I stayed up until 3am last Sunday morning. GASP!!! For anyone who knows me, this is quite an achievement. I usually get to about 10.30pm on an evening out and start yawning, then by 11pm I’ve firmly got my going home hat on, and that’s it, the night over. But on Saturday I was having such a great time that I forgot about the fact that my children would be waking up in 6 hours…5 hours…4 hours and was happy to keep going. I bet you are all wondering what I was up to. Well, hubby and I, along with 3 other couples have been taking part in our own ‘Come Dine With Me’ dinner parties. Last week we went to CDWM No: 3…and it was brilliant! The theme was ‘The Oscars’ and I just LOVED getting dressed up. Our hosts had even laid out the red carpet for our arrival, and placed a champagne saucer of pink bubbly in our hands as we walked in. I felt famous, just for a split second.
We were actually first to host a couple of months back and decided to have a Mexican themed night. I had no idea that there would be such a market for Mexican style partyware, but I was amazed at the choice. I think my favorite purchase was the inflatable cactus. The only down side being, it has no further use at all! I mean where does one store an inflatable cactus? It looked fab in our dinning room on the night though. The second CDWM had an Olympic theme which had us all dressed up in red, white or blue and taking part in various party games. Such a great night.
These evenings have been really successful so we have agreed that after the last one next month, we are all going out for a meal together over the summer and then we will be starting CDWM season 2 in the autumn. So I’ve got my thinking cap on already for themes, food and entertainment to make our next one even better than our last one.
I want to create my own dessert next time round, (for extra wow factor) so it’s with thanks to the Alphabake challenge hosted by Caroline Makes and Baking Addict and the We Should Cocoa challenge hosted this month by Laura from How to Cook Good Food and organsied by Chocolette that I have come up with a Toblerone style dessert. It contains the required almonds and chocolate for We should Cocoa, and the ‘H’ ingredient is honey for Alphabake.
I have to say that this was a complete experiment right up to the point of the finishing touches. I had imagined in my head that I would cover the cake with a ganache that would make it look more like a triangle of Toblerone, but I ended up with a chocolate sauce so went with that and I think it worked really well. The final dessert had a gorgeous stickiness to it a bit like a sticky toffee pudding, and served with the ice cream, I was in heaven.
Toblerone Inspired Dinner Party Dessert
What you need:
- 125g butter
- 125g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 115g self raising flour
- 25g cocoa
- 1 tbsp milk
- 25g toasted flaked almonds (and a few extra for decoration)
- 70g chopped nougat
- 75g milk chocolate
- 100ml double cream
- Medium sized traybake tin (mine was 27cm x 21cm) greased with the bottom lined
- Serves 8 (based on a few people having a second helping)
What to do
- Pre heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4.
- Put butter in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add sugar and beat until fully incorporated. Mixture should have a light and fluffy texture
- Gradually add eggs and honey beating after each addition. Sift in flour and cocoa and add milk then fold in with a large metal spoon
- Once the flour and cocoa is almost folded in add the nougat and almonds and gently mix in
- Pour mixture into the traybake tin, and gently smooth down. Pop in the oven for about 20 mins until a knife comes out clean
- Remove cake from the tin and cool on a rack
- Once cool, cut the cake into 6 even squares. Then cut each square diagonally to make 2 triangles. Find a rectangular shaped plate or tray and line up the triangles as in the pictures
- To make the chocolate sauce, melt the chocolate and cream together in a bowl over simmering water. Mix with a spoon to incorporate and drizzle over the cakes
- Use the reserved almonds to decorate the sides of each triangle and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream
I’ve just had a week away by the seaside with my family in Cornwall, and I have to say it is just what the doctor ordered. Nothing beats some quality family time. The best bit for me was our visits to the beach. Watching my children happily run around for hours building sand castles and paddling in the sea, whilst enjoying a little bit of sun on my face made me a very happy lady.
I loved being cooked for each night, but I did miss not being able to bake for a week, even though I suspect that it was probably good for me! So as soon as I had unpacked I got the ingredients out and started baking for this blog post. I was up for a bit of experimenting and here is the result.
I think the best way to describe these chocolate olive oil cupcakes with a goats cheese frosting is ‘bittersweet’, but in the best possible way. This applies to both the recipe and the final taste.
