Category Archives: Chocolate

Chocolate rye cookies

The desire for these was fuelled after visiting the excellent Wooster’s Bakery in Bury St Edmunds. There is, to my mind, only one bakery which tops Wooster’s for excellence and that’s Pump Street Bakery in Orford (there used to also be an outpost at Snape Maltings which has gone much to my chagrin). If you ever go to Wooster’s be sure to buy the morning buns. If you ever go to Pump Street the gibassiers are what I aim for.

We went to Wooster’s the other day and I saw giant chocolate rye cookies. But as I was busy ordering a morning bun I didn’t feel I could also have a giant chocolate rye cookie.

But I thought of the rye cookies all week and finally gave in and made my own after looking up a ton of recipes on line. It also helped use some some of the staggering amount of chocolate I’d accumulated in the house.

This is an alteration to a Donna Hay recipe, I adapted it have it contain rye flour: you can up the quantities of rye to normal flour if you want to but I do half and half. Try not to look at the terrifying amount of chocolate there-in and the butter. When I melted the chocolate and butter together one of my daughters said: “there’s a heart attack in a bowl”…this made about twenty cookies. I like to think it spreads the risk. You can of course make them even smaller. I’m afraid I ate nearly three on the day I made them for testing purposes. This I don’t recommend.

I also used a mish-mash of chocolate I had in the house, even including some with pretzel pieces in it. I think as long as you don’t veer too far from half of the chocolate being around the 70% mark you can’t go too wrong. You could also bung in some nuts if you wanted to. (I think macadamias would work really well or pecans or…) But these are perfect, and very popular, just as they are. Don’t be temped to overcook them. They come out of the oven looking very soft in the middle but they harden up.

250g unsalted butter cut into a few pieces

400g of chocolate varying from 40-70% (but you know, if you have a bit of 30% don’t sweat it but you don’t want to go too milky for too much of it). Don’t go too high either and definitely no 100%, this isn’t a masochistic biscuit.

4 eggs

220g granulated (note granulated) sugar

175g soft brown sugar

(this is a lot of sugar, I know. In time I may experiment with lowering it slightly but these are biscuits and if you muck about with the sugar quota too much the biscuits won’t have the proper structure)

Two teaspoons of vanilla extract

150g of plain flour (you could also put a bit of wholemeal in there if you fancy a ‘meatier’ biscuit)

150g dark rye flour

sea salt

Oven to 180C – I used fan so I could bake two trays at once.

Melt the butter and all the chocolate in a large bowl in a bain marie or in a bowl atop a saucepan of simmering water.  Take off when nearly all melted and continue to stir until smooth.

Whisk together the eggs, all of them, the sugars, both of them, and the vanilla. I confess I did this in a freestanding mixer whilst the chocolate was melting because I’m lazy and like leaving a trail of melted chocolate everywhere. I whisked it for quite a long time, very absent mindedly, on low. When the chocolate has melted set aside for five minutes whilst you get the flours together.

Then, add the chocolate to the eggs/sugar mixture – mixing all the while, gently. Now add the flours a tablespoon at a time.

Now put this in the fridge for ten minutes and line your baking sheets with parchment and find an ice cream scoop or a two -ablespoon-measure or similar.

After ten minutes in the fridge, take out the mixture and, using your scoop or spoon, dollop your cookies one at a time on the baking tray which has been lined with parchment. I did six on one tray, five on another. Don’t over cram them. Sprinkle with sea salt before they go into the oven, don’t panic if you forget – you can do it when they are just out or omit it all together.

Put the mixture back in the fridge whilst you bake the cookies for 8-9 minutes (know your oven but do not overbake). They come out and seem quite molten in the middle. Don’t panic.

I use reusable baking liners so I need them asap after the first batched has baked so I very, very carefully fish-sliced the biscuits off the tray onto the cooling rack, placed the baking liner back on the tray and loaded up again from the cookie mixture just out of the fridge. If you are not so confident, then either give the cookies ten minutes on the tray to firm up before transferring to a cooling rack. Or if you are using re-usable baking parchment slide the whole thing onto a cooling rack with great adeptness, tear off some more parchment and start loading on more cookies to bake.

