Sunday, 30 January 2011

Nutty Chocolate and Orange Flapjacks

Just after Christmas, friends were having an "open house". You know me, I didn't feel I could just turn up empty handed, but I also didn't have a great deal of time to bake anything elaborate. I also felt with all the goodies going around at Christmas, something simple would be welcome. Flapjacks seemed to fit both of these criteria, so flapjacks it was.
  • Melted 5oz unsalted butter in a large pan with 1 large tbsp golden syrup.
  • Added 2 tbsp orange syrup (left over from candied orange peel)
  • Mixed in 10oz rolled oats, 2oz chopped nuts (mixed), 2 teaspoons of dried powdered orange peel, 2.5 oz demerara sugar and 2oz chopped Maya Gold chocolate.
  • Pressed into a buttered 9" x 7" tin and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
  • Baked at 175C for 20 minutes.
These worked really well with the chocolate and orange combination working their usual magic.

I've recently been given the chance to review a product from CSN. As I'm sure many of you are aware, CSN sell a whole host of household goods ranging from cookware to home bar furniture to outdoor living. I haven't yet chosen what I shall be reviewing, but it will most certainly be from the baking section - I've already set my sights on a couple of things I'd like - well more than a couple if truth be told ;-)

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Ginger Chocolates

Tempering chocolate is one of the things I have kept putting off; it all seemed rather complicated and difficult. I was determined, however, to try it before the year was out. Not having a sugar thermometer or a microwave, I made a very basic attempt just before Christmas.  These chocolates were destined for Christmas presents, so I did looks were fairly important. Luckily, it seemed to work, but whether this was pure fluke, very good chocolate or I actually did the right thing, I do not know. I used Chocolate by Trish 74% for cooks and her 38% milk chocolate - both of which I had used before and was already impressed with.
  • Chopped cubes of crystallised ginger into small pieces and placed these at the bottom of 24 small round chocolate moulds.
  • Melted 110g dark chocolate (74% buttons used for chestnut brownies) in a pan over near simmering water.
  • When melted added a further 40g and removed the bowl from the pan. 
  • Resisted the temptation to stir until these had also melted - then stirred until smooth.
  • Spooned enough of this over the ginger to fill the moulds.
  • Melted 100g milk chocolate - I had intended to use the same method as for the dark chocolate, but for some reason I couldn't get it to melt properly. It could be that my kitchen was very cold, because it melted beautifully when I first used it in the lemon balm ganache.
  • Spooned the melted (but not tempered) chocolate over the remaining ginger pieces.
  • Licked out the bowl of lovely warm chocolate - yum.
Lovely shiny dark chocolates - my first ever and I was very excited. It didn't work as well for the milk ones, but a partial success was good enough for a first attempt and they all tasted truly delicious. Ginger and chocolate is one of my favourite combinations and proved to be popular with friends and family too. As a milk chocolate lover, these were my favourite, but I would have been quite happy polishing off the lot myself. This year, by hook or by crook, I want to master the art of tempering or at least become adept at it. Any tips you have to offer would be much appreciated.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Almond and Squash Cake - We Should Cocoa 5

We had friends over for a Nut Roast dinner on New Year's Day and one of the dishes that I did was a squash gratin. To make this we broke into one of our enormous Boston Marrow squashes. This meant, of course, we had tons left over. We roasted and mashed some for the freezer, made squash curry, squash scone and squash soup. We still had some left over, so it seemed like an ideal ingredient to use up in this month's We Should Cocoa challenge; as a post Christmas special, Chele has chosen leftovers, something we probably all have after the seasonal splurge. I then had to find a recipe. BrownievilleGirl came to my rescue and suggested I make these blondies, the original recipe for which came from Harry Eastwood's Red Velvet Chocolate Heartache. I have been wanting to try one of her cake recipes for a long time. They are a bit different, substituting vegetables for butter, being gluten free and using less sugar than one would normally expect. I'm not convinced by the idea that butter is bad for you, but I'm willing to try butterless baking occasionally and it's always good to expand one's repertoire.

