Category Archives: Chocolate

Spiced-Up Chocolate Chip Cookies

Spiced Chocolate Chip Cookies Gather and Graze

The last few weeks have primarily been spent nursing children (and myself…) back to health from the coughs and colds that winter invariably brings. Days spent juicing oranges, reading books, cooking comfort food and playing the occasional quiet board game… fine for a day or two, but let’s just say I’m thankful that children are now back at school and that life can finally drift back to normality. Drafts for three different posts I’d hoped to share with you, sit half-written from this period. All seemed a little flat and lacklustre (exactly as I was feeling) in both the writing and photos, so when time permits I’ll attempt to spice them up with some new, improved photos and a touch of editing, before sending them out. A winter-warming soup and a beautifully fragrant casserole were amongst the three, so it really won’t be much of a hardship to cook them over again…

During this time, I’ve also had a little fun playing around with my favourite choc-chip cookie recipe, adding various combinations of spices, cocoa, coffee and chocolate. This was much to the delight of my super-keen taste-testers who probably couldn’t taste a thing with their blocked noses, but loved the fact that we were experimenting all the same! A home economics, food appreciation and science lesson packed into one… Some batches were a little over the top in my enthusiasm for packing a punch of flavour, so when the following cookies came out of the oven, I was very relieved that the flavours I wanted were there, but with a touch more grace and subtlety.

Spiced-Up Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Servings: Makes about 30 Cookies
  • Print

  • 100g Unsalted Butter
  • 150g/2/3 Cup Raw Sugar
  • 1 Free-Range Egg
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 150g/1 Cup Plain Flour
  • ½ Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Chinese Five Spice
  • ½ Teaspoon Instant Coffee (crushed to a fine powder)
  • Pinch Salt
  • 100g Chopped Milk (or Dark) Chocolate

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Line 2 baking trays with parchment/baking paper.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, over gentle heat. Once melted, remove from the heat and tip into a large mixing bowl, along with the sugar and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add the egg and vanilla extract and once again, mix well.  Sift in the flour, baking powder, Chinese Five Spice, coffee and salt and stir until combined. Add in the chopped chocolate and mix gently.

Onto the baking trays, scoop teaspoonfuls of the mixture, leaving a little space around each. Bake for about 10 minutes for a crispy texture, or a minute or two less if you prefer soft.

Remove to a cooling rack for at least a couple of minutes, before tasting…

Spiced Chocolate Chip Cookies Gather and Graze

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Candid about Cumquat(s)

Perfect Cumquat | Gather and Graze

For a little while there, it was like having a third child… I gazed upon it, protected it, nurtured it and when it was fully grown and ready, I eased it out gently into the real world. Surely, there has been no other cumquat as well-loved and as well-photographed as this one here. You can more than likely tell that we don’t have many other fruit trees supplying us with nature’s bounty.

So, what did I end up doing with my one little cumquat? After requesting (and gratefully receiving… thanks girls!) advice on my previous post, thumbing through cookbooks and perusing numerous online images and recipes, a decision was finally made. Candied Cumquat was the unanimous consensus. A dear friend of mine mused that dark chocolate would be the perfect base… and as much as I knew that the flavours would work brilliantly together, I was unsure of the visual aspect in placing caramel-coloured candied cumquat atop the darkest of chocolate. I was picturing brown upon brown and felt that the cumquat might get a little lost. Lemon or orange syrup cake had entered my mind, but no amount of searching for attractive images online could confirm that this idea would create the beautiful result I was after. I searched and searched, but was surprisingly nonplussed by all that I came across.

In the end, flavour took priority and I decided on making some ‘Pots de Crème au Chocolat’ with a spot of cream to both highlight the cumquat and cut through the richness of the chocolate. I particularly thought to use a mixture of milk and dark chocolate in the Crèmes, to soften the flavour somewhat for my children’s palates… others may choose to work with purely dark.

