Thursday, 29 September 2011

White Chocolate Crunch Biscuits - RBOK 2

When I first saw the Caked Crusaders post for Syrup Crunch Biscuits, I was keen to make these most tempting sounding treats. I was planning on baking some to take away with us on holiday, but I stupidly didn't bookmark the post and then couldn't remember where I'd seen it. I'd even bought cornflakes specially, not something we normally have in the house; I had to fend off CT, who is rather partial to a bowl of them. As it happened the apple cake we took with us was plenty, so it's just as well I didn't find the recipe. Thankfully Baking Addict had also decided she liked the look of these biscuits and thus reminded me where I'd first seen them.

Vanessa Kimball got such an overwhelming response to her call for Random Bakes of Kindness last month that she's decided to continue with it as a regular event. Waking up early one stormy and rain drenched morning whilst still on leave from work, I thought of those poor staff down at the railway station. Having messed up my first attempt, this seemed like the perfect time to get a second chance at cheering them up. I needed to be quick so that CT could take them a batch on his way to work. Now, how to get the chocolate in? My first thought was to add chocolate chips, but remembering how well white chocolate had worked with the halva flapjacks which contained condensed milk, I thought I'd try that.

This is what I did:
  • Melted 250g unsalted butter in a large pan.
  • Added 200g condensed milk, 175g golden syrup and 100g white chocolate.
  • Placed 175g cornflakes in a bowl and scrunched roughly with my hands to make slightly smaller flakes, but not dust.
  • Added these to the pan together with 175g rolled oats.
  • Sifted in 100g custard powder, 250g flour (half white, half wholemeal) and 2 tsp bicarb of soda.
  • Mixed well then rolled tablespoonfuls into a ball with my hands and placed on lined baking trays - I put 8 on each 23 x 30 cm tray and had 36 balls all together. With only 2 baking trays, this took me quite a while.
  • Flattened each ball slightly and pressed in a few crushed cornflakes into the tops.
  • Baked at 180C for 10 minutes.
  • Slid onto a rack to cool.
Delicate biscuits these are not - they are more of a cross between a biscuit and a cake and are quite substantial in size. But tasty they most definitely are - crisp on the outside and soft in the middle but with a cornflake crunch throughout. Surprisingly, they were not too sweet, perhaps because I was rather cautious with the syrup. CT informed me that the staff were delighted. I shall be very disappointed if my spies report back that he was spotted red handed scoffing the lot.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Baking Mad Chocolate Honeycomb Squares

Well I'm sure most of you will have heard of the French TV pastry chef Eric Lanlard and Baking Mad. Even I have heard of both him and the programme and I don't have a television. The Baking Mad website is full of recipe ideas as well as tips, tricks and competitions. I was asked to choose a recipe from this site and make it. Well, goodness me, there were so many recipes to choose from I was a little overwhelmed. First off, I typed in the keyword chocolate - dozens of recipes issued forth. With a little thought I narrowed my chocolate search down to Eric's recipes - if I was going to make something from the site, it may as well be one of his. This gave me a more reduced choice. I had no problems selecting which one to make because chocolate honeycomb squares leapt out and grabbed my attention! I've sort of had honeycomb on the brain recently. I've just reviewed some  delicious hokey pokey. Then Chele over at the Chocolate Teapot made some followed by Kath over at the Ordinary Cook. I was just looking for the excuse to make some of my own and now I'd found it.

Actually, when looking at the recipe, I realised it used maltesers rather than honeycomb. What the heck, much as I love maltesers, honeycomb it was going to be - or was it? I followed Chele's recipe and it looked fine when I poured it out - bubbly and the right colour, but when I went to bash it into bits I found it was sticky and chewy and not in the least bit crunchy. Easily defeated I trudged off to buy some maltesers!