This is how I made them:
  • Beat 3 eggs (2 duck and 1 hen) with 120g vanilla sugar until thick, pale and creamy.
  • Beat in 250g squash (grated)
  • Sieved and then folded in 50g buckwheat flour, 2 tsp baking powder (gluten free), 1 tsp ground cinnamon and 1/4 tsp Himalayan pink salt.
  • Folded in 100g ground almonds.
  • Poured half the mixture into a 9" sq cake thingie, scattered over 100g chopped white chocolate then spooned on the remaining mixture.
  • Scattered 30g almond flakes over the top.
  • Baked at 180C for 25 minutes.
  • Left to cool then cut into 16 squares.
This was definitely cake rather than brownie, but very nice nonetheless. I was mostly struck by the texture of the cake, which was beautifully light and not what I would have expected from a cake cooked with mostly ground nuts and vegetables. In fact, I couldn't detect the nuts within the cake at all.  I also loved its colour - yellow flecked with orange. It was moist with a nice crunch of nuts on the top. Neither was it too sweet, not until, that is, a chunk of chocolate was bitten into. This would be lovely to serve at a tea party for the health conscious or wheat intolerant; the chocolate could easily be left out for an even healthier version.  Thank you BVG, I'm really pleased I tried this.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Chocolate Chip Scones

When I saw the scone baking challenge on Bakelady's Blog, I thought it sounded fun, but not really something I could participate in (it's running until the end of January, so there's still time to join in). Second thoughts were, why not make scones using chocolate?  Well why not indeed? My success with scones has been limited and I think that's partly because I have always insisted on using wholemeal flour; this seems to results in a rather heavy scone. However, when I tried using half wholemeal and half white along with yogurt in some cheese scones recently, I was forced to revise my opinion: I can make good scones.  I used the classic scone recipe as a base, ie 8oz flour, 2oz butter and 1/4 pt milk and then adapted it.

This is what I did:
  • Rubbed 2oz unsalted butter into 4oz wholemeal flour, 4oz white flour, 1 tsp cream of tarter, 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda and 1/4 tsp rock salt until incorporated.
  • Stirred in 40g chopped Maya gold - I thought the orange and spicy flavours in this chocolate would be pleasantly distinctive.
  • Placed 2 tbsp TOTAL Greek yogurt into a measuring jug and made this up to 1/4 pt with milk.
  • Poured this into the flour and then added most of a beaten egg (leaving enough to glaze the scone tops).
  • Mixed this together then formed into a dough.
  • Rolled out to 3/4 in thick and used a cutter to make 8 scones, reforming the dough as necessary.
  • Brushed with the remaining beaten egg and baked at 200C for 11 minutes.
Much to my relief, these were another success: delicious, moist and light with the Maya Gold making a more than acceptable substitute for the sultanas that grace some scones. That Greek yogurt worked its magic once again.  I didn't want anything other than clotted cream on my scones as I thought they would be sweet enough; and for me they were. But if I'd had any lemon curd to hand, that would have brought out the citrus flavour of the chocolate even more. You will find the round up of scone recipes here.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Cocoa Nibs and Pistachio Shortbread

This recipe from Suelle was another one I knew I was going to make as soon as I saw it on Mainly Baking. These biscuits looked so attractive with the lovely green pistachios and brown nibs, I thought they would make good Christmas gifts.

This is what I did:
  • Creamed 110g unsalted butter with 50g caster sugar until light and fluffy
  • Sifted in 125g unbleached white flour (unusual for me, but I wanted them to look pale and interesting - didn't quite work), 50g semolina and a pinch of rock salt.
  • Mixed roughly together, then added 25g pistachios - roughly chopped and 20g cocoa nibs.
  • Kneaded this very briefly until all incorporated.
  • Rolled out to about 3mm and cut into 14 rounds - not very easy as mixture was fragile and kept breaking.
  • Baked at 150C for 25 minutes.
Well, mine didn't look nearly as good as Suelle's but I'm so glad I made them as these shortbreads were delicious and went down particularly well with the recipients. They were very short, crisp and crumbly and oh so yummy.  I wish I'd made a whole batch just for us. Thank you Suelle for a truly wonderful recipe.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Nigella's Brownies - Forever Nigella 1

I've been craving brownies all week; I've been looking forward to the weekend so I could get on and make them and then, more importantly, eat them. Maison Cupcake is running a new monthly Forever Nigella event, so it seemed appropriate to try the brownie recipe from How to be a Domestic Goddess, which amazingly I've not yet tried. Seasonal Sensations is this month's theme - well you can't get much more seasonal than chocolate. Brownies are a real comfort in the dull grey weather we've been experiencing over the last few weeks! One of the rules is not to write the recipe down unless you have changed at least two ingredients. Well, as I'm incapable of following a recipe exactly, I should be all right on that count.  Making the rather large batch that Nigella suggested was a little too much, even for me, so I endeavoured to make half the amount as best I could. I used wholemeal flour, dark brown sugar and duck eggs and used my quick one pan method.

