Well it seems jam isn’t as popular as I’d thought it would be – either that or you’ve all decamped to the beach to enjoy the rather brilliant September weather we’ve been having in the UK this year. So here goes with the small but very select number of We Should Cocoa entries this month. Please share the love and visit the blogs to find out more.
Harvest festival meets Random Recipes meets Clandestine Cake Club in this post. As we had a hard challenge for August, Dom has gone easy on us this month and it’s back to the basics of picking a random book from our collection and then a random recipe from that book. I used my usual Eat Your Books method of selection and came up with a recipe for a simple chocolate pear upside-down cake in Jennifer Donovan’s book Chocolate. Happily this pick coincided with a Cornwall Clandestine Cake Club gathering on Thursday where the theme was harvest festival. And to tie it all together in a nice little bundle, my mother turned up with a jar of pears that she’d just poached. All sorted.
I had to add my own twist of course, so apart from using poached pears rather than raw ones, I substituted the vanilla for cardamom. The cake was fudgy and chocolatey, but the cardamom and pear stopped it being too sweet and sickly. It was in fact a delicious cake I will be repeating and the good folk at cake club seemed to enjoy it.
This is how I made:
Chocolate Pear Cardamom Upside-Down Cake
- Melted 200g butter with 200g of dark 70% chocolate in a large saucepan over low heat.
- Stirred in 150g cardamom sugar (golden caster sugar) and left to cool a little.
- Beat in three duck eggs (large hens eggs will be fine) with 1 drop of the excellent Holy Lama cardamom extract (or the ground seeds from 1-2 cardamom pods, depending on how subtle you want the flavour).
- Sifted in 120g self-raising flour and stirred gently until just combined.
- Sprinkled 3 tbsp of dark brown sugar over the base of a 9″ round silicon mould.
- Lay 12 pear quarters on top of the sugar then poured the batter over the top.
- Baked at 180℃ for 30 minutes until just done.
- Left to cool for about ten minutes, then turned the cake upside down onto a serving plate.
The harvest festival theme resulted in a bounty of fruit and vegetable cakes. The cake shown here completely stole the show, but they were all very tasty and yes, I did manage to try a piece of each! An independent wine merchant with accompanying champagne and coffee bar, Bin Two in Padstow, was our venue and some of the participants seemed much more interested in the wine than they did in the cake. The shop included a cafe bar, so we all crowded and got up close and cosy. Thanks as always to Ellie Mitchell for organising another splendid cakey gathering.
Bin Two were hosting a Macmillan Coffee Morning the following day, so I also brought along a few oaty ginger biscuits. These were quite fiery as they were not only flavoured with ground ginger but included crystallised ginger too. CT got almost grumpy when he was only allowed to try one.
So this is another success I put down to Dom and his Random Recipes over at Belleau Kitchen – such a fun and interesting challenge – most of the time anyway!
I had a bit of a dilemma trying to decide which of this month’s seasonal recipes should be sent to Simple and in Season – there have been so many good ones. But despite the rather prosaic nature of pear after the colours and flavours of blackberry and plum, this cake deserves recognition. Nazima of Franglais Kitchen is hosting this month on behalf of Ren Behan.
If you haven’t heard of the baking challenge Alpha Bakes, you may have had less of a headache than I did this month. A random letter is generated each month and we have to find something to bake where a main ingredient or name begins with that letter. When it happens to be C there is no problem for me – everything I bake has chocolate in it, but when it’s something a little more obscure such as Z, it becomes difficult. This month’s letter is K. Although kiwi fruit came to mind initially and when I looked in my recipe books I found a few obscurely named recipes beginning with K, I ended up going with kale. Despite the pigeons, kale is one of the few crops we’ve managed to grow this year and having initially dismissed this as an ingredient, I decided I really wanted to use some in a bake. Once I’d decided that, it was easy. I resorted to my trusty savoury brunch muffin recipe and adapted it to suit.