A contradiction in a cupcake? Not sure? Well let me reassure you. Remember that Paula Abdul song Opposites Attract? Here’s a verse to jog your memory…
“She makes the bed, and he steals the covers. She likes it neat, and he makes a mess. I take it easy, baby I get obsessed. She’s got the money, and he’s always broke I don’t like cigarettes, and I like to smoke. Things in common? Just ain’t one. But when we get together, we have nothin’ but fun.”
And here’s the video if you fancy a trip down memory lane. It’s worth a look if only for the cool little rap in the middle and Paula’s choice of fashion and break dancing attempts. I am a little bit embarrassed to say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching it, and caught myself at one point ‘bopping’ in my chair!
Ah, I loved that song! But the reason I’m talking about it is because the underlying message applies to my cupcakes. You may think that they won’t work because the ingredients are not ones that you might put together ordinarily, but these are quite possibly the best cupcakes I have ever made…and that is saying something.
The cupcake sponge is dark and moist (due to the olive oil) and has just enough sugar added to balance the dark chocolate, cocoa powder and coffee which are three of the main ingredients. These are not in any way bitter, I did not mean that literally, just far less sweet than your average sugar and butter laden cupcake. The word sophisticated comes to mind.
The goats cheese frosting is the sweet part. Both in taste and surprise. The goats cheese works well sweetened and actually makes a mighty fine frosting. Yes you do have to like the taste of goats cheese to start with, but I was genuinely impressed. It’s different, and that is partly why I like it so much.
The inspiration for these cupcakes is two fold. The first is this month’s ‘We Should Cocoa‘ blog challenge hosted by Chocolette, who shares it with Chele from Chocolate Teapot blog. Always trying to keep us on our toes, the challenge was to blog a recipe which had chocolate and cheese in it. In all honesty I did panic a bit when I read this. But in actual fact it’s not so bad, and I doubt I would have made these special little cupcakes if it had not been for the WSC challenge.
The second inspiration was from an American blog that I found whilst looking for chocolate and cheese recipes. It’s called the Vanilla Bean Blog and it is a lovely blog to visit if you have a spare 5 mins. The only problem is that all the recipes are in American cup measurements. Having converted this one I now realise what a nightmare it is. Converting cups to grams depends on what is in the cup, so it all got a bit complicated especially as I was halving the recipe too. Anyway, with a few educated guesses and an new IPad app to help me convert I was more than a little relieved to pull a beautiful set of dark moist cupcakes from my oven.
These are most certainly worth a go!
Chocolate olive oil cupcakes with a goats cheese frosting
What you will need:
- 50g dark chocolate cut into small pieces
- 175ml hot coffee (I used decaffeinated filter coffee)
- 85g cocoa powder
- 250g caster sugar
- 2 regular eggs
- 315g plain flour
- 80ml olive oil
- 180ml buttermilk
- 1/2 tsp of fine sea salt
- 1 tsp bicarb of soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp vanilla extract (I used my homemade one for the first time)
- 20 cupcake cases (I use the foil ones as they are sturdier and old their shape better)
Makes approx 20 cupcakes
Goats cheese frosting
- 30g soft unsalted butter
- 50g cream cheese
- 50g soft goats cheese (one without the rind which looks a bit like cream cheese)
- 1 tsp vanilla paste (not extract as too much liquid for the frosting then)
- 250g icing sugar (I used natural golden icing sugar which gave the frosting its caramel colour, but it would be fine to use normal icing sugar too)
- 50g chopped walnuts for decoration
How to Make:
- Preheat oven to 190c/375f/gas 5
- Put the chocolate, cocoa powder and hot coffee in a bowl together, stir and leave to melt
- In a large bowl sift together the flour, sugar, bicarb of soda, baking powder and salt. In a second bowl whisk up the eggs in an electric mixer for about 3-4 mins until light and fluffy
- Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla and melted chocolate mixture to the eggs mixing until well combined
- Then add the remainder of the dry ingredients to the mix half at a time and mix with the beater until just combined
- Fill your cupcake cases until 2/3 full. I over filled one and it took another few minutes to cook so it is worth taking your time to get this bit right
- Bake in the oven for 14-15 mins. Test with a knife which should come out clean. If not put back in the oven for another couple of minutes
- Once baked, leave in tin for 10 mins then transfer to a cooling wrack
- To make the frosting beat the butter until softened then add the cheeses and vanilla paste. Mix for about 3 mins until smooth
