For Discoverylover (or anyone else who likes really good hot chocolate)

Great news, Discoverylover – I found the recipe!  (For the benefit of everyone else, a bit of backstory: last time I was up in Wellington, Discoverylover introduced me to an Italian restaurant where the food is good, but the real attraction is their hot chocolates, which are thick and rich and just like the ones I had in Venice.  And recently I stumbled upon a recipe for hot chocolate that, when I tried it out, turned out to be almost exactly like the ones they make at that restaurant.  So sharing it here for Discoverylover, but everyone else should try it too, because it is seriously good hot chocolate!)

For 2-3 servings (seriously, you’ll look at the quantities and think this will only be enough for one person, but you want to serve this in very small cups – it’s incredibly rich!):

250ml milk
65g Whittaker’s Dark Ghana (or other very high cocoa content dark chocolate), broken into small pieces
1 Tbsp soft brown sugar

Heat milk gently in a saucepan, but don’t let it get to a boil.
Once it’s warm, remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate until it is all melted.
Return to the heat, and simmer (on a very low heat – it should be only just simmering) for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.  It should end up quite thick – not quite to custard consistency, but getting close.
Add brown sugar and stir in until dissolved.
Serve in tiny cups 🙂

It does take a bit of effort to make, but it is worth it!  And if you’re just making it for yourself, you can still make the full recipe – just refrigerate what you don’t drink, and rewarm it the next day – it’s just as good 🙂

PS. I can’t remember where I found this recipe (it was on one of those websites you get to when you randomly follow a link which leads you to another link which leads you to another link, and then you find an interesting-sounding recipe and scribble it down roughly on a bit of paper, and then months later find the bit of paper again and decide to try it out and it turns out to be magic but you don’t know where it came from), and I haven’t really changed anything (other than converting the measurements to metric, probably), so technically I’ve plagiarised it by posting it here.  Apologies to the original chef for stealing your recipe – if I could remember who you are, I’d give you credit, and link rather than repost – sorry!

Cobblers

Mojosmom’s suggestion of a peach cobbler sent me off to Google.  I’d only ever encountered cobblers in fiction, but Google quickly turned up a plethora of recipes, all completely different.  In the end I found one that seemed to resemble what she’d described, so (after a bit of tweaking to adapt it to metric measurements, halve the size (the original recipe served 8!!!) and replace the self-raising flour (which I hate the taste of so always use real flour plus baking powder instead)) I gave it a go.  The ingredient list is pretty similar to the muffins, actually:

2-3 cups sliced peaches
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
50g butter
3/4 cup flour
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk
cinnamon

Make up a syrup with the water and half the sugar, and boil the peaches in it for 10 minutes. Mix flour, baking powder, remaining sugar, and milk to make a thin batter. Melt butter in a baking dish, and pour the batter over the top, without mixing. Spoon fruit and syrup over the top, then sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake 180C for 25-30 minutes.

The batter rises up around the fruit, and you end up with a sweet, slightly chewy, doughy fruity mixture. Delicious, but very heavy – I had to share it with friends to be able to get through it all.


I’m having a very enjoyable long Easter weekend so far. On Friday Harvestbird and I went to see a Chilean film at Alice’s, preceded by a walk through the wide open spaces of the ex-CBD. After the movie we went for a very late lunch, sitting outside in the sun and discussing literary theory and the application of narrative to everyday life – a very pleasant afternoon, and it gave me some very helpful new ways to look at the world.

Then on Saturday night I went out for dinner with Jenny and MrJenny – another lovely meal and great conversation. They’re off on holiday to Dunedin this week, so I was sharing my (rather out of date) local knowledge of the best things to do and see (I made sure to direct them to the beach where Skyring nearly tripped over a seal, so they can have their own wildlife close encounter).

Yesterday it was bottling day. Despite my best efforts at muffins and cobblers and eating a huge amount fresh, I still had a large pile of fruit left.

So I set to work making nectarine chutney.

That only used up half the fruit though. I thought about making a second batch, but I didn’t have enough of the other ingredients left, and it being Easter Sunday, the supermarket would have been closed. So I decided to be very brave and attempt some bottling.

I used to help Mum and Dad with bottling fruit all the time when I was a kid, but generally only with the preparing the fruit part – once it got to boiling hot sugar syrup being poured around, I kept out of the way. And my memories of it being a very arcane and esoteric process meant I never tried it for myself as an adult. But here I was with a pile of fruit and plenty of jars and lids I’d already sterilised. So there was only one thing for it – consult the trusty Edmonds book, turn my big stock pot into a water bath, and dive in (metaphorically, that is – literally diving into the stock pot would have been quite painful… and a bit difficult, seeing as it’s only big enough for my head).

Not many photos this time – there was way too much sugar syrup getting spilt around the kitchen for me to want my camera anywhere near!

End result, 11 jars of chutney, and 10 of bottled peaches and nectarines (and only 3 jars that failed to seal, which I’ll have to use up first). That should keep me going for the winter!


