Tag Archives: chocolate

Dense chocolate loaf cake

This is a lovely chocolate cake that I’ve been making for years. It’s so simple, yet so good. I’ve put it up here for my friend Kate who has never, to my knowledge, asked me for a recipe. But she did after tasting this on Saturday. It’s a cake that keeps, a bit like gingercake, for a good few days wrapped in parchment and foil. Ideal for taking for weekends away, picnics, lunchboxes

I don’t know a child who doesn’t like this – and it’s rare I can say that; and, slightly warm, and with custard or maybe some cream, makes a nice, simple pudding.

It’s originally from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess, but, like a lot of Nigella’s recipes, God love her, I’ve cut down the sugar dramatically (yes, really and it’s still at 250g!) and changed the flour around a bit.

225g very soft, unsalted butter

250g dark muscovado sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

100g dark chocolate (70%), melted

150g plain flour

50g wholemeal plain flour

1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

150ml boiling water

A 2lb loaf tin, about 23x13x7. Mine one is bigger. If you want to use two smaller loaf tins you can, cook for less time: 20min for first part, then 10minutes.

Preheat oven to 190C.

Line the loaf tin – this is really important as this is a very moist cake and it will fall apart if you have to wrestle it out of the tin. If possible leave some baking parchment overlapping so it lifts out easily.

Put the chocolate on to melt – in a bowl above a pan of simmering water, making sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water. When melted, set aside to cool slightly.

Cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon, then add the eggs and vanilla. Now fold in the cooled chocolate. Mix the flours and the bicarb together.

Now you’re going to add the flour mixture and the water, a spoon at a time, stirring well between each. This is important. If you add the flour and water too fast, the boiling water will cook the flour into little balls and you’ll end up with little white flour balls in the cake. I know because I’ve made this many, many times and tried to cheat the system and it doesn’t work.

You’ll end up with a very runny batter. Put – pour- in the cake tin, and if your tin is very up to the brim already, it may be prudent to put a baking tray underneath to catch any spills. (This is why I use an even bigger loaf tin than recommended. I can’t bear to lose any to the oven.)

Cook for 30 mins, then turn down to 170C and cook for a further 15 mins. I do this exactly and end up with a very squidgy, moist cake. If you use two smaller loaf tins, cook for 20mins and then 10 at lower temperature. The top should be set and there shouldn’t be any discernible ‘wobble’ (or not much) but a skewer inserted may still have some crumbs attached due to the moistness of the cake. Don’t overcook.

Let it cool completely before taking out of the tin. It will sink a bit in the middle, don’t worry, it’s meant to. If you don’t eat it all immediately, wrap in parchment and foil and enjoy a slice every day.

 

Chocolate yoghurt

This is a really nice thing to have with some fruit. I’m all for eating yoghurt on its own but if you want to butch it up a little, or make it into an extra treaty thing then you can easily make chocolate yoghurt. This serves two.

Melt 50g of chocolate of your choice in the microwave or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. White chocolate gives a lovely vanilla-y flavour but experiment with milk or plain. Obviously milk or plain will colour the yoghurt.

Now, for the yoghurt, use anything from 150g – 250g. We always have live Greek-style yoghurt (is any yoghurt dead yoghurt?) but use any plain yoghurt that takes your fancy. 150g gives you a very tasty dessert indeed. Chocolate-y tasting with a nice, clean tang of yoghurt. The more yoghurt you add, the more you’ll have to eat but the less sweet it tastes. Experiment..

Once the chocolate is melted you add the yoghurt, add a tablespoon in first so you get a smooth mixture then add the rest; stir it so it’s all amalgamated and serve with some nice fruit. Awesome, fairly healthy, dessert. If you want to up your good fats, sprinkle some chopped nuts on top.

 

Chocolate banana cupcakes with a chocolate cream frosting

My friend Vicky made this chocolate banana loaf the other day with her ducks’ eggs. I’m not usually a fan of banana bread. I want to like it, ever since I read that Nigella says making banana bread fills your house with domestic fug, or some such. But I just don’t really like it. I’m not a fan of an overly banana taste in anything other than in a, you know, banana. But this looked different, thanks to the abundance of chocolate and cocoa in it and on it. And then I had a child off sick the other day and so we decided to make it together; but into cupcakes not a loaf. And it worked brilliantly.

