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

Chocolate & Almond Fudge Cake – Short & Tweet

5 Star, Large Cakes | 30th October 2011 | By

After missing out on tasting the Orange and Earl Grey Cake, I desperately wanted to bake an orange cake this weekend. Then I found out that the deadline for the inaugural bake for #shortandtweet had been extended until today and I was able to participate after all. Not only that, but the bake was to be a chocolate one – how could I resist? So very naughtily, I baked an orange cake on Friday, which I will post at some later date and Dan Lepard’s Chocolate and Almond Fudge Cake today.

I don’t feel quite as guilty about this as I should, as I managed to share some of the orange cake with a friend as well as CT and there is still a substantial quantity left. The chocolate cake looks as though it will be a keeper, so we won’t need to eat it straight away – apart from trying a small piece, for the purposes of this post you understand.

Short and Tweet is a new event set up by Evidence Matters. EM responded to a burst of enthusiasm by some of us on Twitter wanting to share our experiences of Dan Lepard’s bakes, following the long awaited publication of Short and Sweet. As this is a weekly challenge, I won’t be able to participate all of the time, but I’m hoping to join in as often as I can.

The guardian recipe is slightly different to the one in the book. The book states 3 medium eggs rather than 4 large ones. Amazingly for me, I pretty much followed the recipe (from the book) as written, with the following exceptions:

  • I didn’t have any oatmeal so ground up porridge oats instead
  • I used a hand whisk to beat the egg whites as it really doesn’t take long and saved the faff of getting out the electric beaters.
  • I don’t have a 20 cm round mould so used my 22 cm one, but cooked for the required 40 mins.
  • I decided not to top the cake with double cream as I wanted it to keep for as long as possible, so just scattered grated chocolate over the top.
  • I used 70% dark chocolate from Divine to make the cake and grated some of this first for scattering purposes further down the line, before melting it into the cake mixture.
  • I didn’t put the cake into the fridge – I never have any room in there!
When I have a real need for something warm, comforting, chocolatey and quick, I sometimes make chocolate porridge. Well, the raw mixture of this cake tasted like an enriched and sweeter version of my porridge – I could have happily eaten it just as it was.

However, I managed to hang on until the cake was baked. It could be that I didn’t cook it for long enough as it sank rather dramatically. The top, however came out quite cracked and was well done. It is dense, rich and delicious, but a bit hard to describe. The consistency is sort of somewhere between porridge, mousse and soufflé – firm around the edges but squidgy in the middle, chewy but also soft and melts in the mouth. It’s also very chocolatey, but with all that chocolate and cocoa in it, I guess that is no surprise. I would suggest it’s more of a dinner party cake than  a tea time treat. CT could taste the almonds and commented on how the robust chocolate flavour lingers on the palate. He described it as a cake for all seasons, as it does many things at the same time. With due consideration, he said “this is the thinking man’s chocolate torte”.

We Should Cocoa – The Chilli Round-up

We Should Cocoa | 29th October 2011 | By

As you know, I was a little nervous about putting forward chilli as this month’s ingredient, but I needn’t have been. Everyone was very enthusiastic and we had thirty hot hot entries. I particularly loved the vibrant colours associated with chillies that have been showcased here. Once again, we have a great range of dishes on offer, from cakes and puddings to bread and some savoury dishes too – a testament to the creative flair of the participants. Brownies and some sort of variation on chocolate pots proved to be particularly popular, but quite frankly I want to try every single entry, with the possible exception of my own 😉

Don’t forget to check out the Chocolate Teapot on the 1st November to find out what Chele has up her sleeve for next month’s challenge.

Dom of Belleau Kitchen got all scientific on us this month but nevertheless the capsaicin kicked in early and got him moving with this darkly lush Chilli Chocolate Orange Cake, a real feast for the senses.

These Chilli Choc Cupcakes from first timer Kat of Life of a Cupcake Baker served several purposes: to lose weight, to induce labour and to calm her son – chilli is truly the panacea for all ills!

Chilli loving Baking Addict of The More Than Occasional Baker was rather nervous about trying this month’s challenge out on her work colleagues, but was delighted to find that white chocolate and chilli was a winning combination after all and everyone loved these White Chocolate Chilli Brownies.

Chocolate Chili Souffle just sounds as though it’s going to be fabulous and this one made by newcomer Gary of Exploits of a Food Nut certainly look the business.

Hannah of Corner Cottage Bakery has got her Christmas hat on and come up with these festive and perky little Apricot Chilli Florentines.

First timer Cake Fairy has wowed me, not only by the flavours of this magnificent Chilli Chocolate Swiss Roll with Cream and Blackberry Jam, but also by her expert rolling – and it was her first attempt too.

