Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Rich Chocolate Tart - Book Review and Giveaway #53

Rich Chocolate Tarts
For those of you who've been watching Lorraine Pascale's latest cookery series on BBC2, How to be a Better Cook, this new cookbook will come as no surprise. Whether you've seen the series or not, Lorraine's easy style makes this an accessible book for both beginners and those wanting to expand their range of techniques; the more advanced cook may also find it useful for inspiration. She carries us through the recipes with characteristic grace and modesty. The cover states, "100 quick and easy recipes", a statement that grabbed my attention. Time is at a premium for most of us these days, so any help we can get to enable us to produce tasty and nutritious food that also looks good and is simple to prepare has got to be a good thing.

Published by HarperCollins, with a cover price of £25, this hardback edition of How to be a Better Cook is very similar in style to her last one A Lighter Way to Bake. The recipes are for simple every day food and are not too excessive when it comes to the use of fats and other such "naughty" ingredients. Chocolate tart I hear you cry? Well yes, there is a chapter on desserts, cakes and treats, what cookbook is really complete without one? But even the tart is made with more milk than cream. Similarly her recipes for panna cotta, ice-cream and Bircher muesli use yogurt to replace some or all of the cream associated with these dishes.

This is not a book aimed at vegans and vegetarians and I could wish there was a little more in it for me. However, despite the three chapters devoted to meat and fish, a few recipes caught my eye. Many of the meat dishes can easily be adapted to include vegetarian alternatives and there are chapters for canapés & cocktails, starters, snacks & soups, salads, vegetables & sides which also contain many vegetable dishes. It's been a long time since I tried making harissa but Lorraine's recipe has me inspired once again. She is a self-confessed harissa junky and uses it in all sorts of ways. I keep meaning to unearth my slow cooker from the back of the cupboard, but it's a bit of a faff, so tends to stay put. However, this is about to change as I'm now really keen to make slow cooker lentil, sweet potato and cumin soup with ginger and coriander - I can just imagine how good that tastes.

As a fan of incorporating vegetables into sweet bakes, thus trying to make them a little more nutritious, I was pleased to see a recipe for pumpkin, brown sugar and pecan cake with cream cheese icing and very nice it looked too. Lorraine also incorporates wholemeal flour in some stem ginger and apricot biscotti, an addition which I obviously heartily approve of.

With Halloween and Bonfire Night just a few days away, it's useful to find that Lorraine has these covered. Ghostly black-eyed meringues, lighter chocolate muffin spiders, s'mores pops and toffee apple slice pops are great fun to make, with or without the children.

The pages are shiny which makes them a little difficult to read in certain light. I also found the  photographs to be rather hard and a bit stark. There are plenty of them in the book and many of them are of Lorraine. As a former model, this is perhaps not surprising, but much as I like Lorraine, I prefer my recipe books to show pictures of the food rather than the author. However, I liked the stylish use of colour running through the book, a picture of something on a green plate for example would be matched by green text on the opposite page. A recipe for chargrilled green bean, sugar snap and courgette salad with poppy seed dressing printed in pink, had pink forks shown in the accompanying photo. You can see what I mean from the recipe excerpt below.

Lorraine gives tips and tricks throughout the book, but also includes a few pages at the end detailing her store cupboard essentials, kitchen equipment essentials, how to look after knives and how best to store food.

Rich Chocolate Tart
As soon as I saw the recipe for Ridiculously Rich Chocolate Tart, I knew that was the one I was going to make for this review. As per usual, I changed things around a little. I had some goat's butter from St Helen's Farm that I was keen to try out in the pastry and some goat's milk in need of using up. I also wanted to give the tart a bit of a salted caramel edge. To do this, I used a pinch of salt and 100g of Cacao Barry caramel milk chocolate and 165g of 72% dark chocolate, which included one of the Seed and Bean bars I reviewed a while back. I also made the pastry with half wholemeal flour and half white.

Apart from faffing around with pastry, which is never my most fun activity in the kitchen, this tart was a breeze to make. If you are in a rush, Lorraine allows for a nice easy get out clause for this stage - buy the pastry. But that's not my way. The only problem I experienced, other than trying not to eat it before it set, was getting the tart into the oven without spilling the filling. Needless to say, I didn't achieve this. Lorraine suggests pouring the filling into the tart case once it's actually on the oven shelf. My oven and kitchen preclude this, so I didn't quite get the nice clean edges I'd have liked. I also found, I had more pastry and filling than I needed, so I made three 10cm tartlets as well.

