What better time than Easter to be invited to a chocolate making class! I have wanted to go to one of these classes for a long time as I love making chocolate treats such as truffles, but I definitely think my skills could be improved. Also I knew a class involving chocolate making would involve getting to eat plenty of it too!
I went along to the event hosted by Joe’s Bloggers at The Copthorne Hotel in Manchester this week. It’s a gorgeous location looking out onto the water of Salford Quays.
I arrived to find each table decorated with marshmallows and various sprinkles – always a good sign!
We then learnt about the history of chocolate, which I found really interesting. Chocolate goes back around 3000 years to the Aztecs who made a cold broth drink from the cocoa beans. In the 1500s Christopher Columbus brought the cocoa beans to Spain and they made it over to the UK by the 1600s. It was all about dark chocolate at the start until milk chocolate was invented in a Nestle factory and is now the most popular kind.
We tasted some raw cocoa beans which were extremely bitter and unpleasant (thankfully they get better when sugar and cocoa butter are added!). Then some 98% dark chocolate, again far too bitter for me. We then tried some chocolate made with vegetable oil, this was to show how cheap chocolate is made with oil instead of cocoa butter and it hugely reduces the quality. Finally we tasted delicious dark chocolate and good quality milk chocolate. You can really tell the difference in quality when you eat one followed by the other.
Next it was button making time! At this point I felt like I was back in school – in a good way! We got to play with melted chocolate and decorate it with sprinkles and other types of chocolate. I could’ve quite happily done this all night…
I’ve made truffles before but it was cool to learn a new technique from the teachers. We mixed double cream with melted dark chocolate and piped it out into portions onto wax paper. It sets much quicker this way than waiting for the whole lot to set in a bowl. We were then able to roll it into balls between our palms and coat in cocoa powder.
There was also some fudge that we cut into circle and hearts and drizzled chocolate onto which you can see at the back of the photo above. We then got some lovely boxes and bags to take them home in. They made it home, but not long after that! I really enjoyed the class and I’m excited to play around more with chocolate at home.
I headed home with this fab kit so I have no excuse not to make more chocolates, what a shame! If you’re looking for a chocolatey experience of your own, Millenium Hotels have wrote up a list of the best in the UK!
Simnel Cakes go way back, all the way to medival times in fact. I’ve never actually eaten a traditional one before, which just have one layer of fruit cake, but I see them in the shops every Easter. The marzipan balls on top represent the twele apostles, minus Judas. Although I’m not religious myself, I love Easter and baking around this time of year. I wanted to make the Simnel cake a bit more modern and also more to my own tastes, so this Golden Layered Simnel Cake is filled with delicious almond buttercream and the sponge is much lighter with less fruit.
I started by creaming together 350g butter and 350g golden caster sugar.
I whisked in 6 eggs, adding two at a time and mixing well.
I folded in 2 tsp mixed spice, a pinch of salt and 350g self raising flour. Then I gently mixed in the zest of 1 lemon and 250g dried fruit mixture.
I divided the mixture between 3 lined cake tins.
I baked on 160C for 25 minutes until golden brown. I tipped the sponges out of the tins and left to cool.
When the sponges were fully cool I made some buttercream by mixing 400g icing sugar, 200g butter and 1 tsp almond extract together. I piped it around the edge of the first layer and smeared it in the middle.
I placed the second layer on top and did the same with the remaining buttercream.
I added the final sponge layer and brushed some apricot jam over the top to help the marzipan stick.
I used 320g natural marzipan for the decoration. Each ball was 15g each and the rest I rolled out into a disc.
I placed it on top of the cake and trimmed the edges. I then brushed it all over with egg white, placed the balls around the cake and brushed them with egg white too.
I then used my handy cook’s blowtorch to scorch the marzipan in the centre and on top of each ball. If you don’t have a blowtorch you can put the cake under the grill to achieve this effect, however I would recommend decorating the top sponge on it’s own and grilling it before placing it over the buttercream, which would probably melt under a grill!
I loved the final effect of the cake, a gorgeous golden delight! My boyfriend’s eyes lit up with excitement when he saw it as he loves marzipan. He quickly ate up the first slice and was full of compliments for the flavour.
The sponge was lovely and light with just enough fruit for me and the sweet almond buttercream was the perfect accompaniment. It was a large cake and was cut into about 18 slices – plenty for a hungry group of family and friends at Easter!
