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.
Best of British comes back to the South West this month from London and has now reached the county of Dorset. The first and if truth be told, only thing that came to mind when thinking about Dorset speciality food was Dorset Apple Cake. Strangely, with all of my cookery books I didn’t have a single recipe for this. So, I resorted to the net and came up with this winner – voted the Dorset National Dish in 2006 by Greg Coomer.
Like many other people this year, I haven’t had nearly as many apples from my mother’s trees as normal, but I still have a few. I’d been mulling over an apple cake for a while and wanted to include a bar of Lindt Luscious Caramel in it. Easy peasy, I would adapt Greg’s cake of course. I made a larger quantity as I don’t have an 8″ cake mould, omitted the lemon peel, substituted chocolate for raisins and used cardamom sugar. I also substituted buckwheat for the specified cornflour and did my usual mix of flours. I also used, err, Cornish apples – shhhhh!
This is how I did it:
- Weighed out 10oz flour (4oz spelt, 4oz plain white, 2oz buckwheat) and sifted into a bowl with 2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp bicarb of soda.
- Added 5oz cardamom (caster) sugar.
- Rubbed in 5oz unsalted butter until the mixture resembled breadcrumbs.
- Peeled, cored and diced 250g of tart apples (Cornish variety – label missing) stirring into the mixture to coat as I went along so the apples didn’t brown.
- Made a well in the centre and added 2 medium eggs and 2 tbsp milk.
- Stirred until all combined.
- Added a chopped 100g bar of Lindt Luscious Caramel and stirred in.
- Spooned into a 21cm cake mould.
- Cored and sliced one tart apple, but left the peel on.
- Drizzled over 1 tbsp lemon juice to stop the slices from browning, then arranged the slices on top of the cake.
- Scattered over 1 tbsp of soft brown sugar.
- Baked in the oven at 180C for 35 minutes.
On Friday, we celebrated Cornwall Clandestine Cake Club’s 1st birthday. With this momentous event in mind, we were tasked with making something rather special, a “birthday cake”, not I hasten to add that the CCC cakes aren’t always special. I’d seen a few caramel cakes on the internet recently and had also just tried Green & Black’s new sea salted milk chocolate which I rather fell for. These combined to give me salted caramel on the brain, so I decided to indulge my new found obsession and make a salted caramel chocolate cake. I couldn’t find anything in my cookery books or on the net that appealed, so I adapted the chocolate caramel cupcakes I made a couple of years ago to fit my vision.
- Dissolved 225g caster sugar in a large pan on gentle heat with 100ml water.
- Brought to the boil and left for a few minutes to bubble away. Then “watched like a hawk” for it to turn to a nice reddish brown caramel colour, but to ensure it didn’t burn.
- Poured in 200ml double cream. It all went very lumpy at this point, but I stirred and stirred and eventually it became more or less smooth.
- Stirred in 1/2 tsp Cornish sea salt and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
- Creamed 250g unsalted butter with 200g dark brown sugar.
- Beat in about 1/3 of the caramel.
- Broke in three duck eggs (large hens eggs are fine) and beat well.
- Sifted in 200g flour (1/2 spelt, 1/2 white), 40g of cocoa and 1 rounded tsp baking powder.
- Spooned into two 21 cm cake moulds and baked at 180C for 20 minutes.
- Left to cool for ten minutes then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Creamed 80g salted butter with 120g icing sugar until my arm was sore and the mixture was very light and fluffy.
- Beat in another 1/2 of the remaining caramel.
- Spread on top of one of the cooled cakes and placed the other on top.
- Licked the bowl clean – reckoned it was the best buttercream I’ve yet made.
- Spread the remaining caramel over the top of the cake.
- Sprinkled various milk, dark and white chocolate bits over the top and dusted very lightly with two types of edible gold glitter.
Modesty be hanged, this cake proved to be very popular with the other cake club members and I only got to try a tiny slice. It was rich and chocolatey and offered the discerning punter three separate hits of salted caramel of differing intensities in the various layers. This just proves to me that salted caramel has not yet had its day!
I’d had visions of the caramel dripping down the sides of the cake, but by the time I got to apply it, it had set. This must mean that I am fated to make it again.
When it comes to bananas, CT and I are not fans. Strange, therefore, that I ended up buying a whole bunch of cheap bananas the other day. My eye for a bargain has let me down on numerous occasions, as a box full of ready made pasta sauces languishing at the back of a cupboard will testify. I worked my way through the apples and then the pumpkins and now it looks as though it’s the turn of bananas. This may be the first of many posts on the subject!
