Sunday, 30 October 2011

Chocolate & Almond Fudge Cake - Short & Tweet

After missing out on tasting the Orange and Earl Grey Cake, I desperately wanted to bake an orange cake this weekend. Then I found out that the deadline for the inaugural bake for #shortandtweet had been extended until today and I was able to participate after all. Not only that, but the bake was to be a chocolate one - how could I resist? So very naughtily, I baked an orange cake on Friday, which I will post at some later date and Dan Lepard's Chocolate and Almond Fudge Cake today.

I don't feel quite as guilty about this as I should, as I managed to share some of the orange cake with a friend as well as CT and there is still a substantial quantity left. The chocolate cake looks as though it will be a keeper, so we won't need to eat it straight away - apart from trying a small piece, for the purposes of this post you understand.

Short and Tweet is a new event set up by Evidence Matters. EM responded to a burst of enthusiasm by some of us on Twitter wanting to share our experiences of Dan Lepard's bakes, following the long awaited publication of Short and Sweet. As this is a weekly challenge, I won't be able to participate all of the time, but I'm hoping to join in as often as I can.

The guardian recipe is slightly different to the one in the book. The book states 3 medium eggs rather than 4 large ones. Amazingly for me, I pretty much followed the recipe (from the book) as written, with the following exceptions:
  • I didn't have any oatmeal so ground up porridge oats instead
  • I used a hand whisk to beat the egg whites as it really doesn't take long and saved the faff of getting out the electric beaters.
  • I don't have a 20 cm round mould so used my 22 cm one, but cooked for the required 40 mins.
  • I decided not to top the cake with double cream as I wanted it to keep for as long as possible, so just scattered grated chocolate over the top.
  • I used 70% dark chocolate from Divine to make the cake and grated some of this first for scattering purposes further down the line, before melting it into the cake mixture.
  • I didn't put the cake into the fridge - I never have any room in there!
When I have a real need for something warm, comforting, chocolatey and quick, I sometimes make chocolate porridge. Well, the raw mixture of this cake tasted like an enriched and sweeter version of my porridge - I could have happily eaten it just as it was.

However, I managed to hang on until the cake was baked. It could be that I didn't cook it for long enough as it sank rather dramatically. The top, however came out quite cracked and was well done. It is dense, rich and delicious, but a bit hard to describe. The consistency is sort of somewhere between porridge, mousse and soufflé - firm around the edges but squidgy in the middle, chewy but also soft and melts in the mouth. It's also very chocolatey, but with all that chocolate and cocoa in it, I guess that is no surprise. I would suggest it's more of a dinner party cake than  a tea time treat. CT could taste the almonds and commented on how the robust chocolate flavour lingers on the palate. He described it as a cake for all seasons, as it does many things at the same time. With due consideration, he said "this is the thinking man's chocolate torte".

Saturday, 29 October 2011

We Should Cocoa - The Chilli Round-up

As you know, I was a little nervous about putting forward chilli as this month's ingredient, but I needn't have been. Everyone was very enthusiastic and we had thirty hot hot entries. I particularly loved the vibrant colours associated with chillies that have been showcased here. Once again, we have a great range of dishes on offer, from cakes and puddings to bread and some savoury dishes too - a testament to the creative flair of the participants. Brownies and some sort of variation on chocolate pots proved to be particularly popular, but quite frankly I want to try every single entry, with the possible exception of my own ;-)

Don't forget to check out the Chocolate Teapot on the 1st November to find out what Chele has up her sleeve for next month's challenge.

Dom of Belleau Kitchen got all scientific on us this month but nevertheless the capsaicin kicked in early and got him moving with this darkly lush Chilli Chocolate Orange Cake, a real feast for the senses.

These Chilli Choc Cupcakes from first timer Kat of Life of a Cupcake Baker served several purposes: to lose weight, to induce labour and to calm her son - chilli is truly the panacea for all ills!

Chilli loving Baking Addict of The More Than Occasional Baker was rather nervous about trying this month's challenge out on her work colleagues, but was delighted to find that white chocolate and chilli was a winning combination after all and everyone loved these White Chocolate Chilli Brownies.

Chocolate Chili Souffle just sounds as though it's going to be fabulous and this one made by newcomer Gary of Exploits of a Food Nut certainly look the business.