My eldest, who accompanied me to Amsterdam last year, said these were on a parr with the Van Stepele cookies.

Don’t have a heart attack.

 

Nigella’s rather good banana and chocolate bread (which can be gluten free).

I always associate banana bread with Nigella. I think it’s because, it was in one of the first recipes of hers that I read, I’m sure, that she said baking a banana bread filled the house with a fug of domesticity.

Or some such. Since then I’ve made dozens of banana breads and it usually
disappoints, probably because I keep changing recipes. Faced, however, with a huge batch of frozen, overripe bananas in the freezer (I always freeze overripe bananas) and more chocolate than any sane person needs (this is what happens when you get made Chocolate Correspondent of a national newspaper) I decided to have another go at making banana bread.

Also, for complicated reasons that I don’t fully understand myself, I hadn’t cooked or baked anything in weeks when I first made this last year. Which is really not like me, but this glorious little cake gave me my baking mojo back.

For a writer, I am remarkably picture led where recipes are concerned and thus it was that I found this recipe for Nigella’s Gluten-Free Banana Bread and it was, I confess the picture of the large slabs of chocolate which lured me in.  I planned to make it gluten free (why not) but in the end found no rice flour in my flour cupboard so made it with normal plain flour. I also lowered the sugar and used pecans instead. I think this would also be great made in muffin size. I’ve put the recipe below as I made it – do refer to the original if you wish and if you want to make it gluten-free which this ain’t.

 

175g plain flour

100g ground almonds

two teaspoons of baking power

half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

a quarter teaspoon of sea salt

500g of very ripe bananas (weighed with skin on)

two teaspoons of vanilla extract

100g Greek yoghurt – full fat

Two eggs

125g light olive oil

100g light brown sugar

100g roughly chopped pecans (or any other nut you like)

150g chopped chocolate – I used a mixture of milk and plain in chocolate chip size and quite large chunks

 

You need a 2lb loaf tin for this (Nigella gives the sizes as 24cm x 12cm and mine was roughly that, why don’t cake tin manufacturers put the volume/measurements on the bottom of their tins?). Line this tin. Preheat the oven to 170C.

Mix together the dry ingredients, thus the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt.

In a larger bowl (for this will be the one everything else ends up in) place the bananas and mash them up, then mix in the vanilla extract, Greek yoghurt and the eggs one at a time. Then the oil and sugar. When all is better unified than a post-Brexit UK, add the dry ingredients bit by bit until combined. Then finally gently fold in the nuts and chocolate.

Dollop all this in the cake tin and bake for about forty minutes. Nigella says 45-55, my oven seems quite fierce so I started checking it after 35 mins. Also it does depend on how much moisture your bananas hold.

You know it’s done when the top is dry, it springs back, it’s shrunk away a little from the sides and a skewer comes out relatively clean (obviously not if you hit a shard of chocolate).

This is a beautiful cake. Unfortunately I can’t find a picture I took of it so this post will be picture-less until I make it again.

 

Peanut butter and date protein bars (with a bit of chocolate on top)

These came about after a desire to find something in the supermarket that was, basically, just dates and a nut butter. Because that is something I crave post-workout. I also wanted something which was as delicious as the protein bars that my ex-trainer used to get me which used to be so tasty I daren’t look at the ingredients, but they were also so filling that, with a glass of water (you should always drink a glass of water with protein bars) they’d often see me onto the next meal.

Then one day, I saw that Donna Hay published a recipe for something called peanut butter choco-coconut protein bars and I adapted them. I now make these regularly and eat them post work out, or if I haven’t got time for a meal (which is rare but does sometimes happen) or if I just fancy a little treat during the week when I try to really watch what I eat (one has to be realistic and these hit the I need a treat button without making me feel like I’ve fallen into the abyss of unhealthy eating). They also don’t make me crash, blood sugar wise and I would now, honestly, have these over pretty much any chocolate bar.

You can experiment with the amount of protein powder you put in – I did and I put more in than Hay originally suggested. But if you do that, I recommend you do so in 10g increments.

