Saturday, 31 December 2011

We Should Cocoa - the Orange round-up

Filled with seasonal good will, I tried to be kind for this year's We Should Cocoa Christmas challenge. It seems to have been appreciated as we had 36 participants this month.  Chocolate and orange truly struck a chord, but I did have one (who shall remain nameless) raising their hands in horror at this hated combination!

This round-up is a real festive treat, even if the tasting has to be done virtually and I'm very happy to take the blame for encouraging all of these decedent creations.

If anyone is looking for a chocolate orange cake, look no further, cakes were far and away the most popular item this month and we have quite a variety to choose from. Luckily, there were a few other goodies thrown into the mix - just in case you thought you couldn't stand another piece of cake!

At this darkest time of year for us in the northern hemisphere, many struggled with light levels. The photographs may be suffering from SAD, but I'll bet the lucky recipients of this lot were very happy.

Don't forget to find out what Chele has in store for us all tomorrow.

Wishing you all a Very Happy New Year.

So, in the order they came in:

Miss Cake Baker of What I Baked This Weekend got us all off to a fantastic start with this very elegant looking Chocolate Orange Marble Bundt Cake.

Given that Christmas is so hot in Australia, Jaxstar of Where the Wind Blows Me thought mini chocolate orange xmas cake truffles might be more tempting than a great big slice to eat. Knowing how full I was after Christmas dinner I think that would go down very well here in the UK too - even if it isn't very warm.

Our first WSC contribution from Sweden brings us chocolate chip cookies with orange rosemary and hazelnuts. This recipe comes from Rasmus of Vegologi and the site is written in Swedish - the link however is to an English translation. They sound delicious and the lovely photograph comes courtesy of pickipicki.

One of life's certainties is that Nigella will out at Christmas time. Anna of At Anna's Kitchen Table has thankfully not disabused me of this fact. She has baked Nigella's storecupboard chocolate and orange cake. And I know from experience that this is a very good cake indeed.

A healthy and intense orange drinking chocolate comes from first timer Mariam of Gourmet Hot Chocolate using water rather than milk. It looks delicious.

I don't think Kat of Life of a Cupcake Baker needed anything to get her into the festive spirit, but were it necessary, I'm sure these chocolate orange cupcakes made with a Terry's chocolate orange as well as orange zest and juice would have done the trick.

Orange tiramisu most elegantly served came from Manu of Cooking Manu. What I particularly liked about this was that it had orange juice rather than coffee in it.

Another elegant offering - a biscuit this time. Orange Viennese fingers from Snowy of Cookbooks Galore. Filled with chocolate and dipped in chocolate, no wonder they are her daughter's favourite.

Not sure if these were just a good excuse to imbibe some of the hard stuff, but these whisky and orange chocolate sandwich biscuits sound delicious. This was Gary's take on a Dan Lepard recipe for mint chocolate biscuits and an inspired one at that. Exploits of a Food Nut.

Panettone with chocolate, clementine and walnut sounds very festive indeed and I'd very much like to dig into a slice for breakfast or tea any day of the week. It certainly cheered up a wet December day for Working London Mummy.

What could be more tempting than truffles? Karen from Lavender and Lovage offered us these gorgeous chocolate orange cake truffles for day twelve of her advent calendar fest.

Now how about this for a perfect roll? This chocolate and orange cream roulade from Yummy Choo Eats sounds as good as it looks.

And hot on the heals of one roll comes another with this Christmas Chocolate Log from Mari's World - first time with WSC. If you want to see how it's done you'll find a video showing you how.

The love of French baking runs strongly in the veins of Phil from As Strong As Soup and it is France that has inspired these delicious nonnettes with white chocolate chips. I actually know these are delicious because I've just baked them - superb!

Using a bag of Chocolate Spice Puddles as inspiration, Baking Addict of The More Than Occasional Baker came up with these really pretty and enticing chocolate orange and cranberry cookies.

As an added bonus to these delicious looking party stollen from Kate of What Kate Baked, you can also take part in her festive quiz to find out just how much you get into the party spirit.

Both festive and to celebrate her birthday, Jean of Baking in Franglais was organised enough to bake these rich chocolate orange muffins before going to work in the morning - impressive indeed!

Shaheen of Allotment 2 Kitchen has my mouth watering over another "I now must bake" brownie recipe with these juicy orange Jaffa brownies.

Chocolate orange banana bread is the unusual combination brought to us by the Hungry Hinny. The addition of orange curd adds a note of lushness that I find particularly appealing.

