Vegetarian food blog featuring delicious and nutritious home cooked recipes, creative baking and luscious chocolate.

Chocolate Cinnamon Smacaroons – #BakeItForward

Biscuits, Gifts | 4th December 2014 | By

Smacaroons

When I arrived back from London last week, I found a box of Waitrose #BakeItForward decorating goodies waiting for me. All of them looked perfect for upcoming Christmas merriment and I have to confess to just a little bit of excited festive hopping around. I was most interested in Heston’s chocolate coated popping candy and some edible gold glitter and these are what I decided to try first.

Now how, I wondered, was I going to use it. I’ve never tried baking with popping candy before or decorating with it. I mused that as this particular candy was covered in chocolate it might work in a dryish biscuity bake. I’d read somewhere that popping candy loses it’s fizz if it comes into contact with moisture. Chocolate macaroons with their nutty chewy centres are a good bake for this time of year and with a bit of popping candy to liven them up, CT reckoned that smacaroons would be an appropriate name for them.

In the run up to Christmas, Waitrose is celebrating home bakes in its #BakeItForward campaign. All you have to do to take part is bake something for a friend, take a picture of it, share on social media using the hashtag #BakeItForward and nominate them to do the same. Every day until 23rd December, randomly selected participants will be rewarded with treats including hampers and bottles of champagne.

I am overrun with ideas as to how to use the contents of the box of delights I was sent and most of them involve Christmas biscuits, so watch this space. Most of these will be shared with various friends, family and neighbours, but as CT is particularly fond of nutty biscuits, these macaroons are made for him.

As you can probably tell from the picture, these are the British version and are not meant to be the fancy French macarons that have become all the rage. I have adapted this recipe from Jill Norman’s The Complete Book of Spices. Made with dark chocolate and flavoured with cinnamon, they are substantial, chewy and very nutty.

This is how I made:

Chocolate Cinnamon Smacaroons

  • Placed 125g caster sugar in a bowl together with 150g ground almonds, ¾ tsp cinnamon and 75g of Mortimer’s 70% West African chocolate powder (could use finely grated or melted chocolate instead).
  • Whisked together to ensure there were no lumps, then added 2 tbsp popping candy.
  • Stirred in 2 duck egg whites (large hen’s eggs).
  • Gathered spoonfuls into my hands and rolled into walnut sized balls. Flattened out into discs and laid on a lined baking tray.
  • Baked at 180℃ for 12 minutes.
Chocolate Macaroons

As it happened, my hopes for the popping candy working in the macaroons went unrealised. Whether this was because the candy came into contact with moisture or because it couldn’t take the heat remains a mystery, but there was no pop to be had. Not being prepared to lose the name smacaroons, I quickly rethought my strategy. I made up a little water icing and drizzled this over the smacaroons. Popping candy was scattered over the top and then given a dusting of edible glitter.

 

Bake of the Week BadgeI’m sending these off to Helen of Casa Costello for her Bake of the Week. Do take a look at her fabulous Christmas Tree cupcakes with concealed star.

I am also sending this off to Kat at The Baking Explorer for Treate Petite where the theme this month is – ta da – Christmas. You can see last month’s thankful round-up over at CakeyBoi.

Thanks to Waitrose for the beautifully wrapped parcel of baking goodies and voucher received in exchange for letting my readers know about the campaign. As always, all opinions are my own.

Hot Chocolate in a Glass Jar

Afternoon Tea at a top London hotel was mighty fine, but my main reason for going up to our bustling capital was to learn more about using glass for food presentation. Friends of Glass is committed to promoting awareness of the benefits of using glass over plastic. As we know, plastic is the scourge of the environment and particles of it can now be found in every part of the globe, even Antarctica. Glass on the other hand, is reusable and 100% recyclable. Glass is also a healthier option. It is the most inert packaging material we have and thus highly impermeable making it far less likely to taint any food stored in it. I’ve long been passionate about using glass for storage rather than plastic and I have collected a lot of glass jars and containers over the years. Bring back the milk bottle and deposits for glass bottles I say.

Last Thursday evening, a bunch of bloggers and journalists turned up at Cactus Studios, Michel Roux Jr’s cookery school, where incidentally, Saturday Kitchen is filmed. We were there to brush up our Christmas creativity using glass. What a delight to come in from the cold and dark to be greeted with a glass of warm mulled cider and a room glowing with candlelight and glass. As we chatted, we were served shot glasses of red pepper soup with pesto. The colours were fantastic and immediately I started to see the point of serving food in glasses. The colours and textures of the food really shine through and can make your dish look even more enticing. Not long after the soup, we were served cranberries and melted brie in the most adorable little glass jars that I coveted immediately. Bread sticks were cunningly placed in the metal clips. Here already, were two fabulous ideas for Christmas canapés, starters or pre-dinner nibbles.