Whilst every month is organic month in this household, I do like to support the #OrganicSeptember campaign. I have always been a strong believer in organic food, not so much for the health benefits, although that is important, but for the environmental ones. Growing food organically is the least harmful way of meeting human needs whilst allowing insects, birds and other wildlife to survive.
Organic food doesn’t have to be expensive; we live on a pretty tight budget. I buy some of our staples such as oats, rice, lentils and dried fruit in bulk which reduces the cost considerably. We also grow many of our own vegetables. Just buying one or two regular items that have been produced using organic ingredients can make a positive difference.
Certified by the Soil Association, Seed & Bean are officially the UK’s most ethical chocolate brand. Their bars are organic, fair-trade and ethically produced. They are the only company to score 100 out of 100 in the good Shopping Guide’s ethical index. They have a direct relationship with their cocoa bean growers in Ecuador, the Dominican Republic and on the Sao Tomé Islands off West Africa, ensuring a better income for the producers and a more sustainable crop. As you would expect from a good quality product, all of their ingredients are natural and only real fruit is used. Founded in 2005 by principal chocolatier Stephen Rudkin, the bars are still handmade in small batches in Northamptonshire. I was particularly pleased to find that the inner “foil” wrappers are actually made from something called nature flex which is fully home compostable. I wish I’d known about this before, but the message doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the wrapping, which is where it probably should be if they want people to compost rather than throw.
The Seed & Bean range is currently made up of eighteen different flavours, including seven award winners. The two most recent award winning bars are an extra dark (70%) with Cornish sea salt and a rich milk (37%) with Sicilian hazelnut and almond. I have reviewed the former, but have not had the pleasure of trying the latter and sadly it wasn’t in the bundle of ten I was recently sent to try. Some other flavours I’d like to try but weren’t included are the dark chocolate (58%) lemon and cardamom, dark chocolate (72%) pumpkin seeds and hemp oil and the milk chocolate (37%) tangerine. Twelve of the bars are suitable for vegans. Interestingly, I noted from a previous review of the milk chocolate Cornish sea salt and lime that the cocoa content has gone up from 30% to 37%, which in my book makes it even more delicious. In fact the four milk chocolate bars all have a cocoa content of 37%, which although I’d prefer to be higher still, is much better than most chocolate bars you’re likely to come across.
Whilst my mouth waits with anticipation to savour the inner secrets of the bars, my eyes feast on the multi coloured outer packaging – a veritable rainbow of colours. The graphics are eye-catching and the colour of the wrapper reflects the flavour of the bar. Really I don’t think I can improve on their own words: “we fill our days with the soulful pursuit of creating kaleidoscopic moments of pleasure”.
Of the ten I was sent, some have been reviewed on the blog, some I’m planning to bake up a storm with and two I couldn’t resist trying out almost immediately. You can see which ones those were below.
You can find Seed & Bean bars at various independent shops around the UK, Ireland and Europe. You can also buy them direct via their online shop. The bars weigh 85g, all but the milk chocolate and the dark chocolate bars which have recently gone up a size and are now a hefty 100g. They all vary in price but cost around £2.30.
Coconut & Raspberry (66% dark) – cocoa mass, raw cane sugar, cocoa butter, coconut oil, raspberries, soya lecithin, vanilla extract.
With its subtle flavour of coconut and fruity taste of raspberry and a backdrop of smooth dark chocolate, this is really rather wonderful. It’s a combination I’ve not come across before, but it works very well. The raspberry leaves a tart and refreshing taste in the mouth. Whilst the chocolate is smooth, there is texture from the powdered raspberries which makes me want to munch rather than savour. For a dark chocolate, this is really rather moreish.
Chilli & Lime (72%) – cocoa mass, cane sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla extract, chilli powder, lime oil.
Lime is the first flavour to hit the senses; a rich aroma of lime and chocolate emanates enticingly from the bar and when the chocolate touches your mouth, it is lime you can taste. It doesn’t take long though for the chocolate and spice to catch up and gradually your mouth fills with the warming power of chilli. I found the balance of both lime and chilli to be just right. Both were noticeable, but neither overwhelming and they worked in tandem with the smooth dark Dominican trinitario chocolate to give a particularly pleasurable experience. This chocolate is rich though and a couple of squares at any one time is enough to satisfy.