- Then add the icing sugar bit by bit and beat for about 8-10 mins as this will result in a super smooth frosting. This frosting is not as stiff as butter cream so can’t be piped onto the cupcakes
- Using a palette knife smooth over the frosting onto each of the cupcakes and sprinkle with chopped walnuts
Chilli is a regular feature in our household. It is quick and easy to make, everyone (yes everyone) in my family likes it, it is healthy and low fat, you can make a truck load in just about the same time as it takes to make a normal portion so perfect for when all the aunts and uncles come to stay, you can jazz it up by serving with a nice salad and some garlic bread, it can be made in advance and either kept in the fridge for a couple of days or frozen…and the list goes on. So why, I can hear you asking, am I messing about with something that is effectively a family dinner institution? Well, I guess the answer to that is quite simply that I love to put my own spin on recipes. This normally involves including more of what I like in a dish and creating an opportunity for myself to experiment with flavours. I have to admit, it is a bit scary at first, but now I pretty much do it all the time. The reward for being brave is creating a dish that you love which you might never have had otherwise. There are of course times when it does not go to plan, but after a few swear words and deep breaths, I’m normally able to put it down to experience and take it in my stride. I have every confidence that you will be able to do the same.
This recipe is the result of an afternoon of experimentation, and for want of a better expression, I think it has been a ‘roaring success’! It’s vegetarian, because I don’t eat meat. But fear not, I will also tell you how and where to add some meat because I know for some (my husband being one of them) chilli without meat is a crime.
Part of my motivation for this dish was in fact this months We Should Cocoa blog challenge set by Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog. The theme is ‘savoury and vegetarian’, and as with all We should Cocoa challenges, chocolate must be included. I have got to say, this stumped me for quite a while, but then I remembered that special chocolate that had a whole TV series dedicated to it a couple of years back and which I have always wanted to try. A little bit of internet research later and I found out I was thinking of Willie’s Supreme Cacao. It’s 100% cacao and although it looks like chocolate, it is not something you want to eat raw. I tried!! The theory behind adding this to dishes, apart from it being cool, is that is adds a depth of flavour and chocolate compliments chilli beautifully. So the very special ingredient in this chilli is cacao, but for the sake of ease, lets call it chocolate! If you can’t get hold of Willie’s chocolate, some unsweetened cocoa powder will be a good alternative.
So go on, give this a go and impress everyone who will listen with your culinary knowledge (cacao, depth of flavour etc) and most importantly your willingness to try something a little bit different with splendid results.
What you will need:
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed,
- 1 tin of cannellini beans or leave this out and add a 500g pack of minced beef
- 1 tin of black beans (or kidney beans if you can’t get black)
- Half a medium pumpkin or 1 medium butternut squash cut into squares
- 200g chestnuts (I brought mine in a pack)
- 1 romano pepper chopped
- 1 tsp of ground cumin
- 1 tsp of cumin seeds
- 1 tsp of ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp of ground paprika
- 1 tsp of ground cayenne pepper
- 2 tbsp of grated cacao or 2 tsp cocoa powder
- 1tsp chilli powder
- 1/2 pint of vegetable stock
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 350g of tomato passata (about half a bottle)
- Pinch of pepper for seasoning
How to make:
- Preheat you oven to 180c/350f/gas 4. Put your cubes of pumpkin into a roasting tray, sprinkle with olive oil and cook in the oven for 30-40 mins. I like to roast pumpkin for most dishes as it brings out the sweetness and flavour
- Put your onions and garlic in a large saucepan and start to cook gently with a bit of olive oil. Once soft, add the pepper. Then add all the spices apart from the chocolate and cook for a further 5 minutes
- Now add beans/meat and cook for 5-10 mins (more like 10 mins if you have meat)
- Now add chestnuts, chopped tomato and passata and cook for 10 mins
- Add the vegetable stock and season with pepper. Cook on a low heat for about 25-30 mins
- Towards the end of this cooking time, add the roasted pumpkin, and right at the end stir in the grated chocolate
- Serve with plain basmati rice
PS: Willie did not sponsor me to write this post
PPS: There are still a few places left for my very first Bake Club evening, so if you live in the Sevenoaks area take a look at my Bake Club post for more info on how to book.