Posts Tagged Chocolate
Vanessa Kimbell recently organised another of her spectacular Christmas gift swaps where everyone takes along a homemade food gift and swaps it for a goodie someone else had made. Although I was unfortunately unable to attend. I thought Id share here what Id intended to take along. The theme was chocolate so I’m sure you can appreciate how long it took me to decide what to make. I finally decided Id make chocolate bark, which isn’t commonly seen here. I’m sure people will soon catch on, it’s incredibly easy to make and there are so many options, it is simply melted chocolate topped with your choice of fruit, nuts, biscuits or sweets and makes a lovely treat or gift.
Choosing the topping for my chocolate bark was easy. Id recently seen the most beautiful sugared cranberries in this post by my twitter friend, Barb of Creative Culinary. They are so incredibly festive. Id known as soon as I saw then that I would soon be making them! I thought they would make a lovely sparkly topping to some chocolate bark. I chose pistachios as another topping as I wanted a nut and thought the green of the pistachio would add a further festive touch to my bark!
As the chocolate is the main ingredient use the best quality chocolate you can, it really is worth the extra money, no point if it looks nice but doesn’t taste it! Barb’s recipe calls for sanding sugar, I’ve not come across that here but demerara sugar worked fine for me. This recipe isn’t for a huge amount but if you wanted more it could be doubled.
Vanessa is also accepting virtual entries to her gift swap so I am linking this up with her Lets make Christmas 2012
Sugared Cranberry and Pistachio Chocolate Bark
- 100 grams best quality milk chocolate
- 100 grams best quality dark chocolate
- 75 grams shelled pistachios
For the Sugared Cranberries (I made half of this recipe from Creative Culinary)
- 125 ml water
- 150 grams fresh cranberries
- 100 grams granulated sugar
- 75 grams demerara sugar
- 75 grams granulated sugar
To make the sugared cranberries see here. You could use dried cranberries instead but the sweet/tart burst from the sugared cranberries is so good.
- If you are making the sugared cranberries do this first so they have time to harden.
- Roast the pistachios on a baking sheet for around 10 minutes on 200 c, 400 f, gas 6. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Once the toppings are ready begin by cutting a piece of baking paper to the size of a baking sheet. Set the paper aside and put the baking sheet in the freezer, it doesn’t have to be for long if you pop it in before you start it will be cool enough by the time the chocolate is melted.
- Melt both chocolates together. I used a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir until completely melted
- Get the baking sheet from the freezer, put the ready cut baking paper onto the sheet and pour the melted chocolate straight onto the paper, spread the chocolate out into an even layer.
- Scatter the cranberries and pistachio nuts evenly over the chocolate layer.Put in the fridge to cool and harden which will take around 30 minutes.
- When the chocolate is hard break into pieces. I like uneven shards of bark so just snapped it randomly. If you prefer a more orderly appearance to your bark slice with a knife.
- Generally chocolate bark is stored in the fridge but the sugar on the sugared cranberries will melt if kept in the fridge so this bark really needs to be enjoyed fairly quickly after making, which is no problem as its so good!
Its National Cupcake week here! If ever there was a week to take part in and celebrate surely this is it! I can only imagine the fancy cupcakes people are going to make this week!
I too have books filled with decorative little masterpieces. I wish that was what I am sharing with you here but truth is I’ve found the cupcake craze kind of demoralizing over the last couple of years. I’ve tried but my piping skills are lacking and so is my time and patience, I wish could make fancy little cake toppers but I give up! What I have here are quick to make, simple to decorate, very easy to eat chocolate cupcakes!
Oh and the secret ingredient is courgette! This is the last courgette recipe this year, (I think!) I still have lots to get through so they are making an appearance in everything! A problem I sometimes have when making chocolate cakes is that the cake can be rather dry. Well the courgette is my secret weapon, it keeps the cake nice and moist without adding any taste, and it doesn’t even show! I gave them to 3 children who ate them with a chorus of “mmm”s and not one of them spotted anything green!
Chocolate Cupcakes (with courgette)
- 125 gram (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
- 175 gram (6 oz) caster sugar
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 175 gram (6 oz) plain flour
- 100 gram (3.5 oz) cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 125 ml ( 4.5 fl oz) milk
- 250 gram grated courgette
- Cream together the butter and sugar, I use my mixer.
