Well, how fantastic is a giant Christmas cracker stuffed full of Christmas cheer from Hotel Chocolat? I’d say fantastic indeed and I am really looking forward to cracking it open on Christmas Day this year. I shall be ensconced at the ancestral pile with the extended family and this super sized 64 cm long cracker will certainly come in handy. Last year the mini crackers went down well, but I think this is likely to really wow the gathered clan.
The cracker has the cool mid-winter colours of silver and white but with icy blue highlights. It captures the season well and depicts a wintery scene with spare drawings of trees and deer. The sparsity of the outside belies the abundance within, it is packed to the gunwales with chocolates – 40 to be precise. The chocolate in come 22 individual white and silver wrapped packages. Everyone should find something they like as there are various types and flavours, including dark, milk and white; the identity of each is thoughtfully provided on the wrappers. The flavours of Christmas are well represented, including: Christmas Mess, Gianduja & Clementine, Gingerbread Truffle, Mulled Wine Truffles, Champagne Truffles and even a Pink Champagne Truffle. I was pleased to discover my favourite Sea Salt & Caramel, but as there is only one I might have to:
- Hide it
- Eat it now
- Get first dibs on the day
- Engage in some wrapper swapping
- Relax, be generous, it’s Christmas
The cracker, which retails at £38, also comes with 12 silver hats and a silver envelope containing jokes which apparently “may not contain humour”. Some traditions will never die, no matter how much we wish them to. It comes in a sturdy box with a carry handle, useful should you need to accompany Good King Wenceslas through the snow; knowing our luck, it won’t be deep and crisp and even.
Should you wish to see what other delights Hotel Chocolat has to offer for Christmas, click here.
Coincidentally (and it truly was), this month’s We Should Cocoa tied in very nicely with Breakfast Club. Breakfast Club was started by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours in a bid for us all to take eating breakfast a little more seriously. As host for November, I had, of course, chosen chocolate for the month’s theme. Nazima of Franglais Kitchen, who is hosting We Should Cocoa this month has chosen bread and many of those doughy entries sit very comfortably on a breakfast table.
So here we go:
I kicked things off with my chocolate oatmeal porridge, something I’m not likely to indulge in very often for breakfast as although I have a sweet tooth, I prefer to at least start the day on a healthy note. Having said that, the chocolate was 70% cocoa and the porridge was made with a water & milk mix.
A very enticing and rich sounding dark chocolate and prune plait came from Laura’s excellent blog How to Cook Good Food. A fellow member of the Real Bread Campaign, Laura is passionate about making bread and teaching others to do so.
These chocolate American pancakes are not knew to Angela of Garden, Tea, Cakes and Me. It seems they make a regular appearance at the weekend breakfast table and I can quite see why.
Ros of The more than occasional baker, really rose to the challenge and made her first ever yeasted bread. The success of this apple cinnamon chocolate braid has hopefully conquered her fear and we will see many loaves more loaves in the future.
When I saw C’s entry from Cake, Crumbs and Cooking, my first thought was, what an earth are sliders? On reading, I found they are a very soft and moist milk bread roll into which C has incorporated cocoa to make these delicious looking chocolate sliders. As if this wasn’t enough, she topped them with choccy philly!
Dashing Dom of Belleau Kitchen, went all romantic and in spending an afternoon with his loved one at Bettys tea rooms ended up with some rose tea. Well what could he do but bake this fabulous looking rose tea and chocolate swirl loaf.
Noting a cinnamon loaf in the latest edition of the Great British Bake Off, Jen of Blue Kitchen Bakes, thought it lacked a certain something …… chocolate and chilli to be precise. I have a sneaking suspicion she is right and would be very happy to join her for a slice or two of this spiced chocolate breakfast loaf.
I’m obviously not the only one that likes chilli for breakfast. Here we have chocolate chilli and pecan muffins made by The Garden Deli with her own home grown chillies.
Now, I thought I was being decedent with my chocolate porridge, but Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen has gone one better and had porridge with chocolate sauce swirled over the top.