The Tarts were sublime. They had a crisp, buttery, flaky pastry which melted in the mouth - not a soggy bottom in sight. The filling was rich and creamy and had the hint of salted caramel I was looking for. It also had a subtle goaty tang which did a good job of reinforcing the robust flavour of the chocolate and added another welcome dimension.

I'm sending the tarts over to Lucy at SuperGolden Bakes for her weekly event #CookBlogShare.

In case you would like to try Lorraine's recipe out rather than my slightly adapted version, I am taking the unusual step of including an exact copy here for you with kind permission of HarperCollins.

RIDICULOUSLY RICH CHOCOLATE TART
SERVES 8

This chocolate tart is so dark and rich, it is just not for kids! There is a little bit of gaffing here what with making the  pastry and all that, but to cut a perfectly acceptable corner, just buy ready-made sweet shortcrust pastry instead to half the making time.

Photography © Maja Smend
SHORTCRUST PASTRY
125g butter, softened and diced,
plus extra for greasing
100g caster sugar
Pinch of salt (but only if your butter
is unsalted)
250g plain flour, plus extra for
dusting
1 egg, at room temperature
CHOCOLATE FILLING
100ml single or double cream
250ml whole milk
175g dark chocolate (minimum
70% cocoa solids)
75g milk chocolate
3 eggs
Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
EQUIPMENT
20cm straight-edged tart tin

Grease a 20cm straight-edged tart tin well with a little butter and set aside on a baking sheet. I prefer to make this pastry using a food processor. Put the butter, sugar and salt in the processor and blitz for about 10 seconds. Then add the flour and pulse a few times until everything is nicely mixed up. Tip in the egg and pulse a few times again, scraping the sides of the food processor if need be. Lay a large piece of cling film on the work surface, tip the pastry mix on to it, squidge the pastry together in a ball and then wrap it up in the cling film. Place it in the fridge and leave it to rest for a good hour or hour and a half. To make this the traditional way by hand, tip the flour onto a clean work surface, then make a well in the centre of the flour about 30cm wide. Put the butter and the sugar and salt in the centre of the well (they should not touch the flour at this time). Use your hand to mix the butter, sugar and salt together; it is kind of messy, but great to make it the way it should be made! Then bring in the flour. I use a pastry scraper to flick the flour over the butter and the sugar, and then I kind of chop it together until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make another well in the centre of the pastry mix and crack the egg into it. Then, using your fingertips, mix it all together; again messy, but I find it kind of fun. Once the mixture is all mixed up and together, wrap the pastry ball in cling film and pop it in the fridge for an hour or hour and a half to rest. The pastry needs to rest to relax the protein strands, which could cause it to be too stretchy when you roll it. This will also help make the pastry more tender. Once the pastry is rested, roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about a 25cm circle, roughly 5mm in thickness. I then put a rolling pin across the centre of the dough and flip half of the pastry over the rolling pin. Pick it up on the rolling pin and lay the pastry over the tart tin before removing the rolling pin. Gently press the pastry down into the tin, making sure that the pastry goes right into the ‘corners’, and then pop it in the fridge for an hour to rest again (rolling it out works the proteins in the pastry again, so it needs to have another rest in the fridge).

Once the pastry has been in the fridge for 40 minutes, turn the oven on to preheat to 200°C, (fan 180°C), 400°F, Gas Mark 6 with the middle shelf at the ready. After the pastry case has had an hour in the fridge and the oven is ready, line it with a  circle of baking parchment slightly larger than the size of the tart case and tip in ceramic baking beans (or you can use dried beans for this, which are cheaper and work really well). Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until crisp, golden and almost cooked through. Meanwhile, to prepare the filling, put the cream and milk in a medium pan and bring it almost to the boil, then immediately remove it from the heat. Snap in the dark and milk chocolates and leave it aside to melt. Once the chocolate has softened and melted, mix it all together and add the eggs and the orange zest. Mix together again and then
set this aside. Remove the pastry case from the oven and leave the oven open to cool down a bit, turning the temperature down to 180°C, (fan 160°C), 350°F, Gas Mark 4. Carefully lift the bean-filled baking parchment from the pastry case.
Once the oven has reached temperature (which will be indicated by the thermostat light coming back on), close the door. Pour the chocolate mix into the pastry case. I like to pour the last bit of filling into the case once it is safely resting on the oven shelf, that way it avoids any spillover. Then very carefully place the pastry case back into the oven for 20–25 minutes.
Once baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool for a bit. Then carefully push the tart out of the tin, remove the base, place on a plate or cake stand and serve.

