Category Archives: chocolate
This year we’re going to friends’ for dinner and to watch the show, hopefully in better humour. I will be taking a Malta-eser cake (geddit, geddit?) in honour of the country that always gives us some points. [[it’s the Chocolate Malteser Cake from Nigella Lawson’s Feast book]]. I’ve been wanting to make it for some time and had a practise during the week and it was so good – I’ll definitely be making it again! I promise to make it for my dad who is such a fan of Maltesers (Whoppers, apparently in the US) and will find this not at all too chocolatey!
Today I discovered a truly delightful side-effect of my blogging. After a long day at work, followed by a hard slog in the gym I came home to TLM who presented me with the cake pictured above. What has this got to do with blogging? Well, he has just come off nights (so has a short reprise before getting back on the wards) and, unable to sleep, pootled on my food blog. Spotting these, he decided to go to town making a full-sized and thoroughly him version…
To paraphrase the method he described:
He started by doubling the chocolate sponge recipe which produced six (muffin-sized!) fairy cakes. An unsuccessful foray to the local supermarket meant he decided to make his own cherry jam (wow!) to, and I quote, “smear inside the hole”. He then divided some cream, leaving some plain and combining the other half with “mashed-up” cherries. The pink cream went into the hole, followed by some more cherry jam, topped off by the excised sponge lid. A dollop of cream, a cherry and a sprinkling of chocolate – et voilà!
I am so ridiculously impressed! They were delicious and, knowing he might get a spot on my blog ;), beautifully presented. What a winner!
TLM and I have been enjoying our home-based Easter holidays (saving for the wedding means we need to 1. not go on frivolous holidays and 2. spend free time scoping out venues and visiting vicars etc) and so we popped down to my parents in Devon and had a wonderful sunny time and have been enjoying our flat, our garden and the city since we returned.
Yesterday we were plodding around town and I suddenly spotted a large poster for Willie’s Cacao and felt compelled to go in and buy some. Who? What? I would have been asking that myself a few weeks ago – as we don’t have a television – but whilst at my parents’ house, and with their recommendation, we watched a programme about a whackily enthusiastic chocomaniac who prizes the purest chocolate. His name is Willie and his most recent adventures have been a foray into the world of eating chocolate (as opposed to 100% cacao cooking chocolate). Not all has run smoothly – the lack of a wrapping machine, leaving 24,000 bars to be wrapped by hand, springs to mind. You can read an interview with him here. So that, combined with a Westcountry loyalty lead me to buy two of his bars:
The first, Peruvian 70 which is 70% cacao and has ‘subtle tropical fruit notes’ and the second, Venezuelan 72 which is 72% cacao and has ‘smooth fruity notes’. Marco Pierre White could taste the difference. Would I?
First things first, the packaging is exquisite. Small, square boxes containing two 40g bars of chocolate. The fact that ‘delectable’ was written down the side of the box was noted in the programme, but what won me over was the clever little note on the inner tab of the lid:
I could smell the chocolate by this point and started to get quite excited. I had my glass of water ready and best tastebuds prepared. I slipped the square of chocolate from the wrapper and it was glossy and thick. I hate those Lindt chocolate bars that are firstly too thin and ridged, and then far too creamy. These bars though, looked fantastic. As I looked at one I thought about how much they cost (£3.45 per box!) and tried to justify it to myself – not just because we didn’t go abroad, but also because you’d spend £3.45 on a bumper Toblerone in duty free. As someone who has worked her bum off (literally?) to lose two stone since January, it seems perfectly sensible to spend the same on something smaller but better quality.
I felt good about the bar before I even began. I took the Peruvian first and snapped it in half – and it had a great snap. I compared with the Venezuelan and it too cracked leaving beautifully distinct halves – none of this rumpled, wrinkly looking stuff that melts as you try to break through its prescriptive lines.
I felt more at home with 70% cacao so started with the Peruvian. To taste, it had a sweet, pineapply tang and in terms of texture it was smooth: it didn’t try to stick to my teeth or taint my mouth like some dark chocolate does. Smooth and sweet without being cloying or creamy – excellent.
The Venezuelan next. We were both stunned to find that not only could we taste the difference, but we could detect a difference in texture too. TLM immediately declared it his favourite. It was mellower than the Peruvian, not as zingy or surprising. In texture it was noticeably chalkier than the other bar, not unpleasantly so and only really dry in comparison to the first. The only thing I can possible compare it to are the short, thick coffees you have at the end of a Middle-Eastern meal.
Neither had that vicious bitterness you find with dark chocolate – and neither was dry or claggy in texture. Sometimes dark chocolate feels insubstantial – they tend to pour it quite thin maybe? but snapping this off just as I wanted it was wonderful. Truly excellent chocolate, like I’ve never tasted before.
I still have a bar of each, and wonder if I can bring myself to enjoy them without analysing – there was almost a reason to have such expensive chocolate if I was dissecting it. Will I enjoy it quite so much in the bath? Watch this space!
