When Dom announced that this month’s Random Recipes was to choose something from a book gifted at Christmas last year, I thought oh good. I was thrilled to have received Tea with Bea as a present last year and really haven’t used it much. Now was my chance, I thought. But something was drifting around in the back of my mind, trying to get break through to the surface. With a feeling of doom, the thought finally emerged: I received two books for Christmas last year. The second was the highly regarded Cooking with Chocolate by Frederic Bau from the Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona – eek! Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic book and I love poring through its pages whilst having fantasies about reproducing the high art of patisserie found therein. But these are, I should stress, fantasies, not actuality. I mean to say, me? Actually make something from it?
I used a random generator hoping against hope that Tea with Bea would be chosen; after all I did have a 50% chance. But, it was not to be. With heavy heart, I used the random generator once again. Page 378 gave me a concoction so complicated I nearly fainted on the spot. A cake made up of seven, yes seven different recipes: chocolate sponge, ginduja pastry, gold-dusted chocolate shards, chocolate custard, cocoa syrup, chocolate mousse and a chocolate glaze. I could see Christmas would have to be cancelled as I locked myself in the kitchen for the next few days. No, sorry Dom. For the first time in all these months of entering Random Recipes I was going to cheat. I had a tentative look at the recipe on the previous page and then looked again. Yippee, Golden Palets (or truffles to you and me). I was wanting to make chocolates for Christmas and to enter Vanessa’s virtual Lets Make Christmas chocolate event having sadly missed the real live one at the Rococo Chocolate Factory in London, so these would be perfect. Even the thought of tempering chocolate and the three stars donating hardest level recipe, did not put me off. These seemed to be simplicity itself in comparison to the da Vinci Code of cakes.
On 12/12/12 it was my Great Uncle’s 100th birthday. There is a big family get together up in Kent this weekend to celebrate this momentous and unusual event. I wanted to make a particularly good job of these chocolates as some of them are destined for the birthday boy. No pressure then.
Inevitably, I changed the recipe, but like to think I stayed true to the spirit of the golden palets. I flavoured the ganache with rosemary rather than vanilla and upped some of the quantities as I wanted to make a goodly number.
This is how I made rosemary chocolate truffles:
- Placed a large sprig of rosemary from the garden into a pan.
- Poured in 250ml double cream and bought to a simmer.
- Turned the heat off and left it to infuse until cold.
- Removed the rosemary.
- Added 2 tbsp of set Cornish honey and warmed the mixture up again until it was just hot and the honey had melted.
- Gave it a good stir.
- Melted 240g dark chocolate (Green & Black’s Cook’s 72%) in a bowl over hot water.
- Stirred until smooth then removed from the heat.
- Poured one third of the cream into the chocolate and stirred in quick small circles until all incorporated.
- Poured in another third and repeated followed by the final third.
- Added 25g of diced unsalted butter and stirred until smooth.
- Spooned some into 24 chocolate moulds and left to set overnight along with the rest of the mixture.
- Turned out the ganache from the moulds onto a silicone mat and rolled teaspoonfuls of the remaining ganache into 30 balls.
- Melted 340g of dark chocolate (Green & Black’s 72% Cook’s) in a glass bowl over hot water, ensuring it didn’t go over 58C.
- Removed from the heat and let it cool down to 29C
- Placed it back on the heat and raised the temperature to 32C
- Dipped the ganache pieces into the chocolate with a fork and placed on a silicone mat to set. Decorated some with a sugar flower and some with a light dusting of edible gold glitter – 54 in total.
- Hunted around for hours, trying to find suitable boxes to put them in.
- Used the remaining melted chocolate for other items which will feature on the blog in due course.
My tempering didn’t give my the glossy chocolate I was hoping for, but I wasn’t really surprised. Apart from anything else, my kitchen was colder than the fridge, which doesn’t make for happy chocolate. However, after the three hours it took me to temper the chocolate and dip everything, I was determined to be pleased with the results. They certainly tasted fantastic, with the flavour of rosemary coming through nicely, but not too strongly. The texture was beautifully smooth and with a bit of dressing up, they looked fine.