Hannah of Corner Cottage Bakery has got her Christmas hat on and come up with these festive and perky little Apricot Chilli Florentines.

First timer Cake Fairy has wowed me, not only by the flavours of this magnificent Chilli Chocolate Swiss Roll with Cream and Blackberry Jam, but also by her expert rolling - and it was her first attempt too.

With many ideas spinning around her head, Alex of Dear Love Blog eventually settled on Chipotle Brownies - on my continual quest for the ultimate brownie, I'm wondering if this might just be it.

What else is needed other than some lush and decedent Chocolate Chilli Sauce to power The Kitchenmaid up those steep Wellington goat tracks - nothing apparently.

Look at What Kate Baked. Her Chilli Chocolate Cupcakes Bites sound delicious but I was seriously impressed with her chilli impersonations.

Michele of Food, Football and a Baby took the chilli theme most literally and made this beautifully rich coloured Mexican chunky vegetable chili with dark chocolate

Suelle of Mainly Baking is well seasoned in cooking with chilli and chocolate. Unhappy with the cookies she made as her first attempt, however, she put her thinking cap on and came up with this ingenious Chocolate, Cherry and Chilli Tart.

C of Cake Crumbs and Cooking did a marathon daily chocolate bake throughout Chocolate Week. She just happened to knock up this Chilli Chocolate Fudge Cake one night after work. It includes peanut butter and lime as well as chilli and sounds divine.

Carina of Cooking with Carina shocked her work colleagues (well one of them anyway) with her deliciously fudgy looking Chilli Chocolate Brownies.

When plans for chilli chocolate ice-cream didn't come to fruition, Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen came up with a warm version instead. Her Baked Chilli Chocolate Custards sound very much like something I'd like to eat - what a fab idea.

Fast running out of time, Karen of Lavender and Lovage whipped up an extravaganza of chocolate, chilli and milk in this Mexican Hot Chocolate featuring three types of chocolate no less and all served in a chocolate mug.

I was all set for Shaheen of Allotment 2 Kitchen to give us a savoury treat, but at the last minute she changed her mind and surprised me with these cute Chilli Chocolate Apricot Flapjacks.

Working London Mummy really went to town and it was the posh part of town too. She made these fabulously elegant Pink Macarons with Chilli Chocolate Ganache. And she got such perfect looking results on only her third try!

Spontaneous Euphoria must have known about Janet's non ice-cream as she has come in magnificently to fill that gap in this month's chilli repertoire. Chocolate Chilli Ice-Cream.

I had a feeling that Phil from As Strong As Soup might grace us with a savoury recipe for this challenge and he didn't disappoint. I really like the combination of spices, nuts and tomatoes in this Turkey in a Chilli Nut and Chocolate Sauce.

In experimental mode, The Hungry Hinny combined orange, chocolate and chilli (she must have caught the vibe from Dom) and made this truffley Chilli Chocolate Orange Torte.

Moving to a new job, a new home and a new town, Carly of Tart to Heart still found time to make these Chili Pots de Creme and show them off in style.

Snowy of Cookbooks Galore got a bit more than she bargained for with her Chocolate and Chilli Madeira Cake. The chilli chocolate topping might not have been quite what was wanted, but I thought the layering on this cake was stunning.

Looking for something sort of healthy, but also warming and satisfying on these chilly autumnal days and nights,  Selina of Yummy Choo Eats came up with these Chipolte Chilli Chocolate Flapjacks.

Fellow partner in We Should Cocoa crime, Chele of Chocolate Teapot fancied playing Russian Roulette this month. You get to choose one of her splendid Trick or Treat Cupcakes but don't know which it will be until biting into it. Guess which one she got ;-)

Co-incidentally, there are two chilli challenges this month. Lyndsey of Vanilla Clouds and Lemon Drops has launched a Sweet Heat Challenge, so couldn't resist participating in this one too. She's rather mildly called these Chocolate Chilli Pots but garnishing them with white chocolate covered chillies, these are anything but mild.

First timer Laura of How to Cook Good Food leapt at the chance of making Chilli Chocolate Bread Rolls - how cool is that? Well possibly not that cool! Stuffed with cream cheese, these sound like a must try.

