Friday, 25 September 2009

I wanna be a chocolate god post 10: tea, kind of.

So, I've been hearing a lot about Brewed Chocolate lately, but we can't get it in the UK. I looked on line and discovered that it's just concentrated chocolate tea. As in, just cocoa beans and water (and of course sugar, which I'm glad to do without in this case, because it is tediously overused in just about everything... I could rant about this for days). I thought, sheesh, how hard can it be to brew chocolate? So I did. And it's yum. It was super easy. Easy, I tell you! And depending how much you pay for your cocoa nibs, it's about 10 times cheaper than buying the stuff. Plus, you don't have to put up with somebody else oversweetening your drink. Win.

1 heaped cup cocoa nibs
1 L water

Place in pot. Simmer until reduced by half. At this point, you can (optionally) add spices. I used about half a cinnamon stick, 2 cloves and 2 green cardamom pods and a few whole black peppercorns. Continue simmering until you have about 150mL of liquid left... in my pot this was just enough to barely cover the nibs. Strain liquid into a glass jar. Keeps in the fridge for, uh, a long time. I used it up before I discovered how long.

To use: use 1-3 tbs of concentrate for 1 cup of hot water. Add sweetener to taste (I don't add any). Sip. Feel sophisticated.

The strength and bitterness of the concentrate depends both on how much you reduce the liquid and the quality/taste of your cocoa nibs. I get my cocoa nibs from here, a source that I highly recommend for anyone in the UK. It's pretty much the best unprocessed chocolate beans/nibs/liquor that I've found anywhere, and very reasonably priced for what you're getting. Plus, it comes packed with little heart confettis. As usual, when buying chocolate/cocoa products, make sure that slaves weren't used to get them to you.

When you're done, don't throw out the cocoa nibs! Nooooooo! You can use them in cookies, brownies, cakes, pancakes, or mole sauce (grind them up for the mole). Or, you can throw them in the blender with 1/2cup of almond or hazelnut (or other nut) butter and some agave, or with 1/2 cup - 1 cup of apple, pear or pumpkin butter (you won't need agave for those, and the pear is divine, especially if you a hint of cardamom, while the pumpkin is nice with cloves and black pepper, and you can actually use it for really decadent pie filling if you want) and make your very own chocolate spread. You can give this to people as presents and they will be very very impressed. can use them ground up in any of my savory chocolate recipes on this blog. Or you can just eat them with a spoon.

Friday, 11 September 2009

savoury blackberry preserves

I love blackberries, and we were out on the beach picking them. A lot of them. Lots and lots. While picking, I ate as many as possible. Usually I try to stick to the general rule of "don't eat anything larger than your own head", but I may have eaten more than one me-head worth of blackberries. However, since blackberry season is tragically short, I think an exception was in order. Plus, we were on our bikes all day, and you need energy, right? Upon arriving home with 4 L of blackberries, I made blackberry soda bread, and a few wee little adorable pots of blackberry jam (mostly for guests and gifts), but to be honest, jam doesn't really float my boat. I like all of my sweets to be in the form of actual fruit and/or chocolate. At this point, I should confess that my house is where jam comes to grow very interesting mould and then die. However, I do love berries with a wild passion, and miss the saskatoon berries that I grew up gorging on. Recently, I've been into making savoury dishes of things that are usually sweet (at least in western cuisine), and have pretty much fallen in love with this idea. This is a sauce that's good on rice, especially with marinated and baked tofu, or chickpeas and rice, or an omnisub such as that slightly bizarre yet yummy vegan duck that is *actually shaped like a duck* at the Chinese supermarket and travel agency near my place... Either way, there are lots of jam recipes out there for those with a sweet tooth. Here are some blackberry preserves for the rest of us:

2L blackberries (I only know this because we picked 2 1L containers)
6 cloves garlic, chopped fine
dash salt
1/2 tsp spanish paprika
dash chili flakes (I used about 1/2 tsp)
1 whole lemon, chopped, peel and all.
1 bunch coriander chopped (about 1.5 cups).

