I’ve been a supporter of Fairtrade Fortnight for many years now, from when I was an active Co-Operative member and helped out in store to my current position as a food blogger. This year the campaign is focusing on Sit Down for Breakfast, Stand Up for Farmers and runs from 29 February to 13 March. With this in mind, I’ve prepared a delicious Fairtrade Fortnight Breakfast using a number of Fairtrade products as well as baking a breakfast banana bread.
First off, Seed & Bean have produced three limited edition 85g chocolate bars specifically for this year’s Glastonbury Festival back in June. Certified by the Soil Association, bearing the Fairtrade symbol and an Ethical Award winner, this organic company is to be admired. The inner wrappers are compostable, made primarily from eucalyptus trees; all bars are handmade in small batches. The colourful and festive wrappers were designed by artist Matt Lyons aka C86. If you’re quick, you may be lucky enough to get your hands on a bar. They are available at £2.29 at the online shop, which seems reasonable for a top ethical product from a small British producer.
I was recently sent all three bars to try out. Sadly they melted in the heat whilst in the post – I don’t think any of us have got used to actually having a real summer yet. They arrived rather misshapen and not looking their best.
Fine Dark Chocolate Sicilian Hazelnut (58% cocoa – cane sugar, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, vanilla extract, hazelnut paste).
This is like eating a fine bar of guinduja. It is rich, but very smooth and creamy at the same time, despite containing no dairy. The bitter notes from the dark chocolate has a slightly drying on the mouth quality and counteracts any cloying tendency there might have been. CT did his usual blind testing and detected hazelnut straight away. We really liked this bar.
Rich Milk Chocolate Cornish Sea Salt & West Indies Lime (30% cocoa solids – cane sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, cocoa mass, vanilla extract, lime oil, smoked sea salt, soy lecithin).
Despite having quite a low cocoa content, this was my favourite bar. Although you think I might be a little biased by the inclusion of Cornish Sea Salt, I do like milk chocolate and I’m particularly fond of the sweet and salt combination. Some sea salt chocolate bars really go to town with the salt, but this one is much more finely balanced and suits me very well. The touch of lime, gives an uplifting quality and a tropical feel. If you can get to it before it melts, it’s ideal chocolate for the temperatures we’re currently experiencing. The chocolate is ultra smooth and melts beautifully in the mouth. A very fine chocolate bar indeed.
Creamy White Chocolate Raspberry & Vanilla (30% cocoa solids – cane sugar, cocoa butter, whole milk powder, raspberry powder, soya lecithin, vanill powder).
White chocolate by its very nature is overly sweet and often cloying, but I wasn’t going to let that put me off. And actually, I guess because of the inclusion of fruit, this wasn’t as sweet as I was expecting. In my sweeter toothed moments, this bar would hit the spot very nicely. It has a grainier texture than the others, which helps to counteract the sweetness. The flavour of the raspberries themselves was quite pronounced and their sharpness reminded me of sherbet.
Another ethical chocolate producer I rate highly is Divine, which released the first Fairtrade chocolate available in the UK. The cocoa farmers in Ghana own nearly half of the company, so we can be assured that Divine is truly offering a fair price to the growers. I have written about them before in my post Divine Intervention where you can find out a bit more about the company. Some time ago now, I was sent a couple of bars of each of their newest creations. I really don’t understand where time goes anymore, but one thing I do know, there is always plenty of things to write about. As before, the chocolate arrived well packaged, but I was keen to open the box and have a look at the new bars. Divine chocolate bars are distinctively adorned with striking west African Adrinka motifs that draw my eye every time I see them. On the inside of each wrapper, you will find a story from some of the cocoa farmers belonging to the co-operative. This is a particularly inspiring feature which brings to life the journey of bean to bar and shows Divine really does care about the people involved in the whole chocolate making process. I have yet to be disappointed with any of the Divine bars I’ve tried, so let’s see how these two bars fare.
Milk Chocolate with Toffee and Sea Salt (38% cocoa – sugar, cocoa butter, skimmed milk powder, cocoa mass, butterscotch, butterfat, sea salt, soya lecithin, vanilla).