Making half the quantity and adjusting the topping decoration somewhat, this is what I did:
  • Melted 100g milk chocolate (35%) in a pan over gentle heat with 50g unsalted butter and 1.5 tbsp golden syrup.
  • Meanwhile bashed 115g of digestive biscuits in a bowl with the end of a rolling pin.
  • Added the biscuit pieces and 115g maltesers to the chocolate and stirred.
  • Poured into a buttered xxx dish, then levelled with a spoon.
  • Placed in the fridge for an hour to set.
  • Melted 25g milk chocolate in a bowl over hot water.
  • Spread this over the set tiffin.
  • Immediately covered with halved maltesers and bits of my failed honeycomb.
  • Melted 20g dark orange chocolate in a bowl over hot water.
  • Attempted to drizzle this over the top of the maltesers using a teaspoon, but I couldn't get the chocolate runny enough.
  • Made a cone out of greaseproof paper, snipped the end of and used this to force some drizzle out - hmmmm!
  • When set, cut into 24 squares and indulged!
And indulgent is the best word for these - sweet, crunchy, sticky, coma inducing, but so very moreish. They reminded CT of Middle Eastern sweets, not so much in flavour but as sticky flavoursome bites. I was very surprised at how much the orange flavour stood out, given that so little of the dark chocolate actually made it onto the top.

This is a sponsored link.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Apple & Thyme Cake - Random Recipe 8

Dom's random recipe challenge this month is to randomly pick something from our stashes of magazines, cuttings and pull-outs. He knows us so well; don't we all have a pile of those lurking around somewhere, trying to attract our attention and making us feel guilty? In my more organised moments, I gather clippings and old envelope jottings and put them in folders - three in fact, one for sweet stuff, one for savoury and one for Christmas. Annoyingly, I haven't got organised enough to have one for chocolate. However, I'm not as efficient as I'd like to be, so most of them are still lying about the house in various places or used as bookmarks. I was NOT going to embark on a mega house-clearance and recipe sort out week, so I put my hand into the file for sweet recipes, hoped for the best and pulled out ....... another apple cake recipe!!!!!

I'd pretty much thought I'd done my bit for apples this month, but it was not to be. This recipe for Lord Lambourne Apple & Thyme Cake, came from an RHS Grow Your Own card that I think I picked up about four years ago when visiting RHS Rosemoor in North Devon. Anyway, I have plenty of apples from my mother's tree, the use of thyme seemed interesting and I could easily add chocolate chips into the mix so I started peeling apples.
  • Cored, peeled and roughly chopped 3 apples (Cornish cooker / eater variety).
  • Placed apple in a pan together with 25g cardamom sugar, 25g unsalted butter and 1/2 tsp cinnamon and simmered for a few minutes until soft, but not broken.
  • Creamed 125g unsalted butter with 125g cardamom sugar, 100g light muscovado sugar and the leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme.
  • Beat in 3 eggs - one by one.
  • Sifted in 190g flour (1/2 wholemeal, half white and including 1 heaped tbsp Mesquite powder), 1 heaped tsp baking powder and 1 tsp cinnamon, then mixed.
  • Stirred in the cooked apples followed by 50g milk chocolate chips (40%).
  • Spooned into a 23cm cake mould and baked for 50 minutes at 150C.
  • Allowed to cool for a while, then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Mixed 1/4 tsp cinnamon with 1 tbsp icing sugar and dusted this over the top.
It's very hard to tell as I have only memory for comparison purposes, but I think this might be the best apple cake I've made so far. It was totally delicious. Very smooth in the mouth, cinnaomony and toffee appley too. My only complaint was that the thyme was only just detectable.

Oh well, six apple cakes down - at least as many to go!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Chocolate Brown Betty

