Ultra Creamy Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate

This Ultra Creamy Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate only needs 3 ingredients and five minutes of your time to warm your cockles and sweeten your day.

This Ultra Creamy Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate only needs 3 ingredients and five minutes of your time to warm your cockles and sweeten your day.

I have been looking for a dairy-free hot chocolate for ages as although I love hot chocolate, my body gets mighty furious with me if I attempt to drink a whole glass of milk. Ever since I was a child I have not been able to handle a lot of dairy.

This is obviously in high contention with the fact that I love dairy and during these frosty November days there is nothing better than a creamy hot chocolate. Suddenly I am dreaming of the chocolate caliente you can order in Spain, so thick you need to eat it with a spoon.

This Ultra Creamy Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate only needs 3 ingredients and five minutes of your time to warm your cockles and sweeten your day.

The sipping chocolate I make at home has always relied upon coconut milk as a substitution but it’s so easy to overdo coconut, the taste becomes all consuming and a bit off-putting so my wintry cravings for hot chocolate have been a little stunted. However, when I read about the trend of putting banana milk in coffee to make the milk taste creamier without adding a taste of banana I wondered if I could use this in some way to aid my chocolate.

This Ultra Creamy Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate only needs 3 ingredients and five minutes of your time to warm your cockles and sweeten your day.

The banana is blended first with the milk (in this case coconut milk) which makes the milk thick and luscious but also seems to neutralise the heavy coconut edge. You need to be careful about how much banana you add in as otherwise it can go the other way and be too bananary but the quantity below works really well.

The great thing about the banana is that it also adds natural sweetness so you don’t need to worry about adding sugar. Gosh, it’s almost a health food if you think about it. Don’t think about it too hard though.

This Ultra Creamy Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate only needs 3 ingredients and five minutes of your time to warm your cockles and sweeten your day.

Unfortunately I now have another problem with my hot chocolate as it’s far too easy to make and it is getting pretty cold out there. Is it a hot chocolate a day keeps the doctor away or am I getting confused with something else? No no, I think I’ve got it right.

This Ultra Creamy Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate only needs 3 ingredients and five minutes of your time to warm your cockles and sweeten your day.
Print Recipe
Ultra Creamy Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate
This Ultra Creamy Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate takes just 3 ingredients and 5 minutes.
This Ultra Creamy Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate only needs 3 ingredients and five minutes of your time to warm your cockles and sweeten your day.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
2 people
Ingredients
  • 75 g chocolate chips 70% cocoa solids. If you want the hot chocolate to be 100% dairy-free then you must use chocolate with no added milk.
  • 275 ml coconut milk
  • ½ banana about 50g
  • pinch of salt
  • 100 g coconut cream see notes
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • large marshmallows to serve
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
2 people
Ingredients
  • 75 g chocolate chips 70% cocoa solids. If you want the hot chocolate to be 100% dairy-free then you must use chocolate with no added milk.
  • 275 ml coconut milk
  • ½ banana about 50g
  • pinch of salt
  • 100 g coconut cream see notes
  • ½ teaspoon honey
  • large marshmallows to serve
This Ultra Creamy Dairy-Free Hot Chocolate only needs 3 ingredients and five minutes of your time to warm your cockles and sweeten your day.
Instructions
  1. Blend the coconut milk and banana until smooth.
  2. Pour into a saucepan and bring the milk up to a very gentle boil, then immediately remove from the heat.
  3. Leave for a minute or so to avoid scalding the chocolate, then pour the milk, through a sieve to remove any banana lumps, over the chocolate chips.
  4. Stir really well so the chocolate melts and then becomes a beautifully smooth liquid.
  5. Pour into glasses.
  6. If you want to serve with coconut cream, then whip the coconut cream for a minute in a food mixer with a teaspoon of honey, then dollop on top of the hot chocolate. Squidge a large toasted marshmallow on the top also if you fancy.
Recipe Notes
  • If you can’t get hold of tinned coconut cream then it’s easy to make using coconut milk. Just place the tin of coconut milk in the fridge overnight, whereupon the cream will separate from the water. The next day when you open the tin, you can just scoop up the cream from the top of the tin. A 400g of coconut milk will create about 200g of coconut cream.

The Ultimate Popcorn Rocky Road

This Ultimate Popcorn Rocky Road hits all the right notes; sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy and most importantly really chocolatey.

This Ultimate Popcorn Rocky Road hits all the right notes; sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy and most importantly really chocolatey.

Gosh Rocky Road is dangerous. It’s the kind of treat which you would make with kids in mind, maybe it’s a birthday party, or the school cake sale. It’s fine, it’s for the children, I am doing such a nice thing for them. Now here, let’s load it with sprinkles as that’s what children like.

This Ultimate Popcorn Rocky Road hits all the right notes; sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy and most importantly really chocolatey.

Now you might not really call yourself a sprinkles person, they look pretty but don’t really tell you what you’re about to eat is anything more than a fun whimsical food. Nothing I can’t handle. Here would be your mistake. You are underestimating this rocky road as you think you are making it for the children and the sprinkles are evidence of that.

This Ultimate Popcorn Rocky Road hits all the right notes; sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy and most importantly really chocolatey.

