The best Hot Chocolate

Today, I was fortunate to try out what has to be the best hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted!  (although be warned.. the measure below is for two people, not one.  As much as you might like to try and drink all of it, you will feel ill if you do!)

Ingredients:

  • 450ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 100ml whipping cream (whipped)
  • 120g milk chocolate, finely grated / chopped / blitzed (in a food processor)
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • dark chocolate drops

Method:

  • Gently heat about a 1/3 of the milk (150ml) in a pan, but do not boil
  • add the blitzed/finely grated milk chocolate, and whisk well but slowly until dissolved into the milk
  • add the cinnamon and salt, and then gently the remaining part of the milk, whilst still gently heating and whisking carefully
  • about 30 seconds before serving, add a little of the whipped cream, and whisk into the pan (still not letting the milk come to the boil)
  • carefully pour the mixture into your two large mugs (for two people, not one!)
  • top with a good squirt of freshly whipped cream
  • top that with a sprinkling of dark chocolate drops
  • You can then even sprinkle a little icing sugar / cocoa on top of that, for decorate purposes should you really want to!
  • Drink slowly .. it’ll be very rich, very sweet, very morish, and very sickly if you have too much! (the contrast of the hot chocolate milk and cold whipped cream is particularly nice though).

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is my favourite cookie recipe, modified and improved over the years.  For a while it was sold commercially as the base of the ‘cookie dough’ dessert option at the luxury boutique hotel I owned/managed for three years.  These days is a very popular choice for Pot Luck events.

Makes about 12 good (big) sized cookies, or 18-24 or so regular cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 200g margarine
  • 180g caster sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence (optional)
  • 300g plain flour, sifted
  • 5 tsp baking powder
  • 200g Chocolate chunks (easy to make totally vegan using vegan chocolate)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C
  2. Cream margarine and sugar together in a mixer, until light and fluffy
  3. Slowly add sifted flour & baking powder to the butter mix, to form a dough
  4. Add the chocolate chunks to the dough, and mix slowly and carefully
  5. If making larger cookies, roll into golf size balls, arrange on paper on a cookie tray, and press down slightly.  Otherwise divide the mix into about 12 – 18 cookies.
  6. Cook for 12-15 minutes in the middle of the pre-heated oven.
  7. Transfer to a cooling rack, and then store in an airtight container when cool.

Notes:

  • In my experience, the best chocolate chunks are actually half a ‘square’ of regular chocolate bars, like ‘Whitakers, Dairy Milk, etc.’.  This way you end up with cubes of chocolate around 1cm square (which are much nicer to eat within the cookie).  Chocolate drops are just a bit too small, melt too much during cooking, and so become more of a background total flavour rather than a satisfying chocolate hit in most bites of the cookies.  The chocolate doesn’t always break evenly, so don’t worry about the irregular sizes, just put it all in the bowl.
  • The cookies do not need cooking for quite as long as you may expect.  If they’re just going golden brown, they’ll still be quite soft when getting out of the oven, but they’ll firm up nicely when cooling after a few minutes out of the oven on a cooling tray.  So also don’t try and take them off the hot baking tray too quickly.  Just give it a few minutes on the tray, before moving onto the cooling rack.
  • You can prepare larger amounts of ingredients in advance, and then freeze the raw cookie dough in batches to bake later.  To defrost, just move it from the freezer to the fridge the day before baking, and use as you would normally.  Or if you just want to make giant cookies one at a time on demand, just freeze individually wrapped portions, pre-flattened to size & shape.  You can also just make it up to a couple of days in advance, and store in an airtight container in the fridge until you’re ready to bake.
  • Particularly when you’re making multiple batches of cookies, always place the raw dough onto a cool baking/cookie sheet, rather than one recently fresh out of a hot oven.  If you put it onto a hot baking tray, it starts to melt the margarine element before the flour starts cooking and binding, so you end up with very thin merged cookies that really aren’t so good in my opinion.
  • These times are based on a regular thin metal baking tray, lined with baking parchment / paper.  If you use one of those thicker reusable silicon baking sheets instead of the paper, the cooking time may need to be extended by up to 5 minutes (depending on your oven and the silicone sheet) and this slower cooking time will also result in drier and flatter cookies.

