Christmas is traditionally a time for baking biscuits and I usually make the most of it. I tend to make an old favourite or two, but also use the occasion to try out a some new recipes. One of them, this time, was to be Christmas Butter Biscuits.
As some of you may know, I’ve been drinking matcha for the last few days. I’m taking part in the teapigs #MatchaChallenge which involves consuming half a teaspoon of this amazing green tea every day for two weeks. High time to have a change from just drinking matcha and get baking with it too, I reckoned. I wanted to make something that was portable, would fit in a lunch box and was not too unhealthy. Matcha biscuits with spelt flour and dark chocolate chips were my solution to this conundrum. Rather than incorporate chocolate throughout, I chose the chips so the beautiful green colour could shine through.
As soon as I started creaming the butter and sugar, I realised I should have used coconut oil and rapadura instead. This would have given an even healthier and no less delicious new year matcha cookie. Oh well, next time.
The biscuits turned out just as I’d hoped, crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle with a lovely green hue to them. Annoyingly, I couldn’t get this to show in the photographs. There was no mistaking the matcha flavour which went well with the dark chocolate. The spelt gave a slight nuttiness and bizarrely the biscuits almost tasted of peanut butter. Manageing to eat two and half large cookies to get my required half teaspoon, was a little much, even for me; a hot cup of matcha tea remedied the situation.
Tea Time Treats has gone off piste this month and is actually all about lunch boxes rather than a groaning tea table. These biscuits (or cookies if you prefer) work well, both in a lunch box and for tea. CT can attest to both. Hosted this month by Janie over at The Hedge Combers, Karen of Lavender and Lovage will be taking a keen interest too.
Innovation and Discoveries is the theme for The Biscuit Barrel this month. Having felt rather forlorn last month when I baked something for this challenge, only to find it wasn’t there, I am now super excited to find that Alexandra over at The Lass in the Apron is holding the fort whilst Laura from I’d Much Rather Bake Than … finishes off her degree. Very sensible.
- 100g unsalted butter
- 100g golden caster sugar (I used cardamom sugar)
- 1 large egg (I used a duck egg)
- 100g light muscovado sugar
- 150g flour (I used half wholemeal spelt, half white)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- pinch of Himalayan pink rock salt
- 3 tsp matcha
- 75g 70% dark chocolate buttons (or chopped)
- Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.
- Beat in the egg.
- Sift in the flour, baking powder, salt and matcha. Stir until just combined.
- Stir in the chocolate.
- Leave in a cool place to firm up a little.
- Place tablespoons of batter onto a lined baking tray (I made 15) and form into a rough circle.
- Bake at 180°C for about 12 minutes or until the cookies are firm. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely.
January is the traditional time to follow through with good intentions and try for a healthier lifestyle. I am always full of New Year’s resolutions and sometimes I actually manage to pull them off. This year I have set myself a tough one, but as it doesn’t involve food or drink, I was happy to take on the teapigs #matchachallenge as well.
I’ve had a love affair with matcha ever since CT brought some back from his Japan trip in 2007. I’d never heard of it before then, so it was a real novelty. Green tea was my tea of choice, so once I got used to the idea, it wasn’t such a big step to drinking matcha: it’s a very finely ground Japanese green tea with a distinctive flavour. Because you are ingesting the whole leaf this way, it provides a concentration of all those healthy nutrients that green tea is renowned for. It’s very high in antioxidants, has plenty of betacarotene and contains vitamins A, B and C. It’s said to boost energy levels for four to six hours after drinking it as well as raising metabolism and relieving stress. Teapigs matcha is organic and comes in 30g packs, normally costing £25. There is currently a 20% discount.
As well as a great drink, matcha lends itself very nicely to baking, not only giving a distinctive flavour, but also an interesting green colour. I have made a number of cakes and biscuits using matcha, but was particularly pleased with matcha shortbread, matcha and white chocolate cupcakes and chocolate matcha battenberg.
Much as I like matcha, it’s not something I’ve had every day, so I was interested to see if drinking it regularly made any difference to my flagging post flu energy levels. The teapigs #matchachallenge is to drink ½ tsp of matcha a day for a fortnight. It’s early days yet as I’m only on Day 5, but I have been enjoying finding different ways to drink it. I have so far made two different kefir matcha smoothies, drunk it as normal in a mug of hot water and tried it as a matcha shot in a glass provided by teapigs. Today I made a frothy matcha white hot chocolate. I used white chocolate so I could retain the beautiful green colour.
This is how I made:
Matcha Hot Chocolate
- Warmed 150ml of milk to just below boiling.