Combine everything except the coriander in a pot and simmer until the berries start to disintegrate and the lemon has lost all hope of remaining recognizably a lemon. Add coriander and simmer another few minutes. Pour into sterile jars and preserve using your favourite technique, or let cool and pack into freezable containers for the freezer. British freezers have a capacity of approximately 1 pint of very specific geometry, and I need that space for my cube of frozen edamame, so I went for the preserves. Here is a good explanation of making preserves if you don't know how.

music for berries with a hint of nostalgia: all you can eat, by kd lang.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Almond cake with green tea white chocolate ganache-like-stuff-that-isn't-technically-ganache.

Since white chocolate isn't really chocolate (in my books), I think it's okay to make it into something that isn't really ganache. This cake is lovely and fall-coloured, and we had a lovely cozy dinner party where this was a lovely cozy end to it. Summer is definitely over here in Edinburgh (see photos for evidence, taken out of my kitchen window just seconds after I photographed the cake... that's the castle I plan to hide out in when the zombie apocalypse occurs). Ahem. Right. It's fall. It's rainy. The days are getting short at an alarming rate. Let the evenings of long post-dinner conversation in cozy kitchens begin!

Warning: You need to make the cake and the ganache the day before you intend to serve them! Or at least the morning of the night you plan to serve them! The cake is much much better after it's had 24 hours to sit there, and the choc stuff needs to set. Don't try to do this at the last minute and then blame me when it gets all melty.

For the cake:
2 cups soy/almond okara OR 1 c soy yogurt and 1 cup almond meal
3/4-1 c soy milk (3/4 if you use the yogurt, 1 if you use the okara).. basically, you want your wet ingredients to be the consistency of yogurt. act accordingly.
1 tbs almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
drop lime oil

1.5 -2 c flour (depends how wet your wet ingredients are)
1 tbs baking powder
dash salt
1/2 c. sugar (that's all the sugar you'll want, given how rich the icing is. up this to 3/4 c. if you're not using an insane icing)

Mix wet ingredients. Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet into dry. Or dry into wet. I don't care. This will make a fairly wet batter. Add 2 tbs vinegar (I used elderflower, but use apple cider or other mild-ish if you don't have elderflower vinegar lying around). Pour into a small oil and floured cake pan. Bake at 190C until done (mine took about 30 mins, but I like to make cakes that are small and thick, as opposed to large and thin). The cake will seem slightly undercooked. Leave in pan, covered with a clean towel, to cool overnight. Don't remove it from the pan or it will dry out too much. The next day, cut cake in half, and put a layer of white choc. green tea stuff in the middle, and a layer on top. A piping bag helps here, or just a leftover plastic bag that you've cut a hole in. If the not-ganache has set *too* much, disrupt it with a fork and then have a quick go at it with the hand blender again. The heat from just moving it around will be enough to make it workably soft and melty. Garnish with pretty white or light fruits.

For the green tea white chocolate ganache-like-stuff-that-isn't-technically-ganache:

chop up 3/4 cup of cocoa butter, and put it in a container that you're going to use a hand blender in.

add 1/2 cup raw cashews to the cocoa butter. Place this container aside and try not to snack on the cashews. Add a pinch of salt. Just a tiny pinch.

Prepare almond cream, made by blancing a big handful of almonds in boiling water, draining them, and then blending them with about 2/3 cup of soy milk and then straining the whole mess through a cheesecloth. You should have just over 1/2 cup of very thick liquid.

bring the almond cream, along with 1/2-3/4c of vanilla sugar (depends how sweet you like your sweets), to a boil on the stove. Take off the heat as soon as it boils.

Dump the very hot almond cream into the cashews and cocoa butter and blend! blend! blend!

Add 1 tsp macha and blend! blend! blend! some more. Test it out by dipping your finger in and licking it off. Test as much as neccesary to convince yourself that this was a good use of so much cocoa butter, but not so much that you don't have enough left to ice the cake.

Let set overnight.

Now, you can either decorate this cake like an adult, as others would do, or make it kind of look like a physalis-topped toadstool, as I have done. Here, where it is already fall and my kitchen is *cold*, I could have rolled out the chocolate into a sheet, but I distrust cakes with rolled icing, so I went with something a little more playful. Personally, I think my way is more fun, but you should suit yourself.

music for people who suit themselves: nanny nanny boo boo (Le Tigre)