As you will see in the comments below the actual recipe in BBC Good Food magazine, lots of people have modified the recipe to make it even healthier with less sugar, more bananas, honey etc. I am obedient so, as it was the first time I made it, I followed the recipe.

I used Isigny Creme Fraiche instead of ‘sour cream’ (it’s the same thing anyway isn’t it?) and I used Tesco’s Finest Cooking Milk Chocolate with 40% cocoa content which is fantastic, even if you do have to go to Tesco to buy it (stock up). I hate hate hate buttercream icing so this is great for me.

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My youngest didn’t like the topping so I left some clear for her which was convenient as, making it into cupcakes rather than one loaf, I didn’t really have enough frosting (if you want to cover all of them, make double of the topping).

You can top with a banana chip if you want. I make my own, using my dehydrator, but obviously you can just BUY THEM.

Update: I have since made these again using coconut oil instead of sunflower oil (v nice, you don’t really taste the coconut) and also half wholemeal flour plus half a teaspoon of baking powder. Just to make it more healthy. If anything, I think the cupcakes tasted better..and because I’m lazy, I’m reproducing the recipe, as I now use it (i.e. adapted) here for my reference..

for the cupcakes

100g coconut oil, or olive oil or butter

110g caster sugar

90g white self raising flour

85g wholemeal, plain flour

half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

half a teaspoon of baking powder

4 tablespoons of cocoa

100g chocolate chips – I use plain

175 very ripe banana (about two) – I weigh them with the skin on

3 medium eggs, two separated

50ml milk

For the topping (double this quantity if making cupcakes and you aim to ice the whole batch)

100g high cocoa content milk chocolate

100g creme fraiche/sour cream

a pinch of sea salt for real wowness

banana chips if desired

Line each cupcake mould with a case – this makes about 16 so you may need to cook in two batches.

Heat oven to 160C. Mix the sugar, flour, bicarb, cocoa and chocolate in a big bowl. Mash the bananas in another bowl and mix in two egg yolks plus one whole egg. To this, add the coconut oil/olive oil or butter and milk.

Beat the egg whites until stiff.

Add the banana mixture to the dry flour etc mixture, mixing well but not overmixing (I never understand why, what happens if you over mix it??). Stir in a bit of the egg white mixture to loosen it all up, then fold in the rest to keep the air in as much as possible.

Spoon into cupcake cases and bake for about 25 minutes – 30 mins. A skewer should come out clean, unless of course you hit a bit of melted chocolate chip.

Let them cool completely. In the meantime, melt the creme fraiche and chocolate together, in a bowl over simmering water, with the pinch of sea salt if desired. Then spread over cupcakes (if it’s really gloopy let it firm up a bit in the fridge first, but not too much). Top with a banana chip if you like.

 

 

 

Monday morning bread, aka chocolate sourdough

I need a bit of help on a Monday morning. Weekends are usually cosy, engaged, involved, family affairs and splitting us all up on a Monday morning can hurt. Even though I do a job I love, and I work mostly from home – so am incredibly fortunate – Monday mornings sometimes need a bit of easing into.

Thus it is that I decided to corrupt one of the baguettes I was making last night, for baking this morning, by rolling the dough around a few pieces of chocolate (a high cocoa content milk chocolate). Everything else stayed the same. But this morning, the promise of these served warm from the oven, aside a bowl of caffe latte for dunking into, just helped get us all downstairs.

A last minute Christmas present idea: Kumquat chocolate slab

 

This is a really easy, delicious thing to make. Yes you do need a) chocolate and b) kumquats in the house to make this exact one, but the idea is that with a bit of imagination, you have a really easy, original gift to make for someone at the last minute. Perhaps you’ve been invited round to someone’s house and want to take a little gift.

I used kumquats, because that’s what I saw in Martha Stewart Living. This decision also resulted in perhaps my most middle class quest of the year: going in search of them (Sainsbury’s had them). It was worth it because kumquats lend themselves really beautifully to this idea and weren’t madly expensive. A packet that would have made this twice over cost £1.50. Plus they look festive, colourful and this was absolutely delicious: like a grown up, not too sickly, Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

But if you don’t have kumquats, or don’t like them you can put anything on top of the chocolate: slices of stem ginger, roasted hazelnuts, sliced pistachios, what ever takes your fancy, you get the idea.

