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

Cocoa Boutique – a Review

Chocolate Reviews | 31st August 2012 | By

Cocoa Boutique is a new chocolate club offering a monthly selection of artisan chocolates delivered by post. Each month a different selection is offered from a range of chocolatiers who are located in Britain and further afield. The boxes are sturdy and well finished with an elegant appearance. They are designed to fit through standard letterboxes, so need to return home to a delivery note when you’re tired and hungry.  The boxes come with a description of each chocolate and a scoring card which you can use for feedback.

The selection I received for review contained chocolates from chocolatiers Barry Coleno, Pierre Ledent and Claire Hicklin. It was a good mix of dark, milk and white chocolates. There was plenty of contrast: from rich dark chocolate brandy truffles and strong dark chocolate coffee beans to creamy white chocolate buttons and pink champagne truffles. There were two of each chocolate, which theoretically makes it easier to share, although CT might disagree. In addition to these, there were also a handful of white, milk & dark buttons, some coffee beans and some chocolate covered honeycomb pieces.

If you like your chocolates teetotal, look elsewhere – there was plenty of alcohol sloshing around in the form of champagne, cassis, rum, brandy and Irish cream; the warming effect from these was welcome as the rain continued to lash down. As a general observation CT and I enjoyed most of these chocolates and found them to be rich, flavourful and not too sweet. The selection was interesting with a good range of fillings, textures, flavours and types of chocolate. Note to CT, I’d be happy to receive one of these on a monthly basis – assuming you think I’m worth £19.95 a month!

I’ve highlighted a few of my favourites:

  • Milk Chocolate Almond Praline – the combination of roasted salty pralined crunchy almonds covered in milk chocolate was as good as it sounds, if not better.
  • Cocoa Dusted Dark Chocolate Salted Caramels – need I say more!            
  • Raspberry with a Hint of Orange – raspberry and chocolate is one of my favourite flavour combinations. This one was particularly interesting as the hint of orange brought out the raspberry flavour without overpowering it.
  • Milk Chocolate Honeycomb – small pieces of honeycomb covered in chocolate gave a good ratio of chocolate to sweet, sticky honeycomb.
Others were the interestingly named Pamela, which was an unusual combination of pear and cassis ganache; a milk chocolate truffle which tasted alcoholic, although this wasn’t mentioned in the description; a white strawberry cream which had lovely light mousy texture but was slightly too sweet for me; a pink champagne truffle the flavour of which hit almost before touching our tongues.  It was rich and sweet.

Coffee flavour not being one of my favourites, I left these for CT to try. He enjoyed the Vanilla Irish Cream, found the Rum Cafe Cream pleasant but lacking a distinctive coffee note. Not everything was to his liking, however: the coffee beans had an overly strong smoky and burnt flavour possibly due to over roasting. I tried one and had to agree.

If you’d like a chance of becoming a “taster” for Cocoa Boutique and getting a box of chocolates every month, they are currently running a competition to pick 25 tasters.

And if you’d like to get an introductory box to try for only £9.95, then click here.

Lemon Sherbet Tiffin – Random Recipes #19

5 Star, Gluten Free, No Bake | 27th August 2012 | By

It’s time for that most exciting of blog challenges Random Recipes again. This month, Dom over at Belleau Kitchen has taken us back to the beginning with his simple, but not necessarily easy, formula of picking a book randomly and then picking a random page number. With a hundred and one things to do, I was somewhat trepidacious as to what I might be landed with. As usual, CT did the honours and came up with Cox Cookies & Cake by Eric Lanlard. I used my new method of including all of my baking books as well as my chocolate ones: if I don’t get a chocolate recipe right away I just keep turning the pages until I come to the first one that includes chocolate. Well CT picked page 78 – fat-free jasmine & violet cupcakes. Hmmm, no chocolate there. Nothing on the next page either or the next one, nothing in fact until page 91 which was for chocolate icing. Well, much as I enjoy a good icing, I didn’t fancy just eating a bowl of that on its own. Hmmm, ah, light bulb moment!

Let’s start from the very beginning
Although I baked the biscuits for the Tiffin, this is not required as any bought biscuits can easily be substituted.

Whilst reviewing Honeybuns gluten free baking recently and pondering on what exactly I was going to make first, I spotted a new challenge. Sarah Maison Cupcake’s new Zero Baking Required made the decision for me: chocolate orange tiffin. Actually, it would be chocolate lemon tiffin as I had some lemon curd that I’d made a while ago and it needed using up. So to get Dom’s random recipe into the mix, it was a simple substitution of the Honeybun’s chocolate topping for Eric Lanlard’s one, or ahem, one based on Eric’s. His used single cream which I didn’t have, but I did have some double cream. I decided to make only half the quantity of tiffen stated in the book as it did seem rather generous and similarly half the quantity of icing. But first I had to make some custard creams.