With many ideas spinning around her head, Alex of Dear Love Blog eventually settled on Chipotle Brownies – on my continual quest for the ultimate brownie, I’m wondering if this might just be it.

What else is needed other than some lush and decedent Chocolate Chilli Sauce to power The Kitchenmaid up those steep Wellington goat tracks – nothing apparently.

Look at What Kate Baked. Her Chilli Chocolate Cupcakes Bites sound delicious but I was seriously impressed with her chilli impersonations.

Michele of Food, Football and a Baby took the chilli theme most literally and made this beautifully rich coloured Mexican chunky vegetable chili with dark chocolate

Suelle of Mainly Baking is well seasoned in cooking with chilli and chocolate. Unhappy with the cookies she made as her first attempt, however, she put her thinking cap on and came up with this ingenious Chocolate, Cherry and Chilli Tart.

C of Cake Crumbs and Cooking did a marathon daily chocolate bake throughout Chocolate Week. She just happened to knock up this Chilli Chocolate Fudge Cake one night after work. It includes peanut butter and lime as well as chilli and sounds divine.

Carina of Cooking with Carina shocked her work colleagues (well one of them anyway) with her deliciously fudgy looking Chilli Chocolate Brownies.

When plans for chilli chocolate ice-cream didn’t come to fruition, Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen came up with a warm version instead. Her Baked Chilli Chocolate Custards sound very much like something I’d like to eat – what a fab idea.

Fast running out of time, Karen of Lavender and Lovage whipped up an extravaganza of chocolate, chilli and milk in this Mexican Hot Chocolate featuring three types of chocolate no less and all served in a chocolate mug.

I was all set for Shaheen of Allotment 2 Kitchen to give us a savoury treat, but at the last minute she changed her mind and surprised me with these cute Chilli Chocolate Apricot Flapjacks.

Working London Mummy really went to town and it was the posh part of town too. She made these fabulously elegant Pink Macarons with Chilli Chocolate Ganache. And she got such perfect looking results on only her third try!

Spontaneous Euphoria must have known about Janet’s non ice-cream as she has come in magnificently to fill that gap in this month’s chilli repertoire. Chocolate Chilli Ice-Cream.

I had a feeling that Phil from As Strong As Soup might grace us with a savoury recipe for this challenge and he didn’t disappoint. I really like the combination of spices, nuts and tomatoes in this Turkey in a Chilli Nut and Chocolate Sauce.

In experimental mode, The Hungry Hinny combined orange, chocolate and chilli (she must have caught the vibe from Dom) and made this truffley Chilli Chocolate Orange Torte.

Moving to a new job, a new home and a new town, Carly of Tart to Heart still found time to make these Chili Pots de Creme and show them off in style.

Snowy of Cookbooks Galore got a bit more than she bargained for with her Chocolate and Chilli Madeira Cake. The chilli chocolate topping might not have been quite what was wanted, but I thought the layering on this cake was stunning.

Looking for something sort of healthy, but also warming and satisfying on these chilly autumnal days and nights,  Selina of Yummy Choo Eats came up with these Chipolte Chilli Chocolate Flapjacks.

Fellow partner in We Should Cocoa crime, Chele of Chocolate Teapot fancied playing Russian Roulette this month. You get to choose one of her splendid Trick or Treat Cupcakes but don’t know which it will be until biting into it. Guess which one she got 😉

Co-incidentally, there are two chilli challenges this month. Lyndsey of Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops has launched a Sweet Heat Challenge, so couldn’t resist participating in this one too. She’s rather mildly called these Chocolate Chilli Pots but garnishing them with white chocolate covered chillies, these are anything but mild.

First timer Laura of How to Cook Good Food leapt at the chance of making Chilli Chocolate Bread Rolls – how cool is that? Well possibly not that cool! Stuffed with cream cheese, these sound like a must try.

Another fan of the chilli and chocolate combination, Mel of Sharky Oven Gloves was buzzing with ideas, but in the end made these delightfully fudgy triple chilli Aztec Brownies.

My own rather late entry was, err, perhaps a little excessive and won’t be repeated in a hurry. But sometimes it’s good to push out the boundaries – just so you know! Chocotos – Chocolate Stuffed Chillies.

Coming in right at the, err, last minute are these fabulous Chilli Chocolate Truffles from Kath of the Ordinary Cook. Beware, they have an additional kick besides the chilli.

Just when I thought there couldn’t possibly be any more, BVG aka Brownieville Girl got in with these supposedly wussy, but I read delicious, Mini Chocolate Pots.

