Apple & Cherry Wensleydale Chocolate Chip Cake

4 Star, Loaf Cakes | 10th December 2012 | By

Earlier in the year, the more than occasional baker made an apple cake using Wensleydale cheese with added cranberries. Well, I was intrigued by this and her description had me bookmarking the recipe immediately. As with most of the recipes I bookmark, it’s taken me some time to try it out, but try it out I eventually did. The Wensleydale I used was one studded with cherries. With my recent discovery that chocolate and cheese go very well together I also added some chocolate, but this could of course be left out if it is deemed to be overkill.

I was recently sent a few Fairtrade goodies from the Fairtrade Foundation and I was keen to try them out.

This is how I did it:

  • Placed 150g unsalted butter in a bowl and left it on our storage heater for an hour to soften (the kitchen has gone into it’s no need for a fridge phase).
  • Sifted 175g flour (half white, half wholemeal) into a bowl together with 1 tsp baking powder.
  • Peeled, cored and chopped 1 large tart apple (unidentified Cornish variety) and tossed into the flour ensuring all surfaces were coated to prevent browning.
  • Chopped 50g of Traidcraft dark chocolate (70%) into chips.
  • Crumbled 125g cherry Wensleydale cheese into small bits.
  • Creamed the butter with 175g golden caster sugar until it was really pale and fluffy.
  • Beat in 2 duck eggs, one by one.
  • Folded in the flour and apple, mixing in 3 tbsp milk when the mixture became too stiff.
  • Gently stirred in the chocolate and cheese.
  • Spooned into a 2lb loaf mould.
  • Cored, peeled and sliced a small tart Cornish apple (variety unidentified) and laid over the cake.
  • Sprinkled over 1 tbsp demerara sugar and baked at 180C for 45 minutes.
  • Allowed to cool for 10 minutes before turning out onto a rack and cutting a slice immediately!

The cake looked so tempting with its shiny toffee apple top that I couldn’t wait for it to cool, so I cut a slice whilst still warm. The smell of cheese on toast as I raised it to my lips was slightly disconcerting, but luckily this didn’t put me off. It had a fantastic texture and good flavour, sweet with little bursts of saltiness courtesy of the cheese. As the cake was quite sweet, this worked really well; together with the tart apple and bitter chocolate almost all taste sensations were covered.

I’m submitting this to Jac’s Bookmarked Recipes over at Tinned Tomatoes.

Chewy Apricot Cookies

5 Star, Biscuits, Cornish, Gifts | 7th December 2012 | By

As some of you know, I try to use organic ingredients where I can. Although organic is better for individual human health, more importantly, it is better for the environment and ultimately benefits human health in the long term. Anyway, on the back of a recently purchased packet of Crazy Jack’s organic dried apricots, I noticed a recipe for these apricot cookies. I had to try them just as soon as I could. A weekend away visiting friends in Glastonbury last month provided just the right opportunity to try them out.

This is how I made them:

  • Cut 100g butter into pieces and placed it on a heater to soften – the kitchen is already cold.
  • Added 100g soft brown sugar and creamed for a good few minutes until the mixture  was very light and fluffy.
  • Added 1 tbsp Cornish honey and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and creamed some more.
  • Sifted in 150g flour (half wholemeal, half white) and a scant teaspoon of baking powder.
  • Chopped 100g unsulphered apricots into pieces and added these.
  • Added 25g white chocolate chips & mixed until all was incorporated. It didn’t come together in one big lump, but that was fine.
  • Picked up small handfuls and patted into walnut sized balls with the palms of my hands. I made 26.
  • Placed well apart on lined baking sheets and baked at 175C for 10 minutes until golden and crisped around the edges.
  • Used a spatula to place them on a wire rack and left to cool.

The mixture smelt wonderfully of honey and the aroma as these biscuits baked was really quite heavenly. They were luxurious and delicious, very sweet, but oh so satisfying. They were crisp around the edges with a really chewy centre; the flavour of honey was strong, the apricots added their signature fruitiness and the bits of white chocolate had caramelised giving added texture and flavour. These would make perfect Christmas gifts and indeed I shall be making some myself to give away. If CT doesn’t get his mitts on them first.

Made from scratch as these are, I’m submitting them to JW’s Made with Love Mondays.

I’m also submitting them to Bookmarked Recipes hosted by Jac of Tinned Tomatoes.

The Brownie Baker

When I was doing my bit at the Liskeard Food Day, I was in the company of The Brownie Baker, a wonderful Cornish outfit making handmade brownies in St Agnes. They supply local bakers and cafes as well as selling them direct at local markets and food fairs. They very kindly gave me one of each of their six flavours to review. Strangely, I was very happy to do this.

These are fudgy brownies with lovely crackly tops, just like proper brownies should be. I can’t tell you how glad it makes me feel to be able to get such good brownies in Cornwall. Some of them I liked more than others, but I’d be happy to eat my way through a stack of any of them.
Seasalt – With my current addiction for sea salted chocolate and caramel, this was my favourite. Chunks of salt were scattered throughout, giving wonderful crunchy bursts of flavour. CT wanted to roll it around his mouth and savour it for as long as possible. I think he must have had low blood sugar when he said this: “they are like icebergs of salt in a chocolate sea and every so often one collides with your taste buds and sinks backwards down your gullet like the Titanic”. What is he like?
Sour Cherry – One bite of this and I was no longer so sure that the seasalt was my favourite after all. This was really delicious. It contained dried cherries soaked in cherry brandy which gave a tart and refreshing burst within each mouthful. I also detected a pleasant but unidentified flavour, which I thoroughly enjoyed – I’d love to know what it was.

