Monday, 30 April 2012

We Should Cocoa - the Cheese Round-up

The new chocolate Philadelphia has been causing quite a stir it seems. I haven't tried it, but I've heard some positive reports and it makes quite a few appearances amongst this month's We Should Cocoa cheese and chocolate recipes. The Italian classics, mascarpone and ricotta also appear several times as does goat's cheese. I'm very pleased about this as it turned out to be a surprisingly good partner for chocolate in the WSC Savoury challenge. Despite a few gasps, people were not put off too much by the cheese element as we have 34 entries in total. Thanks to everyone for taking part.

Apologies to those where I've used a different photograph to the one they submitted - when I tried to download the images from Linky tools, I only got a thumbnail image so had to download directly from your sites.

For May, I'm delighted to say Laura of How to Cook Good Food will be guest hosting We Should Cocoa. Do head over to her blog on the 1st of May to find out what she is going to challenge us with. We will be reverting to the use of e-mail as stated in the We Should Cocoa guidelines as there are some issues around using Linky Tools.

Having been too unhappy with her green macaroons to enter last month's challenge and repeatedly telling everyone she can't bake, I'm very pleased to see that Fiona of London Unattached is very much mistaken and has made her first appearance in WSC by baking these most delicious looking cream cheese brownies.

Hannah from Corner Cottage Bakery had Easter treats in mind this month. The first to use the much talked about choccy philly (chocolate cream cheese), she made these unique and lush looking chocolate cheesecake eggs.

The next one to use choccy philly was the amazingly energetic Karen of Lavender and Lovage who used it to ice her very cute little Easter egg daisy cakes.

Another Easter extravaganza from Karen of Lavender and Lovage. This time it's the chocolate orange daisy cake she made for her inaugural Clandestine Cake Club - lucky lot!

These Black, white or not cheesecakes from Ros of The more than occasional baker are sublime. Not only did she get cheese and chocolate into these lovely layers, but she also sneaked some of her favourite peanut butter too. Then to top it all (literally), she made some cute little gold chocolate bars.

Phil of As Strong As Soup has gone all healthy on us this month - possibly to recover from the Easter overload? Using choccy philly (a very apt name in this case I feel), these pear and chocolate filo tarts sound quite delicious.

More truffles using cream cheese. Why didn't I ever think of this? Made for a birthday, these chocolate cheese truffles from Snowy of Cookbooks Galore sound splendid and a relatively simple way of whipping up a real treat.

Our second cheesecake to make an appearance is from first timer Vivian Pang Kitchen and it's a real stunner. Marble cheesecake - need I say more!

If cheese and chocolate wasn't a good enough combination, how about cheese, chocolate and rhubarb. Janine of Cake of the Week has come up with this winning combination in her cream cheese, rhubarb and chocolate cupcakes - they look so pretty too.

Suelle of Mainly Baking can always be relied on to come up with something impressive for WSC and this month she gives us Rugelach with chocolate and cherries. Not only impressive but sounding absolutely delicious too.

Who doesn't love a bargain? When Hungry Hinny found a bag of Minstrels going cheap, she couldn't resist using some of them to bake biscuits. Unusually, these Minstrel cookies are made with cream cheese rather than egg - perfect for WSC.

Susie of Fold in the Flour was another one trialing out the new choccy philly. She used it to make double chocolate cheesecake muffins, her first WSC entry. When she described the result as fudgy, I was completely won over.

For something completely different, Janice of Farmersgirl Kitchen came up with these Sicilian inspired chocolate dipped cannoli. Filled with Amaretto, chocolate and ricotta, these had me going weak at the knees.

Corina of Searching for Spice has become another choccy philly convert it would seem. Her chocolate Philadelphia fudge cheesecake looks creamy, mousse like and delicious.

