This month I set the incredibly hard task of getting bloggers to cook with honey and chocolate – boy, I can be so cruel sometimes! With bees very much in mind, did anyone notice the Save the Bees march in London on Friday? It was a win of sorts because neonicotinoid pesticides have now been banned in Europe for the next two years, a small victory perhaps, but it is a move in the right direction. I’m pleased to report that our bees are still alive, so I’m crossing lots of fingers that they will make it through this year after all.
Spring, it’s really here at last. Despite the rubbish weather we’ve been having, the hedges are alive with primroses, slightly later than usual but absolutely spectacular. Talking of spectacular flowers, I was recently given a punnet of edible ones from a local grower. The Flower Mill, based just up the road from us (in an old flour mill as it happens), grows chemical free flowers for decoration and also for eating. It’s primarily a mail order business, so anyone in the UK can enjoy bouquets and posies of seasonal Cornish flowers as well as edible flowers to decorate cakes, salads or whatever else grabs their fancy. My punnet contained a collection of borage flowers, violas and different types of primulas. What fun – it was time to play.
Kate has chosen fairy cakes, cupcakes and muffins for this month’s Tea Time Treats and fairy cakes seemed just the thing to showcase the beautiful flowers I’d received. As I like to bake seasonally where I can, rhubarb seemed to be an obvious choice. Now, I don’t know why, but for some reason we’ve been unable to grow rhubarb down at our plot, it used to flourish on our old site. Luckily, my mother grows some in her garden, so it was all systems go.
This is how I made:
Rhubarb, Rose & White chocolate Fairy Cakes
- Peeled and finely chopped 1 stick rhubarb (about 80g).
- Chopped 50g white chocolate (G&B).
- Creamed 75g unsalted butter with 90g golden caster sugar.
- Beat in one duck egg.
- Sifted in 100g flour (half wholemeal spelt, half white), 50g ground almonds, 1 scant teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of bicarbonate of soda.
- Added 1 tbsp yogurt and 1 tsp orange flower water.
- Stirred in the chocolate and rhubarb.
- Spooned into 12 fairy cake cases.
- Baked at 180C for 20 minutes.
- Turned out onto a wire rack and left to cool.
- Stewed a few stems of chopped rhubarb without sugar which made a beautiful pink juice.
- Sifted 100g icing sugar into a bowl.
- Added 1 tsp orange flower water and poured in enough of the rhubarb juice to make a slightly runny icing.
- Spooned over the top of the cakes.
- With gay abandon, decorated the tops with beautiful edible flowers.
Due to the almonds, these veered more towards the dense texture than light and spongy, but, oh, they were delicious. Rhubarb is one of those ingredients that works particularly well in cakes, giving bursts of tartness and flavour in amongst the sweetness. The rhubarb juice gave the icing a tinge of pink which I was pleased with. I used the remaining rhubarb in a breakfast smoothie the following day and it was so good I’m now craving more.
As it happened, the cake cases came away from the cakes, making them look really tatty, so I removed them all together. Thank goodness for the flowers, which made these otherwise plain looking cakes into the real deal – fairy cakes of elegance and beauty. The flowers all had their own flavours and were not only good to look at but were good to eat too. In retrospect I regret not putting some of them into ice-cube trays, but I shall remember that for another time. Cool summer drinks would surely be enhanced with a flower or two floating on the surface. I was told that the flowers can be kept for 2-3 days in the fridge, but I was surprised at just how long they lasted out of the fridge and on the cakes – it was several hours before they showed any sign of wilting.
You can check out the range of options available at The Flower Mill here.
As edible flowers abound, I am also entering these into Herbs on Saturday with Karen of Lavender and Lovage. It just so happens that this month’s prize is Cooking with Edible Flowers.
As I’ve made everything from scratch as usual, I’m sending these off to Made with Love Mondays with Javelin Warrior.
And finally, because rhubarb is in season and I haven’t submitted anything for ages, I’m entering these into Simple & in Season with Ren of Fabulicious Food.