This is how I made Gluten Free Chocolate Lemon Tiffin:

  • Melted 50g unsalted butter in a pan with 2.5 tbsp of golden syrup and half 1 scant tbsp of cocoa.
  • Crushed 31 of the heart shaped custard biscuits I’d just made so lovingly with the end of a rolling pin.
  • Poured in the melted butter mixture and stirred until all incorporated. At this point I was rather concerned that the mixture was way too dry and wouldn’t hold together. But I decided to trust the recipe and stick with it.
  • Pressed this into the base of a 21 cm (8″) sq tin lined with baking paper.
  • Placed in the fridge for 1/2 an hour to set.
  • Creamed 25g unsalted butter with 100g icing sugar until incorporated.
  • Beat in 2 heaped tbsp of home made lemon curd.
  • Spread this over the biscuit base.
  • Placed back in the fridge whilst getting on with the next stage.
  • Heated 100ml double cream in a pan until just about boiling.
  • Poured this over 125g chopped dark chocolate (25g G&B Maya Gold & 100g G&B 72%).
  • Stirred in 25g unsalted butter and 1/2 tsp of orange flower water.
  • Poured this over the lemon cream layer.
  • Placed back in the fridge to set.
  • Slid out of the tin and cut into 16 squares.

I was very glad I trusted the recipe, as the tiffin held together really well and cut beautifully. Even using half the amount, I still got 16 decent sized squares. Using double cream for the chocolate icing worked well, as it set more solidly than I suspect it would have done using single cream. These not only looked appealing, but were delicious too. They were not overly sweet, tasted of chocolate covered lemon sherbet and had a great contrast of textures and flavours – although the orange was rather lost to the lemon. The smooth chocolate, creamy zingy lemon and a really nice crunch from the biscuits worked very well. CT thought these looked very similar to millionaire’s shortbread but were far superior. The sweet cloying quality he associated with them was absent and he found them much more refreshing.

As this was the first time I’ve ever made my own biscuits for a refrigerator cake, I am also submitting these to Javelin Warrior’s Made With Love Mondays where everything must be made from scratch – even the lemon curd was my own.

Custard Creams & a Review of Honeybuns Gluten-Free Baking

Custard Creams

For those not in the know, Honeybuns is a gluten free bakery selling all types of cakes and biscuits throughout the UK. Established by the appropriately named Emma Goss-Custard in Oxford in 1998, Honeybuns has moved from a lone bicycle delivering homemade cakes, to a company employing 25 people. It is now located at Naish Farm in Dorset, where a nature reserve has taken the place of conventional agricultural activities and the farm buildings have been converted into a bakery. An old chicken shed now houses the Bee Shack cafe, which claims to serve the best gluten free cream tea in Dorset. Canny punters head there to get their fix. For those keen to try this exclusive experience, make sure you turn up on the first Saturday of every month – that’s the only day it’s open.

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Raspberry & White Chocolate Friands

My friends the friands are back. This time it’s with a bright pink fruity version. I give you my very own mini raspberry & white chocolate friands, made for after dinner nibbles with friends.

This is what I did:

  • Melted 60g unsalted butter in a small pan and left to cool.
  • Crushed 50g raspberries in a small bowl with the back of a fork.
  • Whisked 2 duck egg whites until frothy in a larger bowl.
  • Whisked in 80g sifted icing sugar.
  • Gently stirred in the melted butter and crushed raspberries.
  • Stirred 30g buckwheat flour and 40g ground almonds.
  • Stirred in 50g white chocolate chips.
  • Placed a teaspoon of the mixture in 12 mini silicone cupcake cases.
  • Placed a whole raspberry on top then filled the cases up with more mixture.
  • Divided the remaining mixture between 4 larger silicone cupcakes cases.
  • Baked for about 15 minutes at 180C until firm and well risen.
  • Left to cool for a little, then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Dusted with icing sugar.

Utterly scrumptious, these little friands had just the right balance of sweetness and fruity acidity.  The juicy texture combined with the bright colour made these gorgeous to look at and just as good to eat. These were so moist they needed to be consumed on the day, but to be honest, this was not a difficulty.

These are the other scrummy friands I’ve made so far.

I am submitting these to the fabulicious Simple and in Season event. Having been on tour for a few months, this is now back home with Ren of Fabulicious Food.

