Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Life is one hell of a rocky road, so you may as well eat chocolate...

Q: What does a Hampstead Baker do when the oven is broken?
A: Experiment with the creation of Rocky Road. 

I have long been fascinated by the slabs of chocolatey biscuit treats you often see in the front counters of cafes country-wide. I think this fascination stems from a cafe I frequented during my university years (whose name I forget and extensive googling for which does not locate) which had the widest array of every type of biscuity-slab you might ever possibly find in their window. This being the case, I am surprised to find myself saying I have never until this day attempted to make any of these things. Possibly because they are ubiquitous and why should one attempt to make something so readily available, but probably because no baking is necessary and wherefore art one a Hampstead Baker if one is merely melting and refrigerating? This being said, my oven is broken and so I find myself in the melting and refrigerating stage of sweet-treat making and I must say it is an unexpectedly satisfying activity.
Be warned! Rocky Road is not a cheap creation and the more money you put into the chocolate you use, the better and more delicious your product will be...
You will need: 400g best quality dark chocolate (green and blacks is the best really, let's face it)
100 g mini marshmallows or full sized ones cut in quarters
200g rich tea biscuits 
3 tablespoons golden syrup
125g unsalted butter + about 20g more
Buying the ingredients for this recipe is fun as you look pretty much like either someone throwing a child's birthday party or a really useless contestant on Ready Steady Cook.
You do NOT need an oven, but you DO need a hob and a refrigerator.

Crush your rich tea biscuits using a rolling pin. It's good to have a mixture of decent sized bitey bits and some crumbs for textural purposes. 
Check out my silver nail polish, dear Readers. (These details are important.)
Melt 300g of the chocolate with 125g butter and the golden syrup. Melt it slowly over a v low heat. The saucepan I used was too small - would have been much less messy in a bigger pan as you do all your mixing in the same pan.  Simultaneously, melt the other 100g chocolate with the 20g extra of unsalted butter and leave to cool - this will be poured onto the top of the Rocky Road to smooth over the surface. Rather like laying the tarmac over the rough road. (Clearly, I have experience in the art of road surfacing.)

Fold the biscuits and then the marshmallows using a spatula into the original melted chocolate mix (the one with golden syrup). The mixture won't look beautiful but more like the rocky road surface after which it is named! 
Scoop the mixture into a foil lined brownie tray and smooth the surface as much as you can. 
Then pour the extra melted chocolate all over the top allowing it to fill in all the ruts and ridges of your ridiculously rocky road. Pop it in the fridge and leave it to chill over night. 
The following day, cut your creation into small squares (you may need to dip your knife in boiling water to help you cut through the dense chocolate) and drench in icing sugar. Serve with strong, hot tea to very hungry/sugar craving individuals. It is incredibly rich and gooey and not really for the faint hearted. 

  Having made my first Rocky Road I am slightly taken aback by what a long process it is to make something so apparently effortless and simple. There may not be very much skill in melting chocolate and stirring in some biscuits, but an element of patience is required (along with foresight) seeing as these have to be made a day in advance to be enjoyed - or at the very least in the morning to be eaten in the afternoon. Equally, for something that manages to cost about a pound in the shops, making these choclate-bars/biscuits/*things* is not an exactly economically viable day to day activity BUT there is something pleasing about having made it from scratch rather than merely consuming it. 
 Definitely a recipe to keep hold of and bring out on those occasions where you need to be reminded that however rocky the road might seem, there is always chocolate around the corner...
 Love and biscuits,
Silver Whimsy x

Sunday, 10 February 2013

A Rich Winter Blueberry, Peach or Plum and Almond Cake

Dear Readers,

It amazes me, but according to 'blogger stats' still you read every day in spite of my inability to post more than very sporadically. I do hope this means that the quality of my recipes ensures longevity in the blogging world. Anyway, 'tis an extraordinarily miserable day here in north west London, so what could be better than to fill the flat with the aromas of baking and the joy of cake.

You will need: 
2 x free range organic eggs
175g self raising flour
100g ground almonds
175g unsalted organic butter
175g golden caster sugar
1 x teaspoon orange zest
A few drops vanilla extract
100g blueberries
A punnet of plums or peaches 

Oven pre-heated to 170. 

You can replace the blueberries with raspberries or any other berry and you could use nectarines or a mixture of the stone-fruit in the recipe as you wish. I know these fruits aren't in season but sometimes you end up with a punnet of plums / a handful of nectarines that were an impulse purchase that never seem to ripen and this cake suits them perfectly. You can also use up out of date / past their best berries in this delicious, moist and almost crumbly cake. 

Line the base of a circular cake tin and butter the edges. Then mix the almonds and self raising flour together and put to one side. 
Cream the butter in the bowl and then cream together with the golden caster sugar until it is light and fluffy. I do everything by hand so this is quite exhausting as golden caster sugar is less refined and so takes more beating. Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl and beat into the mixture about a quarter at a time adding a tablespoon of flour if there are signs of the mixture curdling. 

Fold in the flour and almond mixture in thirds - the base is quite heavy so this takes some time. Be sure to fold in evenly across the butter and sugar mix. Grate the orange zest into the bowl and stir in along with a few drops of vanilla extract. Mix the fruits in evenly. This can be quite tricky as the mixture will be rather stiff by now. 

Scrape into your tin, smooth the surface down with a palette knife and bake for about an hour - you will need to keep testing as cooking times vary depending on the water content of the fruit. 

When ready, the cake should be golden brown on top and speckled with rich jewels from the fruit. You can eat this cake warm as more of a winter pudding with lashings of thick cream or vanilla ice cream, or alternatively sprinkle the top with a little more caster sugar, leave to cool and then serve with a proper cup of Yorkshire tea in the afternoon.  If making in the summer, I go for raspberries and blueberries leaving the stone fruits out of the picture altogether and smother the top in whipped cream with icing sugar and vanilla running through it and then lob loads more berries on top for a truly delicious summer spectacle. 

Future tea time treats coming soon.
Love til then, Silver Whimsy x