An old hand at bread-making I may be, but I was a little daunted when I was recently sent an automatic Panasonic bread maker to try out. I have never used a machine to make bread before, other than an oven and I was a little concerned I would fall at the first hurdle. In truth I’ve always been a bit wary of bread makers as I’d heard they weren’t great for the flours I like to bake with – spelt and rye.
It’s International Scone Week over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. Now in it’s fifth year, I’m quite shocked to find that I haven’t participated since 2012. If you ever need a scone recipe, Celia’s annual round-ups of all sorts of scones from bloggers around the world is a must. Read on to get the recipe for my rich dark chocolate scones.
Saffron with its bright yellow hues and subtle floral and bitter notes is a spice which seems singularly exotic. But it has long been associated with Cornwall. It is said that the Cornish traded with the Phoenicians way back, exchanging tin for saffron and it’s been used here ever since. This may or may not be true, but saffron was a highly popular ingredient in the Middle Ages and saffron crocuses were grown in Bude until the late 19th Century.
Creme Egg doughnuts are one of those phenomena that seem to be doing the rounds at the moment. The sugar hit that comes from eating one of these must be something else; I have it on good authority that running around in circles for sometime after having consumed one is not unusual. As someone whose childhood sweet tooth has mellowed, I still have a ridiculous fondness for Cadbury creme eggs. But I wasn’t sure I could cope with ladling on even more sugar.
When I was asked if I’d like to review some creme eggs, I had doughnuts very much in mind and knew that the time had come to try baking with these chocolate eggs. To temper some of the sweetness, I thought I would try baking them into an unsweetened bread roll – well pain au chocolate works!
As soon as I figured that out, I thought I could make pizza dough and use a little of it for two small bread rolls, leaving enough for a pizza supper. Instead of using olive oil in the dough, I tried using hazelnut oil instead, thinking that would give a welcome nuttiness to the pizza and make the bread part of my creme egg bun a little more interesting.
Creme eggs, just in case anyone is unaware, are a classic Easter treat from Cadbury: a milk chocolate shell filled with sugar fondant, white with a yellow centre, mimicking an actual egg. They are very sweet. As a child, I used to be sent a pack of them every Easter from my grandmother and I’d try and eek them out for as long as I could.
Along with the creme eggs, I was sent two packs of a new to me cadbury product which came out last Easter: Egg ‘n’ Spoon – one of each kind. Ingeniously packed into an egg box, the four eggs come complete with two spoons, which I thought rather cute. A milk chocolate shell contains either a white chocolate or milk chocolate mousse depending on which variety you have.
I decided to try mine in an egg cup and eat it with the spoon. The top comes off easily, leaving a nicely jagged shell and the contents were easily spooned out of it. Personally, I didn’t find the eating experience that good, the chocolate was soft, so I’m guessing the cocoa content was very low and the mousse was OK, but no more than that. However, these are great for sharing and are a really fun Easter idea; I suspect kids would love them, I know I would have done.
To keep the kids, or even yourself, amused after the eggs have disappeared, you can get crafty and create a Batty Aunt Polly’s Earring Drum out of the two empty boxes.
This is how I made:
Creme Egg Buns
- Threw 250g flour (half wholemeal, half strong white) into a bowl together with 1 tsp instant yeast, 1/4 tsp salt and ½ tsp maca powder (one of those super foods that are meant to be so good for us).
- Made a well in the centre and added 1 tbsp hazelnut oil and 150ml warm water.
- Stirred until just combined, then turned out onto an oiled worktop and kneaded for about 10 minutes.
- Cut off an ⅛ of the dough and returned the rest to a covered bowl and left to rise in the cool for a few more hours.
- Cut the small bit of dough into two and rolled each piece into a rectangle just big enough to wrap around an egg.
- Encased two eggs in the dough ensuring they were properly sealed.
- Placed on a lined baking tray and left to rise in a warm place for an hour.