I’m also submitting them to Let’s Cook with Fruits, a one off event this month hosted by Simply Food.

Chocolate Swirled Clafoutis – We Should Cocoa 24

As soon as I heard that Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen had picked cherries as the special ingredient for this month’s We Should Cocoa, I had clafoutis in mind. For Christmas I received a beautiful red clafoutis dish from my mother and although much admired, I hadn’t actually used it yet. This was the spur I needed.

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Chocolate by Genevie – Review & Giveaway #11

Up in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, there is a new chocolatiere on the block – Chocolate by Genevie. As you can probably guess, in my opinion, you can’t have too many chocolatiers. All of the chocolates are sourced from Belgium “using only the finest ingredients”. At this moment in time, these chocolates can only be bought via the online shop. The boxes come in many shapes and sizes with various price tags to match and all are delivered free within the UK.

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White Chocolate & Whey Scones

5 Star, Scones | 14th August 2012 | By

It’s that time of year again! Yes, it’s International Scone Week over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial – only it seems to have morphed into International Scone Fortnight this year! Actually, it looks like I’ve missed the boat and the round-up is already posted. Do check it out as there are a number of very different and delicious scones to admire.

I’ve always had a bit of trouble with scones, but last year’s International Scone Week, galvanised me into action and I decided I was going to get to grips with making light and delicious scones once and for all. The resulting chocolate scones were perhaps not the lightest ever, but they were still at the upper end of the scale of good and tasted delicious.

Having just made curd tarts, I had rather a lot of whey left over, so the obvious thing to do with it was to make scones. I made these fabulous white chocolate scones earlier in the year so I used similar quantities, only this time without butter and whey rather than sour milk. I crossed my fingers that they worked out OK.

This is what I did:

  • Finely grated 2oz white chocolate (G&B)
  • Sieved 8oz flour (2oz wholemeal, 6oz white) into a bowl with 1 tsp cream of tarter and 1/2 tsp of bicarb of soda.
  • Added the chocolate and gave a good stir.
  • Made a well in the centre and added 1/4 pt of whey.
  • Stirred until all incorporated.
  • Brought mixture together with my hands handling it as little as possible.
  • Rolled it out to about 3/4 ” and cut into 9 rounds.
  • placed on a lined baking sheet and brushed with whey.
  • Baked at 185C for 15 minutes.
Those crossed fingers seemed to do the trick: the scones were delightful, light, but moist with a nice hint of vanilla from the chocolate. They were so simple to make too, not rubbing butter into flour, which for some reason I particularly dislike. They went remarkably well with some of my mother’s homemade blackcurrant jam and a good dollop of Cornish clotted cream.

Yorkshire Curd Tarts – Best of British Yorkshire

As some of you might have gathered by now, there is a monthly blog challenge for the Best of British created and supported by The Face of New World Appliances. Each month, a different region or county within the UK is featured and the challenge is to make either a dish from that area or using ingredients that come from it. I’m keen to support this as it is very much about promoting British produce AND I did kick things off with the Best of British Cornwall back in May. There is also an incentive of a possible £50 Amazon voucher for one lucky entrant. Janice of Farmergirl Kitchen hosted a Scottish challenge in June and the current one, for Yorkshire is hosted by the exuberant and energetic Karen from Lavender and Lovage.

Now, since trying my first (and only) Yorkshire curd tart when I was in York last year – from the famous Betty’s Tea Rooms no less – I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making them myself. Needless to say, it took this challenge to get me kick started. A couple of nights ago a group of us went to see No Fit State, an amazing animal free circus that is performing at the Eden Project throughout August. We were all meeting up for a picnic beforehand, which seemed like a perfect opportunity to try out the tarts. Of course, these  were my interpretation of this classic recipe – I had to get chocolate in somehow! I based the filling on this Hairy Bikers recipe.

