocolate collection in the post from Katie Christoffers of Matcha Chocolat – it made a more than pleasant change from the bills.  Like her Emperor Selection and Jade Selection, the Lotus Selection did not disappoint.  The familiar pink box with its distinctive teapot logo is almost like an old friend now (and like an old friend, I wouldn’t mind seeing it a bit more often).  It’s very welcome and a sign of good things to come.

The chocolates come in five flavours and are beautifully presented with a mix of white, milk and plain.  There are four newcomers to this collection and they cluster around the venerable Masala Chai as if paying homage to it.  It is rare to be able to find freshly made chocolates that have no additives to prolong their shelf life.  The freshness of these chocolates really comes through.

Secret Garden – A delicate violet scent caresses the nose followed by a fuller flavour when this glossy dark chocolate dome is bitten into.  Unexpectedly, a layer of tangy violet jelly lies just beneath the surface, under which the milk chocolate ganache can be found. The taste of tea quickly follows the violet and though not in the least powerful, it is persistent and noticable.    I was slightly worried about associations with great aunts and Parma violets, but needn’t have been, as this is nothing like as strong as a traditional violet cream.

Keemum Mango – A pertly placed piece of dried mango sits on top of this milk chocolate dome. Inside is a wonderfully light and smooth textured milk chocolate ganache.  It has a subtle yet penetrating flavour of mango, something a bit floral and with the flavour of Keemum tea providing a good solid backing.  The panel were in 100% agreement that this was absolutely delicious and it would be very easy to eat more of these than would be good for you.

Masala Chai – This dark chocolate with its cap of ginger is the signature chocolate in the collection and I was very happy to see this old favourite back; I would have been most disappointed had it not been there.  It has a soothing creamy quality, something to do with all that dark chocolate and blend of healing spices – you could almost believe you were on some kind of ayurvedic treatment or health kick.

April Snow – CT thought this white chocolate was straight out of the harem with its oriental opulence, silky texture, and powerful floral taste.  As a white tea drinker, I thought the ganache blend here was just about right. It both smelt and tasted deliciously of creamy tea, not too strong, but definitely there with a light taste of alcohol coming through later.

Genmaicha – The design on top of this plain chocolate square was so beautiful, I felt guilty about biting into it.  I heroically overcame this diffidence, however and after inhaling the strong chocolate and tea aromas, I sank my teeth into it.  Immediately, I was aware of an earthy slightly bitter taste, almost like a cup of wake-me-up coffee.  This was a darker, richer and altogether more chocolatey experience than the others.  CT thought it would bring you back down to earth after the ethereal delights of the violet.

Although a tea connoisseur would appreciate these chocolates, we mere mortals find them delicious and intriguing.  Within this selection, there is bound to be something to suit all tastes.  Some of the Belgian chocolates I tasted were pretty damn good, but Katie’s could matcha up to any of them – pun fully intended.

We Should Cocoa – the October Challenge

We Should Cocoa | 1st October 2010 | By

Thank you to all who participated in last month’s Raspberry Challenge, and if anyone hasn’t had a peek please do so.  Chele and I were delighted that there were so many of you – 19 as a first off hugely exceeded our expectations. And such lovely creations they were too – I want to try each and every one of them.

My friends all seem incredulous that I’m continuing with my blog; they think I must have already made everything it’s possible to make with chocolate.  The nineteen different variations on a theme from last month just shows how wrong they are. My list just grows ever longer and I’ve forgotten far more than I’ve listed.

So, here’s hoping that you will participate in this month’s challenge.  The special ingredient for October is another seasonal one – Hazelnuts or Cobnuts.  They are falling off the trees everywhere around here at the moment, although the squirrels seem to be getting to them faster than I can.

If you’d like to participate, check out the rules here.  Please note there is one slight change on submitting photos.