Wild Blackberry, Coconut and White Chocolate Blondies

This year, we have an awful lot of weeds in the garden. Luckily for me, some of them are blackberry plants, and in the past few days the canes have been bowing heavily, full of ripe and juicy, blackish-purple fruit.

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SONY DSCSo, what is a girl to do with so many wild blackberries? Well, a thumb through of the Flavour Thesaurus (without which, I am lost), told me that white chocolate is a great pairing and since I have a huge bag of it in the house, my mind was made up!

A quick Google search bought me several recipes for blackberries and white chocolate, including muffins, fools, parfaits and cheesecakes, but I had a hankering for cake or brownie. Something sweet and satisfying, something to give you a hug when you are down, and tastes great with a cup of Masala Chai.

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And so I bring to you, my recipe for…

 

Lightly Spiced, Wild Blackberry, Coconut and White Chocolate Blondies

(makes 9 big or 12 smaller blondie squares)

You will need:

113g Butter (melted in microwave)

165g Coconut Palm Sugar

2 Medium Eggs (beaten)

1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

5 Cardamom Pods (seeds crushed finely in a pestle and mortar)

4 small sticks of cinnamon (crushed/ground into a fine powder)

96g Plain Flour

1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder

1/4 teaspoon Salt

64g White Chocolate (chopped)

90g Wild Blackberries

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Then you need to do this:

  • Preheat your oven to 190C (160C for Fan assisted).
  • Grease and line an 8 inch square baking tin
  • Beat together the melted butter, beaten eggs and coconut palm sugar until smooth and lump-free
  • Add the vanilla extract, crushed cardamom seeds and cinnamon. Mix well.
  • Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir well.
  • Add the white chocolate, wild blackberries and coconut. Stir gently and combine fully into the mixture.

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  • Pour into tin and level with the back of a spoon. Bake for 25-35 minutes or so. The top should be golden brown and a wooden toothpick placed into the centre should come out relatively clean (a few sticky crumbs is fine).
  • Leave to cool in the tin for 20 minutes. Then tip out onto a wire rack to cool fully.

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Or cut into squares whilst still lukewarm and enjoy with a cuppa.

The result? A satisfying and soft, fluffy blondie, with the occasional sharp and fruity tang of blackberry, alongside the mellow creaminess of coconut and white chocolate. A beautiful combination.

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Now, if you don’t have coconut palm sugar at home, don’t fret, you can use soft brown sugar instead. I happened to have some Biona Coconut Palm Sugar in the cupboard, and it reminds me of Jaggery, which is used a lot when making Indian desserts. Along with the cardamom and cinnamon, this addition contributes to the really unusual flavour of the blondie. Try it as a dessert after an Indian meal, maybe with some vanilla ice-cream. Yum!

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Also, if you want to add other ingredients or even take some away, then go for it! Just remember to balance out the recipe (i.e. remove some liquid (maybe use smaller eggs) if you decide to take out the coconut).

On to the chocolate, I used deZaan Obsession 30 white chocolate, bought from Keylink (who else!) This chocolate is not as sweet as some shop bought versions, so you may want to taste a few before you choose one to bake with. I have a sweet tooth and I really love this chocolate, even though I find most white chocolate is far too sweet for me.

Finally, as if this recipe wasn’t amazing enough, I realised when tidying up, that my flour was gluten free (Doves Farm – thank you!) and so was my baking powder. So in essence, I managed to make a gluten free recipe, without even trying. Result!

If you do decide to try this recipe, please let me know how you get on. I hope you love my blondies as much as I do.

Now, off to hide them from the husband!

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Do me a favour!

I apologise for being absent for many weeks – it’s been incredibly busy, what with planning and making wedding favours for a friend.

Yes! You heard it right! I actually got to make chocolates for real people! For people who were obliged to take home my tiny boxes of delight, and (hopefully) ate the contents (or not – I don’t like those people). Can you tell I’m quite proud of this achievement?

Let me take you into my world for the past two months. My crazy world of chocolate. Thinking of chocolate. Dreaming of chocolate. Noting down recipes for chocolate. Eating copious amounts of chocolate. Starting to really dislike chocolate…

It all began last year, when my friends announced their impending nuptials. Immediately, I leapt at the chance to make their wedding favours, and (thankfully for me), they accepted my offer. However, once the initial excitement wore off, and I really thought about what I had let myself in for, the panic set in. I was required to produce 100 boxes of 2 moulded chocolates, all beautifully decorated and wrapped in organza ribbon – for a wedding in July.