- Poured it into a mug containing 2 heaped tsps of white chocolate powder (I used Mortimer’s) and ¼ tsp matcha powder.
- Used an electric milk frother (kindly provided by teapigs) to mix and froth the drink.
- Sprinkled a little matcha powder over the top.
It was delicious. The frothing gave it a really light texture and the white chocolate was creamy, but the matcha cut through the sweetness with strong refreshing notes.
If you fancy entering the Matcha Challenge there is a chance to win a year’s supply of matcha from teapigs and a pack of matcha is being given away daily via instagram. The challenge runs throughout January and it’s a nice easy way to get your New Year off to a healthy start.
Thanks to teapigs for providing a pack of matcha green tea, a shot glass and aerolatte frother in exchange for blogging about the challenge.
I am sending the matcha hot chocolate off to Nayna for her event, Let’s Cook/Create Hot Drinks over at Simply Food.
It’s been a while since I did any baking with matcha. Last week provided the perfect opportunity. We’d been invited to eat sushi with a Japanese colleague of CT’s which I was hugely looking forward to. A few little matcha cakes, I thought, would make a suitable post prandial snack. As I mulled over what flavour I should pair the matcha with (mostly in the early hours of the morning) I kept coming back to citrus which I thought would give a fresh and zingy high to the bitter notes of green tea. But, unusually for me, I had no fresh citrus in the house, not even lemons.
With time fast running out I made a last minute decision to add some of my mother’s marmalade to the mix. Two bitters together can work really well – think coffee and chocolate. I was hoping this would also provide some of the zing I was looking for.
Well I couldn’t have been better pleased with how these mini matcha marmalade cakes turned out – well maybe they could have been a bit greener in colour. They were light in texture, greenish, had a mild matcha flavour and a delicious marmalade hit. CT and I were hard pressed not to snaffle one on the train on our way to our hosts. Just as well we didn’t as they all disappeared with remarkable rapidity.
How anyone managed to fit them in is a miracle. We had the grandest sushi spread I’ve ever come across. It was a self-assembly job; nori seaweed was provided along with what seemed like hundreds of fillings. As the only vegetarian there, I was still well catered for – omelettes, mushrooms, cucumbers, natto, asparagus, okra, radishes, beans, cress and all the usual accompaniments and condiments. Four hours of eating and sake drinking and we were still able to knock back a few cakes and lashings of a flowering green tea. Mine were not the only cakes: there was a lush chocolate cake as well as a banana tarte tatin. How we managed to stagger back to the train station and home I’ll never know.
I’ve named this year Super Sushi. I reckon I’ve eaten more of it this year than all the other years combined. It all started with our bloggers session at Yo Sushi and snowballed from there. Only two days after this sushi feast I got a surprise phone call from a friend who was dashing through Plymouth on his way back to Italy. “Can you make it to Koishii for a Japanese blow out in two hours time?” I dropped everything, so did CT.
I’m sending these off to Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary for Shop Local as the wholemeal flour is Cotehele Mill’s own, the eggs are local as is my mother’s homemade marmalade.
It’s been a while since I submitted anything to #recipeoftheweek over at A Mummy Too, so off these go.
- 125g unsalted butter
- 50g white chocolate (G&B)
- 100g cardamom sugar (golden caster)
- 150g flour (half wholemeal, half white)
- 25g ground almonds
- 3 tsp matcha powder
- 1 heaped tsp baking powder
- 2 duck eggs or large hens eggs
- 2 heaped tbsp marmalade
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12
Chocolate may be my number one passion, but there is nothing quite so refreshing as a good cup of tea. For me, the best cuppa involves loose leaf tea and plenty of room for the leaves to swirl around, expand and infuse. Some of you may remember the IngenuiTEA and Adagio tea samples I reviewed earlier in the year and that particular pot gets plenty of use in our house. However, when I am on my own, a pot of tea is not always what I want, the tea can get cold before I get around to finishing it.
Luckily Adagio now has a new line which is perfect for such occasions: a porcelain cup with infuser. It may be called a cup, but it’s actually a large mug, with accompanying lid and infuser. The infuser is also large allowing plenty of room for the leaves to expand and it handily fits into many other drinking vessels if you fancy a change. Made of stainless steel, it’s also good and sturdy; I’ve had metal infusers before, which have been so feeble they’ve given up the ghost after very few uses. This one looks as though it’s here for the long haul. It also makes washing it up nice and easy as there is no fear of it breaking. I do find the solid base a bit annoying as the liquid is unable to escape properly thus leaving a rather mushy pool of leaves and tea behind – but this is a minor quibble. The cup, lid and infuser are all dishwasher safe. The lid is not only essential when the leaves are infusing, but it can be used to keep the tea warm in between sips. Handily, it doubles as a receptacle to place the infuser on when the tea has been steeped to your liking. This no fuss, no mess method makes it ideal for office use as well as at home. I chose a bright red one, called barn for some reason, but there are five other colours to choose from. Hmm, maybe I should have gone for the chocolate one.