Thanks to Seed & Bean for sending me some chocolate bars to try out. I was not required to write a favourable review and as always, all opinions are my own.
It’s the last day of National Cupcake Week and I’m just getting in by the skin of my chinny chin chin. With the Great British Bake Off in full swing everyone seems to have gone baking mad. Home Bargains is one such and they have given me a helping hand with my cupcakes by sending a box full of baking goodies. Their brief was to create a Home Bargains showstopper.
|The master at work, not me|
The name Rococo for me conjures up images of sophisticated but slightly quirky chocolate luxury; a company steered by a woman who is thoroughly immersed in the world of fine chocolate. Chantal Coady is a name to be revered, she understands chocolate like few others. She is a chocolate pioneer and when she founded Rococo back in 1983, most of us in the UK had no idea what real chocolate was. Real Chocolate written by Chantal in 2003 was one of the first chocolate books I ever owned; reading the background and history of this most wonderful of substances, got me hooked (if it was possible to be even more hooked than I already was).
Rococo have teamed up with the kitchen expert Magnet to make a number of exquisite chocolates in one of their kitchens and have produced videos to show us how it’s done. In this YouTube video, principal chocolatier Barry Johnson makes Passion Fruit and Rosemary Caramels in the Integra White range at the Magnet Kensington Showroom. It’s an eleven minute step by step guide showing how to produce elegant chocolates including essential techniques such as how to use a mould, make caramel and those all-important finishing touches that delight the eye.
The flavours of passionfruit and rosemary had my mouth watering as soon as I heard about them. I adore passionfruit and when it is combined well with chocolate, it’s a real treat. The addition of the robust earthiness of rosemary is a great balancer to the fruity, tangy sweetness of the passionfruit. I had to have a go. As the video didn’t include quantities, I took an educated guess and the caramels worked out fine. I was only able to find one passionfruit, which wasn’t really enough, so I ended up with only eight caramels and some leftover tempered chocolate. For the 100g of dark chocolate couverture I used, a double quantity of the passionfruit and rosemary caramel would have been perfect, making sixteen large chocolates instead of only eight.
Following the video, but with a few tweaks to adapt to what I had in the kitchen, this is how I made:
Passionfruit and Rosemary Caramel Chocolates
- Using a paintbrush, lightly dusted chocolate moulds with silvery gold glitter as I didn’t have the means for Barry’s method.
- Tempered 100g of Costa Rica origin 71% dark chocolate.
- Coated the sides and bottoms of 16 chocolate moulds (I was being hopeful and only had enough filling for 8). Left to set.
- Pressed the insides of 1 large passionfruit through a sieve into a small pan.
- Added 1 tsp of glucose syrup and a few needles of freshly picked and washed rosemary.
- Heated over a low temperature until warm, then left to infuse for an hour.
- Heated a heavy bottomed pan over a medium to high heat, then poured in 50g golden granulated sugar. Left to caramelise and turn a light reddish brown.
- Removed from the heat and stirred in the passionfruit, mixing vigorously as I did so.
- Added 15g of unsalted butter, followed by 25g of a good 41% milk chocolate and mixed until smooth.
- Left to cool, then spooned into the moulds, leaving a 2mm gap at the top.
- Left for a couple of hours to set.
- Topped the moulds with the liquid tempered chocolate and left to set.
- Removed with great care.
|My attempt at cutting neatly in half|
My chocolates may not have been as accomplished as Barry Johnson, but I was impressed with the results. The chocolate was tempered, with a good snap and a beautiful shine. In fact they were so shiny, they were virtually impossible to photograph. The chocolate was a high quality bar of Costa Rica origin 71% that I picked up at the Waterford Food Festival and it tasted delicious – rich and fruity but with no bitterness. The caramel was exquisite. It had a smooth soft texture and the flavours of sweet tart passionfruit, a hint or rosemary and rich chocolate melded perfectly. One of the points Barry mentions in the video is to be careful the caramel is well sealed by the chocolate as you don’t want it to leak out. I not only managed this, but also achieved a thin chocolate shell so the caramel was enhanced rather than overwhelmed.
