We Should Cocoa – June 2012

After the exhaustion success of the Small Girl’s birthday bash last weekend I’m now taking it upon myself to host a month-long party involving chocolate and coffee and a bunch of people I’ve never met. Do you want to join in?

Choclette, who I imagine as a kind of chocolate Wikipedia, has asked me to host the June edition of We Should Cocoa, a monthly blogging challenge in which participants work their culinary magic on recipes involving chocolate and a special guest ingredient.

I have a special soft spot (also known as an especially soft middle section) for WSC, not just due to the chocolate factor but also because I’ve found so many lovely blogs (and recipes) through it.

So, without any further ado, I declare the June challenge open – and the special guest ingredient this month is… COFFEE.

Whether you fancy an iced coffee or a moccachino, a chocolate flecked coffee granita or a spongy coffee-laced steamed pud, this challenge should have something for everyone. Taking part is easy. The full rules of engagement are here – but essentially all you need to do is make something involving coffee and chocolate, write about it on your blog (including a link to this post, and to the blogs of the We Should Cocoa founders, Choclette and Chele). Then, come back and add your post to the linky thing below. Tweet me when you’re done (using the tag #weshouldcocoa), if Twitter is your thing, and I’ll spread the word.

Mary Mathis’ Chocolate Biscuits
Mary might have a fancier name for these but this is what they were called in Mum’s recipe book. Mary is an amazing woman who, along with my sister-in-law Jenny, revolutionised the culinary landscape of Atiamuri in the 1980s and 90s. This is just one of her excellent recipes,  reproduced here with her kind permission.

This recipe uses instant coffee – oh the shame of it! – use espresso grounds if you like but be aware they will leave a gritty residue in the biscuit (which is ok, if you like that sort of thing). Use either dark or white chocolate in the middle – this is not the time to be sitting on the fence with that vile milk stuff.

125g soft butter
125g sugar
2 tsp instant coffee, dissolved in 1tsp hot water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
20 squares good quality chocolate (plus a few more, if you think  you might get peckish)

Preheat the oven to 170C and line a baking tray.
Cream the butter and sugar together until soft and fluffy. Beat in the coffee and vanilla, then sift over the dry ingredients. Mix to a soft dough. Take small spoonfuls of the mixture and roll into balls.
Place the balls on the prepared tray and press down lightly, then top each one with a square of chocolate. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden. Leave to cool for five minutes, then let cool completely on a rack. Makes 18-20.

Have a great weekend, everyone x

Angel Food Cake Supreme

Since the Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book is often required bedtime reading in this house, I was quite worried that the Small Girl would choose something like a helicopter or castle for her birthday cake. Mercifully, she wanted a “pink cake with ballerinas on it”, which was much, much easier to produce.

Angel Food Cake Supreme
My mother once had a recipe booklet, dating back to the 1960s, called ‘New American Recipes’. I remember reading it as a child and her explaining to me how angel food cake was such an American delicacy and how tricky it was to make. I don’t know where her copy got to but I nearly wept last year when I found one in a charity shop. I thought of Mum often while I made the cake in the weekend, wishing she was here to see it in all its fluffy, pink-iced glory.

I made this cake in a special angel food cake tin my sister found in a charity shop (and kindly donated to the cause). If you don’t have one, use a deep, 25-30cm ring tin. Mum had a square ring tin – that is to say, a square tin with a hole bit in the middle – which I remember she used when making this cake, but I’ve never seen anything like it elsewhere. The most important thing, whatever tin you use, is not to grease it. The batter needs to climb up the sides of the tin and greasing it will be akin to oiling a hill and then expecting your car to drive up it.

This is the first recipe in ‘New American Recipes’, which makes it my entry for this month’s Random Recipes challenge, in which you must select a book at random and make the first (or last) recipe from it.