- Add the eggs, one at a time beating after adding each egg.
- Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and soda.
- Add the dry mix to the creamed butter, sugar and eggs, I find it mixes easiest adding a 3rd at a time. After each addition of dry ingredient mix add a 3rd of milk.
- Add the grated courgette and mix in.
- Spoon into cupcake cases and bake for 15 minutes or until cooked.
- Wen cooked cool completely on a cake rack before icing.
I ran out of cocoa powder but did have chocolate chips so a quick internet search took me to this icing, which worked great! It has a lovely toffee hint and is deliciously sweet which works well with the cupcakes as they are not overly sweet.
- For the recipe for ‘“Never Fail chocolate Icing” see here
- I used icing sugar.
Last Sunday I took part in a baking challenge testing the quality of supermarket products. The ever inspiring Vanessa Kimbell wanted a very good question answered, what exactly is the difference between supermarkets? The price difference we already know can be vast but does this mean when we shop at one of the cheaper supermarkets we are being sold products of an inferior quality or is it actually that we are more cheated by shopping at the pricier supermarket and their products are of no better quality than the cheaper stores? Along with so many others the recession has hit my purse hard and I have found myself swinging between the higher and lower priced supermarkets during the last couple of years so this question was one that I was very interested to have answered!
9 bloggers, including myself, took part in The Most Marvelous Chocolate Cake Bake Off each making the same chocolate cake following a recipe from the lovely cookery book Prepped by Vanessa Kimbell using a stand mixer. We had to buy all of the ingredients for the cake from one supermarket each, my supermarket was Aldi. We were to keep the supermarket a secret so as not to influence the judges, especially as one of the judges was William Sitwell, the writer/editor of the Waitrose kitchen magazine! Judging alongside him was Helen Best-Shaw creator of the fabulous blog Fuss Free Flavours. The bake-off was held in a lovely vintage shop/cafe called Most Marvelous in Northampton and broadcast live on the Kitchen Garden radio show that Vanessa is on!
I’m glad to say the results were not as predictable as I had expected. The most expensive ingredients did not make the winning cake! In fact the most expensive supermarkets were rejected along with the cheapest. 1st and 2nd places went to Morrisons and The Co-op with Sainsburys coming in at 3rd. So neither the cakes made with the cheapest ingredients or the cakes made with the most expensive ingredients made the final 3! Interesting! I really expected Waitrose or Marks & Spencer to win! Listed below are all of the cake bakers and “their” supermarkets along with the total cake price. The cakes are listed from the highest price through to the lowest. As you can see the difference between the most expensive and cheapest cakes is quite a lot.
Rachel – Marks & Spencer, cake cost £12.50
Ren – Co-op, cake cost £10.32
Most Marvelous cafe – Morrisons, cake cost £9.61
Fleur – Waitrose, cake cost £9.39
Carmella – Sainsburys, cake cost £8.63
Karen – Asda, cake cost £7.45
Rosie - Lidl, cake cost £7.03
Jayne (me!), Aldi, cake cost £6.78
I had such fun taking part in this bake-off and it was lovely meeting everyone there! Thank you to Vanessa for organising it and Rosie for sorting out the costs.
I guess the question of supermarket quality wasnt really definitive. While its true the 3 cheapest supermarkets did not make the top 3, the most expensive 2 didn’t either. I made the cheapest cake and while its true it was no winner, it was edible! Maybe the answer is to go “middle of the road”. Also choose wisely, seasonally in whichever store your budget allows.
I recently took part in a Secret Santa food gift swap and have been astounded at the generosity and imagination of the people taking part. I am not really the most imaganitive of people but I am good at following rules so while the package got posted by the date specified it sadly wasnt the most exciting of parcels, I do apologise for that to the recipient! After the event and seeing the many wonderful things others had sent I began looking at more recipes for sweet treats that would survive posting. I came across this recipe from Martha Stewarts Everyday Food. It sounded so good I decided to try it right away. I am a fan of almonds and covering them in the cinnamon sugar coating was good enough for me but then they are covered in chocolate and rolled in cocoa! They really are a “Christmassy” treat. I put 150 grams of the almonds into little bags and tied them with ribbon for handing out with some of my Christmas cards.
