Quite some time ago now, I won some tickets from FoodiesSW to go to the Beer Festival at the St Austell Brewery. A beer festival is not something either I or CT had ever attended before and I think it’s rather unlikely we shall ever attend one again. My motivation was the opportunity to sample a chocolate beer that would be featuring there. Chocolate beer? Well I couldn’t resist could I. In my naivety, I assumed that if we turned up early, 11:30am, all would be quiet, we could try a couple of unusual beers, get some chocolate beer to take home and go before it started to get crowded. It didn’t quite turn out like I imagined. The doors had only opened half an hour before we got there, but the place was already heaving and a long queue had formed at the entrance. We eventually got in and were given 3 tickets each to get half pints of any beer we wanted. Having fought our way down to the cellars and through the maze of barrels to get our drinks (I’ve sadly lost the names for these now), we tried to find somewhere to sit and sup our hard won halves. No such luck, all seats had long gone, it was standing room only and not much of that either. There was only one thing for it: to drink our beer. The chocolate beer was actually quite nice, smooth and creamy with definite cocoa notes. Not being much of a drinker, it very quickly went to my head. I fought my way, rather unsteadily, back to the chocolate beer barrel and got another couple of halves. These two were destined, not to be downed immediately, but for the bottle that we had cunningly brought with us to take home and use in chocolate baking. By this time, we had had enough: it was noisy, uncomfortable, dark (the sun was shining outside) and smelt rather too strongly of spilt beer and BO. But we still had two tickets left – what to do? I was just on the point of giving them to the first person who caught my fancy, when I bumped into an old friend who definitely likes his beer. He was more than happy to relieve us of the tickets.
Back in October, I had spotted a recipe for Young’s Double Chocolate Stout Brownies on Andys Kitchen and was just waiting for the right time to give it a whirl. This is how I did it:
- Melted 150g dark chocolate (100g 85% and 50g 70%) in a large bowl over hot water with 175g of unsalted butter.
- Mixed in 200g dark brown sugar.
- Beat in 2 duck eggs until mixture was thick and glossy.
- Folded in 75g sifted wholemeal flour and 50g cocoa.
- Stirred in 200ml chocolate beer as carefully as I could (original recipe stated 250ml, but as mine wasn’t a stout, I didn’t want to make the batter too thin).
- Poured into a 22 cm sq cake mould and baked at 180C for 18 mins.
- Left to cool and cut into 16 squares.
Goodness, did these smell good. They tasted really good too, rich, dark and delicious. They should come with an Adult Only warning though – the malty and bitter notes of the dark chocolate combined with the beer mean these are not at all sweet (well maybe a bit sweet but you know what I mean). Having read somewhere that these would not produce a crisp top, I was delighted to find that mine had lovely crackly ones. The texture inside was smooth, mousse-like and rather moreish. Despite them being moreish, we managed to keep them going for a few days and they seemed to improve with keeping. They even survived me dropping the tin on the floor from a considerable height. I’m beginning to wonder whether I should patent them as the Indestructible Brownies TM.
CT smelt the beer straight off. Is it going to be like a steak and ale pie he wondered? Sadly not. He described it as being a working man’s brownie. The bitterness of the beer gave it a savoury tang and he wondered if he should be eating it in a room with a sawdust floor. It reminded him of Christy Moore’s song about drinking black beer in the same public houses, smelling of smoke and strong whiskey. He also suggested that sticking one of these brownies in the sweet side of a Cornish tin miner’s pasty would make him very happy.
I’m really going to have to stop CT and his free association – he’s getting a bit keen on all this. I suppose it is only his usual round about way of saying that he really enjoyed these brownies.
The theme for this month’s Forever Nigella hosted by Maison Cupcake was Italian. All I could think of was a chocolate torte, but having made one for the last challenge, I wanted to do something a bit different, but what? A quick flick through How to be a Domestic Goddess and I alighted on Florentines. Excellent, what could be more Italian than Florentines? On investigation, of course, it seems that there is some debate as to whether these actually originated from Florence, as the name suggests, or from Austria. Still, I figured the name alone qualified these for the challenge and they would also do very nicely as something suitable to take to my mother’s for tea. Or would they? On 2nd thoughts I wasn’t quite so sure; I had vague memories of attempting these once before in the dim and distant past and that they perhaps had not been very successful! Oh well, nothing ventured and all that. Rather nervously I proceeded as follows:
- Chopped 50g Brazil nuts into rough chunks.