This is what I did:
  • Melted 180g unsalted butter in a large pan
  • Added 250g dark brown sugar and 180G dark 72% cooks chocolate
  • Mixed until smooth and chocolate melted.
  • Beat in 2 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 tsp salt (Himalayan pink).
  • Beat in 3 duck eggs, one by one.
  • Folded in 115g wholemeal flour.
  • Stirred in 150g chopped walnuts.
  • Baked at 180C for 20 mins.
  • Poured into a 9" (23 cm) sq cake mould.
  • Left to cool (a bit) then cut into 16 squares.
These brownies had a lovely crunchy top, were moist and fudgy inside, had a good strong chocolate flavour and were very rich. The liberal quantity of nuts added to the comfort factor and gave a crunchy contrast in texture. They were, however a little bit too greasy for my taste.  To be fair, this may have resulted from my failure to follow the recipe as given: I didn't whisk the eggs and sugar together as specified by Ms Lawson. By day two these had improved a lot; they were less greasy and had a fudgier consistency.

In conclusion, these brownies were good and satisfied my brownie craving, but they weren't up with the best - chestnut brownies, spicy orange brownies, toffee brownies, fudgy coconut brownies and many of the other brownies I have made. But please don't let that stop you giving them a try.

In a further conclusion, I think I might have been a bit harsh. These got better each day we had them and by day five they were truly delicious.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Candied Orange Peel dipped in Chocolate

The inspiration for this confection came from Black Book Kitchen Diaries - I was sold the moment I saw the pictures. Not only did they make it onto my Christmas gift list (which is always rather hopeful but impractically long) but I actually managed to make them too.

This is what I did:
  • Halved 6 organic oranges and squeezed out the juice.
  • Removed the innards as best I could leaving as much pith as possible on the peel.
  • Cut the peel into 1/2 cm strips.
  • Boiled the peel in water for about 15 minutes.
  • Drained the peel and repeated the process twice more (I wanted to leave some bitterness, the original recipe cooked them for longer and had one more change of water).
  • Heated 100g sugar and 50ml water until the sugar had dissolved.
  • Added the drained strips and simmered for about 45 mins until the peel had started to turn translucent.
  • Drained the syrup and used this in lots of other recipes.
  • Put the peels on a rack to dry - initially for 24 hours (see below).

  • Melted 80g 78% Trinitario chocolate from Cuba.
  • Half dipped the dried orange peels and laid them out on silicone paper until set.
  • Packaged into jars
These were wonderfully succulent the day after I put them up for drying, but I thought they needed a bit longer so that they wouldn't stick together in the jars. Unfortunately, I managed to forget about them for 4 days - oops. Luckily, they were still edible and still very tasty, but they veered more to the chewy than the succulent! Despite being soaked in syrup, these really weren't too sweet. They were very orangy but had a hint of bitterness which complemented the chocolate well.

Although, this was a fiddly job and not my favourite sort of kitchen activity, the result was so good, I shall be making these again.

The chocolate I used from Pierre Marcolini was a 78% grand cru trinitario from Cuba and it was delicious; a fantastic melt in the mouth experience. It had a fruity aroma and fruity notes when it first hit the tongue.  This was followed by notes of butterscotch and finally coffee. Melting the chocolate was a wonderful nose experience - the kitchen smelt delightful for a long time after. I was very impressed with this chocolate.

