Tea Chocolates – The Winter Selection

Chocolate Reviews, Tea | 29th November 2010 | By

 A box of tea chocolates arrived in the post last week.  This was The Winter Selection from Matcha Chocolat, the final one in a seasonal series.  I’ve already eaten my way through: The Lotus Selection, The Jade Selection, The Emperor’s Selection. Having very much enjoyed them, I was looking forward to the latest one with some anticipation.  The familiar square pink box with the teapot logo got me salivating as soon as I saw it. I opened the lid and the familiar waft of deliciously aromatic chocolate with a hint of tea was immediately liberated – oh good.

Jasmine Pearls – This white chocolate dome had a beautiful green swirl across it that almost looked like Chinese calligraphy. The aroma of chocolate and jasmine tea was noticeable even before taking that first anticipated bite.  The exotic floral flavour of jasmine tea was immediately released and combined well with a particularly delicious white chocolate that was not nearly as sweet as white chocolate can sometimes be.  The mixture of bitter tea, jasmine perfume and sweet chocolate was well balanced and created a harmonious whole.  It had a creamy texture in the mouth as it melted and I knew I could easily eat more of these than would be good for me.

Mint & Green Tea – This crisp milk chocolate dome with pieces of gold leaf on top had a sweet spicy smell with a hint of mint. The milk chocolate seemed just right and the soft and unctuous ganache melted in the mouth very quickly.  As it melted, the mint flavour was quickly released with the green tea following soon after. Mint chocolates are very hard to do well as the mint can be overpowering and have a harsh, artificial flavour.  This mint had presence with the authentic notes of real mint; these lingered long after the tea had faded. A truly delicious chocolate.

Matcha – A square milk chocolate shell with a gorgeous coppery top and spiral patterning. This had a strong, robust yet sweet smell of cocoa, but with the matcha infiltrating the scent.  When bitten into there was no mistaking the distinctive umami presence of matcha, This was CT’s personal favourite, for me it was a little too powerful.  It worked well with the sweet milk chocolate, which ameliorated its more extreme tendencies. CT thought this had a kind of punchiness, less rarified and more forceful than the others – just right for a samurai to fortify himself before battle (or setting off on the daily commute).

Earl Grey – Decorated with a piece of candied orange sat jauntily on the top, this dark chocolate dome was strong and sharp. It produced an immediate and powerful chocolate hit. The taste of Earl Grey was more subtle than the others, as one would expect from this delicately flavoured tea. The taste came through a while after the first spike of chocolate had been registered – all the more reason to move the melting mass around in the mouth; this chocolate does not give up its secrets quickly. The ganache was beautifully smooth, as I’ve come to expect from Katie’s chocolates. This gave them the usual silky mouth feel which was an interesting contrast to the drying effects of the tea.

Masala Chai Caramels – These were particularly pretty. They had a contemporary feel being heart shaped with a pink impressionistic brush stroke on the top. They smelt sweetly of cardamom. The first taste to register, unsurprisingly, was that of cardamom. This was followed by the sweetness of the caramel, then the black tea unexpectedly stormed the palate, followed finally by the smoothness of the milk chocolate. The consensus was, yum scrum, more for our tum (s) – please!

I was not disappointed, this box was another winner from Matcha Chocolat and it might possibly be the best.  I’ll just have to try the whole range all over again to find out.  With the Christmas season fast approaching, this would make an ideal gift.  In fact, I’ve just ordered one for this very purpose.

With the chocolates, Katie kindly included a sample of Jasmine Pearls leaf tea from Canton Tea Co.  We sipped this in between sampling the chocolates.  It was lovely to see the pearls unravelling into spidery shapes when the hot water was poured over them. It had a powerful heady jasmine aroma when poured and an equally powerful, but very pleasant taste, rather more of tea than flowers. A little goes a long way. As all good teas should be, this was very refreshing and CT thought it was the perfect antidote to the stresses and strains of chocolate tasting.

Almond Toffee Brownies

What could I do with the three egg yolks I had left over from making the Chocolate Meringue (over two months ago now – oops)? I needed to come up with something fast.  I had a quick hunt on the net for a suitable recipe, but other than mayonnaise which I wasn’t geared up to do, I couldn’t find anything.  Having read Liz’s post on George Cadbury, I had brownies on the brain and as I hadn’t yet tried making Chantal Coady’s brownie recipe from Real Chocolate, I thought I’d try that – or rather an adapted version of that.  I made 1/3 of the quantity and used the egg yolks rather than two whole eggs.  Following on from a comment by Hazel who says she always makes her brownies with ground almonds rather than flour (as it makes them gooier), I did just that and included a load extra as a substitute for the walnuts.

