This month’s We Should Cocoa challenge, in which tea is the special guest star ingredient, had me really stumped. I could only look on in awe as other bloggers created incredible cakes and puddings and was just about ready to throw in the towel altogether.
In a last-ditch effort, I idly Googled ‘tea and chocolate’ and somehow ended up at a site advertising chocolate and green tea face masks. Now, we all know chocolate makes us more beautiful thanks to its powerful antioxidants and green tea is often heralded for its detoxifying properties, but did you ever think of mixing them together and slapping them on your face?
While I was playing around with a homemade version – mixing a bit of green tea that I’d smashed to bits with a mortar and pestle with cocoa and a spoonful of manuka honey (also good for the skin) – it occurred to me that this trio could also make a delicious drink. In the time it took the kettle to boil I’d spread half the chocolatey goo on my face and scooped the remainder into a tea cup. I’m not sure that it made me any more beautiful but my skin did feel nice afterwards – and the chocolatea was delicious.
We drink buckets of peppermint tea at our house and so a peppermint version was the logical next step. I didn’t spread this one on my face (there’s only so much beautifying a Kitchenmaid can take in a day), but the tea smelled and tasted like a liquid After Dinner Mint. If I could distill this into a perfume I reckon I’d make a, err, mint…
Beautiful Chocolate Honey Tea
If you’d prefer to spread this on your face than drink it, here are a few handy hints. Use green or peppermint tea from a teabag (or matcha tea powder, if you’re posh) to save yourself the trouble of grinding up leaves in a mortar and pestle. Otherwise you’ll end up with scratchy twiggy bits on your face, which will be rather more exfoliating than you may like. Just mix the cocoa, tea and honey into a paste (add a drop of olive oil if it seems too thick), spread it on your face and lie down for 10 minutes. Wash off gently with a facecloth.
2tsp green or peppermint tea (about a teabag or two’s worth)
Put all ingredients in a fine china cup and mix to a paste. Add just-boiled water and stir briskly. Sit and drink while thinking beautiful thoughts.
I’m in two minds about this post. January’s We Should Cocoa challenge is to make something using something leftover from the orgiastic Christmas food fest. I was at a bit of a loss – we’ve eaten all the good stuff – then I spied the box of Weetbix I’d bought a few months ago in a bid to reintroduce them to the Small Girl. She wasn’t keen (and as I detest Weetbix too, I couldn’t find it in my heart to insist she ate them). I’ve been surreptiously crumbling them into muesli occasionally but the box has been sitting there, annoying me.
The internet, or at least those creepy lobotomised Mum forums, is full of recipes for Weetbix slices so I bit the bullet and chose one. I tweaked it a bit to suit our cupboards but it’s not my finest creation by any means, which is why I wasn’t sure about posting it here. I think my real problem is that it tastes like the sort of thing that the women’s mags perkily say that busy, frazzled housewives are supposed to make – and while it’s slowly dawning on me that I AM a busy, frazzled housewife, I’d rather comfort-eat bread and butter than this kind of thing. So while I have an existential crisis about my place in the world, see what you think of this…
Chocolate Weetbix Slice
This is quick, easy and uses up a few dreaded Weetbix. If you can, make this with some raisins or dried fruit tossed in. It’ll be really boring otherwise.
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1tsp vanilla essence
2 Tbsp cocoa
1 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup raisins (or other dried fruit)
3/4 cup shredded coconut
3/4 cup crushed Weetbix (2-3)
1 cup icing sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/2tsp vanilla essence
Preheat oven to 160c and line a slice tin with baking paper (leave an overhang so you can lift the whole thing out afterwards).
Melt the butter in a large pot, let cool briefly, then throw in all the other ingredients and mix well. Press firmly into the prepared tin and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool completely.
For the icing, sift the cocoa and icing sugar into a bowl, then add the vanilla and milk. Add a bit more milk if it’s not runny enough. Spread over the slice and cut when set. Drop it off at a coffee morning for exhausted mothers.
I’m writing this in a state of great frustration. Somewhere, tucked into one of my cookbooks or boxes of cut-out recipes and other things that might be useful one day, is a recipe for a chocolate chip and banana semi-freddo. I want to find this recipe for two reasons – one, our kitchen is full of extremely ripe bananas; and two; I really want to make it for January’s We Should Cocoa challenge.