Recipe taken from How to be a Better Cook by Lorraine Pascale (HarperCollins, £25).

Giveaway
HarperCollins have also kindly agreed to give one of my readers a copy of How to be a Better Cook. To be in with a chance of winning, please fill in the Gleam widget below. You will need to leave a comment on this post, answering the question, which then gives you additional chances to enter if you so wish. Gleam will pick a winner at random from the entries received. If you are commenting anonymously, please give me some way of identifying you as I will be verifying the validity of entries. Any automated entries will be disqualified. This giveaway is only open to those with a UK postal address. Winners will need to respond within 7 days of being contacted. Failure to do this may result in another winner being picked.

Prizes are offered and provided by HarperCollins and Chocolate Log Blog accepts no responsibility for the acts or defaults of said third party.

Closing date is Tuesday 25 November 2014

Do take a look at my giveaway page to see if there is anything else you would like to enter.

How to be a Better Cook

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Best Pizza Ever - Squash, Walnut and Goat's Cheese from St Helen's Farm

Best Pizza Recipe
The best vegetarian pizza ever may be a tall claim, but I adore a good winter squash and this homemade crust with a flavoursome chocolate tomato sauce topped off with squash, walnuts and goat's cheese does it for me. And not just me, CT and my mother were full of praise and neither of them are vegetarian.

I'm extremely fond of winter squash, it has a sweet nutty flavour and the bright orange colour is just what is needed to brighten things up at this time of year. What with one thing and another, we've been unable to grow any this year, so I have to make do with buying butternut squash. These are OK, but not nearly as good as an Uchiki Kuri for example - a round orange Japanese squash with dense sweet orange flesh that keeps well right through the winter.

Goat's Milk Products
Recently a wonderful goaty hamper turned up on the doorstep, full of good goaty things from St Helen's Farm in Yorkshire. It was even accompanied by an actual goat. I wasn't quite certain if she was there to ensure safe arrival or to keep a critical eye on my activities.  I have a real soft spot for these lively, inquisitive and capricious animals. Growing up, I used to spend time on a smallholding and when there it was my job to take the two goats, Starlight and Moonlight out to the fields in the morning and bring them back in the evening. I even had a go at milking them, but have to confess I never really got the hang of it. I also didn't find their milk delicious. I drank it, but it had quite a strong caprine taste that some people find off-putting.

Goat's Milk
I was very pleased to find that this was not the case with the milk from the good goats of St Helen's Farm. There is a bit of a goaty tang, but nothing too distracting and it gives the milk character making a welcome change from cow's milk. "Deliciously mild, it states on the pack and we could not disagree. This is good news as goat's milk is not only nutritious, but has a structure similar to human breast milk which makes it more easily tolerated by people with a lactose intolerance. It is also quite nutritious with more calcium, potassium and vitamin A than cow's milk. The skimmed milk made a most delicious breakfast smoothie with banana, oats, chia seeds and raw cocoa powder. We also used it to make porridge, where it worked to good effect. The semi-skimmed milk was perfect for making hot chocolate, which at this time of year is, quite frankly, essential. Very thoughtfully, our little goat brought a couple of mugs along with her, so we were able to sip our beverage whilst admiring her  sister nannies. We saved the full fat milk for pouring on our muesli and for a recipe that will be appearing at a later date.

Goat's Yogurt
I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to yogurt - I like it natural. So, I was slightly hesitant about trying the yogurt pots with fruit. The yogurt made up the bulk of the pot, with a layer of fruit puree at the bottom. I liked this, as not only did it look pretty, but I was able to try the yogurt on it's own and then mix as much or as little of the puree as I desired on each spoonful. The yogurt with mango and lime was my first choice - I'm a sucker for mango. The yogurt was smooth and creamy all on its own and the limey mango gave bursts of flavour which were veryt welcome indeed.  I'm a convert and thought this made a very nice dessert. This came together with a pot of blueberry & rosehip, which was nice, but not as lively. Pots of yogurt stirred with honey are sitting invitingly in the fridge. The pots weigh 125g and come in packs of two.