With a friend due for supper last week, loads of spare apples and some bread in need of using up, I knew immediately what I wanted to make for pudding. I grew up calling a stewed apple base with a bread crumb top Apple Charlotte, but apparently that is not correct. Apple Charlotte seems to be more like a summer pudding but using apples rather than summer berries. According to the great god Google, a Brown Betty is what I've been referring to all these years. Anyway, this is what I did, making it up as I went along:
  • Blitzed 3oz of my rye sourdough into bread crumbs.
  • Stirred in 1 tbsp demerara sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and a grating of nutmeg.
  • Melted 1oz butter with 1 heaped tbsp golden syrup and stirred into the bread.
  • Peeled, cored and sliced 2 large Cornish cooking apples and 4 small red fleshed ones we found on a wayside tree.
  • Buttered a small pie dish and piled in the apple slices.
  • Sprinkled 2 tbsp demerara sugar over the apples.
  • Scattered 50g chopped dark orange flavoured chocolate over this.
  • Spooned the bread crumb mixture over the top of the chocolate.
  • Baked for 25 minutes at 180C.
The picture may be rubbish - it was dark, but this was so good, I wonder why I've never made it before. The bread crumb top was deliciously spicy and nicely crunchy. The chocolate had melted comfortingly into the apples which were soft and juicy and the dollop of creme fraiche over the top was the perfect finishing tough. The three of us polished it off quick time as the conversation drifted from marine biology to tango dancing via druidic studies.

To celebrate her new blog home, Kate of What Kate Baked (formerly Kates Cakes & Bakes) has issued an Autumnal Challenge to bake something homely, comforting, warming and autumnal. She even has a prize up for grabs. This pud fits the bill nicely - in my humble opinion!

A tad cheekily, but I'm fast running out of time and have a long queue of posts waiting patiently to be published, I am also submitting this to Fabulicious Food's Simple and in Season.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Chocolate Chilli Cake - We Should Cocoa 13

When Chele announced that this month we were to make something suitable for the We Should Cocoa first birthday party, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I'd been eyeing up Pam Corbin's Chocolate Cake recipe since I first acquired her excellent book Cakes (no 8 in the River Cottage Handbook series). I was intrigued by her use of drinking chocolate powder in the recipe. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to use the Steenbergs chilli drinking chocolate that I've been trying not to drink too greedily. I was hoping this would give a very mild chilli effect with just a trace of warmth. So, all that was needed was the excuse of a friend coming to tea and I set to with a will. Apart from using the chilli drinking chocolate, I followed the recipe pretty much as written for the actual cake. But the filling and topping I changed. Amazingly, I still had some apricot curd in the fridge, but it really did need using up and I thought this would provide a nice contrast to the chocolate. For the top, I was inspired by a Hugh Fernely Whitingstall recipe from the Guardian that our friend had given me. It was for a wicked looking chocolate hazelnut cake that I will have to make one day. The Ganache was a little different and was meant to give a glossy top, so I thought I'd do something similar. This is what I did:
  • Stirred 50 hot water into 25g chilli drinking chocolate and 25g cocoa until smooth.
  • Creamed 175g unsalted butter with 100g cardamom sugar and 100g light brown muscavado sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat the cocoa mixture and a pinch of Himalayan pink rock salt into the butter mixture.
  • Sieved 200g flour (half spelt, half white), 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp bicarb of soda.
  • Beat in 4 large eggs one at a time, mixing in a tbsp of flour after each one to prevent curdling.
  • Stirred in the remaining flour.
  • Added 75g fat free Greek yogurt and 75ml milk and mixed gently.
  • Folded in 100g ground almonds.
  • Spooned into two 22 cm cake moulds and baked at 180C for 35 mins.
  • Removed and left to cool.
  • Sandwiched together with apricot curd buttercream made with 50g unsalted butter, 100g icing sugar and 3 heaped tbsp apricot curd.
  • Dissolved 50g vanilla sugar in 50ml water and boiled for 3 mins.
  • Allowed to cool to warm rather than hot.
  • Added 80g broken dark chocolate (85%) and 10g unsalted butter.
  • Stirred until smooth.
  • Allowed to cool a little, then poured over the cake.
  • Grated 20g dark chocolate (85%) and scattered over the top.
This was a wonderfully moist cake, perfectly cooked and risen. It was also surprisingly fragrant courtesy of the cardamom sugar. I'm guessing that as I'd been away for a while the cardamom pods in the sugar had time to do their work without being interrupted by me. The apricot filling provided a nice contrast to the chocolate. I was really pleased with the glossy chocolate top which set firmly and dribbled elegantly down the sides without gushing all over the plate. It tasted good too, a nice chocolate hit to a cake which wasn't particularly chocolatey. The chilli worked just as I hoped it would and was a hint rather than an assault. It added a depth to the flavour and left a very faint tingle in the mouth and throat. All in all a worthy offering for our first birthday party.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Steenbergs Chilli Drinking Chocolate

