Gosh, I have so enjoyed this month’s challenge, even though it was a particularly tough one. Who would have thought you could make a delicious chocolate cake for £1 or under? I wasn’t at all sure it was possible. Well, as you will see from the following 23 fabulous entries in this month’s We Should Cocoa, not only is it possible, but there is more than one way to make a cheap chocolate cake.
Paul A Young has long been on my radar as a chocolatier; he’s at the forefront of discovering and creating new flavours and new ways of working with chocolate. Recently he has joined a very select band of UK bean to bar producers, but typically makes his in a rather different way. I bought his book, Adventures with Chocolate, almost as soon as it came out in 2009 and it has been dipped into with anticipation on many an occasion. I’ve really enjoyed the recipes I’ve made from it, especially the dairy free sesame truffles. Until now, however, I have not tried any of his award winning chocolates or even his famous brownies.
On my trip up to London the week before last, I called in at the new (ish) Paul A Young store on Wardour Street in Soho. I’m really into the colour purple at the moment and what did I see but a shop front decked out in elegant purple. Paul’s chocolate boxes are in the same shade of purple as are his bags, labels and other paraphenalia. I got a little breathy. I gazed in at the shop window, feasting on the magnificence within. My heart started beating a little faster. When I finally opened the shop door, I was hit with a powerful aroma of rich luxurious chocolate that was in itself quite intoxicating. I almost, but not quite, didn’t need anything else. The interior was a complete pleasure house of chocolate sensations and it was hard to know what to look at first: the chocolates spread out on a large round table in the middle of the room, the books or the fun decor. All I can say is that I was not disappointed. I spent some time there having a good look around. The considerate assistant gave me some of the hot chocolate which was steaming away in a pan on the side. This is offered as a takeaway service. It was thick, rich, luxurious and delicious – a meal in itself.
|Paul A Young Wardour Street Shop Front|
|Champagne Truffles – only two ingredients|
|Stunning Cocoa Pod Wallpaper & Helpful Assistant|
|Bean to Bar Extraordinaire|
|Fabulous Alter for a Fabulous Shop|
|Fun chandelier hanging over centre of chocolate table|
|Goat’s Cheese, Lemoncello and Black Pepper|
|Lots of fun decorations|
|I’d be very happy to drink my hot chocolate from one of these fine mugs.|
|Chocolate Making Hamper – do try this at home!|
Whilst I supped on my hot chocolate, I had a good chat with Genevieve and Sarah from Nudge PR who filled me in on some of the background to Paul A Young and his business. They also gave me a box of chocolates and a brownie to take home with me – I couldn’t wait.
As it happened, my first day home was a fast day and the next was full of frantic activity, so I didn’t get to open that beautiful box for three days after I was given it. Talk about delayed gratification. The excitement just kept on building. When I finally opened it I was near to desperation. The scent of good quality chocolate emanating from the box took me straight back to the shop. After my initial euphoria was over, I took a look. Oh, how lucky was I? The one chocolate I had really wanted to try (apart from the salted caramel of course) was the Rhubarb and Pink Peppercorn and there it was nestling in the box – oh joy!
Rhubarb & Pink Pepper Caramel was as delicious as I thought it might be. Rhubarb is one of my favourite fruit flavours and there was no mistaking the real thing used here. The pink peppercorn, being quite a delicate pepper, did not overwhelm the rhubarb at all, but came in as a subtle aftertaste which I really liked. The enrobing dark chocolate was rich and powerful and lingered on in the mouth for quite some time. My only quibble with this was that the caramel was very runny and as I bit into it, half of it ran down my chin.
Treacle Tart was another one that had grabbed my attention in the shop, so I was very pleased to see it had made its way into my little box of chocolates. This was a fudgy ganache covered in milk chocolate with tiny pieces of something crunchy. The flavour was most definitely that of a good treacle tart. I don’t know how Paul has done it, but what an ingenious invention. Whereas the rhubarb was a chocolate to be savoured, this one just left me wanting more.