A Bonanza of Bakes

Well, I don’t think I’d ever baked quite so many cakes for one event – I was almost, but not quite, caked out! Friends were hosting an Open Weekend to celebrate 30 years of living in their beautiful moorland house and had asked me if I would bake cakes for the event.

With a small kitchen and not that much equipment, little storage and no room in the freezer, planning eight bakes was quite a feat. What would keep the longest, where could I store the finished bakes, what selection should I make and how many eggs and bags of flour did I need were some of the things that went into the equation. I did it over two and a half days so I could enjoy the experience, rather than being in a total stress and vowing never to do it again. And, although the process was not without its drama, I really did enjoy it. It was fun to make a load of cakes that didn’t have chocolate in them for a start – although I couldn’t resist entirely and it managed to creep into three of them. Transporting them to the venue also proved to be a bit of a challenge, but they arrived in more or less one piece, despite the hilly and winding nature of the roads.

The response was positively effusive and I came away glowing from all of the compliments I received. This together with all the other good food and excellent company, a good time was had by all.

Here are the finished bakes. The labels came courtesy of CT. Which one would you want to try?

Pam Corbin’s Orange & Earl Grey Cake from her excellent book Cakes. The orange cream cheese filling that I made with mascarpone was to die for. As you can see, I didn’t make the icing quite thick enough, so most of it dripped off and pooled around the bottom! I was particularly intrigued by this one, but as I didn’t get to try it, I might just have to make it again.

Sour Cherry Brownies adapted from Green & Black’s Unwrapped. These turned out amazingly well considering the poor start I gave them. More on this in a subsequent post.

I made the apple and thyme cake I made last month, only this time I whizzed up the thyme with the caster sugar before creaming to make the taste more pronounced and left out the chocolate.

Dan Lepard’s Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake from Short & Sweet – I managed to try a bit of this one and it was totally delicious light and lemony but with a bit of texture.

Lemon & Cardamom Shortbread Biscuits – the “home made” stamp worked a bit better this time, but I still have a way to go to perfect my technique!

The Apple & Choc Chip Rock Cakes that I’d made to such acclaim a few weeks back were specifically requested.

Nigella’s sticky ginger cake with lemon icing from How to be a domestic goddess.

The star of the show was the Chocolate Cake with apple lemon curd filling and treacle fudge icing. This was one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve yet made – recipe to follow.

PS – Our friends have tried several times to comment on this post, but blogger has been playing up and they have been unable to do so. I’m therefore posting their message here as they wanted it to appear somewhere.

“Well, we were the very lucky friends to be recipient of this amazing ‘bonanza of cakes’.
I wish I had at the time taken a photo of the master cook and her partner as they walked up our front steps, just like the magi carrying gifts. They were both beaming with pleasure and delight, very pleased, and quite rightly too. Our open house was spread over two days. We displayed two cakes on the table straight away and the rest were hidden under it, brought out at various times to meet the ever increasing demand. But they  had to last for two days to ensure that the last visitor, who came on Sunday night at 9.30 p.m. could enjoy this delight too.

We have tasted good cakes in the past. But this was something else. The surprising ingredients – poppy seeds, earl grey, cardamom, thyme – alongside delicious lemon curd, chocolate, cherry, ginger and the wonderful presentation made these cakes exceptional. They were  in a totally different league and our guests were bowled over by them.” 

Chocotos – Chocolate Stuffed Chillies – We Should Cocoa 14

Having decided on chilli as this month’s ingredient for We Should Cocoa, I rather lost the plot and ran out of inspiration. I’d just made a chilli chocolate cake so wanted to do something a bit different. I eventually plumped on chocolate chilli truffles which I was quite excited about, but in the end I ran out of time. I also had the first ripened chillies from our plot and they needed using.

CT is trying to breed a species of chilli called rocoto (Capsicum pubescens), so it can not only grow outdoors in the UK but will also ripen reliably. This means, all being well, we end up with a mountain of chillies to process each year. Luckily, we’re both fond of chillies and I make this chilli sauce every season, which doubles nicely as a Christmas present for chilli lovers.