We were soon shepherded upstairs to the teaching kitchen to watch chef Bridget Colvin and BBC TV presenter Cherry Healey demo some further ideas. I really enjoyed this part; not only was Bridget knowledgable and competent, but the two made for a good double act. Spiced parsnip soup served in little glass jars with parsnip crisps was a winner which I will be replicating at some point during this festive season. Much ribald hilarity ensued whilst Cherry whizzed up some delicious pesto.

The piece de resistance, however, was a pie in a jar. I’d not come across this concept before. The beauty of making individual pies this way, is not only do they look enticing, but they can be tailor made to suit individual tastes and tolerances. The demo was for a ham hock pie, but vegetarian ones had been made for Nayna of Simply Food and I and very delicious they were too. Layers of butternut squash, spinach, potatoes, shallots and peas with cheese sauce and a puff pastry crust all cooked and served in a clip top jar. What a fantabulous idea. A glass of wine made for a very welcome accompaniement.

Feeling somewhat full, we were called over for the final demo: brandied clementines in a jar. This time we had to pay attention as this was the dish we were going to make. We were shown how to prepare clementines and I now know how to remove most of the pith easily. It’s the sort of thing that looks pretty and makes for a lovely gift, but not something I’d ever thought of doing. The vanilla brandy syrup we made tasted heady and decadent and would work well with most fruits I reckon – so that’s one of my Christmas presents sorted.

Then it was back downstairs for mince pies and the final activity of the evening. An array of enticing edible delights were laid out in various bowls and jars and at last chocolate made an entrance. We were going to make up our own hot chocolate gift in a jar – what fun. We started with a layer of drinking chocolate and then it was a free for all. I added a layer of white chocolate buttons, followed by little fudge pieces. Milk chocolate buttons went next, then marshmallows and finally a layer of milk chocolate buttons. The part I really loved about this was tying on extras around the outside of the jar: a stick of cinnamon, a candy cane and my absolute favourite, a miniature bottle of Amaretto Disaronno found there way onto my jar. Finished off with a tag which I’d stamped with gold stars, this was the gift I was most pleased with. It came in very handy as a thank you to my friend for putting me up for the night. I have to say she was very impressed with it and thought it a lovely gift to suit both her and the children.

Many thanks to Friends of Glass for a fun, friendly, entertaining evening, plus the bonus of leaving with some really nice Christmas gifts, including a jar of Rubies in the Rubble red onion & chilli chutney. I had a splendid time and would be very happy to do this all over again. You can see some far better pictures of the event than mine over at the Friends of Glass Facebook page.

Orange and Cinnamon White Chocolate Shortbread

Biscuits, Gifts | 25th December 2013 | By


Wishing all my readers

A
Very
Merry
Christmas

And I leave you with yet another Christmas shortbread recipe – a spicy and citrussy one this time.

This is how I made:

Orange and Cinnamon White Chocolate Shortbread

  • Softened 50g of good quality white chocolate by putting it in the mixing bowl and placing it on the storage heater for ten minutes.
  • Added 170g of unsalted butter cubed and left to soften.
  • Creamed the butter and chocolate with 85g golden caster sugar until pale in colour and fluffy in texture.
  • Added the grated zest of an organic orange and creamed some more.
  • Sifted in 175g plain flour (half wholemeal, half white), 80g brown rice flour, a pinch of pink Himalayan rock salt and 1 rounded tsp ground cinnamon.
  • Stirred until incorporated, then formed into a ball and left in my cold kitchen to firm up for half an hour.
  • Rolled out to about 3mm thickness and stamped out snowflake shapes getting about 60 biscuits in total. I also tried to make some buttons, but they didn’t quite work out as planned.
  • Left to firm up in my cold kitchen for 15 minutes.
  • Baked for 7-8 mins at 180°C until just golden.
  • Dusted with fine caster sugar whilst still hot, then transferred to a wire rack to cool and harden.
  • Packaged up into bags, then added labels and ribbons.
I did manage to snaffle one to try and they were quite delicious with a good Christmassy flavour.
I’m submitting these to the Spice Trail with Venesther over at Bangers & Mash. The chosen spice this month is cinnamon.