Now here’s someone after my own heart. Although I have a sweet tooth, I do like to eat a healthy breakfast. The beautifully named Tango Like Raindrops over at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary made up this lovely looking refined-sugar free chocolate almond granola – once she’d got over the shock of chocolate for breakfast that is!
In a neat reversal of meals from breakfast to supper Tango Like Raindrops made these Black Forrest Waffles for supper, but suspected some might like them for breakfast.
Back from a visit to a Parisian boulangerie, Laura of Laura Loves Cakes was inspired to have a go herself. She made these pretty and and very tempting chocolate brioche rolls. Just as well CT wasn’t around or he would have scoffed the lot.
I was wondering when the hot chocolates were going to appear. Something is needed to dip all these buns and rolls into. Ren of Fabulicious Food went one better than a continental hot chocolate and made these healthy hot chocolate breakfast smoothies using the ancient Aztec ingredients of chocolate, chia seeds and avocado.
And along with the hot chocolate, finally, comes pain au chocolate. I was hoping someone would be brave enough to give them a go. Caroline of Caroline Makes did not let me down and one of these dunked in some hot chocolate would be perfect.
And a final entry that didn’t make it onto the linky is a rather spectacular looking mixed fruit and chocolate chip bread wreath from Michelle of Utterly Scrummy Food for Families.
Yorkshire is not a county I know that well, but even in my Cornish backwater I have heard of the famous Bettys tea rooms which first opened its doors in Harrogate in 1919. There are now six branches dotted around Yorkshire. When I knew I was headed to York on a work trip last year, there was one establishment I was determined to visit, no matter what. With only a few minutes to spare before my train departed, I managed to locate the tea rooms, heave a few lingering sighs over the array of delights surrounding me, ask for a Yorkshire curd tart and run. I had heard a lot about Yorkshire curd tart from an expat colleague who was always bemoaning the fact she couldn’t get them down in the South West. After savouring it on the train home, I understood what she had been mithering on about – it really was delicious. I recently had a go at making a chocolate version and although it was very tasty, it didn’t quite have the impact of that first one I tried from Bettys.
All of this is a rather long winded way of saying that when Betty’s asked if I’d like to review their Christmas Gugelhupf, I was not going to say no.
So whilst I waited for it to be delivered, I had ample opportunity to ponder on what exactly a Gugelhupf was?
Pronounced google-hoopf, it is the precursor to the American bundt type of cake. Originating from Southern Germany, Vienna, Switzerland and Alsace, the Gugelhupf is a fermented ring cake, dusted with sugar or covered in a chocolate glaze and eaten with a cup of coffee. The story goes that the three kings, travelling to or from Bethlehem, stopped off in Alsace. The residents there were so delighted, that they baked a cake in the shape of the the King’s turbans to honour the visit. Today, it is more common to make Gugelhupfs with baking powder rather than yeast and Bettys is one of these.
The cake came well wrapped, in fact within the cardboard box it looked, to all intents and purposes, as though it was wearing a coat of golden chain mail. It was surprisingly heavy for the size (a good sign in my opinion) and when I unwrapped it, I realised why, it weighs in at 730g.
After admiring its luxurious elegance and inhaling the heady chocolatey aroma, the first thing I did was look at the ingredients. I am always concerned that shop bought cakes will have far too many ingredients of which I’m likely to disapprove. I needn’t have worried. Betty’s is a high quality brand and as such doesn’t use junk ingredients. In supporting my case, I happily noted that butter was the first ingredient listed.
Ingredients: butter, sugar, egg, flour, hazelnuts, dark chocolate (65% cocoa solids), invert sugar syrup, maize starch, vanilla, raising agents, milk chocolate (38% cocoa solids) and white chocolate (36% cocoa butter).
