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

We Should Cocoa – the Blackcurrant Round-Up

We Should Cocoa | 29th July 2012 | By

Well it looks as though I pulled off my bad cop persona well for this month’s We Should Cocoa as virtually everyone has been telling me that blackcurrants are a really challenging ingredient. Many have been unable to get hold of the fresh berries, some don’t like them and a few didn’t know what they were. Luckily the vast majority of sceptics were pleasantly surprised when they tried the blackcurrant and chocolate combination and have now been converted to its delights. Once again an amazing display of collective creativity and talent is abundantly displayed. Despite this somewhat difficult challenge, I’ve still received 37 entries, so a big well done to everyone. So if anyone is stumped as to what to do with blackcurrants in the future you now know where to come.

Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen will be hosting next month, so be sure to check out her blog on the 1st August to see what challenge she will have for us.

Chris of Cooking Around the World got things off to a flying start by tempting me with these very gooey blackcurrant caramel brownies made with blackcurrant jam. Not content with the calorific brownies alone, he served them with hazelnut semifreddo – oh boy!

Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen followed next with one of my absolute favourites, a pavlova. A chocolate and berry pavlova to be precise. Now if there is one thing better than meringue, it is a chocolate meringue topped with summer berries and cream. And just look at that mouth watering layer of chocolate on which the cream and berries are sitting. Cleverly she used frozen berries.

Janine of Cake of the Week used this blackcurrant opportunity to try out the new sugar alternative Truvia. She made chocolate cupcakes with blackcurrant icing. The topping was a new one on me, faux French buttercream made with egg yolks and flavoured with blackcurrant jam.

Here’s some white chocolate and blackcurrant ice-cream looking fabulicious and professionally served in a cone with sprinkles and the whole works. Ren of Fabulicious Food reckons she may have found the perfect recipe with this one – an easy to make, no churn ice-cream. She was unable to find fresh berries so used frozen ones.

This amazing blackcurrant and chocolate cake was made by Rachel of Blissfully Scrumptious in honour of the first Dorset CCC meeting. If this cake is anything to go by, the name blissfully scrumptious is not an exaggeration – just look at the lovely stencilling on top. Adapted from a Peggy Porschen recipe, this was a chocolate cake with buttercream filling and topping using blackcurrant jam.

I was pleased to see my old childhood treat, Ribena, make an appearance in these blackcurrant glazed chocolate cakes. Angela of Garden, Tea, Cakes and Me used Ribena both in the cake batter and the glaze but suggested they would be rather good with cassis instead – now there’s a suggestion.

Having recently been introduced to friands (little almond cakes), I was thrilled to see these blackcurrant chocolate friands. Made by Linzi of Lancashire Food with her own freshly picked blackcurrants, this was an experiment which looks as though it worked well.

Jill of Lapin D’or and More took the humble Jammy Dodger and transformed it into something else entirely. A hazelnut biscuit sandwiched with layers of chocolate hazelnut praline and homemade blackcurrant jelly then drizzled with chocolate, these would look at home in any top patisserie.

Biscuits were also my choice, although I did also make this blackcurrant rose and white chocolate ripple ice-cream. I really like the contrast of sweet white chocolate and tart juicy fresh blackcurrants and they worked really well in these blackcurrant and white chocolate cookies.

You can never have too many brownies in my book, which is just as well. These brownies from Galina of Chez Maxima have the added benefit of being gluten free. She used redcurrant jelly as a glaze and topped them with fresh blackcurrants.

Snowy of Cookbooks Galore selflessly participated in this month’s challenge despite her lack of enthusiasm for blackcurrants. The things we do for the love of a good man! This chocolate torte with a blackcurrant sauce sounds utterly scrumptious to me and contains fresh blackcurrants in the torte as well as the sauce.

Suelle of Mainly Baking opted to use white chocolate for her pairing with the blackcurrants. Inspired by US jam cakes, Suelle used blackcurrant jam to make this blackcurrant jam cake and topped it with a cheese and white chocolate topping.

Everyone loves a good Victoria Sponge, so it was good to see the appearance of these delightful mini Victoria sponges with black fruits and basil cream. Nazima of Working London Mummy used blackcurrant jam to sandwich the sponges together.

The queen of hearts she made some tarts all on a summers day and so did lovely Laura of How to Cook Good Food. Using a chocolate pastry recipe from Chantel Coady, these chocolate jam tarts were filled with blackcurrant jam. Served with a good dollop of whipped, or better still clotted cream on top, these sound heavenly.

