Fruit vinegars make a wonderful addition to many dishes. Vinegar captures the essence of the fruit beautifully reminding us of the season in which it was harvested. This blackcurrant vinegar gives a flavoursome tang to sauces, salads and desserts. It goes particularly well with beetroot. A little poured over simple vanilla ice-cream gives a real wow factor and mixed with water, it makes a refreshing drink.
Having set blueberries as the ingredient for this month’s We Should Cocoa, I’ve not managed to get my act together to bake what I had planned and I don’t think I’m going to before the deadline. However, a couple of years ago, I made these rather scrumptious blueberry and white chocolate flapjacks with some local blueberries, but for some reason never got around to posting about them. Here goes.
Our potatoes went in very late this year so we don’t yet have any to harvest. However a friend has just given us some of hers and whilst they were still fresh, eating them boiled with some delicious garlicky aioli seemed just the thing. And our garlic was ready to harvest.
Well Easter just wouldn’t be right without a little bit of baking. Oh and chocolate of course. Stork have come up with a fun bake to be enjoyed by friends and family over the Easter weekend. They reckon these Easter Nest Cupcakes would make a nice alternative to all those chocolate Easter eggs that abound at this time of the year. But why not have both I say.
Growing up in a Cornish cottage, just outside of the village, the importance of having a well stocked larder was something drummed into me from an early age. Canned food, with its long shelf life, was ideal and I don’t ever remember a time when there wasn’t a cupboard full of tinned tomatoes. It was my job, when new ones were bought, to bring the oldest to the front and put the newest to the back to ensure the tins never passed their use by date. Tinned tomatoes have played an important role as one of my larder staples ever since, along with canned beans and coconut milk. And where would I be without a handy tin of baked beans to put in my Granny’s Shepherd’s Pie?
My mother-in-law has a penchant for Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups – well who doesn’t? So along with the chocolate marshmallow crispies I made for our trip up to the New Forest a couple of weeks ago, I also made some chocolate peanut butter crispies. The recipe for these comes from the same book, Mast Brothers Chocolate: a family cookbook and goes by the name of chocolate crunch. The combination of chocolate peanut butter and crisped rice sounded too good to miss.
We’ve been blessed with a good summer this year and my how we needed it after seven months of solid rain. Along with the good weather comes the picnic season. Eating outside with simple food that hasn’t meant hours spent in the kitchen is what many of us are after – I know I am.
The combination of avocado and chocolate is my no means a new one. It is seen as a fruit in many parts of the world and treated as such, with chocolate sauce often smothering it. However, it’s a completely new combination to me. I’ve been wanting to try it for a long time now, but was finally spurred on by Louise’s recipe for chocolate mousse that she posted earlier this month.
Having set the challenge to celebrate We Should Cocoa’s 2nd birthday with cocktails, I was subsequently completely flummoxed as to what to make. I know nothing about cocktails, except that I’m usually happy to drink one when it’s offered. I wanted to do something other than cupcakes, not because I don’t like cupcakes, but I thought there might be a proliferation of these and it would be fun to do something different. However, the days flew by and I was no nearer deciding what to make and then it was time to go back to work after my lovely three week break. Needing something to take back to work with me, I thought cupcakes would probably work best as they are less messy than a cake which needs to be cut with a knife. And it was National Cupcake Week too. So, my cocktail entry has turned out to be cupcakes after all.
Following on from my Chocadoodledoo, I quite fancied making a cupcake version of the cocktail, using the peppermint schnapps I made earlier in the year. Seeing Jacs’s post for her After Eight cake, confirmed my decision – it looked so good. A little googling came up with a Chocolate Mint Rum cocktail which was similar enough for me and also meant I could enter these into Baking with Spirit, which happens to be rum this month. I based my recipe on the one I made for chocolate peppermint cupcakes a couple of years ago and tweaked it to make way for the rum and mint schanpps. I also changed the frosting by adding cream cheese and mint liqueur.
This is how I did it:
- Melted 85g unsalted butter with 100g dark peppermint chocolate (Co-op Fairtrade 51%) in a large pan over a low heat.
- Added 175g dark brown sugar and stirred until smooth.
- Beat in two large eggs.
- Sifted in 180g flour (1/3 wholemeal, 1/3 white, 1/3 buckwheat) with 2 heaped tsp cocoa powder, 3/4 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda.
- Stirred in 2 tbsp yogurt.
- Poured 2 tbsp rum into a jug with 1 tbsp mint schapps and topped up to 150ml with water.
- Mixed this in until just incorporated.
- Spooned into 15 cupcake cases and baked at 180C for 17 minutes until risen and firm to the touch.
- Left to cool for 10 minutes then turned out onto a rack to cool completely.
- Creamed 50g unsalted butter with 130g sifted icing sugar.
- Added 3 tsp peppermint schnapps to soften and beat until well incorporated.
- Beat in 50g cream cheese.
- Topped the cupcakes with the icing and added Elizabeth Shaw mint batons to give a cocktail effect.
I was really pleased with this experiment; I was aiming for subtlety with the mint and rum and this is what I got. CT described them as blowing hot and cold. The warmth of the rum came through like a tropical breeze to be quickly countered by a cooling menthol blast. In a moment of verbosity, he went on to say that the mint intensity had three stages: a hint of mint in the sponge, distinctly minty in the icing finished by a powerful burst from the chocolate baton. He recommended that the cake be eaten from the bottom up to enjoy the full experience. The sponge was moist and light and the cream cheese icing was delicious as was the rum chocolate sponge. Yum.
Janine over at Cake of the Week has just started a new challenge, the most appropriately named Baking with Spirit whereby a different alcoholic drink is chosen to cook with each month. This inaugural month happens to be rum, so I’m putting these cakes forward.