So what of the teas? Two of the three samples I was sent to try were black teas, which are not generally a favourite. However, I have been surprised by black teas in the past and I am always happy to try new ones. The third one was a herbal and struck me as distinctly odd as I’d never come across that combination before.
Pu Erh Spice – I’d heard quite a bit about pu erh and that the name is perhaps quite apt in terms of smell. However, this one had a sweet heady aroma both when opening the packet and as brewing tea. With an added spice mix of cinnamon bark, orange peel, ginger root and aniseed, I guess this shouldn’t have been a surprise. It’s like a lighter version of masala chai and is very tasty with the warming and zesty flavours of cinnamon and orange to the fore.
Yunnan Jig – the scent emanating from the packet on opening was not at all what I expected from a black tea. It was pure summer – sweet grassy newly harvested hay. Large sticks of tea that unfurled into leaves in the infuser and tasted just as good as they smelt. Light and fragrant as it was, is seemed more like a green tea than a black one. The world of tea never ceases to fascinate.
Foxtrot – Although the scent of chamomile is one of my favourites, I’m really not that keen on drinking it; when I saw that this herbal tea contained chamomile, my heart sank a little. It perked up on further reading when I saw it contained my favourite tea rooibos too. But I thought it a very odd mix of flavours with chamomile, peppermint, rooibos and rooibos vanilla. Chamomile and peppermint both have strong scents and I felt the aromas were fighting each other rather than melding or complimenting. Strangely when water was added, the scent improved and I found myself liking it. The proof would come in the drinking. Weeellll, it’s actually not bad. The mint is refreshing and the chamomile and vanilla give a sweet note, though I’m not quite sure where the rooibos comes in. I don’t think I’d go out of my way to drink this, but it makes for an interesting change.
You can read another account of the cup with a different selection of teas over at Fork & Good.
The prime purpose of my trip to London last month was to visit the home of Twinings and experience a tea tasting of both new and old. The Twinings shop on the Strand was a particularly apt venue to sip tea in, as it was the very first establishment in England to start serving tea back in 1706. This bold move was the inspiration of one Thomas Twining, a coffee house owner and trend setter of his day. Despite various difficulties encountered along the way, including a high tea tax and opposition from beer and coffee providers, tea drinking soon took off and by the 1750s had become the British drink of choice.
Arriving at Paddington Station from Cornwall, the easiest route to Twinings seemed to be to take the tube to Charring Cross and take a stroll along the Strand. Not only did this give me a nice walk, but it was a chance to wander down down memory lane as well. As a student in London I was very familiar with this area. Charring Cross was where one of our prime bookshops was located and obviously, being a keen student, I frequented it regularly 😉 For a while I commuted from Charring Cross station and got to know it rather more intimately than I might have wished. To avoid the rush hour fight for trains, I’d often go and while away half an hour or so in the National Gallery. It’s many years since I’ve visited this august institution, so I made a mini detour to have a look around. It seemed as though nothing had changed. Walking along the Strand, I couldn’t help but glance cheekily at The Strand Palace Hotel on the other side of the road. We had many a time filled up on the cheese and biscuits there, which were plentifully supplied along with an apple for a ridiculously small sum. What others ended their meals with was a meal in itself for us.
When I arrived at 216 the Strand, I found I was one of a small but select group of tasters and was particularly pleased to discover that Fiona of London Unattached was in attendance as well as Caroline of All that I’m Eating. The shop is long and narrow and steeped in history and packed to the gunwales with tea and tea making paraphernalia. I urge you to have a look at the pictures online as mine were less than perfect – hey ho, the joys of iPhone photography. The shop also contains a small museum which is worth a look if you are passing by. At the back is a tasting bar, where you can sample your tea before you buy – now what a fabulous idea that is. For the more adventurous, you can book a tea tasting for around £30 at one of the regular events. Having established that my preference was for green tea, I was offered a freshly brewed cup of Jade Pillars, a refreshing tea with floral notes that went very nicely with the chocolate tart I chose from the accompanying plate of patisserie.