Another first timer Fleur of Homemade by Fleur made these scrumptious chocolate covered orange lebkuchen all prettily packaged for her Christmas hampers.

A perfectly rolled and lush looking chocolate orange roulade comes from Dom of Belleau Kitchen who is well on his way to world domination and is now out to impress Eric Lanlard.
Suelle of Mainly Baking was hoping to bake something else for WSC, but I was really taken with these orange cranberry and chocolate muffins with their use of oats and toasty topping.

Jaffa Cake Christmas Trees in true festive style is a WSC first entry from English Mum. With CT a huge Jaffa cake fan, I might have to hide this one or he'll be clamouring for me to make it!

I am truly shocked and horrified to find out that Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe is the ONLY one in her family to appreciate chocolate in her Christmas cake. With figs, prunes (orange of course) and lots of chocolate, this is my sort of fruit cake - chocolate and fig fruitcake.

Now how cute are these mini chocolate and orange bundt cakes? Very I'd say. An early Christmas present for Kath of The Ordinary Cook was responsible for these beauties.

Hooray, I was hoping someone would make these chocolate dipped candied oranges and Chele of Chocolate Teapot made them with bells and whistles too, using spices in the mix and keeping some of the flesh on.

Variations on orange and chocolate make up these divine sounding chocolate orange cupcakes from Laura of Laura Loves Cakes.

I've made so many things with chocolate and orange this month, I wasn't sure which one to submit to WSC. In the end it was the shoes that convinced me and I went for this triple orange and chocolate cake.

A twist on a traditional favourite, these melt in the mouth chocolate orange Canada cornstarch shortbread cookies got a raised eyebrow when Michelle of Food, Football and a Baby presented them. Luckily they were enjoyed by all - it's amazing what a bit of crystallised ginger can do!

Ginger must have been in the air because Shu Han (another WSC first timer) of Mummy, I Can Cook came up with the same winning combination. Inspired first by Spain and then Nigella, this flourless chocolate orange and ginger cake was born.

A pruny hazelnutty Nigella inspired chocolate Christmas cake has become a Christmas tradition in the Brownieville Girl household and no wonder I say.
A warming and festive recipe that particularly appealed were these mulled chocolate and orange marshmallows by Matthew from Salty Plums. As if this wasn't enough decadence he accompanied them with chocolate and orange cookies.

First timer, Janine of Cake of the Week came up with these festive looking white chocolate, orange and ginger flapjacks. The photos of them packaged up for gifts look especially good.

Orange fudge topped with chocolate sounds wonderfully decedent. No wonder this chocolate orange fudge disappeared so quickly when Hannah from Corner Cottage Bakery made it just before Christmas.

Now cream cheese in a cake sounds utterly intriguing and I want to go and try it out immediately - pretty much along with all the other entries - oh my! C of Cake, Crumbs and Cooking has adapted a Dan Lepard pound cake to come up with this lush looking cream cheese and chocolate orange cake.

Just right for the lead up to Christmas, or Boxing Day or even New Year's Day, this chocolate and orange wreath brought to us by The KitchenMaid looks highly festive.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Chocolate, Almond & Cranberry Bites - 200 Christmas Recipes Review

Unfortunately this little book, 200 Christmas recipes in the Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook series, didn't arrive in time to be really useful for Christmas. There must have been some sort of glitch in the despatch system as I didn't receive the book, sent by Octopus Publishing for review, until a couple of days before Christmas. I did, however, manage to squeeze in one recipe - another one for my second batch of hampers - mulled wine biscuits or as I have named my adapted version, chocolate, almond and cranberry bites.

At only £4.99 I'd say this book is good value for money. It's quite compact, measuring only 16.5 cm by 14 cm but this is quite a nice size to be easily portable and won't take up a lot of room on the bookshelf. As you'd expect from the title, it is stuffed full of Christmas recipes and covers everything you would expect plus quite a bit more. There aren't actually two hundred different recipes but most of the hundred or so recipes there are has a variation which bumps the number up. For example, no self respecting Christmas book would be complete without a recipe for red cabbage and this one does not disappoint: a really interesting recipe for braised red cabbage makes an appearance, using beetroot and red wine amongst other ingredients; the variation printed at the bottom of the page is for crunchy red cabbage.

Each recipe has its own double page spread, the recipe on one side and the much sought after full colour picture on the other, which makes it particularly useful for flicking through when you're in a panic for ideas. The recipes are clear and easy to follow, although perhaps not detailed enough for a complete novice.