So stuffed chillies it was going to be. My first thought was to stuff them with a mixture of chocolate and ricotta as I liked the idea of chocolate ricotta rocotos; thinking it through, I decided cream cheese would be a better option. These chillies are hot and having eaten them stuffed before, I was concerned they might just blow our heads right off. Fat is one of the best methods of cooling down the capsaisin, the compound responsible for their heat; either that or sugar. Ahhh, sugar. I had been going to use a dark 85% chocolate to mix with the cheese, but finding out about the sugar, I went for a sweeter chocolate instead. Orange chocolate was the one I chose as I thought the zingy flavour would bring out the citrus notes in the chillies. So this is what I did:

  • Asked CT to do the difficult bit decapitating and deseeding 8 rocoto chillies without breaking them – no mean feat.
  • Melted 30g of 47% dark orange chocolate (Lindt Orange Intense)
  • Mixed this into 100g cream cheese.
  • Using the handle end of a teaspoon, pushed this mixture into the chillies. Placed the tops back on the chillies and placed into a greased baking dish.
  • Baked on the bottom shelf of the oven whilst the bread was baking at 200C and left them there for 20 minutes.
  • Drizzled some more of the melted chocolate over the top.

Hope springs eternal but so does the heat of a rocoto. We had one each, eaten with a cooling chillie free cauliflower curry and rice AND they still nearly blew our heads off. Luckily a fire extinguisher was at hand in the form of the leftover filling which we spooned into our mouths in desperation. This was only marginally cooling, but it was delicious and I think will be featuring in some future cheesecake recipe. CT said, when he recovered his voice, that it felt like someone had poured molten wax down his Eustachian tubes. I would not recommend this method of eating chillies unless you are of a particularly strong constitution.

PS the next evening CT blitzed the remaining curry for soup and included 1 chilli. If you like your food spicy hot, this was just about right – delicious.

Chocolate Brazil Cookies Revisited – Random Recipes 9

Biscuits | 23rd October 2011 | By

We are well and truly being kept on our toes with this challenge. For some reason Dom doesn’t think we are being as random as we should be in his Random Recipes challenge. To get around this, he has teamed us up with another blogger this month, who is responsible for selecting the book and page number for us. This reduces the chance to cheat somewhat. NOT, I hasten to add, that I have ever done such a thing. I was teamed up with Miss Cake Baker of What I Baked This Weekend and in a series of exchanges via Twitter she selected Chocolate Brazil soft-baked biscuits from Green & Black’s Unwrapped. I am always terrified I’m going to get something really difficult, but once again, I was lucky.

I had already made these, way back in the early days of my blog but they hadn’t turned out quite as I’d imagined. So rather than asking MCB to choose again, I thought it would be good to give them another go, use a less dark chocolate and add a bit more milk.

This is what I did:

  • Roughly chopped 50g Brazil nuts and 125g milk chocolate (46%).
  • Creamed 75g unsalted butter with 60g vanilla sugar (granulated) until soft and fluffy.
  • Beat in 1 duck egg and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Sifted in 175g wholemeal flour, 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt.
  • Stirred in 2 tbsp milk.
  • Folded in the nuts and chocolate.
  • Placed 20 teaspoonfuls on lined baking trays then flattened them with a fork dipped in water. The recipe stated the dough should be rolled out, but I couldn’t see how that would be possible with all those chocolate lumps and bumps and the mixture was a little too moist anyway.
  • Baked at 180C for 12 minutes.

The biscuits didn’t spread this time either, but I managed to flatten them more than I did in my first attempt and they thus had a better texture. They weren’t too sweet and were delicious warm whilst the chocolate was still melted. A definite improvement on the first time. CT got his cold, but he also thought they were delicious.

Cornwall Food and Drink Festival – Guest Post

I’m very pleased to welcome CT (aka Rhizowen) of Radix to my blog for a one off chance to get his take on the Cornish foodie scene.

When Choclette suggested that I accompany her on a trip to Truro for the Cornwall Food and Drink Festival,  I jumped at the opportunity. I knew from past experience that all the free samples in themselves probably constituted a meal.  Could it be that Mrs Thatcher was wrong and that, in Cornwall at least, there is such a thing as a free lunch?

Walking down to Lemon Quay (how appropriate is that?) I could detect the first hints of Cornish mist descending. No matter, the event was located in a marquee so the weather could do its worst and we’d still remain dry. As we approached, we were greeted by this statue. The old song The Little Drummer Boy immediately came to mind; on closer inspection “little” was perhaps a misnomer for this – how shall I put it – larger than life character. As an old-timer passing by said to Choclette: “don’t look at ‘e, t’is likely your eyes’ll drop out”.

The marquee was bustling and it was a case of going with the flow as best one could and then exiting for a few moments to talk to the exhibitors. That and get stuck into the free samples.

Artisan breads were represented by Baker Tom and Vicky’s Bread, both well known locally for the quality of their baked goods.

Here’s the world’s best cheese – apparently. At least it was in 2010 and I can attest to the fact Cornish Blue still tastes pretty fine.