- Added 50g flaked almonds, 30g crystallised pineapple, 20g mixed peel and 80g of mixed sour cherries, raisins and goji berries.
- Melted 25g unsalted butter in a pan.
- Added 90g vanilla sugar (mine is granulated).
- Stirred in 15g plain flour.
- Added 150ml double cream and beat until smooth.
- Placed heaped teaspoonfuls on well spaced apart on baking trays lined with baking paper.
- Baked at 180C for 10 minutes, then left to cool.
- Melted 150g 72% cook’s chocolate in a bowl over hot water.
- Spread melted chocolate over the backs of the Florentines and left to set.
The Hotel Chocolat Easter Egg Giveway is now closed and the draw completed.
The lucky winner is T and Cake – Congratulations. Enjoy your egg and don’t make an eggsibition of yourself 😉
Perhaps I’m a little sad, but I do get quite excited as I await with anticipation to find out what Chele will choose when it’s her turn for We Should Cocoa. This month, she’s come up with a corker: lime, one of my favourite flavours.
So many choices – should I do lime and dark chocolate tarts, my old favourite cheesecake or …..? In the end I adapted a recipe from my newest acquisition; I really must stop browsing in book shops, it does my purse and book shelves no good at all! Not having a television, I don’t get to see many cookery programmes. However, I was lured by Craig of We Grow Our Own and Mark McKellier to watch Lorraine Pascale’s, Baking Made Easy on iPlayer. I watched the whole lot and made a couple of the recipes with excellent results. So, when I happened to see her book on sale, I just couldn’t resist.
I had already got my eye on her Mojito Genoise, so when friends invited themselves over for lunch, I knew exactly what I was going to make and true to form, I’d get chocolate in there in somehow! This is how I did it:
- Grated the zest from 1 large lime
- Simmered 2.5 oz of light muscovado sugar with 1 fl oz water, 1 fl oz grapa (meant to be rum, but I didn’t have any of that) and the juice from the lime for about three minutes until syrup slightly thickened.
- Took off the heat, added the lime zest and a couple of sprigs of mint (just about showing in the garden).
- Put the lid on the pan and left to infuse.
- Buttered the sides and lined the bottom of a 19cm spring form tin (I didn’t have a small enough or deep enough silicone mould or I would have used that).
- Melted 4oz unsalted butter and left to cool a little.
- Placed a mixing bowl over a pan of hot water and beat 6 eggs (2 duck + 4 chicken) and 9oz caster sugar together with electric beaters for a good five minutes.
- Took the bowl off the pan and continued to beat for a further few minutes until the mixture was pale and thick and had more than tripled in volume.
- Poured the butter down the side of the cake bowl so as not to deflate the eggs and folded it in as gently as I could.
- Folded in 9oz sifted flour (6oz white, 3oz wholemeal) again as lightly as I could.
- Poured the mixture into the tin and baked at 180C for 40 minutes, covering the top of the tin with foil for the last 10 minutes so as not to brown the top too much.
- Left to cool for 10 minutes then turned out onto a rack to cool completely.
- Melted 100g white chocolate (G&B).
- Creamed 3 oz unsalted butter with 4oz icing sugar and the zest from a further lime until all well incorporated.
- Beat in the juice from half a lime.
- Beat in the melted chocolate.
- Cut the cake in half and liberally brushed each cut side with the syrup.
- Spread some of the buttercream over one side and placed the other side on top so that the cut edges were sandwiched back together again.
- Spread the rest of the buttercream over the top of the cake and around the sides.
- Decorated with wafer daisies as spring was in the air.