Kit from I-Lost in Austen always wows me with both her stunning photography and creative recipes. This almond cream tart with violet & white chocolate cream frosting is no exception. Kit is another who is not a fan of blackcurrants, but these tarts using fresh blackcurrants won her over  I think!

Kate of What Kate Baked, who has been working as a volunteer for the Olympics and is a great enthusiast, has been doing a series on Olympic baking. This, her fourth, is a tribute to athlete Jessica Ennis, one of our hoped for gold medalists. It uses blackcurrant jamJess Ennis chocolate and blackcurrant loaf cake.

Hooray, I was hoping some one would use creme de cassis and they have. Claire from Under the Blue Gum Tree, who always wows me with her creative bakes, happened to have an old bottle of this blackcurrant liqueur, which is just as well as fresh blackcurrants probably don’t even grow in South Africa, never mind in winter! Inspired by Spanish blogger Collette, these chocolate and cassis pear tarts look fabulous.

I’m very pleased to welcome Maria of Box of Stolen Socks to WSC as she has come up with a pudding which sounds delicious and is positively good for you. Her chocolate berry pudding not only contains frozen blackcurrants, but also avocado and raw cocoa powder. It’s also nice and simple to make.

And for something else that’s completely different. This time it’s from Hannah of Corner Cottage Bakery who has given a savoury twist to this month’s theme with her duck breast with red wine blackcurrant and chocolate sauce using blackcurrant jam.

Another WSC newby, Mari of Nutty Tart has rocketed in with an absolute masterpiece. Using fresh blackcurrants, she has made this visually stunning three layered blackcurrant and chocolate mousse cake – it sounds rather tasty too!

Fellow Cornish Blogger the HungryHinny hunted high and low for fresh blackcurrants only to be told they were late coming into season this year. In the end she made a dark chocolate blackcurrant cake using blackcurrant jam. She bit into this very tentatively as she’d once had an allergic reaction to Ribena and hasn’t tasted blackcurrants since. Luckily all was well and the HungryHinney can now eat blackcurrants.

Blackcurrant cheesecake is a classic. These oh so pretty blackcurrant and white chocolate cupcake style cheesecakes take it to a whole new level.  Using fresh blackcurrants and cassis, Fleur of Homemade by Fleur made these to look like cupcakes so she could fool her guests.

Another new entrant this month is Steph from Kokopeli’s Chocolate she has finally decided to enter after years of reading other people’s entries. With these blackcurrant triangles, she is more than welcome. Using fresh blackcurrants and cassis, blackcurrant and white chocolate ganache is topped off with blackcurrant compote and then enrobed in milk chocolate – wow!

Hooray for creme de cassis. Mel of Sharky Oven Gloves, currently residing in New Zealand where blackcurrants are very much out of season at the moment was able to resort to alcohol! Kir in fact, a mixture of white wine and cassis which she used to make these magnificent kir macarons.

Described by Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe as a cross between a brownie and a jammy dodger, I for one am not going to be able to resist making a batch of these most scrumptious sounding chocolate walnut thumbprint biscuits with blackcurrant jam. As already stated blackcurrant jam was the topping of choice, but the biscuits unusually contained walnut oil as well as ground walnuts – mmmm!

Mini bakes are “in” at the moment as has been witnessed by many of the entries this month. Helen of Fuss Free Flavours continues the trend with her mini chocolate and blackcurrant cakes. Using Ed’s blackcurrant & chilli jam (sounds gorgeous all by itself), to not only form part of the cake batter she also used it to sandwich and top the cakes along with buttercream.

Caroline of Cake, Crumbs and Cooking was chuffed to find that her rather neglected blackcurrant bush had actually produced some fruit this year. She wanted to bake a simple cake to show of her berries which she’s done to great effect in this rather delicious sounding white chocolate, blackcurrant and apricot cake.

This rich and indulgent torte like chocolate and blackcurrant cake comes from Jean of Baking in Franglais. Jean managed to buy a punnet of fresh blackcurrants on a visit to Cumber Park where they had been picked from the garden that morning.

More mini cakes, this time from Maggie of Kitchen Delights who produced these chocolate and blackcurrant cupcakes. Maggie used fresh blackcurrants in the cake batter and then frosted some for decoration where they look absolutely splendid.

And for something completely different again. Ros, The More Than Occasional Baker made chocolate marshmallows with blackcurrant jam filling. Ros wasn’t too happy with the result as she didn’t think they set properly and were more jelly than mallow. Luckily, she reports that they tasted delicious, which after all is the thing that really counts. I know I would have been very happy eating my way through them.