Passion Fruit Curd sounded a bit different and another one I was keen to try. To be honest, I was keen to try them all. One of the best fruit curds I’ve ever made was passionfruit curd, it has such a unique and zingy flavour and reminds me of good times spent in Australia. I’ve tasted several passion fruit chocolates now and have found they are very hard to pull off. Most I’ve tried have tasted artificial and really rather unpleasant. But a good one, using the real fruit, can be hard to beat. This one certainly didn’t disappoint: the fresh vibrant flavour came through. The primrose yellow curd was soft but not runny. I was a bit unsure about the milk chocolate that encased it. It had a very distinct and robust flavour which certainly made a contrast to the passionfruit, but I would have preferred something milder that allowed me to really savour the fruit. Interestingly, both flavours lingered equally on the palate long after the chocolate had disappeared.
Battenburg Cake Truffle sounded intriguing. Was it going to look like a Battenburg inside I wondered? No it didn’t, but it tasted like one. A white chocolate shell covered in what seemed to be fine cake crumbs and holding a marzipanny white chocolate ganache that tasted of both marzipan and vanilla cake. Very clever, very nice.
Pimms Cocktail sounded perfect for the warm weather we have finally been getting. A dark chocolate shell, decorated with green and red to represent cucumber and strawberry, I’m guessing. One of the many things I like about these chocolates is that they keeps you guessing. What was going to be inside this one I wandered. Oh clever. This was a chocolate ganache that tasted of cucumber and most definitely of Pimms. No mistaking the alcohol there.
Roasted Almond & Honey Caramel was a total delight. The dark chocolate shell was filled with a runny honey caramel that just made me close my eyes in bliss. After the caramel had faded away I was left feeling quite bereft. Luckily all was not lost; a whole roasted almond gave me something tasty to chew on.
Fennel Cream & Lemongrass was the one that had the most appealing scent. There is synergy to the combination of fennel and chocolate that I find quite attractive. The chocolate here gave off a heady aroma of spice and tobacco which reminded me of tropical nights and made me want to keep on inhaling. Inside was a smooth and creamy white chocolate ganache lightly flavoured with lemongrass which was just perfect.
Banoffee Pie was wrapped, only partially but quite provocatively, in silver foil. It was a bumpy dark chocolate shell containing crunchy biscuit crumbs. Inside was a smooth white chocolate banana ganache covered in caramel. None of Paul’s chocolates were overly sweet and neither was this one. It could have been quite sickly, but it wasn’t. A superb homage to one of Britain’s favourite desserts.
Sea Salted Caramel had to be left until last. As some of you have probably gathered by now, I could easily become a sea salted caramel addict. Well, there are no words to describe how good this was. The caramel was salty, but not overly so. It was soft, but not too runny and it coated the tongue and mouth sumptuously before sadly disappearing. The dark chocolate shell was robust but allowed the flavour of the caramel to remain in the mouth alongside it. I was one very satisfied customer.
Now for the brownie. After all the fine chocolate I’d tried, I actually found the brownie way too sweet. However, it had a delightful texture and on one of the days that I crave sugar, it would have been ideal. The top was perfectly crunchy and the main part of the brownie was soft and gooey, just how I like them. Really, this was pure melt in the mouth decadence. Paul’s secret weapon in seduction was none other than golden syrup which gives an elusive but distinct flavour.
With thanks to NudgePr for the chocolates and brownie. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.
The collection of teapots in our house is steadily growing. This suits us fine as we now have the right teapot for every occasion. Or at least I thought we did. When I was sent an ingenuiTEA to try out from Adagio Teas, I realised our collection was by no means complete. This contraption brews loose leaf teas, letting out the steeped tea from the bottom rather than through a spout. Tea leaves are placed inside the pot and hot water added. As soon as the tea is ready, it is placed atop a cup; the valve opens and the clear tea filters through. Once you have finished with your tea leaves, they can be tossed away and the ingenuiTEA washed up – by hand or in the dishwasher.
What I liked
- The see through nature of the container – it’s fun to see tea leaves unfurling and the water changing colour as the brew progresses.
- The non-drip nature of the design – unlike many teapots, you can stop the process at any point and put the ingenuiTEA down without a single drip.