Another fan of the chilli and chocolate combination, Mel of Sharky Oven Gloves was buzzing with ideas, but in the end made these delightfully fudgy triple chilli Aztec Brownies.

My own rather late entry was, err, perhaps a little excessive and won't be repeated in a hurry. But sometimes it's good to push out the boundaries - just so you know! Chocotos - Chocolate Stuffed Chillies.

Coming in right at the, err, last minute are these fabulous Chilli Chocolate Truffles from Kath of the Ordinary Cook. Beware, they have an additional kick besides the chilli.

Just when I thought there couldn't possibly be any more, BVG aka Brownieville Girl got in with these supposedly wussy, but I read delicious, Mini Chocolate Pots.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A Bonanza of Bakes

Well, I don't think I'd ever baked quite so many cakes for one event - I was almost, but not quite, caked out! Friends were hosting an Open Weekend to celebrate 30 years of living in their beautiful moorland house and had asked me if I would bake cakes for the event.

With a small kitchen and not that much equipment, little storage and no room in the freezer, planning eight bakes was quite a feat. What would keep the longest, where could I store the finished bakes, what selection should I make and how many eggs and bags of flour did I need were some of the things that went into the equation. I did it over two and a half days so I could enjoy the experience, rather than being in a total stress and vowing never to do it again. And, although the process was not without its drama, I really did enjoy it. It was fun to make a load of cakes that didn't have chocolate in them for a start - although I couldn't resist entirely and it managed to creep into three of them. Transporting them to the venue also proved to be a bit of a challenge, but they arrived in more or less one piece, despite the hilly and winding nature of the roads.

The response was positively effusive and I came away glowing from all of the compliments I received. This together with all the other good food and excellent company, a good time was had by all.

Here are the finished bakes. The labels came courtesy of CT. Which one would you want to try?

Pam Corbin's Orange & Earl Grey Cake from her excellent book Cakes. The orange cream cheese filling that I made with mascarpone was to die for. As you can see, I didn't make the icing quite thick enough, so most of it dripped off and pooled around the bottom! I was particularly intrigued by this one, but as I didn't get to try it, I might just have to make it again.

Sour Cherry Brownies adapted from Green & Black's Unwrapped. These turned out amazingly well considering the poor start I gave them. More on this in a subsequent post.

I made the apple and thyme cake I made last month, only this time I whizzed up the thyme with the caster sugar before creaming to make the taste more pronounced and left out the chocolate.

Dan Lepard's Lemon and Poppy Seed Cake from Short & Sweet - I managed to try a bit of this one and it was totally delicious light and lemony but with a bit of texture.

Lemon & Cardamom Shortbread Biscuits - the "home made" stamp worked a bit better this time, but I still have a way to go to perfect my technique!

The Apple & Choc Chip Rock Cakes that I'd made to such acclaim a few weeks back were specifically requested.

Nigella's sticky ginger cake with lemon icing from How to be a domestic goddess.

The star of the show was the Chocolate Cake with apple lemon curd filling and treacle fudge icing. This was one of the best chocolate cakes I've yet made - recipe to follow.

PS - Our friends have tried several times to comment on this post, but blogger has been playing up and they have been unable to do so. I'm therefore posting their message here as they wanted it to appear somewhere.

"Well, we were the very lucky friends to be recipient of this amazing ‘bonanza of cakes’.
I wish I had at the time taken a photo of the master cook and her partner as they walked up our front steps, just like the magi carrying gifts. They were both beaming with pleasure and delight, very pleased, and quite rightly too. Our open house was spread over two days. We displayed two cakes on the table straight away and the rest were hidden under it, brought out at various times to meet the ever increasing demand. But they  had to last for two days to ensure that the last visitor, who came on Sunday night at 9.30 p.m. could enjoy this delight too.
We have tasted good cakes in the past. But this was something else. The surprising ingredients – poppy seeds, earl grey, cardamom, thyme – alongside delicious lemon curd, chocolate, cherry, ginger and the wonderful presentation made these cakes exceptional. They were  in a totally different league and our guests were bowled over by them." 