For this I used a mixture of Green and Black’s milk chocolate and Waitrose Continental 70% cocoa chocolate, because I wanted it to be quite creamy. You want the slab to ‘snap’ when you serve it so don’t go too milky chocolatey, even if you want to serve it to children. To make it really grown up and ‘snappy’, make it out of all 70% cocoa chocolate. I used about 250g of chocolate in total to make this slab, which fed sixteen at after lunch coffee.

Melt in a bowl, over boiling water, then pour onto baking parchment on a baking tray. Scatter over your topping of choice. Put in fridge to set. If giving as a present – and not serving at your own dinner party – then break it up and put it in cellophane bag or if you have food-grade cellophane wrap (naturally, ahem, I do) then you can wrap the whole thing in one piece.

That’s it. So easy and looks so impressive.

How to make your own salted caramel wagon wheels

What I want to know is, when did this blog become almost exclusively about food? I used to write about coffee machines, and fridges ‘n’ stuff. I think it’s partly to do with laziness, greed and also that as I get more serious in my day job, I want to write about things that comfort and soothe.

This is my excuse for writing about Wagon Wheels a week before Christmas when I have at least twenty-three other things to be doing.

I never liked original Wagon Wheels. So this wasn’t about trying to recreate something I loved, but in more, ahem, nutritious format. This is entirely about being seduced by a picture in a Donna Hay magazine in which she makes them. I hesitated before posting the recipe. These are, by no stretch of the imagination, good for you. They use Fluff – jarred, spreadable marshmallow – which contains corn syrup which is really really bad for you. So you must ASSURE me that you will only make these once a year.

These biscuits are, however, really fun. They are not difficult to make, and can be made in stages. The trickiest bit, I found, was the dipping them in chocolate. There is no easy way to do this and you end up making a great big mess. I made the biscuits differently to how Donna recommended – she uses three tiers and smaller biscuits. In an attempt to recreate a more authentic WW look I went for two tiers and larger.

Big mistake. They end up being quite a biscuit. I’d say probably 500 calories a piece. Which isn’t good. I definitely wouldn’t serve these if Gwyneth were coming round to tea. When I first made them I stored them in the fridge which was a mistake as they go kinda crispy and I didn’t like them so much (so perhaps not a mistake after all). After a few hours out of the fridge and stored in a biscuit jar, they were just perfect. Strangely addictive. People I gave them to started making weird, primal noises. They started telling me they loved me.

Be warned.

Don’t go fooling yourself you will only take one bite of these and not eat the whole thing. So make them small. And make them when you have lots of people coming round so you’re not left alone with them. I made a few changes: I substituted salted caramel for jam as I had a jar of caramel that my friend Helen had made for me and everyone preferred them to the jam version (I made a few with jam to try).

And I used about 2/3rds 34% cocoa chocolate and to 1/3rd 70% cocoa chocolate to coat them instead of doing half of them with white chocolate and half with plain as Donna Hay suggested. I actually think I’d slip into a diabetic coma if I made these with white chocolate.

Anyway, enough chat, here is the recipe as I did them, and the low down.

170g unsalted, softened butter

160g icing sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 teaspoons of honey

1 egg

335g plain flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda

A jar of Fluff – marshmallow spread in a jar

Either a jar of blackberry jam/jelly or salted caramel (I say jelly as that’s all I could fine, not because I’ve gone American)

About 200g high cocoa content milk chocolate (I used Green and Blacks, which is 34%)

100g 70% cocoa chocolate (I always use Waitrose Continental)

Put the butter, sugar and vanilla extract in an electric mixer (I used the whisk attachment) and beat for 5-7 minutes. Imagine doing this by hand?! Scrape down the sides and then add the honey and egg and beat again for a bit until combined.

Now add the flour, bicarb and baking powder and beat on a low speed until combined – just a minute or so. Flatten the dough into a disc. It will be very soft. Put in cling film and put it in the fridge for about an hour (longer is fine). It should be firm before you start to roll it out.

Now, preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking tray with baking parchment. Roll the dough out bit by bit between two pieces of baking parchment until about 5mm thick. This is a very soft dough so after a few rollings out it will be hard to handle so put it back in the fridge if need be.