These gorgeous raspberry, white chocolate and mascarpone tartlets are from WSC first timer Under the Blue Gum Tree. Not only do these have both white chocolate and cocoa in the recipe, but the pastry is made from cream cheese and the filling with mascarpone - a double whammy of both cheese and chocolate :)

If you are very lucky, you might just spot some chocolate olive oil cupcakes with a goat's cheese frosting provocatively peeping from a cherry tree branch - or at least you might be if you were passing the garden of Fleur from Homemade by Fleur. Unusual these might be, but Fleur reckons they are possibly the best cupcakes she's ever made AND it confirms this winning combination of goat's cheese and chocolate.

Hooray, another goat's cheese and chocolate combination from Mel of Sharky Oven Gloves. This time it is for fig, goat's cheese & chocolate tartlets and with the addition of honey and walnuts they sound absolutely divine.

Using her favourite scone recipe with ricotta cheese, Caroline of Bake, Crumbs and Cooking added some 85% chocolate to this batch of delicious looking chocolate ricotta scones.

My own mascarpone and apple curd tarts with their hidden chocolate layer are something I will be making again, using whatever fruit curd I have made - maybe rhubarb would be good.

Lured in by the chocolate and cheese theme, Foodycat has submitted one of her not to be missed Meat Free Monday recipes. Made with a chocolate balsamic reduction, this goat's cheese and chocolate salad sounds so very delicious, I hope this won't be Foodycat's first and only WSC entry.

Back to something sweet with these pretty white chocolate dipped cake pops by Jo of Comfort Bites. For the filling, Jo has used cream cheese to bind Madeira cake together - what a good idea.

I really like the colour contrast of these cream cheese and chocolate muffins from WSC first timer Amy of lazybaking. Described as "nice and gooey" - I am sold.

More swirled cheese and chocolate in these decedent sounding chocolate cheesecake blondies from Jean of Baking in Franglais. If these are to be on offer at Jean's cake stall in November, I shall be visiting!

Johanna of Green Gourmet Giraffe really pushed the boat out on this one. As a fellow vegetarian, I am a huge admirer of the inventiveness of Johanna's food and I would so love to have been invited along for dinner when she made this Mexican inspired chocolate nut roast with chocolate gravy.

Not happy with her first attempt at peanut butter cheesecake, FlourVonSponge of Sniff & Snort thought again. Second time around, this glorious banana peanut butter cake was born - a banana cake, sandwiched and frosted with peanut butter cream cheese icing & topped with beautiful chocolate curls.

Now here's a real extravaganza from Working London Mummy. I defy anyone not to want to get immediately messy and fizzed up with these vanilla, cocoa and mascarpone millefeuille with popping candy garnish.

Oh, how I love macaroons. Sarah of Maison Cupcake must have known this as she is sharing with us these most delicious looking chocolate philadelphia macarons. But these are macarons with a twist - no not choccy philly, although they do contain that too, but even better, hazelnuts.

What lovely little bites of scrumptiousness these chocolate caramel cups look from Urvashi of Botanical Baker. Of course to make them look as pretty as this, you need to be a lot more adept at piping than I am. Maybe I should have attended the London Chocolate Festival where Urvashi was demonstrating these.

We need to celebrate these lovely little chocolate fruit and nut crispy cakes as things are looking a bit gloomy over at Belleau Kitchen as they are Dom's last sweet treat for a while - apparently!

I'm just wondering how fast I can get over to New Zealand as I know there is the most scrumptious chocolate swirl cake hiding in The KitchenMaid's fridge. The question is, why did it take her so long to make it?

In at the very last minute came chocolate cheesecake cupcakes from What I Baked This Weekend. This is the first recipe I've seen from the new Marian Keyes' book.

I was pleased to see another savoury entry from Laura of How to Cook Good Food. The pairing for chocolate this time was ricotta with these yummy baked ricotta cakes, watercress and a chocolate balsamic dressing.

Is it a spaceship? No, it's a beautiful white chocolate capped chocolate cream cheese pound cake from Kit of Lost in Austen. Unusually, the cream cheese forms part of the cake batter in this most attractive of cakes.

