Tuesday, 29 November 2011

We Should Cocoa - The Apple Round-Up

I'm very sad to report that Chele is currently coping with the recent death of her mother in law. I am doing the round-up for her this month.

Apples, it seems, are not an obvious choice to go with chocolate, the chosen ingredient for this month's We Should Cocoa. Much scratching of heads has ensued, resulting in some really creative and inspiring cooking. Not all were convinced by this combination, but there have been some converts - I defy anyone not to like Montezuma's apple crumble bar.

Don't forget to look here on 1 December to find out what We Should Cocoa excitement we will be getting up to for the festive month of December.

Just in time to give Guy Fawkes a run for his money, Mel of Sharky Oven Gloves (who wasn't in the least bit sold on this combination), brings us not just any old toffee apples, but Chocolate Toffee Apples.

Another doubter, Suelle of Mainly Baking, was hoping for a "startling revelation". I thought her Date and Apple Squares with Chocolate Crumble sounded delicious, but she was not, sadly, won over.

Not surprisingly with Bonfire night very much to the fore, toffee apples were a popular choice. But these weren't your average toffee apple, oh no, Hannah of Corner Cottage Bakery gives us Toffee Apple Truffles complete with sparklers.

What I Baked This Weekend was one of those not convinced by the combination. Luckily her husband was, so when she baked these Chocolate Chip Apple Cookies, they did not go to waste.

Dark Chocolate and Buttermilk Pancakes with Green Apple and Orange Caramel Sauce was served up en masse for a benefit breakfast by first timer Jacstar84 of Where the Wind Blows. How I wish I'd been there.

Not one to blow his own trumpet, Dom of Belleau Kitchen reckons he has possibly created "the most heavenly dessert ever". Can you guess what it is? I just love the marbling effect on this Chocolate Apple Charlotte.

Lucy The KitchenMaid lay awake worrying about this challenge in the middle of the night. Well, if worrying produces this most delectable of results, I think she should do it more often. Apple Blondies.

Thoroughly fed up with all the apple cakes I'd made with this year's amazing autumnal bounty, I too got creative and came up with these surprise Apple and Almond Chocolate Pastries.

Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen got inspired by the mincemeat recipe in Dan Lepard's new book Short and Sweet. She added chocolate to make this dark Chocolate Mincemeat even darker.

Having just said I was sick of apple cake, I would love to try a slice of this Apple Chocolate and Nut Bundt Cake. A real stunner that couldn't look more autumnal if it tried, made by The More Than Occasional Baker.

And another pretty bundt apple cake I really would like to get stuck into - or maybe I should just eat my words. With a bumper crop of apples to process, Michelle of Food Football and a Baby made Grandma's Applesauce and Cocoa Cake with Coffee Glaze.

As always from Phil of As Strong As Soup, we have something rather different. Very elegant to look at with an evocative title, I am awestruck by this Millefeuille of Chocolate Tuiles and Apple Snow.

Another one who found this month's theme particularly challenging was Snowy of Cookbooks Galore. She eventually came up with Chocolate and Apple Pancakes, which sound completely delicious to me, but Snowy was not impressed.

Flapjacks or breakfast bars? Shaheen of Allotment 2 Kitchen was unable to decide. Either way these Apple and Chocolate Chip Flapjacks sound like a delicious and healthy snack to be had at any time of the day.

Using milk chocolate to make this Apple Spice and Chocolate TeaLoaf, C of Cake Crumbs and Cooking was not entirely convinced of the chocolate apple combination either, but did admit it made for a very nice, if not outstanding, loaf.

Crumble in a Cup sounds so comforting and is great for eating whilst snuggling up on the sofa as Kate of What Kate Baked tested out for us. Even better she found when smothered in white chocolate custard.

Not happy with her first attempt at apple and white chocolate muffins, Susan of A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate had a rethink and came up with this glitzy Toffee Apple Topped Chocolate Marble Cake.

White chocolate custard got a second look in, but with brandy this time. It accompanied this scrumptious looking Rustic Apple Tart with a White Chocolate and Brandy Custard, baked by Laura of How to Cook Good Food.