This is what I did:

  • The night before, brought 2 pints of milk to a simmer.
  • Squeezed in the juice of a lemon and left the milk to cool down, stirring very briefly.
  • Poured the mixture into a sieve lined with a cheesecloth and left overnight for the whey to drip out.
  • Placed 150g of wholemeal flour in a bowl with 25g cocoa powder and 15g icing sugar.
  • Added 100g of cold cubed unsalted butter and rubbed the mixture between my fingers until it resembled breadcrumbs.
  • Threw in an egg yolk and a splash of cold water.
  • Stirred and brought the mixture together into a ball.
  • Placed in a plastic bag and put in the fridge for a couple of hours.
  • Creamed 65g of unsalted butter with 65g cardamom (caster) sugar until very light and fluffy.
  • Grated in the zest of an organic lemon and creamed some more.
  • Beat in an egg until thoroughly combined.
  • Stirred in the curd cheese.
  • Added 25g of raisins (would have used current, but didn’t have any).
  • Rolled out the chilled pastry and cut into rounds to fill four 9cm tart cases and 7 jam tart sized dimensions – I used my muffin moulds.
  • Divided the mixture between the tarts and baked at 180C – 20 minutes for the larger tarts and 13 minutes for the smaller ones.
The tarts were delicious, just as good as I remembered the one from Betty’s Tea Rooms. The chocolate pastry offset the sweetness of the filling and the overall effect was very satisfying – certainly everyone seemed to enjoy them. We picnicked in the evening sunshine, a rare event this summer. We then enjoyed a fabulous performance of flying trapezes, rope climbing, hula hoops, trampolining, contortionism and pole dancing like you’ve never seen before. Oh and the music was good too.

As these are tarts and they were baked especially for a picnic – where they were all consumed I might add, they fit very well into this month’s Tea Time Treats. Hosted on alternate months by Kate of What Kate Baked and Karen of Lavender and Lovage, this month’s theme chosen by Kate is picnic pies. I might almost have planned it 😉

Organic Seed & Bean Chocolate Bars – a review

Chocolate Reviews | 10th August 2012 | By

Seed & Bean are a UK chocolate company selling organic and fair trade chocolate, handmade in Northampton. This is the only company I know of in the UK making chocolate bars which tick both of these very important boxes. The organic certifying body is the Soil Association, of which I’m a keen supporter, so Seed & Bean get extra points for this too. If you are interested in finding out more about their ethical credentials, there is plenty to be found on their website.

Not only is this an ethical company, but it has won two great taste awards from the Academy of Chocolate. It has an interesting and unusual flavour range including coconut & raspberry, lemon & cardamom, pumpkin seeds & hemp oil and Cornish sea salt. They have recently brought out a range of new flavours and a while ago I was sent two of their new bars to review. The chocolate they use for the majority of bars is a good quality Trinitario from the Dominican Republic, so I was expecting to like them. Luckily, I wasn’t disappointed and after tasting them, all I can say is I wish I’d been sent more.

Lemon & Poppy Seed – Creamy White Chocolate cane sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, poppy seeds, lemon oil, soya lecithin, vanilla powder.
Whilst I am a big fan of using white chocolate in baking, I usually find it too sweet and sickly to eat on its own. However, this bar is neither overly sweet nor sickly and if CT hadn’t been around I would have happily eaten the whole bar all by myself. The lemon offsets any excessive sweetness that might linger on the palate. I was also pleased to discover that the lemon is quite subtle and tastes more zesty than sour. The poppy seeds give a delightful crunch to proceedings and have a delicate nutty flavour all of their own. I’ve made lemon and poppy seed cake many a time and now I’m wondering why I’ve never added white chocolate to it – something which needs to be remedied I feel. I’m almost tempted to use a bar of this chocolate to make the cake, but surely that would be a waste of a good bar – it did get a great taste gold award after all.

Mandarin & Ginger – Extra Dark Chocolate 72%. cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla extract, mandarin oil, ginger oil.
The flavour of mandarin hit first followed by a really rich punch from the dark chocolate finishing with a hint of gingery warmth which lingers in the mouth – nice. Neither too sweet nor too bitter, the ginger gave a subtle support to the mandarin and the two flavours were well balanced. The chocolate melted smoothly in the mouth and was more refined in character than many chocolates I’ve tasted. Dark is not my first chocolate of choice, but I really enjoyed this one. The great thing about good dark chocolate such as this, is that a little goes a very long way. A couple of squares and the chocolate craving has been satisfied – for a while! A very enjoyable bar.

I’m not sure how easy these 85g bars are to source, but they can be purchased from the Seed & Bean online shop at a cost of £2.29.

Disclaimer – I was sent these two bars for review purposes and as always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Chocolate & Rose Summer Fruit Tiramisu / Trifle

Chocolate Tiramisu

5 Star, Dessert | 6th August 2012 | By

Is it a trifle? It doesn’t have jelly or custard. Is it tiramisu? It doesn’t have coffee.  However, I had a pudding to make for a 40th birthday party and after seeing Chris’s strawberry-rhubarb tiramisu over at Cooking Around The World, I felt inspired to create my own chocolate version using the redcurrants we’d picked from a friend’s garden.

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