And this is a local speciality – Yarg, a cheese wrapped in nettles. It’s a fun idea and tastes delicious. The fun doesn’t extend quite so far if you’re the one  picking the nettles though. Like the Cornish Blue, it was originally developed on the edge of Bodmin Moor, close to where Choclette grew up. I’m not, by the way, suggesting that she grew up in a cowshed. Come to think of it though, she did!

All that bread and cheese naturally requires chutney. The ones from Crellow really hit the spot – they were excellent.  I was particularly taken by the tomato jam and the fig and lemon versions;  I spooned out perhaps a little more than I deserved onto the accompanying crackers.

This is the chocolate lady, Nicky Grant, or rather one of her classically inspired creations. But who, when all is said and done, wants to feast their eyes on a marble torso when they can devour a chocolate counterpart? That could explain the missing bits: maybe some lucky soul had already bitten off her head and limbs.

Nicky, who does actually feature in the background, similarly cropped, works with her husband and is a pukka chocolatier, producing some very fine chocolates.

I can attest to this fact, as we got to try some of her award winning fennel and ginger truffles. As I drooled, Choclette discussed the arcane world of dry caramel preparation, tempering and other such niceties. Each to their own.


For some strange reason, nettles featured at the festival more than once: here’s Cornish Stingers Nettle Beer. This caused quite a furore when the dead hand of EU bureaucracy threatened the producers with closure. Put it this way: when is a beer not a beer? Answer: when it’s made with nettles. And no malt. That makes it a wine.  And here’s your £10,000 tax bill. I’m not entirely sure how this stand off was resolved, but they’re still brewing this, er, alcoholic beverage.

I was also interested to see the display of sea vegetables, one of the mainstays of the oh-so-trendy forager’s diet. The sea purslane and sea spinach are quite tasty; the rock samphire is more of a flavouring or condiment than a salad.

If all that greenery seems a little worthy, biscuits too were available – Cornish fairings, clotted cream shortbreads and also saffron cake – all from Simply Cornish.  I’ll resist cliches about hot cakes and let this picture speak for itself.

Outside the marquee, the street market was in full swing. I couldn’t resist buying another local speciality – some daffodil bulbs. The fields of West Cornwall are quite a sight when they are in bloom.

I’m about as annoying and persistent as a wasp when the opportunity to sample some honey is available.  In this case it was worth it: Gwenen Apiaries heather honey was truly exquisite. I also had an interesting chat with Carole Dewhurst, who with her husband Rodger, run Gwenen.  Not only do they produce honey – Rodger is also a bee breeder, who is developing strains of bee adapted to the Cornish climate. Talking of the climate, it was now raining hard, so I decided to keep the camera under wraps, hence the lack of pictures. Apparently some of Rodger’s bees show signs of resistance to varroa infestations. They have developed the habit of biting off the mites rather than allowing them to cling on. This behaviour coincidentally makes them keener to nip the beekeeper rather than sting.  Fascinating – now if only he can get the money to carry out further research. Listen up potential benefactors!

After our second go round the marquee, we opted to escape the crowds and headed off with a considerable weight of purchased produce, to Chantek for lunch, where you can get some tasty oriental food at a very reasonable price.

Following lunch we toured the town before dropping into the award winning Charlotte’s Tea House. We had passed many times before, but never ventured in.    As the Cornish mist had by now transformed in to proper rain, we thought it an opportune moment to try it out. The tea house is located upstairs and entering it is like passing through a portal in the space-time continuum as you climb the stairs past books and household items from times gone by. At the top of the stairs you are greeted by waitresses in Nippy style uniforms who invite you to be seated – all very retro and enjoyable. The tea was very good too.  And this meringue, with a generous dollop of appellation controlee clotted cream went down very nicely. From our window seat we could see the umbrella wielding shoppers bustling across Boscawen Street – a scene not unlike Renoir’s painting Les Parapluies.

Suitably replete, we descended the stairs and headed home, after a thoroughly enjoyable visit. So although Lincolnshire won in the British Favourite Food Spot 2011 competition   and I’m too polite to say “fix”, I think Cornwall can give a fairly good account of itself in the foodie stakes.

Welsh Cakes and Macmillan Cancer Support

Scones, Welsh | 19th October 2011 | By

With October this year designated as Breast Cancer Awareness month, it seems fitting to review The Little Book of Treats sold in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. The book was produced specifically for the World’s Biggest Coffee Morning which was held back in September, but on-going support for this vital cause is always welcome – see the website for details. It’s on sale in M&S Cafes for £3.