And yet another one who found it hard to be convinced by apple and chocolate. I think I'd be happy to eat Brownieville Girl's Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with or without the apple.

Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe not only included apple and chocolate in her bake but pumpkin made an appearance too. These Choc Apple Pumpkin Oat Biscuits look chewy and delicious.

This very stylish Chocolate and Caramelised Apple Cake successfully assuaged the doubts that Helen of Half a Pot of Cream had about this combination. With this gooey brownie like cake topped with such delectable apples, no wonder!

You might be mistaken for thinking Christmas has come early with this Roast Goose with Apples and Cocoa. But the Cake Fairy was celebrating thanksgiving in a very creative We Should Cocoa way.

Karen of Lavender and Lovage really knows how to push the boat out. Having spent a few weeks dashing around the UK, she still managed to get an entry in this month and what an entry it is. I have a real weakness for tiffin, so these Spiced Apple and Cranberry Crunch Bars accompanied by stunning photographs has made my mouth water non-stop since I first saw them.

Somewhat sneakily, I thought I'd get a 2nd entry in. At more or less the same time Janice was making Chocolate Mincemeat, I had had exactly the same idea. Only I based mine on a different recipe using a different book - great minds eh?

Not happy with his first attempt of apple tempera and chocolate sake dipping sauce, first timer Matthew of Salty Plums had a second go and came up with this splendid Apple Soufflé with White Chocolate Parfait.

Chocolate pastry followed by home-made apple and pecan mincemeat and a crumble topping, Chele of Chocolate Teapot knows how to please a crowd - festive apple pies.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Chocolate Mincemeat

Each year I vow to make mincemeat and each year I fail. But this year, I've bucked the trend - hooray. CT is not a fan of mince pies and I can take them or leave them, but home-made mincemeat is a different food game altogether - or at least that's what I'm hoping. I based my mix on the one in British Baking by Peyton and Byrne, but used rum instead of brandy and the home-made mixed spice I concocted after reading Karen's post about it on Lavender and Lovage. I also, added, errrr, chocolate! I made it a couple of weeks ago but am letting it brew for a while. As it has lots of apple in the recipe, I thought I'd sneak it into this month's apple themed We Should Cocoa.

These are the ingredients I mixed together in a large bowl which I covered and left over night before giving a good stir and spooning into sterilised jars:

  • 225g Cornish cooking apples (variety unidentified) - finely chopped
  • 110g vegetarian suet (rather wished I'd used butter in retrospect)
  • 175g raisins
  • 110g sultanas
  • 110g currants
  • 50g mixed peel
  • 100g dark chocolate (70%) - chopped
  • 175g dark brown sugar
  • grated zest and juice of an organic orange (unwaxed)
  • grated zest and juice of an organic lemon (unwaxed)
  • 25g flaked almonds
  • 3 tsp mixed spice (home-made)
  • 3 tbsp rum

This should keep for a year in a cool dark place, but I have plans for this mincemeat and I'm really looking forward to trying it. Assuming it makes the grade, a couple of the jars might make it into this year's Christmas hampers.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Pumpkin and Ginger Cupcakes

On perusing my favourite new baking book, Dan Lepard's fabulous Short & Sweet, this recipe for pumpkin ginger cupcakes very quickly made its presence felt. We had four massive Boston Marrow squashes (you can see last year's pictures here) from our plot this year. These are big with firm orange flesh and are easier to grow in our climate than most. They are also thin skinned, like a butternut squash, so are easy to prepare. The downside of this is that they don't keep very well. We have, therefore, been supping on squash soups, curries or stews most nights for the last month or so. I've made pumpkin syrup, pumpkin biscotti, pumpkin butter and now these cupcakes. Luckily, I love squash, so I'm sort of pleased and sort of sad that we've only got enough left of this year's crop for another 4 or 5 meals plus maybe some pumpkin scones.