With my predilection for the sweet and salt combination, I was looking forward to trying this one. The chocolate itself is smooth but with interesting textural editions of toffee shards and salt crystals. The flavour of toffee is the first to impact the palate but then the salt comes through, which is probably the right way around. Interestingly the toffee lingers on the palate after the saltiness has dispersed – a pleasant sensation. It is not as sweet as you might expect and isn’t overly salty. Both CT and I detected notes of coconut in the chocolate, which we both really liked.
Dark Chocolate with Chilli & Orange (70% cocoa) – chilli chocolate is a particular favourite of mine, so I was looking forward to trying this one. Citrussy orange notes are the first to be detected, but are not overwhelming or synthetic in quality as is sometimes the case with other brands of orange chocolate. The chilli then begins to make its presence felt in a gentle but increasingly firm manner which leads to a pleasant afterglow in the mouth. Again, the chocolate is very smooth and melts delightfully on the tongue. We both found this to be surprisingly moreish for a dark chocolate.
These 100g bars are available at Waitrose and on the Divine online shop retailing at £2 a bar.
Not to be outdone, in his bid to take over the world, Dom of Belleau Kitchen has come up with a new challenge – a random recipe challenge. It’s simple: a book is picked at random and from it a recipe is chosen at random. The idea is that you get to try recipes that you have never used before. How could I resist? Of course, I had to modify the proposal a little to get my chocolate fix in. So this is what I did:
Some of my posts are so old now, I almost feel I should wait until next year to publish them. This one I made about seven weeks ago, when strawberries (remember them?) were still just about in season. I had been given Dan Lepard’s recipe for Chocolate Honey Meringue by a friend, who kindly cuts out any chocolate recipes she comes across in the Guardian for me. Said friend was coming to dinner, so wouldn’t it be a good idea to make this meringue? When I looked at the recipe properly, however, there seemed to be an awful lot of sugar in it. I’d also read on other blogs that they turned out rather hard and they weren’t that impressed. A meringue recipe, I would have to find elsewhere. I did a quick hunt through my books and discovered marbled chocolate meringues in Linda Collister’s Divine. This was more like it. Instead of making lots of small ones, I opted for one large pavlova style meringue.
As it was rather a long time ago now, this is what I think I did!
- Melted 100g 70% dark chocolate in a bowl over hot water, then left to cool.
- Whisked 3 eggs whites and a pinch of cream of tarter until stiff.
- Added 175g caster sugar and whisked until stiff and glossy.
- Using a tablespoon, slowly folded in the chocolate until a marble effect was created.
- Heaped the meringue onto a baking sheet covered in non-stick paper and smoothed out into a rough round.
- Scattered over a handful of slivered almonds.
- Baked at 120C for 2 hours.
- Left to cool, then removed from the tray and peeled off the paper.
- Whisked 200ml double cream until thick.
- Stirred several raspberries into the cream (quantities now forgotten).
- At this point, I realised that the meringue had risen up with a very thin top layer that wouldn’t bear any weight – oh bother!
- As soon as I pressed it slightly the top started to break up. So I took this top layer off.
- Spooned the raspberries and cream on top of what was left of the meringue.
- Covered the cream with de-hulled and quartered strawberries and a few more raspberries.
- Covered the fruit with the bits of meringue top that I had previously removed.
Perhaps this was not the most elegant of party pieces, but I have to say it is one of the most delicious desserts I’ve made – certainly in recent times. I do love meringue and cream. It had a lovely crisp crunch from the outside and was darkly chocolatey and sticky inside. The sharp fruit and the sweet meringue hit the palate first, then the richness of the cream and chocolate came through giving a real sense of decadent luxury – yum. If someone wanted to make me a pudding (if only), this is the one I would choose. I think the others enjoyed it too 🙂
Having arrived home chocolateless from Ghent and with nothing sweet in the house, it didn’t take me too long to wonder what I could knock up in a hurry. A quick look through my books for a brownie recipe I haven’t yet tried, revealed these rather gorgeous sounding brownies from Linda Collister’s Divine.
This is how I did it – quickly the one pan way:
- Melted 125g unsalted butter with 100g 85% dark chocolate
- Stirred in 240g vanilla sugar (or add 1 tsp vanilla extract)
- Beat in 2 duck eggs.