I have a little confession to make though my friends… I have come to comprehend why our cumquat tree has hesitated in producing fruit for us before. It’s now really quite clear! Our family… all four of us it seems… DON’T actually like cumquats! Their appearance – yes! – by all means, what could be better than a fruiting ornamental cumquat to sit and admire? The candied cumquat that I made was all too reminiscent of the cloyingly tart marmalades I’ve tasted in the past. I ate it, but regret to say that it wasn’t altogether enjoyable. My youngest child passed his nibbled-at slice of cumquat to me, to finish on his behalf, while the others chewed furiously fast, just to make the taste go away… Thankfully the dessert sitting underneath was there and waiting. Within a moment the decadent taste of chocolate had wiped away the bitter ending to our prized cumquat.

This really wasn’t the outcome I’d hoped to be sharing with you today, but unfortunately it is the simple and honest truth. If we are graced by any more cumquats in the future, I will certainly try to find another way of enjoying them through cooking, in a savoury dish next time… like a tagine perhaps. Or maybe even amongst a salad…

The Pots de Crème au Chocolat that I prepared are adapted slightly from a recipe I found, by The Plantation House Restaurant in Hawaii (which looks an idyllic location!). Being way too generous and enthusiastic in my portion sizes of these, I’ll know now for future reference, that this quantity will provide dessert for six to eight people, instead of a greedy four. They are lusciously creamy in texture, rich in chocolatey goodness and go beautifully with a scoop of chantilly cream on top. An adornment of fruit is still I think required, though depending on what’s in season, perhaps the likes of raspberries (or any berry for that matter), kiwi or banana. A sprinkling of chopped toasted nuts would also be fabulous…

Pots de Creme au Chocolat | Cumquat | Gather and Graze

Pots de Creme au Chocolat (with Candied Cumquat)

For the Pots de Crème:

  • 100g Dark Chocolate
  • 100g Milk Chocolate
  • 4 Tablespoons Raw Sugar
  • 375mls/1½ Cups Thick/Heavy Cream
  • 4 Free-Range Egg Yolks
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • Pinch of Salt

Gently melt the two types of chocolate over a double boiler. At the same time, warm up the cream in a saucepan, until it almost comes to a boil (do not let it boil). Add the sugar and heated cream to the chocolate, stirring carefully until smooth. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate bowl, then add a spoonful of the chocolate mixture and whisk to combine (this will hopefully help to avoid having scrambled eggs in the next stage!) Now add the egg yolks, vanilla extract and salt to the chocolate and again stir carefully until silky and smooth. If you feel at all that your mixture is a little lumpy, strain it through a sieve before it cools down.

Allow to cool a little before pouring into your chosen pots/glasses/ramekins. Refrigerate for about 3 hours, before serving with whipped (Chantilly) cream and a slice of candied cumquat.

For the Candied Cumquat: Cumquat | Gather and Graze

  • 2 – 3 Fresh Cumquats (if you happen to have that many…)
  • 125mls/½ Cup Water
  • 110g/½ Cup Sugar
  • 1 Star Anise (optional)

In a small saucepan, stir the water, sugar and star anise (if using) over medium heat until it comes to a gentle boil, allow the syrup to simmer for a minute or two. Slice the cumquats thinly and add them to the syrup. Simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring gently every now and then.

Candied Cumquat | Gather and Graze

Remove cumquat slices (and a little of the syrup) to a bowl to cool down, ready to garnish the Pots de Crèmes…

Pots Creme Chocolat Cumquat Gather and Graze

Sugar… and Raspberry White Chocolate Muffins

Raspberry White Chocolate Muffins | Gather and Graze

It’s no great secret that my palate leans somewhat guiltily to the sweet side rather than the savoury.  Another one of those genetic things, I think…  Now, I don’t take sugar with my tea or sprinkle it on my morning cereal and I’m not at all tempted by the rows of chocolate bars in the supermarket, but when it comes to desserts… a perfectly baked cheesecake, a citrus tart, a silken pannacotta or sweet treats, like macarons or freshly-baked crostoli, I tend to go weak at the knees. Continue reading

Classic Chocolate Cake

Classic Chocolate Cake Gather and Graze

I’d like to be up front in saying that I don’t believe in using reduced or low-fat dairy options, or any form of margarine or blended butter-impersonating spreads in my cooking.  It seems to me that too much tampering with milk, cheeses, yoghurt and butter is turning what should be such natural, traditional products into the laboratory-created frankensteins that line the refrigerated shelves of our supermarkets. Continue reading