You are wrong, this Ultimate Popcorn Rocky Road is sheer nirvana, for adults and children alike, and if you are tempted to try a small square whilst you are cutting it up or arranging on the plate then don’t say I didn’t warn you as it will be highly likely that your lovingly prepared treats will not make it to little Jimmy’s birthday party and probably won’t contribute to raising money for new equipment for the school gym.

This Ultimate Popcorn Rocky Road hits all the right notes; sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy and most importantly really chocolatey.

The best case scenario is that you don’t eat the whole batch yourself. And if you think I’m exaggerating then let’s break it down.

Do you like chocolate? Why yes, I love chocolate. Do you like marshmallows? Well, I wouldn’t say no to them toasted over a campfire. What about sweet n’ salty popcorn? Does ordering a jumbo bucket at the cinema every Saturday evening count? Yes it does. Then yes, I’m in for popcorn. Glace cherries perhaps? They have a certain retro charm. Biscuits? Oh yes, dunked in my tea at 4pm every day. Some roasted cashews? Naturally, they are part of my very healthy lifestyle. Now mix the lot together and Bob’s your bingo, your diet is done-zo.

I should know, I have had several batches of this Ultimate Popcorn Rocky Road come and go out of my fridge for the past two weeks and there is no saving me. And what’s more, I don’t think I want to be saved.

This Ultimate Popcorn Rocky Road hits all the right notes; sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy and most importantly really chocolatey.

This Ultimate Popcorn Rocky Road hits all the right notes; sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy and most importantly really chocolatey.
Print Recipe
The Ultimate Popcorn Rocky Road
This Ultimate Popcorn Rocky Road hits all the right notes; sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy and most importantly really chocolatey.
This Ultimate Popcorn Rocky Road hits all the right notes; sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy and most importantly really chocolatey.
Servings
16
Ingredients
  • 250 g dark chocolate
  • 150 g milk chocolate
  • 175 g soft butter
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 100 g sweet n’salty popcorn see notes for recipe
  • 125 g biscuits chopped and a little crushed (I use gluten-free Hobnobs but if you are ok with gluten then I recommend using biscoff biscuits)
  • 75 g unsalted roasted cashews
  • 125 g glace cherries diced
  • 125 g mini marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons sprinkles
Servings
16
Ingredients
  • 250 g dark chocolate
  • 150 g milk chocolate
  • 175 g soft butter
  • 3 tablespoons golden syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 100 g sweet n’salty popcorn see notes for recipe
  • 125 g biscuits chopped and a little crushed (I use gluten-free Hobnobs but if you are ok with gluten then I recommend using biscoff biscuits)
  • 75 g unsalted roasted cashews
  • 125 g glace cherries diced
  • 125 g mini marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons sprinkles
This Ultimate Popcorn Rocky Road hits all the right notes; sweet, salty, chewy, crunchy and most importantly really chocolatey.
Instructions
  1. Line and grease a 12 inch x 9 inch cake tin.
  2. In a bain marie melt the chocolate with the butter and golden syrup.
  3. Once melted pour in, in this order, the biscuit pieces, the nuts, the glace cherries, the popcorn, remove from the heat, then pour in the mini marshmallows. Coat thoroughly with the chocolate.
  4. Pour the rocky road into the prepared tin, then scatter the sprinkles evenly over the top. Place in the fridge for at least 4 hours to set.
  5. Remove from the fridge and cut into squares.
Recipe Notes

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

This Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake is dark, rich and intense. A sublime treat for your afternoon tea.

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

I’m making my Seville orange marmalade this week which meant that I needed to finish the scrapings at the bottom of last year’s jar to make room for the new.

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

The marmalade had not been easy to spread on toast for a few months now as the surface had crystallised a little but the intense zesty bitter flavour was still all there and I found that once I had sawn through the solid sugar structure with gritted teeth this cake turned out to be the perfect way to make use of the dregs. It might have lost its lustre but last year’s marmalade has managed to find a new lease of life paired with chocolate, ricotta and pine nuts. I mean, what ingredient wouldn’t? Of course you are more than welcome to make this cake with this season’s offering, you certainly don’t have to be using 2015’s rejects.

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

My life is full of to-do, should-really-do and must-do-upon-point-of-death lists at the moment, none of which ever really get completely crossed of by the end of the day. However, cakes always seem to jump to the top of the queue, ahead of taking my pile of unloved clothing, which I keep tripping over every morning, to the charity shop, or paying that cheque into the bank, or even finding that blasted cheque which no longer seems to be sitting proudly on my mantelpiece where I placed it very safely about three months ago.

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

So when I decided that the marmalade had to go in a cake the ingredients magically gathered themselves up and jumped into a baking tin without so much as consulting any of my lists. I blame the ricotta. Mmm ricotta, just seeing the word on the screen makes me want to dollop it into and onto everything I eat. It’s ideal here, adding such a luxurious dampness to the cake without imparting heaviness.

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

The marriage of flavours is so lovely and subtle that this cake is fit for any purpose. The newly revived marmalade just adds a hint of tang with the occasional rind peeking through the sponge as well as a wonderful jammy blanket to the top – the glaze is definitely all important. The toasted pine nuts were a last minute addition but integral to give a welcome break in texture. I don’t think I need to convince you about the chocolate.

