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Cover: Loco for cocoa

Recipes with caster sugar

30Jul 12

Flake-y Fruit and Nut Slice

Flaky Fruit and Nut SliceSo called because it contains Flake bars…. Mmmmmm – yummy! Flaky fruit and nut slice is a crumbly and crunchy treat for the whole family.

This is a modified version of a recipe that I found long ago.  It gives you something really easy to do with those Flake bars that we all love!  Cooking this cake slowly results in a beautifully moist texture which holds together the crumble and crunch of the other ingredients.  I normally let it cool and eat it cold as a cake slice – but you could also try it warm with a dollop of ice cream or single cream.  To play with the flavour some more, try adding a couple of tablespoons of rum to the mix!  If you do this, you may need to add a tiny bit more flour so that this mixture is not too wet before it goes into the oven.

If you have friends coming to stay, especially if they have children – this is a good cake to make together in the kitchen one rainy day.  Just be sure the kids are OK with the nut pieces first; then get stuck in to some fun food creation together. (Also try this pear and hazelnut mess with chocolate shavings recipe.)

Flaky Fruit and Nut Slice
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
So called because it contains Flake bars…. Mmmmmm – yummy! Flaky fruit and nut slice is a crumbly and crunchy treat for the whole family.
Ingredients
  • 230g softened butter or margarine
  • 230g caster sugar
  • 280g self-raising flour
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 3 Flake chocolate bars
  • 145g hazelnuts, chopped into random sized pieces
  • 200g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 150g raisins
  • 75g dried apricots, roughly chopped
  • Icing sugar and cinnamon powder for dusting
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC.
  2. Lightly grease and then line a cake tin.
  3. Chop the flake into pieces about 1.5cm long, and put to one side.
  4. Mix the sugar and butter together in a bowl until smooth and creamy.
  5. Combine in the cocoa powder.
  6. Separate off half of the flake pieces, 50g of the broken hazelnuts and 50g of the dark chocolate. Keep them to one side for now. Add the remaining quantities of all 3 to the mixing bowl and stir in.
  7. Add in the raisins and the apricots and mix gently.
  8. Spoon the mixture out into the prepared cake tin, and then scatter the nuts and the chocolate that you had kept to one side, over the top.
  9. Pop the cake mixture in the oven and bake for around 2 hrs, testing that the cake is cooked with a skewer or sharp knife that should come clean out of the mixture.
  10. Once ready, remove the cake from the oven and let it sit to cool in the cake tin.
  11. Once cool, dust with icing sugar and cinnamon powder and serve with a hot cup of tea and some good conversation.

 

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15Jul 12

Little Chocolate Macaroons

Little Chocolate MacaroonsMelty and crispy… what a combination!

These little chocolate macaroons get baked in our house every so often.  Sometimes we devour the lot in one go, and sometimes I manage to save some in an airtight container to share with friends on coffee mornings – which is usually the motive for making them in the first place.  They are a perfect coffee compliment, and they contain a chocolate-coated coffee bean in the centre.

These chocolate macaroons are crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside.  Your friends will be delighted to share them with you.  If you can’t find the coated coffee beans, use a whole blanched almond as a substitute.

For an evening variation for the grown-ups, serve a couple of macaroons in a pretty bowl, drizzled over with almond liqueur or the Italian liqueur Disaronno; or spoon a little liqueur cream onto the side.  Here’s another idea; simply serve with a liqueur coffee after a special meal. (Another fantastic cookie to go with coffee is this Italian biscotti di prato.)

Ingredients:

  • 50g good quality dark chocolate, grated
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 130g ground almonds
  • Small bag of chocolate-coated coffee beans

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and line a baking tray with grease-proof baking paper.
  2. Beat the egg whites in a bowl until they are stiff, and then gradually whisk in the sugar.  You are aiming for a thick and glossy consistency.  Work in the ground almonds nice and gently, along with the grated chocolate.
  3. Spoon the mixture into a large piping bag, and using a large, plain nozzle, pipe the mix onto the prepared baking tray in small circles of 4 cm diameter.  If you don’t have piping equipment, you can use a teaspoon to create the macaroon shapes.
  4. Insert 1 chocolate-coated coffee bean into the middle of each macaroon, just below the surface.  Place the tray into the oven and bake for around 15 minutes, when the biscuits should be just firm and slightly risen.  Let the macaroons cool down on the baking paper before tucking in.