Update December 2011 - On making these again, I peeled the oranges rather than squeezing them first and this worked much better as the peel was cleaner. This time around I dried them for 24 hours only which made them much juicier and rolled them in caster sugar before storing.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Chocolate, Date & Walnut Trifle

Some of you may remember that I made this Date & Walnut cake for last month's We Should Cocoa challenge. Well, with so many goodies on offer, this poor cake got sadly neglected - CT it seems, is also not a great fan of dates.  It was a jolly good cake and one I shall make again - moist, tasty and luckily long lasting, but only a few slices were taken.  With this month's We Should Cocoa challenge being set to use up leftovers, I had initially thought I would use this cake as my offering. But what to do? Well not being blessed with a lot of creative imagination, I opted for the first thing that came into my mind - which was trifle. I then started to think this was perhaps a bit cheeky using virtually the same thing for two challenges in a row BUT by now my mind was very much set on making this trifle anyway. Julia of A Slice of Cherry Pie and Scott of Real Epicurean run a monthly blogging event which I am not usually able to enter, but the ingredients for In The Bag this month are chocolate, cream and nuts - well really! It was clearly meant to be. My cake already had the requisite chocolate and nuts in it - all I needed to do was add some cream.  I did add a bit more chocolate and a few more nuts just to make sure though.

This is what I did:
  • Cut three large slices of the date and walnut cake and cut them into roughly 1 inch cubes.
  • Placed these into a glass bowl.
  • Spooned over 6 tbsp of damson liqueur and a couple tbsp of orange syrup (leftover from the candied orange peel).
  • Made 1 pint of custard, left to cool then poured over the cake pieces.
  • Whipped 250ml double cream until it just held it's shape then spooned this over the custard.
  • Toasted a handful of slivered almonds.
  • Grated 20g of Maya Gold then scattered over the cream.
  • Finally scattered the almonds over the chocolate.
This was very different from a normal fruity trifle; different yes, but delicious just the same. It had an aromatic spicy taste from the Maya Gold and wasn't too sweet. The light creamy top combined with the grounding damson soaked date cake and crunchy nuts gave a complementary mouth feel and taste.  This was an excellent way to use up a cake that wasn't loved as much as it should have been. Two bowls at one sitting is, perhaps, sufficient.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Chocolate Hazelnut & Orange Biscotti

As soon as I saw the post about biscotti over at Fig and Lime Coridal, it was only a matter of time until I had a go at making some myself. I had made some really good chocolate biscotti a few years ago, but having lost the recipe, it went off my radar.  However, once reminded, it was a dead cert. These were on my list for Christmas gifts. I used Celia's recipe as my base line, but adapted it to include melted chocolate. I also found I needed to add some water as the dough was just too dry to come together without it - this may be because I used wholemeal flour. Anyway, this is what I did:
  • Roasted 140g hazelnuts for 10 minutes in a hot oven to loosen skins (and make house smell good).
  • Allowed to cool, then rolled the nuts between my hands to take off the skins.
  • Chopped roughly.
  • Melted 72% dark chocolate (72%)
  • Sifted 300g flour 150g wholemeal spelt and 150g white spelt) into a bowl with 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda, 1/4 tsp salt (Himalayan pink) and 75g cocoa (G&B).
  • Mixed in 200g vanilla granulated sugar (or use 1 tsp vanilla extract) and 2 tsp orange zest.
  • Made a well in the centre and broke in 3 large eggs.
  • Mixed in the eggs working in the dry ingredients from the side.
  • Added the melted chocolate and mixed a bit more.
  • Added the nuts.
  • As the mixture was very dry, added a couple of tablespoons of water to bring dough together with my hands.
  • Divided dough into two and rolled into sausage shapes about 3 inches wide.
  • Placed these on a lined baking tray and baked at 180C for 25 minutes.
  • Removed from oven and left to cool for 15 minutes.
  • Cut the rolls into diagonal 1 cm thick slices to ensure a longish thinish shape.
  • Baked the slices for a further 20 mins at 160C, turning them over half way through.
  • Placed on a wire rack and left to cool.
  • Made 33 pieces
Hoorah, these were a complete success. They looked as good as I could have hoped for with a nice dark chocolatey colour contrasting well with the white hazelnuts that studded them. They smelt wonderful and the aroma scented the house for a long time afterwards. I had a hard time stopping myself from opening the tin every half hour just to inhale their fragrance. They had the classic biscotti texture, which can be a bit of a shock if you are expecting a standard cookie type biscuit; these Italian double baked biscuits are hard and are meant for dunking. This batch was not just visually appealing, there was a depth to the flavour as a result of rich chocolate, nuttiness from the hazelnuts and just a hint of orange - all very satisfying. No surprise then, that I had to restrain myself (and CT) from having more than a nibble as these were destined for packaging and passing on.


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