The recipe really just works so I havent changed it but I added the word cinnamon into the title as cinnamon is not as popular in the UK as it is in America so I didnt want to surprise anyone with the unwanted taste of cinnamon!
Cinnamon Sugar, Chocolate Covered Almonds (from this recipe)
- 14 ounces whole almonds (unblanched)
- 10 ounces Caster sugar (I use unrefined)
- 2 ounces Water
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 16 ounces Dark Chocolate, roughly chopped
- 6 ounces Cocoa powder
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Put the whole almonds on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes until the nuts are toasted. Shake the pan half way through cooking.
- Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper. Add the sugar, water, cinnamon and almonds to a medium sized saucepan and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves and turns a golden brown. Tip onto the lined baking sheet and chill in fridge or freezer until hard, around 15 minutes.
- Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simering water.
- Line 1 or 2 abking sheets (depending on size) with greasepoof paper. Add the chilled almonds to the chocolate, stirring until all almonds are coated with the chocolate. Tip the almonds onto the baking sheet(s), separate the almonds with a fork and chill until teh chocolate is set, about 5 minutes.
- Some of the almonds will be stuck together and to the paper, break them up.
- Put the cocoa powder into a bowl and add the almonds, tumble the almonds gently in the cocoa until all are covered.
- Shake off excesss powder and store in a tupperware box or put into little bags to give as gifts.
While on holiday in Florida (with random wi-fi). I checked twitter for the first time after a few days of arriving and saw a tweet by food blogger @JenniferPerillo saying “he’s gone and my heart is shattered in a million pieces”. I went cold and just knew it was something about her husband who she lovingly refered to as “the mister” The awful fact was Jennifer’s husband, Mikey, had died suddenly of a massive heart attack. Jennie was one of the first real (non- celebrity) people I followed on twitter and I always enjoyed reading her loving tweets about the husband she so obviously adored. I do not know Jennie nor did I know her husband but my reaction was as if this had happened to a friend. While telling my husband I started crying and my husband (known for making fun of me when I cry at sad things on tv) did not make fun of me. I could not sleep for thinking of Jennie at night. A few days later I saw Jennie’s beautifully written blog post asking people to make Mikey’s favorite peanut butter pie on Friday (the day of Mikey’s memorial service) to share with those we love. Random wi-fi allowing whenever I checked on twitter so many people were making pie! Jennie’s terrible loss had affected so many people. The twitter foodie community was a heartwarming place to be last Friday and I do hope Jennie felt the waves of love.
I returned from my holiday yesterday and although its more than a week late, today my first job was to make a creamy peanut butter pie in honor of Mikey, the man I never met, who’s passing so touched my heart and also for his wife Jennie.
Jennie I wish you were closer so I could share this pie with you. You and your girls are in my thoughts.
Two weeks ago I went to my first book launch! I had such a nice day!
I started my blog when I did a recipe test for Vanessa Kimbell. She was looking for people to test the recipes from her upcoming cook book Prepped! It was the most scary but fun thing Id done for ages! Little did I know I would be lucky enough to test more recipes and then get to go to the Prepped book launch. As a recipe tester I wore pink along with other recipe testers at the launch! It was lovely to meet some of the other recipe testers and so many others. Any nerves I may have had disappeared with each friendly new person I met! There were lots of lovely treats made from Prepped, such as Chocolate Raspberry cake, Victoria Sponge with Cardamom Rose Cream & Rhubarb. There were Cookies, Chocolate, Vanilla & Black pepper Cupcakes and more! It was all delicious, of course I had to try everything, it would have been rude not too!
I took some Chili Chocolate Cupcakes to the book launch. The recipe is from the book Prepped, although Id tested some recipes this was the first of many recipes I will be making from my own copy of the book. I must mention how beautiful the Prepped book is. From the beautiful bright pink cover to the gorgeous photos and inspired recipes inside, it really is such a lovely book. Well done to Vanessa!