This is what you need:

260g fresh Medjool dates. You can use others but these really do make the best bars. If you use dried dates, rehydrate them in boiling water for half an hour before use, then drain them.

25g raw cacao powder

100g salted peanuts and 40g of unsalted, raw, cashews (or use half and half, depends on how big you want the salted peanut hit to be). You can of course use 140g of any nut you want, roasted or raw. A few extra nuts if you want to chop and sprinkle on top

Two tablespoons of peanut butter (or any nut butter)

50g desiccated coconut

35g unflavoured protein powder (I use an organic whey protein powder)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

45g cacao nibs

150g dark chocolate, melted

What you need

You can make this in a round cake tin – about 8/9″ would be ideal. I make it in my square cake tin which is 20cm. You might prefer the bars thicker but I like them like this. 20cm square is about as big as you want to go, any bigger and you’ll struggle to have enough chocolate to coat all the top – it just covers it as it is, but is still plenty, if you see what I mean.

Whatever tin you use, line with baking parchment.

Place everything except the cacao nibs and the dark chocolate (which you need to melt, for the topping) in a food processor and blitz til it’s all amalgamated – about one or two minutes. Right at the end, add the cacao nibs and blitz a couple more times.

Press this mixture into your prepared cake tin. Put it in the fridge for at least 30 mins.

Then you melt the chocolate either in the microwave or in a bain marie arrangement, and spread over the top. Add some chopped peanuts (or whatever nuts you are using) on the top if you like. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. As I said, in my 20cm square tin it’s just enough to cover. You don’t really want to up the chocolate, as then it becomes all about the chocolate and turns this from an interesting, not totally nutritionally devoid treat into something else…

Refrigerate until you need them, which will be soon. Cut into whatever shape you like. I do long thin bars, little squares or if I want to pack it in my bag for a meal replacement (which I would only do in emergencies) or a good snack later, I cut it into a bar shape and take it in my bag wrapped in foil and then eat it feeling really smug and happy.

They keep for at least a week in my house and have never been around longer than that.

 

Cacao, banana and walnut bars: good for breakfast or post work out.

To my mind, no-one does ‘healthy but delicious snacks’ better than Donna Hay. I’m really not interested in mixing together linseeds and dates and other such stuff if the result is something you might have found in a health food shop circa 1974.

What I love about Hay and her recipes, is that there are no really contrived ingredients, no-one is pretending they are a substitute for broccoli, but if you want something a bit better than a sugar-laden cereal bar, she comes up with the goods.

I adapted these because I just didn’t agree with the number of dates she originally put in (200g) and although I think I have a sweet tooth, it’s evidently not that sweet.

Anyway. I cut these into squares. They freeze brilliantly. They are tasty and nutritious and the sugar hit from the dates and bananas is balanced by the cashews.  I eat them when I want something a bit chocolatey and quick and they have also served as an emergency lunch – with a green smoothie – when I’ve had no time and had to go straight to an interview. I know this makes me sound really virtuous and you know what? I am during the week. At the weekend I can eat whatever I damn well please.

You need

225g cashews, raw (although might try them anon roasted)

120g dessicated coconut

300g ripe bananas (about three)

150g fresh dates, pitted

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

35g raw cacao powder

half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

2 tablespoons of cacao nibs

50g chopped walnuts

Method

Oven to 180C. Line a square 20cm tin with baking parchment.

Place everything, save for the walnuts and the cacao nibs, into a food processor and blitz the buggery out of it – Hay recommends 5 minutes I can’t remember how long I did it for. At the end, add half the cacao nibs and pulse a few times.

Shove the mixture into the tin, pressing down with your hands or the back of a spoon and sprinkle on top the remaining cacao nibs and chopped walnuts.

Cook for 25 minutes or thereabouts. Cool, the refrigerate and cut into required shape. Keeps for about a week in the fridge but as I said, I keep half, freeze half and they froze beautifully.

Prune and dark chocolate brownies

I saw this recipe in my Donna Hay Fresh and Light magazine, which costs me a staggering £9.50 from Selfridges but is, to my mind, worth every penny as each edition yields more recipes than many recipe books which cost double that.