- No need for heat proof surfaces or protective mats – the pot is elevated off the surface with no hot bottom to burn your precious table.
- Neat design – I like the simple look.
- Works with any cup up to 9.5 cm in diameter.
- The material used – I am not a fan of plastic and would have preferred glass. It is, however, BPA free.
- No way of determining the volumes – unless you are using a clear cup, it’s not obvious when to stop the flow. I had tea overflowing all over the place with the first cup I made, though I very soon got the hang of it.
- The capacity is 450ml (16 oz) which is not quite enough for two regular mugs and too much for one. It is, however, perfect for two tea cups. Maybe I just need to be a little more refined in my tea drinking.
- Brand stamping – I would prefer to have the device completely clear of all writing and logos.
Along with the ingenuiTEA, I was sent five sample packs of Adagio teas to try. I do like a bit of tea sampling – it’s very nearly as exciting as chocolate tasting. All of the teas are hand picked and sourced direct from artisan producers. You can read interviews with some of the farmers on their website. The section dedicated to Tea is Good for You is worth a read, though if all the various health benefits of tea are to be believed, I should live to at least 150.
The more teas I sample, the more I’m amazed at just how different they all are. I’d requested a variety of teas, some of which I was familiar with and others I’d not tried before. These sampling packs struck me as a particularly good idea; you can try before committing to a more extensive purchase. Each pack is resealable and contains enough tea to make a good ten cups. They come with instructions which include brewing times and water temperature, although being an American company, this was in degrees fahrenheit rather than celsius.
I had to try this one first, of course. I’m not normally a fan of black teas, but I will partake of chai, Earl Grey and the occasional speciality tea if it’s on offer. This was a black Ceylon tea with cocoa nibs, dark chocolate chips and a natural chocolate flavour. I’ve tried several chocolate teas now, but never one which contained actual chocolate pieces. This is the only one I tried adding a dash of milk to as I thought it would work well with both the black nature of the tea and the chocolate. I was right, although it worked equally well without. The chocolate flavour shone through with fruity notes and a slight astringency.
Good quality white tea is my favourite version of Camellia sinensis. This one was a new one on me. The unopened tea buds are harvested along with the two newest leaves. This freshness really comes through. It has a light fruity aroma with a delicate taste. Floral and fruity tones shine through and it isn’t in the least bit bitter. Really it is quite delicious and an excellent accompaniment to afternoon tea.
Ti Khan Yin
I know very little about oolong teas, other than they are complex in both production and flavour and are thus correspondingly more expensive than many other teas. They are a speciality of South China and although they come in many varieties are all oxidised to some degree or other. To my knowledge, this was the first oolong tea I’ve ever tried. Ti Khan Yin being greenish in colour is a lightly oxidised tea. It has both a grassy and floral aroma and a fresh sprightly taste that both CT and I really liked, yet, the notes left lingering on the palate are woody ones. This is a nice refreshing cuppa which works particularly well as a breakfast tea we thought.
This red South African tea, not to be confused with the more commonly known rooibos, has an aromatic fruity scent with honey notes. It is not a true tea, being the leaves of a legume called Cyclopia rather than what we commonly know as tea, Camellia sinensis. It contains no caffeine, is low in tannins so there is no bitterness if over brewed and it is said to lower cholesterol and fight respiratory infections. CT, who has fond memories of his trip to South Africa many years ago, thinks it encapsulates the smell of the bush and transported him back there almost immediatley. The tea is the colour of honey and has a pleasant sweet and fruity flavour, not overpowering, but refreshing. This has been a firm favourite of ours for many years.
Jasmine Phoenix Pearls
Tight clusters of curled green tea leaves form little balls known as pearls. As soon as they come into contact with hot water they unfurl in a rather beautiful way. Also beautiful is the aroma generated from the Jasmine which quickly scents the room. The flavour is prominent, but not overpowering as can be the case with some jasmine teas. We both thoroughly enjoyed this one and it works particularly well as an after dinner refresher.
Thanks to Adagio for the ingenuiTEA and tea samples. There was no requirement to write a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.
