Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Is Chocolate and Peppermint THE power couple of the dessert world?
Why yes, yes I think they are! Just look at how good they look together - they were clearly just mint to be! (#sorrynotsorry)
I have an odd relationship with mint chocolate. It was not something I always loved but what I do remember, is that during the holidays after my sister and I would go to bed, my mom would sneak out a box of those thin mint chocolates when she thought the coast was clear. The fact that the grown-ups were devouring chocolate when I was trying to fall asleep to the sound of wrappers crinkling, elevated those mint chocolates to lust-worthy status. You know, you always want what you can't have!
Don't worry, I've made up for the amount of mint chocolate I missed out on as a kid though - probably 3 times over - which brings me to my latest flavour combination. This ice cream cake is so retro it would be embarrassing if not for the fact that it tastes so darn good! I know frosted mint leaves are so 70's but there's a reason why they've been around so long! When you add that beautiful thin veil of the best sugar you can find onto fresh mint (I used the unrefined Natura Sugars Golden Caster Sugar), the crisp crystallized leaves add a sweet crunch to the ice cream that's just perfection with the dark chocolate sauce!
The ice cream itself is the real deal - none of that fake mint flavouring here please! It's rich, creamy and made with mint from that bush that's been taking over your garden and just keeps growing back (don't worry, we all have one!). Layered with homemade bitter chocolate biscuits (which is hands-down the biscuit recipe I make the most) and topped with dark chocolate, this is the kind of decadent deliciousness that I imagined the grown-ups were devouring while I was trying to fall asleep - except it doesn't involve wrappers, so you're safe!
Chocolate Peppermint Crisp Ice Cream Cake
100g butter, softened
50g Natura Sugars Golden Caster Sugar
100g self-raising flour
25g cocoa powder
Mint No-Churn Ice Cream
1 x 400g tin condensed milk (Make your own with my recipe here - I made mine using the Natura Sugars Golden Caster Sugar)
Handful fresh mint leaves* (about 12g)
500ml cream, whipped
50g chopped peppermint crisp bar
1 cup good-quality dark chocolate, chopped
3 tbsp coconut oil (use unflavored if you like)
Frosted Mint Leaves
Handful fresh mint leaves
1 egg white, beaten
1/2 cup Natura Golden Caster Sugar
Chopped peppermint crisp, to decorate
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Mix in the rest of the ingredients to form a soft dough then shape into a log on a lightly floured surface, wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Once chilled, cut the dough into 1/4cm thick discs and place on the lined baking tray, leaving enough space for the cookies to spread.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the cookies are cooked through but still soft.
Allow to cool completely.
For the ice cream, place the condensed milk in a blender and add the mint leaves. Blend until smooth. Pour into the whipped cream and fold through gently. Lastly, fold in the chopped peppermint crisp.
Prepare 20cm springform cake tin by lining the outside with cling wrap.
To assemble the ice cream cake, arrange a layer of the biscuits in the bottom of the cake tin then pour 1/2 the ice cream mix over the top, add another layer of cookies, the rest of the ice cream and finish with a final layer of cookies then place in the freezer until firm. Pour any leftover ice cream in a seperate container and freeze until firm.
To make the frosted mint leaves, brush the leaves with a thin layer of egg white then toss in the caster sugar. Place on a cooling rack and allow to dry for 3-4 hours.
Unmould the ice cream cake by dipping briefly in room temperature tap water then loosening the bottom. Place on a cake stand then top with scoops of the leftover ice cream, drizzle with the chocolate sauce and decorate with chopped peppermint crisp and the frosted mint leaves.
*Tip: To get a bright green colour, blanch the mint leaves in hot water briefly then refresh in ice water and drain well.
Thursday, January 21, 2016
|The view from the tiny little apartment we rented in Le Marais|
|Marveilleux are best enjoyed on the banks of the Seine!|
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Nuts and seeds TICK, antioxidants (also known as dark chocolate, by the way!) TICK, oats TICK, fruit TICK, fibre TICK. No, the condensed milk, butter and sugar don't count. They're cancelled out by all the good stuff - work with me here, people! They even LOOK healthy so no one will ever be suspicious that you're cheating (just be careful to make sure you don't look like you're enjoying them too much).