July – one of the hottest months of the year (Gulp).

I started in earnest, researching furiously and finding several ganache flavours that I felt would be appropriate for a summer wedding. I thought I would stick with fruity flavours as the bride-to-be had indicated that she likes these, rather than the spicy ganaches that I was accustomed to making. So a short-list was made, to include Raspberry, Rhubarb, Strawberry and Lemon. After a tasting, the lovely couple decided that their favourites were (drum roll please) Strawberry and Basil, and Lemon. Woo!

So the hard work really began. I finalised my recipes, adding a little more butter and a little less liquid, to ensure that the chocolates stayed fresher for longer. Then a week before the Big Day, I procured the ingredients and made a plan of action. For two long (hot and humid) days before the wedding, I de-hulled, sliced, puréed, tempered, poured, moulded and scraped my way through mountains of strawberries and seas of molten chocolate, before a final flourish with some red colouring. Along the way, I encountered several problems. Primarily, the temperature was too high (at 25 degrees centigrade) which made tempering very difficult. The solution was to temper using Mycryo (powdered cocoa butter) in my living room (whilst watching Wimbledon on the telly), where it is slightly cooler.

Also, I had a pain of a time trying to release my chocolates from the moulds (probably due to my tempering problem). I had made 120 of each flavour, just to ensure that I had plenty available in case some of the chocolates did not come out of the moulds, however, I did not envisage that around 40% would refuse to budge. So to make the experience even more stressful, I spent several hours, checking each mould and tap-tapping them furiously on the kitchen counter, trying to release the stubborn few. Eventually, I managed to get 100 of each flavour out of the moulds, but with hardly any to spare.

The beautiful Blue & Red Floral Boxes were a find at Keylink, and the bride-to-be was instantly drawn to the tiny burgundy accents which matched the colour scheme perfectly. Seeing the finished product on the banqueting tables was a real treat for me, as all the hard work paid off, with plenty of compliments and not one box left behind.

‘A few pictures if you please!’

Oh go on then…

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Chocolate Olive Oil Cake

Nigella Lawson has always been an inspiration to me. Through her simple recipes she conveys a message, that simple yet tasty food is attainable after a hard day at work.

When I came across her recipe for Chocolate Olive Oil Cake, I was interested to see how this very easy recipe would turn out if I made a chocolatey tweak. This recipe is gluten-free and dairy free too, so is kind to sensitive tummies.

The basic recipe calls for a mixture of cocoa powder and boiling water to be added to the cake batter. Well, being the chocolate-fiend that I am, I decided to try replacing this with melted dark chocolate. I had a bag of Barry Callebaut Ocoa 70% dark chocolate at hand, and so used this by melting it down in the microwave in thirty-second bursts to make a glossy paste. You can buy Ocoa chocolate here.

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Now, I didn’t have any ground almonds at home, but I improvised by grinding up some flaked almonds in a small grinder until it resembled ground almonds. It turned out that the almond mixture was not as fine as shop brought stuff, but it definitely added texture!

Firstly, I started by heating my chocolate in the microwave. I estimated that around 150g would be similar to the cocoa powder and water mixture. I added the vanilla extract, then set aside while I blitzed the flaked almonds.

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In a bowl, I placed the ground almonds in with the baking soda and pinch of salt.

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Then I started working on the cake batter by putting the sugar, olive oil and eggs into the bowl of my mixer and beating hard for about 3 minutes. The mixture became pale, but didn’t really thicken up as much as I expected. I wonder if I needed to beat for a few more minutes.

Then I turned the mixer down and slowly added the melted chocolate, and when that had been incorporated, I scraped down the bowl and slowly poured in the almond mixture. The batter was very liquid, which worried me a little, but the recipe states this, so I carried on regardless!

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After baking for for 45 minutes, the top was crispy and after turning out from the tin, this was the final result. Delicious!

The top…

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The inside…2014-05-17 22.03.10 2014-05-17 22.03.29 2014-05-17 22.03.39The texture was light and airy, the cake itself was not too sweet, and I think on reflection, I may use a darker chocolate – maybe an 80-85% for a more indulgent chocolatey taste. A great summer pudding, served with some Greek yoghurt and raspberries. Yum!

If looking for a fruity twist, try Nigella’s Lemon Polenta Cake, which is super moist and tangy and equally as light and of course, wheat and dairy free!