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

So my to-do list may be never-ending but at least I can end the day with a slice of darkly decadent cake and the promise of tomorrow’s marmalade.

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

Dark Chocolate, Seville Orange, Ricotta and Pine Nut Cake

Inspired by Emiko Davies’ Ricotta and Dark Chocolate Cake

250g dark chocolate (I used a mixture of 70% and 54%)
75g pine nuts
300g ricotta
175g light soft brown sugar
100ml olive oil
3 eggs
60g Seville orange marmalade + 2 tablespoons for glazing
200g plain flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160°C then line and grease a 9 inch loaf tin.
  2. Melt the chocolate in a bain marie and set aside.
  3. Scatter the pine nuts onto a baking tray (reserving about 20g to keep untoasted) then bake them in the oven for about 8 minutes until very lightly toasted. Set aside.
  4. Place the ricotta, brown sugar, olive oil, eggs and marmalade in a large bowl and beat until smooth.
  5. Pour the melted chocolate in then and stir thoroughly into the rest of the ingredients.
  6. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl then add into the mixture and beat until just combined.
  7. Finally fold in the toasted pine nuts then pour it all into the loaf tin.
  8. Scatter the remaining untoasted pine nuts over the top of the mixture, pressing down to slightly submerge into the batter.
  9. Place in the oven and bake for about 90 minutes.
  10. Remove from the oven and turn out onto a cooling rack.
  11. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of marmalade in a small saucepan then brush over the top of the cake liberally to glaze.
  12. Leave to cool completely before serving.

Nanaimo Bars

Nanimo Bars

The only way I know about Nanaimo Bars is through Pinterest. I can happily spend hours on Pinterest, admiring, ogling and salivating over food from other bloggers around the globe. I went off it for a while when I had a life, busying myself with market stalls, cake commissions and my regular blog posts. However at the moment when days of activity seems light years ago and the only energy I have is to move my fingers around my tracking pad my desire to while away my maternity leave loitering on the internet has become all consuming.

Nanimo Bars

They say that every pregnancy is different; some women can work around their burgeoning bump, jumping on the tube, commanding boardrooms and being superwomen. One of my new antenatal friends is even zipping around the stage in the West End performing in The Commitments. I don’t know whether I am a complete wuss or just unlucky but what I do know is that baby-to-be is zapping all my get up and go. Oh, I still have the motivation in my head but when I stand up I topple over and my morning walks with Billy Buddy leave me clutching lampposts and streets signs for support after about ten minutes.

Basically this is my long winded way of saying that I am sorry for not posting as frequently as usual and that my newsletter has fallen completely by the wayside but I am totally knackered. The puppy who has just had a second operation to repair his dodgy knee is putting me to shame, running rings around me and flaunting his recovery with a deliberate smugness if you ask me.

However, this is why you know these Nanaimo Bars I want to talk to you about today are worth a bit of a looksee, since this week I have made them more than once, a little bit of a late stage pregnancy record for me. They were extremely delicious when I made them on Tuesday but not quiiiite right and they deserved a bit of recipe tweaking before I shared them with you. So yesterday I drove to the supermarket like a normal person and bought more eggs, digestive biscuits and desiccated coconut in order to perfect them.

Nanimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars, if you haven’t heard of them, are from Canada, named after the west coast city of Nanaimo in British Columbia and have been voted in the past Canada’s most popular confection. But as I say I only know about them via Pinterest and before this week I had never eaten a Nanaimo Bar in my life. However all sorts of variations of the bar have been filling up my Pinterest board for months desperate for me to give them a go. The key components of these no-bake bars are a biscuit/nutty layer at the bottom, followed by a squidgy middle layer of custard and then topped with chocolate. Most of the recipes I have come across include coconut in the bottom biscuit layer which I think is due to Joyce Hardcastle who included coconut in her award-winning recipe from 1985 to find the ultimate Nanaimo Bar recipe. Who am I to argue with the ultimate recipe so I have included toasted desiccated coconut as well as almonds in my version.

Nearly all the recipes I found in my research as well were happy for instant pudding mix or Birds’ custard powder to be substituted in the middle layer but I deemed this unacceptable when a good old-fashioned vanilla custard is very easy to whip up and something you don’t need to be daunted by. The taste of fresh vanilla pods spiking through the custard is incomparable.

I finished my bar with a topping of molten chocolate, stirred through with a dollop of sour cream to add a bit more fudginess. The end result was delicious, but then how can you go wrong when you are working with this line-up of ingredients. It was so good it was well worth getting off the sofa for, not once but twice.

Nanimo Bars

Nanaimo Bars

Makes 12 bars

Bottom Chocolate Biscuit Layer:
50g 75% dark chocolate
115g unsalted butter
75g caster sugar
40g cocoa
1 egg, lightly beaten
160g digestives, crushed (you can use gluten-free digestives)
45g whole blanched almonds, toasted then roughly chopped
75g desiccated coconut, toasted

  1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain marie then add the sugar and cocoa and stir in until a smooth liquid has formed.
  2. Pour the molten chocolate into the beaten egg carefully, whisking all the while until it has completely blended. Pour everything back into the bain marie and continue to whisk together until it has formed a thick custard.
  3. Remove from the heat, then stir in the crushed digestives, almonds and coconut.
  4. Tip into a lined and greased 8-inch square baking tin, pressing into an even layer then place it the fridge to set for 1 hour.