A few weeks ago, an unexpected parcel arrived in the post. Childlike I know, but I still get very excited by parcels, especially unexpected ones. Having reviewed these drinking chocolates back in June, Steenbergs thought I might like to try a tin of their chilli version. And a tin with a label on it too. Last time, they were still waiting for the labels to be printed, so I received two unlabelled tins - which was fine by me as I can now use them for other purposes.

Of the three drinking chocolate varieties, this was my favourite. It has a real kick to it and I love the warmth it leaves behind in mouth, throat and stomach. It's not quite as sweet as the others either, which gave it the thumbs up from me. I'd happily sip on this all winter long. But a word of warning, this one is not for the faint hearted; CT thought it was like a hot iron fist concealed within an unctuous velvet glove.

I had a thought that this would be rather good used in a cake. I duly made one and it worked just as I'd hoped; more on that later.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Ginger and Chocolate Cupcakes

I don't know why, but I really fancied baking something with my marrow and ginger jam yesterday - well jam is probably pushing it as it's more like sauce! It was a friend's birthday and as it is National Cupcake Week, I thought I'd better bake some for her. I adapted a primrose bakery recipe for ginger cupcakes, altering the quantities, using ginger and marrow jam instead of stem ginger and adding bits of chocolate. I also thought this would be a good opportunity to, err, have another go at piping - deep breath, gritted teeth ......

This is how I did it:
  • Melted 125g unsalted butter in a large pan together with 125g molasses sugar and 1 tbsp treacle.
  • Allowed to cool a little whilst I got on with weighing the flour and chopping the chocolate.
  • Mixed in 75ml sour milk and stirred until smooth.
  • Beat in 1 large egg.
  • Stirred in 2 tablespoon of marrow and ginger jam.
  • Sifted in 180g flour (half wholemeal, half white), 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp bicarb of soda, 1 tsp ground ginger and a pinch of salt and stirred to combine.
  • Stirred in 50g chopped dark spiced orange chocolate (51%), reserving 24 pieces to place on top.
  • Spooned mixture into 12 cupcake cases, dropped in 2 pieces of chocolate and baked at 180C for 20 minutes.
  • Turned out onto a rack and left to cool.
  • Creamed 125g unsalted butter with 250g sieved icing sugar until almost white.
  • Beat in 2 tsp lemon juice and 3 tbsp of the syrup from the marrow and ginger jam.
  • Spooned into a piping bag and using a star nozzle succeeded in getting the buttercream onto the cupcakes - hoorah!
Well, my piping skills obviously need some improvement, but I was reasonably pleased with these. I didn't break the bag or shoot the nozzle out of the end for a start, that's got to be progress. I tried total coverage as well as just a whirl in the middle to see which I liked best. Both CT and I felt that full coverage gave the best effect.

They had a delicious gingerbread taste, but had a lighter texture and the ginger was not as strong. Combined with the lemony tang from the ginger and marrow jam, the fragrant aroma and chocolate nuggets, these were real winners; I shall be making them again for sure. Just as well I was giving these away or I might have polished off quite a few of them. That was my friend's avowed intention anyway.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Apple and Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies - a failed Bake of Kindness

Last month, Vanessa Kimbell came up with an inspiring thought - to practice random bakes of kindness. I so liked this idea when I first read it. Nearly two years ago now, I baked for the good burghers of Liskeard and was well rewarded with the delight expressed through their words and smiles, but sadly I haven't really done anything similar since. So, I had an idea. The staff at Liskeard Railway Station, who I see so much of through my daily commute to work have a very hard time of it. They are the ones often on the receiving end of all the manifestations of travellers' frustrations when the trains are delayed or cancelled or the ticket queues are too long; they don't have an easy time of it. So, brightening up their day a little seemed like a nice thing to do.