It’s not only National Vegetarian Week, but it’s National Yogurt Week too. Being both vegetarian and passionate about yogurt, I couldn’t let this go without a post. Nayna over at simply food recently mentioned making a caramelised onion and yogurt dip at an event. I was immediately struck by this excellent idea and thought I’d try and create my own version – with a chocolate twist, of course.
One of the fun things I got to do on my recent visit to London was to eat breakfast and make brunch with Tom Aikens using lactofree products at L’etalier des Chefs near St Pauls. Tom Aikens is well known for being the youngest chef to earn two Michelin stars at the tender age of 26. He is also known for his talent and creativity. I found him to be friendly, knowledgable and helpful.
Lactofree was a knew one on me, but as a big fan of dairy, I thought it was a fantastic idea for dairy enthusiasts who are unfortunate enough to be lactose intolerant. There is quite a range of products including, milk, cream, yogurt, spreadable butter, cream cheese and cheddar. I don’t entirely understand the process of extracting the lactose which is done by some sort of filtration, but all the products I tried tasted just as they should. Tom was a fan of the cream in particular as it can be used for cooking without splitting, unlike many dairy free products.
The masterclass comprised a demo on how to make Tom’s poppy seed and raspberry muffins and a demo of his recipe for mushroom ragout on toast with chervil and sorrel; this was followed by a hands on cooking session replicating the mushroom dish. The muffins used the spreadable butter and raspberry yogurt from the lactofree range and the mushrooms were cooked with the spreadable butter and cream. We took home some of Tom’s muffins; the mushrooms we ate on grilled wholemeal sourdough as soon as we’d cooked them. They were scrumptious, although I’m sure a little grating of 100% chocolate would not have gone amiss.
As we’d started the morning with muesli and yogurt, I was feeling quite replete by the end of the morning and certainly didn’t need lunch. It was fun to meet and cook with other food bloggers and to see a part of London I wasn’t very familiar with. The event was even more enjoyable as I was able to invite along the friend I was staying with. She was delighted by the mushroom recipe in particular as she’d never really known what to do with this most glorious of fungi. Tom’s muffins kept me going on the long train journey back home to Cornwall. Poor CT didn’t get a look in.
Whilst we were in the vicinity, we took a rather scary glass elevator trip up to the top of One New Change, a shopping centre with an open rooftop offering an impressive view of the London skyline. This was probably the best view of St Paul’s I’ve ever had and my friend pointed out a number of new buildings I hadn’t seen before including the Shard.
As it’s World Baking Day today, I decided to make Tom’s muffins but add my own twist of white chocolate and thus use less sugar. I also used my usual flour mix of half wholemeal, half white. The recipe was a little odd regarding quantities. For example, we were asked to use 230ml of raspberry yogurt, but the pots came in 125g sizes. So the measures I used may not reflect the original recipe. I also realised, after the event, I was meant to cream half of the sugar and add the other half to the egg whites – oh well!
This is how I made:
Lacto Free Raspberry, Poppy Seed and White Chocolate Muffins
- Creamed 115g spreadable butter with 200g vanilla sugar (golden caster) until light and fluffy.
- Separated 5 eggs, adding the yolks to the butter, putting 2 whites in the fridge for later use and adding 3 whites to a clean bowl.
- Beat in the egg yolks into the butter mixture together with 2 tsp of vanilla extract.
- Beat in two 125 ml tubs of raspberry yogurt and 35g poppy seeds.
- Whisked the three egg whites with a pinch of cream of tarter until stiff peaks formed.
- Stirred ⅓ of this into the yogurt mixture, then folded in the remainder.
- Sifted in 315g flour (half organic wholemeal, half organic white), 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda and ½ tsp baking powder.
- Folded this in as gently as possible followed by 50g of white chocolate chips and 170g fresh raspberries.
- Divided between 15 muffin cases, which was a mistake – I overfilled them. The recipe said 16 and I should have taken note.
- Baked at 180℃ for 23 minutes. Left to cool for a few minutes then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Took some over to my mother’s for tea.
