Whenever we head west out of Liskeard, we have the delight of driving down the glorious Glynn Valley. It makes for a fantastic mini road trip. Glynn is the Cornish word for a deep wooded valley, so the name is a bit of a tautology, but an attractive one.
|Picture courtesy of Sadie Phillips|
Have you ever wanted to do a chocolate course? Wondered what tempering chocolate was all about or how to make ganache or truffles? As some of you may know, I have been struggling with tempering chocolate for a long time now. Occasionally it’s worked, but more often than not it hasn’t and the chocolates I’ve made with love just don’t look very good. Not only that, they don’t last very long and I don’t mean because I have scoffed them all. The chocolate is dull and often produces a white bloom after a couple of days. This not only looks unappealing, but just doesn’t taste right. So when given the opportunity to attend a morning’s chocolate session with Cornwall’s top chocolatier, Nicky Grant, I was determined to attend.
|Picture courtesy of Sadie Phillips|
Nicky Grant, patissiere and chocolatier, has won several awards for her delectable fresh handmade chocolates; I’ve tasted them on a number of occasions and reviewed them here on my blog. Flavours I haven’t tried yet but am particularly keen to include, cardamom & pistachio, lime & chilli, honey & cinnamon and Cornish Blue & port. Nicky’s fennel & ginger won an Academy of Chocolate Gold in 2011 and her Cornish seasalted caramel, which is to die for, won a Gold Great Taste Award. Behind every great woman there is a great man and husband Tom is sous chef and business manager. The couple have recently branched out into hosting bespoke chocolate courses. If you want to learn a specific aspect of chocolate making, cake making or decorating, give them a call. For those unable to attend a course in a remote (but very lovely) part of the country, there are plans afoot to run various courses online.
We all know that Cornwall is God’s own country, but it was a thoroughly awful day weatherise. The cold driving rain, made for an unpleasant journey, but the allure and aroma of melted chocolate soon eliminated all other thoughts. A select band of Cornish bloggers along with a journalist and photographer gathered in the Grants’ farmhouse kitchen and dried out in front of the Aga. Nat of the HungryHinny I knew, but the others I was meeting for the first time: Rachel of Saffron Bunny, Sadie Phillips from Cornwall Food and Drink, Jessica of FishWifey and journalist Eleanor Gaskarth.
Tom is knowledgeable and quite passionate about the science behind chocolate. Nicky is the artist and creator of flavours and is highly adept at her chocolate craft. Both were very keen to impart their knowledge and expertise. In the short time we were with them, I learnt loads and now have a much clearer understanding about how chocolate works. We listened, asked questions, watched, tasted and then got to play with chocolate. The session was divided into three main parts. I am not going to include everything that was imparted to us as that would be a book in itself, but I’ve noted one particularly useful tip for each part.
Tempering – The transformation of chocolate from molten goo to a stable, shiny substance, that has a good snap to it. This is very temperature dependent and if you don’t get it right, your finished chocolate is likely to develop a white bloom, look dull and have a rubbery consistency. It’s all to do with polymorphism, Tom’s favourite word. What this means is that chocolate can take many forms depending on how it is treated.
Top Tip – Test the chocolate before using. Dip a piece of greasproof paper in the chocolate and leave it for a few minutes. If it is tempered you will soon start to see the chocolate crystallising and in about three minutes it should be set and shiny. The chocolate will continue to crystallise for the next 48 hours. What you’re after is Beta 5, apparently, chocolate in its perfect state. Untempered chocolate will take ages to set, we did two strips and compared them; it was easy to see which one was tempered and which wasn’t.
Tasting – We, er, did get to try some chocolate whilst we were there. A high cocoa content milk chocolate is my favourite so I was delighted to be trying a Venezuelan 44% milk – it was truly good. A dark 73% was also rather good and not particularly bitter.
Top Tip – 11:00 is apparently the best time of day to taste test as that is when our tastebuds should be at their optimum.
Making Chocolates – We left the cosy kitchen and headed for Nicky’s chocolate studio. There we saw how to make ganache and how to pipe it, including how to fill a piping bag which is something I always struggle with. Nicky did a demo of how to make a piping bag out of paper – she made it look very easy, but I suspect I’ve already forgotten what to fold and where. At this point we were allowed to get our hands dirty and we all had a go at rolling the dark tear drop ganache shapes in cocoa powder (Red, Extra brute). We then dipped the milk chocolate ganache forms in tempered milk chocolate and rolled them in milk chocolate shavings – what a pleasure.