The booklet I was sent to review consists of 31 baking recipes which would work well for coffee mornings, school fetes and other fund raisers. There are recipes to suit the novice baker as well as some more challenging ones. Recipes have been chosen by keen home bakers as well as a number of celebrities and include: Sophie Dahl’s lemon capri torte, rhubarb crumble muffins, beetroot and chocolate brownies and pancakes from Gwyneth Paltrow. There are several I have my eye on.

I’ve been wanting to make Welsh Cakes for an age now, so looking through the book, I was delighted to come across a recipe from Sue Topley of Gillingham, Dorset. You’d think Welsh Cakes would be really simple, I certainly thought they would be, but I managed to mess them up good and proper – sigh!

This is what I did:

  • Rubbed 125g unsalted butter into 250g flour (1/2 spelt, 1/2 white), 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda, 1 tsp cream of tarter and 1/4 tsp salt until the butter had all but disappeared.
  • Stirred in 80g cardamom sugar, 75g currants and 50g of chopped dark chocolate (81%).
  • Made a well in the centre, dripped in 1 medium egg and stirred.
  • Bought the mixture together with my hands into a ball and rolled out on a floured surface to 1.5 cm deep.
  • Used one of my new cutters to make 16 rounds.
  • All had gone completely fine up to this point, but I hadn’t bargained on the chocolate factor – d’oh!
  • Heated a heavy bottomed frying pan on medium heat and added a small splash of sunflower oil to avoid sticking.
  • Placed 7 rounds in the pan (whilst I carried on cutting out the others).
  • In no time at all, they had burned black – why??? I’m still not entirely sure, because although some of the chocolate melted and burned, the pan wasn’t super hot and there wasn’t that much chocolate oozing out.
  • Hey ho, I put the oven on to warm at 200C and baked the remainder for 10 minutes. Placed on a wire rack to cool and sprinkled some caster sugar over the tops.

Welsh Cakes, but not as any self respecting Welsh person would know them! The ultimate insult following the defeat in the Rugby World Cup. Although the insides of the first batch were fine, the burnt outsides ruined them somewhat and I was so looking forward to scoffing hot Welsh Cakes straight from the pan. Those in the oven were fine, but didn’t look like or have the right texture to be anything like authentic. The overall effect of adding the chocolate was really good though and it offset the sweetness nicely. Just as many Welsh households underwent a period of heart searching following the defeat, I’ve been wondering why I failed so spectacularly. Could it be the pan or was it the chocolate?

Chocolate Week and Cornish Goings On

Just in case you hadn’t noticed, it’s National Chocolate Week this week and I wanted to pay homage to this wonderful food of the gods. This is a chocolate blog after all and it would be a pretty poor show not to take part in this celebratory week. Last year, I attended an excellent tea and chocolate tasting event on the Tregothnan Estate. The previous year I created my own chocolate event. However, what with one thing and another, I really didn’t have time to organise much this year – I had loads of cakes to plan for and bake for a start! Looking at the events calendar, there wasn’t a lot going on in Cornwall. But there were a couple of tea shops taking part and both sounded tempting.

Chocolate Week, now in it’s eighth year is sponsored mainly by Divine, a Fairtrade chocolate company which is 45% owned by it’s farmers. Launched in 1998, this was the UK’s first fair trade chocolate company and it has been going from strength to strength ever since. This week is all about indulgence, but indulgence in good quality and ethical chocolate cannot be a bad thing.

So to yesterday. I had a really busy but really enjoyable day and packed loads in, including a couple of chocolate week celebrations and far too much food. The morning was spent finishing off and decorating the cakes which had to be delivered by 12:00 – more on those in another post. Suffice it to say, I managed to get them completed and delivered in more or less good condition by 12:15.

We were now free to head off to our first chocolate destination, the Cowslip Cafe, a tearoom I was very pleased to discover. Set on a working farm together with a needlecraft workshop and shop selling all things material and quilted, it was a quiet location with lovely views across the valley to Launceston. The menu was interesting and the food good. Many of the vegetables used in the dishes were grown in an adjacent garden. We sat outside in the sunshine sheltered beneath a turf roof. The chocolate offerings of the day were A white chocolate cheesecake and a chocolate roulade. We had one of each to share – well what else could we do to support Chocolate Week? The white chocolate cheesecake was particularly good.

Feeling full, we headed off to our next chocolate destination which entailed a long drive through Cornwall’s picturesque (read tortuous) lane network to the wind blasted and furthest flung part of North Cornwall – Morwenstow. This hamlet is renowned as the home of the Reverend Hawker (1803-1875), an opium smoking eccentric whose activities included dressing up as a mermaid to encourage tourists to the area. He was by all accounts a bit of a case. He is, however, well known in church circles for introducing the Harvest Festival to Churches in 1843. We checked out the gothic rectory he had built, complete with church spire chimneys. He must have had some cash, because it was enormous. You can find out a bit more about his eccentric behavour over at Feast & Festivals.