It was my lovely cousin’s wedding last weekend and as she was getting married to a Welshman, the wedding took place in Wales. Now this was not your average wedding but a rather grand affair lasting three days; due to work commitments, there was no time for a honeymoon. This gave the bride and groom a chance to spend time with their family and friends and likewise gave me an opportunity to have a proper catch up with my family. Day one was a spa day for some, with others such as myself, meeting the bride to be in the evening for a glass of champagne. I wanted to make her something as a pre-wedding soother – chocolate seemed the appropriate choice. I wasn’t sure what her preferences for chocolate were, but guessed she might be a milk chocolate sort of girl. I decided to make a bar of salted milk chocolate and also some plain milk chocolate spoons in case she didn’t like the salted option. Luckily, this turned out to be a favourite of hers. I also used a Good Luck label mould that I bought from Sew White just before Christmas along with the chocolate spoon moulds. So, it was time to put some of the tips I’d learnt from the chocolate course to good use and try my hand at chocolate tempering once again.
|Milk Chocolate Spoons|
This is how I made:
Salted Chocolate and Chocolate Spoons
- Melted 150g milk chocolate (G&B 38%) in a bowl over a pan of hot water.
- Removed from the heat and added a further 50g of chocolate, stirring until all of the chocolate had melted and the temperature had cooled to 29C.
- Carefully spooned into six spoon moulds and one label mould.
- Added a pinch of fleur de sel to the remaining chocolate, stirred then poured into my Golden Ticket mould, sent over from the chocolate queen herself Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.
- Left to set then turned the chocolates out of the moulds, managing to break one of the spoons as I did so.
|Congratulatory salted milk chocolate bar|
The Wedding Day itself dawned bright and fair, but there was still a decided nip in the air. Caerphilly Castle proved to be a rather impressive setting for the wedding. It was built in the 13th Century by an English baron at the time of Henry III in a successful bid to keep the Welsh at bay. Surrounded by a moat and lakes, this is the second biggest mediaeval castle in Britain, Windsor being the first. It is particularly famous now for its leaning tower, damaged during the Civil War, which, whilst not quite as tall as the leaning tower of Pisa, inclines at a steeper angle. We had plenty of opportunities to explore the castle thoroughly.
|Leaning Tower of Caerphilly|
Impressive the castle may have been, but warm it was not – there was many a goose pimple to be seen throughout the day and evening as we all shivered in our wedding finery. Stiletto heels were in abundance, how they coped with the terrain I do not know, but thankfully no injuries occurred. The bride looked absolutely stunning and the wedding breakfast (at 16:30) was impressive. The waiting staff were excellent – friendly, but professional, managing to serve the food so it arrived hot and more importantly was delivered to the right people. My vegetarian options were scrumptious. I had a saffron, pea and asparagus risotto to start with and a tomato polenta stack for my main course. The pudding was a chocolate fondant which was appreciated by all. We’d previously enjoyed canapés along with champagne up in one of the towers – how those stilettos made it up and down the ancient spiral staircase, I’ll never know. The canapés were also served warm and were particularly welcome. Speeches and dancing followed with the bride and groom doing an impressive first dance inspired by Dirty Dancing – they must have been practising for quite some time.
|No stilettos here|
|White Hydrangeas everywhere|
|The Bride & Groom|
Day three was another gathering of family and friends, this time for a hefty lunchtime meal in a nearby inn, with lashings of punch for those not driving. Many were staying the night, along with the bride and groom, but not us. With heavy stomachs but cheery hearts, CT, my mother and I wended our way back home to Cornwall.
|Last of the Cupcakes|
I think I have discovered my ideal shop. Perhaps I should qualify that with my ideal non-food shop. I love red and I especially love red in my kitchen. Red Candy is an online shop that features mostly red home accessories including kitchen and dining ware.