The book starts off with an eight page introduction giving tips on such necessities as carving the Christmas bird and making giblet stock for the gravy. As a vegetarian, I didn't really find either of these particularly useful, but the recipe for a Madeira cake to be used as a base for several of the recipes and how to sterilise jars was more my thing. A big chapter on Christmas fare followed this which included various meat dishes but also plenty to keep vegetarians such as myself happy. Lots of ideas for puddings were also in this section with two Christmas pudding recipes, a traditional one and a last minute one to help out the less organised amongst us. Ricotta and candied fruit slice particularly grabbed my attention.

Other chapters covered: centrepiece cakes, small cakes and cookies, edible gifts and leftover turkey ideas. Plenty there to inspire me for next year and plenty to keep the, errr,  chocoholics happy. There is even a recipe for fruit & nut discs which is very similar to my glitzy mendiants. A recipe for ginger nightlights particularly caught my eye - a lovely idea using gingerbread with boiled sweet panes for the tea lights to glow through. With lots of choice and not much time, I was torn between panforte de Siena and the mulled wine biscuits which I eventually went for - only I used sherry rather than red wine. Port and cherry cookies were the alternative version offered and if I'd had any dried cherries to hand I might well have used those instead.

This is how I made them:

  • Warmed 120g raisins and 75g dried cranberries in 50ml orange juice, 50ml sherry and 1 tbsp of apple jelly in a pan to not quite simmering.
  • Covered and left to soak for an hour.
  • Melted 50g unsalted butter in a pan and left to cool a little.
  • Sifted 3oz flour (half wholemeal, half white) into a bowl with 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/8 tsp ground cloves.
  • Mixed in 100g chopped blanched almonds, 100g chopped dark chocolate (G&B Maya gold) and the grated zest of 1 orange.
  • Made a well in the centre and broke in an egg then added the fruit and butter.
  • Mixed this all together.
  • Spooned 28 teaspoonfuls onto a lined baking sheet placing slightly apart.
  • Baked at 180C for 15 minutes or so.
  • Transferred to a wire rack to cool.
  • Dusted with icing sugar.
What I particularly liked about these biscuits was that there was no added sugar to the mix and with all that dried fruit and the apple jelly there was no need; these biscuits were quite sweet enough. They were also very tasty - fruity, spicy, crunchy and festive.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Triple Orange and Chocolate Cake - We Should Cocoa 16

All dressed up and nowhere to go!
When I received these glamourous little shoes, I knew immediately they would have to adorn a cake. And adorn the cake that I made for last week's tea party they did. Given the theme of this month's We Should Cocoa, that cake had to be an orange one. But as it was for WSC, it couldn't just be any old orange cake, no, it had to be a bit more than that, so it became a tripe orange cake. I had a jar of bitter orange syrup left over from making candied orange peel, a bar of orange milk chocolate from Divine and some organic oranges, so with those all gathered up, I set to:

  • Creamed 225g unsalted butter with 125g vanilla sugar (caster) and 100g molasses sugar until pale and fluffy.
  • Grated in the zest of 1 organic orange and creamed some more.
  • Beat in 4 medium 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 a large tbsp of Greek yogurt and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Spooned into two 22 cm sandwich moulds and baked at 180C for 23 minutes until risen and firm to the touch.
  • Or maybe there is
  • Left in moulds for 10 mins then turned out onto wire racks to cool completely.
  • Melted 100g orange milk chocolate (Divine) in a bowl over hot water.
  • Beat this into 200g cream cheese.
  • Spread over one of the cooled cakes and placed the other on top.
  • Warmed 50 ml of orange syrup (left over from making candied orange peel) in a small pan.
  • Added 80g broken dark chocolate (60%) and 10g unsalted butter.
  • Stirred until smooth.
  • Allowed to cool a little, then poured over the cake.
  • Placed a pair of shoes on top!
The party's over
Three types of orange and three types of chocolate had the desired effect and this cake was truly delicious. The photographs are not of the best due to the poor light, but the cake had a real wow factor with those shoes strutting their stuff.