A Plethora of White Chocolate Shortbread Biscuits

Biscuits, Gifts, Tea | 18th December 2013 | By

 

I was so pleased with the chilli white chocolate shortbread snowflakes that I made last month, that I seem to have done nothing else recently but make more shortbread biscuits based on that recipe. I was baking for a friend’s birthday party recently and thought it would be fun to make “after dinner” tea and coffee biscuits. With 100 guests expected, I made two batches of the biscuits resulting in about 110 in total. To one I added Japanese matcha tea powder to give an intriguing tea flavour and green colour and to the other I added some ground coffee which gave an interesting speckled look and a mild but definite coffee flavour. These proved to be rather popular, especially, it seemed, for scooping up a very large trifle that had been made for the occasion. Even more recently, I made over 60 lemon and cardamom biscuits for my last day at work. I haven’t quite decided what biscuits I shall be making for Christmas this year, but as I’ve ordered some organic oranges, I’m currently in favour of making some orange and cardamom white chocolate shortbread biscuits. By the new year, I suspect I shall be thoroughly fed up with shortbread.

Like their chilli shortbread predecessors, any of these would look good pierced and hung with ribbon from the Christmas tree. They’d also make lovely Christmas gifts.

Coffee White Chocolate Shortbread
Matcha White Chocolate Shortbread
 
Lemon Shortbread
Lemon and Cardamom White Chocolate Shortbread

This is how I made:

White Chocolate Shortbread Biscuits

  • Softened 50g of good quality white chocolate by putting it in the mixing bowl and placing it on the storage heater for ten minutes.
  • Added 170g of unsalted butter cubed and left to soften.
  • Creamed the butter and chocolate with 85g golden caster sugar until pale in colour and fluffy in texture (used cardamom sugar for the lemon cardamom biscuits).
  • Added 175g plain flour (half wholemeal, half white), 80g brown rice flour and a pinch of pink Himalayan rock salt.
  • Depending on the flavour, added 1) 2 heaped tsp of matcha powder 2) 2 heaped tsp ground coffee 3) grated zest of an organic lemon together with the ground up seeds of 3 cardamom pods.
  • Stirred until incorporated, then formed into a ball and left in my cold kitchen to firm up for half an hour.
  • Rolled out to about 3mm thickness and stamped out small shapes getting 50 to 60 biscuits in total (hearts for the matcha shortbread, flowers for the coffee and snowflakes for lemon cardamom).
  • Left to firm up in my cold kitchen for 15 minutes.
  • Baked for 7-8 mins at 180°C until just golden.
  • Dusted with fine caster sugar whilst still hot, then transferred to a wire rack to cool and harden.

Jo at Comfort Bites has started a new challenge with the same name as her blog Comfort Bites. This month her theme is Christmas and as these would make great Christmas gifts, I am entering them.

Well as far as biscuits go, these are fairly Quick and Easy which is the theme for this month’s The Biscuit Barrel with Laura of I’d Much Rather Bake Than … The stamping can be fiddly if you use a small snowflake cutter as I did for the lemon cardamom cookies, but a larger and simpler stamp would not take very long at all.

As my wholemeal flour is bought locally from Cotehele Mill where it is ground with a traditional water powered stone, I am entering these into Shop Local at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

And as everything is made from scratch some of these are being sent of to Javelin Warrior for his Made with Love Mondays.

Goat’s Cheese Chocolate Truffles

Chocolates, Gifts | 14th December 2013 | By

 
 
 
Goat's Cheese Truffles

Way way back many months ago, I was unable to attend a blogger’s event at Chantal Coady’s Rococo chocolate factory. I read many accounts of the fabulous time had by all. The highlight for most, other than indulging themselves with chocolate, was a demonstration of how to make goat’s cheese truffles. I’d already heard accounts of how well these two unlikely ingredients worked together and indeed I’ve tried the combination out for myself on several occasions. My goat’s cheese and chocolate tarts are so good, I keep coming back to them again and again. However, I didn’t get around to trying out goat’s cheese chocolate truffles until I hosted a six course chocolate dinner back in July, when I thought they would make a fitting and interesting end to the meal. I didn’t have a recipe and after looking on the internet and getting baffled by all the myriad permutations I found there, I just made up my own very simple version.

This is how I made:

Goat Cheese Chocolate Truffles

  • Melted 150g 37% milk chocolate in a bowl over hot water then left to cool a little.
  • Beat 150g ripe and soft Capricorn goat cheese with 1 scant tbsp golden icing sugar.
  • Stirred in the chocolate until all incorporated.
  • Placed in the fridge to set for a couple of hours.
  • Sifted 1 tbsp cocoa powder into a bowl.
  • Rolled teaspoonfuls into balls using my hands then dropped them into the cocoa and rolled them around until fully coated. I made 22 quite large truffles.
  • Placed back in the fridge again until ready to eat.
 