The muffins are really good, but not as good as Tom’s. I suspect that the recipe we were given was not quite the same as the one he used on the day; mine taste slightly bicarby I think. They are also very rich and again I’m not sure that Tom used all five egg whites or just the three specified. The cakes rose well and have a lovely firm but light texture with a nice crunch of poppy seeds. The raspberry flavour is a good one. The raspberries adding little bursts of tart fruitiness and the white chocolate gave punctuating sweetness. I did find the recipe a bit of a faffy one and ended up with more washing up than I’d normally expect from a simple muffin recipe. I think next time I make it, I will not bother separating the eggs and perhaps use four whole eggs instead of five yolks and three whites.
Although this is really a raspberry muffin, there is a lot of vanilla in here and the flavour really comes through, so I am entering it into this month’s The Spice Trail where vanilla is the choice. It’s being hosted by Solange of Pebble Soup who should recognise these muffins as she was also there at the Lactofree event. Vanesther of Bangers & Mash is the creator.
As I suspect this might become a bit of a favourite, I’m entering them into Favourite Recipes where the theme is sweets and snacks. It’s being hosted over at My Kitchen Odyssey on behalf of Zesty South Indian Kitchen.
Thanks to Lactofree for this fun masterclass and the bag of products we were given to take home with us. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.
Country mouse heads to town. I’m off to London in a bit of a rush – people to see, places to go, tea to drink and chocolate to eat. This post will go out while I’m there. Before leaving, I need to make something for the friends I am staying with; something that can take a bit of a battering, isn’t too heavy and won’t take up too much space. Well, there is only one thing I can think of – biscuits.
I can’t make just any old biscuits of course, they are a present and need to look a little fancy. It’s time to try out the new textured rolling pin I picked up at The Big Cake Show as well as have another go at using a cookie stamp. I’ve had very little success with these before as the impression has always disappeared on baking. I need a more robust recipe. I know who to go to; Miranda, Queen of Biscuits. I’ve made a few recipes from Miranda Gore Browne’s book Biscuit and I’ve enjoyed all of them. Once again, she hasn’t let me down; there’s a recipe for Irresistible Chocolate Biscuits, a firm biscuit suitable for fancy icing. Well I’m not going to do any icing, but the recipe is meant to produce firm biscuits, so should suit my proposes very well – that’s what I’m hoping anyway.
I’ve pretty much followed Miranda’s recipe but as I want my friend’s children to enjoy them and they aren’t going to have any sweet icing on top, I’m using milk chocolate rather than dark. I’m also adding some allspice – well why not?
This is how I made:
Textured and Stamped Chocolate Biscuits
- Melted 55g of 37% milk chocolate (G&B) in a large bowl over a pan of hot water.
- Removed from the heat and added 200g cubed unsalted butter.
- Creamed this together, adding 160g vanilla sugar (caster) part way though.
- Added 1 heaped tbsp golden syrup and creamed until the mixture was light and fluffy.
- Beat in an egg.
- Sifted in 350g plain flour, 50g cocoa powder (G&B) and a scant teaspoon of allspice.
- Stirred until just combined. Formed into a ball, placed in a plastic bag and put in the fridge for an hour.
- Removed from the bag and cut into two peices. Rolled out one piece to about 3mm in depth, then cut our rounds suitable for the size of my cookie stamp.
- Stamped the rounds and placed on a couple of baking trays.
- Baked at 180℃ for 10 minutes. Removed from the oven and placed the biscuits on a wire rack to cool.
- Meanwhile, rolled the other dough half to about the same thickness using my textured rolling pin to do the last roll, pressing down quite firmly as I did so.
- Cut out heart and rabbit shapes and baked as before.
Before I rush out the door and leave the oven on, I better check on those biscuits.
I was half expecting my impressions to look, er, well, not very impressive. But I am delighted to see that this time they’ve held. Well done Miranda. Not only do the biscuits look rather good, I think, but they taste just right too. They have a good firm texture, but thankfully cannot be confused with hard tack. They have a good strong chocolate taste with a spicy undertone. The question is, will they make it all the way to London? I’ll let you know, it’s a long journey and I might get hungry.