Another reason, if another was needed, for making these particular cakes, was the element of ginger. I wanted to submit something to TeaTimeTreats, a new baking challenge set by Karen of Lavender and Lovage and Kate of What Kate Baked. Ginger and bonfire treats is the chosen theme for November. I did make an apple and ginger oat pudding a few weeks ago, which I was going to enter, but cakes are more of a teatime treat than puddings.

Having made the pumpkin butter, I was keen to use it, so the topping is not the one Dan prescribed but one I made up. I also swapped the nuts for chocolate - how could I not? And made a few other amendments. This is what I did:
  • Grated 250g squash.
  • Finely chopped 100g crystallised ginger.
  • Roughly chopped 50g dark 70% chocolate.
  • Creamed 175g molasses sugar with 125g unsalted butter.
  • Beat in 2 large eggs, one by one.
  • Stirred in the pumpkin and ginger.
  • Mixed in 200g flour (half spelt, half white), 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp ground ginger 1 tsp allspice, a grating or two of nutmeg and 1/8 tsp ground cloves.
  • Stirred in the chocolate and spooned into twelve muffin cases.
  • Baked at 180C for 20 minutes, left to cool for 5 minutes then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Beat 100g icing sugar with 125g mascarpone until smooth.
  • Stirred in 2 tbsp of pumpkin butter.
  • Spread onto the cooled cupcakes and decorated with slices of crystallised ginger.
I was so pleased with my pumpkin butter topping, it was delicious; creamy and spicy, with a nice tangerine tint to it. Once again, I had to refrain from eating the lot before it went onto the cakes.

The cakes tasted like a Jamaica ginger cake, according to CT, only not nearly as sweet and considerably more substantial. The lumps of ginger were nice and chewy and the chocolate chunks a welcome addition. Amazingly, with all these strong flavours, the pumpkin was detectable, in both the cake and topping. In fact, CT, in uncharacteristically techie mood, summed it up as being "like the html behind the blog". He also noticed it left a clean and refreshing taste in the mouth.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Pumpkin Butter

This is another of my recipes that isn't a chocolate one, but can be justified appearing here because it WILL be used in a chocolate recipe - to be posted shortly! Adapted from the excellent blog One Perfect Bite, where you will find the photograph is so much better than mine, I have reduced the amount of sugar and spices and increased the apple juice content. There is much debate as to whether pumpkin butter can be water processed, thus extending its life to a year or so; as the debate has not proved conclusive either way, I thought I'd go with the safest method - the 'keep it in the fridge and try and use it within a month' one. This is how I did it:
  • Cut a big chunk out of the last of our Boston Marrow pumpkins.
  • Peeled and de-seeded it, then cut it into small chunks (about 1" sq) to weigh about 2.5 lb.
  • Placed in a large pan with 1 cup of very local apple juice, kindly given by a friend.
  • Brought to the boil, then simmered (with the lid on) until soft - approximately 30 minutes.
  • Pureed this with a hand blender.
  • Stirred in 1 cup of granulated sugar and the following spices: 1 rounded tsp ground ginger, 1 rounded tsp ground cinnamon, 1/8 tsp ground cloves and a good grating of nutmeg.
  • Simmered this gently (with the lid off) for a further hour, stirring occasionally, until the mixture was thick and leaving a well defined trail when a spoon was dragged through it.
  • Spooned into 6 warm sterilised jars.
  • Left to cool and placed in the fridge.
Sweet and spicy with a gorgeous warm orange colour, this is my kind of food and was delicious on a slice of toast this morning. I'm now thinking I might have to make some pumpkin scones to go with it. 

I'm linking this to Ren's Simple and in Season monthly event which she hosts on her fabulous blog Fabulicious Food - I just so love that name.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Food Bloggers Unplugged

Well, as some of my regular readers will know, I feel a bit ambivalent about this tagging lark. Sometimes I've participated and sometimes I've given a heartfelt "thank you" and left it at that. However, Susan of the wonderful A Little Bit of Heaven On A Plate (and if you haven't yet visited her blog, you'll know why this name is so apt when you see her header) has just started Food Bloggers Unplugged - #foodbloggersunplugged - with the aim of getting to know a bit more about fellow food bloggers. She has tagged me as one of the very first five to be chosen - how could I resist that? In fact I'm really touched.