Middle Custard Layer:
320ml whole milk
½ vanilla pod, halved with seeds scraped out
6 egg yolks
115g caster sugar
50g flour (you can use gluten-free plain flour)

  1. Pour the milk into a smallish saucepan and add the vanilla pod and seeds.
  2. Heat until just under boiling point and turn off the heat.
  3. Whisk together the egg yolks and caster sugar until pale and thickened then add the flour mixing until completely incorporated.
  4. Very carefully pour the warm milk into the egg mixture, whisking all the while to stop the egg from curdling.
  5. Once all the milk has been incorporated into the eggs pour back into the saucepan then bring up to a careful boil whisking continuously until the mixture is very thick and smooth.
  6. Take off the heat and pour over the top of the choco-coconut bottom layer, spreading out evenly. Sit some cling film over the top of the custard layer to stop a skin from forming then place in the fridge for about an hour to cool and set.

Chocolate Ganache Top Layer:
150g 54% dark chocolate (or 75g milk chocolate + 75g dark chocolate)
30g salted butter
2 tablespoons sour cream

  1. Melt the chocolate and butter together in a bain marie.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the sour cream.
  3. Pour the chocolate ganache over the custard layer then place in the fridge to chill and set.
  4. Sprinkle some chocolate shavings over the top if you like.
  5. Once the top layer has set then cut into bars and guzzle down to your heart’s content.

Chocolate and Raspberry Valentine Biscuits

Chocolate and Raspberry Valentine BiscuitsI’m totally in love with my freeze-dried raspberry powder. It’s proving to be an indispensible ingredient in my larder and I’m learning more about the different ways I can use it all the time. I’ve already used it for making the most amazing homemade lip balm to add colour and flavour, in my Raw Cranberry and Nut Energy Bars and now I have just used it for the purpose that I actually bought it for – raspberry buttercream.

raspberry powder

If I’m making fruit flavoured buttercream like lemon or strawberry then usually I would use natural extract but although the buttercream has always turned out delicious there is an almost undetectable aftertaste. Using fresh fruit doesn’t quite work for me as it can sometimes be a bit lumpy, I’m not a big fan of picking lemon zest out of my teeth and fruit puree can be a bit wet.

Chocolate and Raspberry Valentine Biscuits

These freeze-dried powders though are brilliant. Just a little dab of the raspberry powder tastes of pure zingy unadulterated fruit, I just used a tablespoon of it in a bog-standard butter and icing sugar buttercream and it livened it up immeasurably. Not to mention it paired like a dream with these intensely cocoa packed biscuits.

In fact these biscuits turned out even better than expected. They didn’t quite have the polished look I was aiming for but all was forgiven as soon as I ate one, then another, then another and I didn’t even make them for me so it’s just as well I made a whole bunch.

Chocolate and Raspberry Valentine Biscuits

The chocolate biscuits were an easy-to-come-together mix just chucked into my Kitchenaid for it to do all the heavy lifting. I added a bit of cornflour to the mix so that the finished biscuit was softer and not too crisp so they melted wondrously into the filling of buttercream sandwiching the two biscuits together.

I had two different heart shaped cutters and cut out an even number of large hearts, then for half of the hearts I cut out a mini heart from the inside. The biscuits only took just under five minutes in the oven as I had rolled out the dough super thin. Then once the biscuits were cooled, which again hardly took any time at all, I smeared a thin layer of buttercream on the whole hearts then stuck the holey hearts on top so the buttercream could peek through.

Chocolate and Raspberry Valentine Biscuits

By all means make these for your Valentine, they will love you even more. However, it is an equally good idea to just make these for yourself, after all I think we all need to love ourselves a little bit more from time to time.

Chocolate and Raspberry Valentine Biscuits
Makes about 26 biscuits

175g butter
175g caster sugar
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
175g plain flour
25g cornflour
50g cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt

For the buttercream:
225g butter
225g icing sugar
1 tablespoon freeze-dried raspberry powder
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

  1. Cream the butter and sugar until light but don’t overmix otherwise it will make the biscuits too crumbly.
  2. Add the egg yolks and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
  3. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, cornflour, cocoa powder and salt then add to the rest of the mixture and mix until it all comes together into a dough.
  4. Wrap in greaseproof paper and rest in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
  6. Roll the dough out to about a 3-5mm thickness then cut out an even number of hearts, re-rolling and cutting out more hearts until all the dough has been used up.
  7. Then for half of the hearts cut out a mini heart shape from the inside.
  8. Bake the biscuits in batches on non-stick baking trays for 4-5 minutes, then once removed from the oven leave to cool for 5 minutes on the tray. Remove from the tray and finish cooling on racks.
  9. Meanwhile prepare the buttercream by creaming together the butter and icing sugar for 5-10 minutes until incredibly light and fluffy.
  10. Add the raspberry powder, vanilla extract and salt and mix until combined.
  11. Once the biscuits have cooled smear some buttercream evenly on the top of the whole hearts then place the holey hearts on top to create sandwiches. Repeat with the rest of the biscuits.