Time: 15 minutes to prepare, 15 minutes to cook

Cocoa Treats: 24

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13Jul 12

Lime and Chocolate Creams

Lime and Chocolate Creams
A refreshing pud for the early summer. Lime and chocolate creams are best served really well chilled from the fridge, and this dessert takes less than 10 minutes to prepare! Make the little pots of yumsciousness a little in advance, and then whip them out for a sophisticated, yet devilishly simple, round off to an evening of entertaining. You’ll make use of both the juice and the zest of the limes to create a lovely citrus burst.

We sometimes make lime and chocolate creams just for the two of us on a sunny afternoon; we make two big glasses and leave them to chill – this is pretty decadent I know. Then in the evening we take one out onto the terrace with a couple of spoons as the sun sets and share it together with a super chilled glass of cava. If we catch the neighbours in the garden, we’ll invite them round too, grab a couple of extra spoons and give them the glass that we were saving for tomorrow. That really is the life. If we’re feeling extra indulgent that evening, we may even shake up a caipirinha cocktail to keep the lime theme and the socialising going a bit further into the night.

Lime and Chocolate Creams
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
A refreshing pud for the early summer. Lime and chocolate creams are best served really well chilled from the fridge, and this dessert takes less than 10 minutes to prepare!
Ingredients
  • 100g good quality milk or dark chocolate
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • The juice and fine zest of 2 limes
  • 300ml double cream
  • A little soft brown sugar to crumble over the top
Instructions
  1. First we need to create a lime syrup. Squeeze the lime juice into a small pan and grate in the lime zest. Add the water and the sugar and gently heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Stir everything together well and remove from the heat, allowing the mixture to cool slightly.
  2. Pour the double cream into a mixing bowl and pour the cooled lime syrup over the top. Whisk the mixture together until firm and beginning to peak.
  3. Grate the chocolate on a course grater (not fine). Put a little of the chocolate to one side to save for the topping and mix the rest into the lime cream.
  4. Divide the chocolate lime cream into individual glasses and chill in the fridge until ready to serve. This dessert is nice really cold.
  5. When ready to serve, remove the glasses from the fridge and sprinkle over with the grated chocolate you reserved and a little soft brown sugar.
Notes
Chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or an hour if you can wait that long.

 

 

 

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09Jul 12

Fruity Milk Chocolate Florentines

Fruity Milk Chocolate FlorentinesAs the name suggests, florentines originated in the Italian city of Florence. The Italians make excellent desserts in the Tuscany region, including Biscotti de Prato.

Florentines are fragile, fruity sensations that are often made with dark chocolate, but I prefer them with milk chocolate.  The trickiest bit of the process is getting a good round shape to your biscuit, so I think it’s best to be relaxed about that, and enjoy the biscuits a little uneven around the edges.  They’ll still taste just as wonderful!  You can enjoy fruity milk chocolate florentines as a rather special biscuit snack; or dress them up for after-dinner with creams, sauces and liqueurs, for a rich or romantic dessert.

Ingredients:

  • 150g good quality milk chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 30g glacé cherries
  • 55g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp double cream
  • 30g sultanas or raisins
  • 55g flaked almonds
  • 20g candied peel mix
  • 2tsbp plain flour

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC and lightly grease a large non-stick baking tray with a pat of butter.
  2. Chop the cherries into rough pieces and set them to one side.
  3. Melt the butter and the sugar together in a saucepan on a gentle heat until melted, stirring them together.  Then bring the temperature up until the mixture boils.  Remove from the heat and whilst the mixture is still hot, add in the dried fruit, almonds, flour, glacé cherries and the double cream.  Combine the ingredients together.
  4. Lift teaspoonfuls of the mixture out and place them on the prepared baking tray, spaced widely apart so as not to touch and stick when they spread.  It’s best to cook the biscuits in 2 batches or more and really give them plenty of space.  Pop each batch in the oven for around 8 minutes.  Remove them and push each biscuit into a neat circle using a round, oiled biscuit cutter.  Bake them again for about 2 minutes before transferring them onto a clean sheet of grease-proof baking parchment to cool.
  5. Melt the chocolate in a pan.  Once the Florentines have cooled, turn them upside-down and use a palette knife, or large blunt knife to spread the melted chocolate across the flat surface of the biscuit which is now on top.  Transfer the biscuits to a clean sheet of paper to set.