So if you’re planning on holding a dinner party or need something special to wow friends and family, why not try making these mouth-watering Passion Fruit & Rosemary Caramels. Even if you don’t, watch the video anyway – it’s so interesting to see the process and watch a top chocolatier at work in a clean and tidy kitchen.
This is a sponsored post. I was not asked to write a positive review and as always any opinions expressed are my own.
As these chocolates contain a caramel flavoured with fresh rosemary, I am entering them into Karen’s Cooking with Herbs over at Lavender and Lovage. Mediterranean herbs are this month’s theme.
When I was leafing through Chantal Coady’s book Rococo: mastering the art of chocolate a few weeks ago, I was struck by her recipe for White Chocolate Heartbreakers – a white chocolate cake served warm with a melting raspberry and white chocolate middle – rather like a chocolate fondant. I bookmarked it straight away as I thought it would be an excellent dessert for the upcoming blackberry season, producing a surprise purple melting middle rather than a pink one.
We had a wonderful time last week, jaunting off for an evening picnic with friends at Helligan Gardens followed by a production of Dead Dog in a Suitcase by the multi talented and much loved Kneehigh Theatre.
As I wanted something a little elegant for such an occasion and had a load of apples that needed using up, I decided to make some apple tarts. Since discovering the fabulous yogurt pastry I used for my rhubarb and almond cream pasty pie earlier this year, there’s been no looking back. It’s easy to make, easy to use, has a great taste and texture and doesn’t crack when rolling. Being in a bit of a hurry, I forgot to add the white chocolate, so I ended up adding the chocolate to the apple puree part of the tart instead. This worked brilliantly, so I’m glad I made the initial mistake. The tarts looked good and tasted even better. The apple puree had a lovely creamy texture and vanilla flavour due to the white chocolate, which contrasted well with the crisp unsweetened pastry and the apple slices on top.
This is how I made:
- Rubbed 150g salted butter into 260g flour (half wholemeal spelt, half plain white) until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs.
- Stirred in 3 tbsp yogurt until the mixture clumped together.
- Brought it into a ball with my hands and left to rest for an hour before rolling.
- shortcrust pastry (mine was homemade) – enough for 6 x 10 cm tart tins
- 4 windfall apples
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp vanilla sugar (golden caster)
- 30g vanillary white chocolate (I used Green & Blacks)
- 1 drop nutmeg extract
- 3 dessert apples
- 1 tbsp apple jelly
Total time: Yield: 6
As this is a We Should Cocoa anniversary, I wanted to do something a little bit special. I also had a cake to make for a friend. I knew I wanted to use the chocolate blackberry jam I made a couple of weeks ago; it’s not only rather special but seasonal too. Leafing through some of my baking books, I came across Ruth Clemens’ Ultimate Chocolate Cake recipe in her book, The Pink Whisk guide to Cake Making. The recipe looked good and as we are all in the throws of the Great British Bake Off, it seemed rather appropriate as Ruth was one of the finalists back in 2010.
I decided to follow the recipe for the cake batter and the ganache, but not the buttercream as I was going to use jam. I halved the ganache recipe and changed the cake recipe a little – I just can’t help it! I attempted feathering for the first time using the leftover blackberry white chocolate ganache from the blackberry puddings recipe I have yet to post.
This is how I made:
- Measured 220ml milk into a jug and added 2 tbsp of malt vinegar to make a quick version of sour milk. Gave it a stir and left to coagulate.
- Creamed 165g unsalted butter with 300g light Muscovado sugar and 30g of Molasses sugar until light and fluffy.
- Beat in 3 duck eggs (large hens eggs can be substituted) one at a time.
