When Dom set this month’s Random Recipe Challenge to cook something out of the first cookbook we ever owned, I was quite excited. I remembered the book well, but haven’t looked at it for more years than I care to remember. It resides at my Mother’s along with many of my old books, so I couldn’t get my hands on it immediately. Finally, I got it. My learn to cook book: a children’s book for the kitchen by Ursula Sedgwick. On the inside cover, an inscription which reminded me it was given to me for Christmas when I was eight years old by my Great Aunt Doris and Uncle Alf, both still alive in their 90s. Leafing through it, I was amazed at what a good book it was and that I had made pretty much everything in it. Having just had problems making my own marzipan with the Battenberg I made a couple of days ago, it made me laugh to see a recipe for Marzipan Dates which included making your own marzipan. And, I remember doing it. At the back of the book, it has a really useful table showing how many tablespoons of various ingredients weigh an ounce and the fact that 3 halfpennies weigh 1/2 an ounce. Half pennies? I’m not sure I can still remember them.
My slight concern that there might not be any chocolate recipes in the book was immediately banished; it did seem rather unlikely that a children’s cookbook, even from the 70s, would fail to include any chocolate recipes. It contained three: chocolate mousse, crispy crackolates and chocolate drops. Crispy Crackolates it was. They would be just perfect for Easter as little nests that I could drop some eggs into. Easter eggs for CT sorted – hee hee!
- Melted 1oz unsalted butter in a pan with 1oz unbleached granulated sugar and 1 tbsp golden syrup.
- Mixed in 1oz cocoa.
- Added 1oz cornflakes and stirred until all covered with chocolate mixture.
- Spooned into 5 piles and tried to form them into some semblance of a nest.
- Left to set, then placed a few sugar coated chocolate eggs in the middle.
Thank you Dom for reuniting me with such an old friend and for allowing me to make such a quick and easy recipe.
Rather late in the day now, but I wanted to say Happy Easter before it’s too late and hope that everyone is enjoying the holiday. We are just off to my mother’s for another Easter tea where we will be sampling some of her excellent simnel cake.
Here are two Easter platters I prepared, one for my mother and one for CT. If anyone’s interested in finding out more about what’s on them, there will be a posts appearing in the next week or so.
It’s rare for me to post something so close to the day I’ve actually made it, as I seem to have a permanent backlog, but this one has jumped the queue as time is running out. I’ve been admiring Battenberg cakes I’ve seen on various blog sites for a while, but I’ve managed to ignore the urge to make one until now. To be honest, I was a little nervous and suspected it might be beyond my capabilities. With this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge being marzipan, it seemed like I should stop wimping out and give this rather gorgeous looking retro cake a try. Of course, I wasn’t interested in making the traditional pink and yellow version, oh no, I wanted something a little different and it had to contain chocolate of course. I’m also a fan of using matcha with chocolate, so decided to use up the last of the Vitalife matcha sample I was sent a few months ago. As my base I used the recipe from Fiona Cairns’ Bake & Decorate. As it was for We Should Cocoa and also for an Easter tea with friends, I thought I ought to make my own marzipan. I had a look at the ingredients on some commercial marzipan and that sealed the deal for me: only 24% almonds compared to my 60%, the rest of it was sugar. In the back of my mind, however, I had a vague memory of struggling with my last attempt at marzipan which was crumbly and difficult to roll.
This is how I did it:
- Mixed 175g ground almonds with 100g icing sugar.
- Made a well in the centre and added 1 duck egg yolk, 3 tsp lemon juice, 3 drops of almond essence and a splash of water.
- Mixed initially with a spoon then brought together with my hands to form a ball.
- Sifted 200g flour (1/2 wholemeal spelt and 1/2 white) into a bowl with 1 rounded tsp of baking powder.
- Added 200g natural granulated sugar, 200g softened unsalted butter (cubed) and 3 duck eggs.
- Beat together with a hand held mixer.
- Added a large tbsp Greek yogurt and beat some more.
- Spooned half of the mixture into another bowl.
- Added 2 tsp matcha to one bowl and 3 tsp cocoa to the other bowl and mixed.
- Spooned mixtures into a 9″ (23 cm) square cake mould using a piece of upright baking paper as a divider down the middle.
- Baked at 180C for 20 minutes until risen and firm to the touch.
- Left to cool for 10 minutes then turned out onto a rack to cool completely.
- Then proceeded to spend an inordinate amount of time making a mess.