Well there’s a mouthful and I should probably have come up with something a bit snappier, but it pretty much describes this pudding. I’d just made Karen’s Orange Liqueur (shockingly back in October 2011), so I had a load of oranges minus their skin that needed using up fast. I also noticed at about the same time that some of the apples I’d been given a while ago looked like they were in need of using too. So an apple and orange pudding of some kind it had to be. Time being limited, a nice easy oaty one seemed to be in order.
This is what I did to make:
Apple, Orange Pudding with a Ginger Chocolate Crunchy Oat Topping
- Peeled, cored and sliced 5 large Cornish cooking apples.
- Layered them in a buttered ovenproof dish with 50g demerara sugar scattered amongst the apples.
- Poured over the juice of two oranges and a little water.
- Melted 75g butter in a large pan with 1 heaped tbsp golden syrup.
- Stirred in 8oz rolled oats, 1/2 tsp ground ginger and 40g chopped crystallised ginger.
- Stirred in 50g chopped 60% dark chocolate.
- Spooned this over the top of the apples.
- Baked for 30 minutes at 180C.
As I had both apples and oranges in need of using up, I am entering this into the No Waste Food Challenge, which this month is fruit. Established by Kate of Turquoise Lemons, this month is hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen.
As soon as I chose honey for this month’s We Should Cocoa, I’ve done nothing but dream of honey bakes. I love honey and if money was no object would use it instead of sugar almost exclusively. As well as the flavour, honey has a lot of health benefits which are not found in sugar. When I saw that Classic French this month was madeleines, my mind immediately moved to how I could incorporate honey and chocolate into these delicate little French cakes. I was recently sent some New Zealand Honey to try out and whilst I liked the woody notes of the 10+ pre-biotic Beech Forest Honeydew, I thought the more floral notes of the 10+ antioxidant Thyme Honey would work better here. Right until the last minute I was going to grate some milk chocolate into the mix which I thought would give a pretty speckled look. However, I wanted a hint of thyme to shine through and I thought this would be better achieved with white chocolate. I had seen a recipe for Honey Madeleines in a recent book I was sent for review purposes, Stacie Bakes, so I set to and adapted it quite heavily.
This is how I made:
Honey, Thyme and White Chocolate Madeleines
- Melted 50g unsalted butter in a small pan over low heat.
- Added 50g chopped white chocolate and 1 heaped tbsp thyme honey.
- Beat 2 duck eggs with 50g cardamom (caster) sugar until thick, pale and tripled in volume.
- Poured the chocolate mixture gently down the side of the bowl and folded into the egg mixture as gently as possible.
- Sifted in 75g unbleached flour and just over half teaspoon of baking powder.
- Finally folded in a scant teaspoon of finely chopped fresh lemon thyme.
- Spooned into 16 madeleine moulds and baked in the middle of the oven at 180C for ten minutes.
- Turned out onto a wire rack to cool.
These were by far and away the most delicious madeleines I’ve made yet. The honey was the predominate flavour, but it also gave them a succulent and sticky texture which was just delightful. White chocolate seems to work really well in bakes and although the flavour can’t be detected, it gives them a certain body and je ne sais quoi. They are very different without it. Lemon thyme & cardamom sugar combined to give a soupcon of citrus to the proceedings. They could, of course, be dusted with icing sugar, but I thought they were quite pretty in their yellow and brown livery, so left them au natural. I got the desired “foot” that is required for a classic madeleine, but in my short madeleine making career, I have not so far had a problem with this. Unlike most madeleines that really need to be eaten as soon after baking as possible, these improved with age and became stickier and even more scrumptious, although that didn’t prevent us from tucking in immediately.
I am obviously entering these madeleines into my very own We Should Cocoa.
I am also submitting them to Classic French with Jen of Blue Kitchen Bakes who has chosen Madeleines as this month’s theme.
I adore herbs and use them a lot both in my cooking and for medicinal and cosmetic purposes, but I rarely pair them with chocolate. So it is a rare event that I am able to enter Karen’s excellent Herbs on Saturdays and I am always a little bit excited when I can do so – you never know I might just win a book. This month’s book sounds especially good and right up my street – cooking with edible flowers by Miriam Jacobs. I’m crossing fingers.