Chocolate and Gingerbread Five-Spice Tarts

Chocolate and Gingerbread Five Spice Tarts
In my mind it’s definitely worth starting to think about our festive menus roundabout now, especially if you are going to be inundated with work commitments, parties to attend and then slotting in dates with friends and family. November and December are most people’s very busy months and there is nothing wrong with getting ahead. Of course it helps that I’ve started listening to my Christmas playlist again on Spotify this week so I’m already well involved with the season. At Sainsburys earlier in the week I also couldn’t help but start throwing into my trolley the odd packet of Carr’s Table Biscuits (they always sell out in December) and then the Cheese Footballs that my mum loves to snack on Christmas Day. I remember this is the sort of behaviour that I used to admonish my grandmother for doing; buying birthday cards six months early and making sure she had all her Chrismas Day trifle ingredients by Halloween. Now, I’ve found myself following in her tradition. It’s a dangerous road though, as I’ve already eaten the Cheese Footballs, so they are going to have to go back on the shopping list for a start.

Chocolate and Gingerbread Five Spice Tarts

I’ll never regret planning my menus early though and these tarts will definitely feature somewhere in the mix. I have wanted to do something with chocolate and five-spice for a while. Would it be ice cream? Would it be truffles? Or even cookies? I couldn’t quite decide and then I made some gingerbread biscuits last week for my cake stall and produced far more dough than I needed. It sat in the fridge for a couple of days as I couldn’t quite be bothered to make anymore biscuits.

Chocolate and Gingerbread Five Spice Tarts

Suddenly out of nowhere I decided to mould the dough into tart shells, and blind bake them. Before I knew it I was concocting some chocolate ganache infused with five-spice and pouring it into my tart shells. The five-spice powder complements the ginger in the tart shell so perfectly. It’s a lovely warming chocolate tart, perfect for this time of year and since the chocolate filling is a no-bake recipe then it really is so simple to put together.

I was thinking how lovely this would be to serve as a dessert with a dollop of crème fraiche over the festive season and like any good dessert it can happily be made a day or so in advance with minimal effort which means you can focus your last minute panicking for events happening out of the kitchen.

Chocolate and Gingerbread Five Spice Tarts

Chocolate Gingerbread Five-Spice Tarts

Makes 8

350g plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
100g unsalted butter, cubed
125g dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon golden syrup
2 tablespoon treacle
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
200ml whipping cream
1 tablespoon light muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon chinese five-spice powder
100g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and grease 8 x 8cm round tart tins.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and ground ginger.
  3. Rub the butter into the flour mix with your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the sugar and mix well.
  5. Warm the golden syrup and treacle slightly in a saucepan to make it runny and easier to use then pour into the rest of the ingredients with the eggs.
  6. Bring the dough together with your hands until it is a nice smooth ball.
  7. Place in the fridge for 1 hour to chill.
  8. Roll the dough out to 2-3mm thickness and line the dough into your tart tins. Fill the tart shells with baking beans then place in the oven and blind bake for 10 minutes.
  9. Remove the baking beans and continue baking for another 5 minutes. Then remove from the oven leave for 15 minutes before removing from the tins and leaving to cool.
  10. For the filling heat the whipping cream with the muscovado sugar and five-spice powder until just below boiling point. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 1 minute so it doesn’t scorch the chocolate.
  11. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir together until all the chocolate has melted and formed a thick ganache with the cream.
  12. Spoon the ganache into the tart shells and place in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours until the chocolate ganache has set.
  13. Decorate with gold leaf and bring up to room temperature to serve.

Fleur de Sel and Olive Oil Chocolate Truffles

Fleur de Sel and Olive Oil Truffles

Last night I had the joy of addressing all of my lovely fellow members of Stroud Green Women’s Institute about one of my favourite subjects – chocolate.

I was thrilled to be able to talk about how to make the perfect truffle, a subject for which I may be no expert but I certainly make up for it in enthusiasm. The most important aspect to making a good truffle is perfecting the ganache, which is the whipped filling inside a chocolate truffle, but can also be used as icing to adorn a glorious fudge cake. Ganache is made up of chocolate mixed together with a liquid ingredient, and the most common pairing is with cream. 250g of melted dark chocolate + 250ml double cream is the easiest ganache in the world to make. Just pop it in the fridge after you have mixed them together so they can firm up a little which will make it easier to ice your cake or roll them into truffles. You don’t have to use cream in a ganache though or even dairy at all. You can make the most delicious ganache with all sorts of liquid added to the melted chocolate – fruit puree, tea, coffee, hot water infused with fresh mint. The choice is endless and that is the fun of making your own chocolate truffles.

Fleur de Sel and Olive Oil Truffles

The ganache is only half the story though with truffle making. It’s true that you can happily roll stiffened ganache into balls and then coat them in cocoa powder, sprinkles or spices, or even crushed biscuits to finish off a deliciously quick truffle. However, the truffle really comes alive when it is dipped into silky tempered chocolate. The truffle is then left for the tempered chocolate to harden around its soft centre. I have written a post about tempering chocolate here so if you are unsure of what the hell I’m talking about then this is the place to go.

The evening at the WI came together really well and we all got down and dirty with chocolate. We learnt all about where chocolate comes from, how it is made, all the various kinds of chocolate you can buy, what their cocoa percentages mean and most importantly what they all taste like. Getting everyone to taste the Valrhona’s Dulcey chocolate which I was experimenting with earlier this year, was particularly fun with the consensus being that it was just expensive Caramac.