 

REVIEW – TCHO SeriousMilk “Cacao” Bar

For those of us with a semi-sweet tooth, may I present to you the TCHO SeriousMilk “Cacao” bar with a whopping 53% cocoa. Beautifully packaged, inside a sleek, almost architectural, cardboard outer, this bar looks and smells really enticing.

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This bar is packed full of organic, fairly traded and kosher ingredients and at 58g is a perfect size to share with a friend (or, like me, scoff the lot in one big swoop!)

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This milky concoction fills even the steadfast dark chocolate lovers in awe, with a melting embrace of fudgy goodness, which leaves you wide-eyed and wanting more. The aroma is similar to a steaming, hot bowl of cocoa, ready and waiting for a crusty croissant to be dipped in, head-first.

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Initially a pleasant sweetness tantalises your taste-buds, but this is swiftly followed by a punchy chocolate flavour which envelopes your mouth with its creamy texture. This is the lasting impression, leaving you feeling balanced and truly content.

TCHO chocolate can be found in the UK at Cocoa Runners.

My Chocolate Valentine

With Valentine’s day just a blink (and a cheeky-wink) away, what could be better to sweep your loved one off their dainty feet than to show your appreciation with  a thoughtful (and lip-lickingly good) chocolate gift ♥. To make it all the more special, why not shop locally and support our British chocolatiers at the same time?

For a quirky and original offering, plump for a Chocolat The Movie Hamper bought to you by Somerset based The Chocolate Society. Spend a cosy (and interactive) night-in with your soul mate, whilst nibbling on chocolates when you see them being eaten on-screen! Or if you happen to be single and carefree, call the girls over and drool over Johnny Depp (looking gorgeous, as usual).

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Picture courtesy of The Chocolate Society – @ChocSoc

Next up, is a stunning array of gifts from West Sussex company – Cocoa Loco. Pucker up for a kiss with their gorgeous Lip and Love Heart Lollies and forgo the roses altogether, deciding instead on a beautiful Chocolate Flower Pot with delicate, milk and white chocolate flowers.

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Picture courtesy of Cocoa Loco – @cocoalocochoc

For a touch of luxurious glamour, turn to Kokopelli’s Chocolate, who have created a heavenly Valentine’s Collection of caramel chocolates in four enticing flavours – Passion fruit, Tonka Bean, Cardamom and Sea Salt. Steph Saffer is the founder of Kokopelli’s and, according to Steph’s blog, each flavour has a significant meaning when it come’s to love.

Dive in head-first and order your box of romantic tricks today. Why not add a bag of their sweet and tangy Passion fruit caramels too (my personal favourite) to make the Valentine’s feeling last all week.

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Picture courtesy of Kokopelli’s Chocolate – @Kokopellis_Choc

Lauden Chocolate  was created by the formidable, award-winning duo Sun and Stephen. Their exquisite creations just scream ‘EAT ME!’ and their stunning workmanship oozes a feeling of opulence and desirability. Impress your discerning, true love with Lauden’s Strawberries and Cream Hearts; filled with affection – you can’t go wrong with these beauties.

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Picture courtesy of Lauden Chocolates – @LaudenChocolate

What do you get for the Valentine who has everything? Why a selection of Melt Chocolates of course! Try their stunning painted hearts (which look almost Rothko inspired) or a cute box of Valentine Bars (including the appropriately named Love Bar).

For the die-hard fresh chocolate fan, immerse yourself into the Valentine’s Collection Box, which houses a mouth-watering rose, raspberry and lychee paté de fruit, half dipped in chocolate and decorated with a tiny rose bud and gold leaf. Lavish and sumptuous, this selection will leave you wanting more…

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Picture courtesy of Melt Chocolates – @meltchocolates

For those of you looking for a fun and flirty gift, why not visit Lick The Spoon in the Cotswolds. Their adorable Love Bug will have any prospective Valentine eating out of the palm of your hand. With flavours to choose from such as Milk Chocolate with Salted Caramel, White Chocolate with Raspberry and Dark Chocolate with Champagne, you may need to bite the bullet and get all three.

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Picture courtesy of Lick The Spoon – @LicktheSpoonUK

For an extra special, romantic surprise, visit Black Mountain Gold, based in Crickhowell, Wales who are serving up a special Valentine’s offer. Book a three hour chocolate-making workshop during the month of February, for just £140 per couple. A smooth and sophisticated way to spend some quality time with your better half.