Although this cake was undoubtedly gorgeous and has to be my entry for We Should Cocoa, the orange and chocolate mince pies I made for the same party were absolutely delicious too and would otherwise have been a strong contender.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Orange & Chocolate Mince Pies

This could well have been my entry for this month's We Should Cocoa challenge, but delicious as these were, I have something I hope is a bit more exciting for that. Then again, these were possibly the nicest mince pies I've ever eaten. They were the only mince pies CT has eaten and liked! One of our Cornish friends introduced us to this "traditional" way of putting clotted cream inside the pie rather than on top - what a brilliant idea. The photographs are rubbish I'm afraid as I made these and served them up at last week's tea party and after a couple of glasses of mulled wine, taking photographs was not top of my list of priorities. I made pastry using orange juice and zest and filled the pies with the chocolate mincemeat I made last month.

This is how I did it:
  • Made shortcrust pastry using butter, an egg yolk, orange juice & zest, a little icing sugar and half wholemeal / half white flour (can no longer remember quantities).
  • Rolled out pastry with extreme difficulty (due to hard butter from very cold kitchen).
  • Cut into 12 bottoms and 12 tops
  • Filled with homemade chocolate mincemeat.
  • Brushed tops with milk then scattered over some flaked almonds.
  • Baked for 20 minutes at 180C
  • Ate warm with copious amounts of clotted cream.
These will be my contribution to the fabulous Christmas tea hosted this month by Kate of What Kate Baked. Can't wait for that groaning table of festive goodies! The tea party is one of many hosted by Kate or Karen of Lavander and Lovage for their Tea Time Treats event.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Polish Spice Biscuits and New Zealand Honey

For my christmas hampers I was looking to make some sort of spiced biscuits that I could cut into stars and possibly decorate. There were several contenders, but I eventually plumped for Polish Spiced Cookies otherwise known as Pierniczki taken from Ren's aptly named blog Fabulicious Food. These cookies made their way to Vanessa's Lets Make Christmas event at Fortnum and Mason's and were most beautifully decorated. I particularly liked this recipe as it used cocoa powder and lots of honey which sounded just right for ChocLogBlog Christmas biscuits. Ren also suggested using rye flour. Although I'm very familiar with rye flour in sourdough bread, I had never used it in sweet baked goods until I recently made Dan Lepard's rye apple cake (you can find the Short & Tweet round-up here). I was completely won over by the wonderful texture this grain gives and was keen to try it again.

This is what I did:
  • Melted 110g unsalted butter in a small pan with 110g soft brown sugar and 8 tbsp honey (Beech Forest HoneyDew).
  • Stirred until combined, then left to cool a little.
  • Sieved 225g rye flour and 225g white flour into a bowl with 2 tsp baking powder 2 tbsp cocoa, 2 heaped tsp homemade mixed spice, 1 heaped tsp cinnamon, 1 heaped tsp ginger and 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper.
  • Made a well in the centre and poured in the butter mixture then broke in a large egg.
  • Stirred the mixture together starting from the middle until all incorporated.
  • Brought it all together with my hands to form a ball.
  • Cut this in two then rolled out (one at a time) to the thickness of about 1/4 cm.
  • Cut out about 80 stars and hearts by re-rolling the leftover bits several times.
  • Placed them on lined baking trays about a cm apart and baked the first batch for 8 minutes at 200C.
  • Sadly, these burnt, so I reduced the temperature to 180C and baked the rest for 7 minutes only.
Already feeling cross for having burnt the first 20 biscuits, I was not particularly looking forward to icing the biscuits. I don't have much patience for artistic endeavours and I found cutting stars out of the pastry was fiddly enough. In the end, I ran out of time anyway. Luckily, these looked really good even in their unadorned state. They had a good crunchy biscuity texture and tasted wonderfully warm and spicy with an unmistakable hint of honey. The touch of chilli was good too, giving just the right amount of additional warmth. Ren advises that these keep well for up to two weeks and I would say from the snappiness of them that this is very likely true. They have all left the house in hampers now though, so I am unable to verify this assertion.

A few weeks ago, the New Zealand Honey Co had sent me a 340g bottle of their 10+ pre-biotic Beech Forest Honeydew to try. It's quite a dark honey that is gathered by the bees from honeydew rather than flower nectar. It is claimed to be particularly good for the immune system and digestion. This may or may not be true, but I have to say this was totally delicious. It has a deep rich and not too sweet flavour and has more body than many other honeys I have tried, leaving a nice flowery aftertaste. It warms the back of the throat in a healing sort of way - it feels like it's doing you good. I have used it now in a number of recipes but also on toast for breakfast. It worked particularly well in these biscuits, giving them a special richness. This is also my first experience of honey contained in a squeezy bottle and it certainly helps to deliver it to the right spot without the usual mess and wastage. Not that I object to licking the spoon or my fingers come to that.


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