Cut circles of 5cm. I did larger but as I said, I think that was a mistake as I ended up with a really calorific biscuit!

Place on baking trays – they don’t spread out much so you can go quite close together but not too close. About 1cm is fine.

Bake for just a scant 4-5 minutes, until the edges are just tinged with a golden brownness. Take out of the oven and leave to cool completely. You will need to cook these in batches.

When the biscuits are completely cool it’s just a case of assembling them, then dipping. So, spread one biscuit with the salted caramel, one with fluff and sandwich together. Don’t be too mean with the filling but don’t go mad either. When they are all sandwiched together put in the fridge to firm up for a bit whilst you melt the chocolate in a bowl, atop a saucepan of boiling water.

When melted, dip the biscuits in the chocolate. If there’s an easy, non-messy way to do this, I haven’t discovered it yet. I tried painting the biscuits with chocolate and that worked but left brush marks. After several goes I discovered the best thing to do was coat the edges then dip quickly one side then another. If you end up with bald patches where your fingers were then you can remedy by just spreading a bit over with the back of a spoon. Leave to drip for a few seconds over the chocolate bowl, then leave to set on a rack. Be careful though. If you do like I did one time and put it straight in the fridge, the chocolate will set around the bars of the cooling rack and you will end up with half a wagon wheel when you prise it off.

This is no bad thing in a way, as you immediately lower the calorific value, but it makes a mess. So be aware this can happen.

Do leave them to set in the fridge at some point, then you can store them in a biscuit jar in a cool place, preferably at someone else’s house.

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How to make your own jaffa cakes

Inside. Luscious. The perspective makes these look giant, they are in fact the same size as regular jaffa cakes. And that’s a three year old holding one.

I bake, not only because I love cakes ‘n’ stuff and I prefer home made, but I bake when I need to feel safe. I find baking immensely therapeutic. The fact that I’m quite skilled at it is helpful because when I’m, say, grappling with a difficult deadline, as if it were a salt water crocodile (and we know how slippy they can be)  I have a need to achieve.  I have an almost pathological need to achieve. Something. Anything.

And when that something happens to result in baking a good biscuit, just baked into a chewy crispness, with hidden little bullets of chocolate. Or a fluffy, jolly cake, heavy with a mascarpone frosting stained red with raspberries, so large that you have to dislocate your jaw to get a slice in…well where’s the fucking harm in that.

When the news makes me feel like the world is too big, baking reminds me that the gentle stirring (or sometimes, vigorous whisking) of a few fine ingredients, can come together to make something good.

This is how I found myself making jaffa cakes.

Jaffa cakes. I don’t even really like jaffa cakes. But they seemed tricky enough to take my mind off all the bad news.

This recipe is from Jamie magazine. They weren’t tricky at all, but they did result in something so excellent and delicious and authentic (similar enough to shop bought ones to not alienate fans, different enough from to entice the not so keen) I had to keep eating them to make sure.

You need:

1 egg
50g caster sugar
65g self raising (I never sift flour but I guess you should)
butter for greasing
250g marmalade
100g 70% cocoa chocolate, chopped
Finely grated zest of half an orange
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil
 (the original recipe also asks for a tablespoon of water to use when melting the chocolate) but I didn’t use it and never use water in when melting chocolate).

You need a jam tart tin or shallow ‘bun’ tin with 12 holes. Grease this well, I also dusted it with flour (not from the 65g!)

Oven to 200C.

You do:

Okay so whisk the egg and sugar together, using an electric mixer if you have one (don’t sweat if you haven’t, you think sponge cakes were never made before the advent of the electric mixer?) if not by hand. Get those biceps and triceps working. Beat until the colour has lightened and the mixture has thickened. I’ll admit this is a a hell of a lot easier with an electric mixer.

Now stir in the flour by hand.

This is so easy isn’t it?

Now dollop about a tablespoon of the mixture into each hole, evenly. So if you get it wrong you’ll need to go round and nick a bit from the moulds that have too much.

Bake in the oven for 8-10 mins. Be careful: you want them lightly golden.

When done turn out and let cool. When cool slice in half horizontally. Are you seeing these jaffas taking shape?