We both really enjoyed this cake and if I had baked one this good, I would have been truly proud. The texture was firm, dense, but moist. The chocolate coating was nice and crunchy and offset the sweetness of the cake, which actually wasn’t overly sweet anyway. Although it was very well finished, it tasted homemade. The flavour, which was chocolate and hazelnut, was excellent. CT waxed even more lyrical than usual. Talking with his mouth full, he offered up these comments: “The chocolate has a smell you can taste before you put it in your mouth – it’s that strong. It tingles on the tongue and has a slightly caramelly Christmas taste and is utterly buttery. I wish I could eat more than a couple of slices, but it’s just too filling. Loved the hazelnut hit. Can you make one of these for my birthday?”
My mother, who is extremely fussy about cake in general and highly suspicious of bought cake in particular was very impressed. So all in all, I can only say that this cake scored very highly.
Now, I really think it’s time I acquired a bundt mould!
If you cant get to a Bettys tea shop, you can take a look at Bettys online shop where you can buy this gugelhupf for £14.95 and any number of other scrumptious delights. Last order dates for Christmas are 19th December for UK mainland, 5 December for EU and 28th November for the rest of the world, which doesn’t give a lot of time.
Betty’s have kindly agreed to give one of my readers a luxury Christmas Gugelhopf too. To be in with a chance of winning, please fill in the Rafflecopter below. You will need to leave a comment on this post which then gives you additional chances to enter if you so wish. Rafflecopter will pick a winner at random from the entries received. If you are commenting anonymously, please give me some way of identifying you as I will be verifying the validity of entries. Any automated entries will be disqualified. This giveaway is only open to those with a UK postal address. Because of the Christmas rush, winners will need to respond within 2 days of being contacted. Failure to do this will result in another winner being picked.
The month has been galloping away from me – again – and I realised it was time to get on with my Random Recipe for Dom at Belleau Kitchen. This month we were tasked with picking a book using our birthday date. OK that bit was easy – number 8 for me. But where to start? My books are scattered over the house in various places. Not so randomly perhaps, I started with a shelf of baking books. No. 8 got me Eric Lanlard’s Home Bake. As CT wasn’t around, I used a random number generator to give me the page 191. Taking a tentative peek, you just never know what you might be landed with, I was neither relieved nor horrified. Bananas are not a favourite fruit in this household, although we’re not averse to a good banana cake and what I’d got was banoffee pie. Well, OK, this wasn’t going to be difficult – good news. I hadn’t had banoffee pie in many a year and I’d certainly never made one, so time to see what I thought of it these days. I followed Eric’s recipe more or less, but only used two ripe bananas rather than three under ripe ones and a lot less cream – 500ml seemed rather excessive.
This is how I did it:
- Buttered a 22 cm flan dish.
- Melted 75g unsalted butter in a pan over low heat.
- Bashed 300g of plain chocolate hobnobs into crumbs with the end of a rolling pin.
- Poured in the butter and mixed well.
- Pressed the crumbs into the base and around the sides of the dish.
- Melted 100g unsalted butter in the same pan.
- Keeping the pan on the heat, added 100g dark brown sugar and stirred until all incorporated.
- Added a 397g tin condensed milk and stirred.
- Continued to stir whilst slowly bringing the mixture to the boil. The stirring was crucial here as each time I thought I’d take a break, the mixture caught and I was getting bits of unintended caramel in the mix.
- As soon as the mixture came to the boil, removed from the heat and poured onto the biscuit base.
- Left to cool. There was no need to put this in the fridge as my kitchen was plenty cold enough.
- Whipped 300ml whipping cream until peaked but not too stiff.
- Sliced two ripe bananas and laid over the cooled caramel.
- Spooned the cream over the top of the bananas.
- Sprinkled dark chocolate chips over the top.
The crunchy base, sticky caramel, soft banana and unctuous cream made for an indulgent dessert. It was very sweet, but I still managed to consume my first slice very happily. Later in the day, I happily consumed a second slice too. The bananas gave a nice flavour, but didn’t overwhelm and the texture was hidden by the other ingredients. Using chocolate hobnobs was a good way of incorporating chocolate to create a particularly toothsome base. Even CT with his avowed banana aversion struggled manfully and scoffed several slices. It actually lasted us a few days, so kept us off the chocolate bars.
I am also entering this into Cook Eat Delicious Desserts with Sharan’s Samayalarai as the theme this month is banana.