Thanks to the New Zealand Honey Co. for sending me some of their delicious honey to try.
We don’t have a television, so I had not heard of Stacie Stewart until I was sent her book to review. On finding out she reached the Masterchef finals in 2010 and is now on ITVs food. Glorious.food, I wasn’t much the wiser. Well, along with this august claim to fame, she also has a bakery supplying cakes and bakes to shops and events around the country. Ahh, now I get it, she’s a baker – my interest awakened.
|Cheese & Leek Scones on bottom tier|
As well as adapting her recipe for madeleines (post to follow soon), I made Stacie’s cheese and leek scones for Easter Tea, pretty much as the recipe stated, other than substituting some of the flour for wholemeal. They were the star of the show, knocking my Simnel Cake and other fancy treats into the shade. I shall certainly be making those again. Both recipes were easy to follow and very importantly, worked.
Dom is up to his old tricks again and has randomised Random Recipes even more than usual by getting us to use a highly technical random thingamidoodah to pick our books for us this month. Luckily I didn’t have to count all of my books as they are scattered around the house – I used the oh so wonderful Eat Your Books which has all of my cookery books logged, current count being 88. In went number 88 to the thingamidoodah and out came number 31. Arranging them alphabetically by author gave me Jane Grigson’s Vegetable Book. Now wonderful as this books is, it didn’t seem likely I’d be lucky enough to find a recipe I could easily adapt to include chocolate, so I rearranged the books alphabetically by title and was much more successful. This time number 31 gave me The Chocolate Lovers by local boys the Tanner Brothers. No longer any need to worry about adapting recipes to include chocolate. So the next stage was over to CT to pick a number, which he did. Number 49 got me Chocolate and Devon blue cheese tarts.
Hooray – absolutely perfect! I would normally have used some Cornish Blue instead of the Devon, but I just so happened to have some of Ethel’s wonderful Capricorn Goats Cheese which I’ve been wanting to try with dark chocolate. Thus it was that the Tanner Brothers creation morphed into these chocolate and goats cheese tarts. I had to adapt the recipe slightly as I halved the quantity of filling and it didn’t fit neatly into halves.
This is how I made:
Chocolate and Goats Cheese Tarts
- Sifted 250g flour (half wholemeal spelt & half white) into a bowl.
- Added a pinch of salt and 1.5 tsp icing sugar.
- Cubed 125g unsalted butter and rubbed these into the flour until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs.
- Made a well in the centre, added 1 small (ish) duck egg and enough water to form a soft but not wet dough (about 50 ml).
- Stirred this in with a knife, then bought together with my hands to form a ball of dough.
- Flattened to form a disc then placed in a plastic bag and left in the fridge for an hour.
- Rolled the dough out as thinly as possible and lined four 10 cm tart cases, 2 slightly larger foil cases and a foil flan case. I was planning on using the larger flan case for a quiche and the others for the chocolate tarts, but in the end I only had enough filling for 1 of the additional foil cases.
- Placed back in the fridge whilst I put the oven and it warmed up to 180C.
- Placed them on the top shelf and baked for about 12 minutes until they were golden.
- Melted 85g unsalted butter with 100g 70% dark chocolate (G&B) in a pan over very low heat. Left to cool.
- Whisked 1 large duck egg with 25g cardamom sugar (caster) until pale and thick.
- Poured the chocolate mixture down the side of the bowl and folded into the egg as gently as possible.
- Folded in 20g sifted white flour.
- Divided the mixture between five of the tart cases.
- Scattered 75g Capricorn goats cheese cut into small pieces over the tops.
- Baked at 180C for about 7 minutes.
- Left to cool (apart from one which I just couldn’t help diving into).