Then we came to the truffle making. I have a few ganache recipes up my sleeve that I have kept meaning to write about, then every time I go to blog about them, somehow they never make it to the picture stage. My most favourite of which is my fleur de sel and olive oil truffles. Guys – it’s happening today. These truffles have been doing the rounds with my friends and family for months now and I have had the best comments from these truffles than anything I have ever made. Those that have been asking for the recipe and to which I have assured them that it will be on the blog soon can breathe a sigh of relief that the day has finally come, then hopefully rush off a whip up a batch.

Fleur de Sel and Olive Oil Truffles

In fact I have made this ganache so many times that it has even been transported from the truffle stage and adapted for use in my favourite cake. Don’t worry, the cake will come in time. Now you will just have to be placated by the glorious truffle version, which is the unadulterated way to eat this most divine of chocolates.

Fleur de Sel is just another word really for fancy salt. It hails most typically from Brittany where the salt crystals which lie on the rocks are left for the water to evaporate out, the top layer of salt crystals are then scraped off the top to become fleur de sel. It’s easy to get hold of online but if you don’t want to wait for the postman then a good sea salt like maldon can be used instead, just not table salt – it wouldn’t be nice. The olive oil to use here should also be the good stuff and I save my best extra virgin olive oil for this very job. The olive oil is used for flavour here rather than anything else and it really does matter that you splash out a bit on this part. I get my fancy olive oil from The Italian Farmers on Stroud Green Road, a bottle of 750ml can cost about £9 but it’s worth it when you try these truffles and you only need a little so it will last an age. The first time I had the combination of chocolate, sea salt and olive oil was at a tapas restaurant in Barcelona many years ago. I don’t remember anything else about that meal but the memory of that sweet, salty, fruity intense combination was one of the most arresting food experiences of my life.

Fleur de Sel and Olive Oil Truffles

The fact that it takes about 10 minutes to knock the ingredients together for this truffle then 10 minutes to roll them out is just a boon. I went the extra haul here though and wrapped them in a snappy tempered chocolate coat and sprinkled a few fleur de sel crystals on top. That crisp shell really is worth the extra effort for the texture contrast between the initial crack of chocolate between your teeth, then the rich velvety chocolate oozing with the fruity notes of olive oil and pep of salt which rests within. The ladies in the class who dipped their truffles in the tempered chocolate definitely noted the difference and how it transforms an everyday chocolate that you make in your kitchen to something a little more professional.

Having said all of that, if you don’t have time to temper the chocolate then you should by no means hold back on making the ganache and then coating them simply in cocoa powder, or even chocolate sprinkles. Believe me, they will go down with your recipients just as well.

So after having spent the past few days making copious amounts of this ganache for my chocolate masterclass, it came to my blog post today when I really wanted to talk about my fleur de sel and olive oil truffles and guess what, I still didn’t have any to photograph – they had all been eaten. So what’s a girl to do but make more. This time these truffles are all for you, no one is touching them before you get to see them. Although I can’t promise what will happen as soon as these photos are taken.

Fleur de Sel and Olive Oil Chocolate Truffles

Makes about 30 truffles

320g dark chocolate
1 tsp fleur de sel
270g whipping cream
2 tsp light muscovado sugar
60g extra virgin olive oil
500g tempered chocolate or 60g cocoa powder
extra fleur de sel for decorating

  1. Chop the dark chocolate into small pieces, put into a large bowl with the fleur de sel and set aside.
  2. Pour the cream and sugar into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Stir through to make sure all the sugar is dissolved. Rest for 1 minute so as not to scorch the chocolate.
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate pieces and salt and stir together so the chocolate melts completely into the cream and turns thick and glossy.
  4. Slowly pour the olive oil into the chocolate ganache, mixing all the while to ensure the oil is completely absorbed into the chocolate.
  5. Rest the ganache in the fridge for 1 hour.
  6. Remove the ganache from the fridge and shape your truffles by rolling into little balls in your hands. Each truffle should weigh about 18g so you should be able to produce about 30 truffles.
  7. At this point you can either dust the truffles in cocoa powder or you can coat with tempered chocolate.

Blackberry, Soplica and Chocolate Pie

Blackberry Soplica and Chocolate Pie
This recipe pretty much sums up everything we have been eating this past week, mainly blackberries coupled with ice cold shots of Soplica direct from the freezer. Soplica is a Polish vodka that has been around since 1891, although in our freezer it’s only been around for a week and already we are draining the dregs from it. It was a present from someone who obviously knows us too well. You can get it in a number of different flavours but the one we have is hazelnut. The flavour is so pure, smooth and intense with nuttiness that we swooned at the first sip but it is quite different from Frangelico, the Italian hazelnut liqueur which is heavier. The Soplica just feels a little more summery. Although you could happily substitute Frangelico in this recipe without feeling the loss.

Blackberry Soplica and Chocolate Pie  |  Stroud Green Larder

Every year we are inundated with blackberries, there are bushes and bushes bursting with shiny blackberries all over Parkland Walk and throughout Stroud Green and I can’t walk past a glorious hedgerow plump with fruit without pulling out a bag from my pocket and filling it up there and then. My husband is the same and it seems whenever we take the puppy for a walk, together or individually, then inevitably we will return with a bag overflowing with the precious bramble treat. The past two weeks I have been churning through blackberry recipes like a demon, I have made jams, jellies, chutneys, vodkas, gins and a few favourite ones which I am going to share this week. That’s right, this week is Blackberry Week on Stroud Green Larder. Like Shark Week but less toothy and more sugary.

