Posts Tagged With: cocoa

Spiced Tea & Chocolate Cake with Chocolate & Cinnamon Ganache Icing

I first came up with the idea of, and impulsively made, this cake for the first time over a year ago when I wanted to combine the winning combination of chocolate and good old-fashioned English tea in sponge form. The addition of cinnamon and mixed spice adds an extra layer of depth to the flavours and I’m really pleased with how the finished product turned out.

The flavours are slightly reminiscent of my Christmas favourite, chocolate gingerbread cake, but the texture is less dense and more akin to a traditional sponge, making it an ideal treat all year round.

I stupidly didn’t take any photos of my first attempt but, when asked to make a birthday cake for a pony-mad colleague, I decided to recreate it in deceptively simple but eye-catching horseshoe form. The equine motif is, of course, optional and the cake tastes just as delicious made in a regular round or square tin. It’s also very tasty in its naked form, minus the icing, but the cinnamon ganache adds an extra touch of indulgence.

I must give credit to the inspirational domestic goddess and my all-round food idol, Nigella Lawson, for the aforementioned icing – the original recipe is hers (part of her decadent Devil’s Food cake), and I simply added some cinnamon.

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INGREDIENTS – makes 1 bundt ring cake as in the picture, or 1 deep round 20cm/8in cake

For the cake:

  • 225g/8 oz butter or margarine
  • 115g/4 oz caster or granulated sugar
  • 115g/4 oz brown sugar
  • 225g/8 oz self-raising flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
  •  120ml/4 fl oz strong cold tea
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder

For the ganache icing/decorations:

  • 125g/4.5 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 90g/3 oz butter
  • 20g/0.75 oz dark brown sugar
  • 65 ml/2 fl oz water
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 7 Caramac buttons (optional)
  • Silver shimmer spray (optional)
  • Palm-sized piece of marzipan (optional)
    + horse-shaped cookie cutter (optional)

METHOD

For the cake:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line your cake tin of choice with parchment paper or spritz with cake release spray.
  2. Whisk the butter/margarine and sugars together in a large mixing bowl until pale, then whisk in the eggs.
  3. Fold in the flour, cocoa powder, tea, cinnamon, mixed spice and baking powder until a batter of a soft dropping consistency has formed.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin, then pop in the oven and bake for around 25-30 minutes until a cocktail stick inserted into the sponge comes out clean (it might need a bit longer if you’re using one round tin instead of a ring-shaped one).
  5. When baked, leave the cake to cool on a wire rack before turning it out of the tin. At this stage it can be frozen for decorating at a later date if you wish.
  6. If you’re making a horseshoe cake, cut out a section of the sponge ring (and eat later!)

For the ganache icing/decorations:

  1. Place the water, butter, brown sugar and cinnamon in a saucepan and melt together on a low heat.
  2. When the mixture begins to bubble, take the pan off the heat and add the finely chopped chocolate. Swirl the liquid over the pieces so that they melt evenly.
  3. When the chocolate has all melted, whisk the mixture until smooth and glossy, then transfer into a cool mixing bowl.
  4. Leave the frosting to set for at least one hour (place it in the fridge to speed up the process a bit) until it’s a spreadable consistency.
  5. When set, spread the frosting onto the cooled cake.
  6. If you’re making a horseshoe cake, arrange the Caramac buttons, evenly spaced, along the middle of the sponge and finish with a spritz of silver shimmer spray for a metallic sheen.
  7. To make the little yellow horse centrepiece as in the photo, roll out the chunk of marzipan until it’s about the thickness of a pound coin, then stamp it out using the horsey cookie cutter and place in the middle on the serving plate/board.

 

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Categories: Chocolate, Icing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Othello Biscuits

Sadly, my grandad’s recently been moved into a care home and my parents are in the process of clearing out his house. Among the vast array of things unearthed, they found two big cardboard boxes full of recipe clippings from ancient magazines belonging to my late gran, who passed away in 2008.

Looking through these little relics of cooking times past has been an interesting and touching experience. It might sound silly but rifling through them made me feel closer to her and remembering the way she hoarded anything and everything to stop it from going to waste made me smile. Although hanging on to gargantuan stacks of old envelopes and keeping used individual butter wrappers to use to grease cake tins is a little extreme, I admire the way that she and her frugal generation in general were so much more scrupulous about waste than we are nowadays. As a recycling enthusiast who hates to throw things away unnecessarily, it’s quite inspiring.

Anyway, to get on track to the main point of this post: among Granny Emily’s varied collection of magazine snippets was a recipe from the 1970s for so-called ‘Othello’ biscuits which caught my eye. They’re mostly just oats, butter, sugar and cocoa powder but I love oaty things and thought they sounded tasty so I was keen to give them a go.