When asked if I was interested in reviewing any of the new products from Beyond the Bean I jumped at the chance; I had really liked the Byron Bay cookies that I reviewed last year. I had expressed interest in reviewing biscuits. What arrived, was a huge parcel that the lovely Paul had thoughtfully put together. Not only did I get the biscuits, but hot chocolate powder complete with scoop and two mugs. In addition Paul had included a couple of bottles of Sweetbird syrups, toffee and hazelnut, as well as a couple of pumps to go with them – how cool was that.
Like the Butterburst biscuits, I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, there seemed to be unnecessary ingredients in the Zuma hot chocolate. Admittedly, I am a bit of a purist and prefer my food to be as natural and as unprocessed as possible, but I was a little taken aback to find dextrose, flavouring and salt in addition to sugar and cocoa. Flavouring is such a ubiquitous and meaningless term as it tells you precisely nothing, other than that something unspecified has been added. The cocoa powder was fat reduced, so maybe that’s why extra flavouring was felt to be needed. I had naively assumed hot chocolate would contain, cocoa powder, sugar and nothing else. When we tried a cup, I have to say neither of us were that impressed by the taste either – it was way too sweet and also had a bit of a weird flavour.
The mugs were lovely; with my penchant for warm colours, I was delighted by the bright orange background and the yellow writing. Hot chocolate associated words adorned the mugs, conjuring up images of warmth and cosiness. These are perfect for hot chocolate and I’ve been using them regularly ever since.
Strangely, I was less worried about the syrups, because I sort of expected there to be a long list of ingredients I’d be less than happy with. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find there were no artificial preservatives in these Sweetbird syrups and they are also the only ones approved by the Vegetarian Society. In fact there was nothing there I had an issue with except the term “aromas” – what does that mean? It does say on the label that there are no artificial flavours, so maybe I’m being unduly suspicious. I’ve seen these syrups or something similar in cafes and they appear to be quite popular, but I had never tried them until now. I had some Hazelnut in a hot chocolate – all I can say is, it didn’t do it for me. I can see them being more successfully used in cake toppings and fillings and I will be doing so. In fact, the toffee syrup I’ve already used to good effect in this toffee yogurt cake.
Well I messed up good and proper on this one, in all senses of the word! First off, I thought I’d be organised and get CT to pick my next Random Recipe Challenge well in advance, so I could plan the best time to do it. THEN Dom went and changed the rules. We were meant to choose book number 18 (not that I have 18 chocolate books to choose from I might add, not yet anyway). Note to self – wait until a challenge is actually issued before going ahead with it. Sorry Dom, I’m hoping that you won’t disqualify me.
Second off, I followed the same routine as last time and CT picked chocolate macaroons from Unwrapped. Aaaaah, macaroons! Fiddly, faffy food is not my forte (alliteration might be). This was going to be a real challenge for me and I knew I had to put some serious time aside for it. My mother was having her somewhat delayed Christmas dinner which is always a wondrous affair of Goose (mock goose for me) and the best Christmas pudding ever. So, I thought perhaps these would be just the thing to show off and impress everyone after dinner – hummmm.
Thirdly, I tried really hard to follow the recipe and instructions for this, but still came out with macaroons that were unevenly sized and looked nothing like the elegant macaroons I keep seeing on everyone else’s blogs. Fourthly, this was the first time I’d tried using the piping bag that CT gave me for Christmas. Well, I knew there was a reason I had been putting this off and this was duly confirmed; I got more of the mixture over myself, the outside of the bag and the worktop than I did inside the actual bag. I found it fiddly, faffy and frustrating AND I broke the bag.
Fifthly, the ganache split, grrrr – why didn’t I follow Marc Demarquette’s recipe which had worked so well in the lemon balm ganache I made last year?
This is how I went about it:
- Covered two baking sheets with baking paper.
- Hunted around for my new and yet unused piping bag – had no idea where I’d put it. Recipe stated a 2 cm nozzle, but I didn’t have one of those so made do with the biggest one I had.
- Whizzed 8oz icing sugar in the coffee grinder to get the lumps out then sifted this into a bowl with 4 1/2 oz ground almonds and 1 oz cocoa.
- Decided I couldn’t be bothered to get my electric beaters out, so spent an inordinate amount of time whisking 4 duck egg whites until nearly stiff.