Goats Cheese Truffles

Goodness gracious me – these were as delicious as I’d hoped. They finished the meal off very nicely indeed. I decided to use a sweet milk chocolate rather than a bitter dark one as I thought it might combine better with the saltiness and the goaty tang. Even with the milk chocolate and addition of icing sugar, these were almost, but not quite savoury. They made a fine stand-in for the traditional cheese and fruit course.

These would make excellent Christmas gifts for the more adventurous chocolate or cheese lover and if I get my act together I’ll be making another batch.

This month’s Tea Time Treats is for Festive Foodie Gifts, so I am sending some of these to join the prettily packaged tea time table over at What Kate Baked. I expect Karen of Lavender and Lovage will be taking a look-in too.

These truffles weren’t exactly small, but they are an individual portions, which makes them eligible for Treat Petite with Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer. The theme this month is Happy Holidays.

Recipe of the Week with Emily over at A Mummy Too also gets to enjoy one or two of these fabulous truffles.

Chilli Shortbread Biscuits for Christmas – Perfect for Hanging on the Tree

Christmas Chilli Shortbread Biscuits

A number of factors combined recently leading to the creation of these hot! hot! hot! chilli shortbread biscuits. I can only describe these as a chilli lovers delight. Hang them on the tree or pack them up into a pretty box, tin or bag as a gift for those that like a bit of spice in their life.. Either way, they’re bound to make a Christmas talking point. 

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Salted Caramelised Almond Chocolates – We Should Cocoa #36

Salted Caramelised Almond Chocolates

The wonderfully creative Elizabeth from her kitchen in Shetland is hosting this month’s We Should Cocoa and she has tasked us with making bite sized chocolates. Flavours are completely up to us. As it happened I’d been given some chocolate flower moulds with sticks as a birthday present from my mother and this seemed the perfect opportunity to try them out and make one of my favourites, almond chocolates.

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Homemade Chocolate Brazils – Covered in Caramel and Dark Chocolate

Homemade Chocolate Brazils

Chocolates, Gifts, Vegan | 3rd January 2013 | By

These homemade chocolate Brazils may not be quite as healthy as the sugar-free We Should Cocoa challenge I have set for January, but they were jolly delicious and contained only a small amount of sugar. They are also suitable for vegans.

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Festive Cookies in a Jar

Biscuits, Gifts | 19th December 2012 | By

In the excitement leading up to the Liskeard Christmas Vintage Market, I came across this post on cookies in a jar over at the Pink Whisk. I thought they would be a fun item to try selling at the stall I was helping out on. And if they didn’t sell, I could give them as Christmas gifts.

In these days of lavish and wasteful packaging, these make a great low waste alternative gift: they are fun, attractive in their own right, you get to make some cookies (always a good thing) and you have a handy jar for reuse.

This is how I did them:

  • Sterilised three 500 ml jars by washing them out in clean soapy water then putting them in the oven for 20 minutes at 100C.
  • For each one, weighed and sieved 75g plain flour, 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1/4 tsp baking powder and carefully spooned into bottom of the jars to create an even (ish) layer.
  • Spooned in 75g light muscovado sugar in an even layer.
  • Added 50g dried cranberries followed by 50g dark 70% chocolate (roughly chopped) to one jar.
  • Added 50g white chocolate chips, followed by 50g dried cranberries to another jar.
  • Added 50g white chocolate chips, followed by 50g raisins to another jar.
  • Finished off the layering with 60g rolled oats.
  • Labelled the jars, then covered the tops with a couple of layers of red tissue paper and tied with twine and added a card with the baking instructions. As follows:
  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl with 1 egg and 50g melted butter (or 2 tbsp sunflower oil).
  • Place spoonfuls (about 12) onto a lined baking tray and bake at 180C for 6-8 minutes.
The jars created quite a talking point and I sold two out of the three, which I was well chuffed with. I was going to try making the cookies myself, but ran out of time. I do, however, have complete faith in the Pink Whisk and I am planning on making some before Christmas.

NB 20.12.12
I’ve just made a batch of these cookies and can report that they worked really well and are absolutely delicious. I will do a quick post about them soon.