Well, there are advent calendars and then there are chocolate advent calendars. I remember the thrill of my yearly advent calendar when I was a child and that daily count down to the big day. Growing up in a thrifty household, the same calendar was used for subsequent years, long before I’d ever heard of reduce, reuse, recycle. Luckily I never tired of opening the same windows each year to see what lay behind them; some of those pictures are still etched on my brain: a little robin redbreast, some mistletoe, a reindeer and of course the Baby Jesus all swaddled in his strawy crib. I was well into my adulthood before I knew there was such a thing as an edible advent calendar and of course now nothing will do but a chocolate-filled calendar to mark the run up to Christmas.
This year I have the most luxurious chocolate advent calendar yet, for review, courtesy of Lindt. It is called, accurately, although somewhat prosaically, Lindt Advent Calendar. I haven’t yet tried the chocolates as I want to save them for advent itself, but I know the delights I have to look forward to. I have not bought Nestle products for ethical reasons since I was a teenager; this has steered me towards that other well known Swiss chocolate company, Lindt, who in my opinion produce superior chocolates anyway.
So what is it exactly that I am looking forward to? A snowy scene with Father Christmas and his golden reindeer bearing Lindt gifts adorns the face of the calendar, which measure 27 cm by 34 cm. Behind each of the 24 windows sits a Lindt chocolate waiting to be discovered. Five different types of milk chocolate, weighing in at 160g, make for a great way to indulge in a daily chocolate fix without the need to feel guilty. The chocolates are mostly wrapped in true Christmas colours of white, red and gold and make for pleasing decorations in their own right. I was glad to see that Lindor, albeit it in mini form, are amongst those featured. I still enjoy these truffles, which I once believed to be the height of chocolate sophistication. There are also mini golden reindeer, squares of milk chocolate, snowdrops filled with chocolate cream and last and definitely not least is the large milk chocolate Santa for Christmas Eve.
The calendar is available at selected supermarkets and chocolate shops and at the Lindt online shop for £5.29.
I was sent a Lindt advent calendar for review purposes. All opinions expressed are my own.
NB 9/12/12 Now that I’ve started munch my way through the calendar, I’ve noticed that when the windows are open, there is a lack of festive cheer. Once the chocolates have been removed, you are left with a blank white space – an image behind the chocolate would much improve things.
When I was asked if I’d like to bake some cakes as samples for Liskeard’s Fine Food event a couple of weeks ago, I had to come up with something that would be tasty, quick to bake, could be easily cut into smallish pieces and most importantly included chocolate. As apples were in season, I felt honour bound to include these too.
A 50g bar of Sicilian Dolceria Bonajuto 65% chocolate flavoured with cardamom winged its way to my house from London recently. I had heard that the chocolate was very good and I was looking forward to trying it. Founded in 1880 in Modica, Antica Dolceria Bonajuto is the oldest chocolate factory in Sicily. The chocolate was not at all what I had been expecting, which was something dense, rich and smooth.
Dense and rich it was, but it didn’t melt in your mouth at all; it had a surprising crunchy, sugary texture which was not too sweet despite the crystalline nature of it. The texture reminded CT of Kendal mint cake, only much nicer he thought and not nearly as sweet. Cardamom can be a tricky spice to use with chocolate, too much and it becomes overpowering and slightly bitter, but if done well, it is a great combination. This was just about right, giving an aromatic quality which lingered on the palate after being eaten. Fiona thought that this was more like raw chocolate than tempered and I can see what she meant, it’s certainly not like the artisan bars we are used to finding over here, but I have to say I thought it was delicious. Thanks very much to Fiona of London Unattached for sending me a bar to try from her Sicilian travels.
Last month, I won six Geert chocolates from Mostly About Chocolate. I haven’t had high quality artisan filled chocolates for a while so I relished these. They came in a cute little transparent box too. Thank you Judith.
Daintree Estates – smooth slightly caramel flavoured truffle.
Spotty green – praline with something I couldn’t quite decipher.
