Thank you to all who participated in this month’s We Should Cocoa tea challenge, we really do appreciate the time and effort that you all put in. This was another tough challenge from me it seems – I shall be getting a reputation for meanness if I don’t watch out 😉 However, nineteen of you were not put off and have come up with some really interesting and delicious looking recipes using tea and chocolate. There are also some stunning photographs which put my own efforts to shame. It was particularly interesting to see the variety of teas that were used; it seems that Earl Grey is a particularly popular choice. I know I’ve said it before and I expect I’ll say it again, but there are an awful lot of creative food bloggers out there.
Not to be outdone, in his bid to take over the world, Dom of Belleau Kitchen has come up with a new challenge – a random recipe challenge. It’s simple: a book is picked at random and from it a recipe is chosen at random. The idea is that you get to try recipes that you have never used before. How could I resist? Of course, I had to modify the proposal a little to get my chocolate fix in. So this is what I did:
I’ve had my eye on this tea bread ever since I bought Paul A Young’s book Adventures with Chocolate last year. I’m not quite sure why it’s taken me so long to actually make it, but with tea being this month’s special ingredient for We Should Cocoa, I was spurred into action. Assam tea was Paul’s tea of choice, but as I didn’t have any of that I used Earl Grey instead. Earl Grey is a black tea but has the addition of Bergamot which gives it a lovely scent and flavour. Bergamot is also meant to be uplifting and helps relieve anxiety, so combined with the antioxidants in the tea and chocolate as well as the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger and detoxifying cardamom, this loaf is positively loaded with health giving goodies.
This is what I did:
- Made 200ml of very strong Earl Grey tea using 4 tsp of leaves.
- Poured this over 100g raisins and 250g crystallised ginger.
- Ground the seeds from 20 cardamom pods and added this to the tea together with 2 heaped tsp powdered orange zest.
- Stirred in 1 large duck egg.
- Sifted in 200g flour (100g wholemeal spelt, 80g white, 20g quinoa) and 2 level tsp baking powder.
- Finally stirred in 100g chopped 70% dark chocolate.
- Spooned mixture into a lined 2lb (1kg) loaf tin and baked at 160C for 1 hr and 20 mins, reducing the temperature to 150C after first 45 mins.
- Cooled in tin for 30 mins then turned onto a rack to cool completely.
The house smelt absolutely wonderful throughout the process of making this cake. First a wonderful scent arose from grinding the cardamom seeds, then soaking the fruit in tea and orange was highly fragrant and finally the long baking released a heady mix of all of the above with the addition of ginger.
CityHippyFarmGirl reported that she was disappointed with this when she made it last year, but I was really pleased with it. True, this is not for the faint hearted: it has strong robust flavours and tasted quite strongly of tea; in my youth, I would not have liked this loaf. The smell and taste were quite similar to chai and the butter smothered on top helped to reinforce that impression. The loaf was moist, not too sweet and cut really well. It also lasted well over a week (only because we were away for a few days). CT thought it was good restorative provender following a few hours slogging away outdoors; he pronounced that a little went a long way and one slice was enough. I can, however, vouch for the fact that he did actually enjoy it and managed to have one slice on quite a few occasions.
Romance is not really a genre I read much of these days. Of course, when I was a teenager I devoured everything I could get my hands on that had the faintest whiff of romance about it: from one of my all time favourites, Pride & Prejudice to Tolstoy’s War & Peace to Georgette Heyer. ChokLit is an independent publisher of romantic fiction but with a unique selling point. It pairs the heroes of it’s novels with a specific chocolate bar. These days, I don’t get much time for reading, but when ChokLit asked if I’d like to review one of their books, I couldn’t resist such a fun idea.
I have to confess, I was a little concerned that the titles offered might be in the Mills & Boon vein, so I turned down the offer of two books, restricting my review to just one. Now, I don’t really like sticking the boot in unnecessarily, but I will say I made the right decision; one was enough. The Silver Locket by Margaret James was most definitely not my kind of book. It started off as an easy read, fast moving with a potentially interesting, if predictable story line and it whiled away a couple of hours on a long train journey. However, it quickly became irritating and most unusually for me, I couldn’t bring myself to finish it. Although the story was improbable, I could have forgiven this if the quality of writing had been of an acceptable standard. Unfortunately, the plot lacked internal coherence and the characters underwent rapid and highly unlikely personality changes as the story advanced. The characterisation was so superficial as to render it unbelievable – I found nothing to get my teeth into, so to speak.