As these have now become my favourite biscuits for stamping, I am entering them into The Biscuit Barrel over at I’d Much Rather Bake Than … Laura has chosen favourites as this month’s theme.
I’m also sending them off to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays as they were entirely made from scratch.
There is no doubt about it, nettles are jam packed full of goodness and there seems no end to their health benefits. Be wary of their sting when raw by all means, but once cooked, they make an excellent spinach substitute. At a time of year when there is not a lot ready to be harvested in our gardens, plots and fields, they fill a handy gap. Some of the nicest home brew I have tasted was nettle beer. We use them to enrich our compost heap and make a tea for both ourselves and the garden. Recently I noted in a guest post by Urvashi Roe over at Fuss Free Flavours that toasted nettle seeds are good scattered over salads or even porridge. That’s a new one on me and I can’t wait for the nettles to start seeding so I can try it. Despite my love of this stinging weed, nettles were not something I had ever thought of adding to cakes. I was quite startled when I saw a recipe for nettle and lemon cake over on Veggie Desserts. I really shouldn’t have been too surprised, however. Kate incorporates all sorts of interesting vegetables into her bakes and desserts and if you haven’t yet come across her blog, I urge you to take a look.
My love of nettles and my experimental inclinations very soon got the better of me and it wasn’t long before I was having a go myself. Over Easter, I met up with some old school friends for a fabulous walk along the south Devon coast near East Prawle (just love that name). I suspected they would be intrigued rather than aghast at the thought of eating nettle cakes, so I took them along to picnic on after our walk. I sort of followed Kate’s recipe, but reduced the quantities somewhat and adapted it in order to add white chocolate. I also topped it with a mascarpone icing.
This is how I made:
Nettle, Lemon and White Chocolate Cupcakes
- Picked 100g of young nettle tops (top 4 leaves). Washed them, then simmered with a little water until they were cooked – about 5 minutes.
- Drained off any excess water and pureed with a hand blender.
- Melted 50g white chocolate in a large bowl over a pan of hot water.
- Added 150g cubed unsalted butter and 115g vanilla sugar (golden caster).
- Grated in the zest of ½ an organic lemon (reserving the other half for the icing) and creamed until light and fluffy.
- Beat in 2 duck eggs (large hens eggs) and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
- Sifted in 200g flour (half wholemeal, half white) and 1 tsp baking powder.
- Squeezed in the juice of half a lemon.
- Added the nettle puree and stirred until just combined.
- Spooned into 15 cupcake cases and baked at 180℃ for about 20 minutes when the cakes were well risen and an inserted skewer came out clean.
- Turned out onto a wire rack to cool.
- Stirred the remaining lemon zest into 125g mascarpone cheese.
- Squeezed in the remaining lemon juice.
- Sifted in 100g icing sugar and beat well.
- Spread the icing on top of the cakes.
The icing was a little on the runny side, so you might want to fiddle with the quantities. But it tasted most satisfactory as did the nettle cupcakes. There was some debate as to whether the nettles could be tasted or not, but all enjoyed them and loved the vibrant green colour. CT was aghast that anyone could fail to detect the flavour; thankfully he kept his thoughts to himself. The best bit of course, was feeling as though you were having a nutritious snack whilst tucking into a sweet indulgent treat. Maybe it was both?
As nettles were very much in season when I made these cakes and in fact still are, I am entering them into Simple and in Season with Ren Behan.
One of these cakes at least is being sent off to Emily of A Mummy Too for her #recipeoftheweek.
Spring is the time for nettles and I can’t think of a better veg to celebrate it with – well maybe I can, but it is one of my favourites. Celebrating Spring is the theme for this month’s Four Seasons Food which is being hosted by Lou of Eat Your Veg. Anneli of Delicieux hosted last month.
