I tried making a traditional Yule Log a few years ago. It was somewhat stressful. Apart from the fact that my butter is never warm enough and I always lose patience and mix it up anyway and deal with the consequential sponge that turns up the whole process is fraught with danger. The rolling up, unrolling, spreading of cream, re-rolling and hoping for no cracking then furiously patching it up with ganache, chocolate flying all over the place. It’s all a bit much for me; I’d rather be sipping a G&T and relaxing rather than cleaning ganache off of the kitchen tiles. That’s how my Marshmallow Rice Krispie Yule Log came about. It’s easy to make and you can fashion it into any shape that you like; the more dexterous amongst you may wish to attempt an actual reindeer.
There are an awful lot of new ‘healthy’ or ‘superfoods’ around at the moment and they are everywhere you look. Avocados, coconut oil, seeds and berries, cacao nibs; the list goes on. Now, I’ll try anything once and I have had a flirtation with all of the aforementioned foods but what happens when the Vogue moment is over, everyone’s moved on to something new and you’re left with a cupboard of half opened ingredients. Well if you’re me and throwing it away is not an option (although the compost bin might actually be the best place for the cacao nibs) you get creative. Welcome to my Three Ingredient Date and Coconut Bites; ready in a flash, use up some ingredients and made with all the good stuff.
I don’t think a bit of accuracy does anyone any harm and I find myself slightly troubled each Easter as I see many chocolate nests filled with standard size chocolate mini eggs. Not only does it look like an ostrich has laid several eggs in a blackbird’s nest you can only fit three maximum in each nest which doesn’t feel very generous. Now I know these aren’t used for educational purposes and are purely for chocolate enjoyment but I couldn’t bring myself to make something that was so proportionally incorrect. Thank heavens, then, that I found some micro chocolate eggs.
I can find it hard to know what to give people for gifts. When I’m not sure I normally cook or make something for them instead; it’s personal and I quite enjoy doing it. This is the other recipe that I developed for Kenwood (see crumble here) and I think they look a bit like Brussels sprouts if you stand far enough away (and squint). My recipe for Cranberry and Pistachio Chocolate Truffles is really simple and I find I usually have these ingredients in the cupboard at this time of year.
You will need (for nine brownies):
- 100g salted butter
- 180g golden caster sugar
- 70g light muscovado sugar
- 120g dark chocolate with orange (the stuff I used had caramelised orange peel in)
- 1 tbsp golden syrup
- 2 eggs
- Splash vanilla extract
- 100g plain flour
- 2 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 50g roughly chopped hazelnuts (mine were blanched)
MethodLine a (roughly) 20cm square baking tin with greaseproof paper. You could grease the tin but anything for a life of easier washing up. Melt the butter, sugars, chocolate and golden syrup together in a pan over a low heat until melted and well combined. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Beat the eggs and vanilla extract together then whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture. Mix the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder together then fold this into the chocolate mix. Gently mix in the hazelnuts. Pour the brownie mix into the tin then bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 25-30 minutes. Mark into pieces while still hot.
I think everyone likes their brownies differently; some prefer them cakier, some want them still gooey and others will have them like fudge. The thing I like about this recipe is the corner pieces are cakier than the edge pieces which are fudgier and the (best) centre brownie which is still slightly liquid. The middle piece is my favourite and I try to take it out when it’s fresh from the oven to enjoy hot. This of course is somewhat awkward as you need all manner of kitchen implements to try and extract it; it’s like culinary Operation but well worth the effort. The chocolate is just intense enough, the orange is more of a whisper and the hazelnuts add a welcome texture. Exactly what I wanted.
You will need (for a big bowl for two):
- 75g popping corn
- 1-2 tbsp flavourless oil
- 1 tsp nice sea salt
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
Get a large pan with a lid on a medium/high heat.
Drizzle on a little oil and swirl it around so it covers the base of the pan.
Put the popcorn into the pan and put the lid on (it helps if it’s a clear lid).
Keep the pan swirling around so that the popcorn doesn’t catch and wait for the corn to start popping.
Keep the pan moving until you can’t hear (or see) any more pops.
Remove the pan from the heat and take the lid off to let any steam escape.
It’s always nice to see some bright pink rhubarb poking its head out at the market but as it’s the first of the season it can be quite pricey. So when you have only £1.80, what can you do with two rhubarb sticks? Make a lovely, vibrant rhubarb compote/jam to sandwich in the middle of two fat slices of cake of course. Other things that you can do with two sticks of rhubarb include: jousting, a spot of relay running or making a parasol (if you have the leaves left on) but none of those would be anywhere near as good as this cake.
This recipe is on page 122 of the book.
You will need (I made 8 slices):
- 100g butter
- 2 tbsp golden syrup
- 2 tbsp malted chocolate drink (I used just malted i.e. Horlicks)
- 225g malted milk biscuits
- 75g milk chocolate (you can also use dark)
- 25g icing sugar
- 2 tbsp milk
Grease and line a cake tin; mine was an 18cm loose bottomed one.
Put the butter, golden syrup and malted drink into a saucepan and heat gently until the mixture is well combined. I find when the butter melts at first it looks a bit separated but keep stirring and it will come together and be thick and glossy.
Bash up the malted milk biscuits until you have crumbs then mix these into the butter mixture.
Press the mixture down well in the cake tin.
You will need (for two hot chocolates):
- 60g 70% dark chocolate
- 50ml rum, whisky or Cointreau
- 225ml whole milk
- 1 tbsp icing sugar
- 1 tbsp cornflour
- Vegetable oil
- 8 sheets of gelatine
- 2 egg whites
- 450g unrefined caster sugar
Sift the icing sugar and cornflour together. Rub a tin lightly with the vegetable oil then dust with the cornflour sugar mix.
Put the caster sugar in a pan with 200ml water and bring to the boil. Boil until it reaches 127C on a sugar thermometer.
While you wait for the sugar to boil put the gelatine sheets into 150ml water.
When the sugar syrup is ready add the gelatine with the soaking water and mix well. Grate around 1/2 tsp nutmeg into the syrup.
Whisk the egg whites in an electric mixer until stiff then continue to whisk them while you pour in the hot sugar syrup. Keep whisking until the marshmallow is stiff.
I have been noticing more and more things in the hedgerows. Perhaps it’s due to the purchasing of a foraging handbook which has become the mainstay of my bedside table or maybe my observational skills have drastically improved. Whichever the reason it has meant even more slowing down and stopping on a walk; not irritating if you are me but rather tiresome if you are walking with me. Apparently.