In my professional life I am extremely organised. At home, well, not so much. But then again, I have just realised I have something like 75 cookbooks, a secret stash of food mags (seriously culled), two boxes of printed or cut-out recipes and various notebooks. It’s not unusual to pull a novel off our shelves and discover a recipe tucked inside (often written in shorthand on the back of a gas bill). I’m forever finding stray recipes in various email folders, a bit like finding dollar coins under the sofa cushions, and have zillions of bookmarks.
So my chances of finding this recipe are slim, to say the least. Perhaps instead I should devote myself to developing a more organised system. How do you manage your recipe collection? All tips (especially if they include a recipe for a chocolate chip and banana semifreddo) very welcome…
Do you know how hard it is to get a babysitter at this time of year? Trust me, it’s more difficult than getting your hands on the latest Marc Jacobs handbag or sending all your Christmas cards on time. It’s been touch and go, but The Boy Wonder and I are off to a Christmas bash on Saturday night, thanks to dearest Sally stepping into the breach. I’ve promised her dinner, wine, season six of Peep Show, and a shopping mission on Sunday in return. The cherry on top is a box of this dreamy fudge – which also doubles as my entry in this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge.
Without a doubt, this is the easiest thing I have made all year. It requires about as much effort as making a cup of tea or opening a bottle of wine. In fact, with just three ingredients and a little bit of melting involved, you can probably make it while you’re boiling the kettle or looking for the corkscrew. The hard thing is knowing when to stop eating it…
Dreamy Date Truffle Fudge
250g dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa), roughly chopped
1/2 cup date syrup
1 cup peanut butter
Put all ingredients in a pot and melt together over low heat. Stir well, then pour into a lined dish. Smooth the top (put another piece of baking paper over the top of the mixture and smooth with your hand for the neatest result). Let cool for 10 minutes, then put in the fridge to set (about 20-30 minutes). Turn out and cut into squares. Dust with cocoa if the mood takes you, then pack into a pretty box. Store in the fridge.
Do you have a sweet treat for the end of the week? Post a link here to spread the sweetness of Fridays…
This week’s sugar high also doubles as my entry in November’s We Should Cocoa challenge, run by the beautiful and talented Chele and Choclette. If you’ve got a thing for chocolate, you should join in too. Every month these two set a recipe challenge, for something involving chocolate and a special guest ingredient. You can see the results of October’s challenge here, but don’t linger too long or your thighs might start expanding before your very eyes.
This month’s celebrity guest ingredient is caramel – which was music to my ears because whenever I ask the Boy Wonder if he has any special requests on the baking front, he invariably asks for these sticky, gooey, caramelly bars.
Chocolate Caramel Bars
These are a sort of deconstructed millionaire’s shortbread, with a crisp, buttery bottom, a gooey caramel middle studded with nuggets of dark chocolate and a crunchy top. Absolute decadence!
225g plain flour
60g desiccated coconut
85g caster sugar
1 tin condensed milk
2 generous Tbsp golden syrup
80g dark chocolate, roughly chopped
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a slice tin with baking paper. Leave a generous overhang – this allows you to lift the whole slab out of the tin when it’s cooked and saves on difficult washing up.
Put the flour, coconut and sugar into a bowl and stir to mix, then rub in the butter. I find the easiest way to do this is to grate it in. You can also do this in a food processor if you’re so inclined. You want a mixture that clumps together rather than a smooth dough.
Press two-thirds of this mixture into the prepared tin and put it in the fridge while you prepare the topping. Set the remainder mixture aside.
For the topping, put the condensed milk, golden syrup and butter in a small pot and heat gently until melted. Cook for a few minutes more, just until it starts to catch on the bottom and turns a lovely golden colour. DO NOT leave it unattended – the consequences are terrible (and then you have to go out and buy more condensed milk). Pour this mixture over the prepared base, then sprinkle over the chocolate and the reserved base. Bake for around 30 minutes, until the house is filled with delectable aromas. Leave it in the tin to cool, then cut into bars.
Do you have a favourite end of the week baking treat? Link in to spread the sweetness of Fridays…