Vikki from Cake Fairy Blog was looking forward to using tart juicy, colourful blackcurrants, but was also unable to source them. She did, however, discover yogurt coated blackcurrants – at two o’clock in the morning! I didn’t know such things existed. With them she made some delicious chewy chocolate and yogurt coated blackcurrant cookies.

Seeing a load of blackcurrants at London’s Borough Market, Lottie of Lottie’s World of Cakes grabbed some with the idea of making a cheesecake. Having seen so many brownies on sale whilst she was there, she was inspired to make this blackcurrant cheesecake with a brownie base, which I have to say looks absolutely delicious. As well as using fresh blackcurrants Lottie also used blackcurrant jam.

Blackcurrants made Gill of Tales of Pigling Bland think of crumble and custard, so she did the obvious thing …… and made a dark chocolate, custard and blackcurrant crumble cake! Gill used tinned blackcurrants but stated she couldn’t taste the custard. Custard or no custard, I wouldn’t say no to one or two of these cakes.

Lucy The KitchenMaid made a wonderful sounding Queen of puddings for We Should Cocoa, but was unable to take a photo. A jar of plum, blackcurrant and lime jam made by a friend, found its way into this old favourite – as well as chocolate of course. Luckily, she also made some no churn blackcurrant ice-cream for which she did have a photo. Of the three blackcurrant ice-creams, mine, Ren’s and Lucy’s, all were made with condensed milk, chocolate and blackcurrants, but all were different.

Missing her opportunity to get hold of the fresh blackcurrants sold locally, Susan of A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate resorted to blackcurrant preserve and made these scrumptious looking chocolate and blackcurrant thumbprint biscuits. I’m looking forward to seeing the chocolate and blackcurrant mousse she’d originally had planned.

Now if there is one thing better than brownies, it’s probably brownies on the beach. The magnificent Dom of Belleau Kitchen made blackcurrant beach brownies using fresh juicy blackcurrants for his mother’s birthday. Despite his worries about using salted butter, they turned out beautifully – of course.

Karen of Lavender and Lovage has such a way with words and always great pictures. The title of her bake alone makes me want to dive straight in. Using her own homegrown fresh blackcurrants, Karen has given us double chocolate and summer berries truffle slice.

I shall be adding these onto the We Should Cocoa board on Pinterest in due course, so do feel free to pin away when I’ve done so!

Elizabeth Shaw Chocolates – A Review & Giveaway

Chocolate Reviews | 28th July 2012 | By

Elizabeth Shaw, that well known purveyor of chocolate mint crisps has recently launched a new range of flavours. As a confirmed chocoholic (in case you didn’t know), I was happy to accept a hamper of goodies to try out – get your fix where you can, I say!

A large box duly arrived in the post and I was excited to see a variety of goodies in it. Pretty much anything wrapped in pretty coloured tissue paper pleases me and the hamper was packed with a generous amount of maroon coloured paper – lovely.

Although I have been known to say on many an occasion that I don’t like my chocolate too sweet, I do have a weakness for caramel, butterscotch, toffee and honeycomb flavours. So despite knowing these were likely to be very sweet, I was not deterred. And I was right, I did find them very sweet, but also very hard to stop eating once I’d started. CT thought that although they were sweet, they didn’t hit his palate in the way that many other sweet chocolates do. Each flavour is denoted by a different coloured foil wrapper in the type of autumnal colours I appreciate. CT and I both did our taste testing without knowing what the flavours were.

Dark Brown – This dark chocolate (45%) containing cocoa nibs smelt predominately of chocolate and CT thought it tasted more like a straight piece of dark chocolate than any of the other varieties. We both really liked the presence of cocoa nibs which helped counteract the general sweetness and gave an and extended presence in the mouth. I like cocoa nibs and use them regularly, but some may find the crunch of these a little too dry and bitter.

Orange – Milk chocolate with pieces of honeycomb which had the enticing aroma of toffee and condensed milk. I found this the sweetest of the four, but CT thought it wasn’t as sweet as he was expecting and certainly not as sweet as the gold. I thought the crunch pieces had a delicious butterscotch / toffee flavour, but apparently I was wrong as this is the honeycomb.

Maroon – I found it harder to identify the flavour of this one, but it smelt more chocolatey than the orange or gold. It was certainly my favourite, being less sweet than the two previously mentioned, but with that “burnt” sugar flavour that I like so much. CT thought it had a nice fruity note to it. As it happened, I got this one right – caramel flavour.