The unusual name added to their allure until I then twigged that it is of course a racist nod to the titular character of the Shakespeare play of the same name due to their dark colour – this certainly wouldn’t be an acceptable name for cookies nowadays but things were a lot less politically correct back then! Anyhow, despite their dodgy nomenclature, I’m pleased to say that they’re scrumptious…and quite addictive.

However, considering we are not even halfway through January, I don’t want to ignore the talk in my previous post about trying out healthier recipes. While eating one of these biscuits hardly carries the same calorific consequences as a giant doorstop of cake, I still wanted to have a go at removing, or at least cutting down, the amount of fat and refined sugar used. Therefore, I tweaked the original recipe and came up with a lighter version that contains no refined sugar and only a small amount of fat. Admittedly, they are very slightly drier than their full fat counterparts but the cheeky drizzle of chocolate on the top compensates for this and gives them a delicious edge without adding too much in the way of naughtiness. I also threw in a bit of spice which I think really complements the flavour. They make an ideal snack as they’re quite filling; even I stopped after nomming just one and that’s usually unheard of for me!

This version can easily be made vegan and/or dairy free with a few simple substitutions, which I’ve suggested below.

20160110_162610Original batch pictured on the left and healthier version on the right 🙂

ORIGINAL OTHELLO BISCUITS (this is the original 1970s recipe but I’m unable to give credit as I don’t know which magazine it’s from, sorry!)

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 10 biscuits

  • 4 oz porridge oats
  • 2 oz margarine
  • 3 oz brown sugar
  • 0.5 oz cocoa powder
  • 0.5 oz plain flour
  • 0.25 tsp baking powder
  • 1 dessertspoon cold water

METHOD

  1. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder into a bowl, stir in the oats.
  2. Add the margarine and, using the fingertips only, rub it in until the fat is evenly distributed.
  3. Stir in the sugar then add the water and knead the ingredients to a firm dough.
  4. Here, the original recipe tells you to roll out the dough with a rolling pin and stamp out circles but to be honest it’s far too sticky to do this so I’d suggest pulling off ping pong sized balls of it and flattening them with wet palms before placing them on a rectangular baking tray lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake the biscuits on the centre shelf of a fairly cool oven, gas mark 3 or 325 degrees F (160 degrees C), for about 15 minutes until they are firm to touch.
  6. Transfer them to a wire tray to cool and become crisp.

LOW FAT & REFINED SUGAR FREE OTHELLO BISCUITS

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 20 biscuits

  • 225g/8 oz porridge oats
  • 2 tbsp almond (or peanut) butter
  • 2 tbsp olive spread (or soya spread to make them vegan/dairy free), softened
  • 5 tbsp honey (or maple/agave syrup to make them vegan)
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 0.5 tsp ginger
  • 30g/1 oz cocoa powder
  • 30g/1 oz plain flour
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • 100g/3.5 oz dark chocolate (the higher the cocoa content, the better), chopped

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170 degrees C (or 150 fan) and line a large rectangular baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Place all the ingredients apart from the chocolate into a large mixing bowl and mix together with a wooden spoon and then your fingers until a sticky dough forms. If it’s too dry, add a little more water and if it’s too sticky, add a bit more flour.
  3. Pull off ping pong sized balls of dough and flatten them with wet hands, then place onto the baking tray.
  4. Pop in the oven and bake for around 10-15 minutes or until they feel slightly firm to the touch (they’ll crisp up as they cool) and then leave too cool on a wire rack.
  5. When the biscuits have cooled, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl and microwave on a medium heat in blasts of 1 minute until completely melted, then drizzle over the biscuits using a teaspoon.
  6. Allow to set before scoffing, preferably with a cuppa.
Categories: Biscuits/Cookies, Chocolate, Healthier, Raw/Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Healthy No-Bake Choco-Date Bars

I went to the Foodies Festival at Alexandra Palace the other week with my other half as an early birthday present for him and we had a wonderful day, despite the blazing heat (made even better by the fact that we got the tickets half price through Groupon!) We saw some fantastic cooking demonstrations, ate lots of free samples and bought lots of goodies! A definite highlight for me was the ‘Embrace the Cake’ stall where I had the most incredible raw, vegan, no-bake pecan pie. It was so delicious that I couldn’t believe it was free from refined sugar and made from only healthy, natural ingredients – mostly ground nuts, dates and coconut oil if I remember correctly. The other sin-free treats on offer looked similarly mouth-watering, including apricot crumble, coconut balls, lemon slices, ‘rawreos’ (raw Oreo cookies) and gingerbread balls.

I’m also a huge fan of Nakd bars, which are similarly raw and vegan friendly with no refined sugar (unlike most cereal bars which claim to be healthy but are in fact teeth-rottingly sweet!), and I have been eating an obscene amount of them recently, especially the cocoa ones. Feeling inspired, I decided to have a go at making some healthy no-bake treats myself and the results are these absolutely scrumptious, gooey and chocolatey-tasting date bars 🙂 This recipe was also the perfect excuse to try out the Beloved date nectar that I bought from the festival, which is a gorgeously sweet alternative to sugar, made from nothing but smooshed dates. If you don’t have this, simply replace it with a second tablespoon of honey, or use maple or agave syrup instead.