- Brushed with milk and baked at 200°C for 12 minutes when the tops were golden and the bottoms sounded hollow when tapped.
- Placed on a wire rack to cool.
I thought CT wouldn’t be able to handle anything quite as sweet as these, so I only left him half of one to try. I had one warm and a half cold. I have never had a warm cream egg before, but I can attest it is an experience worth having. In fact it was rather delicious, the contents having completely melted and soaked lusciously into the bread. However, it was the second one where the egg had time to set which I enjoyed the best and surprisingly CT enjoyed it too. As I’d hoped, the plain bread acted as a good foil for the sweet egg and worked very well indeed with the hazelnut notes giving a little added interest.
These would be a fun and interesting way of using up leftover Easter chocs – assuming you ever have such a thing! Of course if you really wanted to party, you could forget the pizza and use this amount of dough to make 16 creme egg buns
Bread is such a fascinating bake. There is so much variety in taste and texture to be had. Thankfully there has been a revival of interest in real bread in recent years, spearheaded in Britain by the Real Bread Campaign. New techniques and methods are being invented or rediscovered all the time it seems. I’ve been making my own bread since I was a teenager – on and off. But it wasn’t until I attended a bread making course with Andrew Whitley a few years ago that I discovered, when it comes to water, more is definitely best. Wet doughs may be harder to knead, but generally give a much better result. I’ve been hearing about no knead breads for a while now. My own rye sourdough requires no kneading, but could this really work for wheat breads I wondered? I really kneaded (get it) to try it out for myself. Thanks to the unexpected delivery of a Lékué bread maker, I finally managed it.
One of the few things I miss as a vegetarian is a good lardy cake. Our local bakery BlakesBakery does a particularly good one. Rich with fat, sugar and spicy fruit, it has a crunchy exterior with a lovely doughy interior. When I found out the #TeaTimeTreats theme was for yeast bakery this month, an idea was conceived. I would invent my very own non-lardy, lardy cake using white chocolate instead of lard, my own candied peel and very non traditionally, apples.
Breakfast is one of my favourite meals, but unless we’re away on holiday, I tend to stick to toast. This isn’t really a hardship as I make my own rye sourdough which is delicious and it’s also very convenient. But as I’m usually in a rush in the mornings, I rarely get to sit down, so when I can, it is a real treat and always seems worth indulging in something a little different to toast. Talking of sourdough, it’s #SourdoughSeptember, so it’s a good time to acquaint yourself with this ancient and delicious bread.
Pancakes really are a treat, so when I was sent some Orgran gluten free buckwheat pancake mix to try, I hurried into the kitchen and greased the pan. Basically it consists of stonemilled buckwheat, rice flour, tapioca starch, maize starch and raising agents. It contains no added sweeteners, artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. As directed, I added eggs and water to make ranch style pancakes. Directions for vegan or egg free pancakes were also given. I also added some blueberries gathered from my mother’s garden – this year being the first decent crop she’s had.
I learnt that like quinoa, buckwheat is not in fact a grain; it is a member of the rhubarb family which I found intriguing. When relating this to CT, he tried not to be too condescending, but I could detect a certain air of “you ignoramus” in his demeanour.
I knocked up some chocolate sauce to drizzle over the top by combining dark chocolate, double cream and a little honey. I warmed the ingredients up together in a pan over low heat until the chocolate had melted. I then stirred it well until it was properly combined and smooth.
Although these pancakes were delicious, I have to say I don’t really see the point of pancake mixes. Measuring out some flour and raising agent and throwing it into a bowl is really not that difficult. The main part of the process which is mixing in eggs and milk or water has to be done anyway. Because this mix was gluten free, it contained extra ingredients which you might not have to hand, so I’m prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt.