The idea, of course, is to learn a little more about the folk behind the blogs - hmmm, I think this is what I'm afraid of! Questions to be answered:

1. What, or who inspired you to start a blog?
Amazingly, it was work! In an attempt to make us a little more net savvy, we had to create a blog to record our progress in social media. I knew virtually nothing about blogs at this point, but when I understood a) how easy they were to set up and b) their potential, I rushed home excitedly to get one started for CT. I thought it would be a good platform for his Andean crop research. He'd only been doing it for a month when I began to feel left out.

2. Who is your foodie inspiration?
Now this one is virtually impossible to answer. My inspiration changes like the wind and has come from literally hundreds of sources. There are some big names there, like Andrew Whitley who finally got me baking sourdough bread on a regular basis; Rose Elliot who saw me through my early days of cooking for myself; Sally Fallon rallying us to the call of real food and dismissing the diet dictocrats and the anti-fat police; Dan Lepard with his adventures in all things baked. There is also family and friends. There are restaurants and cafes. There are cookbooks. But these days, I have to say it is other food bloggers who inspire me most with their wonderful writing, ideas and photographs.

3. Your greasiest, batter - splattered food/drink book is?
Once upon a time, it was The Bean Book by Rose Elliot, but the stains are now old and faded. It was superseded long ago by Gaia's Kitchen by Julia Ponsonby - a great book for real everyday home vegetarian cooking.

4. Tell us all about the best thing you have ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it?
I've travelled a lot and eaten so much amazing food in so many amazing places, but the best thing I remember was sitting down by the side of the road in France, during a long cycle ride and eating a hunk of bread, a lump of cheese and a beautifully ripe pear - those three flavours live on.

5. Another food bloggers table you'd like to eat at is?
Actually, I want to eat at all of them. Couldn't I take it in turns? To choose one, seems mean, so I'm ruling out turning up for tea. That would just be too difficult, so I am plumping for dinner instead. As a vegetarian, it would have to be a toss up between Tinned Tomatoes, Allotment 2 Kitchen and Green Gourmet Giraffe, all of whom cook splendidly delicious and interesting vegetarian food.

6. What is the one kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course)?
Does a nice big kitchen with loads of work surfaces, cupboard space and a table count? No? Oh well, a Global knife would be very much appreciated.

7. Who taught you how to cook?
My mother - from as early as I can remember. And this delightful book.

8. I'm coming to you for dinner what's your signature dish?
I do a mean Shakshuka and over the years many have wolfed down my Surprise Cheesecake with delight.

9. What is your guilty food pleasure?
I've just scoffed a box of Maltesers (with only a little help from CT)!

10. Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn?
I live in Cornwall ;-) Oh, you mean you already know that? OK, my grandparents (who sadly I never met nor inherited any money from!) once owned two department stores, one in Alexandria and one in Cairo.

I am also just about to go on a journey and in fact need to leave now in order to catch my train. I'm off on a massive Food Bloggers weekend, two events, two lots of people - not something I've done before, so I'm feeling excited and a bit trepidacious!

So, to the five blogs I am tagging:

Kath of the Ordinary Cook - far from ordinary and one of my absolute favourite blogs.
CityHippyFarmGirl - highly enjoyable and poetic style (and I wouldn't mind eating her food either).
Chele of Chocolate Teapot - my partner in Cocoa.
Liz of Feasts & Festivals - delicious food in the context of seasonal and traditional celebrations
Laura of How to Cook Good Food - a relative newcomer to the world of blogging with some delicious looking recipes which I'm keen to try.