Dom may have a lot to answer for, but Random Recipes spurred me into action and produced a huge number of chocolate gift boxes, so I will forgive him 😉
I was so sorry to have missed the fabulous Lets Make Christmas gift swap with Vanessa Kimbell and Chantel Coady, but am delighted to be able to submit this post to the virtual version and thus play some part in the great chocolate event of the year. Incidentally Vanessa is very excitingly now running a cookery school in Northampton called Juniper & Rose.
With the rosemary playing such an important part in these chocolates, I am also submitting this to Karen’s Herbs on Saturday.
As usual, my ambitions were way bigger than my abilities, so I didn’t manage to do quite as much as I was hoping. I did, however, put a few hampers of varying sizes together to give as gifts for Christmas this year – oops I mean last year! Vanessa Kimbell’s wonderful Let’s Make Christmas event inspired some of these and do follow the link to find many more ideas for home made foodie gifts. I’d wanted to decorate the boxes to make them look suitably festive, but ran out of time. Luckily, I don’t think anyone minded.
This is what I made:
Amaretti – recipe taken from the outright winner of Vanessa Kimbell’s Let’s Make Christmas event back in November, as judged by Dan Lepard – Claire of Claire’s Handmade Cakes.
Butterscotch Banana Cupcakes – another winning Dan Lepard recipe from Short & Sweet. I made these for the tool hire boys next door, who uncomplainingly take in our parcels when we’re not at home and let us know when something has been delivered.
Candied Nuts – I was lucky enough to take home a jar of candied pecan nuts from Jaynerly at Let’s Make Christmas. I was so taken with how good they were that I had to make some for the hampers, although mine were mixed nuts. Not having any maple syrup to hand, I used date syrup instead. Fortunately, it worked really well.
Candied Orange & Lemon Peel – very nice to snack on and also perfect for cooking as it is infinitely better than the mixed peel you buy in tubs. This time I peeled the fruit first, which made for a tidier result, but left me with a lot of orange and lemon flesh that I didn’t really now what to do with. I also used star anise in the syrup and coated the peel slices in caster sugar after I’d drained off the syrup. I’ve just made another batch for my own consumption.
Chilli Sauce – our chillies ripened much better this year than they did last, which meant we got a good hot chilli sauce with a gorgeous orangey red colour.
Chocolate Almond & Cranberry Bites – were a bit of an afterthought as my review copy of 200 Christmas recipes arrived just a few days before Christmas and I needed something quick to make.
Glitzy Chocolate Mendiants – were the items I was most pleased with. Despite having a chocolate blog, I’m really nervous about working with chocolate in it’s pure form as I have not yet mastered tempering. Thankfully, the chocolate behaved itself this time.
Mixed Spice – I’d never thought to make up my own mixed spice before. I don’t know why not as I make up various curry mixes. But I got the idea to do this from Karen’s amazing blog, Lavender and Lovage. I used star anise, cardamom, black pepper and coriander as well as the standard cinnamon, allspice, cloves and nutmeg that you would expect.
Orange Liqueur – another recipe taken from the creative Karen of Lavender and Lovage.
Orange Shortbread – I doubled my standard shortbread recipe omitting the cocoa and adding organic orange zest to the mix. I wanted to use my “home made” stamp for something and these seemed the most suitable candidates.
Pumpkin Spice Syrup – I forgot to take a picture of this one, but it was delicious. We liked it as a drink with hot water, my mother used hers over ice-cream. I have Hannah of Home Baked to thank for this one.
Spiced Apple Chutney – this is Nigella’s recipe in How to be a domestic goddess and it’s a lovely one which I make every year. This year I made two lots, one for us and one to give away.