Hopefully you’re the sort of person who reads recipes through before embarking on making something. And therefore you’ll know that whilst the cakes are cooling, put the marmalade in a pan, on the stove. I didn’t use the whole 250g but if you have any left over, once cool, you can put it back in the jar.

The sponge cakes fresh out of the oven.

So, heat the marmalade until it’s melted and stirrable and all one big thing and not little clumps of marmalade skulking round the pan, like nervous teenagers circling each other at a party, and then take off the heat and leave to cool. You can leave it for a good 20-30 mins, perhaps more and in fact it’s easier to use when it’s cooler. You could sieve out the peel in the marmalade but come on! Butch up and leave it in. I did and it was delicious.

Note the bit with a slice off? I ate it. Couldn’t wait.

Now. Take a teaspoon of the marmalade and dollop it in the centre of each sponge.

Melt the chocolate, with the orange zest and oil (oil not essential but gives a nice gloss), in a bowl over a pan of water. When melted, spoon over each marmalade covered sponge. What I did was put the cooling rack over a baking tray to catch any drips (ahem, I took it away for the photo below for better contrast), and then pick up each sponge and spoon the chocolate over, spreading it delicatedly with the back of the spoon – you don’t want to compromise the blobs of marmalade – then putting each back on the rack over the tray to catch any drips. And there were hardly any drips. I guess you could be more slap happy and just spoon the chocolate over each sponge whilst they’re sat on the rack and let the chocolate drip gaily.

Just one left to do.

But I think that’s more wasteful.

I ate at least six of these waiting for the chocolate to set. My youngest went potty for them. My eldest doesn’t like jaffa cakes and wasn’t convinced by these.

Make them and tell me what you think.

Eclairs

The best compliment I got was from a nine year old girl (not mine) who said “these are like real eclairs”

Here is a confession. I really am not that into eclairs. I know people who go cuckoo for them. Not me. I’m not overly a fan of choux (unless in a Paris Brest), nor whipped cream. Basically, eclairs aren’t piggy enough for me.

The first time I made choux pastry I was very young, about eleven and it was in HE. No-one told me it was difficult so I didn’t sweat over the choux pastry and I made the most amazing profiteroles. (Equally, no-one told me puff pastry was difficult and I used to make a great puff pastry.)

As I got older, and everyone went on about how hard choux pastry is, well that, coupled with my slight meh-ness towards them…meant I didn’t really try.

My children love eclairs so I decided to give them a go. They were easy. So easy I was expecting the sky to fall in.

I’d love to hear how you customise them.

The recipe for choux is pretty standard:

125ml water
50g butter
75g plain flour
3 medium eggs (at room temperature, this is important)
pinch of salt (I think this is key, choux is pretty tasteless, but the salt adds something).

The filling

I just used double cream, about 300ml, whipped up with a spoon of vanilla essence and a tablespoon of icing sugar. Or try delicious white chocolate cream, which is what I use as a default filling these days.

The topping

I used 150g 70% cocoa chocolate and a teaspoon of vegetable oil, melted in a bowl, over a pan of boiling water. Then manually just dipped the eclair tops in and set them down on a cooling rack. Hardly any drips..

Obviously with both filling and topping you can change it. Next time I’m going to try something a bit more adventurous.

You also need a piping bag and plain nozzle of about 1cm diameter. A baking tray and some baking parchment.

Oven to 180C.

Put the water and butter in a sauce pan and cook over a high heat. Stir until butter is melted and bring to the boil. When this happens, lower the heat and add in the flour. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and the mixture leaves the sides of the pan. For me this happened almost immediately.

Remove from the heat. Now. Some recipes say to let the mixture cool and then add the eggs. I can only tell you how I did it which was to add the eggs straight away to the mixture, once in the electric mixer bowl.

So. Put the butter/water dough in an electric mixer with the whisk attachment and add the eggs one at a time.

This is the important bit. After you’ve added the first egg, the mixture must be absolutely smooth before you add the next egg. At first the mixture seems to curdle, more so if your butter/water dough is hot and the eggs are very cold. It will look like scrambled eggs. You will want to cry.