Update 30 Nov 11 - I have subsequently been tagged by Sneige of Orange Thyme. Strangely, she was at one of the food blogging events I attended a couple of weeks ago and, err, still haven't written up. In fact she played a starring role by winning one the Sweets category in Venessa Kimbell's Let's Make Christmas with her Mincemeat Pops. Sadly, I didn't get to try one or a chance to meet up.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Celebration Chocolate Cake

Fitting nicely into this month's We Should Cocoa theme, this cake was actually designed to be the piece de resistance at the cake fest last month and luckily it proved to be so. I wanted something rich and chocolatey yet fudgy with a contrasting flavour. I'd already decided to use my apple and lemon curd to fill the cake and then when I spotted the Treacle chocolate fudge frosting in Short & Sweet, I was away!

Recipe - this is what I did:
  • Creamed 225g unsalted butter with 125g cardamom sugar (caster) and 100g molasses sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Beat in 3 duck eggs, alternating with some of the flour.
  • Sieved in 200g flour (half wholemeal, half white & a tbsp mesquite powder), 25g cocoa, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp bicarb of soda and a pinch of salt.
  • Stirred this in with 100g fat free Greek yogurt and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Spooned into two 22 cm sandwich moulds and baked at 180C for 23 minutes until risen and firm to the touch.
  • Left in moulds for 10 mins then turned out onto wire racks to cool completely.
  • Wrapped in greaseproof paper and left to finish off the next day.
  • Heated 50ml milk, 1 tbsp treacle,  and 50g light muscovado sugar in a pan.
  • Whisked I heaped tbsp of custard powder (I didn't have any cornflour) and 1 heaped tbsp cocoa into another 50ml of milk until all combined.
  • Poured this into the hot milk mixture and whisked until smooth and thick.
  • Removed from the heat and stirred in 90g of chopped 60% dark chocolate.
  • Beat in a bare tsp of vanilla extract and a bit more than 15g of unsalted butter.
  • Carried on beating until smooth and lush - mmmmmm!
  • Sandwiched the two cakes with a generous layer of apple and lemon curd.
  • Topped with the treacle icing.
  • Sprinkled white chocolate stars over the top.
  • Sat back and felt smug
Smugness, it seems, never pays. On the rather tortuous journey to the cake destination, the top slid off the bottom! Luckily, I managed to rescue it before it fell on the floor and a near disaster was overted, although it didn't ever look quite as good as it had once done. As all I got was oohs and aahs, I don't think anyone noticed!!!

A truly delicious cake, the molasses sugar gave a fudgy consistency, the lemon curd a nice contrast and the treacle frosting finished it all off perfectly. The icing was so good, I could have happily eaten the bowlful all by myself and then probably been sick. Luckily for me, that wasn't an option.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Divine Intervention

And my prayers were answered. A box crammed full of Divine chocolate delights, nestling on a bed of colourful recycled packing material, arrived in the post.

Divine is a fairtrade chocolate company set up in 1997 to provide an outlet for the chocolate grown by a Ghanian co-operative of small scale cocoa growers. The company is 45% owned by that co-operative, Kuapa Kokoo, so much of the profits are reinvested back into the local communities as well as the farms. Benefits have included schools, where none existed before, children being able to attend school, better health care and cleaner water.

The packaging is an important part of the aesthetic and luxury experience I expect to get from good quality chocolate. I have an aversion to chocolate wrapped in plastic and am surprised at how many "good quality" bars are wrapped in it. Divine bars, I'm pleased to say, are all contained in an inner casing of gold and silver foil, thus scoring top marks from me. The outer paper wrappings come in a variety of colours matching the  ingredients within and are covered in attractive West African symbols called adrinkas. Each one has a specific meaning and if interested some of the meanings can be looked up on the Divine website. In my thrifty eco friendly way, I recycle these chocolate papers as gift wrapping.

The chocolate is not top of the range and at around £2 for a 100g bar, you wouldn't expect it to be. But it is still good chocolate and of a far higher quality than the average chocolate bar you can buy in the UK. It is also widely available. Even in the wilds of our small town on the edge of Bodmin Moor, it is stocked in both our local Co-op and Oxfam shop. I'm familiar with the 70% dark chocolate, which I often use in my baking, such as this Chocolate and Almond Fudge Cake. For a dark chocolate, it has a mild and soothing quality which I find pleasant. But I am less familiar with other Divine bars and had no idea they made fudge at all.