Getting a Christmas hamper of goodies together has been my task this month. Among the components I wanted to include were some miniature Christmas cakes. On browsing the wonderful blog Lavender and Lovage one day, I was inspired by Karen’s recipe for Wee Whisky Doused Hogmanay Dundee Cakes. Well mine are even weeer. I used a different method and some different ingredients – like chocolate 😉
This is what I did:
- Placed 300g of mixed fruit into a bowl – mostly vine, but a few chopped dates, pineapple, papaya and cranberries.
- Added grated zest and juice of 1 very juicy orange.
- Stirred in 50ml of Scotch Whisky and two tsp of orange syrup (left over from making candied peel).
- Covered and placed on top of our storage heater for a couple of hours (a low oven would be fine or could just be left somewhere overnight).
- Creamed 100g unsalted butter with 100g light brown raw cane sugar.
- Beat in 2 small eggs.
- Sieved in 150g self-raising flour, 50g wholemeal spelt, 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda.
- Stirred in 25g ground almonds.
- Added 50g chopped 70% G&B dark chocolate and the fruit mixture.
- Mixed well and spooned into two 6 hole muffin moulds.
- Pressed 6 whole blanched almonds onto each one.
- Baked for 35 minutes at 150C.
- Left to cool for half an hour then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Wrapped them in greaseproof paper and packed them away in a tin.
I haven’t tried them yet, but am expecting good things of them. I have bought some nice Christmassy ribbon to border the edges when the time comes for presenting them – see if you can guess which one it will be?
I am submitting these to English Mum’s Big Christmas Bakeoff.
For more ideas of edible gifts check out Vanessa’s Lets Make Christmas.
I am so behind with my posts at the moment; there are some I’ve drafted from nearly a year ago which I still haven’t published and other things I haven’t even started writing. Hey ho, better late than never, I hope. Here’s a brief account of my upcountry adventures of over two weeks ago, meeting up with other food bloggers.
To say I don’t get out of Cornwall much is not quite true, as I cross the border into Devon several days a week to go to work. But I love my home county and find more than enough to do and see here, so I don’t feel the need to leave it very often. Sometimes though, an unmissable event drags even a home bird like me out of her nest.
A food blogging conference to be held in Birmingham was the lure – the first in the UK to be held outside of London, Bite n Write organised by Annie Ko. As well as several presentations I hoped I’d find useful, I was also keen to meet up with food blogging friends Kath of The Ordinary Cook and Jac of Tinned Tomatoes. Having finally committed to this, it just so happened that Vanessa Kimbell of Goddess on a Budget invited me to attend her Lets Make Christmas event at Fortnum & Mason in London, the very day before Bite n Write. Well that was just too fortuitous to turn down, so I didn’t.
Both events were really well worth attending and I enjoyed them for different reasons. Really annoyingly, I was so taken up by events at both venues that I hardly took any photos. I’m not going to write too much of an account of either, as both have been well documented by other attendees over the blogosphere – and they all seem to have taken photographs too! But here are a few highlights:
Let’s Make Christmas
This was a very glamourous affair for a country bumpkin ;-), but it was also very warm and friendly with lots of familiar blogging names to meet and have a chat with. As well as this, the aim was to make a Christmas gift or gifts, blog about it, then bring it along to be judged by Dan Lepard – some fabulous prizes were up for grabs. Ultimately they were swapped for another blogger’s gift, so we all ended up being winners in the end. The tables laden with gifts were awe inspiring and many had put huge amounts of effort into their creations. My rather humble offering was some of these Spicy Pumpkin Biscotti. In return, I was thrilled to receive a jar of candied pecans from Jaynerly and most delicious they are too. I will definitely be making some Christmas nuts to this recipe. My biscotti got carried off in the hands of The Botanical Baker. It was fun to meet so many lovely food bloggers and a delight to finally meet Dan and his partner David after the aborted attempt back in October. It was also really good to meet Vanessa who put a lot of effort into organising this event and deserves our thanks. She was just as warm and lovely in person as she comes across on the radio and her blog. You can see her write up of the event including pictures, a list of the winners and links to all of the participants’ blogs here. As it was an afternoon event, it was quite appropriate for us to drink tea and eat F&M’s delicious mince pies and even more delicious chocolate mousse mini logs, so I knuckled down and did my duty. It was good to meet bloggers I hadn’t come across before but I was particularly pleased to put faces to names I knew so well and especially the following – We Should Cocoa (ers) all!