This was a bank holiday cake bake for taking on a picnic so qualifies for this month’s Calendar Cakes over at Dolly Bakes.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural Baking Matters bread making class. I regularly bake my own bread, but I am by no means an expert. There is always plenty more to learn. My regular bake is a rye sourdough. I am happy with this: I’ve kept the culture alive for nearly five years now and it suits us very well. However, it’s always good to have a repertoire and try new breads and baking methods. I have little experience of baking with white flour so I was particularly looking forward to this Basic Yeast Baking course where we were going to make oven bottom bread, soft dinner rolls and Chelsea buns.
Founded by John Royce in 2001, Baking Matters has recently branched out from advising commercial bakers into giving practical help and advice to potential and actual home bakers. The online website is a free resource for all and offers much in the way of guidance and expertise. John is the teacher in this new venture and on our course was ably assisted by his daughter. Learning from him was a complete delight. He is a traditional British master baker; with his many years experience of running a bakery as well as teaching, he has a lot of knowledge to pass on. His passion for real bread is infectious and it made the whole experience entertaining as well as educational. Other courses offered by Baking Matters include pastry making and cake baking.
This was a small class of seven home bakers selected to trial the first bread making course. This was very much a practical hands-on workshop. Three bakes in one day was a tall order and we were certainly put through our paces. I think we all learnt a lot – I certainly picked up a few tips. I was interested to see that the way I was taught to knead bread in home economics, way back when, was the method that John recommended (pushing the dough out with the heel of your hand then rolling it back up again). To watch John do it so quickly and so expertly was an education in itself. After weighing the ingredients, we all had a go at mixing the flour and water directly on the bench. This was done by making a bay with the dry ingredients then pouring in the water and working it gradually into the flour with our fingers. This was quite a nerve-wracking experience and I was convinced we would have flour and water all over the floor, but we all successfully managed to keep everything together on the bench and create a working bread dough – very satisfying. I was particularly thrilled to learn how to roll Chelsea buns correctly – pulling back on the dough as you roll to stretch it and make it tight. Learning some new ways of shaping rolls was an added bonus.
John is very keen on using fresh yeast which he says is now widely available and keeps for a long time in the fridge if properly stored. As a fan of fresh yeast myself, I was really pleased to find we were using it on the day. If you are unable to get your hands on fresh yeast, he reckons dried active yeast is fine, but advises steering clear of instant yeast, which contains all sorts of unwholesome additives. I was less keen about the use of Trex as I like my fats to be as natural as possible. If I wasn’t vegetarian I would use lard, which is what John suggests as an alternative. However, it did give the bread a lovely soft consistency. The bread rolls were things of beauty, the bread was light but substantial and the buns were possibly the best Chelsea buns I’ve ever eaten.
So where is the chocolate you are probably wandering? Well! I had meant to take along some dark chocolate to chop up and add to the Chelsea buns BUT I had to leave so early in the morning and was in such a rush I totally forgot it. AND I didn’t even have a hot chocolate at lunch time. I may be losing my touch!
The course was held at Occombe Farm near Paignton, a 700 acre organic farm run by the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust and certified by the Soil Association. It was a first visit for me and I was really pleased to discover it. Not only does it have a visitor centre with lots of family events, but it aims to help connect and reconnect people to the food that they eat. It has a farm shop, an on-site cafe and a permanent cookery school offering a wide range of courses suitable for all. With eleven work stations, there was plenty of space. The school was well equipped and we each had our own workspace and oven. All the ingredients and equipment needed were provided including some lovely orange Baking Matters aprons. There was a steady flow of tea and coffee throughout the day to keep us hydrated and socialised. Conveniently, lunch could be bought from the nearby cafe or deli. As it was a nice day, most of us bought pasties and sat outside in the sunshine. Organic free ranging hens were some of the animals to be seen on the farm and I was ridiculously excited to be able to buy a dozen of their eggs for £1.20 – what a bargain.
We came away with a pack containing detailed instructions of the recipes we’d created along with accompanying illustrations. This was just as well as I couldn’t remember all of the roll formations nor how to fold the oven bottom bread. We also came away with a big smile on our faces and an impressive array of bread and buns. The car journey home was an olfactory event in itself.
With thanks to the John Royce for the above mentioned course and to Janie of The Hedge Combers for giving me the opportunity of attending it. I was not required to write a positive review and as always all opinions are my own.