It was the fudge I dived into first, not so much because I'm a fan of fudge; I used to love it, but these days I generally find it too sweet. The description enticed me in though. I have been won over by the salt / sweet combination that's doing the rounds and salted fudge sounded intriguing. I was more than pleasantly surprised. The salty fudge was really quite delicious and because the chunks were quite small and thickly covered in dark chocolate, they were not overly sweet in the least.

Having said, I don't like things too sweet, I am a fan of butterscotch in chocolate, so I was pleased to see a 45g bar had been included in the box. I haven't tried Divine's version before but it didn't take me long to rectify this. Despite the milk chocolate being only 27% cocoa solids and not skimping on the butterscotch, this was not cloyingly sweet, in fact it was more than pleasant.

The next up to try was the 70% dark ginger and orange 100g bar. I had something specific in mind for this and used it to make gingered chocolate mincemeat. I did, however, manage to snaffle a couple of squares - for my usual research purposes! The chocolate had the same mild quality of the 70% bar but had a subtle ginger flavour with tiny pieces of orange dotted about. I could have quite happily eaten the whole bar, but managed to resist.

Three 100g bars remain and I am trying to be very good and not go into a frenzy of flying gold paper fragments and inelegant gulping. No - I have plans for these - baking plans. So what's left: 70% dark chocolate with raspberries, orange milk chocolate and white chocolate with strawberries.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Apple and Chocolate Almond Pastries - We Should Cocoa 15

When Chele announced that apples were the special ingredient for this month's We Should Cocoa, my heart sank a little. I have made so many chocolate cakes and puddings with apple this autumn already I was hoping for something a little different. But, hey, this is a challenge, so I had a little think and realised I didn't need to bake another cake or a pudding after all. No indeed, I would make up my very own apple and chocolate Danish pastry. I know I could have made my own pastry and made my own marzipan, but time was short so I cheated a little.

This is what I did:
  • Poured 100ml water into a small pan and added a couple of inches of cinnamon stick, 1 tbsp of vanilla sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Brought to a simmer.
  • Peeled, cored and sliced 1 large Cornish cooking apple.
  • Added apple slices to the pan and simmered for about 2 minutes - trying not to overdo them so they turned to mush.
  • Removed apple slices with a slotted spoon and left to drain.
  • Simmered the syrup for a further 3 minutes to thicken it.
  • Rolled out a pack of 375g all butter puff pastry into a large square.
  • Cut off the edges to neaten the square, then cut into 8 rectangles.
  • Squidged the edges into a ball and rolled out into another rectangle, making 9 in total.
  • Placed a large square (from a 125g bar with 10 squares) of 70% plain Ecuadorian chocolate on each rectangle.
  • Cut a 200g block of marzipan into 9 pieces and rolled into rectangles slightly smaller than the pastry ones.
  • Placed these over the chocolate and pressed down into the pastry to seal it so the chocolate wouldn't leak out - or at least that was what I was hoping!
  • Laid three apple slices across the top of the marzipan.
  • Scatter some flaked almonds over the top.
  • Baked at 200C for 15 mins until risen and nicely browned.
  • Immediately brushed the tops and sides with the syrup.
  • Transferred to a wire rack to cool.
Chele, I'm sorry for doubting you. I was ecstatically pleased with these pastries. If you really want to wow your guests, for a mid-morning snack, afternoon tea or even as dessert at a dinner party, these are the ones to do it. So simple, but so delicious. Best eaten whilst the chocolate is still melted, a la pain au chocolat, but these are nearly as good when the chocolate has set. The sweetness of the marzipan was offset by the slightly tart apples and the dark chocolate creating a classy treat that wouldn't seem out of place in a Viennese coffee house - who am I kidding ;-)

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Spicy Pumpkin Biscotti - Let's Make Christmas

Having mentioned the C word in my last post, I am fully committed to it now. In a bid to try and remember what Christmas is all about and to get away from the avid commercialism associated with it, Vanessa Kimbell has created a thought provoking Let's Make Christmas event. The idea is to inspire people to make their own Christmas gifts this year - or at least some of them. As I've always tried to make a few of my own each year, I heartily approved of this sentiment. Then Vanessa came up with a second Let's Make Christmas event which I was also keen to participate in. She is  hosting a food blogger gift swap - in Fortnum and Masons no less. I haven't been to this shop in many many a long year, but it still lives on in my memory as a perfect Aladdin's cave of foodie delights. I really didn't want to miss out on this one.