Time: 15 minutes to prepare, 25-35 minutes to cook

Cocoa Treats: 12-15

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07Jul 12

Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake

Chocolate and Vanilla Marble cakeChocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake is a classic cake for afternoon tea with friends and family.  If you have a pretty tea set, this is the perfect moment to get it out of the cupboards and use it.  Invite the grandparents round and enjoy a family gathering in good old-fashioned style. (Also try this Marvellous Marble Cake.)

Ingredients:

  • 200g butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4g salt
  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1tsp and 3 drops of vanilla essence
  • 30g cocoa powder

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Grease a 28cm long, oven-proof, glass plum cake dish with a little butter.
  3. Melt the butter very gently over a low heat.  Take it off the heat as soon as it is melted.  Stir it and leave it to one side.
  4. Separate the egg whites and yolks into 2 different bowls.  Put the egg yolks into a large mixing bowl.  Add the sugar to the egg yolks and combine well with a wooden spoon, and then stir in 3 drops of the vanilla essence.
  5. Add the flour to the sugar and yolk mix in small quantities, alternating with adding the melted butter bit by bit, stirring each addition in well until completely combined.
  6. Whisk the egg whites to a firm consistency, until they are peaking.  Work them into the cake mixture with a wooden spoon.
  7. Portion the cake mix by halves into 2 bowls.  Add the cocoa powder to one bowl, stirring it in well.  Add the teaspoon of vanilla essence to the other bowl, mixing it in well.
  8. Take the prepared plum cake dish, and using two teaspoons, alternate adding the chocolate and vanilla mixtures to the dish, in 4-5 cm strips across the width, and 3 layers high.  Start the first layer with chocolate, the second with vanilla, and the final layer with chocolate.  As you alternate the mixtures, you will naturally create a marble effect.  Don’t worry about being very precise; it’s going to look great!
  9. Place the dish in the oven and bake for about an hour.  Test that the cake is cooked by inserting a sharp knife or skewer into the centre.  The knife should come out of the mixture dry.  Turn the cake out onto a wire rack to cool, or enjoy some warm straight away with cookie dough ice cream.

Time: 30 minutes to prepare, about an hour to cook

Cocoa Treats: 8 slices

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05Jul 12

Millionaire’s Shortbread

Millionaire's ShortbreadMillionaire’s Shortbread is a timeless treat. It has 3 layers: a shortbread base, a caramel centre and a chocolate topping! I like to use more milk chocolate than dark chocolate on mine, but you can play with the proportions as you wish. Traditionally it is made completely with dark chocolate instead of using a combination.

This is a snack that we used to make at home sometimes after school with Mum. I loved rubbing the butter and flour together through my fingers, enjoying the sensation of getting my hands covered in the dough, and gradually breaking it down into finer crumbs as the butter separated and became covered in the flour – something very satisfying about that. Then there’s the fun of making the caramel and dipping a sneaky finger in to ‘check that it’s ok’! (If you love caramel flavours, then you will adore this caramel cake with butter cream icing.)

The chocolate part, well what can I say – it has to be the crowning glory doesn’t it? I used to loved eating my way through the 3 layers. Sometimes biting through the whole cake, and sometimes eating it layer by layer.