Gold – milk chocolate containing what I thought were honeycomb pieces – turns out I was wrong again. This one was butterscotch, or at least that’s what it said on the label. Identity notwithstanding, it had a lovely crunch and flavour, although it was quite sweet. CT detected a certain drying quality in the mouth after eating this, which once pointed out, I also noticed.

The mint crisps are a classic. Dark chocolate (57%) with mint honeycomb crisp, these are crunchy, minty and rich. We tried the 100g chocolate bar which is divided into eight large squares. Two squares were plenty and although they were good, the richness of the chocolate and the intensity of the mint stopped me indulging further. CT, likewise, thought this chocolate was just the right side of being too strong.

Four packs of flutes were included:

  • Latte – white chocolate batons with a coffee chocolate centre.
  • Amaretto – milk chocolate (30%) batons with amaretto.
  • Orange – dark chocolate (50%) batons with an orange milk chocolate (30%) centre.
  • Mint – dark chocolate (50%) batons with a mint fondant centre

We tried the Amaretto ones. As soon as I opened the packet a powerful smell of almonds was released – no surprise there. And not also not surprisingly they tasted of Amaretto too. I was slightly concerned that they would taste like the product of a chemistry set, but they were actually rather good. CT thought the flavour was reminiscent of a Bakewell tart – he likes Bakewell tarts.

These chocolates may not be top notch artisanal products but they are real chocolate with no nasty additions and they are also reasonably priced. A 175g box of chocolate crisps costs around £3.50.

If you don’t mind signing up to their newsletter, Elizabeth Shaw are giving away a hamper with even more in it than the one I received. To be in with a chance of winning you will need to go here to their website.

Disclaimer: I was sent a variety of Elizabeth Shaw products for review purposes and as always all opinions expressed are my own.

Blackcurrant, Rose & White Chocolate Ripple Ice-Cream

5 Star, Ice Cream | 26th July 2012 | By

When I set this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge for blackcurrants, I couldn’t get that fruit out of my head and various ideas kept coming and going. One of these was to make semifreddo using blackcurrants and white chocolate – somehow blackcurrants and dark chocolate just didn’t seem right. I’ve been wanting to try semifreddo for a long time now as I keep hearing various bloggers rave about it and more importantly it doesn’t need churning. As I have no ice-cream maker that has got to be a good thing. However Kavey set condensed milk for her Bloggers Scream for Ice-Cream challenge this month and as this is also a no churn ice-cream, I had a rethink. Semifreddo would have to wait for another time.

As it happened, although I’d already made blackcurrant and white chocolate biscuits for We Should Cocoa, I still had blackcurrants in mind for ice-cream. I also had some left over that needed using up. I’ve never tried rose with blackcurrants before, but as it works so well with rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries, I thought it would do the same for blackcurrants and was keen to try it out. Ren Behan actually got there before me with this delicious looking ice-cream. However, it was too late to change my mind and I was going to do things a little differently anyway. I based my recipe on this Good Food one, but changed it quite considerably.

This is what I did:

  • Simmered 110g of blackcurrants in a small covered pan with a dessertspoon of rose sugar and a desertspoon of water for about 5 minutes.
  • Squished this through a sieve to remove the tops and seeds.
  • Added 1 tbsp of rose syrup.
  • Left to cool.
  • Melted 40g vanillary white chocolate (G&B) over a pan of hot water then stirred in a 100ml condensed milk.
  • Whipped 300ml double cream until soft peaks formed.
  • Added 100ml condensed milk and whipped again.
  • Stirred in the white chocolate mixture until all incorporated.
  • Poured in the blackcurrents and tried to stir it through the mixture to cause a ripple effect.
  • Spooned into containers and placed in the freezer.
This ice-cream really surprised me. Not a hint of ice crystals and a beautifully smooth unctuous feel to it. I had been expecting it to be sickly sweet with all that condensed milk. Although it was sweet however, the blackcurrants balanced it out nicely and it was absolutely delicious. The main flavour was of course blackcurrants, but the richness of the white chocolate gave it body and just a hint of rose pervaded the whole in a delightful way. As I’d hoped, rose pairs very well with blackcurrants too. And of course I just loved the colour of the blackcurrants. All in all I was really satisfied with this easy to make ice-cream and will be making it again for sure. Next time I might try adding less condensed milk and a bit more cream to make it less sweet, but no other adjustments needed.

I am also submitting this to Fabulicious Summer Ices over at Lancashire Food where there is an Emma Bridgewater cool bag to be awarded to one lucky entrant.