I sort of thought I was going to like these and I was right. Theye were delicious warm not long out of the oven, but equally delicious cold. They had a mousse like texture and the salty cheese was a perfect foil for the dark chocolate. If you like salted chocolate like I do, these are well worth getting acquainted with and even if you don’t, you may well like them. CT tells me I’m sweet enough without (I wish), but I really liked the barely sweet nature of these. I don’t know if it was the inclusion of icing sugar or my careful handling of the dough, but this was the best pastry I’ve ever made – it was so flaky, CT thought it was meant to be flaky pastry.
The wonderful Random Recipes monthly challenge is hosted by the Dashing Dom over at Belleau Kitchen and it gets us all to use books and recipes which might otherwise sit gathering dust on the shelves.
As Nazima has chosen cheese this month, I’m also submitting this to One Ingredient hosted alternately by Franglais Kitchen and How to Cook Good Food.
Some of you may have noticed that I have been using Penbugle Farm organic eggs in some of my recent bakes. Keen as I am to support local businesses, I am even more so when they are organically certified by the Soil Association. As you may be tired of hearing by now, I am a long term supporter of the Soil Association, believing that they are ethically driven and offer the most rigourous organic standards that exist anywhere. They also campaign for more sustainable farming practices and higher quality food for all. This is especially true when it comes to egg production. Soil Association certified eggs must come from free range chickens that have proper outdoor access to grass. This not only leads to healthy and happy hens, but the eggs are better too. See my post on Ingredients are the Key and on duck eggs back along when I first started this blog.
|Penbugle Hen – photo courtesy of Allison Livingstone|
The chooks at Penbugle are all reared on the farm and have plenty of outdoor field space to run about in during the day. They have even more of it than the minimum required by the Soil Association. They also have access to indoor scratching and bathing areas as well as the nest boxes of course. What about foxes you may ask? The secret weapon in the Penbugle armoury are some rather gorgeous alpacas. Cute they may be, but they will not tolerate foxes in their fields and will drive them off and even kill them if they can. Oh and their fibre is rather lovely too.
By a strange coincidence, I spotted a Penbugle stand at the Three Bags Full market, held on Friday to celebrate Liskeard’s wool heritage. They weren’t selling wool, but fibre from their alpacas instead. The fibre is not only very soft, but light, extremely warm due to the hollow fibres and hard wearing too – think of grandad’s camel hair coat.
The following day, somewhat drenched after dancing the Community Scarf around Liskeard in the rain, I actually got to meet the Fox Patrol in person. They were taking part in the continuation of the Three Bags Full festivities along with some Penbugle sheep and a well dressed tractor courtesy of Victoria Knittingfairy.
|Penbugle double yolker, with a dab of chilli sauce|
Thanks to Alison of Gingerpop Communications and to Lizzie of Penbugle Farm, I was sent a couple of dozen eggs to try out – just when I needed them most. I had several cakes to make for a friend’s birthday, culminating in this lime and pistachio layer cake. The eggs were large and as it turned out many of them were double yokers too – not something I’ve seen very often.
I was determined to keep some back from the cake making, so we could try them au naturel. We had a couple of them boiled for Easter Day and a couple poached on another occasion. They tasted particularly good. CT being an avid egg eater is something of a connoisseur in these matters, so his thumbs up really means something.
Penbugle Farm, is not only a working organic farm with rare breed cattle, sheep, pigs, hens, ponies and alpacas, but it also provides holiday accommodation in the form of wigwams and bell tents as well as tent pitches if you want to bring your own. So if you fancy a bit of glamping or even camping and a chance to get away from it all, this might well be the spot for you. Living in a particularly pretty part of Cornwall as we do, I can tell you it is well worth a visit. Most visitors to Cornwall charge down to the more well know western parts of the county, completely passing us by – it’s their loss. The farm is situated close to the pretty village of Duloe complete with its own stone circle. It is only five miles from the fishing village of Looe and the beautiful Cornish coast and only a few miles from Bodmin Moor. This provides plenty of good walking opportunities, wildlife spotting and a chance to explore our mining heritage. The farm is, of course, very close to my charming home town of Liskeard!