Millionaire’s Shortbread
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Millionaire’s Shortbread is a timeless treat. It has 3 layers: a biscuit base, a caramel centre and a chocolate topping.
Ingredients
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 75g plain flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 397g condensed milk (1 can)
  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 125g good quality milk chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 100g good quality dark chocolate, broken into pieces
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Lightly grease an 18cm square cake tin – loose based or spring-form if you have one.
  2. Make the shortbread: Rub 50g of the butter and the flour together through your fingertips to create a fine breadcrumb texture. Add 25g caster sugar and combine the ingredients into dough. Transfer the mixture to the prepared cake tin, pressing it into a flat layer. Bake in the oven for around 20 mins until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.
  3. Make the caramel next: Melt the remaining butter together with the condensed milk and the remaining sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, stirring everything together. Once the sugar has dissolved, bring the mixture up to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer very gently for around 5 mins. The mixture will thicken and turn lightly golden. Pour over the shortbread and let stand for 2-3hrs to set.
  4. To make the chocolate topping: Melt the chocolate gently in a saucepan and pour it over the set caramel. Leave it to set before cutting the cake into squares.
Notes
3-4 hrs to set

 

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25Jun 12

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate Chips

I’ve made chocolate chip muffins many times with my little niece.  It’s one of our staple favourites when she comes round as she always asks to help me make them. The last time she visited and we baked this recipe together, I have a feeling that more chocolate chips went straight into her tummy than into the muffins themselves. 

Chocolate chips contain less cocoa butter than traditional baking chocolate, giving them a higher melting point, which is what helps them to keep their shape during cooking.  We are all very familiar with the good old American-English muffin, which has become so very popular these days, and can be found in all sorts of sizes and varieties.  But the palm-sized chocolate chip muffin must also be high on the list of all-time favourites. (Also try these choconana muffin nests, perfect for Easter!)

Ingredients:

  • 90g self-raising flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 90g butter
  • 75ml milk
  • 50g dark chocolate chips, or good dark chocolate, broken into pieces.

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC, and grease a 6 muffin mould baking tray with a sliver of butter.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together over a large mixing bowl and stir.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and the sugar together until light and creamy.  Add the milk, and whisk until well-combined.
  4. Gradually beat the butter and sugar mixture into the flour mixture, and when evenly combined, stir in the chocolate pieces.
  5. Bake the muffins in the oven for around 20-25 mins.  Remove the tray from the oven and cool the muffins on a wire rack before enjoying them with a fresh cup of tea and the company of children.

Note:    Normally, muffins are eaten once cooled, but have you thought of trying them warm, drizzled with chocolate sauce and with a dollop of ice cream for a wickedly rich pudding?  Or try eating them straight from the oven with chocolate custard.

Time: 15 mins to prepare, 25 mins to cook

Cocoa Treats: 6 large muffins

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22Jun 12

Chocolate Custard

Chocolate CustardI love making home-made custard, and chocolate custard is probably my favourite.  The real thing is so different from shop-bought (though that definitely has its place too, of course), but there’s something a bit special about the texture and the taste of custard when you make it at home.  It can’t be beat!

And it doesn’t take much longer to prepare and cook either.  Although eating it plain is tasty, you can also enjoy chocolate custard cold with tinned or poached fruit, warm with ice cream, or drizzled over all sorts of pastries, puddings and desserts like this spicy pumpkin cake.  This is also a great recipe to make with young children who will love watching the chocolate melt in the custard and stirring it all together with a big spoon.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 600ml milk
  • 4 tsp cornflour
  • 150g good dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 8 tbsp double cream

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. In a mixing bowl, make the custard paste by first whisking the eggs, then beating them together with the cornflour, sugar and a splash of the milk.
  2. Heat the rest of the milk in a large saucepan, taking it just up to the boil.  Add the hot milk into the custard paste and whisk the ingredients together really well before pouring the mixture back into the saucepan and returning to the hob.  Cook the custard over a low heat now, stirring almost continuously as it thickens.  When the mixture gives a thin coat that sticks to the back of a wooden spoon, it has thickened sufficiently.  It’s important not to heat the custard too aggressively during thickening as you will cause the mixture to curdle.
  3. Take the pan off the heat and add the chocolate pieces.  Let them sit until they have melted, add the cream, and then stir everything together really well.

Time: 10 mins to prepare, 6-8 mins to cook

Cocoa Treats:  8 servings

Note:    Try adding 2-4 tablespoons of mint, coffee or hazelnut liqueur at the end for an interesting and adult variation, poured over an artisan ice cream.