A History of Food in 100 Recipes – a review

Book Reviews | 23rd July 2012 | By

As the title suggests, A history of food in 100 recipes is a collection of stories elaborating on the history of food from a Western perspective. The book begins with a recipe for bread in Ancient Egypt from about 2000 BC and journeys through the ages right up to the present day where it ends with a recipe for meat fruit by Heston Blumenthal. Each chapter commences with a recipe – of sorts. These are taken from sources of the period so are not necessarily easily understood or recognisable as a modern recipe. This then leads into the chapter proper which is connected in some way with the recipe. The book is an engaging way of reconnecting with our food and where it comes from. It’s a treasure trove of fascinating facts, a history book written in a light, humorous and accessible style. I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

The Author William Sitwell is a food critic, journalist and presenter. He currently edits the food magazine Waitrose Kitchen amongst a plethora of other activities including gardening and being the resident expert on BBC TVs A Question of Taste. He has by no means covered the whole history of food, but has picked out the stories which particularly appeal to him.

Of course the first chapters I jumped to were the chocolate ones and I had two of these to revel in. Both interesting, both very different. The first was Hot Chocolate and recounts the well known “discovery” of chocolate by the conquistador Hernan Cortes. During his stay with Montezuma he learnt the secrets of the cocoa bean, so highly prized it was used as currency. And he enjoyed many a brew of spiced frothing hot (sometimes cold) chocolate. Cocoa beans went back with him to Spain where the drink soon became revered for its health giving properties. The second was Chocolate Cake, a chapter that was more about the first modern supermarkets than it was chocolate, but which featured an interesting chocolate cake recipe using bread flour. I shall certainly be trying that out at some future date. This chapter tells the remarkable story of Clarence Saunders in the USA and the founding of his chain of self service stores, Piggly Wiggly, in 1916.

Being a vegetarian, I was fascinated to learn in the chapter Cauliflower & Cheese, that the Vegetarian Society was formed as far back as 1847 with a surprising 150 members signing up at its inception. The first vegetarian cookbook was published as far back as 1812, Vegetarian cooking by a Lady (anonymous in other words). Amazingly, by 1897 there were seven vegetarian restaurants in London. I had always assumed that early Western vegetarians had chosen this diet for health reasons rather than ethics, but I was wrong. As far back as Pythagoras, vegetarians were also also motivated by animal welfare. This chapter is not for the faint hearted and perhaps should come with a warning; there are some very gruesome descriptions of animal brutality.

The book is a wonderful mix of facts, stories, interesting characters and recipes. It currently resides on my bedside table as it is a great book for dipping in and out of and the chapters are very short. By the time I get to bed, I can hardly keep my eyes open, so having a chapter which is just three to five pages long is ideal. Never has the term bite sized chunks seemed more appropriate.

This book was sent to me for review purposes and as always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate Cookies

5 Star, Biscuits | 20th July 2012 | By

The saltiness and creaminess of peanut butter works really well combined with the sweetness of baked goods and is a flavour combination I have recently rediscovered. It works exceptionally well with chocolate, but then I would say that wouldn’t I. When I was reviewing The Cookie Dough Lover’s Cookbook earlier this month, I noted a recipe for peanut butter and chocolate thumbprint cookies which looked appealing. With my birthday tea fast approaching, I thought these would provide something a little different and would fill in the gaps between the slabs of cake.

When it actually came to making the cookies, I decided not to include the chocolate cookie dough thumbprint filling. To me it seemed as though they would be sweet enough without and more to the point, I was running out of time. Measuring cups of butter and peanut butter is not really on, so I did the best I could in terms of approximations.

This is what I did:

  • Creamed 1/2 a jar of smooth peanut butter (about 170g) with 2oz (60g) unsalted butter.
  • Added 1/2 cup caster sugar and 1/2 cup of light muscovado and creamed some more.
  • When light & fluffy beat in 1 duck egg (large hens egg) and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Sifted in 1 1/4 cups flour (half wholemeal & half white) with 1 tsp baking powder and stirred until incorporated.
  • Poured 1/4 cup of sugar into a bowl.
  • Rolled tablespoons of dough in my hands to form large walnut sized pieces.
  • Rolled these in the sugar and placed onto two lined baking trays, leaving a 3 cm gap between them.
  • Flattened them slightly with a spoon.
  • Baked in the middle of the oven at 180C for 12 minutes (until golden and firm).
  • Transferred to a wire rack to cool.
  • Melted 50g dark chocolate (G&B Cook’s 72%) in a bowl over hot water.
  • Ineptly drizzled this over the cookies in a zig zag kind of motion using a cone made out of greaseproof paper.