- Stirred in 100g flour (85g wholemeal spelt and 15g buckwheat)
- Stirred in 75g chopped walnuts
- Poured into a greased 22 cm square tin and baked for 15 mins at 180C
- Meanwhile …….
- Melted 100g unsalted butter in the same unwashed pan.
- Beat in 100g of light muscovado sugar until incorporated.
- Beat in 2 tbsp double cream
- Stirred in 75g chopped walnuts
- Poured this over the not quite cooked brownies and put back in the oven for a further 5 mins.
- Tried to leave to cool, but couldn’t quite manage it – then cut into 16 squares.
Tis the strawberry season – hoorah! So, with a picnic in mind, what could I do but make another strawberry cake. I’d actually been long awaiting the opportunity to try a rather gorgeous looking cake in Divine. I mostly managed to follow the recipe, although I creamed the mixture rather than whisked it (reluctantly been well and truly won over by this method) and accidentally added a bit more sugar than I should have done.
A party – hurrah! So, a chocolate party cake. A suitably large and rather nice sounding cake came to light as I was leafing through my various recipe books, encouragingly entitled ‘The Big Quick Cake’. Sounded promising. It ended up not being quite so quick. Firstly, it was meant to be one big cake, but I wanted to make a filled cake. Secondly, despite my aversion to the creaming method, I have been rather won over by the results I’ve been getting and after all, this was a cake for a special occasion. In addition, the muscles in my right arm seem to have firmed up somewhat. So despite this not being the method used according to the book, Divine, I heroically gripped my bowl and spoon and commenced.
- Creamed 250g unsalted butter with 250g light muscovado sugar – for ages!
- Sifted 200g speltflour (100g wholemeal and 100g white) together with 2 tsp baking powder, 75g cocoa and a pinch of salt
- Beat in 6 duck eggs alternatively with some of the flour mixture
- Folded in remaining flour.
- Spooned mixture into two 23cm round tins
- Baked for 25 mins in preheated oven at 180°C (gas 4)
- Melted 100g unsalted butter with 100g bar milk chocolate (Montezuma’s for a change)
- Mixed this in with 100g sieved icing sugar, 1 tbsp cocoa and 1 tsp coffee powder dissolved in 1 tbsp hot water.
- Spread half of this on top of one cooled cake, sandwiched the other cake on top then spread on remaining icing.
A year or two ago, I had a phase of making cupcakes. I’d never made them before and they really won me over. I made burnt butter cupcakes, cappuccino cupcakes, lavender cupcakes, banana & white chocolate cupcakes, espresso cupcakes, chocolate and cherry cupcakes and lemon drizzle cupcakes, but I never made straightforward chocolate cupcakes. A friend’s birthday this week provided the opportunity and I made some very chocolatey cupcakes from a recipe in Divine.
- Remembered to get the butter (200g unsalted) out early in the morning and put it over the heater to soften.
- Melted 200g dark chocolate (used 1 bar 70% and 1 bar 85%) in a bowl over hot water.
- Creamed the butter with 200g soft brown sugar for ages until it was really light.
- Then stirred in 4 eggs alternately with 200g flour (4oz wholemeal, 4oz white spelt) + 1 heaped tsp baking powder.
- Stirred in 1/2 pot of sour cream and then the melted chocolate.
- Tried to spoon mixture into 12 cup cake cases – big mistake! The recipe stated that this made 12 cup cakes. I had my suspicions about this and I was right – this is a recipe for 24 not 12, so the paper cases ended up being overfilled which then made it difficult to ice them and I still had some mixture left over.
- Baked these for 17 mins at 180°C.
- Melted another bar of 70% chocolate and stirred in the rest of the sour cream.
- Spread this as best I could over the cooled cup cakes.
- Decorated each with a sugar flour.
Having said I’m not a great fan of chocolate chip cakes, I’ve just gone and made another one! The sun has been shining today and given that we haven’t had much in the way of blue skies recently, I didn’t feel like spending hours in the kitchen. Humm – what to make where speed is of the essence? I very quickly decided to have a go at the Stem Ginger and Chocolate Chunk Cake recipe from Linda Collister’s Divine. Being a big fan of ginger, it was this ingredient that sold it to me. Of course I didn’t have any stem ginger, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.