If I’m going to eat bananas, baked in cakes is one of the best ways, so I dutifully leafed through my baking books. Being in the mood for something sweet and comforting, Dan’s banana blondies taken from Short & Sweet sounded just the ticket – lots of sugar, white chocolate and caramel – you couldn’t get much sweeter than that!
This is how I made them:
- Placed a large pan on a low heat and poured in 75g vanilla sugar followed by 2 tbsp of water.
- Allowed the sugar to dissolve then upped the heat until the sugar was boiling. Let it boil for about 5 minutes when the colour started to darken and a drop plopped into a glass of cold water set hard. Getting this bit right is always tricky as you want a hard caramel but you don;t want a burnt one.
- Stirred in 75g chopped Brazil nuts then quickly poured out onto a piece of baking parchment to cool and set.
- Broke into pieces.
- Melted 100g unsalted butter and 200g vanilla flavoured white chocolate in the same pan (I’m a great believer in saving on washing up).
- Removed from heat and stirred in 225g vanilla sugar.
- Beat in 1 egg and 2 bananas – peeled and finely chopped.
- Sifted in 225g flour (half wholemeal, half white) and 1/2 tsp baking powder.
- Added the broken nuts and mixed until just combined.
- Spooned into a 9″ sq cake mould and baked at 180C for 20 mins.
- Left to cool, then cut into little squares.
A friend’s daughter was celebrating her 3rd birthday and I was asked to make the birthday cake. I was well chuffed, but also rather nervous – you don’t really want to mess up someone else’s birthday cake. Anyway, as soon as she asked me, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. The rolo cake I’d seen on Jac’s Tinned Tomatoes blog, over a year ago now, had made an impression and I was waiting for the right opportunity to make it. Jac in turn had got the recipe from The Caked Crusader and it was actually hers I used. Jac tends to use US measurements and I’m not a fan of cups. I did increase the measurements a bit anyway as I was using a larger cake mould than the one specified.
Whilst shopping for the rolos, I had a bit of an unexpected dilemma. Not being in the habit of buying them, I hadn’t realised they were made by Nestle – oh dear! I haven’t knowingly bought anything from Nestle since I was old enough to form an opinion on such matters. Okay, I thought I’ll do without the rolos and go for a large bar of Cadbury’s caramel chocolate instead. As I was picking the bar up, however, I realised how ridiculous the whole thing was. Cadbury’s has recently been taken over by Kraft – well, as far as I know, they are no more ethical than Nestle. For want of a better alternative, I have continued to buy Green & Black’s, despite them now being owned by Kraft. So I pulled a face and bought the rolos.
This is what I did:
- Creamed 220g unsalted butter with 220g caster sugar until pale and fluffy.
- Beat in 4 duck eggs, one at a time and mixing in a spoonful of the flour between each egg.
- Sifted in 170g flour (mostly white with a bit of wholemeal spelt), 50g cocoa and 1 large tsp baking powder.
- Mixed in 1 large spoonful of Greek yogurt.
- Chopped 20 rolos (2 packets) in half and stirred those in.
- Spooned into a 22cm cake mould and baked at 180C for 40 mins until the cake was well risen and cracked on the top.
- Turned out onto a wire rack and left to cool.
- Creamed 100g unsalted butter together with 150g icing sugar and 2 tbsp cocoa.
- Added a glug of toffee syrup and beat until smooth and light.
- Spread this over the cold cake.
- Attempted to decorate with a happy face on top of the cake using rolos and white chocolate buttons.
Luckily, I needn’t have worried; the cake proved to be a huge success and was enjoyed by adults and children alike. The birthday girl showed her appreciation in the usual way. Although I wasn’t there, a slice was very kindly kept back for me so that I could try it. It was moist and tasty with slightly chewy melted toffee bits in the middle. I’d be happy to have this for my birthday cake whatever my age.
Who remembers the chocolate bar Ice Breaker? It was one of my favourites when I was a child, but for some reason it didn’t stay the course and was discontinued after only a few years. Milk chocolate filled with mint cracknel pieces. What’s not to love? Thankfully, I’ve now discovered how to make my own. This recipe for peppermint cracknel chocolate also contains toasted coconut for an even greater wow factor.
Here we go, cupcakes yet again! Am I developing a cupcake theme for We Should Cocoa, I wonder? It’s practicality that does it this time. I am due to take in some cakes to work for Children in Need and cupcakes are the easiest to transport on the trek there – by train and foot. They are also easier for people to eat at their desks.