Although I can't guarantee that these bars will make you lose weight what you will lose is all sense of restraint because, they are probably the most addictive bars on the planet! The condensed milk gives them a smooth fudgey flavour that’s offset perfectly with the bitter chocolate and of course, all the crunchy healthy things make it okay to have 1 or two extra. And hey, if we really wanted to get technical about it, they could even pass as breakfast bars! ;)
Now, repeat after me: "I can do this!"
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
You’re going to eat so much chocolate, they said. Make sure to pack your stretchy pants, they said... It was about 2 hours into the (ridiculously bumpy) drive to the small (very rural) cocoa-growing village of Kyela in Tanzania when I realized that the likelihood of me devouring my bodyweight in chocolate on this trip was rapidly decreasing. This realization, however, did not dampen my excitement. Visiting a cocoa farm has been number one on my bucket list since I got my first sweet tooth and I desperately wanted, nay, needed to know how I could grow my very own chocolate tree back home in
|Hills upon hills of cocoa trees, tea and bananas roll into the distance in the Kyela region in Tanzania|
|Tanzanian women drying cocoa beans in the sun outside their homes.|
|A little Tanzanian girl playing outside her house in the shade of a cocoa tree.|
|A cocoa tree - in all it's oddness - the cocoa pods grow, bizarrely, straight out the tree trunk!|
Cocoa trees grow here like weeds, sprouting up from the red-clay soil wherever the beans are dropped. In this area, every household has cocoa trees growing outside their door. I mean, there were cocoa trees growing wild outside my hotel! Totally casual. Not only do the trees produce cocoa beans which the families sell, but I spotted more than a few locals taking an afternoon nap under the cocoa tree growing in their front yard. Having a cocoa tree in my front yard sounds like an excellent idea - no wait, two trees! I’ll put up a hammock, lie in it and day dream about… chocolate, duh!
|'Oh I think I'll just park my bicycle right here, under this cocoa tree growing in my backyard!'|
Daydreaming however, is far from the minds of the cocoa farmers I visited. While the trees pop up everywhere, it’s still seriously hard work, which is ironic considering how easily I can polish off a slab of chocolate. Unlike most other plants where the fruit is ready for harvest at more or less the same time, a cocoa tree is constantly producing pods and they all ripen at different times. This means weekly and often daily harvesting. It’s a 3-4 year wait before a cocoa tree produces cocoa pods and after 10 years, the tree has to be replaced; so planting new seedlings happens regularly to ensure a steady supply of chocolate for me - er, I mean, the world.
|The cocoa pods turn from green to yellow, orange and are finally ripe when they turn a deep red colour.|
|Cocoa farmers from the WACOTA business group - they are all third generation cocoa farmers.|
|Sticky, sweet, fruity wet cocoa beans before they are fermented.|
|The wet cocoa beans are fermented in crates lined with banana leaves to develop the chocolate flavour.|
|Dried cocoa beans ready to be shipped off to chocolate-makers around the world.|
|I'm in a cocoa treeeee!|
Grab a copy of Food and Home Entertaining's February issue for a more in-depth article about the cocoa farmers, their stories and how the chocolate we buy affects them.
Monday, December 21, 2015
Almond croissants are any bakery's darkest secret. I learnt to make them in the ridiculous hours of the morning when I was interning at a French patisserie in my high school years. You know how you fork out a small fortune for an almond croissant? Well, sorry folks, but actually, these almond pastries are made using YESTERDAY'S croissants - jip, all the croissants that weren't sold yesterday? The stale pastries are dipped in a sugar syrup, stuffed with an almond filling and rebaked to become today's deliciousness. Oh the shock and the horror! Actually, it's a pretty darn clever way of using leftovers and one that now, thanks to me, is no longer a secret (the things I do for you guys!).