Not having much time to spare, needing something portable and harbouring a big bag of cooking apples I thought these Apple Oatmeal Cookies would fit the bill nicely - especially when some chocolate was added to the mix. This is what I did:

  • Creamed 4oz unsalted butter with 5.5 oz cardamom sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Beat in 1 duck egg.
  • Mixed in 3oz wholemeal flour, 5 oz oats and 1/2 tsp baking powder.
  • Peeled, cored and finely chopped in 1 cooking apple and mixed that in together with 2oz 40% milk chocolate drops.
  • Placed teaspoonfuls well apart on two trays - one using my new silicone mat and another lined with baking paper.
  • Baked at 180C for 10 minutes.
Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan and although these biscuits were undoubtedly delicious, they were in no fit state to be given away. When I opened the oven, I gasped in horror. All the cookies from the tray on the bottom shelf had run together and looked a terrible mess. Oh well, I thought, at least the top tray (on my new silicone mat) looks good. They may have looked good, but they were horrendously stuck to the silicone mat and the bottoms of the biscuits came away from the tops. Don't be fooled by the pictures. Disaster. Mission aborted.

I called on the emergency services in the form of CT to help with the clean up operation. I have to say, crumbs, they were really delicious.

As I'd run out of time, I did a mini bake of kindness with these Rock Cakes, but the staff at Liskeard station had to wait for theirs.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Hokey Pokey from the Chocolate Society

A very tempting and pretty bag of Hokey Pokey arrived in the post recently from the Chocolate Society. I am a big fan of honeycomb, but often find the commercial stuff too sweet for me these days. When I was younger and had a sweeter tooth, the inevitable Crunchie bars were one of my favourites. Now when I see lovley crunchy, light golden, perforated chunks of sweetness it brings back nostalgic memories of childhood sweet making. How I used to marvel at the bubbling, frothing toffee when the bicarb was added and it looked the next best thing to a lava flow.

It was all I could do not to get stuck into this straight away, especially when I unwrapped the package and a sweet and chocolatey aroma pervaded my senses. It was not long after taking the obligatory photos that my resistance ran out. Mmmm, pure heaven.

This honeycomb is a rather more sophisticated version of the Crunchie and is covered in Valrhona's 40% milk chocolate which is not anything like as sweet and contains a lot more cocoa. The honeycomb was perfect, just the right amount of caramel notes and a good texture - I have nearly broken my teeth on hard lumps in the past. The verdict? This is one yummy bag of deliciousness.

I have to say I wolfed these down rather faster than I should have and CT only got a small look in. He thought the honeycomb was more fragrant than your average Crunchie and the chocolate was thicker, creamier and tastier.

If you'd like to try this honeycomb, The Chocolate Society have kindly offered followers of this blog a 20% discount through their online shop. Use CHOCLETTE as the discount code.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Apple, Hazelnut and Choc Chip Cake

We are just back from a rather damp week spent on the Lizard. For those wondering, the Lizard is not a large scaly reptile, although there is a reptilian link. It's a peninsula lying at the most southerly point of mainland UK and is made of serpentine rock. It's actually a piece of sea floor which somehow ended up in the wrong place. The serpentine has unusual chemical properties which leads to a unique habitat, making it a Mecca for botanists - CT was in his element. Despite the fact we only had one morning of sun the entire duration of our stay, it wasn't as wet as it might have been and we had a lovely time, spoilt only by the fact it passed far too quickly.

Before leaving, the big question was what cake to take with us? On our last stay there, two years ago, I made a well remembered chocolate mayonnaise cake which was not only delicious but lasted the whole week. I needed to replicate the delicious and lasting qualities, but wanted something a little different. In the end, the sheer number of apples I'd been given sealed the deal, it just had to be an apple cake. Leafing through my many recipe books and scraps of paper, I finally plumped for an Apple & Hazelnut cake. I've had this recipe for at least 14 years but have never actually made it and where it came from is now lost in the mists of time. I adapted it to include chocolate of course and made a few other amendments along the way, including brandy soaked sultanas.