The chocolate that the hero of this book was matched too was a bar of Divine 70% dark chocolate. I can see why that bar was chosen; Alex has a conscience which links into the fair trade ethical origins of this company. He is also a rather bitter and depressed man with a dark past. However, once one gets past this forbidding exterior, he’s really a bit of a sweetie and I guess, if you like that sort of thing, Divine. I certainly appreciated eating the chocolate.
In conclusion, I think this is really interesting concept. Although this is not my kind of book and I’ll refrain from reviewing any more, it is my kind of chocolate. What do you like to read with your chocolate?
Having been inspired by the combination of tea and chocolate a year or so ago, I haven’t done nearly as much baking with these ingredients as I’d like to have done. With tea and chocolate as this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, it’s time to try a few things. At least I’m hoping it will be a few things, but time will tell.
It’s hard for me to believe that my blog has been going now for two full years. Last year, at the grand old age of one, I thought I’d achieved a lot. This year, I’ve done even more. Chocolate Log Blog has undergone some changes and is evolving all the time; it is quite a different beast to when it started in those dim and distant days of 2009. My blog is first and foremost about baking and cooking with chocolate, but not exclusively. I’ve really enjoyed reviewing a number of chocolate products over the last year and hope to continue with this. I’ve attended my first chocolate tasting and sampled some top notch chocolates. I hosted my first giveaway in 2010 and have organised another competition. In my quest to find good cafes and teashops, I shall continue to make the odd mention of favoured localities.
Six months ago, Chele of Chocolate Teapot and I started the We Should Cocoa challenge which I’ve really enjoyed doing. I’ve discovered new blogs I didn’t know about and am constantly amazed at how inventive people are and how many things there are to make. As a result, my list of chocolate goodies is now bigger than it has ever been.
My blog is by no means one of the greats and my daily hits are modest. However, I have made it into the top twenty of Wikio’s gastronomy blogs and Cision’s top ten UK confectionery and baking blogs. I’m not really sure how meaningful these are, but it has been a welcome ego boost nonetheless. Over the last few months I’ve received a number of blog awards from some valued blogger colleagues. As some of you may know, I am a bit ambivalent about blog awards, but I would like to give heartfelt thanks to the following people who very kindly passed them on to me.
One of the real joys of blogging and one I hadn’t at all expected, is interacting with others and getting to know a bit more about the people behind the blogs. I’d like to say a big thank you to my followers and everyone else who visits, but most of all I’d like to thank those who leave comments. It is this interaction that makes it feel like fun.
I would not like this occasion to go uncelebrated, so I have a birthday gift for my blog: a new page of links to blogs that I particularly rate.
Following on from last month’s We Should Cocoa, I was in use up leftovers mode. I had a jar of apple sauce that I made back in September still sitting in my fridge and some raspberry puree I’d made some time back that had gone alcoholic. When I spotted Chele’s Skinny Passionfruit and Raspberry Muffins, I knew just how to use that apple and raspberry up. I do like passionfruit, but not having any of those in the house I used double the quantity of apple sauce instead. Mine weren’t quite as “skinny” as Chele’s as I used whole eggs rather than just the whites and I did, of course, add a little chocolate! Using wholemeal and the protein rich quinoa flour made up for these lapses.
This is what I did:
- Sifted 360g flour (150g wholemeal, 150g white and 60g quinoa) into a bowl with 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp bicarb of soda.
- Stirred in 105g granulated sugar
- Made a well in the centre and added 2 duck eggs, 300ml apple sauce, 2 tbsp raspberry puree and 3 tbsp milk.
- Mixed together until combined then stirred in 50g chopped 70% dark chocolate.
- Divided mixture between 12 muffin cases and baked at 180C for 18 minutes.
The season of goodwill on the lead up to Christmas, produced a plethora of giveaways and competitions. Desperate to get my hands on the new Green & Black’s cookbook and even more desperate to get on the Green & Black’s tasting panel, I entered a fair number of them. Sadly, Green & Black’s didn’t understand this and I was disappointed.
I did have some consolation though and very nice consolation prizes they were too.
Golden Ticket – I was really excited to receive this amazing chocolate mould, which came all the way from Australia – from Celia of Fig & Lime Cordial. Celia makes all sorts of interesting and delicious looking chocolates as well as baking many tempting chocolate cakes – as you can imagine I’m a frequent visitor. Receiving this has really made me want to crack the art of tempering and I’ve resolved I will do it by one means or another this year! Despite my lack of tempered chocolate, I have managed to use the mould once so far when I made raw chocolate recently.