Cornish Holiday Discount
Penbugle Farm are offering Chocolate Log Blog readers a 10% discount on any wigwam holiday plus a welcome pack of local produce, including their own organic eggs of course. To be eligible for the discount, just mention “choc log blog” when booking. To take advantage of this offer, holidays must be booked before 14th May and taken by the end of September 2013.
Coconut oil seems to be the new superfood that everyone is raving about. I have been using it now for many years, mostly as a skin moisturiser and eaten in its raw state spread on toast. Occasionally I’ve used it for making raw chocolates or cooking savoury dishes. However, it was not until The Groovy Food Company sent me some of their organic virgin coconut oil to try did I think about using it in baking. Ahh, now that got the brain cells firing. But as soon as the many possibilities started to emerge, I changed my mind; I decided I wanted keep it in its raw state. Something quick and delicious that was truly healthy and 100% organic was in order – not something I achieve very often.
Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, so can easily be used as a spread or body butter. It melts very quickly and has a high heat threshold making it ideal for stir fries in particular. It contains medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) which are a healthy fat quickly transformed by the body into energy and are not stored as body fat. For maximum benefit, coconut oil is best used in its cold pressed state. It is said to help reduce abdominal obesity and protect against insulin resistance thus reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. It is also said to benefit digestive disorders and boost the bodies immune system due to the high percentage of lauric acid contained. Used on the face and body, it acts as a good moisturiser and has many purported benefits including protection from UV radiation from the sun.
On opening the jar, a powerful aroma of coconut was released and I couldn’t resist tasting some. It was both sweet and unmistakably coconutty which is more than can be said of some I’ve tried.
I was also sent a bottle of The Groovy Food Company’s organic premium agave nectar, which is often used as a low Gi sugar substitute. I am an occasional user of agave nectar, but this gave me an opportunity to try it out in a few more things. I tried it out in my matcha smoothies as a substitute for the honey and it worked very well, proving a lot easier to handle than honey as it less viscous.
So, what I wanted to make was a healthy version of that children’s classic rice crispy cakes. My first task was to find some sugar free crunchy cereal, not something I thought was going to be particularly difficult. So I was truly shocked when I went to my local Co-operative, only to find they sold no sugar free cereal at all except for oats. I trekked off to our local health food shop and found the last bag of unsweetened cereal they had in stock – luckily it was puffed rice, which is what I’d been hoping for.
This is how I made:
Vegan Chocolate Puffs
- Melted 1 heaped tbsp cold pressed coconut oil in a pan over low heat.
- Added 50g 100% cocoa chocolate.
- Stirred in 1 tbsp cashew nut butter (any nut butter would be good, but that was the one I had to hand).
- Added 3 tbsp agave nectar, 1 tsp raw cocoa powder, 1 tsp vanilla extract (homemade) and a pinch of Himalayan pink rock salt.
- Stirred until smooth, then removed from heat.
- Weighed 100g 100% puffed rice into a bowl, then poured over the chocolate mixture and stirred until all of the rice was coated.
- Placed teaspoonfuls of the mixture into mini muffin cases and pressed the rest into two silicone moulds.
- Left in my cold kitchen to set, but would normally put them in the fridge.
|My attempt at a butterfly|
These were so damn delicious, I polished off rather more than I should have done as soon as I’d taken the photographs. They were light and crunchy and the chocolate coating had a lovely smooth mouth feel. They tasted sweet and chocolatey and the blend of cashew butter and coconut oil gave a nutty and fragrant quality redolent of the tropics.
Now I’m away to ponder exactly what bake I want to try with the coconut oil.
The Groovy Food Company products can be found at Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose amongst other places.
I’m entering these into Breakfast Club, founded by Helen of Fuss Free Flavours and hosted this month by Gill of Tales Pigling Bland who has chosen rocket fuel as the theme with a view to help her run the London Marathon. I reckon these would make a very tasty rocket fuel for breakfast that isn’t going to sit heavily on the stomach, but would provide plenty of energy and nutrients.