Whilst we were sipping our welcome cup and munching on the tarts, we were welcomed by Stephen Twining, a 10th generation member of the Twinings family; he is still involved in the business, although it is now owned by Associated British Foods. He told us a little about the history of tea and the family business, which I found really interesting. Some of it I knew, but much of it I didn’t. I learnt for instance that China tea was our mainstay until 1838 when cheaper Indian tea started to be imported into the UK. Because of the high tax on tea, smuggling was rife and much of the tea that made its way to the British cup was adulterated with dried leaves and twigs. Richard Twining was instrumental in getting the tea tax substantially reduced in 1774 which effectively put an end to smuggling. In 1837, Queen Victoria granted Twinings the Royal Warrant for tea.
Feeling suitably steeped in the historical aspects of tea, we then had a session with two master blenders. It takes five years of training to reach this dizzying height and as a mark of achievement the blenders receive an engraved tea spoon of which they are justifiably proud. Traveling to plantations and sourcing teas from around the world is another of their rewards. Twinings take their tea blending very seriously indeed. Whilst excellent single origin and premium loose leaf teas can be bought at the shop or online, the teas that most of us drink on a daily basis need to be consistent, both in taste and quality. Every batch of tea is tasted at least seven times before it is packaged and sent out for sale.
I quizzed Philippa on the best teas to be taken with chocolate and she gave me such a fulsome answer I didn’t have time to write it all down. The essence of it is as follows: Assam for milk chocolate, strongly flavoured teas such chai for dark chocolate and Darjeeling for afternoon chocolate indulgence.
We started our tea tasting with a semi fermented oolong from Taiwan. We could see the large leaves unfurling in the glass teapots as the tea brewed. This was highly perfumed and quite delicious; I would have been happy going no further in my tea journey that day. I’m glad we did though as I think the second tea was even more irrisistable. This was a first flush Darjeeling. Although a black tea, this is fine and delicate and like the oolong is best drunk without milk. Darjeeling has a high price tag as it accounts for only 1% of the world’s tea. It has two harvests per year with the first flush being the cream of the crop. It tasted like it. We went on to taste keemun, a Chinese black afternoon tea which again is best drunk without milk. The last black tea we tried was a second flush Assam. In contrast to the Darjeeling, the first flush is best avoided and the second is the one to go for. This was smooth and malty and would be good with or without milk.
Innovation continues to be at the heart of what Twinings does. Realising that many people wish to drink green tea for its health benefits, but find it heard to accustom themselves to the taste, they have come up with a new range of sweet greens. Despite the name, these teas have no added sugar or other sweeteners but have an air of sweetness about them and do not taste bitter. Being a bit of a purist, I’m not normally a fan of flavoured teas, so was a little sceptical. We tried the caramelised apple first, which with added cinnamon and apple flavour smelt exactly like apple crumble to me. I was surprised to find that I didn’t dislike this tea and in fact didn’t dislike any of them. Salted caramel was next. The name alone makes this hard to resist and it actually tasted quite pleasant. I drink a lot of ginger tea, but the gingerbread tea smelt and tasted nothing like my familiar brew. The aroma was quite nostalgic and reminded me of old fashioned ginger cake. It is recommended that these teas are brewed for only two minutes which seems very sensible; in my experience less is more when it comes to green tea. Interestingly, my mother who would like to drink green tea, but doesn’t like the taste has found these new flavours quite palatable, so game set and match to Twinings.
When we thought we might have had our fill of tea for the afternoon, out came the cocktails. We quickly realised we could very easily manage a caramelised apple Martini made with green tea and vodka. Very tasty it was too.
I’m not at all sure it was kind of Twinings to introduce me to the concept of green tea cocktails. When I got home, I had a go at creating a salted caramel chocolate cocktail and found I couldn’t stop drinking it. Chocolate and salted caramel are one of my all time favourite flavour combinations and this drink did not disappoint. The flavour of salted caramel was there without the drink being overly sweet and the chocolate melded well.
After the tea tasting we were taken out for a late lunch at The Delaunay. Those more knowledgable than myself tell me this hotel is well known as a first class venue for business meetings. I didn’t clinch any deals, but I certainly enjoyed the food. I had my first tasting of pierogi, vegetarian Polish dumplings which were quite delicious. Needless to say I had a dessert and it just happened to be a chocolate one.
- 1 Twinings salted caramel green tea teabag
- 50 ml chocolate liqueur of choice
- 3 ice cubes
Many thanks to Twinings and Hill & Knowlton for a fabulous afternoon out. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.