When I set this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge to make a chocolate cake for £1, I really wasn’t at all sure I would be able to do it. Many of the ingredients I use in baking are organic and thus relatively expensive. The chocolate, butter and eggs required for an 8″ round cake cost more than this alone. I knew I was going to have to compromise, but I still wanted it to taste good.
I went off to our local co-op and costed up some possible ingredients. There was no doubt about it, the butter would have to go. As for the chocolate, I had a cunning plan! I would use drinking chocolate with just a smidgen of my Green & Black’s cocoa powder to give it some oomph. I was very lucky to pick up some real free range organic eggs from a farm shop recently that only cost 60p per half dozen – I normally pay twice that amount. I’d also recently bought five large bananas for £1 so figured I might be able to use one of those for added flavour. Then of course there was my dandelion honey that cost very little to make – things were looking up.
The question was, did I make a chocolate cake with eggs and without a banana (I couldn’t manage both) or did I make a vegan chocolate banana cake? Well I did both of course.
Malted Hot Chocolate Cake
- 190g plain flour – 15p
- 100g golden caster sugar – 17p
- 40ml organic sunflower oil – 12p
- 30g drinking chocolate – 17p
- 1 tsp G&B cocoa powder – 3p
- 20g Horlicks – 13p
- 2 x organic eggs – 20p
- 1 tsp baking powder + pinch of rock salt – 2p
- 180 ml water – 0p
Banana Hot Chocolate Honey Cake
- 190g plain flour – 15p
- 100g golden caster sugar – 17p
- 40ml organic sunflower oil – 12p
- 40g drinking chocolate – 24p
- 1 tsp G&B cocoa powder – 3p
- 1 large banana – 20p
- 2 scant tbsp dandelion honey – 6p
- 1 tsp baking powder + pinch salt – 2p
- 1 tbsp malt vinegar + 1/4 tsp bicarb of soda – 1p
- 150 ml water – 0p
I managed to get both cakes within the £1 budget and felt inordinately pleased with myself for doing so. Both cakes were good, but the chocolate banana cake was splendid. It was bigger, had more flavour and a better texture. It reminded me of a banana version of sticky gingerbread. It was so good in fact, I think it might become my go to banana cake – what a revelation. CT tasted them both blind and detected the respective Horlicks and banana flavours; he thought that despite the difference in textures, both were chocolatey and tasty. The banana was light and fluffy in his opinion and the malted cake was firmer and CT reckoned redolent of childhood birthday party chocolate cakes.
Of the two, my entry to the #WeShouldCocoa £1 Chocolate Cake challenge is the Banana Hot Chocolate Cake. I’m really quite excited to see what others have come up with.
I’m also sending this off to Credit Crunch Munch with Camilla of Fab Food for All and Helen of Fuss Free Flavours. This month is being guest hosted by Gingey Bites. I’m not sure the credit for a chocolate cake can be crunched much more than this.
Vanesther of Banger’s & Mash participated in the Live Below the Line Challenge, so has come up with Cheap and Cheerful for this month’s Family Foodies event. My cakes fit the bill perfectly. This event is co-hosted by Lou over at Eat Your Veg.
Made from scratch and made with love, I am also submitting these cakes to Javelin Warrior’s Made with Love Mondays.
Both of these cakes only took 20 minutes to knock up, but as the banana and honey cake has a nice sticky texture, I reckon it is the more dessert like of the two. Served warm with some custard or cold with clotted cream, it would be even more delicious. Normally hosted by Sarah of Maison Cupcake, Dead Easy Desserts is being guest hosted this month by Tina of The Spicy Pear.
- 190g plain flour
- 30g drinking chocolate
- 20g Horlicks
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 1 level tsp baking powder
- a pinch rock or sea salt
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 40ml sunflower oil
- 2 eggs
- 180ml water
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: One 8″ cake
- 190g plain flour
- 40g drinking chocolate
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 1 level tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- a pinch rock or sea salt
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 40ml sunflower oil
- 1 large banana
- 1 tbsp malt vinegar
- 150ml water
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: One 8″ cake