Or, alternatively, pop in to their shop for a selection of their delectable handmade chocolates, which will melt even the coldest heart.

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Picture courtesy of Black Mountain Chocolates – @WELSHCHOCS

♥Wedding ring optional

Gorgeous, British Made Easter Eggs

I admit, I love a decadent Easter Egg. The more bonbons and bunnies the better, but sometimes, it’s the egg itself that is the show-stopper. Here is my pick of the British bunch of eggs-traordinary eggs (and a few other Easter treats)…

Large Dark Swirled Easter Egg – The Chocolate Society

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The Classic Ostrich Easter Egg – Hotel Chocolat

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Large milk and white stripe chocolate egg with flower shape – Nicky Grant

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Dark Chocolate House Dark Truffles Easter Egg – William Curley

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Psychedelic Egg – The Cocoa Mistress

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Butterfly Chocolate Egg – Paul Wayne Gregory

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Pink Marc de Champagne Truffle Easter Egg – Charbonnel et Walker

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Mellow Yellow Duckling – Artisan Du Chocolat

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Green Easter Bunny – Melt

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White Chocolate mice popping Pralines – Demarquette

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Devnaa – Coffee Masala Caramels (Limited Edition)

On this dreary January afternoon, I need a pick-me-up. Something to lift my mood and to awake my senses. After a 45 minute workout, and a strong cup of Chai Tea, I still cannot muster the enthusiasm to tackle the weekly kitchen deep-clean.

Out of the corner of my eye…what do I see? Yay!, I have a brand-new box of Devnaa’s Coffee Masala Caramels waiting for me! From the bright pink and purple, tiffin-box inspired packaging to the heady chocolate aroma, this is just what the doctor ordered.

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From looking at their lovely website, I learn that Devnaa is a British company, run by brother and sister duo Jay and Roopa Rawal. Roopa is a former student of the Slattery School of Excellence in Manchester, where she gained knowledge of Artisan chocolate making. Together they founded the company and have been inspired by Roopa’s natural talents at making Indian desserts.

Although Indian food is hugely popular in the UK, Indian puddings are often said to be too sweet or too rich. I spent many childhood holidays visiting relatives in Kolkata (or Calcutta as it was known back then), where I was spoilt rotten by every female relative, by being given huge plates of Indian sweets (and often scolded for not being able to eat it all!). I admit, I also found many of the sweetmeats sickly and soon became tired of them. So I am intrigued by one of Devnaa’s creations; their Indian Sweets Tiffin Box, which is a selection of hand-made flavoured barfi enrobed in Belgian chocolate. I am interested to see how they have managed to balance the delicate flavours of fine chocolate with the powerful punch of exotic flavours in the barfi. This may have to be my next purchase from Devnaa.

Roopa and Jay have also written a cookbook, entitled “Devnaa Indian-Inspired Desserts“, which includes some traditional Indian sweets, alongside some recipes with a western influence. This has already been added to my wish-list (Husband…take note).

However…I digress.

Created as a limited edition run for Autumn/Winter 2012, I snapped up a box of the Coffee Masala Caramels just after Christmas. The caramel is infused with a signature blend of spices (cinnamon, cardamom, clove and ginger) and roasted coffee; an intoxicating combination, and just what I need to bring a smile back on my face.

The chocolates are packaged in a beautiful purple box, with a bright pink tiffin-box style packaging reminiscent of the metal Indian lunch boxes that my cousins would take to school each day, stacked full of parathas, dahl and vegetable curry (and of course, some obligatory sweetmeats)!

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Inside, are sixteen devilishly handsome dark chocolates, shaped into little balls, nestled in royal purple finery. These are kings indeed! Biting into the thick dark shell, brings an almighty snap and a crunch from the crystallised sugar on top. The caramel is thick and gooey, smooth, not too sweet and strong with the masala flavours. I find tiny traces of cinnamon and ginger within the caramel which pleasantly linger on my tongue and mingle with the chocolate.

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The chocolate shell is thick, which means that the coffee and masala flavour is muted at the end of the tasting, once the chocolate starts to melt.However, the darkness of the chocolate compliments the strong coffee and fragrant masala very well, and I feel that without the thick coating, the caramel would be far too sweet and the chocolate would be overpowered.

After devouring just three delicious morsels my happy mood is again restored and I am once again ready to face the world (and the kitchen)!