Blackberry Soplica and Chocolate Pie  |  Stroud Green Larder

Blackberry Soplica and Chocolate Pie  |  Stroud Green Larder

I have been craving pie for some weeks and I love to fill a pie with beautiful colours which is why the blackberries jumped right in. Lattice topped pies work well in the summer months as the pastry doesn’t overwhelm plus it’s always tempting to see the glossy filling straining at the seams. Although I have come to realise that I am simply rubbish at lattice tops. It doesn’t matter how many I have done in the past or how often I watch Paul Hollywood for tips on the best way to construct it, I manage to bugger it up every time. I must have spent about half an hour carefully plaiting this little number; over and under, over and under and yes it did look a little skewiff but it was better than usual. Or so I thought until I was cutting myself a nice big slab after the bake and I noticed that I had repeated the pattern right in the middle of the pie. How had I not noticed this? I am resolving to practice my lattice work. The Great British Bake Off is starting this week and I know my plaiting would definitely not make the grade.

Blackberry Soplica and Chocolate Pie  |  Stroud Green Larder

 

Still, is it really that important when the pie tastes so damn good? Blackberries don’t get nearly as much credit as the other berries on offer in the summer but I think they are much more versatile that the raspberry or the strawberry. The fruit you pick is often a mixture of sweet and tart and that lends such a complex level of flavour in your recipe. I didn’t include a vast amount of sugar here as the cinnamon adds sweetness and the Soplica is also very sweet but it all comes together to allow the blackberries to shine. The chocolate in the recipe comes from the pastry which is flavoured with cocoa. I always follow Richard Bertinet’s methods for pastry but here I felt I needed to add a little more sugar than he suggests to compliment the cocoa. The pie is delicious, hot, warm or cold but I do recommend eating it with a healthy dollop of clotted cream on the side and of course a little more Soplica to aid digestion.

Blackberry Soplica and Chocolate Pie  |  Stroud Green Larder

 

Blackberry, Soplica and Chocolate Pie

350g plain flour
20g cocoa
Good pinch of salt
125g unsalted butter, cold
135g caster sugar
2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
425g blackberries
75g sugar
60ml Soplica
¼ tsp cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
3 tbsp tapioca pearls
1 tbsp milk + 1 egg yolk for pastry wash

  1. First prepare the pastry by placing the flour, cocoa and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Remove the butter from the fridge and slice thinly. Add to the mixing bowl and rub it into the flour and cocoa with your fingertips until it has formed rough breadcrumbs.
  3. Tip in the caster sugar and mix in, then add the eggs and yolk and bring it all together into a dough, tipping out onto your work surface to finish the job.
  4. Weigh out 2/3 of the dough, pat into a circle then wrap in cling film. Wrap the other 1/3 in separate cling film and place both dough circles into the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
  5. Roll out the larger piece of dough into a large enough round to fit a 24cm round pie plate. Lay the pastry onto the plate and trim the edges. Place back in the fridge. Remove the smaller piece of dough from the fridge and roll out to about the thickness of a pound coin. Slice the dough into even strips, then arrange them in a lattice onto a plate. Place the plate in the fridge to chill.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C.
  7. Now you can make the filling. Place all of the blackberries into a saucepan with a splash of water, the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Heat gently until the blackberries have completely softened and turned into a puree.
  8. Remove from the heat then add the Soplica and tapioca pearls. Stir in until the tapioca pearls have begun to absorb the liquid from the blackberries and the Soplica has mixed in.
  9. Remove the pastry case and the lattice from the fridge. Pour the blackberry filling into the pastry case and then tip the lattice on top of the pie. Press down the edges of the pastry together.
  10. Mix together the milk and egg yolk then brush over the top of the lattice evenly.
  11. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes when the pastry will be crisp and the blackberries bubbling up from within.
  12. Serve warm with cold clotted cream.

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars

If there is one thing I’ve learned from hosting several cake stalls both for WI and personally, it is that chocolate sells.

These Nutella Fudge Oat Bars were no exception when I ran our WI stall at Hornsey Music Festival last weekend. Halfway through the morning when sales were beginning to lag a taster of these Nutella bars were set free amongst the masses, and we sat back in wonder as their fudgey oatiness did their work and brought in the crowd. It was noticeable that the eyes of the children picking over what to have on the stall lit up as soon as they spied the Nutella. I’ve a confession to make, so did mine. Out of all the delights on the cake stall, including victoria sponges, ginger parkin, cupcakes and lemon cakes it was one of these Nutella bars which I saved for myself as a treat on the way home.

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars | Stroud Green Larder

Did you know Nutella is having a bit of a resurgence? It’s 50 years old this year but she isn’t showing any signs of age. According to the BBC, a nutty 365 million kilos were sold last year. Sales are increasing every year and Pinterest and Instagram are prolific with thousands of ways to incorporate this chocolate spread into your baking.