Fudge – This brownie was liberally studded with chunks of Cornish fudge. It was good but my least favourite of all, as it was a little too sweet for me. The overall taste suggested it had picked up the caramel notes from the fudge, giving it its own unique flavour and softer texture. CT and I agreed that pieces of salted fudge would have counteracted the sweetness and suited us better.

Classic – This was a really good chocolate brownie with milk chocolate chunks scattered throughout.

Orange – The flavour was unmistakably orange with a slight bitter grapefruit tone which gave it a more realistic and rounded orange taste. However, it was a bit too strong for both CT & I who are rather fussy about orange flavoured chocolate.

White Chocolate – This is a variation on the classic brownie as it includes chunks of  white chocolate. These give added interest by creating an occasional change in texture and flavour and this makes for a sweeter taste experience.

When I checked the website for more information on the products, I was pleased to see that that they use locally sourced ingredients. Sadly, no other information pertaining to the ingredients was available at the time of writing, although I did notice that the website said it was under construction. For me, knowing what is in my food is of paramount importance so I would like to see more on the website as to the specific ingredients used.

Nevertheless, these brownies are absolutely delicious and would make a fabulous gift at any time of the year including Christmas – I certainly wouldn’t say no to a box. For those of you lucky enough to be in Cornwall, you will find them at the Bude Christmas Fair this coming weekend (8th and 9th December) and at the Stithians Christmas Fair on 15th December.

Chilli & Chocolate Mincemeat

Christmas, Gifts, Preserves | 2nd December 2012 | By

After the success of last year’s chocolate mincemeat, I thought I’d better have another go. Last week was Stir-up Sunday, when traditionally Christmas puddings are made, giving them ample time to mature before the big day. It is also a good time to make mincemeat for the same reason. I did neither. But due to the floods and consequent train disruption on the following day, I was unable to attend the chocolate conference that I’d taken the day off work for, so it was mincemeat making for me and Stir-up Monday instead. This year I decided to vary things a bit, quite a bit in fact. I added prunes and cranberries and omitted the currents (principally because I didn’t have any). I added my own homemade mixed peel, some of the mint vodka I made back along and one of our rare chillies that actually ripened in the excuse for a summer we had this year.

So, as last year, I threw the following ingredients into a bowl, gave a good stir, covered with a plate and left for 5 days, stirring once a day. Packed into 4 sterilised 1 lb jars, then sealed with waxed discs and lids. I used some of the lovely vintage labels that the even lovelier Susan of A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate sent me recently for having entered her home made and well preserved challenge.

  • 300g Cornish & Somerset cooking apples (varieties unidentified) – peeled, cored and finely chopped.
  • 50g vegetarian suet
  • 200g raisins
  • 110g sultanas
  • 100g prunes – chopped
  • 50g dried cranberries
  • 50g home-made mixed peel – chopped
  • 100g dark chocolate (85%) – chopped
  • 125g dark brown sugar
  • grated zest and juice of an organic lemon (unwaxed)
  • 1 small rocotto chilli – deseeded and chopped finely.
  • 40g flaked almonds
  • 3 tbsp rum
  • 3 tbsp mint vodka (home-made)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • a good grating of nutmeg
  • a small grating of star anise

The sweet and spicy aroma emanating from the bowl was intoxicating and when I did, err, lick out the bowl afterwards, I was extremely pleased with the results. The mint vodka gave a hint of something different and the chilli was just about right, warming rather than overheating. The chocolate was an excellent addition and worked to give a slightly deeper and richer flavour and also prevented the mincemeat from being overly sweet. I can’t imagine ever wanting to buy mincemeat again.

We Should Cocoa – Christmas Special

We Should Cocoa | 1st December 2012 | By

Well, we had some fantastic entries for last month’s bread theme and many thanks to Nazima of Franglais Kitchen for hosting. I shall add a link here (as well as the We Should Cocoa page) when she has posted the round-up. On the scale of good cop bad cop though, it was a toughy, so I thought I’d play good cop for once and let you all off lightly for Christmas.

It’s the first day of winter, according to the Meteorological Office, so what could be better than something spicy and comforting to warm up the cockles of our hearts? Originating in Sri Lanka, cinnamon comes from the inner bark of a tropical asian tree Cinnamomum zeylanicum. It was highly prized by ancient cultures and was more treasured than gold, a gift fit for Kings and gods. It is thus not surprising that in Europe, it is heavily associated with Christmas and used to mull wine and cider, as well as in biscuits, cakes and puddings. It came to Britain via Arab spice traders in the early 15th century.

Cinnamon Quills

It’s a particularly good spice to be using at this time of year as it is said to help ward of colds and flu as well as alleviate some of their symptoms. It is purported to have a number of other benefits too, including boosting memory capability – I obviously don’t eat enough of it or have I said that already?

Cinnamon is one of my favourite spices, with its warm and sweet aromatic character that goes with so many different things. I use it in curries, on my porridge, sprinkled over hot chocolate and of course in baking. I recently posted these chocolate and cinnamon rolls which were super delicious but another cinnamon bake that stands out in my memory as being particularly good was this cinnamon chocolate chip cake. I do hope you will all join me in cooking up a storm of delicious chocolate and cinnamon delights during this merry month of December.