- Sifted in a further 1 oz of de-lumped icing sugar and whisked again until stiff and glossy.
- Tried to gently fold in the rest of the icing sugar mixture, but didn’t really understand how this could be done gently.
- Left to rest for 10 mins – no idea why, but I was trying to follow the recipe.
- Stirred in 1/4 tsp vanilla extract – which was meant to deflate the mixture a little and stop the tops from cracking. Mine was already deflated and the tops cracked anyway!
- Things started to get really messy. The recipe instructed me to pour the mixture into the piping bag. What? I had no idea how you were meant to pour a mixture that wasn’t pourable anyway into a bag that doesn’t stand up or stay open. I spooned the mixture into the bag as best I could (which wasn’t very successful).
- Piped the mixture onto the baking sheets in a swirling motion to form rounds (that were meant to be evenly sized – ha). I made 33 rounds, but am sure I could have made quite a few more if I hadn’t spread so much of the mixture around the kitchen (who said piping was easy?)
- Used a tea strainer to dust cocoa over the tops.
- Baked first batch on top shelf at 220C for 1 minute then turned oven down to 180C and baked for further 9 mins.
- Removed macaroons immediately onto a rack to cool.
- Repeated the process with the 2nd baking sheet.
- Brought 90ml double cream to the boil.
- Poured over 100g chopped 85% dark chocolate (which was meant to melt it but never does in my experience).
- Placed the bowl over a pan of hot water to try and melt the chocolate.
- Added 1/2 tsp honey (deviation from the recipe) and 1 oz unsalted butter.
- Stirred together – at which point the mixture split (it always does when I try and do it this way).
- Panicking, I looked on the internet to find out what to do. Use electric beaters apparently and beat like mad. So I got out the beaters I hadn’t wanted to use and beat like mad. It made no difference. So, I did what I normally do when this happens and beat in some icing sugar. I was later advised by the expert himself, Marc Demarquette, to add more hot cream. At this point I remembered that Kath had rescued hers by the same method, oh well, maybe next time!
- Tried to match up my weirdly shaped and sized macaroon shells into pairs.
- Spread the ganache thickly over one half with a palate knife and placed the other half on top.
- Packed into an air tight tin and hoped they would not become soggy by the morrow.
Fiddly and faffy these may have been to make, but oh my, they were good. They may not have looked like those elegant French macarons, but they were crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle. Because I’d used such a dark chocolate, the ganache wasn’t at all sweet despite the icing sugar. Both the texture and sweetness of the ganache were a good contrast to the sweet and really delicious macaroons. And they all held together perfectly.
CT went off on a trip of free association and came up with the following: luxurious – decedent – our very own le manoir – hot stone massage & Jacuzzi (he may have been suffering from a theobromine overdose at this point) – rich – unctuous – not too sweet – combines well with the – don’t want to rush – want to chew – chocolate hit (see what I mean?).
Despite everyone leaving the dinner table groaning and holding their bellies, most managed to enjoy a macaroon with coffee and those that didn’t got to take one home with them. Luckily, CT was very well behaved and kept his opinions to himself!
As some of you know, I’m a huge fan of using yogurt in cakes. I find that it helps them to rise, gives a good flavour, a smooth texture and keeps them nice and moist. So I was delighted to receive another delivery of TOTAL Greek Yogurt recently (see previous posts relating to this yogurt here and here), both full fat and 0% fat. I’ve found the 0% fat to be excellent in scones and soda breads although I did use the full fat in these Chocolate Chip Scones. The full fat is wonderful used in cakes, puddings and is also a perfect accompaniment to curry or Mexican food.
I was keen to get baking. I’d come across a one-mix chocolate sponge cake in The Chocolate Cookbook by Christine France that I recently borrowed from our local library. I’ve sadly neglected our public library in recent years and of course now they are threatened, I’m keen to save them. The “save our libraries” day a few Saturdays ago, kick started me into action and I staggered down the street with a pile of really good books.