The collection of teapots in our house is steadily growing. This suits us fine as we now have the right teapot for every occasion. Or at least I thought we did. When I was sent an ingenuiTEA to try out from Adagio Teas, I realised our collection was by no means complete. This contraption brews loose leaf teas, letting out the steeped tea from the bottom rather than through a spout. Tea leaves are placed inside the pot and hot water added. As soon as the tea is ready, it is placed atop a cup; the valve opens and the clear tea filters through. Once you have finished with your tea leaves, they can be tossed away and the ingenuiTEA washed up – by hand or in the dishwasher.
What I liked
- The see through nature of the container – it’s fun to see tea leaves unfurling and the water changing colour as the brew progresses.
- The non-drip nature of the design – unlike many teapots, you can stop the process at any point and put the ingenuiTEA down without a single drip.
- No need for heat proof surfaces or protective mats – the pot is elevated off the surface with no hot bottom to burn your precious table.
- Neat design – I like the simple look.
- Works with any cup up to 9.5 cm in diameter.
- The material used – I am not a fan of plastic and would have preferred glass. It is, however, BPA free.
- No way of determining the volumes – unless you are using a clear cup, it’s not obvious when to stop the flow. I had tea overflowing all over the place with the first cup I made, though I very soon got the hang of it.
- The capacity is 450ml (16 oz) which is not quite enough for two regular mugs and too much for one. It is, however, perfect for two tea cups. Maybe I just need to be a little more refined in my tea drinking.
- Brand stamping – I would prefer to have the device completely clear of all writing and logos.
The more teas I sample, the more I’m amazed at just how different they all are. I’d requested a variety of teas, some of which I was familiar with and others I’d not tried before. These sampling packs struck me as a particularly good idea; you can try before committing to a more extensive purchase. Each pack is resealable and contains enough tea to make a good ten cups. They come with instructions which include brewing times and water temperature, although being an American company, this was in degrees fahrenheit rather than celsius.
I had to try this one first, of course. I’m not normally a fan of black teas, but I will partake of chai, Earl Grey and the occasional speciality tea if it’s on offer. This was a black Ceylon tea with cocoa nibs, dark chocolate chips and a natural chocolate flavour. I’ve tried several chocolate teas now, but never one which contained actual chocolate pieces. This is the only one I tried adding a dash of milk to as I thought it would work well with both the black nature of the tea and the chocolate. I was right, although it worked equally well without. The chocolate flavour shone through with fruity notes and a slight astringency.
Good quality white tea is my favourite version of Camellia sinensis. This one was a new one on me. The unopened tea buds are harvested along with the two newest leaves. This freshness really comes through. It has a light fruity aroma with a delicate taste. Floral and fruity tones shine through and it isn’t in the least bit bitter. Really it is quite delicious and an excellent accompaniment to afternoon tea.
Ti Khan Yin
I know very little about oolong teas, other than they are complex in both production and flavour and are thus correspondingly more expensive than many other teas. They are a speciality of South China and although they come in many varieties are all oxidised to some degree or other. To my knowledge, this was the first oolong tea I’ve ever tried. Ti Khan Yin being greenish in colour is a lightly oxidised tea. It has both a grassy and floral aroma and a fresh sprightly taste that both CT and I really liked, yet, the notes left lingering on the palate are woody ones. This is a nice refreshing cuppa which works particularly well as a breakfast tea we thought.
This red South African tea, not to be confused with the more commonly known rooibos, has an aromatic fruity scent with honey notes. It is not a true tea, being the leaves of a legume called Cyclopia rather than what we commonly know as tea, Camellia sinensis. It contains no caffeine, is low in tannins so there is no bitterness if over brewed and it is said to lower cholesterol and fight respiratory infections. CT, who has fond memories of his trip to South Africa many years ago, thinks it encapsulates the smell of the bush and transported him back there almost immediatley. The tea is the colour of honey and has a pleasant sweet and fruity flavour, not overpowering, but refreshing. This has been a firm favourite of ours for many years.
Jasmine Phoenix Pearls
Tight clusters of curled green tea leaves form little balls known as pearls. As soon as they come into contact with hot water they unfurl in a rather beautiful way. Also beautiful is the aroma generated from the Jasmine which quickly scents the room. The flavour is prominent, but not overpowering as can be the case with some jasmine teas. We both thoroughly enjoyed this one and it works particularly well as an after dinner refresher.
Thanks to Adagio for the ingenuiTEA and tea samples. There was no requirement to write a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.