These made about 32 very substantial cookies. Despite my ineptitude with the melted chocolate and paper cones, more of which covered the kitchen than the cookies, I was rather pleased with the results. They were sweet, salty and delicious and not surprisingly, proved to be very popular.

These would make excellent bake fare for a summer fete or cake stall, so I am submitting them to Tea Time Treats hosted this month by Karen of Lavender and Lovage. This monthly event is run alternately by Karen and Kate of What Kate Baked.

My cookbooks – Random Recipes #18

Uncategorized | 18th July 2012 | By

Hooray for Dom of Belleau Kitchen. He’s given us all a nice easy Random Recipe challenge this month and it’s a fun one too. We get to have a peek at bloggers’ cookbook collections – that is my kind of fun! Life has been particularly busy this month and with all the bakes I made for my birthday, I have quite a number of posts to write. So I was particularly delighted to find we didn’t need to cook anything this month. No recipes you cry? No indeed, it’s all about finding out exactly where our random recipes are picked from.

My books are scattered throughout the house. My librarian’s mind would love them to be neatly ordered in one place, but that is not how it is. Over the years I’ve acquired many many books, but because of space issues I’ve tried to have a one in, one out policy. Since starting the blog however, this policy has gone out of the window (unlike the books) and we’ve had some new shelves put in to house the overload. They are now full so I’m not sure what happens next!

Most of my older cookbooks in the Kitchen.

Our newest shelves just above our computer. Most but not all of my baking books on bottom shelf – CT has claimed most of top shelf!
Most, but not all of my chocolate books on a rickety bamboo shelf thingy that I bought about 20 years ago which resides in our sitting room.

My newest cookbook – a birthday present from CT sits on my bedside table – he chose well.

A really interesting book awaiting a review post – also sitting on my bedside table.
A few of the magazines lying around the place that I’ve managed to get into a box.

A few more thieved from CTs shelf space on the upstairs landing.

Books about the politics of food – real food & sustainable farming.

I haven’t dared photograph the piles of magazines nor the cuttings and scraps which really ought to be neatly filed away.

Blackcurrant and White Chocolate Cookies – We Should Cocoa 23

When I set blackcurrants as this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, I had vague thoughts of making my mother’s Blackcurrant Buckle recipe. Neither of us have actually made this in more years than I care to remember, but it has lived on in my memory as a good one. A bit of adaptation in my usual way to include chocolate would have been a cinch. However, although I remembered to raid my mother’s blackcurrant bushes on my last visit there, I sadly forgot to raid her pile of recipe scraps for the neglected Buckle. All was by no means lost however, I did have something else in mind – two in fact.

One of the many surprise presents I received from CT on my birthday was a copy of Biscuits by Miranda Gore Brown, she of Great British Bake Off fame (1st series). This now sits in pride of place on my bedside table and forms my bedtime reading, giving me plenty of sweet things to dream about. When I first looked at the book, it just happened to open randomly on a recipe for blackcurrant and white chocolate biscuits – well really, how could I ignore that sign? The other idea I had was for ice-cream and frankly, that could wait for another day.

I only made half the quantity given and just as well. Miranda’s recipe was for 16 biscuits. All I can say is, I’d be delighted to be invited around to her house for tea; my half amount produced 15 large biscuits – I can only assume hers are absolutely ginormous. Other than rounding up the odd measures that halving the recipe entailed, I reduced the sugar slightly and used my usual half wholemeal flour mix.

This is how I made them:

  • Creamed 115g unsalted butter with 100g cardamom sugar (caster) until very light and fluffy.
  • Beat in about 80g condensed milk.
  • Mixed in 175g self-raising flour (half wholemeal, half white).
  • As mixture was a little stiff, added a tbsp of milk.
  • Mixed in 75g chopped white chocolate (G&B).
  • Carefully mixed in 90g blackcurrants.
  • Placed 15 large dollops on a tray covered with a silicone mat and baked at 180C for 10 minutes at which point the biscuits were golden and crisp around the edges.
  • Left on the tray for ten minutes then transferred to a wire rack to cool completely.

These were crisp on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside and were what I would term cookies rather than biscuits. They spread more than I anticipated, so most of them merged into each other, which was a bit annoying. Oh, but they tasted good! Sweet biscuits with little caramely bites of white chocolate which contrasted with bursts of tart juicy berries giving a great taste sensation.