- Trimmed the cake and cut into 4 equal rectangles of 4.5 x 21 cm.
- Warmed some of my marrow and ginger jam, which was already quite runny.
- Brushed this over the cake pieces and “glued” them together to form a rectangle with alternate colour segments.
- Rolled out the marzipan to a size I thought would cover the cake. This is where I really came a cropper as the marzipan just cracked and wouldn’t hold together.
- Brushed the outside of the cake rectangle with more jam and tried to wrap the pieces of marzipan around the edge.
- Scored a criss-cross over the top of the cake to try and improve its appearance 🙁
- Made these truffles with the leftover cake.
How right I was to doubt the marzipan! Still, although this cake may not have looked quite as I’d envisaged or hoped, it was most certainly delicious. The cake was firm but moist and the two flavours complemented each other nicely (I did try the trimmings). Both the cocoa and the matcha flavours were present, but neither dominated. The marzipan may have been crumbly, but it tasted delicious. It was almondy, of course, but not overpoweringly so and certainly not overly sweet. This cake has yet to be tasted by anyone else, but I’m feeling fairly confident that it will be enjoyed later on today, crumbling and cracked marzipan notwithstanding. If it hadn’t been for the We Should Cocoa challenge, I would never have made this cake. I’m not sure I’m likely to make it again, either. If I do, I’ll use bought marzipan, unless someone out there can explain the arcane mysteries of successful, pliable marzipan to me.
PS Now back from moorland tea party. The Battenberg was enjoyed by all as part of a sumptuous spread.
Some old friends, who I hadn’t seen in a long time were coming to visit and one of them is a flapjack fanatic. I couldn’t disappoint, so flapjacks were what I made and this is how I did it:
- Melted 5oz unsalted butter in a large pan with 2 tbsp honey.
- Stirred in a pinch of salt (Himalayan pink)
- Removed from the heat and added 100g dark chocolate broken into pieces (I used Co-op fair trade 46% rather than my usual G&B or Divine 70%)
- Mixed in 10oz rolled oats, 3oz demerara sugar and 2oz raisins.
- Pressed into a buttered 10″ x 8″ tin
- Scattered my signature sesame seeds over the top and baked at 180C for 17 minutes.
- Left to cool completely then cut into 16 pieces.
Beth of Jam & Cream PR has been strutting her stuff again and thanks to her efforts, I was recently sent this rather cute 100g Praline Toasty egg sandwich from Hotel Chocolat. This is not the usual sort of thing I have for breakfast, but is more than acceptable later in the day. Needless to say, this egg sandwich was not your traditional fried egg with a bit of tomato sauce slapped between two slices of bread, no, it was two slabs of chocolate sandwiched between a praline chocolate egg – a fun and novel concept.
The slabs of chocolate turned out to be more than I had bargained for. They were in fact half Hotel Chocolat’s house 40% milk chocolate and half praline chocolate which was particularly delicious. The chocolate was smooth and creamy and the white chocolate streak down the middle of the egg gave another dimension to its flavour. I was expecting the egg to be filled with praline, but actually it was hollow – it was almost a relief as the hazelnutty praline was quite rich and sweet. – just about the right volume for two people to share after a hard day’s labouring.
Hotel Chocolat are currently looking for help in naming their new Easter Baby. If you’d like to help them out and be in with a chance of winning £75 worth of chocolate then go to the following link on facebook and have a go at Name our bouncing Easter baby.
Having made my first experiment using marmalade in cakes with this chocolate and marmalade cake and been won over by the result, I decided to have another go. I’ve had my copy of Nigella’s How to be a domestic goddess for many years now and I’ve always skipped over her store cupboard chocolate orange cake because of the use of marmalade. Now don’t get me wrong, I like marmalade – but when it’s on toast. Anyhow, Mother’s Day had arrived and I thought she would especially enjoy a marmalade cake – it was her marmalade after all. So, to Nigella’s recipe I went. I did of course make some inevitable changes – I added yogurt for a start. I also decided to top it with some ganache as it was a special occasion.
This is how I did it:
- Melted 125g unsalted butter in a large pan.
- When butter nearly melted, I turned off the heat and added 100g 85% dark chocolate and left to melt for a few minutes.
- Stirred until all incorporated and smooth.
- Added 3 large tbsp of my mother’s marmalade, having first cut up all the big bits into smaller ones.
- Beat in 2 duck eggs and a pinch of rock salt.