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03Jun 12

Choc Chip Ice Cream

Choc Chip Ice CreamThis is a traditional home-made choc chip ice cream recipe.  No ice cream machines or churners necessary, just the time and the patience to do it all yourself.

Once made, you could also convert it into a choc chip milkshake, using similar steps as with this white chocolate milkshake.

 

Ingredients:

  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp cornflour
  • 300ml milk
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 190g good dark chocolate, broken into pieces or chocolate chips
  • 110g good milk chocolate, broken into pieces or chocolate chips
  • 300ml double cream

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Begin by making a custard.  In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks together with the cornflour, the sugar and a good splash of milk.  Heat the remaining milk on the hob in a saucepan, bringing it up to the boil.  Pour the hot milk from the saucepan into the mixing bowl, combining it with the egg and sugar mixture, then transfer everything back into the saucepan and return it to the heat.  Cook the mixture gently, stirring continuously until the custard thickens and leaves a thin coat on the back of a metal or wooden spoon.  It is important to keep the heat gentle or you may curdle the ingredients.
  2. Take the pan off the heat, add the dark chocolate, letting it sit within the mixture until it has melted, before stirring it in evenly.  Cut a circle of greaseproof paper and lay it over the top of the chocolate custard to stop it from forming a skin, and then leave it aside to cool.
  3. Once the chocolate custard is cold, pour the cream into it and whisk together.  Put the chocolate and cream mixture into a freezer-proof container with a lid and freeze it for 2-3 hours, or long enough for it to freeze around the edges.
  4. Transfer the mixture into a large bowl, and using a fork and a mashing action, break down the ice and stir the mixture around.  Put it back in the container and freeze again for around 2 hours, or until the edges have re-frozen.  You will need to repeat this process a couple more times during the setting period, adding in the milk chocolate pieces at the third or fourth time, but add the chocolate after you’ve finished mashing and once you are ready to stir.
  5. Once the ice cream is fully set, transfer it to the fridge about 50 minutes before you want to eat it, so that it softens slightly. 

Time: 30 minutes to prepare, 1 hour to cool, 4-8 hours freezing time

Cocoa Treats: 4-6 servings

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08May 12

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip CookieI love to make these chocolate chip cookies with my niece.  I put on my duck egg blue apron – the one she loves with ice cream and lollipop prints on it – and she puts on the one with zoo animals.  We get covered in flour and plenty ends up on the floor, but that’s all part of the fun.

The best moments are popping the mixture onto the tray, watching together through the oven door (from a safe distance) as the cookies spread, and the crowning moment – eating the cookies together when they are still warm, cosied up together on the sofa with a big glass of milk.

These are the real thing; rich, gooey and melty.  The secret to melt-in-the-mouth cookies is not to overcook them. (Try these yummy chocolate chunk and raspberry cookies.)

Ingredients:

  • 355g flour, unsifted
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 225g butter, softened
  • 175g soft brown sugar
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 325g dark chocolate chips, or bar, broken into small pieces

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  2. Put the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl and combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, bind together the sugar, butter, brown sugar and the vanilla essence.  Add the eggs and cream them into the mixture, then gradually work in the flour until well mixed.  Finally add the chocolate and stir it in.
  4. Sprinkle a little flour onto your work surface, lift the dough out of the mixing bowl and split it into 2, rolling each piece out into thick sausage shapes each about 6cm in diameter.  Once the shapes are formed, you can store the dough in the fridge wrapped in clingfilm until you want to use it.  This way you can grab a bit of dough each day over a few days to make totally fresh cookies whenever you want to enjoy them.
  5. When you are ready to bake some cookies, take the dough out of the fridge.  (You don’t have to cool the dough; you can bake it straight away after making it).
  6. Cut the dough ‘log’ into 2cm thick slices and space them fairly widely apart on a greased baking tray so that they don’t touch when spreading during cooking.
  7. Pop them in the oven for 9 to 11 mins.

Time: Less than 30 mins preparation time.  9-11 mins cooking time for each batch of cookies

Cocoa Treats: Makes 12 – 20 cookies

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