River Cottage Diary – only two of us went in for this one and Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen, finding it difficult to let one of us down very kindly gave us both a copy. I was really pleased with this as it not only has three seasonal recipes to make each month, but also includes details of various Landshare projects.
I decided to use it as this year’s luck journal. Before going to bed, to help keep my spirits up, especially on work days, I try and write 4-6 things down that have gone well during the day. I’d let this practice lapse for rather longer than I’d realised – since May last year, so it’s definitely time to resurrect it. On the worst of days, it really helps to look back and remind oneself of all the good things that have happened.
I also decided I should set myself a mini challenge and try to make at least one of the monthly recipes during said month. In reality I only have a choice of two recipes as one of the three is usually a meat or fish one, but it’s another good way of expanding my repertoire. In January, I made Kale rarebit and jolly delicious it was too. That one will now be making regular appearances on our table during the kale season. For the following months, I’m planning on making:
February – herb dumplings
March – nettle risotto
April – rhubarb and meringue parfait
May – cousinette
June – strawberry scones
July – pea & lettuce tart OR runner bean pickle OR Genoese sponge with raspberries OR all three 😉
August – tortilla
September- beetroot & walnut hummus OR lemony courgettes on toast OR blackberry, apple and almond cobber OR all three 😉
October – warm roast squash and mushroom salad OR cornbread
November – quince & apple sauce
December – dauphinoise potatoes
Slow Food Cooker – this is a 6 litre Morphy Richards model from Helen of Fuss Free Flavours. This was a bit of a double edged sword, because although we thought it would be really useful (which it is), we don’t have a great deal of space in the kitchen and it is quite large. The base stores away inside the pot, but the lid is more awkward to stash. Luckily, with a bit of reshuffling, I’ve managed to fit it in to one of my cupboards. We used it to make a squash curry with one of our gigantic squashes. The curry tasted extra good for being slow cooked and as there was so much of it, we didn’t have to cook all that week when we got home from work – wonderful.
I confess to having undergone an evolution in my thinking about giveaways, awards and the like. I started off blogging as a real purist. My aim was to get a great collection of chocolate recipes and try making new things. But as I’ve got to interact with other bloggers more and more, I’m loosening up all the time and now think these are a fun way of passing a bit of pleasure around. I really like getting gifts and receiving parcels in the post, so why should I expect others to be any different?
What do you think about Giveaways and awards?
Having noted that this month’s Maison Cupcake’s Forever Nigella challenge had a chocolate theme, how could I resist entering? I only have one Nigella book, but its a good one, How to be a Domestic Goddess. Hunting through it, I came across this rather decadent sounding cake. I was now in a quandary: having no special occasion to celebrate, this was quite an expensive cake for just the two of us. However, what I did have were some pistachios whose sell by date was fast approaching – the deal was sealed!
Nigella blithely states this is a simple cake to make. Well I guess it depends what you mean by simple. Melting chocolate in one bowl, beating egg whites in another and the batter in a third maybe simple, but it involves a lot of washing up. I don’t have a large enough food processor to make cakes in, so I also had to grind up the pistachios in a coffee grinder. On top of this the butter was rock hard and the house not warm enough to soften it properly, so much arm power was needed. So, actually not that simple after all.
As I have said on a number of occasions, I am almost incapable of following a recipe exactly and this time was no exception. Lacking a suitable food processor meant I had to follow a different method to Nigella even before I started tinkering with the ingredients. I didn’t quite get what the lemon was about, so I didn’t use it. I used unrefined granulated sugar rather than caster. I wanted to cover the top with something, but not smother it so that the pistachio flavour was overpowered. As a result, I only made 1/3 of the ganache from Nigella’s recipe. Instead of the orange blossom water, which I didn’t have anyway, I used a home made liqueur.
This is what I did:
- Melted 150g 70% dark chocolate in a bowl over hot water
- Ground 150g pistachios with 50g granulated sugar in a coffee grinder
- Creamed 150g unsalted butter with 50g granulated sugar until very pale.
- Beat in the pistachios.
- Separated 6 eggs (1 duck egg and 5 large hens eggs)
- Beat in egg yolks one by one.
- Stirred in the melted chocolate.
- Whisked egg whites with a pinch of salt in a separate bowl until stiff then whisked in 50g granulated sugar.
- Folded this into the cake mixture one third at a time.