Top Tip – Making ganache seems to be a hit and miss affair with me, my ganache splits as often as it doesn’t. I learnt that the varying temperatures of ingredients and implements might be one of the causes. This could explain why it happens so often to me; it goes back to my kitchen again where the cold implements probably give the ganache an unwelcome shock. We were told there are two ways of rescuing split ganache: 1) cool the mixture and whisk with a balloon whisk, 2) add a little additional hot cream to the mixture and whisk with a balloon whisk. As it happened, the ganache Tom was making split and he was then able to demonstrate the first method – to my amazement, it worked.
I have yet to put the tips I learnt into practice, but I’m actually looking forward to my next tempering experience. As I suspected, my kitchen makes working with chocolate particularly difficult as it is usually too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer; the ideal working conditions are a temperature between 18C and 20C and a humidity of less than 70%.
Working in the studio was a feast for the eye, beautifully crafted chocolates, Easter eggs, and decorated cakes covered virtually every surface. The massive tray of melted chocolate was so inviting I just wanted to dive straight in. How Nicky and Tom remain slim is a mystery, although they did say something about intensive workouts. I must try this myself.
Thanks to Nat for organising the course. Getting five busy bloggers and a journalist to agree on a date which would fit in with Nicky and Tom was quite a feat in itself. Thanks also to Sadie who kindly allowed me to use some of her photographs – she’s a much better photographer than me. And of course thanks to Nicky and Tom who generously gave of their time, expertise and chocolate.
Recipe for crisp homemade garibaldi biscuits with a difference. These ones are heavily studded with hazelnut chocolate rather than currants. Why not. Read on to find out how to make them and also what Garibaldi was up to in Cornwall.
When I was doing my bit at the Liskeard Food Day, I was in the company of The Brownie Baker, a wonderful Cornish outfit making handmade brownies in St Agnes. They supply local bakers and cafes as well as selling them direct at local markets and food fairs. They very kindly gave me one of each of their six flavours to review. Strangely, I was very happy to do this.
Fudge – This brownie was liberally studded with chunks of Cornish fudge. It was good but my least favourite of all, as it was a little too sweet for me. The overall taste suggested it had picked up the caramel notes from the fudge, giving it its own unique flavour and softer texture. CT and I agreed that pieces of salted fudge would have counteracted the sweetness and suited us better.
Orange – The flavour was unmistakably orange with a slight bitter grapefruit tone which gave it a more realistic and rounded orange taste. However, it was a bit too strong for both CT & I who are rather fussy about orange flavoured chocolate.
When I checked the website for more information on the products, I was pleased to see that that they use locally sourced ingredients. Sadly, no other information pertaining to the ingredients was available at the time of writing, although I did notice that the website said it was under construction. For me, knowing what is in my food is of paramount importance so I would like to see more on the website as to the specific ingredients used.
Nevertheless, these brownies are absolutely delicious and would make a fabulous gift at any time of the year including Christmas – I certainly wouldn’t say no to a box. For those of you lucky enough to be in Cornwall, you will find them at the Bude Christmas Fair this coming weekend (8th and 9th December) and at the Stithians Christmas Fair on 15th December.
Thursday was the grand opening of the Liskeard Town Shop and the last day of filming by the Mary Portas team. This followed on from a high street clean up event a couple of weeks earlier, where residents from the town and local area turned out in force to scrub, sweep, paint and plant. CT and I were on planting duty; I don’t think I’ve ever planted as many polyanthus in my life. Thursday’s event was intended to showcase the fine foods of Liskeard. Mary, with film crew in tow, commenced proceedings by opening the shop. The gathering throng then descended on the samples of local producers and munched and slurped their way through them in traditional Liskeard style. I had been asked by the good folk of Love Liskeard if I’d like to provide some cake samples. What could be better than combining cake baking with helping my home town? An offer I could not refuse.