The long weekend was rounded off quite nicely (though it’s not actually over yet for me – I’ve got tomorrow off as well) by breakfast with Dad and Stepmother, who were on their way back from Australia. They were staying at a motel just up the road, so we went to a nearby cafe for breakfast, then they dropped me off in Riccarton on their way out of town. After a quick dash into the mall to get a couple of things, I headed to Deans Bush to play with my camera in the gardens.

Muffins

Still here, and still coping, though it’s very much a case of two steps forward and one back.  I may write some more about that later, but I don’t feel much like it right now, so instead, muffins!

Dad was in town briefly on Friday on his way to a wedding, so he dropped off a huge box (and I mean huge – it was one of those bins supermarkets use for displaying fruit) of peaches and nectarines.  More than I’ll ever be able to eat in their fresh state, so there’ll definitely be some chutney-making going on over the Easter weekend, and probably quite a bit of baking as well.  For now though, I just settled for stewing a few for pudding last night, and made some peach muffins to take into our Monday morning meeting at work tomorrow.

And in a vague attempt to kick-start myself out of the uncreative rut I’ve been in, a muffin-based photo essay:

And the recipe, in case you’re feeling hungry after all that:

1-2 cups peaches, diced (you can leave the skin on as long as you cut them small enough)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
40g butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
225g flour
125g sugar
3 tsp baking powder

Mix brown sugar and cinnamon together and set aside.  Mix butter, milk and egg together.  Mix dry ingredients, then stir through peaches.  Add milk mixture and mix until just combined.  Spoon into muffin tins, then sprinkle over cinnamon mixture.  Bake at 200 C for about 15 minutes.

Notes:

  1. You could probably substitute just about any fruit (even tinned fruit if you’re suffering through the end of the northern hemisphere winter and can’t get fresh)
  2. The assistance of a cat is not essential, but she makes a good supervisor (even if she did try and push the boundaries of what exactly “not allowed on the table” means a couple of times)

Chocolatey Fruity Oaty Biscuits

It’s a while since I’ve posted a recipe here, so as I was doing a bit of experimental baking this morning to create some biscuits to take to Otakuu’s Christmas do, I documented the process:

Ingredients

  • 115g butter
  • 115g brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 150g flour
  • slightly less than 2 tsp baking powder*
  • 75g berry-flavoured Light ‘n’ Tasty cereal**
  • 115g dark chocolate
  • 115g white chocolate

* I replaced self-raising flour in the original recipe with plain flour + baking powder, because I always think self-raising flour leaves a funny taste.  By my calculation the exact substitution should be 1 7/8 tsp baking powder, so if you really want, you can measure out 7 x 1/8 teaspoons, or just do it the easy way and make your second teaspoonful slightly short.

** The original recipe called for porridge oats, but not having any on hand, I substituted some of MrPloppy’s cereal stash (don’t tell him ;-)), which had the bonus of having lots of chewy fruity bits.  You could substitute pretty much any muesli-type cereal depending on the taste you wanted.

butter and sugar

Step 1: Soften butter (or over-soften in my case, because I always soften butter by putting the bowl in a sink full of hot water, and I forgot that since the electrician replaced the thermostat on the hot water cylinder, the hot water has been a lot hotter than it used to be) and cream together with brown sugar until light and fluffy.

eggs and vanilla

Step 2: Add egg and vanilla essence (insert standard rant here about using proper essence and not the fake “vanilla flavouring” because it tastes rubbish) and beat well.

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Step 3: Add sifted flour and baking powder, and mix (yeah, theoretically it should be gently folded in, but realistically, you’re making biscuits, not a sponge cake – electric beaters on slightly slower speed is fine).

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Step 4: Add roughly chopped chocolate (important note: don’t do what I did and wonder if you could save some effort chopping up all that chocolate by using the nut grinding attachment on your food processor. “Grind” means exactly that, so you end up with powdered white chocolate before you realise what’s happening and switch it off. And powdered white chocolate, while it sounds like a nice concept, in baking terms acts like an extra measure of sugar, so the biscuits come out much crunchier than they should have) and cereal, and mix in (this bit *is* better done with a spoon, because a mixer would crush the cereal too much).  PS. If you’re wondering about the pink flakes in the white chocolate, that’s because I didn’t have enough white chocolate chips, so I threw in a few squares of Whittaker’s Raspberry White Chocolate to make up the weight.  I wouldn’t advise doing this though, because Whittaker’s Raspberry White Chocolate is the food of the gods, and should never be wasted on mere baking!

All mixed together and ready for the final stage.

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Step 5: Spoon out onto lined (or greased, if you are really into hard work and like cleaning oven trays. I don’t, which is why baking paper was invented) trays, leaving plenty of space for spreading.  Heaped teaspoonfuls is about right.  Bake at 180 C for 15 minutes.

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Yeah, you know what I said about leaving plenty of room for spreading? Though mine did spread a bit more than they should because of the powdered chocolate acting like sugar thing. Mine are also a bit crunchier round the edges than they should be too. But the final verdict from the official taste tester MrPloppy was that they tasted “ok for home made biscuits”, which is high praise for him! (He even forgave me for commandeering his Light ‘n’ Tasty)