110g sifted flour
25g cornflour
1/2 tsp baking powder
185g caster sugar
170g caster sugar
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 10-12)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond essence

Preheat the oven to 175C.
Sift the flour, cornflour, baking powder and first measure (185g) of caster sugar together THREE times. Set aside.
Put the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar into a large bowl and beat with an electric beater (or in a freestanding mixer) until foamy. Gradually add the second measure (170g) of sugar, two tablespoons at a time, until the mixture is meringue-like and holds stiff peaks. Fold in the vanilla and almond essence.
Sift the dry ingredients over the meringue and fold in as gently as you can until just mixed. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin. Cut through the mixture with a knife to release any air bubbles.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until the cake springs back when touched. Invert over a rack and let hang until cold, then remove from the tin.
I iced my cake with raspberry meringue buttercream – the making of which was FAR more stressful than the making of this lovely cake – but you are limited only by your imagination (and the demands of the cake’s recipient).

Do you have a copy of New American Recipes? Have you ever made any of its dazzling recipes?

Nil by mouth

It has been a week of intense food and wine activity here – and I have nothing to show for it.

Image via here

Two extravagant restaurant dinners, three sets of rather-better-than usual dinners at home, a lot of breadmaking (perfecting a poolish recipe I found on t’interweb), a bit of baking, a fair amount of “I think I will have another glass of wine” and a champagne truffle in bed on Mother’s Day.

For once in my life I am beginning to see the appeal of the lemon detox diet. I want water, crunchy apples and brown rice. I’ll just finish off that lime curd and whipped cream on my porridge this morning first…

What’s your favourite way to recover from a week of feasting?

An Easter of Eating

This was my Easter, or at least the bits I photographed.
Most of the time I was too busy – eating, standing at the kitchen sink, having a cup of tea, drinking a glass of wine, laughing – to take photos.
So you’ll just have to imagine the baked flounder with caper butter, the creme caramel, the Piedmontese peppers, the passionfruit cream biscuits and the Lebanese doughnuts with citrus syrup – or at least take my word for it that it was a great holiday. When’s the next one?

The Easter Table

Dan Lepard’s Spiced Stout Hot Cross Buns

Beetroot Gravadlax with Dill Creme Fraiche

The kitchen whizzes
Tamasin Day-Lewis’ Chocolate Espresso Cake

What did the Easter Bunny bring?

I think we will be eating a lot of green vegetables and very little chocolate this week.

How was your Easter?

Sweet sweet Friday: Walnut Surprises

My niece says you should never pass up a social engagement because you never know what you might get out of it. Last year, bearing this in mind, my sister and I reluctantly allowed the Boy Wonder to drag us to a party. Let me be clear: this was a party with a small ‘p’. There was a rugby game on the TV, around which most of the action was gathered, and a strong gender split in the manner of ‘ladies, a plate’. The men of the group gathered around the television, shouting encouragement, while the women sat at a table and talked about people they knew and how much their husbands earned.
I didn’t know any of them, except the hostess, and my sister, who had arrived the day before from Taiwan, was immediately persona non grata to this coven. They were suspicious because she revealed she had spent a few years living in this particular town, and I could see their brains working furiously to work out her age and how it was she was “from Taiwan” yet didn’t look Chinese. My sister, who is charm itself, bravely smiled through the whole ordeal, including being chatted up by the host (at which point the hostess couldn’t get us out the door fast enough).
Anyway, the highlight for me, apart from laughing our heads off all the way home, was the plate of chewy, sticky date balls that someone had brought as their ‘plate’ for the evening. It’s taken me a while to track down the recipe, but it proves my niece was right (even though my sister will never go to a party with me again).

Walnut Surprises
I’ve searched high and low for this recipe, finally finding something like it in an ancient Annabel Langbein. The original is very, very sweet – including the nuts makes it a little more sophisticated. If you don’t like walnuts, try pieces of crystallised ginger instead.

150g butter
1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
250g dates, finely chopped
1tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 egg, beaten
3 cups rice bubbles
about 24 walnut halves
Coconut, sesame seeds or chopped walnuts, to roll the balls in.

Put the butter, sugar, dates, vanilla, salt and ginger in a large pot and bring to the boil. Let simmer for three minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and let cool for a minute or two, then add the rice bubbles and the beaten egg. Stir well. As soon as it’s cool enough to touch (wear gloves, if you’re very sensitive), take small amounts of the mixture and shape into balls around a walnut half. Roll in coconut, sesame seeds or chopped walnuts, then put in the fridge to set. Makes 24.

Are you a party person? What’s the worst one you’ve ever been to? Have a sweet, sweet weekend everyone, whether there is a party involved or not x