- Sieved in 200g plain flour, 80g self-raising flour, 60g cocoa powder (I used Food Thoughts fairtrade & organic), 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda and 1 tsp mesquite powder (optional – gives a slight caramel flavour).
- Folded in alternately with the soured milk.
- Spooned the mixture into 2 7″ oiled baking tins and 3 small rectangular silicone moulds filling them to about 3/4 full.
- Left to cool in the tins, then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Brought 140 ml of cream to the boil in a small pan with 1/2 tbsp golden syrup.
- Added 175g of 53% dark chocolate and left for a couple of minutes.
- Stirred until well mixed and smooth.
- Sandwiched the large cakes together with chocolate blackberry jam.
- Topped with the ganache.
- Piped lines of white chocolate ganache on top and then used a tooth pick to feather the lines – or at least attempted too.
- Cut the mini cakes in half, sandwiched with the jam then topped with the ganache.
The batter rose so well, that it annoyingly overflowed, which was not quite what I was looking for. The mixture was also a little fragile, so needed to be handled quite carefully when still warm. It was, however, very light and quite delicious. CT, who wasn’t party to the intricacies of the creation, was quite taken by the unexpected pleasure of the blackberry jam cunningly secreted in the middle – ooh he said.
August may herald the end of summer, but as long as I get my chocolate fix, I can cope. These chocolate bites sent for review are how I made it through this August.
Beech’s Fine Chocolates
Beech’s Fine Chocolates pride themselves on traditional chocolates made in Britain since 1920. They have recently launched a new range of colourful chocolate bars. I fell in love with the packaging immediately. The colourful Indian inspired patterns were a delight to the eye. The colours cleverly reflect the flavours hidden within. The ingredients are minimal as befits a good bar of chocolate. They are also all natural with no added vegetable oils, making them clean tasting and creating a good snap. At a recommended retail price of £1.25, these are a bit of a find. Weighing in at 60g and with resealable packs, these bars are particularly good when out and about and for people who show more restraint than I do.
Milk Chocolate – sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, cocoa mass, skimmed milk powder, soya lecithin, natural vanilla.
This was creamy with caramel notes, but with the chocolate to the fore. We both liked it. With only 30% cocoa content, I was expecting this to be overly sweet and lacking in flavour, but I was wrong.
White Chocolate – sugar, whole milk powder, cocoa butter, soya lecithin, natural vanilla
This was creamy and tasted of vanilla. It was pleasant and altogether a good quality white chocolate.
Plain – cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin
This 55% cocoa content bar, although quite sweet, was smooth and neither harsh, nor bitter. It was fruity with caramel notes – not bad at all.
Anglesey Sea Salt – sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, cocoa mass, whey, soya lecithin, Anglesey Sea Salt
Little bursts of saltiness erupted on the tongue, but it was not overly and harshly salted as some sea salt chocolate can be. The caramel notes of this 30% chocolate, combined well with the salt and was reminiscent of my favourite salted caramel.
Ginger – cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin, natural ginger
We got an immediate hit of ginger, which we both loved. The chocolate tasted fruity and was very smooth. We’d been expecting chunks of ginger, but the flavour permeated the whole bar and very pleasant it was too.
Lime and Chilli – cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, soya lecithin, natural lime oil, chilli
The scent of lime emanating from the packet was strong and reminded me of old fashioned chocolate limes. The cooling lime is the first flavour that hits the palate, then the chilli kicks in at the back of the throat – a very nice combination. This is quite a spicy little number and may not be enjoyed by those averse to a little heat. As a chilli fiend I really enjoyed this one.
Barú is a Belgium confectionary company that has recently developed a new range of high end marshmallow confectionary in time for – shhhh – Christmas. The range is available at Harvey Nichols, Wholefoods and selected independent retailers. Waitrose stocks the dark, milk and sea salt caramel marshmallows. The packaging is light and fun. Individually wrapped, the marshmallows come in boxes of four (54g) and cost £2.99. The hippos come in a 45g box of three individually wrapped pieces and cost £3. Ideal stocking fillers all.