  • Melted 120g unsalted butter with 45g cocoa
  • Whisked 3 eggs yolks with 225g vanilla sugar (substituted for 1 tsp vanilla extract) until pale and creamy.
  • Folded in 110g ground almonds (ground almonds coarsely in a coffee grinder to enable some texture and a bit of crunch).
  • Added cocoa mixture and poured into a greased 9″x7″ tin (this is the smallest I have so they did turn out to be quite thin).
  • Baked at 180C for 12 mins.

The result was a really delicious – and I mean really delicious – squidgy brownie.  It had a good nutty crunch and almost toffeeish texture; the latter partly due to the batter being spread quite thinly.  We very indulgently had some of these for dinner with more raspberries as an after meringue treat.  These have to be my favourite brownies ever.  Next time I have some spare egg yolks I shall be making these for sure.

Friday 26 November – I’ve just joined in the KitchenMaid’s Blog Hop – not at all sure what it is or how it works, but thought I’d give it a try.

Win a Chocolate Book for Christmas – Giveaway #1

Giveaway | 21st November 2010 | By

I have a copy of Crave: a passion for chocolate by Maureen McKeon that I bought myself on a whim after having seen it in a bookshop.  It’s a lovely hardback book, but for some reason I’ve never got around to using it.  So rather than it sitting idly by on my bookshelf, I thought it would make a nice Christmas present for someone – so I am running a little giveaway / competition, with this as the prize.

I have five questions for you. The answers shouldn’t be too difficult to find if you can spare a few moments to search through my blog.

  1. My blog is called Chocolate Log Blog.  When did the first “Log” (think roulade) appear on this blog and what was it?
  2. I had several reasons for starting this blog.  Can you give me one of them?
  3. I’ve made three gluten free cakes.  Can you name them?
  4. I’ve used ground cherries in my baking on several occasions.  What are ground cherries?
  5. What did I do for National Chocolate Week in 2009?
E-mail me at choclette8 (at) gmail.com with your answers, to arrive no later than midnight on Friday 3rd December – please use Crave Giveaway in the subject line so that I don’t mistake your e-mails for spam. All correct answers will be randomly selected by being picked out of a hat on Saturday 4th December.

Apologies to overseas visitors, but due to postal charges, this prize can only be shipped within the UK.

Chocolate & Caramel Cupcakes – We Should Cocoa 3

Here we go, cupcakes yet again! Am I developing a cupcake theme for We Should Cocoa, I wonder?  It’s practicality that does it this time.  I am due to take in some cakes to work for Children in Need and cupcakes are the easiest to transport on the trek there – by train and foot.  They are also easier for people to eat at their desks.

It’s the third We Should Cocoa challenge and Chele has chosen caramel for November.  When I found out, I was excited but also rather nervous, a definite challenge for me this time.  First, what exactly is meant by caramel? Well it seems virtually anything goes:  boiled sugar on its own or a combination of boiled sugar with water and maybe added butter or cream – hum? Last time I attempted making caramel for this chocolate and caramel salted tart, I burnt it and it tasted horribly bitter. I didn’t want to make that mistake again. This recipe for salted caramel buttercream I adapted from Fiona Cairns’s Bake & Decorate and the cake recipe I adapted from here.

This is what I did:

  • Dissolved 7oz vanilla sugar (could use granulated sugar and add 1 tsp vanilla extract later) in 100ml water.
  • Brought to the boil and “watched like a hawk”, as advised by Fiona Cairns for a while and then got a bit bored as took a lot longer to caramelise than “a few minutes”.  Luckily, I did catch it this time before it burnt
  • Poured in 184ml double cream.  It all went very lumpy at this point, but I stirred and stirred and eventually all became smooth.
  • Stirred in 1/2 tsp pink Himalayan rock salt.
  • Creamed 5oz unsalted butter with 4oz light muscovado sugar
  • Beat in half the caramel.
  • Broke in two duck eggs (large hens eggs are fine) and beat well.
  • Sifted in 4oz flour (1/2 wholemeal, 1/2 white), 1oz of cocoa, 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of bicarb of soda.
  • Spooned into 12 cupcake cases and bake at 180C for 20 minutes.
  • Creamed 3oz salted butter with 4oz icing sugar until my arm was sore and the mixture was very light and fluffy.
  • Beat in the remaining caramel.
  • Spread on top of the cooled cupcakes.
  • Licked the bowl clean – reckoned it was the best buttercream I’ve yet made.
Hoorah, the caramel worked  – what a relief. The photos don’t really do these justice – grey days and dark nights don’t do a lot for my photography skills. I know I was making these for work, but I had to try one for quality control purposes and then CT had to try one following a hard day at work. The buttercream was delicious, sweet and caramely and was really lifted by the salt.  I’m not normally a great fan of buttercream, but this was exceptionally good.  The cake was rich with cocoa and not too sweet so made a good foil for the topping.  Both cake and buttercream were delicious in their own right, but together they were more than the sum of their own parts.