We sat out in the autumnal sunshine again, this time at the Rectory Tearooms, an award winning establishment recognised by the Tea Guild. We could see why. The tea menu was not only present but was quite extensive – heavens to Hawker, it was even in the cake we ate. Yes, we managed to force down a piece of Divine Chocolate and Earl Grey Torte (we did share this one) and Divine it really was. CT partook of Orange Oolong and I supped White Monkey. This wonderful establishment is also set on a working farm, an organic one this time, so I was doubly pleased.

Our rapidly expanding girths were in need of trimming, so we set off in the late afternoon sunshine to walk the cliffs. The views were stunning, the North Coast is particularly dramatic in this area, although rather hard on the knees. We paid a brief visit to Hawker’s Hut, a small bothy set into the cliffs – perhaps this is where he smoked his opium, wrote poetry and watched the smuggling activities of his parishioners.

With the sun sinking fairly rapidly, we set off back to our first stop – the party was now in full swing involving plentiful supplies of food of all sorts (including chocolate cake), drink and Breton dancing.

The Rectory Tearooms, we were already aware of, but it’s thanks to Chocolate Week we’ve now found a new cafe well worth revisiting. And because of the special occasion we both mini 70% Divine dark chocolates to take home with us from both establishments. Today is the last day of Chocolate Week, so you still have a chance to take part. You can find out what’s going on around the country here. If you are in London you have Chocolate Unwrapped. I’m trying very hard not to feel too deprived down in this remote part of the country, although there are of course certain compensations!

Dan Lepard’s Short & Sweet Giveaway #4

Book Reviews, Giveaway | 14th October 2011 | By

Following on from the whoopie pie experience in my last post, I’m delighted to announce that I have three copies of Short & Sweet to give away to my readers. Yes, that’s right, the publishers, Fourth Estate, have been very generous and are offering not one but three copies.

As already stated in my previous post, I’m very excited about this book. Dan Lepard’s renowned book The Handmade Loaf, together with his excellent baking forum and weekly baking column in the Guardian have established him as one of the best bakers in the UK. I ordered the book back in April and had to wait six long months before it finally arrived through my letterbox.

First off, this is a nice hefty book with over 550 pages and a distinctive tricolour cover. It’s bound in such a way that the page stays open at pretty much any point, most unusual and very welcome.

In true Dan Lepard style, the recipes are inspirational. I leapt straight to the chapter on cakes of course, but the book starts with the real staff of life – bread. Other sections include biscuits, desserts, savoury pies, yeasted sweet bakes and even a chapter on making your own sweets. Each chapter starts with a few pages of techniques; tips are scattered throughout the book. On reading the tips and techniques section of the cake chapter, I noted several things I was unaware of. I’m an inveterate forgetter of remembering to turn the oven on in time. I was particularly pleased therefore to discover that it doesn’t matter too much if you don’t place the finished cake mixture immediately in the oven. If you transfer it very gently, the “rise” should not be affected.

Dan uses some unusual ingredients in his cake recipes including rye and hemp flours, ground porridge oats and condensed milk. That and some unusual techniques make for an intriguing baking experience. Apart from the chocolate ones (of course), some of the cakes I’m looking forward to making include: cherry beet cake, sticky lemon & poppy seed cake, coconut milk layer cake and saffron peach cake.

Although I like to think of myself as a serious cook, I do find I like to have photographs in my cookbooks. It’s always nice to have an idea of what your aiming for and sometimes it’s the picture alone that seals the deal on whether you bake a particular recipe. This was my one disappointment with Short & Sweet, there are photographs and very enticing ones too, but they don’t cover every bake. A book mark ribbon would also be a welcome addition, but I guess I can live without that.

You can watch a 50 second video of Dan talking about his book here.

As regular readers will know I always give my own views on any items I review. In this case I bought the book for myself so you can be doubly sure that I do indeed think it’s a classic and will make an excellent addition to any baking library.

So, to the giveaway and your chance to win one of the three copies. You must leave a comment on this post answering the question below. You have until midnight on Friday 21st October when the giveaway closes. The winners will be randomly selected after this date. Apologies to oversees visitors, but this is only open to those with a UK or Ireland postal address.

What cake recipe do you consider to be indispensable in a cookbook?