Anyway the cupcakes, they were adventurous for me. Not only is there chili in the cake but also beetroot, neither of which Id used in sweet cooking before. The results were great, the cake is moist and light. I couldn’t detect the beetroot taste that I had expected! The chili leaves a slight warming of the throat after you swallowed the cake, thoroughly pleasing, I thought! The cupcakes have a chocolate ganache filling, (you can double this recipe and make gorgeous truffles with the other half!). To finish the cupcakes are topped with a smooth chocolate icing. Delicious! I will definitely be experimenting with mixing chili and chocolate again!
The recipe for the cupcakes is on Vanessa’s blog www.Prepped.co.uk The recipe on the blog is for a large chocolate cake but use a large cupcake pan and you will get 16 cupcakes.
I love Twitter, you will often hear me say that! A few weeks ago I saw a tweet from Abby Dodge (@Abbydodge) inviting people to join her in a bake together. This is an event where Abby generously shares one of her recipes and invited the rest of us to bake it with her but using our own twist ” switching it up” as Abby says.
Well my first switch up was that I don’t have a tart dish (I know!) so I baked my base in a pie dish. The second change was that I didn’t use Graham crackers, hard to get in the UK, for once I actually do have some but decided to keep them for another time when I must have them! I substituted oat biscuits and ground, roasted hazelnuts for the Graham crackers.
The next change I made was only slight, I just used Frangelico hazelnut liqueur instead of the original rum and used a little bit more as I couldn’t seem to taste it.
I kept the vanilla cream topping the same. I’m not sure if single cream is exactly the same or a near as we get to half and half in the UK but that’s what I used. My final switch up was to decorate with some caramelized hazelnuts.
I served this Chocolate Hazelnut tart for dessert at a dinner party. My husband, who is not big on deserts really enjoyed it so that was praise indeed! It turned out well although the only taste of hazelnut was from the nuts in the base and the caramelized nuts on top,the Frangelico couldn’t seem to compete with the strong chocolate.
Chocolate Hazelnut Tart (adapted from Abby Dodge)
For the crust
- 4oz sweet oat biscuits (cookies) crushed into fine crumbs
- chopped roasted hazelnuts
- 1 oz butter
For the filling
- 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 1.5 tablespoon Frangelico liqueur
- 1 cup single cream (half and half)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch table salt
For the topping
- 1 pack (8 ounces) mascarpone cheese
- 6 fl oz double (heavy) cream
- 2 oz sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Caramelized hazelnuts
- 2 oz whole hazelnuts
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon honey
To make the crust
- Heat the oven to 375°F 190 °C.
- Grease a 9 inch pie dish or if you have one, a loose bottom tart dish.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan and mix in the biscuit crumbs and the chopped hazelnuts. Mix well to incorporate butter.
- Press biscuit mix into bottom of dish and press evenly into the bottom and up the sides .
- Bake until slightly darker brown about 10-12 minutes.
To make the filling:
- In a heatproof medium bowl, melt the chocolate, single cream (half and half) and butter in a microwave or over simmering water. Remove from the heat and add the Frangelico, vanilla and salt. Whisk the mixture until well blended. Set aside, whisking occasionally, until room temperature and slightly thickened, about 1 hour. (For faster cooling, refrigerate the filling until thickened to a pudding consistency, about 30 minutes, whisking and scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula every 5 minutes.)
- With a rubber spatula, scrape the mixture into the crust and spread evenly. Let cool completely, cover, and refrigerate until the filling is set, about 4 hours and up to 1 day before proceeding with the recipe.
To make the topping:
- In a medium bowl, combine the mascarpone, double/heavy cream, sugar and vanilla. Using an electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat on low-speed until smooth. Increase speed to medium high and beat until cream is thick and holds firm peaks.
- Using a small metal spatula, spread the whipped cream over the chocolate filling leaving lots of swirls and peaks. Cover loosely and refrigerate up to 8 hours.
To make the Caramelized hazelnuts
- Pre heat the oven to 350°F, 180 °C
- Toast the hazelnuts in a shallow baking pan until a shade darker, about 10 minutes.
- Slightly cool, then tip the hazelnuts into a tea towel and rub to remove the skins.