So, although these were made primarily for We Should Cocoa, they happen to fulfil the criteria for several other blog challenges. So I am also entering them into:

Alpha Bakes – a monthly challenge run by The More Than Occasional Baker and Caroline Makes. The randomly generated number this month comes from Caroline and is W for White chocolate.

Made with Love Mondays – a weekly challenge set by Javelin Warrior’s Cookin w/Luv to make something completely from scratch.

Simple & In Season – a monthly challenge created by Ren of Fabulicious Food which is guest hosted this month by Fleur of Homemade by Fleur

Bookmarked Recipes – a monthly challenge run by Jac of Tinned Tomatoes, but originally created by Ruth’s Kitchen Experiments to make something you’ve bookmarked from a book, magazine or online.

Rose & Strawberry Victoria Sponge

Layer cakes | 12th July 2012 | By

Initially, I thought I might have to make my own birthday cake for my tea party, but as it happened, one of my splendid aunts stepped in and made a scrumptious brandy soaked chocolate cake. However, as I already had something in mind, I thought I’d go ahead and make a cake anyway – you can never have too much cake – in my humble opinion.

Last month, I made rose syrup and rose sugar so I was keen to utilise these – the sugar smelt divine. The natural progression, it seemed to me, was to use them in a Victoria sponge, one filled with cream and strawberries. At about this time I was asked if I’d like to participate in a British Baking competition from Baking Mad. This consisted of baking something from the street party recipes section of Baking Mad, using primarily British ingredients. I was sent some of the required ingredients. Amazingly, Victoria sponge filled with cream and strawberries was one of the recipes offered. Unusually for me, I had made the rose sugar (fragrant rose petals left in a jar of caster sugar) using Silver Spoon sugar, so I had just what was needed. The great thing about this sugar is that it it is made from British grown sugar beet, thereby not only being relatively local, but also supporting British growers and British manufacturing.

“Silver Spoon sugars are made from sugar beet which is a large pale brown root crop, similar to parsnip which grows in the temperate climates of Europe and North America. The sugar beet that goes into Silver Spoon sugars travels a short distance to the factory (an average of only 28 miles) direct from the fields around Bury St Edmunds in East Anglia. Silver Spoon work with 1,200 local farmers to grown the beet, which is then made into their range of homegrown sugars for families all over the country.
 Silver Spoon are committed to reducing energy use, emissions and waste at every stage. All raw materials in the factory are aimed to be transformed into sustainable products.”

In addition to the British sugar and British flour I was sent, I also used British icing sugar, butter, duck eggs, cream and roses. In fact, it was only the white chocolate that wasn’t British. Does this mean I might be in with a chance of winning the prize of a hamper of British produce? Probably not, but it’s all good fun.

My version of the recipe not only used rose as a flavouring, rather than the suggested vanilla extract, but also white chocolate in the filling. I increased the quantities as I wanted a large cake and used my usual half wholemeal, half white flour mix. Intriguingly, the recipe used steam, presumably to help the cake rise. I haven’t come across this method of making cake sponge before, so I was interested to see if it made any difference. Ideally I had wanted to fill the cake with plain cream and strawberries, but as I had to make it all up the day before the party, I opted for a white chocolate and rose cream filling instead and just hoped the strawberries would survive.

This is what I did:

  • Creamed 275g unsalted butter with 275g rose sugar (using Silver Spoon Homegrown) until very light.
  • Beat in 4 duck eggs, one by one.
  • Sifted in 275g Allinson self-raising flour (half wholemeal, half white).
  • Splooshed in a little milk to lighten the mix.
  • Spooned into two 22 cm cake moulds.
  • Placed a tin of water on the bottom of the warm oven floor & baked the cakes at 180C for 40 minutes.
  • Left to cool for 15 minutes then turned out onto a wire rack.
  • Having, err, accidentally made butter from what was meant to be the cream, rose and white chocolate filling, I had a rethink and went for a buttercream filling instead.
  • Melted 50g white chocolate in a bowl over hot water and left to cool a little.
  • Creamed 60g unsalted butter with 120g icing sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the chocolate and a tbsp of cream.
  • Beat in 2 tbsp of rose syrup.
  • Spread the buttercream over both cakes.
  • Laid slices of strawberries over one cake and put the other (buttercream side down) on top, sandwiching the strawberries between the buttercream.
  • Mixed 50g icing sugar with a tbsp of double cream and 2 tbsp rose syrup.
  • Poured this over the top of the cake.
  • Decorated with shimmer pearls and ladybirds.
The day after the afternoon before

The cake was wonderfully light, despite the wholemeal flour. I put this down to my muscle power with all that creaming, but I suspect it was more likely to have been the addition of steam in the oven. The rose flavour was subtle, but definitely present. It was a little too sweet for my taste and really needed unsweetened cream in the middle to offset the sugar. But it was pronounced thoroughly delicious by all who tried it and I was happy to accept that.