Madre – dark and bitter truffle with an unusual but exciting citrus like flavour I couldn’t identify.
Golf – praline with crunchy feuilletine and crystaline texture that tasted slightly peanutbuttery.
Ceibo – dark chocolate truffle – tasted of rum & raisin with a hint of orange, but far more sophisticated than the bars of Old Jamaica I used to love as a child.
Beans Original – a truffle with an odd flavour which again I couldn’t identify.
I was sent two bars of Niederegger marzipan to review a few months ago, a 40g milk chocolate stick and a 100g bar covered in plain chocolate. Niederegger is a German company whose pedigree goes back to 1806 and is still run by the same family in Lbeck where it all started. Famed for its marzipan which is substantially higher in almonds and lower in sugar than many brands, it continues to sell a range of marzipan products. Rather stupidly, I disposed of the wrappers before writing down the ingredients, so I am unable to give them here.
The milk chocolate marzipan didn’t really do it for me. Marzipan is one of the things where I infinitely prefer plain chocolate as my accompaniment. The milk chocolate in this case was just too sweet and also rather chunky. I found that the ratio of marzipan to chocolate was too low and detracted from the glory of the obviously excellent marzipan.
The plain chocolate version was much more to my taste. The marzipan was very much the main event and just a thin covering of plain chocolate gave it a welcome edge. The marzipan had a good texture and a nice almond flavour without being overpowered by excessive amounts of almond extract. It wasn’t particularly sweet either which I find is often the case with bought marzipan. All in all, I’d say, with Christmas just around the corner now, that this would be an excellent stocking filler for the marzipan lover in your life. I know I’d be very happy with a bar or two.
Following on from my review of Ohso last month, I was sent some orange Ohso to try. CT and I sat down to savour our daily dose of probiotics. These little 35g bars contain masses of good for your gut bacteria. CT is very fussy about orange chocolate, which often tastes artificial and makes him feel ill. He liked this one though and thought it tasted like real oranges. Combined with the 53% plain chocolate, they had a sufficient complexity of flavour to make them interesting and pleasant to eat. As with the plain Ohso though, we both found them a little too sweet for our palates. Like their plainer cousins, they are available to buy online and at many health food shops.
When I first got my hands on Green & Black’s second chocolate book Ultimate, there was one recipe in particular that leapt out of the page at me. It called to me, oh so seductively and it came to the inevitable point that I could resist no longer. When Nazima of Franglais Kitchen, who is hosting this month’s We Should Cocoa, decided bread was to be this month’s theme, I was reminded that I had never actually got around to posting about Arianna’s amazing chocolate cinnamon rolls.
Arianna was taught to make these rolls by her Norwegian mother. She is a pastry chef now baking cakes at her own bakery in London: Bittersweet Bakers. I’m sure my rolls look paltry in comparison, but my goodness, they were good to eat.
The more things I try and juggle, the more my poor brain loses capacity and I can no longer remember if I followed this recipe exactly or not. Suffice it to say that there was a lot of sugar, cinnamon and 70% chocolate involved. Unusually, fragrant vanilla seeds were scraped into the yeasted dough which itself was enriched with egg, butter and milk. In addition to the sugary cinnamon and chocolate filling, the rolls were also cooked in a decadent cinnamon sauce. I made 20 rolls rather than the 16 specified and they were plenty big enough. I don’t feel comfortable just copying the recipe when I am unable to put my own spin on things, so you will have to go directly to the book. I’ve checked the G&B website for an online recipe, but had no success in finding one. You should be able to borrow a copy of the book from your local library if you don’t have one of your own. I do try and write up what I have done soon after doing it to avoid memory loss, but sometimes I don’t quite manage it. What I do remember, however, is just how good those rolls tasted.
These would make for a very special breakfast and would also be suitable for Breakfast Club, the theme of which is chocolate this month.
I’m submitting this to Bookmarked Recipes with Jac of Tinned Tomatoes as it had been bookmarked for quite a long time before I ever got around to making it.