- Put the water, sugar and honey into a small saucepan and bring to the boil until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and add the nuts, stir until all nuts are coated in the syrup.
- Line the baking tray with foil and lightly oil, transfer the syrup coated hazelnuts to the baking tray with a slotted spoon leaving behind excess syrup.
- Roast the nuts until golden brown, moving nuts around once or twice during cooking, about 10 minutes.
- Lightly oil another piece of foil, remove nuts from oven and spread onto the foil so they aren’t touching.
- When hazelnuts are cool and just before serving arrange on top of the cream.
I’ve been making this cake for years, for a long time it was my “go to” chocolate cake recipe. It was originally a recipe cut out of a magazine, long before I ever knew about computers, never mind blogs! It was an Easter recipe and the cake was meant to be more like a nest but I have made a few changes over the years. I hadn’t made it for a long time but when I saw Julia’s (from A Slice of Cherry Pie) Easter Cake Bake I knew this was the cake I would enter.
Chocolate Easter Cake
For the cake
- 175g unsalted butter, softened
- 225g light soft brown sugar
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 3 eggs
- 70g cocoa powder, sifted
- 1 tsp espresso coffee powder
- 150ml warm water
- 150ml natural yoghurt
- 225g plain flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
For the filling and icing
- 175g plain chocolate, broken into pieces
- 75g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 70ml double cream
For the decoration
- 200g milk chocolate, chilled
- 100g plain chocolate, chilled
- 50g white chocolate,chilled
- mini eggs
- Preheat oven to 150C ( 300F, Gas 2)
- Grease and line a 23cm, 9 in round cake tin.
- Cream butter and sugar
- Add golden syrup,mix.
- Add eggs to mixture one at a time, beating well between each addition
- Blend the cocoa powder and water to a paste, stir in the yoghurt and fold into rest of mixture.
- Sift flour and baking powder together and gently fold into mix about a third at a time.
- Spoon mix into prepared cake tin, level the top, make a little hollow in the middle.
- Bake for 1 1/4 hours or unti la skewer inserted into middle comes out clean.
- Leave to cool in tin for 20 mins then turn onto a cooling rack to cool.
For the filling and icing
- Put the broken chocolate into a bowl and melt over a pan of lightly simmering water.
- Remove from heat, add the butter stirring until melting.
- Add the cream, stirring until incorporated and chill until its firm enough to spread.
- Cut the cake into 2 layers, spread bottom layer with a 3rd of the chilled chocolate cream and sandwich layers together.
- Spread rest of chocolate cream over top and sides of cake.
- Using a potato peeler run along the sides of the milk, plain and white chocolate bars to make curls, arrange on top and sides of cake.
- Decorate with mini eggs.
There is a blogging event called Forever Nigella organised by Sarah on Maison Cupcake. The idea is to make a recipe by Nigella Lawson following a theme that changes each month. This months theme is “Seduced by Chocolate” With such a delightfully titled theme I couldn’t resist!
While doing maths at school a wonderful little girl I know calculated that she would be 100 months old on February 10th this year. Well that seemed to me the perfect excuse to bake a cake and to be “Seduced by Chocolate” at the same time!
Nigella Lawson, like myself, seems to be a fan of chocolate and as a fan of Nigella’s I have over the years made a few of her chocolate recipes. This time I wanted to make something I hadn’t tried before so I chose Nigella’s Old Fashioned Chocolate cake from her Feast book.
I am often disappointed by chocolate cake recipes, they often sound so promising but once baked do not live up to my expectations. I’m always on the hunt for a chocolate cake that tastes like chocolate cake tasted when I was a kid. Well I grew up in America and I remember my mother baking lots of cakes. The fact that all these cakes came from a Betty Crocker or Duncan Hines box did not seem strange at all to me! So when I read that Nigella describes the Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake “as a sort of idealised chocolate cake out of a packet” I felt hopeful!
Well this time I was not disappointed. It such an easy recipe to follow, literally an all in one mix (like one out of a box!) It was such a satisfying cake to make, it rose well and tasted as I wanted it to of chocolate! It’s a lovely light cake with rich, decadent frosting, I loved it. But most importantly so did the 100 month old!