But oh what to make, what to make? It needed to be something light, that would travel well and could be made well in advance. My first thought was biscotti, as the ones I made last year were so good. On reflection though, I thought this wasn't very original so contemplated making these chocolate oranges instead. But, having mulled that over, I rejected it, mostly because the only organic oranges I could find were thin skinned and your really need thick skinned pithy oranges for this. Hmmmmm, various biscuits, brownies, tiffin, truffles all came to mind. Then I was sent a copy of Cox Cookies & Cake to review. The review will follow in a later post, but one of the recipes that leapt straight out of the page was this one - oh well back to the biscotti idea after all. But pumpkin biscotti! Surely not many others will be doing that. And we did manage to grow quite a few large pumpkins this year, which nicely tied into my seasonal theme. Having been inspired by Karen's mixed spice over at Lavender & Lovage, I was keen to make my own for this recipe. The only missing ingredient was chocolate, but chocolate dipped biscotti can only be a good thing, surely?

So here you have my first batch of pumpkin biscotti. I shall make some more for the big do in London nearer the time. I halved the recipe, although the mixture was so wet (probably because I added more pumpkin than I should have) I had to add quite a few spoonfuls of additional flour to the mix, so this is really quite a bit more than half. Here's how I did it:
  • Ground 2 inches of a cinnamon quill in the coffee grinder with 1/4 tsp of cloves, 2 star anise, 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, 1/4 tsp black pepper corns, the seeds from 5 cardamom pods and 1/4 tsp allspice berries.
  • Added a good grating of nutmeg then pounded it further in a pestle and mortar to make it as fine as possible.
  • Steamed 80g of peeled and chopped pumpkin (Boston Marrow) flesh for 15 minutes until tender.
  • Left to drain for a good half an hour to ensure it wouldn't be too wet.
  • Mashed with a fork.
  • Toasted 100g mixed nuts in the oven at 180C for 10 minutes until just starting to brown.
  • Placed in a pan and fried them in 15g butter for a few minutes.
  • Sieved 225g flour (100g white, 125g spelt) into a bowl with 1 tsp baking powder and 1 tsp of the mixed spice.
  • Added 175g dark brown sugar.
  • Made a well in the centre and added 1 large egg and the mashed pumpkin.
  • Mixed this in, starting in the middle and working outwards.
  • Added about 3 tbsp more of spelt as the mixture was very wet.
  • Spooned onto a baking tray lined with a silicone mat in a rough log shape.
  • Baked for 25 minutes at 180C.
  • Left to cool for 20 minutes.
  • Cut 1 cm slices diagonally across the log with a bread knife (17 long pieces in total).
  • Placed the slices on two lined trays and baked at 160C for a further 15 minutes.
  • Left to cool on a wire rack.
  • Melted 60g 72% dark chocolate in a bowl over hot water.
  • Coated the ends of 8 of the biscotti in the melted chocolate by means of dipping and pouring it over with a teaspoon.
  • Left on a wire rack to set.
  • Placed in a jar and tied a ribbon and tag around it (I use old Chrismas cards as tags).
Nutty, spicy and delicious, I thought these had the necessary star quality to travel with me to London. I was particularly pleased with the spice mix, which was so much more aromatic for being freshly ground. These were not overly sweet as evinced by CT's first comment on biting into a piece, "mmmm, tastes like a sausage" - great! However, once covered in chocolate, no more mention was made of sausages, just pleasant grunts of satisfaction were evinced. The only thing I would do differently is to make much smaller pieces - I had to find a very tall jar for these to fit in.


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