Jac of Tinned Tomatoes has been promising to make something for We Should Cocoa for such a long time. So this morning, I was truly shocked to discover that she had actually done it, albeit a little late! Well, it was so worth the wait, just look at her Snickers cheesecake loaf - see this and salivate :0

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Sticky Toffee Chocolate Puddings - Random Recipes 15

It's Dom's second anniversary at Belleau Kitchen this month and to help him celebrate he asked us all to randomly select a recipe from one of our baking books. Hooray. This narrowed things down and made the task somewhat easier as I didn't have to search through every bookshelf and stack in the house. Including my chocolate books, this gave me twenty in total. I asked CT to choose a number and as it was Friday the 13th at the time, 13 was the number he chose. Luckily 13 was my lovely grandmother's lucky number, so I don't feel in the least bit filled with gloom by this particular integer. And I was right not to be gloom filled as the book turned out to be Green & Black's Ultimate. Flicking through the pages with my eyes closed I landed on a recipe for pudding - Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake to be precise. Given that there is often a piece of cake lying around the house to be had, I rarely make puddings, but a friend coming over for supper a couple of night's ago provided the perfect opportunity.

This very friend had persuaded me just a few days before to buy these cheery little ramekin dishes when we were out and about. So rather than make one large cakey pudding as suggested, it seemed more apt to make individual ones and use these colourful ramekins. As we still had quite a bit of cake left over from my first Clandestine Cake Club event, I only made half of the amount specified in the book.

This is how I did it:

  • Chopped 75g dried dates and placed in a medium sized saucepan.
  • Poured on 150ml boiling water and simmered for a few minutes with the lid on. Turned the heat off and left to soak whilst I found and greased my ramekin dishes.
  • Added 50g unsalted butter, 75g light Muscovado sugar and 75g dark chocolate (85%) and left those to melt.
  • Sifted 120g wholemeal spelt into a mixing bowl with 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda. Made a well in the centre.
  • Stirred the chocolate mixture until all incorporated then poured into the flour and mixed.
  • Broke in 2 smallish duck eggs (probably medium hens eggs) and beat well with my wooden spoon.
  • Spooned into the ramekin dishes filling them to just over 3/4 - I also had enough to nearly fill to mini loaf moulds.
  • Baked for 20 minutes at 180C.
  • Melted 50g unsalted butter in a pan with 2 large tbsp golden syrup.
  • Stirred in 100g light Muscovado sugar.
  • Poured in 100ml double cream and stirred.
  • Bought to a simmer and let it bubble for a few minutes, stirring from time to time.
  • Poured some toffee sauce over each of the puddings as soon as they were out of the oven.
  • Spent an inordinate amount of time trying to take a photograph in the gloom without a flash until everyone was well and truly fed up with me.
Luckily the puddings were still warm and quite delicious. The dates and spelt combined to give them quite a chewy texture and substantial presence, just what was needed for the damp and cool weather we are experiencing. The sponge wasn't overly sweet, so the toffee sauce was by no means saccharine overkill.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Wild Blueberry Cupcakes

On a recent trip to St Austell, I was quite excited to discover Nature Kitchen, a shop dedicated to spices and herbs. One of the purchases I made that day was a pot of bilberry powder (ground dried bilberries). Bilberries are the UKs native blueberry and grow wild around these parts. They are incredibly good for you, but the season is short and they are often difficult to find. They are also much smaller than the commercial blueberry that most people are familiar with. Buying the powder, I reasoned, would not only enable me to give a blueish colour to cake icings, but would imbue me with super powers too!!!

Eager to try this out as a flavouring and colouring, I decided to make some wild blueberry cupcakes at the first opportunity. I had a pot of wild blueberry spread I could also use (jam really, but because it's made with apple juice rather than sugar, EU regulations prevent it being called jam). I based the cake part of the recipe on the one given for raspberry cupcakes in Cupcakes from the Primrose Bakery, substituting the blueberry spread for the stated raspberry jam. I also used half wholemeal flour as I usually do and made a couple of other tweaks. The icing I made up.