|For one day only – Mary in overalls|
Our very own fudge lady The Gingham Chicken was represented with huge baskets stuffed full of her tasty fudge. Yummy, a new cake shop specialising in wedding and other celebration cakes provided plates of sponge, bakewell tart and little chocolate mayonnaise cakes. I happily drank a glass of wine provided by a local producer, but rather stupidly didn’t take note of the name and no, I wasn’t drunk. The Liskeard area is fortunate to be well endowed with cheese makers. The award winning Cornish Blue is just up the road as was the now famous Yarg, wrapped in nettles. Sadly, Lynher Dairies outgrew its original premises and has now decamped down west. But we now have a third cheese from the Cornish Gouda Company, the only gouda to be made in the South West. I can vouch for the quality of the cheese, which we’ve bought a few times from the recently restarted farmer’s market. Giel Spierings is from a Dutch family and presumably fuels his epic canoe exploits with his cheese. The cheese comes in various varieties, my favourite being the mature one. The honey and clover is also delicious: aromatic with essence of hay meadow. Cornish Orchards, a now quite famous Liskeard apple juice and cider company was there, but I didn’t get to see them.
We were also joined by a not so local producer, but one we felt glad to accommodate. The Brownie Bakers is a Cornish company making scrumilicious handmade brownies which it sells all over Cornwall. We were very happy to have platefuls of their samples to dip into when the desire arose. And last, but by no means least (I hope), was yours truly, with two types of chocolate cake and a few pictures of my cakes of yore. I made a Cardamom Chocolate Traybake and an Apple, Rose and White Chocolate Traybake, both cut into 36 pieces.
Later in the day, my favourite greengrocer, Beddoes unveiled their newly developed leek, broccoli and Cornish blue cheese pie. I am particularly thrilled by this as I love pies and it can be quite hard getting hold of a good vegetarian one – this was delicious. A competition was held to find a suitable name for the pie, but the results have not yet been revealed; I’m still on tenterhooks to see if CTs suggestion of Leekskeard Pie will be adopted. This was to compete with a fish pie from the fish shop and a road kill pie from the butchers – neither of which I was interested in, but their samples disappeared quite quickly I noted.
Other festivities included a window display competition, prepared by art students at Liskeard Community College. I was pleased to discover that the winner was our most excellent bookshop. The local yarn bombers, organised by the Knitting Fairy, were out in force and covered the recently arrived benches in Fore Street. Music and singing competed the entertainment. At some time in the not too distant future, some of this may be appearing in a Mary Portas series on Channel Four. I sincerely hope any footage of me is edited out.
What a glorious first birthday party. A bunch of Cornish cake fans gathered last Friday to celebrate the first birthday of Cornwall’s Clandestine Cake Club. Ellie Michell, our generous founder and mistress of ceremonies, has been coming up with interesting themes and locating fabulous venues over the last twelve months.
I have great pleasure in welcoming CT to my blog for his annual guest review. Crafter of language, food pioneer, gardener, botanist extraordinaire and eater of cakes, he can now be found at From our Owen Correspondent as well as at his well established blog Radix. From our Owen Correspondent is a new blog featuring various tracts from his writing career on such varied subjects as fermented foods, travels around Australasia and garden visits.
This is more of a Scilly post than a flapjack one. But scroll down to the bottom of the post and you’ll find the recipe for some very scrumptious fig, almond and honey flapjacks with optional chocolate chips. Meanwhile, if you’ve never thought of heading off to the Isles of Scilly, this post might just make you change your mind.
Every county in the UK will have a regional recipe or two, but Cornwall has a wealth of them. It’s famed for its dairy, saffron, fruit, cauliflowers and potatoes as well as fish. It’s also a poor county so the thrifty folk of Cornwall had to be inventive with their frugal fare to come up with something interesting and delicious. Read on to find 14 Cornish recipes made by our Best of British participants.
For Mother’s Day this year, I decided to make some cake truffles. I had some left over lemon & poppy seed cake from the book swap event which, I thought, mixed with orange, would make some nice tangy St Clements Truffles.
This is what I did:
- Creamed 1/2 oz unsalted butter with 1 oz icing sugar until very pale.
- Crumbled in a square of lemon & poppy seed cake.
- Beat this together until all incorporated and smooth.
- Added a couple of teaspoons of orange liqueur & beat some more.
- Formed into small balls and placed in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden.
- Melted 60g dark chocolate (Green&Black’s 72% cook’s chocolate).
- Dipped the cake balls into the chocolate and placed on some greasproof paper to set.
- Almost immediately, placed a sugar flour on top of each before the chocolate set.
- Placed in a pretty box and tied a ribbon around.