Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Original Beans with Phillip Kauffmann

Around a month ago now, I had one of the best mornings in a long time. My Dad and I headed to La Fromagerie, an utterly delicious foodie haven in London, and attended a breakfast class/chocolate tasting/lecture led by Original Beans founder Phillip Kauffmann. Original Beans is a small chocolate company that focuses on creating the purest, best chocolate whilst using chocolate production as a way of preserving the environment and rainforest, mainly in South America. I’d never truly understood the process of making chocolate or considered the idea of combining chocolate & conservation, so it made for a fascinating morning.DSCF8356I couldn’t ever explain the importance of good chocolate, the detail of chocolate production or all the messages that Original Beans stands for a) without making this post a million words long and b) as cleverly as Kauffmann (who used a digital photo frame full of wonderful photos of the rainforest and plenty of chocolate tasting to guide us through the process). I made a whole page of notes and learnt so much but the most important information can be found on the Original Beans website. My favourite piece of knowledge was that the chocolate we eat comes from the bitter pips of the cacao bean, but the cacao flesh can be eaten normally and tastes like a cross between a lychee or pear. I was also amazed to learn that the variety of cacao bean used affects the flavour of the final product, and yet there are hundreds of varieties of cacao bean yet to be tried! Now, for what we ate…DSCF8359The hot chocolate above was pretty much like drinking pure melted chocolate: divine! With a crisp brioche bun to accompany it, it was the perfect start to a morning full of chocolate.  DSCF8362 DSCF8367


Next came a mini Danish pastry: the juicy raisins were the closest health food we were getting this morning. After that delicious detour from chocolate, the chocolate returned with a bang: chocolate stuffed pancakes. Rich, thick, smooth chocolate and crispy pancake – it was a perfect send off. In between these foodie feasts, bowls of Original Beans chocolate had been circling the tables as we tasted each different chocolate the company makes. Again, I’m not a chocolate professional but all I can say is they all tasted divine and a world away from your standard Cadbury’s – much deeper and more intense. We left that morning extremely full and almost unable to look at anything more chocolatey, but also full of knowledge about the whole chocolate making process.

All in all it was a marvellous morning and I urge you all to check out Original Beans chocolate!DSCF8363 DSCF8358

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Mini Orange Drizzle Cakes

Its currently that time of year when the weather can’t really make its mind up – should it let the sun shine or should it be gloomy and grey? Should it be getting dark at 4pm or 5pm? It’s also the time of year that inspires the spring clean. In my house the bedrooms are being reorganised, paperwork from all corners of the house is being filed, clothes are being sorted, drawers are being emptied and their contents examined. The last drawer to have the spring clean treatment was the kitchen drawer containing baking bits and bobs. Piping bags, cookie cutters, baking parchment, the heavy rolling pin – everything covered the table. Including a set of tiny loaf tins hidden at the back, bought excitedly but never used. Today that changed! DSCF8495Today was one of those gloomy, rainy days but I ignored it, put on an orange jumper and started baking zingy, fresh orange drizzle cakes. I whipped these up in about half an hour but their scent lingered happily in the kitchen: making it smell fresh, delicious and drawing me constantly back to the baking. Also, because they’re mini they only take 10-15minutes to cook so there’s not too long to wait before you can be enjoying these! DSCF8501The cake edges are crisp and golden, giving way to the soft and moist centre. The crème fraiche in the recipe ensures these stay soft whilst giving them a bit of extra tang which complements the tang of the orange. The orange glace icing on the top adds an extra burst of sweet and rounds everything off simply. I liked these because it’s more interesting than one large cake but makes a refreshing change to cupcakes. I hope you give these a try and that they brighten up a gloomy day in another kitchen. Enjoy :) DSCF8502Mini Orange Drizzle Cakes (makes 8) Ingredients: 100g caster sugar
115g softened butter
2 large eggs
115g self raising flour
2tbsp crème fraiche
2 large oranges – the zest and juice
100g icing sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 180’C/350’F/Gas Mark 4 and line the cake tins.
  2. Beat the butter and caster sugar until light, creamy and well combined. Add the eggs one by one, beating after each addition. Add the juice of one orange, and zest of both.
  3. Add the flour and crème fraiche and fold the mixture gently until fully combined. Divide the mixture between the cake cases – filling them about 3/4 full.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the cakes spring back and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let cool in their tins.
  5. Mix the icing sugar and remaining orange juice until smooth and fairly thin so that it is easy to drizzle. If there is any orange juice left over, use the cake skewer to poke small holes in the cakes and pour over the juice.
  6. Once the cakes are fully cooled, remove from the tins and paper and drizzle over the icing. Enjoy! DSCF8505

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Triple Chocolate Oreo Fudge Cookies

I’m not the best cookie maker. Sometimes they cook quicker than expected, occasionally they might spread out into each other, sometimes the eggs might look like they’ve curdled the mixture before you’ve added the flour. However, with a cookie title like this I doubt you can ever go too wrong. And the delicious results of this bake certainly proved me right.DSCF8477Green&Blacks dark Cocoa powder. Double chocolate stuffed Oreos. Butterscotch pieces. White chocolate chips. These cookies had them all. These may not be complicated, elegant or top notch gastronomy but they sure are good. There are moments for clean, healthy, simple foods and then there are days like this that call for pure treats!
The original recipe called for caster sugar, but at the friend’s kitchen we were baking in there was only dark muscovado sugar. We ran with it, despite the drastic difference between the two, and the cookies turned out great. The dark sugar added more of a deep caramel flavour and I think made the centre of the cookies softer and more brownie/cake like. The edges of the cookies were satisfyingly crunchy and each bite filled with a little nugget of chocolate goodness. Despite their richness, when paired with a tall glass of milk these just become rather addictive. So grab a film, curl up on the sofa, relax and….enjoy.