Milk Chocolate Wrapped Marshmallow Clouds – The thin coating of chocolate worked well so that the marshmallow can be enjoyed without being overwhelmed. The marshmallow itself was fluffy, as the name implies, but also chewy and without being overly glutinous as some marshmallows are.
Fleur de Sel Caramel Wrapped Marshmallow Clouds – The chocolate tasted stronger and was a good combination with the sweet marshmallow. There was only a smidgen of salted caramel, which was a shame: the salt was detectable, but not really the caramel. It was pleasant enough, but I couldn’t see see the advantage of having it – it’s a distraction from the marshmallow itself.
Dark Chocolate Forest Berry Caramel Hippo – Extremely cute and cuddly chocolate hippos were filled with a delicious fruity liquid caramel. They tasted slightly salty (although this wasn’t mentioned in the ingredients). I really enjoyed this one.
A cute little box containing six chocolates arrived in the post accompanied by a leaflet about chocolate parties for kids. Now that does seem like a good idea, what kid wouldn’t enjoy covering themselves, as well as their favourite biscuits, with chocolate? Looking at their website, it seems that in addition to this service, Owow create personalised chocolates to order. Their speciality is covering pieces of cake or biscuits, specifically oreo biscuits, with Belgian chocolate. I was sent two cake wrapped flavours to try. The list of ingredients on the back was quite large, but with cake included in the mix, this was only to be expected. The chocolate itself contained only sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, cocoa mass, soya lecithin and natural vanilla flavouring.
Owow – We thought the differing textures of crunchy chocolate and soft cake worked very nicely and the flavour of hazelnut was pleasant. A nice concept and the sort of thing I would have loved as a child, but they were a little too sweet for old fogeys like us.
Caymana – Again the concept of this chocolate was very good and the name conjured up the flavours of the Caribbean well. On first tasting, CT cried, “Caribbean plum cakes”. There was a nice fruity flavour with a noticable dash of rum. However, the proportion of cake to chocolate was very small and the chocolate, being very thick, rather overwhelmed the flavour of the cakes.
Last year I reviewed some Kentish cobnut fudge from Potash Farm in Kent. This year I’ve been sent something even more exciting – chocolate and honey. Cobnuts are a type of hazelnut that grows particularly well in Kent. They lend themselves to all sorts of delicious treats. Weighing in at 120g each, the chocolate bars were quite sizeable. The chocolate is made by Linton Chocolate, but the cobnuts come from the farm.
Single origin Ghana chocolate bar with Kentish Cobnuts – sugar, cocoa butter, dry whole milk, cocoa mass (40%), soya lecithin, natural vanilla flavour, Kentish cobnuts.
A high cocoa content milk chocolate bar is almost guaranteed to please me and this one with its crunchy tasty cobnuts did not disappoint. The chocolate was creamy and whilst it didn’t have any outstanding characteristics, it didn’t need to, as the uber tasty cobnuts were the real star of the show.
Single origin Ecuador chocolate bar with Kentish Cobnuts – cocoa mass (70.4%), sugar, cocoa butter, natural vanilla flavour, Kentish cobnuts.
This was much darker and richer than the previous bar and the chocolate had more depth of flavour too. It had a smooth mouthfeel and was not at all bitter. It complemented the cobnuts well, but gave them quite a different taste to the milk chocolate bar – this was more of a duet than a solo. Despite my love of milk chocolate, this dark and luscious bar was my favourite. The nuts encourage a healthy munching and I found this didn’t last nearly as long as I thought it would.
Kentish Honey with Potash Farm Cobnuts
Two simple ingredients, but what a rich and complex flavour. I particularly enjoyed the heady aroma that made me almost swoon with delight when the lid was first removed. It tastes and smells like authentic honey straight out of the beehive, said CT. And who can resist honey coated hazelnuts – we couldn’t. Added to natural yogurt or ice-cream, these nuts turn a simple dish into a sophisticated and highly pleasurable treat. This would make an ideal gift for a honey lover.