On a Winning Streak – Chai Caramel Chocolates

Chocolate Reviews, Tea | 13th November 2010 | By

What a delightful surprise awaited me back in October.  Having been a lucky recipient of some of Katie Christoffers chocolates to review, I was thrilled to get even luckier by winning a box of her Masala Chai Salted Caramels courtesy of fellow chocoholic Judith Lewis.  Judith’s Mostly About Chocolate blog does pretty much what it says on the tin – she reviews some of the best chocolates around.

Now I found myself faced with an eternal dilemma, be generous and pass them on as a gift or scoff the lot myself.  Guess which path I followed?  I assuaged my guilty conscience a little by allowing CT to participate.  In my defence, I had heard a lot of favourable reports and felt it was my duty to sample one of Matcha Chocolat’s latest offerings.

Could it be possible to outshine the chai truffles that I am so enamoured with already?  Well yes it can, these masala chai caramels were even more delicious.  The chocolate was dark and powerful and the caramel was, quite frankly, to die for.  The spicy chai meant this was much more than a mere salted caramel, good as they are.  For CT they conjured up Christmas, he liked the contrast between the crisp and slightly acidic shell with its resilient texture and the gloriously soft and spicy sweet caramel. Thanks to Judith for the prize and Katie for making them – we very much enjoyed savouring them.

Eve’s Pudding – Apple and Ground Cherry

Pudding | 11th November 2010 | By

I have a confession to make and it may be shocking to some: this pudding has no chocolate in it – there I’ve said it!  This is a pudding I used to make regularly about ten years ago following on from a Sophie Grigson cookery series on television, but haven’t made in such a long time I thought it was due for a revival.  And because it is such a good one, I thought I really ought to share it.  Sophie’s version didn’t contain ground cherries and I expect my method has morphed a bit from the original, but I think I’ve retained its spirit.

This is what I did:

  • Mixed 1.5 lb of ground cherries and sliced peeled cooking apples with 1oz demerara sugar, 1 tbsp honey and the grated zest of 1/2 a lemon.
  • Put these into a buttered baking dish and baked at 180C for about 10 minutes until fruit had started to soften.
  • Meanwhile, mixed 2oz polenta in a bowl with 1oz flour (wholemeal spelt), 1 tsp baking powder, 2oz granulated sugar, a pinch of salt and zest of 1/2 lemon (unwaxed and organic).
  • Made a well in the centre and added 1 duck egg, 2oz melted unsalted butter, juice of 1 lemon and enough milk to make a good dropping consistency.
  • Spooned over the apples and baked for 25 mins until the sponge was risen and golden.
One of the reasons I like Sophie’s version is that it uses lemons.  This one turned out a bit too lemony as I used an enormous specimen which had masses of juice in it; this was a small price to pay for a rather fabulous but simple pudding.  Using polenta gives the sponge a bit of texture, which I like.  It also gave the whole pudding a beautiful autumnal glow, the yellow polenta almost matching the golden ground cherries. The juice of the fruit bubbling at the base is absorbed into the bottom of the sponge which makes it delightfully moist.  In effect there are three layers created: the fruit itself, the gooey sponge and a crisp yet light top.  We had it hot from the oven with clotted cream – of course!

Chocolate Meringue with Raspberry & Strawberry Cream

Dessert | 7th November 2010 | By

Some of my posts are so old now, I almost feel I should wait until next year to publish them.  This one I made about seven weeks ago, when strawberries (remember them?) were still just about in season.  I had been given Dan Lepard’s recipe for Chocolate Honey Meringue by a friend, who kindly cuts out any chocolate recipes she comes across in the Guardian for me.  Said friend was coming to dinner, so wouldn’t it be a good idea to make this meringue?  When I looked at the recipe properly, however, there seemed to be an awful lot of sugar in it.  I’d also read on other blogs that they turned out rather hard and they weren’t that impressed.  A meringue recipe, I would have to find elsewhere. I did a quick hunt through my books and discovered marbled chocolate meringues in Linda Collister’s Divine. This was more like it. Instead of making lots of small ones, I opted for one large pavlova style meringue.

As it was rather a long time ago now, this is what I think I did!