Goat's Milk Smoothies
The full fat live yogurt was absolutely delicious and it didn't taste in the least bit goaty. It was mild and creamy and fabulous eaten just as it was. However, we did use some of it to top our breakfast muesli and to accompany a curry and it enhanced both. We also had a pot of 0% fat goat's milk yogurt and whilst I'm not normally a fan of fat free, this one was quite tasty. It worked best in smoothies and in cooking, where I found that it didn't separate out as much as ordinary yogurt does.

There was also a pack of butter in the hamper, which I'm looking forward to trying. I've been holding off doing so, however, as I'm saving it for the recipe mentioned earlier.

Squash Pizza Recipe
For the pizza, I used "Mild and Creamy Goats Cheese", which wasn't creamy at all. It was a hard cheese with a grainy texture; it had bite and depth with a good, if mild, flavour. I thought it quite delicious and happily polished off the remaining half in my cheese sandwiches. As I am a big cheese fan, I was really pleased to have a 240g pack of their mature version too. This was very similar to the mild, but with more depth and flavour. It reminded me of a good cheddar and can be used in exactly the same way. I was planning on using it with some of the butter to make goat's cheese scones, but it went the way of the first and was consumed with relish along with my homemade bread and apple chutney.


print recipe

Squash, Walnut Goat's Cheese Pizza
A homemade crust with a chocolate tomato sauce and flavourful toppings, makes this one of the most delicious vegetarian pizzas you are ever likely to eat.
Ingredients
  • 250g flour (half wholemeal spelt, half white)
  • 1 tsp dried active yeast
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp maca powder (optional)
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 160ml warm water
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 1 small onion - sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic - chopped
  • 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 fresh red chilli - chopped
  • 1 small fresh rosemary sprig - finely chopped
  • 4 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 tsp tamari
  • 15g dark chocolate
  • 1 large handful walnuts
  • 100g hard goat's cheese - cut into small slices
  • 20 small cherry tomatoes - halved
Instructions
1. Whisk the yeast into the hot water and leave for a couple of minutes.2. Place flour, salt and maca (if using) into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast followed by 1 tbsp of olive oil.3. Stir until just combined, then knead on an oiled surface for a good ten minutes or so when the dough should be smooth and elastic. Place back in the bowl, cover and leave to rise for an hour or until doubled in size.4. Peel, core and seed the butternut squash, then chop into small cubes. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a medium sized saucepan and fry the squash cubes over moderate heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, until just soft.5. Remove the squash from the pan and set aside. Add the remaining tbsp of olive oil and fry the onion gently for a few minutes. Add the garlic and chilli and fry for another couple of minutes.6. Add the tomatoes, herbs and tamar Cover ind allow to simmer for fifteen minutes or so when the sauce should be thick enough not to fall off the pasta, but not too dry. Remove from the heat, add the chocolate, stir and leave to cool.7. Heat the oven to 200℃. Cut the dough into four pieces and roll them out as thinly as you can. Place onto oven trays.8. Cover the four pizza bases with the tomato sauce to about 1 cm from the edge. Scatter the squash cubes over the top, followed by the tomatoes and then the walnuts. Place the cheese strategically around the pizza then bake for ten minutes or until the crust has browned and the pizza looks done.
Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4


Cooking with Herbs this month is all about parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Well I used two of these in my pizza, so I'm happily sending one off  to Karen over at Lavender and Lovage.

Very sensibly Shaheen, over at Allotment 2 Kitchen has chosen Halloween colours for this month's Vegetable Palette. October is a month full of colour and pumpkin bounty and my squash pizza fits right in.

With pumpkin very much in season this month, I'm also sending one of these off to Ren Behan for Simple and in Season.

For this pizza I used the butternut squash that was left over from making my pumpkin, pecan, chocolate cake. It also used a handful of tomatoes that had grown "wild" in our plot, but were a little past their best. So one of these also goes to Vohn's Vittles where this month's No Food Waste Challenge is being hosted on behalf of Elizabeth's Kitchen Diary.