Cream together 350g of the butter and the golden caster sugar
Whisk in the eggs, add two at a time and mix well
Fold in the mixed spice, salt and self raising flour. Then gently mix in the zest of the lemon and the dried fruit
Divide the mixture between 3 lined cake tins
Bake on 160C for 25 minutes until golden brown. Tip the sponges out of the tins and leave to cool
To make the buttercream by mix the icing sugar with 200g of the butter and the almond extract. Pipe it around the edge of the first layer and smear it in the middle Place the second layer of cake on top and do the same with the remaining buttercream
Add the final sponge layer and brush the apricot jam over the top to help the marzipan stick
Roll up 11 marzipan balls weighing 15g each and roll the rest out into a disc
Place it on top of the cake and trim the edges. Then brush it all over with egg white, place the balls around the cake and brush them with egg white too
Use a cook's blowtorch to scorch the marzipan in the centre and on top of each ball
I had the idea for these Lemon ‘Easter Nest’ Baked Donuts a couple of months ago, and I’ve patiently waited (something I’m not very good at!) until an appropriate time to make them. Easter eggs are in the shops, Mother’s Day and St Patrick’s Day are behind us, so it’s definitely ok to start baking for Easter in my eyes! These fresh lemon baked donuts are the perfect way to welcome spring with their light pastel colours and even lighter baked texture. Baked donuts are much different to the deep fried kind, their texture is similar to a light cake or I find them quite similar to Madelines too. I’ve topped them with toasted coconut which gives a satisfying crunch against the soft donut base when you bite into it. And you can’t beat some cheeky chocolate eggs in the middle too!
I’ve made a few differeny flavours of Baked Donuts before (Pumpkin, Chocolate & Vanilla) so I used the same basic recipe. I started with 225g plain flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp salt and 175g caster sugar in a bowl.
In a separate bowl I mixed together 175ml milk, 2 eggs, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp vanilla extract and the zest of 2 lemons.
I poured the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisked until combined and smooth.
I greased my Wilton donut pan with butter.
I filled each hole with about 3 tbsp of batter and I baked on 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for 10-12 minutes. I pressed the donuts
quickly with my finger and if they sprang back I knew they were done.
I gently prised the donuts out of the pan using a spoon and let them cool.
I made an icing using 200g icing sugar and the juice of 1 and a half lemons. I wanted the icing to be fairly thick so I added the juice slowly. I spread the icing on top of the donut with a palette knife, then sprinkled the toasted coconut on top and left them to set. I got the toasted coconut from Holland & Barrett. Once they were set I placed three mini eggs in the middle.
Everyone commented on how cute they looked and how the citrus flavour was delicious! They are best eaten straight away as the coconut can lose it’s crunch, but they still taste good the next day. The lemon flavour is so fresh and zingy, especially the icing, it goes perfectly with the coconut. The perfect way to welcome in Easter!
Place the plain flour, baking powder, salt and caster sugar in a bowl and stir together
In a separate bowl mix together the milk, eggs, olive oil, vanilla extract and the zest of the 2 lemons
Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until combined and smooth
Grease the donut pan with butter
Fill each hole with about 3 tbsp of batter and bake on 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for 10-12 minutes Gently prise the donuts out of the pan using a spoon and let them cool
Make an icing by mixing the icing sugar with the juice of 1 and a half of the lemons. Add the juice slowly. Spread the icing on top of the donuts with a palette knife, then sprinkle the toasted coconut on top and leave them to set. Once they are set place three mini eggs in the middle
My mum loves Lindt Lindor, they are her absolute favourite chocolates and I can always guarantee that getting her a box of them will go down well on any occasion. As it’s Mother’s Day this weekend I wanted to surprise her by baking with her favourite chocolates. I added Salted Caramel Buttercream as she loves salted caramel too. I got the idea after seeing A Life Of Geekery‘s post, she uses the caramel Lindor and a pre-flavoured icing sugar. I’ve made mine differently, but the results are equally as yummy!
First things first, I put my Lindt Lindor in the freezer for at least 1 hour. I learnt this trick when I made Creme Egg Cupcakes last year. I didn’t know if it would help, but thought it certainly couldn’t hurt.
I started by making a simple vanilla sponge. I creamed together 130g butter and 130g caster sugar. I added 2 eggs, 1 tbsp milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract and whisked in. Finally I folded in 130g self raising flour.
I put a spoonful of batter into the baking cases, then placed the frozen Lindt Lindor (I used the red wrapper kind) in the middle.
I then spooned enough mixture on top to cover the chocolate. It made 9 cupcakes.
I baked the cupcakes on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 20 minutes.