I’m also entering this into Calendar Cakes as the theme is Bread, Rolls and Buns this month. CC is hosted alternately by Laura Loves Cakes and Dolly Bakes.
“You have a parcel from France!” I heard CT shout. Rushing from the kitchen, I was excited to see it was a box of French chocolates, no less – ooh la la! This was the November offering from Club Chocolat Francais and I couldn’t wait to get my snout into it. I reviewed a similar box of these French Chocolates by Post a few months ago and you can find out more about the company behind the chocolates there. It looks as though they’ve listened to feedback as the flavours are rather more exciting than the last box I reviewed.
As before, a gorgeous aroma of chocolate and nuts wafted up from the box when I opened it, making the thought of having to take photographs before diving in, almost unbearable. Don’t look too closely at the picture or you might notice that the salted caramel got the better of me before the camera was out of its case. Again, there was a good mix of dark, milk and white chocolates. Although pralines prevailed (and that was all right by me), they were all quite different and there were a number of other interesting choices.
Dark chocolate salted caramel – the dark chocolate had a particularly rich aroma and it’s strong flavour together with the salt offset the sweetness of the caramel very nicely.
Lemon & coriander – this was particularly flavoursome, very lightly lemony ganache enrobed with dark chocolate and with a lovely aftertaste of coriander.
Pistachio praline – the pistachios really came to the fore in this milk chocolate and was probably one of the nicest pralines I’ve ever eaten.
Praline petal – unusual in appearance and delicious in taste, this consisted of a thin layer of praline enrobed with lots of milk chocolate.
Caramelised praline – caramelised nuts really made this praline stand out.
Other mixes, I wasn’t so sure about. I felt that in the case of passionfruit and coconut, the coconut overwhelmed the passionfruit. Conversely, the raspberry and pistachio was the other way around and the fruit overwhelmed the nut. However, all in all, I really enjoyed these and would be delighted to receive a box of 34 French chocolates in the post every month. If this appeals to you, then do take a look at the Club Chocolat Francais website, where you can sign up straightaway if you so desire.
I am delighted to say I have been offered three boxes of these delicious French chocolates to give away. To be in with a chance of winning, please fill in the Rafflecopter below. You will need to leave a comment on this post which then gives you additional chances to enter if you so wish. Rafflecopter will pick three winners at random from the entries received. If you are commenting anonymously, please give me some way of identifying you as I will be verifying the validity of entries. Any automated entries will be disqualified. This giveaway is only open to those with a UK postal address. Because of the Christmas rush, winners will need to respond within 3 days of being contacted. Failure to do this will result in another winner being picked.
Prizes are offered and provided by Club Chocolat Francais and Chocolate Log Blog accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of said third party.
We were off on holiday and it was the usual scramble to try and use up perishable food before we left. A punnet of slightly under ripe apricots was one of the food items that needed attention. With all the talk of fairtrade vanilla on BBC Radio 4 and Vanessa’s blog back in August, it was a question of poached apricots in vanilla syrup or making jam. I plumped for the jam and oh boy, I’m so glad I did.
I used Trish Deseine’s recipe as my guide, but reduced the quantity of sugar to fruit and added some water.
This is how I made two jars of apricot and vanilla jam:
- Washed 400g apricots, then chopped and de-stoned them.
- Put into a stainless steel heavy bottomed pan with 300g caster sugar and the stones.
- Cut a vanilla pod into bits and scattered this over the sugar.
- Squeezed in the juice of a lemon and added a splash of water.
- Left overnight for the flavours to infuse.
- Bought the mixture to a gentle simmer and stirred until the sugar was completely dissolved.
- Bought it up to a rapid boil and let it go for a good ten minutes or more until the jam went from frothy to clear and setting point was reached (jam wrinkled when dropped onto a cold plate).
- Removed the stones and spooned into two sterilised jars.
I am entering this into Susan’s Home Made & Well Preserved challenge over at A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate in the vague hope I might get lucky and win a copy of First Preserves by Vivian Lloyd.
This was, of course, made from scratch as is the vast majority of what I make, so I am entering this into Mr JW’s Made With Love Mondays.