This is what I did:
  • Creamed 110g unsalted butter with 180g cardamom (caster) sugar until well beaten and fluffy.
  • Beat in 2 duck eggs, one by one.
  • Sifted 125g self-raising wholemeal flour, 120g plain white flour and 1/4 tsp bicarb of soda.
  • Measured out 125ml milk and added 1 tsp vanilla extract.
  • Stirred in 1/3 of the flour, followed by 1/3 of the milk.
  • Repeated this process twice more until all flour and milk incorporated.
  • Roughly stirred in 3 tbsp blueberry spread, so that the mixture was streaky rather than  all one colour.
  • Spooned into 12 of my favourite blue cupcake cases and baked at 180C for 20 minutes.
  • Left to cool a little then turned out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Melted 50g white chocolate (Green&Black's) in a bowl over hot water, then left to cool a little.
  • Beat 125g mascarpone cheese in a bowl with a wooden spoon until smooth.
  • Added, rather cautiously at first, a bit of the bilberry powder and stirred it in. Then proceeded to add larger and larger quantities as the colour was not as powerful as I thought it might be. I probably used a rounded teaspoonful in the end.
  • Beat in the white chocolate.
  • Spread over the top of the cakes with a palate knife.
  • Used some of the sugar alphabet letters from my recent cake decorating wins to write Wild, Blue, Berry, Cup, & Cakes on the top (this was rather time consuming and I'm not sure I'd be so exacting again).
The cakes were delicious, well risen, moist and surprisingly light. The icing was also good and set the cakes off nicely, I thought. I loved the colour, but was a little disappointed that I couldn't taste anything in the least bit fruity. CT, however, as a seasoned bilberry forager was adamant he could taste the bilberries. My palate obviously requires radical cleansing.

As B is the letter chosen by Ros in this month's AlphaBakes, I'm submitting my Blueberry cupcakes to this monthly challenge hosted alternately by The more than occasional baker and Caroline Bakes.

I'm also adding this to Made With Love Mondays, a blogging event created by Javelin Warrior which I keep meaning to enter but never seem to manage. The aim is to encourage people to make everything from scratch rather than using ready made items.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Linen Tea Towels and a Giveaway #6

When asked by Al McCavery of All Tea Towels if I'd like to review a couple of tea towels from the site, I was really pleased. I love a good tea towel and especially nice colourful ones that look decorative when not in use. There are plenty to choose from. Whether it's a particular theme or colour that is wanted, chances are you will be in luck. There is even a food and drink category, although sadly, I couldn't find any chocolate related ones.

I did find plenty of red tea towels though. Red is my colour of choice for all kitchen related paraphernalia. Making a choice of only two was actually quite difficult. Colour and design were two factors to be considered. Material was another - linen, plain cotton or waffle? In the end I chose two Irish linen tea towels, partly because I liked the designs and partly because they were linen. Linen is purported to be the best material for tea towels as it is absorbent, lint free and durable. It also has a touch of elegance and class about it, which my kitchen is very much in need of.

I'd chosen an anemone design for myself - a Pierre-Joseph Redoute print. Anemones are some of my favourite flowers and as well as featuring a large red anemone, there is a thick red border too. The second one is a Madeleine Floyd design featuring garden birds, their song and their eggs; this one is destined for my mother. She loves to watch the birds in her garden and try and identify their calls and it has a blue border which matches her aga.

Linen has a long and venerable history. Made from the flax plant, Linum usitatissimum, it is thought to be one of the first plants used to make fabric in about 8000BC. It was brought to prominence by the ancient Egyptians in about 4000 BC. Although linen had been grown in Ireland from around 1000BC, it did not become widely used until the Middle Ages. Although cotton and in more recent times, artificial fibres have come to dominate the market, there is still, thankfully, a place for the production and use of linen in our modern world.

An added bonus, in my book at least, is that these tea towels are sent by Royal Mail. Despite the doom and gloom surrounding this venerable institution, I like to see it supported. A parcel very quickly arrived and the tea towels were extracted from their packaging. As an aside, they were wrapped in turquoise tissue paper and as I am partial to colourful tissue paper, I awarded another bonus point.

Both were a good couple of inches bigger in either direction than some of my existing tea towels and measure 48cm by 74cm.