It’s the third We Should Cocoa challenge and Chele has chosen caramel for November. When I found out, I was excited but also rather nervous, a definite challenge for me this time. First, what exactly is meant by caramel? Well it seems virtually anything goes: boiled sugar on its own or a combination of boiled sugar with water and maybe added butter or cream – hum? Last time I attempted making caramel for this chocolate and caramel salted tart, I burnt it and it tasted horribly bitter. I didn’t want to make that mistake again. This recipe for salted caramel buttercream I adapted from Fiona Cairns’s Bake & Decorate and the cake recipe I adapted from here.
This is what I did:
- Dissolved 7oz vanilla sugar (could use granulated sugar and add 1 tsp vanilla extract later) in 100ml water.
- Brought to the boil and “watched like a hawk”, as advised by Fiona Cairns for a while and then got a bit bored as took a lot longer to caramelise than “a few minutes”. Luckily, I did catch it this time before it burnt
- Poured in 184ml double cream. It all went very lumpy at this point, but I stirred and stirred and eventually all became smooth.
- Stirred in 1/2 tsp pink Himalayan rock salt.
- Creamed 5oz unsalted butter with 4oz light muscovado sugar
- Beat in half the caramel.
- Broke in two duck eggs (large hens eggs are fine) and beat well.
- Sifted in 4oz flour (1/2 wholemeal, 1/2 white), 1oz of cocoa, 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of bicarb of soda.
- Spooned into 12 cupcake cases and bake at 180C for 20 minutes.
- Creamed 3oz salted butter with 4oz icing sugar until my arm was sore and the mixture was very light and fluffy.
- Beat in the remaining caramel.
- Spread on top of the cooled cupcakes.
- Licked the bowl clean – reckoned it was the best buttercream I’ve yet made.
What a delightful surprise awaited me back in October. Having been a lucky recipient of some of Katie Christoffers chocolates to review, I was thrilled to get even luckier by winning a box of her Masala Chai Salted Caramels courtesy of fellow chocoholic Judith Lewis. Judith’s Mostly About Chocolate blog does pretty much what it says on the tin – she reviews some of the best chocolates around.
Now I found myself faced with an eternal dilemma, be generous and pass them on as a gift or scoff the lot myself. Guess which path I followed? I assuaged my guilty conscience a little by allowing CT to participate. In my defence, I had heard a lot of favourable reports and felt it was my duty to sample one of Matcha Chocolat’s latest offerings.
Could it be possible to outshine the chai truffles that I am so enamoured with already? Well yes it can, these masala chai caramels were even more delicious. The chocolate was dark and powerful and the caramel was, quite frankly, to die for. The spicy chai meant this was much more than a mere salted caramel, good as they are. For CT they conjured up Christmas, he liked the contrast between the crisp and slightly acidic shell with its resilient texture and the gloriously soft and spicy sweet caramel. Thanks to Judith for the prize and Katie for making them – we very much enjoyed savouring them.
I’ve had my eye on this recipe from Green and Black’s for some time – the salted caramel sounded rather exotic and the three impressively rich layers clinched it. So with friends coming to dinner this weekend, it seemed like an appropriate time to hopefully give them a real treat!
- Rubbed 3oz unsalted butter into 8oz flour (1/2 wholemeal and 1/2 white spelt) and 2oz icing sugar.
- Added 1 egg and a splash of water & combined to form a dough.
- Rolled this out using plenty of flour into a round to fit a 9in flan tin.
- Pricked the bottom and baked blind at 180°C (gas 4) for 10 mins (or until just cooked).
- Left to cool whilst made caramel.
- Put 8oz granulated sugar into a heavy bottomed pan and left on a low heat until liquid and the colour of caramel.
- Brought 4fl oz whipping cream and 1 tsp Cornish sea salt to the boil then poured into boiling caramel (did this gradually as mixture will rise rapidly and could cause burns).
- Took off the heat, added 1oz unsalted butter and stirred until smooth.
- Poured this into pastry case and then got on with the Chocolate Ganache.
- Brought 10fl oz whipping cream to the boil with 1/2 oz honey.
- Stirred in 100g broken dark chocolate until melted.
- Stirred in 2oz unsalted butter until melted.
- Poured this over the caramel then left in a cool place to set for 4 hours.
- Decorated with Forget-me-not flowers.