Time for tea? Or did I mean time for chocolate? In this household it’s both. We drink a lot of tea of varying sorts and we drink quite a bit of chocolate too. Our chocolate usually comes in the form of a teaspoon of cocoa in a mug of hot water. Occasionally we add a splash of milk. Sometimes though it’s fun to splash out and have what most people think of as hot chocolate – chocolate made with milk. Enthusiastic as we are for these drinks, I was delighted to be sent some drinking chocolate, some chocolate tea and a whisk to review.
Canton Chocolate Tea
This tea came in a very elegant white tin from the Canton Tea Company and was well packed in a sturdy white box. I really liked the signature crane which I found to be particularly apt as well as attractive. The tea is a loose leaved black tea with added cocoa nibs and vanilla pod and weighs in at 50g. It is actually a blend of two fine Chinese black teas: Bai Lin Gong Fu and Yunnan Black. I’m not normally a fan of black tea, preferring green, white or rooibos, but I was keen to try this one due to the cocoa content. Gosh and golly, I was in for a real treat. On opening the tin a strong aroma of chocolate wafted out. This was followed by a fruity note and then finally the tea came through.
Neither CT or I like our tea particularly strong, so I brewed a pot of tea for two with one heaped teaspoon, rather than the recommended two to three flat teaspoons per mug. I steeped it for the stated two minutes with water that was just off the boil. This gave us a perfect cup of tea which was full of flavour, well rounded and really quite moreish. It wasn’t in the least bit bitter and tasted simultaneously of chocolate, tea and plum. When I later read the tasting notes on the tin I was surprised to see that plum was one of the flavours mentioned, along with cocoa of course. We both failed, however, to notice the caramel sweetness that was also described.
One of the benefits of using good quality tea leaves is that you can use them again and sometimes again and again and still enjoy a really good cup of tea. We had two good brews out of our one heaped teaspoon, so I suspect more would be achieved if the full amount was used. For a black tea I would give this one ten out of ten. A 50g bag costs £7.50 and is available from the Canton Tea Co. online shop.
If you’re going to have a “proper” hot chocolate, you may as well go the whole hog and have one made with pieces of real chocolate. It wasn’t until I received two different brands of drinking chocolate to review at the same time, however, that I realised that different hot chocolates lend themselves to different ways of preparation and serving.
Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolate
As soon as CT saw the name Hans Sloane, he approved. Not only was he a fellow botanist, but CT spent some months mowing the lawns in the London square that bears Sloane’s name. In fact, Hans Sloane was a 17th century chocolate pioneer, discovering it when he lived in Jamaica where the locals drank it with water and eggs. It was he that tried mixing it with milk so that it became the drink we know and love so well today. I was sent two two 270g packets of chocolate beads and indeed the variably sized, shiny pieces had a bead like quality. I was really excited to read on the packets that either milk or water could be used. I’ve been meaning to try making hot chocolate with water for a very long time, but somehow never seem to get around to it. This gave me the prompt I needed.
Rich Dark (53%) – this was indeed rich and dark, also thick and unctuous with a creamy mouthfeel. Even made with only water it tastes like an indulgence. Mind you it is suggested that three tablespoons are used per 200ml of liquid. When I weighed this, it came to a whopping 60g – no wonder it was rich. I was truly wowed by this chocolate and reckon that water is the way to go.
Natural Honey (32%) – milk chocolate blended with honey, there was no doubting the flavour. Having had such success using the water with the Rich Dark beads, I decided to try it with the Natural Honey beads too. Again, this was rich, flavoursome and very sweet and it needed no other accompaniment. Yes it’s sweet, but then that’s what you expect of honey and it is, nevertheless delicious. As a beekeeper, CT’s approval just kept rising.
The chocolate comes in four other flavours which I’d be very willing to try: Smooth Milk, Grenada 60%, Madagascar 67% and Ecuador 70%. The packs are available in Waitrose and Tesco with a RRP of £4.99.
Brown Bear Original Hot Chocolate
These dark chocolate flakes were quite different and came in a 350g tub. The cocoa content was slightly higher than the Hans Sloane, being 55% and on opening a rich chocolate aroma rose up to fill my senses in a most delightful way. The directions here were for three heaped teaspoons per 200ml of milk, which was considerably less than the aforementioned brand and only weighed 25g. This of course means the chocolate goes a lot further, but won’t be as rich. This being the case, I thought it lent itself to being made the traditional way, with milk; indeed, this was the only direction given. It made for a very nice cup of milky hot chocolate.