I promised to make The Little Medic a cake for finishing his finals and his request was not much of a surprise. His favourite cake I make is marzipan fruit cake (the marzipan is mixed in and turns into chewy nuggets), but anything with cherries is his second choice. As a result, I have a cupboard full of morello cherry jam, natural glace cherries, maraschino cherries, bottled morello cherries, tinned black cherries…
This time, he pointed out a cake from a book I’ve not trusted for some time. I looked at the recipe and the quantities for the sponge seemed complete nonsense. By the time I read the final instruction to cut the sponge in half to make a sandwich I had lost all faith. However, he argued that maybe a gateau was different to a sponge cake (I was unconvinced) led me to follow the recipe. As I predicted – and maybe as a result of my prediction – the ‘sponge’ was flat and RUBBERY?!! I threw a small wobbler in the kitchen, stomped around saying I should have trusted myself and defiantly lobbed the sponge into the bin (it made a retaliatory thud at the bottom). I flung the un-trustworthy recipe book on the floor, and turned to my fail-proof Marguerite Pattern sponge cake recipe.
- 75 g self-raising flour (I use supreme sponge because I see no reason why not)
- 25 g cocoa powder
- 100 g butter
- 100 g sugar
- 2 eggs
How to Make it
Preheat the oven to 190 Celsius, and get someone with patience to line two 6-7 inch (15-18 cm) sandwich tins. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add an egg, mix. Add half the flour and cocoa powder, mix. Add the remaining egg, mix. Add the remaining flour and cocoa powder, mix. Split the mixture between the two sandwich tins. Cook just above the centre of the oven for about 15-20 minutes. I usually swap them round half way through. To tell if it’s cooked you can initially use the finger-impression method (i.e. if it leaves an indentation it’s not cooked yet) and back it up with the skewer method (i.e. if you test it in the centre with skewer and gooey bits stick to it, it’s not done). When cooked, let the cakes cool in a rack for 2 or 3 minutes, then turn them out carefully. If you leave them in their tins they will overcook and dry out.
I actually made the cherry filling before the sponge to let it all cool down.
Ingredient – Cherry layer
- 450 g fresh cherries, then stoned (I looked like a murderer after stoning these and my fingers are still dyed now)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 100 ml of water, cherry brandy or … fruit cider (which I used and it worked well)
How to Make it
Put the cherries, sugar and liquid in a pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the cherries. Add the syrup back and cook for a minute or two longer to thicken, as you want the syrup to soak slightly into the sponge and not make it soggy.
After adding the cherries, I whipped the cream for the centre. I took on board what Nigel Slater had to say on “A Taste of My Life” that cream should not be overwhipped, and should look like an unmade bed. This proved very sound advice.
I didn’t bother to cream or decorate the top because it would be eaten in a few sittings and some fresh cream each time drizzled would spruce it up, rather than have it going claggy on top. TLM said it was delicious (and he says it tastes even better today – funny how that’s the case with a lot of cakes) and tucked in to a very messy, but very decadent, slice:
As requested, here is the recipe for this hurts-your-teeth sugary chocolate cake that featured on The Little Medic’s blog. It is better known as Nigella’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake from ‘Feast’ (copied below)
FOR THE CAKE
200g (8 oz) plain flour
200g (8 tbsp) caster sugar
5ml (1 tsp) baking powder
2.5ml (½ tsp) bicarbonate of soda
40g (1½ oz) best-quality cocoa
175g (6 oz) soft unsalted butter
2 large eggs
10ml (2 tsp) real vanilla extract
150ml (¼ pint) sour cream
FOR THE ICING
85ml (3 oz) unsalted butter
175g (6 oz) best-quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300g (10 oz) icing sugar
15ml (1 tbsp) golden syrup
125ml (4fl oz) sour cream
5ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract
Take everything out of the fridge so all the ingredients can come to room temperature. Heat oven to 180°C and line and butter two 20cm sandwich tins. Mix the flour, sugar and leavening agents in a large bowl and beat in the soft butter until you have a combined and creamy mixture. Now whisk together the cocoa, sour cream, vanilla and eggs and beat this into your bowl of mixture.
Divide this batter, using a rubber spatula to help you scrape and spread, into the prepared tins and bake until a cake tester, or a thin skewer, comes out clean, which should be about 35 minutes, but it is wise to start checking at 25. Also it might make sense to switch the two cakes around in the oven halfway through cooking time. Remove the cakes, in their tins, to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before turning out of their tins. Don’t worry about any cracks as they will easily be covered by the icing later.
Do not even contemplate icing the cake until the sponges are cold. To make this icing, melt the butter and chocolate in a good-sized bowl either in the microwave or suspended over a pan of simmering water. Go slowly either way: you don’t want any burning or seizing. While the chocolate and butter are cooling a little, sieve the icing sugar into another bowl. Add the golden syrup to the cooled chocolate mixture, followed by the sour cream and vanilla, and then, when all this is combined, whisk in the sieved icing sugar.