Don’t. And don’t panic. Keep mixing. It will eventually blend together and go smooth. Honestly mine took a good five-ten minutes during which I started to panic and think “why the hell did I not LISTEN to everyone who told me choux pastry was so hard.” Keep the faith. Keep mixing. It will smooth out. Then, add the next egg and mix until smooth and then the next one. I added the salt with the third egg. No idea why just did.

The mixture is ready when you lift the whisk and it leaves ribbon marks – indentations in other words.

Put into the piping bag. I find it useful to a) use a clip to secure the top of the icing bag – just above the nozzle – so that the mixture can’t ooze out. By clip I mean like those Klip-it things you use to keep food in a plastic bag fresh. b) put the bag in a tall glass and fold the top of the bag over so you can spoon the mixture in. Obviously when you are ready to pipe, you take the Klip-it off.

This mixture pipes really beautifully, so pipe eclair shapes (or profiterole shapes) onto the tray, leave a good gap as they do grow.

Put in the oven. I cooked mine for 30 mins and they were perfect, dry and crispy. My patisserie expert said that’s how high quality eclairs should be – kinda dry and not soggy like shop bought ones. You can’t really overcook eclairs (well, actually you can but you know…). I cooked some profiteroles another time and gave them 35 minutes and they were fine.

Don’t be tempted to open the oven at all if possible and certainly not before about 25 minutes.

They should be puffed and golden. Mine were almost empty inside. There was no need to dry them out inside as some recipes suggest, by placing them back in an oven.

I just cut them lengthways when they were completely cool and did the topping first (put the topped eclairs in the fridge for five mins to make the topping set if you’re in a hurry), then I added the cream with another piping bag (I was piping bag mad by this stage).

They all got eaten that day. And when I served them the second time round, because I had some salted caramel left, I added a dollop of that in too. I am salted caramel crazy though.

The reason I’m writing about these is that they were so easy and the return to effort ratio so madly unbalanced in favour of the return part, that I did wonder why I had left it so long.

Update on 6th March 2013. I thought it might be useful to have some troubleshooting here.

There are a couple of key important bits in making eclairs. The bit in the saucepan, with the flour and the butter/water…make sure you really dry this mixture out. By that I mean, even when it starts to come off the sides, keep going for a minute longer. The more you dry it out now, the more eggs you will be able to add (more on this later). The more eggs you can add, the more the eclairs will rise.

What do you mean, the more eggs I can add? Don’t you say three eggs?

Yes, yes I do. But here’s the other thing. I make this all the time with three eggs but mine are medium (in fact I’ve altered the recipe above to say this). Eggs differ in size, although it’s usually the amount of white in an egg that differs between the different sizes. So if you were to crack open a medium and extra large egg, the real difference is in the white, not the yoke.

Anyway, when you’re at the adding the eggs stage, if you’re new to this, I’d whisk up the third egg before adding it and then add it a bit at a time. What you want is a mixture that’s thick. Don’t be afraid to give it a really good whisking, don’t stop just the moment you think it’s done. You want the mixture to be able to stand in stiff peaks. If it’s not thick enough at this stage, it won’t get any thicker at the piping them out stage. So when you stop whisking you need to be absolutely sure it’s thick enough, otherwise,  you pipe it the eclairs will spread.

If you add too much egg, then the mixture might get too sloppy which is why I recommend adding it in stages if you’re new to this.

Should I cool down the butter/water/flour mixture before putting it in the mixer?

Almost every recipe tells you to do this, to cool it down otherwise it will cook the eggs.

I don’t. I know, madness, but I’ve tried it both ways and for whatever reason I’ve found that if I add this to the mixer and add the eggs straight after the sauce pan stage, my eclairs rise more. Yes you do need to beat the first egg in for much longer and it will go through a scrambled egg phase. Try it whichever way you want and see how you go. I’m fairly brave with patisserie making so I like to fly by the seat of my pants. You may want to go more slowly. Both are fine approaches.

If you’d like more ideas about what to fill them with, other than cream: chocolate ganache filling recipe here; white chocolate cream filling here (this is YUM). And not long after I originally wrote this I stopped cutting the eclairs in half and instead using a piping nozzle to fill them.

Home made bourbon biscuits

Although I make almost all the biscuits and cakes we eat, I do think there are some things that are just better shop bought. Shop bought custard creams are just what they are and impossible to replicate at home. (This doesn’t mean I won’t try but I won’t expect to get them to compete with shop bought and compete is the right word here.)