To make the butter cream I mixed together 150g butter, 300g sifted icing sugar, 1 1/2 tsp of Dr Oetker Caramel flavour, and approx 1/2 tsp salt. Add some salt and test the flavour, see if you like it, as I’ve noticed different people like different strengths of salted caramel. Or you can leave it out if you don’t like salt in it at all.
I piped the buttercream on top of the cooled cakes, then added another whole Lindor on top and a sprinkling of edible gold glitter!
Of course I had to test one before giving them to my mum… I cut one open and the Lindor chocolate hadn’t quite done what I expected. It melted and created a delicious chocolatey bottom to the cake. Although this tasted very good, I think next time I would put the chocolate on top of the batter, instead of in the middle. As for the buttercream…drool!
I put them in a decorative box and jumped straight in the car to take them to my mum. She loved the surprise and said the cakes were ‘amazing, divine and yummy’. Definitely a winner then! My boyfriend had one too and made lots of ‘yummmm’ noises whilst he gobbled it up.
I am entering these into myself and Cakeyboi’s baking challenge Treat Petite. This month’s theme is ‘Mum’.
I don’t know about you, but I always have food in my fridge that needs using and I always try and use it as I hate throwing it out. This week at work we had a bake sale for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the night before I was deciding what to bake. I had pepperoni and a red pepper in the fridge that needed using up so I thought a savoury bake would be a perfect way of using them and would go down really well in a bake sale, as they are usually sugar overloads (not that that’s a bad thing!)
I started by mixing 300g plain flour, 135g wholemeal flour, 1 1/4 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp dried mixed herbs and 1/2 tsp salt in a bowl.
In a separate bowl I whisked together 215ml oil, 230ml milk and 4 eggs. (I then forgot to take a photo of it.) I added the wet ingredient to the dry ingredients and mixed in. I then added 1 diced red pepper, 75g pre-sliced pepperoni that I cut up and 100g grated extra mature cheddar and mixed until combined.
I put it into muffin cases in a baking tray, it filled 18 cases.
I pushed half a cherry tomato into the top of each one and sprinkled some grated cheese on top. I baked the muffins on 175C for 25 minutes until they were risen, golden and smelling good.
Not to toot my own horn too much, but damn these were tasty! And thankfully everyone else agreed. Even those who looked a little puzzled at the idea, soon changed their facial expressions to that of enlightment and joy when they took a bite. I even got a profession of love (not sure if it was towards me or the muffins…!) I’m pleased to say they all sold quickly at the bake sale. You can adapt them for a vegetarian diet by adding onion, sweetcorn or quorn instead of pepperoni.
I am entering this into Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary’s challenge – No Waste Food Challenge. As I made these with ingredients in my fridge that needed using. And Credit Crunch Munch, ran by Fuss Free Flavours and Fab Food 4 All, this month hosted by Jo’s Kitchen for the same reason.
It may only be March, but these Limoncello Cheesecake Squares bring a touch of summer to the season! I love the bright yellow of lemon, it’s so cheery. And it goes perfectly with creamy soft cheese. I had some leftover Limoncello after making a Raspberry & Limoncello Tart last month, so I wanted to incorporate it into my baking again. This recipe is really easy to follow and quick to make, which is definitely a bonus. The only struggle is waiting for it to cool before you tuck in!
I used a food processor to crush 225g digestive biscuits into crumbs. You could also put them in a bag and bash with a rolling pin. I mixed in the zest of half a lemon (the other half of the lemon zest will be used later).
I melted 85g butter, mixed it into the biscuits, and pressed the mixture into a greased and lined baking tray.
I baked it on 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 for 10 minutes, then left it to cool completely.
I whisked up 340g ricotta cheese and 225g cream cheese. I then whisked in 225g caster sugar.
I added 115ml limoncello, 2 tsp vanilla extract, the zest of 1 1/2 lemons, and 4 eggs (added one at a time) and mixed in well.
I poured the cheesecake into the baking tray over the cooked crust.
I baked it on 160C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for 30 minutes. It still had a slight ‘wobble’ to it.
Once it was fully cool I removed from the tin and cut into squares, I decorated them with a slice of lemon. Store them in the fridge to keep them fresh. They went down really well with my colleagues and I got some great comments on the flavour!
I am entering these into The More Than Occassional Baker’s monthly challenge, Alpha Bakes (hosted on alternate months by Caroline Makes). This month the letter is ‘S’, and these are ‘Squares’ so hopefully fit the bill!
I am also entering these into Belleau Kitchen’s brand new challenge – Simply Eggcellent! I made these squares using 4 free range eggs.