This is what I did:
  • Soaked 3oz sultanas in 1 tbsp brandy for a couple of hours (overnight would have been better).
  • Spent an age cracking the last of last year's hazelnuts, then toasted 3oz of them.
  • When cool, blitzed them in a coffee grinder.
  • Peeled, cored and chopped 1 lb cooking apples
  • Creamed 8oz unsalted butter with 6oz cardamom sugar.
  • Beat in 3 duck eggs.
  • Stirred in 2 tsp dried orange zest.
  • Sieved in 12oz flour (half wholemeal and half white), 1.5 tsp baking powder, a pinch of salt and 1 tsp cinnamon.
  • Mixed in the apple and hazelnuts.
  • Stirred in sultanas and 3oz milk chocolate drops (40%).
  • Spooned into a 23cm cake mould.
  • Sliced an unpeeled dessert apple and placed slices around the top.
  • Scattered over 2 tbsp demerara sugar
  • Baked for 45 mins at 180C.
Luckily the cake was delicious and it did last us the week, although with the various other treats we had whilst we were there, we probably shouldn't have had any cake at all.

Here are a few highlights of our trip in no particular order of merit or occurrence:

Walking the coastal path on that first sunny morning somewhere near Kennack Sands.

Spotting our first view of Cornish Heath (Erica vagans) this year - no longer at its best but always exciting as the Lizard is one of the very few places that it grows in the UK.

Dodging showers around Trewidden Gardens, Penzance - 1st visit and the most impressive grove of tree ferns we've seen in the UK.

Kynance Cove as we saw it two years ago - this time it was hard to discern through the thick mist.

The biggest swathe of Devil's Bit Scabious either of us have ever seen.

Dragonfly on CT's knee.

The delightful fishing village of Cadgwith.

Posh nosh at New Yard Restaurant, Trelowarren.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Blue Basil Brownies - A Review

When offered a box of Bluebasil Gourmet Brownies to review, I was not going to refuse. I'd been eyeing these up ever since I first heard about them via Twitter. They are a small company specialising in hand made brownies using good quality ingredients.

Sending brownies in the post must be a difficult undertaking I thought; I was wondering in what state these would arrive. I had no cause for concern: they were well packaged to avoid all the bumps and drops that are inevitable in the postal system. They were most beautifully presented with full eco credentials using a cardboard box, shredded paper, greaseproof paper for wrapping the brownies and tissue paper for presentation. I was impressed. When I got to look at the list of ingredients, I was impressed again. There was nothing there that I could take issue with - all the ingredients are of high quality with both the flour and eggs being local and organic (and of course free range) as well as local butter. Divine fair trade chocolate is used in some of the products, but it's not clear what chocolate is used in the others.

On unwrapping the box of six brownies of varying flavours, I first got a wonderful scent of chocolate and cardamom. I then got a feast for the eyes and I immediately started salivating. As ever, patience was needed and I had to take the all important photographs before I could tuck in. At last they were mine! I was a little concerned that the cardamom flavour would have leaked into the other brownies, but no it hadn't. They all had their own unique flavours and most were easy to spot as they had an identifying ingredient attractively embedded on the top. I did have difficulty identifying the chunky white chocolate one I was expecting, but I think there was a mix up as what I seemed to have instead was a very nutty one.

In the order that I tried them:

Cardamom - I had to start with this one as cardamom and chocolate are one of my favourite combinations. This is an award winning gold star brownie and I was not disappointed. This had just the right amount of cardamom, most definitely there, but not at all overwhelming. Best described as smoothly fudgy.

Summerberry - Definitely fruity. I could tell that real fruit was used here as the seeds kept sticking in my teeth. I could identify blackberries and thought I tasted raspberries and strawberries too. These tasted fantastic, but I wasn't too keen on the seeds.

Chocwork Orange - a lovely natural orange flavour which in no way reminded me of a Terry's chocolate orange - something I used to love in my younger days, but which now tastes too sweet and artificial. The piece of baked orange on the top was a delight.