But a few weeks ago, I was out for brunch and gossip a very important business meeting with my friend Fiona Hughes and we went to the Orchard Cafe in London’s Holborn.  On the way out, after we’d devoured extremely good scrambled eggs with home made bread and smoked tomato ketchup, I spotted a giant bourbon biscuit, filled with salted caramel goo.

Now. I don’t eat biscuits and cakes ‘n’ stuff like that, during the week, only at the weekend. And as this was a Tuesday, I couldn’t justify it.

However, because I am a greedy thing at heart, the memory of these biscuits scratched away at me, like a sticky out label on a T-shirt, and eventually I decided to try to make my own.

I finally found a mention of an edition of Jamie Magazine that had a recipe for home made bourbon biscuits and so determined was I, I tracked a back issue down, paid for it and waited for it to arrive.

These biscuits are great. Really, really good. I do of course want to get a specialist rectangular cutter and maybe a Barbieri stamp. [Update: believe it or not, I now have both of these.]  But until then, I just cut a line of these, and then cut the rectangles by hand. It made for a very artisan finish but no less impressive.

You need:

For the biscuits:

50g soft butter, unsalted
50g soft brown sugar (I used dark)
1 tablespoon of golden syrup
110g plain flour
20g good cocoa powder (don’t go using any of that ‘bad’ stuff)
half a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
a bit of caster sugar for sprinkling

For the filling:

75g icing sugar
50g soft butter
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of cold, strong coffee (use milk if you don’t like coffee, but the coffee really, really adds something)

Put the oven on to gas 150C. You need a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

Either cream the butter and sugar for the biscuits by hand, or use an electric whisk (the recipe calls for latter, I did former). Do this until pale and fluffy. I love the word fluffy.

Then beat in the golden syrup using a wooden spoon (even if you’ve used an electric whisker you’re now instructed to STOP and use a wooden spoon and put your arms to work). Then sift in the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate and beat into an even dough. You may need a few drops of milk. Try not to use it but if you do, literally put the milk in half a teaspoon at a time, you want a fairly dry, low hydration dough not something really sticky.

Turn it out onto a piece of baking parchment and top it with more baking parchment so you roll it out between two sheets of baking parchment. Roll until about 3mm thick. Because you want the biscuit to be crisp, don’t make it too thick, although you can’t make it too thin either. Get the ruler out, this is biscuits for goodness sake. It’s important to get it right.

Cut the dough, however works for you, into about 24 fingers of about 5cm x 3cm. I cut long rectangles and then cut into smaller rectangles. Place on parchment lined baking tray, with about 1cm gap in between (they do rise a bit but not much). I prick with a fork for a birruva pretty pattern.

Sprinkle with caster sugar and cook for 8-10 minutes. Make sure they are cooked, not soft as they won’t harden up much and you really do want these to be crispy not cakey. But of course, don’t overcook (am I being too bossy? I want you to get these right you see).

When done, wipe the sweat from your brown, transfer to a wire rack etc. Cool.

For the filling mix the sugar and butter together, add the cocoa powder. At this point it will look pale and unpromising and you may start to panic. Have faith! When you add the milk (a scant teaspoon, just to bring everything together), it will go dark and glossy and glorious and you will be SO pleased with yourself.

Spread on one biscuit, sandwich with another. Daintily arrange. Eat and be amazed.

Willie’s Delectable Cacao Single Squares

Happy Easter. This is what I got today instead of an Easter egg. I really love plain chocolate, preferable 70% cocoa one, for a real punch.

You can get these Single Squares from Waitrose and they cost from £1.80. Not cheap (they weigh 50g) but the chocolate is excellent; I much prefer it to Green and Black’s dark chocolate which I find bitter. And I’d rather have a hit of really good chocolate than lots of cheap, sugar-filled stuff.

The ones I got – you can see them above – were hazelnut and raisin, ginger and lime and luscious orange. They are all delicious. There are others that are just chocolate: milk, plain or white.

I haven’t managed to ascertain what the fairtrade credentials, if any, are (I do try to buy fairtrade wherever possible). But you can read more about Willie’s chocolate  here.