Cookie Dough to Share – Boutique Hotel Style

‘Cookie dough to share’ at the hotel was around 100g of raw mix, topped with four balls of ice-cream, about half a tub of then freshly whipped cream, fresh chocolate shavings, and a quick decorative lattice of melted chocolate as a type of sauce and decoration.

Each ‘cookie dough’ was cooked from frozen (a pre-wrapped portion, made in advance, weighed, shaped, and then individually wrapped in clingfilm before freezing), for 12 minutes into a commercial pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C.

It was pulled out just before it started going brown, transferred to a cool deep serving plate, topped quickly with the cold ingredients in a stylised way, and then served immediately.

It was always greatly enjoyed by the hotel guests.

Sunday Chocolate Cake

This is a recipe recently tried out from the ‘Green and Blacks’ Chocolate Recipes cook book, but with a few minor modifications for me (of course using egg replacement powder isn’t normally the way I try to do these things.. but this works well under the circumstances. I will work out a vegan version soon though):

Ingredients

Main cake:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 4 tbs cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 200ml milk
  • 100g margarine
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 40g vegan egg replacement powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Syrup:

  • 4 tablespoons of marmalade
  • 3 tbs lemon juice

Butter cream filling:

  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 50g margarine
  • 100g icing sugar

Icing:

  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 25g margarine

 

Method:

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C

‘butter and flour’ the cake tins, and/or use non-stick tins, but add baking paper to the base section

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and bicarb (from the main mix), and egg powder, three times, to thoroughly mix but also make it particularly light and fluffy.

In a separate small jug, mix in the lemon juice to the milk to curdle it.

Into another large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract, until fluffy. Then alternate the liquids and flour mix, mixing thoroughly all the time between each addition (not necessarily putting in all the liquids in, as it may start to  get too runny.  You can also add a little extra water though if necessary).

Divide the batter into the two tins, and bake for 20-25 minutes (until a skewer comes out clean, the cakes should also be slightly springy to the touch).

Once removed from the oven, leave in the tins for a short while, and then turn out onto a cooling rack (one face down, one face up).

 

To make the syrup, gentle heat the marmalade and lemon juice in a small pan, mixing well.  Then place the base part of the cake (flat side up) on your serving plate, and pour the syrup over the ‘top’ so it soaks in.

 

For the butter cream filling, first melt the chocolate over a double pan (or if you’re very careful, in a microwave, mixing well), and then allow to cool slightly (so warm, but not hot).  In a separate clean mixing bowl, blend the icing sugar and butter until fluffy, and then mix in carefully the melted chocolate.

Spread the butter cream mix over the flat base of the cake, and then sandwich it with the other cake as a topping.

 

To make the chocolate icing, melt more chocolate as before, and add a little melted butter.. mix well, leave to cool slightly, and then ice the very top of the cake.

 

Leave the whole thing to settle a little more (if you can wait), and then enjoy responsibly!

Lentil, Carrot & Onion Soup

lentil soup

This is another of my favourite soup recipes, very warming, very filling, and very moorish.  Best served with some good hunks of fresh wholemeal bread.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion (corsely chopped)
  • 1 carrot (corsely grated)
  • a small sprinkling of chilli flakes
  • 250 grams (1 cup) split red lentils
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 750ml (3 cups) vegetable stock

Method:

  • Fry the chopped onion in a little oil/butter to soften until just turning golden.
  • Add the spices, the carrot, hot stock, and lentils, and stir well.
  • Put the lid on, and keep it on (otherwise you’ll need to add up to a litre more of water)
  • Bring to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer for around 10-15 minutes
  • Enjoy!

Other variations:

For a creamier soup (now my preferred taste), after cooking, put about half the hot soup in a blender (or a large bowl for one of those hand blender things), and process to a smooth liquid.  Then put this back in with the chunkier soup mix, and enjoy 🙂