Anyway, back to the sponge. I chose butter rather than the margarine used in the recipe (because in my opinion, butter is a more natural and healthier product than margarine) and changed the method. This was due to my usual trick of forgetting to take the butter out of the fridge well in advance of the exercise. To make the most of the yogurt in this cake, I thought I’d try making a yogurt ganache to sandwich the cakes together. I had no idea how this would work, but most things are worth trying at least once. Unusually, it used golden syrup in the mix and it was this that had caught my eye when browsing through the book. Another parcel I’d recently been sent (more about this in a later post) contained a bottle of toffee syrup. To be honest, there’s a limit to how much toffee syrup I could use and it had been languishing in it’s box for quite some time. So, substitute the toffee syrup for the golden syrup and away I go!
- Melted 6 oz unsalted butter in a bowl over hot water, then took off the heat.
- Mixed in 4oz light muscovado sugar.
- Stirred in 4 tbsp toffee syrup and 1/4 tsp salt then beat until all emulsified.
- Beat in 3 duck eggs.
- Sifted in 6oz flour (1/2 wholemeal, 1/2 white), 2 tbsp cocoa and 1 tsp baking powder.
- Mixed in 2 good tablespoons of full fat TOTAL Greek yogurt then poured the batter into two 21cm cake moulds (would recommend smaller sizes than these) and baked at 180C for 20 minutes.
- Melted 100g milk chocolate (G&B) with 1 tbsp toffee sauce.
- Stirred until smooth.
- Mixed in 2 good tablespoons of full fat TOTAL Greek yogurt and left to cool a little.
- Spread this over one of the cooled cakes with a palate knife then sandwiched the other cake on top.
- Dusted the top with a little icing sugar.
The cakes turned out to be a lot flatter than I would have liked. I think this was more to do with using cake moulds that were way too big rather than the lack of rising the cake actually did. Perhaps, as a result of using the melting method to make this cake, the end result was denser than I was expecting. This may not have been my most successful cake ever, but it was still very tasty. It had a nice consistency with very few crumbs, a good mouth feel and a pleasant toffee flavour with a yogurty tang. I was a little impatient with the ganache and put this on before it had set properly, but it tasted great and complemented the cake really well; I shall be using this again. When I asked CT what he thought the flavour was, he said cherry. Cherry, I queried? On trying it a second time, I could see what he meant. Don’t ask me why.
For other recipes using yogurt click here.
Hotel Chocolat make good quality chocolates. They may not be in quite the same league as some of the artisan chocolatiers whose chocolates I’ve been lucky enough to try over the past year, but I still find them highly desirable. They are certainly the best I’m able to acquire from any shops in my neck of the woods. I’ve entered many a blog giveaway to win Hotel Chocolat goodies and have had no success so far. However, not only have I now been sent one of their Easter eggs to review, courtesy of Jam & Cream PR, but I also have my very own Hotel Chocolat giveaway for you.
The Eggsibitionist – I liked the play on words and wondered whether the artistically marked mini eggs lurking within were straight out of some modern art gallery. It has a properly thick shell, like those I remember from childhood. It’s made of their house 40% milk chocolate, which I couldn’t wait to get my teeth into (and didn’t). The chocolate had an almost coconutty aroma with a smooth, creamy mouth feel and a satisfying depth of flavour. The egg contained 12 mini eggs in 6 flavours – one each, no squabbling:
Vanilla Custard Egg – this had the consistency of custard but more reminiscent of good vanilla ice-cream in a milk chocolate shell with a hint of bitterness to it – very pleasant.
Milk Praline – mmmmm hazelnuts roasting on an open fire. No mistaking the flavour here, hazelnut to the core. A fine quality praline, this was our favourite.
Mouse au Chocolat – for the dark chocolate lover, this is ideal. A 70% dark chocolate shell filled with a smooth and not overly sweet dark ganache. It was rich and the taste of chocolate lingered long on the palate – CT thought that one of these was a meal in itself.
Strawberry – we both found this white chocolate rather too sweet and a bit sickly for our palate. The strawberry ganache, disappointingly, tasted artificial.
Chocolate Brownie – this was very nice but I could see no real connection to a chocolate brownie. It tasted of cocoa pops, which I guess is no surprise as this is what it contained.
Caramel – this was the one I was most looking forward to. Unfortunately, the caramel was overly salty which detracted from the enjoyment. It did, however, have a really nice 50% milk chocolate shell.