But I saw it and shunned it as I’m not overly a fan of brownies – too sweet for me usually. But due to a rather terrifying health scare a few weeks ago (I had tests and everything is not only fine but I am actually in really good health yay!) I’ve overhauled the way I eat which was long overdue because although I have always eaten with health in mind, I’ve I’m also greedy and at times lazy. So I’ve gone back to planning what I eat (this has always worked really well for me) and maximise nutrients. And it not only shows in the way I feel, but I’ve lost weight and body fat, whilst augmenting my muscle mass (I do big weights twice a week).

Anyway I shunned them but then was fancying a weekend chocolatey treat and decided to try them and I was not disappointed. Now I know that this isn’t a recipe which magically transforms broccoli into brownies, and I know that prunes are very high in sugar. I know all this but prunes have more nutrients than mere sugar and here’s the thing. These are delicious in their own right. My eldest doesn’t like them but my youngest adores them and my partner – who hates brownies – had one and declared it “the best chocolate thing I’ve tasted in a long time”.

So these are still an occasional treat (I only eat stuff like this at the weekend now) but they’re delicious and gluten free.

The brownies

255g prunes, take the stones out

50g of dark chocolate, melted (Hay asks for 70% but I use these chocolate chips for nearly all my cooking now and they are delicious)

60 ml of light olive oil

80ml maple syrup

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

80g ground almonds

25g cocoa powder (I use raw organic, no idea if it’s better but it makes me feel better looking at the packet)

2 eggs

The chocolate ganache

80g dark chocolate

60ml of cream (Hay says to use coconut milk but I used cream as that’s what I had, you could use milk)

 

Pre heat the oven to 180C. You need a 20cm square baking tin, preferably with a removal bottom, if not make sure the baking paper you line it with comes up the sides so you can carefully lift it out later. If you scrunch up the baking paper first it sits in the tin more easily.

Take 170g of the prunes and put them in a jug, cover with boiling water for about ten minutes. I scissor cut the remaining prunes into small pieces and put in a small bowl for later (don’t forget them!) or you could of course chop them with a knife on a board.

Drain the prunes (discard the water) and place in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients for the brownies and whizz up with a hand held blender (or you could put in a food processor, I did as I was told). When done, scatter in and mix in the prune pieces. Put the mixture in the tin and cook for 25-30 minutes. The middle should be firm when pressed but you do want them a bit squidgy.

They will be very soft, so keep in the tin and when cold gently take out. Make the ganache by very gently heating the chocolate and cream in a small pan (I would never usually melt chocolate like this, I’d use a bain marie set up, but I was hungry and it was fine). Spread over the top. If you can, wait a while before slicing up and eating. Store in the fridge where they do harden up.

IMG_7999

I have no idea how long these last as they were practically all gone in 24 hours.

Note: the main image is the brownies a day later, after being taken out of the fridge, the image in the text is of them first iced and sliced – with some missing for, ahem, testing purposes.

Note to self: Put walnuts in next time.

 

 

 

Chocolate Chip Brioches, dough made in the bread machine (especially for Connie).

So a while ago, I posted a recipe for enriched dough chocolate chip brioches. My youngest actually prefers the enriched dough version but I had long hankered after proper, buttery, brioche dough.

I wanted something I could bung in the bread maker and let machine make the dough. And although my Panasonic bread maker doesn’t have a brioche cycle (it’s nearly 20 years old) I knew the newer ones did so I did a search and found a recipe, online, in a newer Panasonic breadmaker instruction book.

These brioches are fairly fuss free. As with all brioche dough, it is very buttery and if handled too much at the shaping stage you become FULLY aware of how much butter is in there as it starts to slide across the kitchen counter and you end up needing to wipe down your hands a lot. But most of the work is done in the bread machine so don’t worry.

Make these the day before you want them, shape them, cover them, stick them in the fridge and the day you want them (they make wonderful breakfasts) just heat up the oven, glaze the buns and stick them in the oven. Voila. Buttery, brioches with melting chocolate inside.