  • Melted 100g 70% dark chocolate in a bowl over hot water, then left to cool.
  • Whisked 3 eggs whites and a  pinch of cream of tarter until stiff.
  • Added 175g caster sugar and whisked until stiff and glossy.
  • Using a tablespoon, slowly folded in the chocolate until a marble effect was created.
  • Heaped the meringue onto a baking sheet covered in non-stick paper and smoothed out into a rough round.
  • Scattered over a handful of slivered almonds.
  • Baked at 120C for 2 hours.
  • Left to cool, then removed from the tray and peeled off the paper.
  • Whisked 200ml double cream until thick.
  • Stirred several raspberries into the cream (quantities now forgotten).
  • At this point, I realised that the meringue had risen up with a very thin top layer that wouldn’t bear any weight – oh bother!
  • As soon as I pressed it slightly the top started to break up.  So I took this top layer off.
  • Spooned the raspberries and cream on top of what was left of the meringue.
  • Covered the cream with de-hulled and quartered strawberries and a few more raspberries.
  • Covered the fruit with the bits of meringue top that I had previously removed.

Perhaps this was not the most elegant of party pieces, but I have to say it is one of the most delicious desserts I’ve made – certainly in recent times. I do love meringue and cream. It had a lovely crisp crunch from the outside and was darkly chocolatey and sticky inside. The sharp fruit and the sweet meringue hit the palate first, then the richness of the cream and chocolate came through giving a real sense of decadent luxury – yum.  If someone wanted to make me a pudding (if only), this is the one I would choose.  I think the others enjoyed it too 🙂

I was in two minds whether to enter this for the we should cocoa raspberry challenge, but in the end I entered these cupcakes instead. I can no longer remember on what I based this decision, but thought entering twice was a bit greedy.  

Milk Chocolate & Lemon Balm Ganache with Ground Cherries

Chocolates, Reviews | 4th November 2010 | By

After my tea and chocolate tasting event last month, I was desperate to try making some ganache a la Marc Demarquette – was it really so simple to make a ganache that didn’t split and such a delicious one at that?  I’d had an idea about using lemon balm as a flavouring for a long time and my lemon balm was fast succumbing to winter’s chill, so it was now or never. I spent so long pondering on what I could use the ganache for, that I ran out of time to do anything other than just make it. I had some Chocolate by Trish to try, so with a couple of her milk chocolate 38% buttons to set me up for what I hoped was not going to be an ordeal, I set to.

This is what I did:

  • Brought 150ml of double cream up to the boil, threw in a handful of fresh lemon balm leaves, clamped the lid on and left for a couple of hours.
  • Melted 250g milk chocolate buttons (Chocolate by Trish 38%)
  • Brought cream up to near boiling point again, then poured on to the chocolate (through a sieve).  Added 1/2 tsp Cornish honey.
  • Used a whisk to gently stir, almost fold the liquids together until all incorporated into a beautiful glossy mass.
  • Placed 24 ground cherries at the bottom of some chocolate moulds then spooned the ganache over the top.
  • I left these to set, hoping I could turn them out cleanly – hey ho, best laid plans!

As can be seen from the photographs, they did not come out cleanly at all, but I did produce a beautifully shiny ganache which didn’t split – hoorah!  As befits a cook’s chocolate, these buttons melted beautifully, producing a smooth but not quite liquid pool of deliciousness. I nearly swooned as I  licked out the warm ganache from the bowl – it was every bit as good as Marc’s, though I say it myself.  Imagine a glorious mixture of creamy chocolate and toffee suffused with a subtle lemon undertone, that’s what I could taste. The lemon balm worked really well, it was present, but in no way dominated.  CT thought these were the apogee of unctuousness – definitely one to swirl around the mouth with a warm cup of tea.  He thought the ground cherries, nice as they were, seemed a bit superfluous.  I had to agree, these truffles would have been better savoured on their own with no distractions.  Coated in a good dark chocolate to make true truffles, they would also have been delicious, but I still haven’t quite got my head around tempering.  Christmas is fast approaching, however, so I don’t think I can put it off much longer.

Recently launched at Selfridges, Chocolate by Trish is a range of chocolate produced specifically for cooks and comes in the shape of buttons (which weigh a handy 5g each), shards or dust (cocoa powders). The paper bags are waxed inside and have a re-sealable top. Trish Deseine, the eponymous food writer behind the brand has also produced chocolate making kits.  All of her products are available at Selfridges.

The buttons were well balanced, creamy, rich and for a milk variety, strongly chocolatey – I could quite happily have eaten the whole 350g bagful.  Somehow, the flavour and mouth feel reminded me of a silky smooth good quality hot chocolate – nice!  I still have 100g of Trish’s buttons left so am looking forward to trying them in another guise.  I would also like to try her 64% and 74% dark varieties.