To enter a giveaway to win The Eggsibitionist, leave a comment answering the following question:
What would you most like to see in your Easter egg?
For a second chance to win: tweet the following (not including quotation marks) “I want to win The Eggsibitionist @HotelChocolat Easter Egg from @Choclette8 http://choclogblog.blogspot.com/” then leave a separate comment telling me you have done so.
For a third chance to win: follow @HotelChocolat on Twitter and leave a separate comment telling me you have done so.
For a forth chance to win: follow me, @Choclette8, on Twitter and leave a separate comment telling me you have done so.
- This is, once again, open to those with postal addresses in the UK only.
- Separate comments are needed for each entry.
- A winner will be picked at random from all eligible entries.
- The giveaway closes on 22nd March.
- The winner will be posted at the bottom of this post on 23 March.
- Ensure you leave a contact name.
There’s a new baking magazine on the block, Baked & Delicious and I was sent the first issue to look at. I am a complete sucker for cookery books but in recent years have managed to restrain myself from buying magazines. Now temptation has crossed my path, I am trying hard to overcome my acquisitive instincts.
Although, the magazine is quite small & slim with only 26 pages, I was quite taken by it. I found it had a clear uncluttered layout and I didn’t feel overwhelmed by excessive content. The instructions are clear and simple, but sometimes assume a grasp of baking beyond novice level. For example, no mention is made of which part of the oven to bake in – often a critical factor. As one might expect, the pictures are gorgeous and made me want to get baking straight away. One of the things I particularly liked about this publication is that there is no advertising (other than for the magazine itself). In addition to the recipes, there was a technical section on making choux pastry and one on getting the best from silicone bakeware. Each recipe falls into one of seven categories:
- Classic Cakes
- Bread & Savouries
- Patisserie & Fancy Cakes
- Celebration Cakes
- Biscuits & Bakes
- Better Baking Techniques
As well as all of this, each issue comes with some silicone bakeware. The first issue came with six colourful silicone cupcake cases. As a keen user of silicone moulds, this alone is a siren call to subscribe. I haven’t yet used my cupcake cases, but will certainly have occasion to do so.
Retailing at £2.99 per issue (£1.99 for the first issue), this is perhaps not the cheapest way of acquiring recipes; there were only eight recipes in total in this issue. But as most of us know it’s not just about acquiring recipes – it’s the food porn photography, the anticipation of not knowing what’s coming next and the chance of finding something unexpected.
Here’s one I wasn’t expecting: Bitter chocolate puddings. This is how I made them:
- Melted 125g 85% dark chocolate with 125g unsalted butter.
- Whisked 4 duck egg yolks (meant to be 2 large eggs + 2 yolks, but I had some large egg yolks left over from making macaroons) with 150g caster sugar until thick and pale.
- Beat in the chocolate mixture.
- Folded in 2oz plain flour.
- Divided the mixture between four buttered small pudding bowls and left in the fridge for a couple of days (another deviation from the instructions).
- Baked at 200C for 15 mins.
- Turned out onto plates and quickly got stuck in before they cooled down too much.
The meal that was cancelled due to the ice and snow just before Christmas was reorganised for early February. Luckily, the weather was mild, if a little damp and we finally had our meet up with friends. As some of these friends are virtually vegans, I thought I’d try something a little different. Out came Paul A Young’s Adventures with Chocolate and I set to.
- Simmered 80ml of water with 1 tbsp of honey (Vegans can use the equivalent amount of sugar or agave syrup or date syrup etc).
- Stirred in 2 tbsp of tahini until smooth and simmered for a couple of minutes.
- Poured over 125g of chopped 81% dark chocolate (Ecuadorian Arriba) and left to melt.
- Stirred carefully with a metal whisk to avoid splitting.
- Left to cool then placed in the fridge for an hour.
- Toasted 50g sesame seeds in a frying pan and left to cool.
- Dipped a tsp in hot water and scooped out spoonfuls of ganache, rolling them in the sesame seeds and dipping the spoon back into the hot water each time to avoid the ganache sticking to the spoon.