 

Rosemary Chocolate Truffles – Random Recipes

Chocolates, Gifts | 16th December 2012 | By

When Dom announced that this month’s Random Recipes was to choose something from a book gifted at Christmas last year, I thought oh good. I was thrilled to have received Tea with Bea as a present last year and really haven’t used it much. Now was my chance, I thought. But something was drifting around in the back of my mind, trying to get break through to the surface. With a feeling of doom, the thought finally emerged: I received two books for Christmas last year. The second was the highly regarded Cooking with Chocolate by Frederic Bau from the Ecole du Grand Chocolat Valrhona – eek! Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic book and I love poring through its pages whilst having fantasies about reproducing the high art of patisserie found therein. But these are, I should stress, fantasies, not actuality. I mean to say, me? Actually make something from it?

I used a random generator hoping against hope that Tea with Bea would be chosen; after all I did have a 50% chance. But, it was not to be. With heavy heart, I used the random generator once again. Page 378 gave me a concoction so complicated I nearly fainted on the spot. A cake made up of seven, yes seven different recipes: chocolate sponge, ginduja pastry, gold-dusted chocolate shards, chocolate custard, cocoa syrup, chocolate mousse and a chocolate glaze. I could see Christmas would have to be cancelled as I locked myself in the kitchen for the next few days. No, sorry Dom. For the first time in all these months of entering Random Recipes I was going to cheat. I had a tentative look at the recipe on the previous page and then looked again. Yippee, Golden Palets (or truffles to you and me). I was wanting to make chocolates for Christmas and to enter Vanessa’s virtual Lets Make Christmas chocolate event having sadly missed the real live one at the Rococo Chocolate Factory in London, so these would be perfect. Even the thought of tempering chocolate and the three stars donating hardest level recipe, did not put me off. These seemed to be simplicity itself in comparison to the da Vinci Code of cakes.

On 12/12/12 it was my Great Uncle’s 100th birthday. There is a big family get together up in Kent this weekend to celebrate this momentous and unusual event. I wanted to make a particularly good job of these chocolates as some of them are destined for the birthday boy. No pressure then.

Inevitably, I changed the recipe, but like to think I stayed true to the spirit of the golden palets. I flavoured the ganache with rosemary rather than vanilla and upped some of the quantities as I wanted to make a goodly number.

This is how I made rosemary chocolate truffles:

  • Placed a large sprig of rosemary from the garden into a pan.
  • Poured in 250ml double cream and bought to a simmer.
  • Turned the heat off and left it to infuse until cold.
  • Removed the rosemary.
  • Added 2 tbsp of set Cornish honey and warmed the mixture up again until it was just hot and the honey had melted.
  • Gave it a good stir.
  • Melted 240g dark chocolate (Green & Black’s Cook’s 72%) in a bowl over hot water.
  • Stirred until smooth then removed from the heat.
  • Poured one third of the cream into the chocolate and stirred in quick small circles until all incorporated.
  • Poured in another third and repeated followed by the final third.
  • Added 25g of diced unsalted butter and stirred until smooth.
  • Spooned some into 24 chocolate moulds and left to set overnight along with the rest of the mixture.
  • Turned out the ganache from the moulds onto a silicone mat and rolled teaspoonfuls of the remaining ganache into 30 balls.
  • Melted 340g of dark chocolate (Green & Black’s 72% Cook’s) in a glass bowl over hot water, ensuring it didn’t go over 58C.
  • Removed from the heat and let it cool down to 29C
  • Placed it back on the heat and raised the temperature to 32C
  • Dipped the ganache pieces into the chocolate with a fork and placed on a silicone mat to set. Decorated some with a sugar flower and some with a light dusting of edible gold glitter – 54 in total.
  • Hunted around for hours, trying to find suitable boxes to put them in.
  • Used the remaining melted chocolate for other items which will feature on the blog in due course.

My tempering didn’t give my the glossy chocolate I was hoping for, but I wasn’t really surprised. Apart from anything else, my kitchen was colder than the fridge, which doesn’t make for happy chocolate. However, after the three hours it took me to temper the chocolate and dip everything, I was determined to be pleased with the results. They certainly tasted fantastic, with the flavour of rosemary coming through nicely, but not too strongly. The texture was beautifully smooth and with a bit of dressing up, they looked fine.

 

Dom may have a lot to answer for, but Random Recipes spurred me into action and produced a huge number of chocolate gift boxes, so I will forgive him 😉

I was so sorry to have missed the fabulous Lets Make Christmas gift swap with Vanessa Kimbell and Chantel Coady, but am delighted to be able to submit this post to the virtual version and thus play some part in the great chocolate event of the year. Incidentally Vanessa is very excitingly now running a cookery school in Northampton called Juniper & Rose.

With the rosemary playing such an important part in these chocolates, I am also submitting this to Karen’s Herbs on Saturday.

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