The tub stated that you could have a magical hot chocolate experience by topping with whipped cream, marshmallows and a generous sprinkling of chocolate flakes. I tried that out too – it would have been churlish not to. I used some of the Brown Bear flakes to sprinkle over the top which saved a bit of time and a lot of mess not having to flake the chocolate myself. Unsurprisingly, this worked very well. It was completely over the top, but so worth it.
For comparison, we also tried making this with hot water. Although pleasant, we found it a bit thin. To be fair, the quantities given in the directions varied between the two brands. This one used a lot less chocolate so the comparison was not exactly fair.
Recently launched, just in time for Easter, this is available £6.99 from the Brown Bear online shop.
Nova Multi-Quell Whisk
As I had been sent a manual hand held whisk to review from G3 Direct, I thought it would be good to try it out with my hot chocolate drinks. The Nova whisk is a little unusual in that you push down on the handle repeatedly to turn the head. This requires less effort than a balloon whisk and is meant to be helpful for those with wrist mobility problems or carpal tunnel syndrome. If you’d like to see it in action, head to the video provided by G3 Direct. The handle comes in various shades, but sadly not red. I opted for a vibrant green instead, although I was also quite tempted by the orange.
I whisked the hot chocolates rather than stirring them and also used it to whip up the cream. I have to say, since I first used it, I’ve abandoned all other whisks when it comes to whipping up double cream. It’s a dream to use requiring little effort and making less mess than a balloon or electric whisk.
Funnily enough, I saw a demo at the Big Cake Show where the whisk was used to froth semi-skimmed milk – in a matter of seconds it seemed. I don’t drink semi-skimmed, so tried this on some whole milk. It did froth up, but collapsed almost immediately, so my dreams of adding an attractive frothy top to my drinks didn’t last very long.
With thanks to the Canton Tea Co, Story Pr, Brown Bear and G3 Direct for the above mentioned products. I was not required to write a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.
I have long been an admirer of the stunning bundt creations to be seen over at Dolly Bakes. Being averse to tins for storage reasons as well as sticking ones, I’ve been on the look out for a silicone bundt-type mould to use. I’ve not found anything suitable – until now that is. Lékué do an amazing range of silicone bakeware and it looks to be better quality than some I’ve come across. Recently I received a few items from them to try out. You can see how I got on with the bread maker in a previous post. The bundt-like mould they sent, however, was the very first thing I tried. I was a little nervous and quite excited.
For my first ever bundt, I thought I’d create an orange and chocolate marbled affair with an orange glacé icing. There were no clues as to the quantities needed for the mould, so I had to guess. I thought I was making a generous amount of cake mix, but it barely covered the bottom. As it turned out, this was fine and produced a perfectly sized cake which still looked good. The second time I used it, I upped the quantities, but it still didn’t make a full size cake. I sprayed the mould with oil just to be on the safe side – I really didn’t want it getting stuck. I needn’t have worried, it came out like a dream.
Despite my nerves, I was really happy with the result of my first ever bundt-shaped. It really looked quite striking. The almonds, orange juice and yogurt kept the cake nicely moist and the flavours were clear and fresh and worked beautifully in combination. The Lékué bundt-like mould was so easy to use too: it was sturdy enough to stand up in the oven on its own without losing shape; I had no problems turning the cake out (and the second time I didn’t spray it) and it was easy to wash. Perfect. I can see this getting a lot of use.
A few days later, we had some good news to celebrate and invited some friends around for tea. So impressed was I with my orange and chocolate bundt-like cake, that I decided to make another one. Only this time I added more ingredients and accompanied it with a third flavour – matcha. This was an even prettier cake than the first. It was bigger and had three contrasting colours rather than two; once cut the interesting swirling patterns were revealed and some of the slices were spectacular. No one piece was the same. CT likened it to a metamorphic rock, maybe not marble but it was certainly very “gneiss”, he quipped. The cake was just as delicious as the first and the texture was equally good. Now what ingredients, I wonder, am I going to include in my third bundt-like cake?
My method for the second cake was exactly the same as the first except I had three different mixtures rather than two. See below for the printed recipe for the first cake. The quantities for the second were as follows:
- 240g unsalted butter
- 260g caster sugar (again I used cardamom sugar)
- 4 large eggs
- 100g ground almonds
- 230g flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 organic orange – zest and juice
- 2 tbsp yogurt
- 1 rounded tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 scant tbsp matcha powder
Not only are these bundts completely made from scratch but the recipes are my own. With just a little bit of pride, I am thus sending them off to Javelin Warrior for his Made with Love Mondays.