The weave was more open than I'd expected and the linen nice and crisp. They are of course, colour fast and machine washable. The washing instructions say it takes a few washes to get a really absorbent cloth. I haven't washed either of them yet, but I did test one out and I was really quite impressed with how much water it absorbed and how well it dried the mugs and glasses leaving them sparkling and smear free. I'm wondering if they really can get even better.

Al has kindly agreed to give a linen tea towel away to one of my UK readers. Being as it's spring and rather a wet one at that, I've chosen a nice cheery yellow. Appropriately entitled Spring Season Tree of Life, the trunk and branches have words associated with belonging and positive emotion written along them. I very nearly chose this one for myself.

To enter the giveaway, you must leave a comment at the bottom of this post answering the question below. You have until midnight of Wednesday 9th May 2012 when the giveaway closes. The winner will be randomly selected after this date. Once again, apologies to oversees visitors, but this is only open to those with a UK postal address.

What would be your ideal tea towel design or colour?

Additional entries can also be made by doing any of the following and letting me know by leaving a separate comment for each method used. BUT you must answer the question above for these to be eligible:
  • Tweeting the following message "Win linen Tree of Life tea towel from @Choclette8 on Chocolate Log Blog -"
  • Liking Chocolate Log Blog Page on Facebook
  • Following my blog via Networked Blogs (follow button can be found on the sidebar).
  • Following my blog via Google Friend Connect (follow button can be found on the sidebar).
10 May Update. This giveaway is now closed. The winner has been drawn using Random.Org as follows: no. 29 - Baking Addict

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Mascarpone & Apple Curd Tarts - We Should Cocoa 20

Not being especially thrilled by my chocolate and cheddar biscuits (cheecolates), I thought I'd have another attempt at a chocolate and cheese combination for this month's We Should Cocoa. This time, I took a slightly safer route by going for a tart with a mascarpone and fruit curd filling. The curd in question was some apple and lemon curd I'd recently made to which I've become rather addicted - it is so delicious. The bit that was slightly risky was making pastry with an egg white. I've never done this before and nor had anyone else according to google. But I had an egg white lurking in the fridge from making the biscuits and I didn't want it lurking there anymore. The chocolate addition, I took from my surprise cheesecake and made these three layered tarts.

This is what I did:
  • Rubbed 40g unsalted butter into 100g flour (half wholemeal, half white) and 20g cardamom sugar (caster) until the mixture resembled bread crumbs.
  • Added the egg white and a splash of water and mixed with a knife.
  • Bought the mixture together to form a dough.
  • Being too impatient to hang around (to my cost), rolled the dough out thinly and cut circles just big enough to fill a 9 cm tart case. 
  • Pressed the pastry circles into 4 buttered tart tins & trimmed the tops with a knife.
  • Reformed the remaining pastry into a ball and rolled into a circle.
  • Shaped into a freeform pastry case & placed on a baking tray with the other tarts.
  • Pricked the bottoms in several places with a fork.
  • Baked for 10 minutes at 180C then left to cool. Oh dear the pastry had shrunk hugely - my own fault for not putting it into the fridge before rolling probably.
  • Removed the pastry from the tins.
  • Melted 50g milk chocolate (Green&Blacks 37%) in a glass bowl over a pan of not quite simmering water.
  • Left to cool a little.
  • Spread a couple of teaspoons or so of chocolate around the bases of the tart cases.
  • Mixed 125g mascarpone cheese with 3 tbsp of lemon and apple curd.
  • Divided this mixture between the 5 tarts.
  • Sprinkled the tops with grated dark chocolate (Green&Blacks 70%).
The pastry, I was pleased to find, worked well - apart from the shrinkage). It was easy to roll, which always gets lots of points in my book and being rather plain, offset the richness of the filling nicely. I now have another use for left over egg whites. CT pronounced these delicious, but I was disappointed by the pastry shrinkage and didn't think the pastry worked as well as the shortbread I'd used for the lime curd mascarpone tarts I made last year. Nor did they look as striking. However, I was quite happy to polish off my share of the tarts and they didn't last long. The chocolate layer gave a pleasant surprise snap to the experience as our teeth sank in.


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