Hazelnut - Topped with roasted hazelnuts and a few scattered through the brownie, these were a crunchy delight. A lovely contrast of textures, the chewiness provided by the nuts allowed me to savour the flavours that much longer.

Classic Chunky Chocolate - a classic brownie with no additional flavourings other than large chunks of milk chocolate, which give a very different consistency from the fudgines of the brownies when bitten into. I detected a very faint trace of something sweetly spicy, so it may have picked up a little of the cardamom and possibly orange flavours. This one used Divine milk chocolate.

Cappuccino - not being too fond of coffee, I left CT to savour this one all on his own (apart from a very small nibble); he only got a partial look in on one of the others! He thought it packed a caffeine punch, but in a nice way. Its strong, robust flavour made him salivate and he thought it would be a good pick me up. Better than a cup of coffee he opined, plus it doesn't have the annoying froth. CT is not a coffee sophisticate, but he really enjoyed this brownie.

Other flavours include: Tiramisu, Banoffee and Chunky White Chocolate and specials are offered through the year. Both the chunky chocolate and the chunky white chocolate varieties can also be ordered gluten-free.

To be honest, I'd be more than happy to eat any of these artisan brownies at any time - even the cappuccino. All were a satisfying size and were well balanced in terms of flavour and all had the classic dense fudgy brownie consistency that I always hope for but don't often get. Sweet, as you'd expect, but not overly so and deliciously rich. I only had very minor quibbles: the seeds in the Summerberry, not knowing what chocolate is used and it would be nice to see pictures of all the individual flavoured brownies on the bluebasil website. At £14.99 for nine, these brownies are not cheap. But they are not outrageously expensive either, certainly not for this sort of quality. A box of these would make a fabulous present - they'd certainly make me a fabulous one ;-)

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Apple and Chocolate Rock Cakes

Rock cakes used to be my main go to recipe when I had to bake something in a hurry or just wanted something to fill the cake tin. I haven't made them in years, I don't know why, they are so easy and really quite delicious. I also grew up with them. My mother used to make them with dates which I particularly liked. But at the moment I have lots of cooking apples that a friend has given me and I need to concentrate on using them up. Regular visitors may start to get bored with the ensuing number of apple cakes I may well be baking!

Anyway, this is what I did this time around:
  • Put 8oz flour (1/2 spelt, 1/2 white) into a large mixing bowl together with 2 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp cinnamon.
  • Rubbed 4oz unsalted butter into the flour.
  • Stirred in 3oz demerara sugar.
  • Added 2oz sultanas and 2oz 40% milk chocolate drops.
  • Peeled, cored and finely (ish) chopped 1 cooking apple and stirred that in to the dry ingredients.
  • Made a well in the centre, broke in 2 duck eggs and stirred until all combined.
  • Spooned 12 large lumps onto a lined baking tray and baked for 20 minutes at 180C until lightly browned.
  • Moved to a wire rack to cool.
These were just as good as I'd remembered them, firm on the outside and soft and delicious on the inside. This was the first time I'd ever used chocolate in rock cakes and as I'd guessed, it worked really well. The sweet bits of sultanas and chocolate made an excellent contrast to the sharp and flavoursome apple pieces. They were destined for friends where we were going for supper. However, I managed to snaffle one for myself, save one for CT and rush down the road to my local bookshop with two of them on a saucer, where they were gratefully received. We are lucky enough to have an independent bookshop in our small town. It is a marvellous place which somehow manages to keep going whilst many shops are closing around it. They always give excellent service and are friendly and knowledgeable. They may be small, but CT hasn't found a book yet that they haven't been able to order for him and he orders some rather obscure items. Surprisingly, for such humble cakes, these had rave reviews from all who ate them.

Cheekily, I'm linking this to Vanessa Kimbell's lovely idea to Practice Random Acts of Baking. Vanessa, I had a much more random and kinder plan that this in mind, but the bakes were a disaster and I had to abort - I will relate all at a later date.

I am just about to leave on a week's holiday - hoorah! It is two years since I had a proper holiday and it feels very much needed. We are not going far, we're off to the Lizard and I can't wait!


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