When I was 13 I spent a term in France with my school, and my overriding food memory, aside from being force fed vegetable ‘potage’ every day, was spreading lashings of Nutella over my fresh croissants in the morning. I don’t think I really ate it before then and I’m not sure if I’ve particularly eaten it since, but that doesn’t mean that Nutella isn’t intrinsically now part of my food heritage thanks to those three months mainlining it at a particularly impressionable part of my life.

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars | Stroud Green Larder

Oats make even the most indulgent of treats feel like you are being kind to yourself and this is no exception. It’s an adapted version of these Bramley Apple and Cranberry Oat Bars I made earlier this year but I amped up the oaty mixture as a counterpoint to the creamy chocolate interior. I added extra chocolate to the Nutella to temper down the sweetness and amp up the chocolate factor, it worked without losing any of its innate Nutelleriness. A substantial amount of oat mixture is pressed into the base of the baking tin, then the fudgey middle spooned thickly on top. Instead of crumbling the rest of the oat mixture on the final layer, I made sure it completely covered the oozing chocolate to protect it and hold it all together. It crisped up deliciously in the oven and if you leave it to cool in the tin it is a dream to cut. It went down extremely well at the cake stall with children and this adult in particular.

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars | Stroud Green Larder

Nutella Fudge Oat Bars

300g butter, at room temperature
275g plain flour
200g rolled oats
300g soft light brown sugar, sifted
1½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
200g Nutella
80g dark chocolate
75ml evaporated milk
pinch of salt

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C and grease a rectangular baking tin 9” x 13”.
  2. In a large mixing bowl add the butter, flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and salt and rub together with your hands until everything has come together to form a light dough.
  3. Press ½ the dough into the base of the baking tin to form an even layer.
  4. Melt the chocolate, Nutella and evaporated milk together in a double boiler, mixing together until thoroughly combined.
  5. Spread the Nutella chocolate mixture on top of the first layer of dough.
  6. Crumble the rest of the dough on the top and press down lightly into the chocolate, don’t worry too much about it spreading out evenly.
  7. Bake in the oven for 25-30 mins until the top is golden brown.
  8. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for an hour or so before removing from the tin and cutting into bars.

Chocolate, Banana and Peanut Brittle Tiffin Cake

Chocolate Banana and Peanut Brittle Tiffin Cake
A tiffin cake is never something I go about sourcing ingredients for deliberately. For me, the tiffin is a method of finishing my half packets of biscuits which lie about my cupboards, or finally using the very aromatic bananas which are on their last legs in the fruit bowl. The leftover peanut brittle which I made for my crunchy nut cornflake choc ices also needs to go somewhere that isn’t directly into my stomach whilst I’m waiting for the kettle to boil. Then a few dates which have been languishing in a jar probably since Christmas but still moist enough to provide a good chew to the cake are also included.

Chocolate Banana and Peanut Brittle Tiffin Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

However, do not throw ingredients into your tiffin willy nilly. The beauty of a throw together dish, whether it’s in baking or cooking a quick supper after work is knowing when you should leave something out. Just because I also had half a packet of marshmallows, some sweetened cranberries which are begging for a home and some pretzels which have been outright taunting me from their half eaten packet doesn’t mean they should all go in as well. Be selective and purposeful and then you will find that your cobbled together garbage cake assumes its own identity.

Chocolate Banana and Peanut Brittle Tiffin Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

Due to the bananas the cake is much softer than a regular tiffin cake so be gentle when slicing. I used milk chocolate for the cake as that is what I had to hand but if I were to make it again I would probably go for half milk and half dark chocolate to add more intensity of flavour and reduce the sweetness. Usually I am an advocate with more is more when it comes to cake, but here, you want to be thinking less. Just a slither of the cake will be deliciously ample, if you over indulge you won’t be thanking me an hour later. This cake is richie rich.

Chocolate Banana and Peanut Brittle Tiffin Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

Although the serving suggestion I most recommend is to place the cake in the freezer for a couple of hours; it will emerge as a deliciously cool easy to slice dessert which will happily pair with freshly picked raspberries after a long lazy Saturday barbecue.

Chocolate Banana and Peanut Brittle Tiffin Cake  |  Stroud Green Larder

Chocolate, Banana and Peanut Brittle Tiffin Cake

400g chocolate – milk or dark or a mixture of both
2 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
200g Lotus Biscoff Biscuits
175g peanut brittle, roughly chopped
50g dates, de-stoned and roughly chopped
A good pinch of sea salt

  1. Melt the chocolate in a large bain marie set over simmering water.
  2. Turn the heat off the water but do not take the chocolate off the bain marie, you want it kept smooth and melty whilst you are adding the other ingredients.
  3. Add the bananas first and mix in thoroughly to make sure they are well incorporated.
  4. Crush the Lotus Biscoff biscuits roughly with a rolling pin, so that some biscuits are obliterated and some are left quite lumpy to give the cake good texture. Then stir them in.
  5. Finally add in the peanut brittle, dates and the salt, mixing everything together so it’s all turned into a lovely chocolatey cake batter.
  6. Resist spooning the mixture into your mouth and pour into an 18cm, baking parchment lined, springform round cake tin. Smooth the top and cover with tin foil.
  7. Leave in the fridge overnight to set and chill before carefully removing from the cake tin and serving immediately. This is best served cold.