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Chocotos - Chocolate Stuffed Chillies - We Should Cocoa 14

Having decided on chilli as this month's ingredient for We Should Cocoa, I rather lost the plot and ran out of inspiration. I'd just made a chilli chocolate cake so wanted to do something a bit different. I eventually plumped on chocolate chilli truffles which I was quite excited about, but in the end I ran out of time. I also had the first ripened chillies from our plot and they needed using.

CT is trying to breed a species of chilli called rocoto (Capsicum pubescens), so it can not only grow outdoors in the UK but will also ripen reliably. This means, all being well, we end up with a mountain of chillies to process each year. Luckily, we're both fond of chillies and I make this chilli sauce every season, which doubles nicely as a Christmas present for chilli lovers.

So stuffed chillies it was going to be. My first thought was to stuff them with a mixture of chocolate and ricotta as I liked the idea of chocolate ricotta rocotos; thinking it through, I decided cream cheese would be a better option. These chillies are hot and having eaten them stuffed before, I was concerned they might just blow our heads right off. Fat is one of the best methods of cooling down the capsaisin, the compound responsible for their heat; either that or sugar. Ahhh, sugar. I had been going to use a dark 85% chocolate to mix with the cheese, but finding out about the sugar, I went for a sweeter chocolate instead. Orange chocolate was the one I chose as I thought the zingy flavour would bring out the citrus notes in the chillies. So this is what I did:
  • Asked CT to do the difficult bit decapitating and deseeding 8 rocoto chillies without breaking them - no mean feat.
  • Melted 30g of 47% dark orange chocolate (Lindt Orange Intense)
  • Mixed this into 100g cream cheese.
  • Using the handle end of a teaspoon, pushed this mixture into the chillies. Placed the tops back on the chillies and placed into a greased baking dish.
  • Baked on the bottom shelf of the oven whilst the bread was baking at 200C and left them there for 20 minutes.
  • Drizzled some more of the melted chocolate over the top.
Hope springs eternal but so does the heat of a rocoto. We had one each, eaten with a cooling chillie free cauliflower curry and rice AND they still nearly blew our heads off. Luckily a fire extinguisher was at hand in the form of the leftover filling which we spooned into our mouths in desperation. This was only marginally cooling, but it was delicious and I think will be featuring in some future cheesecake recipe. CT said, when he recovered his voice, that it felt like someone had poured molten wax down his Eustachian tubes. I would not recommend this method of eating chillies unless you are of a particularly strong constitution.

PS the next evening CT blitzed the remaining curry for soup and included 1 chilli. If you like your food spicy hot, this was just about right - delicious.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Chocolate Brazil Cookies Revisited - Random Recipes 9

We are well and truly being kept on our toes with this challenge. For some reason Dom doesn't think we are being as random as we should be in his Random Recipes challenge. To get around this, he has teamed us up with another blogger this month, who is responsible for selecting the book and page number for us. This reduces the chance to cheat somewhat. NOT, I hasten to add, that I have ever done such a thing. I was teamed up with Miss Cake Baker of What I Baked This Weekend and in a series of exchanges via Twitter she selected Chocolate Brazil soft-baked biscuits from Green & Black's Unwrapped. I am always terrified I'm going to get something really difficult, but once again, I was lucky.

I had already made these, way back in the early days of my blog but they hadn't turned out quite as I'd imagined. So rather than asking MCB to choose again, I thought it would be good to give them another go, use a less dark chocolate and add a bit more milk.

This is what I did:
  • Roughly chopped 50g Brazil nuts and 125g milk chocolate (46%).
  • Creamed 75g unsalted butter with 60g vanilla sugar (granulated) until soft and fluffy.
  • Beat in 1 duck egg and 1/4 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Sifted in 175g wholemeal flour, 1 tsp baking powder and a pinch of salt.
  • Stirred in 2 tbsp milk.
  • Folded in the nuts and chocolate.
  • Placed 20 teaspoonfuls on lined baking trays then flattened them with a fork dipped in water. The recipe stated the dough should be rolled out, but I couldn't see how that would be possible with all those chocolate lumps and bumps and the mixture was a little too moist anyway.
  • Baked at 180C for 12 minutes.
The biscuits didn't spread this time either, but I managed to flatten them more than I did in my first attempt and they thus had a better texture. They weren't too sweet and were delicious warm whilst the chocolate was still melted. A definite improvement on the first time. CT got his cold, but he also thought they were delicious.


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