I cooked some of these this morning (made yesterday) because I was making Christmas cards with my children and my friend Mary, who is super crafty came with her absolutely fabulous children and we all sat sticking, embossing and cutting; chatting, the fire burning, lovely music on. It was like something out of a Jane Austen novel, except with Spotify.  Connie, the eldest has just started making bagels and asked me for the recipe. So here it is.

One and a half teaspoons of instant yeast

400g strong white bread flour

Four tablespoons of caster sugar

15ml of rum (I seriously don’t know what this does so if you don’t have it I’m sure you can just add a bit more milk but if you have it, add it, I mean why not?)

One and a half teaspoons of salt

70g of butter, cut into cubes and straight from the fridge

90ml of milk

50g of butter, cut into cubes and straight from the fridge for later *

100g chocolate chips, I prefer dark – for when the dough is out of the machine

Makes 12

Put everything except for the chocolate chips and ‘later’ butter into the bread maker and set the dough cycle – it should be about 2hrs. Mine is 2hrs 20minutes.

At the first knead stage (about 30-50 mins in) add the ‘later’ butter. Your machine may have a beeper for ‘later butter’ stage. Mine doesn’t.

*You can add all the butter at the beginning and honestly I’ve not noticed much difference, so see how you go. If you’re around and can add it later, do, if you need to get on with something just add it all at once.

Don’t, however, add the chocolate chips now, they will melt slightly and the dough will be slightly coloured. It doesn’t affect the taste but..I just prefer it done later.

When the dough cycle is finished, take the dough out, flatten out, add the chocolate chips and sort of gently knead them in. Rest the dough for ten mins, then cut 12 pieces out of it and shape into sausage shapes (or rounds). If you find the dough resistant you can cut the 12 pieces, then rest, then shape. Or just cut and shape straight away – see how you feel.

When shaped, place on a baking parchment lined tray, cover with a tea towel and put in the fridge overnight or for a few hours until you need them.

When ready to bake, heat oven to 180C, brush the brioches with egg yolk and cook for 20 mins (check after 15).

Eat about 30 mins out of the oven when it’s the perfect mix of warm brioche and melting chocolate. You can also freeze them, when cold, for resuscitation another day.

Enriched dough rolls with chocolate chips (bread machine)

These came about trying to make chocolate chip brioches for my youngest who is obsessed with them. M&S does the best shop bought ones – most leave a really weird taste in your mouth. But we no longer have a local M&S (thanks Stuart Rose)  and anyway, shop bought bread-products are nearly always full of other ingredients I neither recognise nor welcome.

These aren’t strictly speaking brioches – there just isn’t enough butter or eggs to really warrant the name – but they are a lovely little enriched breakfast bread that’s a bit more exciting than bread, but with very little sugar. I promised my youngest I’d make her some brioches, but when the time came, I had very little time and was slightly awed by traditional brioche recipes which involve massaging an entire packet of butter into dough. Plus we were in the middle of jigsaw making and I didn’t want to “splinter off” as my youngest puts it, and start mucking about with dough when she is happy with shop bought. So I looked at my trusty Panasonic bread maker recipe book which is 20 years old; the newer models have actual recipes for brioche bread which I shall attempt anon, and also a special cycle for them which adds half the butter during the cycle. Mine didn’t, but it had a recipe for enriched bread dough. I tweaked it slightly, threw everything save for the chocolate chips into the machine – although I could have put those in too (if you put them in, put them in at the beginning with everything else not in any fancy dispenser drawer as they may melt and get stuck).

It was so easy. Ingredients in bread pan, dough cycle (which is 2hrs 20mins on mine), during which you can do a jigsaw, out, knead in about 80g of chocolate chips, shape into eight rolls – put on baking parchment, cover with cloth, prove in fridge overnight.

In the morning: oven on to 220C, little buns brushed with a bit of milk, baked for 10 mins. Eaten for breakfast. Delicious. I ate three just for testing purposes.

What you need

half a teaspoon of dried yeast (I use Dove’s Farm)

250g strong white bread flour

1 teaspoon of caster sugar

25g butter

1 tablespoon of milk

half a teaspoon of salt

1 egg

85ml water

80g chocolate chips