Additional entries can also be made by (but you must answer the question above for these to be eligible):

  • Following my blog via Google Friend Connect – leave a separate comment here telling me you have done so.
  • Following me on Twitter – leave a separate comment here telling me you have done so with your Twitter id.
  • Tweeting this message “win a copy of @dan_lepard Short & Sweet from Chocolate Log Blog @Choclette8 – bit.ly/pE6ARV” – leave a separate comment here telling me you have done so
  • Liking this post on Facebook – leave a separate comment here telling me you have done so.
22 October Update. This giveaway is now closed. The three winners have been drawn using Random.Org as follows:
  • 78 – Nursey
  • 53 – Janice
  • 37 – Dom

Chocolate Whoopie Pies – the agony and the ecstasy

A date, a date, I had a date with Dan Lepard. Well to be strictly fair, Dan Lepard had a date with the Eden Project. Not wanting to miss this opportunity to get my recent purchase of Dan’s new baking book signed by the man himself, I booked a day off work. Dan was to be a guest at the Eden Project’s Harvest Food Festival where he was to open their new bakery and give a demo.

The book in question is the much heralded Short & Sweet: the best of home baking. I was rather on tenterhooks as to whether the book would arrive before the big day; it was due to be published on Super Thursday and I needed it for the following Monday 3rd October. But arrive it did and not only in time to get it signed, but also time to have a go at baking something from it. What a delight to read, so many inspiring recipes and lots of really good tips and techniques: it’s a proper cook’s book. There were so many intriguing ideas to explore, I wanted to get stuck in straight away. But, when I saw the entry for Chocolate Whoopie Pies, I knew my moment of destiny had arrived.  I’d been feeling I ought to have a go at them ever since they came onto the scene a couple of years ago, but for some reason I hadn’t yet got around to making any, so I …….

  • Melted 75g unsalted butter in a pan over low heat with 75g dark chocolate (81%) and left to cool slightly.
  • Using a hand held whisk, beat 1 duck egg with 175g dark brown sugar until thick, pale and doubled in volume.
  • Beat in the butter mixture together with 50ml milk and 75g creme fraiche. Original recipe stated 25ml milk and 125g sour cream, but my creme fraiche is home made and very thick.
  • On re-reading the recipe I realised I should have added a tsp of vanilla extract at this point – oops!
  • Sifted in 250g flour (half wholemeal, half white), 25g cocoa and 3/4 tsp bicarb of soda.
  • Stirred until just combined, then spooned walnut sized blobs onto a large lined (with my silicone mat) baking tray, spacing them well apart.
  • Flattened them down a little with wet fingers (Dan’s tip).
  • Baked at 180C for 13 mins.
  • Removed (successfully – think I’ve got the hang of this silicone mat business now) onto a wire rack to cool.
  • Repeated the process – making 40 half pies in total.
  • Melted 100g marshmallows in a pan over a gentle heat with 25 ml milk.
  • Removed from heat and whisked until smooth. Left to cool slightly (but not so long that it would set).
  • Creamed 125g unsalted butter until fluffy then beat in the marshmallows.
  • Sifted 100g icing sugar with 25g cocoa powder and added about 2 tbsp water until I had a spreadable consistency (Dan’s recipe used twice the amount of icing sugar and cocoa, but I thought this would be enough).
  • Sandwiched the half pies together with the marshmallow butter to make 20 pies and  spread some chocolate icing on top – luckily, I had just the right amount.

Never having had a whoopie pie before, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. Mine may or may not, therefore, be typical, but they certainly ended up looking absolutely nothing like the ones in the book. I didn’t use a piping bag for a start. My attempts may look rather rough and ready, but I thought they still looked appealing in a home spun sort of way. They were deeply chocolatey and the lack of vanilla didn’t really impact on their tastiness and they weren’t too sweet either. The marshmallow cream was delicious but it had a rather gloopy consistency until it set properly. It did make a good contrast to the rich chocolate pies and the chocolate icing gave an additional chocolate hit, as well as adding a note of sweetness to proceedings. These were indeed a cross between a biscuit and a cake, crisp on the outside and cakey soft on the inside. CT thought these were drier than a cupcake but moister than a biscuit. He got all nostaligic when it came to the icing, which reminded him of the bought cupcakes he had as a kid. Amazingly these lasted a full week and got better as they aged. They also got a big thumbs up from both my mother and a friend, so although these were rather a faff to make, they were worth the effort and made for a fun bake.

As for my date, he stood me up! My carefully wrapped whoopie pie withstood the journey and arrived at Eden in one piece in full anticipation of being tried by the great man himself. Events took another turn, however; Dan’s plane was cancelled and he was unable to get to Cornwall. The pie had to make do with being eaten by CT and myself.

Can you wait to get your hands on a copy of this book? All I can say is be patient. Watch this space and in the next couple of days or so all will be revealed.