I used honey and milk in my recipe here but I realise these aren’t vegan ingredients, so I’ve given suggestions for replacements below if you want to make the bars completely free from animal products.

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INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 16 bars

  • 250g unsalted cashew nuts
  • 220g dried dates
  • 1 tbsp date nectar
  • 1 tbsp honey (or maple/agave syrup to make it vegan)
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 150g oats
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3-4 tbsp skimmed milk (or almond/soya milk to make it vegan/dairy free)
  • Handful of flaked almonds, to decorate
  • Handful of raisins, to decorate

METHOD

  1. Line a rectangular baking tin with baking parchment.
  2. Finely chop the cashew nuts or blitz them with a food processor depending on how fine you want them and place in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Roughly chop the dates then add them to the bowl along with the date nectar, honey, cocoa powder, oats, vanilla extract and milk.
  4. Blend the mixture together using a stick blender or food processor until it has a smooth, mushy consistency.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking tin and press down with your fingers or a rubber spatula, then top with the flaked almonds and raisins.
  6. Leave to set in the fridge for at least 4 hours then cut into bars with a sharp knife.
Categories: Healthier, No-Bake, Raw/Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Red Velvet Star Biscuits

Originally posted 08/12/2013

I haven’t updated my little blog in a while due to being busy but now we’ve officially entered the most wonderful time of the year for cooking I’ve been squeezing in lots of festive baking.

These decadent biccies have got to be one of my favourite cookie recipes and more than make up for my first (and so far only) attempt at red velvet cake being a disaster. They contain quite a large amount of red gel colouring and icing sugar, plus buttermilk and egg, so they’re not the cheapest cookies to make but they look and taste fantastic and are a perfect luxurious treat for Christmas, Valentine’s Day or any other special occasion, or as a gift. I wish I’d taken photo which showed their beautiful dark red colour better as it makes the cookies look very distinctive even without decoration, although I added Dr Oetker Gold Shimmer Spray for an extra festive sparkly sheen. These would also be delicious sandwiched together with some cream cheese frosting for an even more authentic red velvet experience!

If, like me, you don’t want to buy buttermilk (it’s not very widely available here in the UK), I found a great tip online showing you how to make your own by simply adding a dash of white wine vinegar or lemon juice to milk and leaving it to curdle for a few minutes. Et voila – bona fide red velvety goodness in biscuit form!

This recipe is an adapted version of an American one I found here: http://www.sweetsugarbelle.com/2012/02/red-velvet-roll-outs-recipe/

You can’t see from this photo but they’re the most wonderful deep red colour inside!

INGREDIENTS – makes approx. 40 biscuits depending on size of cutter

  • 115g/4 oz butter/margarine
  • 170g/6 oz icing sugar
  • 255g/9 oz plain flour
  • Half a beaten egg
  • 55g/2 oz cocoa
  • 3 tsp buttermilk (or 3 tsp milk + 1 tsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice)
  • 1.5 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tbsp red gel food colouring (NOT the liquid kind as this won’t work!)
  • Dr Oetker Gold Shimmer Spray, to finish (optional)

METHOD

  1. If making buttermilk as outlined above, pour the white wine vinegar or lemon juice into the milk and set aside.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C (or 160 fan) and line two large flat baking trays with parchment paper.
  3. Whisk the butter/margarine and icing sugar until combined.
  4. Stir in the egg, vanilla extract and buttermilk, then add the flour, cocoa and baking powder and mix briefly.
  5. Add the gel food colouring a teaspoon at a time and mix until the mixture turns a deep blood-like red shade (it will be dazzlingly vivid!) then squash together with your hands to form a ball of dough. If it’s too sticky, add some more flour.
  6. Wrap the dough in clingfilm or a freezer bag and chill in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes until fairly firm.
  7. Place the ball of dough on a large clean sheet of baking parchment then place another sheet over the top and roll out with a rolling pin until about 1cm thick.*
  8. Cut out as many biscuits as possible with your cookie cutter of choice (I used a star shape) and place onto the baking trays (they don’t spread out much when cooking so they can be placed fairly close together). Squish the offcuts of dough together and re-roll and repeat the process until all the dough is used up.
  9. Pop in the oven and bake for about 8 minutes or until the bottoms of the biscuits start to colour slightly then transfer onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
  10. If you want a gold sheen effect as in the photo, hold the Shimmer Spray can about 10cm away from the biscuits and spray each one, then leave to dry.

*You could just sprinkle flour onto the surface to prevent the rolling pin sticking but this ruins the bold colour of the dough when baking.

Categories: Biscuits/Cookies, Festive | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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