As this recipe uses both seasonal strawberries and roses, I am linking this up to Ren’s Simple & In Season challenge, hosted this month by Homemade by Fleur.

Cakes and Moor

Uncategorized | 9th July 2012 | By

Devil’s Chair

I had such a lovely day yesterday. Amazingly, it was dry and even more amazingly the sun shone for much of the time. My choice for celebrating such a momentous occasion and ignoring the gruesomely significant number of years I seemed to have survived thus far was by going for a good stomp around my home turf, Bodmin Moor. This was followed by tea at my Mother’s (the house where I grew up).

Luckily, I managed to rope in a few other kindly souls to join me. Some managed the walk, some managed the tea and some managed both.

At Minions, we stopped for a cup of tea and to stock up on pasties for our picnic lunch. To my surprise I was greeted by some friends bearing a splendid banner atop a bamboo pole hewn from their moorland garden. How magnificent was that? After daring the Devil’s Chair and enjoying the stunning views upon Stowe’s Hill, we found a sheltered spot to eat by the Cheesewring – a rather impressive stack of granite boulders teetering on the edge of a precipice.

Birthday Feast

Later, there was of course, plenty of cake! The worry of having to squish everyone into my mother’s cottage for tea was allayed as we were all able to sit outside and enjoy the lovely weather. My industrious aunts, visiting from up country, helped my mother to provide a gargantuan repast including a spectacular chocolate birthday cake soaked in brandy. This was the kind of tea that never stopped – no supper required! I did of course make a few contributions myself:

Birthday Cake – had to get the chocolate in somewhere!

Posts about some of these will be following in due course.

So in conclusion to the day’s events, I suggest that my chronological age takes a hike, just like I did!

Cranachan – Best of British – Scotland

I know Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen started us off with a very mastercheffy interpretation of cranachan which there is no way I am attempting to compete with. But even before I’d seen her entry, it was my first thought when I knew the next Best of British challenge was going to be Scotland. It’s been on my list of things to make for years AND I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity to give it a whirl. For the uninitiated cranachan is a traditional Scottish celebration dish consisting of oatmeal, whipped cream, honey & whisky and sometimes raspberries.

After Cornwall, Scotland is my second love. Many a family holiday has been spent there over the years. One of my aunts lived in Stirling and we would make the long journey up from Cornwall to stay with her at least twice a year. The Castle, Bridge of Allan, Wallace Monument and nearby hills are not something I’m ever likely to forget. She later moved to Edinburgh which was already full of family stories from my mother having been a student nurse there. Edinburgh is my favourite city anywhere, I just love the way there is a great big mountain stuck right in the middle of it. King Arthur’s seat is the core of an ancient volcano. We also had family in Fort William for a while and spent hours walking the surrounding hills, although I only got to climb Ben Nevis once. It’s the kind of wild remote beauty that I seem to crave.

Anyway, this is rather a rambling way of saying that I wasn’t going to miss this Scottish challenge!

Sadly my raspberries weren’t Scottish and I can’t claim that they swam down the West Coast to Cornwall as Janice did with her mackerel, but it is my version of a Scottish classic and I did use a good Scottish malt whisky.

This is how I did it:

  • Toasted 40g oatmeal for a few minutes until lightly browned but not burnt.
  • Roughly crushed 200g raspberries, leaving a few whole for decoration.
  • Whipped 300g double cream and 100g Greek yogurt until peaks just starting to form.
  • Added 2 tbsp Cornish runny honey and 2 tbsp malt whisky and whisked a little bit more, until firm but still soft.
  • Swirled the raspberries through the cream.
  • Shaved about 40g of white chocolate with a vegetable peeler.
  • Spooned some of the raspberry cream into four glass bowls. Scattered on some oatmeal then added a final layer of raspberry cream. Scattered over the remaining oatmeal.
  • Finished with the whole raspberries and chocolate shavings.
  • Served with Highland shortbread.

I made this as the grand finale to a special meal and this cranachan crescendo was a delightful surprise. It was simply divine, a proper “stoater”.

Best of British is a monthly challenge sponsored by The Face of New World Appliances and there is a £50 amazon voucher awarded to one lucky entrant each month. Here is the round-up to last month’s Best of British Cornwall.