As you can probably tell, I have a new found passion for bundt cakes, so I am sending these off to the very first Love Cake Challenge with Ness over at JibberJabberUK who has chosen the February theme of Baking with Passion.
As already stated, I’ve rather fallen in love with these cakes, so although they weren’t made for Valentine’s Day as such I think they fit into the general love theme for February, so I’m sending this off to Dolly Bakes for her Calendar Cakes – Oh L’amour.
CT is quite keen on these bundt cakes too, so it is possible the next flavour might be a mocha one and he might get it for a special Valentine’s Day treat. As such I am submitting these to Lets Cook Sweet Treats for Valentine with Nayna over at Simply Food.
Both of these cakes were made for loved ones, so I am also entering it into the Four Seasons Food challenge with Anneli Delicieux and Lou at Eat Your Veg. The theme this month is not surprisingly Food From The Heart.
Finally, I think, I’m linking this up to #recipeoftheweek with Emily over at A Mummy Too.
Oops, there is another one. Victoria over at A Kick at the Pantry Door has chosen Orange as this month’s Feel Good Food, so really I have no choice but to enter 😉
Thanks to Lékué for sending me the bundt mould to try out. I was not required to write a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.
- 180g unsalted butter
- 200g caster sugar (I used cardamom sugar as the flavour works well with both chocolate and orange)
- 175g flour (I used half wholemeal, half white)
- 75g ground almonds
- scant 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 3 large eggs
- 1 organic orange – zest & juice
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 tbsp yogurt (I used honey yogurt)
- 50g icing sugar
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 8-12 slices
I was so pleased with the chilli white chocolate shortbread snowflakes that I made last month, that I seem to have done nothing else recently but make more shortbread biscuits based on that recipe. I was baking for a friend’s birthday party recently and thought it would be fun to make “after dinner” tea and coffee biscuits. With 100 guests expected, I made two batches of the biscuits resulting in about 110 in total. To one I added Japanese matcha tea powder to give an intriguing tea flavour and green colour and to the other I added some ground coffee which gave an interesting speckled look and a mild but definite coffee flavour. These proved to be rather popular, especially, it seemed, for scooping up a very large trifle that had been made for the occasion. Even more recently, I made over 60 lemon and cardamom biscuits for my last day at work. I haven’t quite decided what biscuits I shall be making for Christmas this year, but as I’ve ordered some organic oranges, I’m currently in favour of making some orange and cardamom white chocolate shortbread biscuits. By the new year, I suspect I shall be thoroughly fed up with shortbread.
Like their chilli shortbread predecessors, any of these would look good pierced and hung with ribbon from the Christmas tree. They’d also make lovely Christmas gifts.
|Coffee White Chocolate Shortbread|
|Matcha White Chocolate Shortbread|
|Lemon and Cardamom White Chocolate Shortbread|
This is how I made:
White Chocolate Shortbread Biscuits
- Softened 50g of good quality white chocolate by putting it in the mixing bowl and placing it on the storage heater for ten minutes.
- Added 170g of unsalted butter cubed and left to soften.
- Creamed the butter and chocolate with 85g golden caster sugar until pale in colour and fluffy in texture (used cardamom sugar for the lemon cardamom biscuits).
- Added 175g plain flour (half wholemeal, half white), 80g brown rice flour and a pinch of pink Himalayan rock salt.
- Depending on the flavour, added 1) 2 heaped tsp of matcha powder 2) 2 heaped tsp ground coffee 3) grated zest of an organic lemon together with the ground up seeds of 3 cardamom pods.
- Stirred until incorporated, then formed into a ball and left in my cold kitchen to firm up for half an hour.
- Rolled out to about 3mm thickness and stamped out small shapes getting 50 to 60 biscuits in total (hearts for the matcha shortbread, flowers for the coffee and snowflakes for lemon cardamom).
- Left to firm up in my cold kitchen for 15 minutes.
- Baked for 7-8 mins at 180°C until just golden.
- Dusted with fine caster sugar whilst still hot, then transferred to a wire rack to cool and harden.
Jo at Comfort Bites has started a new challenge with the same name as her blog Comfort Bites. This month her theme is Christmas and as these would make great Christmas gifts, I am entering them.
Well as far as biscuits go, these are fairly Quick and Easy which is the theme for this month’s The Biscuit Barrel with Laura of I’d Much Rather Bake Than … The stamping can be fiddly if you use a small snowflake cutter as I did for the lemon cardamom cookies, but a larger and simpler stamp would not take very long at all.
And as everything is made from scratch some of these are being sent of to Javelin Warrior for his Made with Love Mondays.