- Sifted in 150g flour (120g wholemeal spelt, 30g quinoa), 1 tsp baking powder and stirred.
- Finally stirred in 1 tbsp Greek yogurt.
- Spooned into a 22cm cake mould, levelled the top and baked for 35 mins at 180C
- Left to cool for a couple of minutes then turned out on to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Melted 100g of 70% dark chocolate with 20g unsalted butter and 1 heaped tbsp of marmalade (chunky bits removed) together over a pan of hot water.
- Stirred together then spread over the top of the cake.
- Decorated with orange and lemon flavoured sweets (shredded orange would have been a much better decoration and more in keeping with the 100% organic ingredients, but I had no oranges to hand).
Rather late in the day I know, but I loved the wrapper of this so much, it took me a while to get around to eating it. It was actually a Christmas present, but it wasn’t until the end of February that I decided to savour the contents. It’s a shame I didn’t write up about it at the time as recollections are already starting to dim.
There were a few simple ingredients, all raw: Cocoa Nibs (14.2%), Chilli (1.3%), Coconut butter, Agave nectar, Golden raisins, Lucuma powder, Carob flour, Ground almonds. The wrapper proudly states, Sugar Free, Dairy Free, Gluten Free and Guilt Free – who could resist?
This was very different in texture to any other raw chocolate bars I’ve tried, which is probably why they’ve called it a pie. There was a nice crunch of cocoa nibs and I could taste the carob – it was quite delicious. Like all delicious things, it was over far too soon. A word of warning, however: you need to be a chilli lover to enjoy this particular bar, oops pie, as it’s very hot. As a chilli lover, I did.
Handmade in St Ives, Cornwall by Living Food, this bar and other flavours actually are available at our very own Taste Cornwall in Liskeard.
A friend’s daughter was celebrating her 3rd birthday and I was asked to make the birthday cake. I was well chuffed, but also rather nervous – you don’t really want to mess up someone else’s birthday cake. Anyway, as soon as she asked me, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. The rolo cake I’d seen on Jac’s Tinned Tomatoes blog, over a year ago now, had made an impression and I was waiting for the right opportunity to make it. Jac in turn had got the recipe from The Caked Crusader and it was actually hers I used. Jac tends to use US measurements and I’m not a fan of cups. I did increase the measurements a bit anyway as I was using a larger cake mould than the one specified.
Whilst shopping for the rolos, I had a bit of an unexpected dilemma. Not being in the habit of buying them, I hadn’t realised they were made by Nestle – oh dear! I haven’t knowingly bought anything from Nestle since I was old enough to form an opinion on such matters. Okay, I thought I’ll do without the rolos and go for a large bar of Cadbury’s caramel chocolate instead. As I was picking the bar up, however, I realised how ridiculous the whole thing was. Cadbury’s has recently been taken over by Kraft – well, as far as I know, they are no more ethical than Nestle. For want of a better alternative, I have continued to buy Green & Black’s, despite them now being owned by Kraft. So I pulled a face and bought the rolos.
This is what I did:
- Creamed 220g unsalted butter with 220g caster sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Beat in 4 duck eggs, one at a time and mixing in a spoonful of the flour between each egg.
- Sifted in 170g flour (mostly white with a bit of wholemeal spelt), 50g cocoa and 1 large tsp baking powder.
- Mixed in 1 large spoonful of Greek yogurt.
- Chopped 20 rolos (2 packets) in half and stirred those in.
- Spooned into a 22cm cake mould and baked at 180C for 40 mins until the cake was well risen and cracked on the top.
- Turned out onto a wire rack and left to cool.
- Creamed 100g unsalted butter together with 150g icing sugar and 2 tbsp cocoa.
- Added a glug of toffee syrup and beat until smooth and light.
- Spread this over the cold cake.
- Attempted to decorate with a happy face on top of the cake using rolos and white chocolate buttons.
Luckily, I needn’t have worried; the cake proved to be a huge success and was enjoyed by adults and children alike. The birthday girl showed her appreciation in the usual way. Although I wasn’t there, a slice was very kindly kept back for me so that I could try it. It was moist and tasty with slightly chewy melted toffee bits in the middle. I’d be happy to have this for my birthday cake whatever my age.
We were off to friends for dinner and a catch up after far too long a time. A few weeks earlier I had borrowed The Chocolate Cookbook by Christine France from our local library and I spotted this interesting recipe in it. The right opportunity to make it had now arrived.