It's been a while since I submitted anything to Recipe of the Week, so I'm sending one of these off to Emily at A Mummy Too.


Many thanks to St Helen's Farm and Purple Cow for the hamper of delicious goat's milk products. I was not required to write a positive review and as always, all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Chocolate Pecan Pumpkin Cake for Halloween

Chocolate Halloween Cake
For years I've raged against the invasion of the very American Halloween and associated trick or treating; in the UK, we have All Hallows Eve, from which Halloween is derived. Just five days later we have our very own Guy Fawkes Night, with its pagan effigy burning associations - OK Guy Fawkes was a catholic, but never mind. Well, finally I've come to the conclusion that if you can't beat them you'd better join them! In fact I had no choice as this month's We Should Cocoa theme is Halloween.

For Random Recipes this month, Dom has tasked us with picking a recipe from the internet. His suggestion was to type a theme into the search box and then pick a recipe randomly from the first ten that appear. I was game. To bag several challenges in one, I searched for chocolate and pumpkin, thereby getting We Should Cocoa in as well as Tea Time Treats which has vegetables as this month's theme.  The recipe that popped up was Dan Lepard's pumpkin chocolate mud cake - perfect.

Pumpkin Halloween Cake
It's been a while since I made a Dan Lepard recipe, or should I say tinkered with one. I did of course change things around just a little by replacing vanilla with fennel, adding coffee to the mix and changing the quantities. I included some maca powder as I often do, just so I can tell myself the cake is good for me. I also added cream cheese to the icing to give it a bit more character and make it less sweet and sickly.





This is how I made:

Chocolate Pecan Pumpkin Cake

  • Melted 175g unsalted butter and 225g of dark chocolate (72%) in a large pan over gently heat.
  • Removed from the heat and beat in 275g sugar (half dark and half light).
  • Beat in three duck eggs (can be replaced with large hens eggs).
  • Stirred in 3 drops of Holy Lama fennel extract.
  • Beat in 275ml warm coffee.
  • Grated 120g butternut squash (the only pumpkin I could get) and stirred this in together with 100g chopped pecans.
  • Sifted in 250g flour (half wholemeal, half white), 3 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp maca powder.
  • Stirred until just combined then scraped the mixture into a deep 9" silicone mould and baked at 180℃ for 55 mins.
  • Left to cool for 15 mins, then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Melted 20g unsalted butter.
  • Mixed into some of the 160g icing sugar.
  • Beat in 50g cream cheese, followed by a little more of the icing sugar.
  • Added a slug of rum and mixed in with some more icing sugar.
  • Added 50g double cream, followed by the rest of the icing sugar and beat until smooth.
  • Placed the cake on a stand and spread the icing over the top.
  • Attempted to create a spider's web on top with some ready bought black icing I happened to have acquired. 
  • Added some chocolate pumpkin faces for good measure.

Pumpkin Halloween Cake
The cake was such a success, I shall be making this one again. It was soft, light and mousse like with a welcome crunch from the pecans and the fennel note gave an intriguing, "what is this?" It wasn't overly sweet, which is good because the icing was. The rum icing may have been sweet, but it was nonetheless delicious and complemented the cake well. An added bonus was that it lasted well over a week and was just as good at the end as at the beginning.

Finally giving in, I have made a Halloween bake  and it's all down to the devilish Hannah over at Honey & Dough, who is guest hosting We Should Cocoa this month.

Random Recipes was the driving force behind the bake with the theme of something sweet  randomly selected from the internet. This is a splendid monthly challenge from Dom over at Belleau Kitchen where we never quite know what recipe we will land up with next.

Ensuring I would get a recipe containing pumpkin meant I could also send this off to Karen over at Lavender and Lovage for her Tea Time Treats, where the theme is vegetables this month. This monthly challenge is co-hosted by Jane over at The Hedge Combers.

With rum in the icing and squash in the pumpkin in the cake, I reckon this is just right for this month's Baking with Spirit over at Cake of the Week where the theme is autumnal.

Love Cake over at JibberJabberUK is also all about the dark side this month, so I am sending this Ness's way.

With hidden veg in the form of pumpkin, I'm sending this off to Extra Veg. Normally hosted over at Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy Food for Families, it's being guest hosted this month by Emily over at A Mummy Too.

And a slice has got to Let's Cook for Halloween over at Simply Food.


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