- Dom of Belleau Kitchen
- Hannah of Corner Cottage Bakery
- Helen of Fuss Free Flavours
- Jude of A Trifle Rushed
- Karen of Lavender and Lovage
- Kate of What Kate Baked
- Laura of How to Cook Good Food
- Sarah of Maison Cupcake
- Working London Mummy
Not having been to Fortnum & Mason for over 20 years (how scary is that?), I took the opportunity to have a bit of a mooch. Gracious, there were some fabulous goodies on offer and it all looked so tempting. It was, of course, rather on the pricey side, so I was very pleased that we were all given a pack of White Chocolate & Cranberry Florentines to take home with us.
Bite n Write
The next day was much more industrious and more concerned with paying attention and writing down tips than it was about chatting, although there was of course some opportunity to network. As well as meeting Kath and Jac, which was a delight, I managed to have a brief catch-up with a number of others including:
- Beth of Jam and Clotted Cream – fellow Cornish food blogger
- Dormouse and the Teapot
- Jules of Butcher, Baker
- Charlotte of Go Free Foods – who I hadn’t managed to spot at Lets Make Christmas the day before.
The conference was held in the colourful Custard Factory, a suitably named venue for a food bloggers event. A photography workshop by Craig Fraser of FraserShot started the day. This was really interesting, but the tips I’d been hoping for had only just started, when time ran out and it was on to the next topic. I try not to be too envious of Judith Lewis of Mostly About Chocolate, but she does get to try a lot of very nice chocolate for her blog reviews. She is also an expert on SEOs and it was this that was the subject of her talk. I only had a vague awareness of what SEOs were up to this point and Judith imparted some highly useful information – none of which I’ve yet acted upon!
My chocolate envy was soon assuaged by the workshop I was was most looking forward to. It was not only all about chocolate but more to the point was all about tasting chocolate. Artisan du Chocolat gave us quite a feast of flavours both new and old. Starting with a 100% cocoa bar and working down the spectrum, we sampled one bar after another. Flavoured bars came next with a 40% milk chocolate Masala Chai generally being voted everyone’s favourite followed by Chilli Mole. Then it was on to the truffles which included lemon & thyme, tobacco (!) and salted caramel. Some appealed more than others, but there wasn’t one I wouldn’t have had a second taste of given the opportunity – not even the coffee! This was not the case for everyone as I did see some grimacing going on and even some chocolate being, not so surreptitiously, spat out.
Our enthusiasm for chocolate led to the programme running behind schedule so Jeanne Horak of Cooksister gave a rather rushed but really useful talk about promoting your blog and finding your own writing style. Michelle of Go Free Foods gave an even more rushed presentation about developing recipes, specifically with food allergies in mind. By this point, I had rather lost the plot and when James Bolton from Derezzed Media held a workshop about WordPress, I switched off. I didn’t manage to regain my attentiveness even for Ben Frazer of Cupcake Artisan and slipped off to catch my train home during his talk on video blogging.
For further info, Catherine Moran of Word Stew has made some useful notes on her Bite n Write post highlighting the key points made by most of the speakers.
In addition to the chocolate, we had some very tasty and attractive cupcakes during the day, lunch (which very nearly didn’t materialise for the vegetarians) and a goody bag to take away with us which included a delicious fresh methi masala curry paste from Bipins and a tin of Steenbergs Christmas Tea.
Turns out this post wasn’t quite as brief as I was intending, but there was so much going on at both events and so many bloggers attending, this only scratches the surface.