Choose your cake stand or plate and cut out four strips of baking parchment to form a square outline on it (this stops the icing running onto the plate). Then sit one of the cakes, uppermost (i.e. slightly domed) side down. Spoon about a third of the icing onto the centre of the cake half and spread with a knife or spatula until you cover the top of it evenly. Sit the other cake on top, normal way up, pressing gently to sandwich the two together. Spoon another third of the icing onto the top of the cake and spread it in a swirly, textured way (though you can go for a smooth finish if you prefer, and have the patience). Spread the sides of the cake with the remaining icing and leave a few minutes till set, then carefully pull away the paper strips.
Today was our third anniversary. Unfortunately, there was a completely distressing head-on collision that we were first to come across as we were going on our joyful business. I wrote a blogpost on my personal blog as soon as I came in to try and deal with my feelings. I still feel like I shouldn’t have seen what I did when their families didn’t even know anything was wrong. We came home, after having eaten nothing or hardly spoken all day. We decided that although we were subdued, we mustn’t let the event disproportionately affect us.
I don’t knock up chocolate cookies after tragedy. But we must eat, and this was the most convenient and thoughtless thing I could throw together just for calorie intake as I’d made the mixture last evening and left it in the fridge. When we finally got home it was just easy to mindlessly scoop out the mix, cook it, and try to move on with a glass of the pink fizz we’d set aside for our intended evening ‘celebrations’
The recipe is a shameless copy of nigella’s, pasted below:
150 g light brown sugar
100 g soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150 g flour35 g cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
200 g chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cream the sugar and butter (I use a freestanding mixer for ease), then beat in the egg and vanilla. Mix the flour, cocoa, and baking powder in a bowl, and gradually beat into the creamed mixture. Finally, fold in the chips. Using a rounded tablespoon measure, spoon out scoops of cookie dough and place on baking sheets lined with baking parchment, leaving a little space in between each one. Bake for 12 minutes and then let them sit on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before moving them to a cooling rack, with some newspaper on the surface underneath.
The cookies taste best warm, and refridgerate no problem for a few days so cook in batches as needed. They proved a standby for us today.
We haven’t stopped thinking about those who were in so much suffering today, and their families. I hope today will prove to be an anniversary, for them, of a lucky escape.
It seems a bit ridiculous to have a recipe for chocolate crispy cakes, so this is just a series of reminders.
1) If you are adding milk chocolate, you need to add twice as much dark as milk or it will seize up and not be nice and glossy.
2) Add a big hunk of butter and a slosh of milk to achieve the right consistency (slick and glossy and easy to stir) and stop the cakes being impossible to bite into.
3) Always melt the chocolate over water (whether on the stove or in the microwave).
4) There is nearly always room for some more Rice Crispies/Cornflakes, but try not to stretch the chocolate too far.
Last year I used cornflakes and made a totally plain chocolate crispie cake, as they were all for adults (and got eaten quickly). This year I was looking after my brother’s four children (all on my own!) and the oldest three (11, 7 and 5) and I used rice crispies and milk chocolate. We used up 2 bars dark, 1 bar milk (they were apprehensive about the dark chocolate… hehe), 1/3 pack of butter and slosh of milk, half a box of cereal. It was so much fun, so messy and just brilliant!
After melting the chocolate (carefully…) it’s time to stir in the rice crispies.
TLM got me a ‘cake and bake’ recipe book at Christmas, and eagerly pointed out the “Chocolate Caramel Slice” recipe. To me that’s always been known as Millionaire’s Shortbread, but the recipe looked a bit weird, so I change it. When I made these, because they have oats in, the name Millionaire’s Shortbread didn’t seem right. I took these babies round to a friend’s house as the pudding offering and they immediately dubbed them ShortJack. Amazing!
There was a bit of a drama with the cooking of these, in that the oven started to work again but gave out half way through so I had to just leave them in the warm oven and hope the shortbread would cook with the residual heat. The shortbread is a bit crunchier than I would expect, so I think that may be the reason (although everyone commended the crunch, so maybe I’ll continue the turning off the oven method!) It was also the first time I made caramel, and it was viciously hot!
- 150 g butter
- 120 g brown sugar
- 180 g plain flour
- 80 g oats
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons brown sugar
- 400 ml can condensed milk
Ingredients (chocolate topping)
- 200 g chocolate (dark/milk mix)
- bit of honey or golden syrup
How to make it
Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius. Make sure the butter is really soft and beat the butter and sugar together. Mix in the oats and flour and incorporate together with your hands. Press the mix into the bottom of a 24cm baking tin (I use a silicone baking thingy because it ensures you can just pop the finished article out). Cook for 25 minutes.
Place the ingredients for the caramel in a pan, bring to the boil slowly, and gently stirring all the time let it boil for 4 minutes until it goes thick. Pour over. Let go cold.
Melt chocolate, pour over. Voila!