- Spooned mixture into a 23 cm round cake mould and baked for 15 minutes at 190C then turned oven down to 180C and baked for a further 20 minutes.
- Turned out onto a rack to cool.
- Melted a further 50g of 70% dark chocolate in a bowl over hot water with 50ml of double cream and 2 tsp of homemade sea buckthorn liqueur (I was looking for something that wouldn’t be too strong and fruity).
- Stirred together lightly with a small whisk to avoid mixture splitting.
- Spread on top of cooled cake.
- Scattered a few chopped pistachios over the ganache.
The cake had risen amazingly high when I took it out of the oven and like a soufflé, it quickly sank! Luckily it sank gracefully to a nice flat top. The texture was mousse like, moist, light and smooth in the mouth – not nearly as dense as it looked. The cake itself was not at all sweet, almost savoury in flavour, but the ganache added a dessert quality. I was slightly concerned that the delicate flavour of pistachios would be lost in the rich chocolate, but no, they had a subtle but definite presence. The nuts added a slight crunch. The ganache was just the right amount to form a glaze over the top. The liqueur worked well, augmenting the overall effect rather than as a flavour in its own right. I suspect orange blossom water would have been completely drowned out by the rich chocolate. Sometimes it’s good to celebrate, even when there’s nothing specific going on. We both very much enjoyed this cake and it will keep us going for a few days.
A much coveted Raw Chocolate Starter Kit arrived in the post recently from Choc Chick. Having tried to make raw chocolates rather unsuccessfully last July, I was very keen to give them a second go with this kit which I’d heard was virtually guaranteed to work. I started a post about the health benefits of using raw cocoa powder instead of the more conventionally dutched powder over 18 months ago, but for some reason I didn’t finish it. But it is because of the additional antioxidants that are found in raw chocolate, that I am so keen to get this right. The kit consists of the ingredients needed to make the basic chocolate mixture plus a leaflet with some recipes, including truffles, fondu and cocktails. As some of you know, I do try to use organic ingredients wherever possible, so I was doubly pleased to find both the cocoa powder and the cocoa butter were organic.
I followed the instructions pretty much exactly, which as you may have noticed, is not something I’m very good at.
- Melted 100g raw cacao butter in a bowl over hot water.
- Ground the seeds of 4 cardamom pods with a pinch of pink Himalayan rock salt.
- Stirred this into the bowl with 6 tbsp raw cacao powder
- Whisked in 2 tbsp Sweet Freedom (natural sweetener from apples, grapes and carob) and carried on whisking until all well incorporated.
- Spooned the mixture into chocolate moulds and left to set. In theory these should go into the fridge (2 hrs) or freezer (20 mins) to set, but my kitchen is so cold this wasn’t necessary.
These were amazingly fast to make; melting the cocoa butter was the longest part of this process. It had a beautiful golden shine which was a real pleasure to stir and it smelt wonderful too – more chocolatey than I had expected, but with sweet syrupy notes – very different to the cocoa butter I use for making body creams. I was more successful this time than the last, but the syrup still separated out on some of the chocolates. Others have used this kit with perfect results, so it must be something I’m doing. The last moulds I filled worked well, so maybe I just didn’t whisk the mixture enough or some water got into the mix somehow or perhaps I should have left it in the bowl to cool a bit before spooning into the moulds OR what has been slowly dawning on me as a possibility, did I miscount the number of spoons of cocoa and just not put enough in? I used the Golden Ticket mould that I’d won in Celia’s giveaway before Christmas and as it was the first time I’ve used it, I was disappointed that I didn’t get perfect results. I shall just have to try again, but like tempering, I am determined to get this sorted out – third time lucky! Thankfully, they tasted lovely and the cardamom was an excellent addition – subtle but most definitely there.
PS When CT came home from work, I let forth my tale of woe. Why don’t you just remelt the bar and try again he said – doh! So I did, adding an additional tbsp of cocoa. While we waited for it to set, he polished off the remaining shells and roses – he had been working hard. His verdict was that they were very rich with a smooth mouth feel and tasted deliciously of cardamom. Its a win win situation, the body says decadent, the mind says healthy. This time, the chocolate came out of the mould beautifully – hoorah, it had worked! Looks like I miscounted the spoonfuls after all. Unfortunately, it was dark by this point, so the photograph is not the greatest.
The kit would be a great Valentine’s gift in itself but if you wanted to give the chocolates to a loved one, Choc Chick also sell heart shape chocolate moulds.