Tea is the best drink of the day and what better accompaniment to breakfast pancakes than this Lemon Green Tea from Pukka – an organic and fairtrade whole leaf sencha tea with lemon verbena and Sicilian lemon which comes in a pack of 20 tea sachets. It was light and refreshing with just a touch of lemon which gave it a nice lift. The scent of lemon rising from the cup helped give CT the fortitude to tackle his stack of pancakes. One sachet made an initial pot for two which we then refilled with water and got another cup each. I can see this becoming a bit of a favourite with us.
Reminiscent of the Kellogg’s variety packs I used to be given as a special treat when I was a young’un, these newly launched Yoosli are a more grown up and health conscious version. This cleverly named muesli selection from Yoosli provides a Monday to Friday breakfast experience delivered to your door via the postal service. Inveterate muesli munchers know it’s nice to have a bit of variety. Designed to fit through your letterbox, this is the ultimate in convenience breakfasts. Letterbox friendly cows have yet to be developed, CT quipped. All ingredients are organic which meant it got bonus points from me and the portion sizes are reasonable. Although I prefer not to have any sugar at breakfast as I generally manage to get plenty during the rest of the day, these were not too sweet. The flavours are really good and a variety of unusual ingredients are used for added interest. I was pleased to see that many of them contained chocolate – what a treat. This is a bit of fun and removes any agonising over what to eat for breakfast, which is fine as long as you are prepared to pay for the privilege in cost and packaging disposal. A weekly subscription costs £3.49.
Neville’s Cranberry Poppy Spelt – This was a crunchy granola which was not too sweet and had a nice flavour with plenty of fruit and nuts, including cranberries and pine nuts. The addition of poppy seeds gave a welcome savoury note which I found very pleasant.
Cassie’s Physalis Choc – The rich aroma of chocolate combined with a fruity scent, made this packet particularly enticing. These are sophisticated cocoa pops with interesting additions which convert an old familiar into something far more appealing. It was lovely and crunchy and the sour bits of physalis and morsels of dark chocolate gave an added piquancy. Again this was not too sweet, thankfully. In fact it was quite delicious and felt like a real holiday indulgence.
I have yet to try the other three varieties, but they sound equally good and going by the first two, they are definitely something to look forward to: Casey’s Milk Choc Chocolatey with dark chocolate, cranberries and macadamia nuts; Neville’s Honey Choc Apple with chocolate and apple-cinnamon clusters; Louis’ Nutty Fruit Porridge with apricot, blueberries and puffed amaranth.
Hot chocolate is an indulgence I very rarely have at breakfast, but it does give a holiday air to proceedings. I’ve often heard about the slabs of Mexican chocolate flavoured with cinnamon used for making drinking chocolate and have been intrigued. So I was really quite excited to get some from the Mex Grocer. There is something about a large disc of solid chocolate that is so much more appealing than a jar of powder.
Chocolate Ibarra came in a heavy pack weighing in at 540g. As the principal ingredient is sugar, this isn’t quite as exciting as it might otherwise be. It consists of six rather attractive hexagonal shaped discs which each make 4 cups of drinking chocolate, 24 cups in total. The smell of chocolate and cinnamon emanating from the opened packet was irresistible. The texture of the solid chocolate is gritty and nothing like a normal bar of chocolate, but although you’re not meant to eat it as such, I found nibbling on it to be quite a pleasant experience.
The directions were to use two triangles per cup, but I wasn’t quite sure how big a cup should be. By using a mug, I suspect I made a weaker version than was intended. Lacking a suitable molinillo, I frothed it up, as suggested, using a hand held blender – it worked very well. The hot chocolate was very sweet and not as rich as I was expecting, but the flavour of cinnamon was delicious. The recommendation was to stir this with a stick of cinnamon and leave it to infuse a while. Next time I cook up a Mexican meal, I’ll be sure to serve a few cups of this and use the cinnamon sticks too.
I was sent these items for review purposes and as always, all opinions are my own.
These sweet and sticky buttery fruity yeast chocolate Chelsea buns are a real treat. They’re studded with the usual raisins, but also dark chocolate to give extra depth of flavour and delight.