Archive for the ‘Baking’ Category

A Cocoa Carrot Cake

Firstly, sorry for the woeful lack of posts this past week. I have an excuse though: some sort of throat virus that attacks anonymously but leaves its trace for several long, protracted days. Moving from the bed, much less blogging, was completely out of the question for the past few days but the good news is, apart from a nasty sinus headache (any tips for clearing that one up? I’ve tried every pill going and none of them seem to touch it) I’m back to 65/70% recovery and so I present to you a post that I started on Monday before I fell ill….(oh and I will get back to each one of you who commented or stumbled me…very soon!!).

I don’t know many people who dislike Carrot Cake. I prefer it everytime over chocolate cake. Perhaps it’s the always exciting spiciness of the cinnamon and cloves or is it the rich cream cheese icing (I always say I  love a bit of cake with my icing). Or is it the slightly perverse thrill at putting a vegetable into a cake?

I suppose it could be the fact that Carrot Cake was once lauded as healthy. For sure it is missing the butter element but that cream cheese topping is about as calorific as it comes although there must be healthier options for the icing. I just don’t want to know about them.

For me, I enjoy the relentless moistness of the cake, the fact that it lasts forever in the cake tin (providing you don’t eat it first) and that tang of cream cheese followed by the spiciness of the cake when you take your first bite.  Oh, and it is really easy to make. In fact, it was the first cake I ever made, in Domestic Science class (that’s cookery to you and me), when I was about 10 years old. It is my favourite type of cake mixture, pour and stir. No creaming necessary. There is that annoyingly prolonged time spent grating carrots but if you have a food processor that element is despatched post haste too.

carrot-cake-21This recipe is slightly different, because, what with this being a chocolate blog and all, it uses Cocoa Powder. The flavour is not overpowered by the cocoa but simply enhanced and given extra depth. The original recipe used (from the Divine Heavenly Chocolate Recipes cookbook) used Cocoa Powder in the Icing too but I omitted that because I love the white, fluffy purity of the original cream cheese icing. I have given both options here in case you want to go all out cocoa mad though.

They're not real carrots - they're coconut!

They not real carrots- they're coconut!

For the Cake:

3 Large Free Range Eggs

175g Caster Sugar

200ml Sunflower Oil

250g Grated Carrot

200g Plain Flour

3 Tablespoons Good Quality Cocoa Powder

1 Tsp Cinnamon

1 Tsp Ground Ginger

1 Tbsp Baking Powder

125g Walnut Pieces (optional)

For the Icing

100g Soft Unsalted Butter

100g Cream Cheese

300g Sieved Icing Sugar

5 Tablespoons Sieved Cocoa Powder (optional)

Preheat oven to 180c.

Line and grease two 8″ Round Sandwich Tins.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until light and frothy. Gradually beat in the oil. A hands free or electric hand whisk is by far the quickest method here.

Stir in the grated carrots.

In a separate bowl, sieve together the Flour, Baking Powder, Spices and Cocoa Powder and stir into the carrot/egg/sugar/oil mixture.

Fold in nuts if using.

Pour evenly into the two prepared sandwich tins and bake for about 25 minutes or until soft to the touch. A skewer may not come out completely clean as carrot cake is always supposed to be very moist.

Leave to cool in the tins and then turn out. Once completely cool, cover and fill with the following icing:

To make the icing, mix together all the ingredients until a thick but spreadable and very creamy icing emerges.

You can decorate with chopped walnuts if you like, or some coconut carrots that, implausibly, my Mum had in her bread bin!


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There is nothing that aggrieves me more than being out of biscuits (or cookies, if you will), particularly on a holiday. Instead of having my usual tea and biscuits for breakfast, I have to revert to (gasp!) toast or cereal!
I know it sounds unhealthy but I have an agreement with my stomach: he won’t hurt, if I feed him high cocoa chocolate based foods at various points throughout the day. Sometimes he shirks on his agreement and hurts anyway but I continue to eat chocolate regardless.
So, what’s a girl to do without biscuits and/or chocolate? Make chocolate biscuits of course! And for one of the best cookie recipes I have ever cooked, I turned to Great Cookies by the wonderful Carole Walter. This is is a fantastic book, beautifully photographed with every type of cookie recipe imaginable, from drop cookies to speculaas, pinwheels to biscotti and everything else in between. Of course, I have only ever cooked one recipe from this book: Walter’s unbeatable Oatmeal Cookies.
I used to hate anything with oatmeal because it would always provoke an outbreak of stomach ache, so I avoided this wholesome tasting cereal like the plague. However, since I now have the aforementioned agreement with said stomach, I like to experiment with foods that I previously couldn’t eat. And fortunately, I have discovered there is quite a lot now that I can eat without too much discomfort.
IBS is a really unpleasant disorder. In my case, it causes severe bloating, headaches, cramping and nausea if I eat too much wheat or dairy produce. I take medication before each meal which does greatly reduce the symptoms but fellow sufferers will know that this isn’t always the answer. I have suffered from it since I was old enough to suffer from the stresses of the real world, sixteen or seventeen years old and when I first approached the doctors with my complaint about persistent stomach aches, they put it down to poor diet. IBS didn’t really exist (in the UK at least) back then.
Thankfully, reasonably effective anti-spasmodics have been introduced and some people (like my work colleague who finds that beer causes his outbreaks) can control theirs purely by cutting out ‘trigger’ foods.
I, on the other hand, rely purely on the tablets because I refuse to let the illness spoil my culinary life. The only foods I have strictly cut back on are dairy based foods like yoghurt, milk (and milkshakes), coffee with milk, and ice cream. Also, chocolate with a high milk content has to be eaten with care. Fortunately we have 70% cocoa which I can eat. Nuts are usually a big no-no if they are of the harder variety (for example, peanuts, brazil nuts or hazelnuts).
“But, enough about your stomach!” I hear you cry, “what about those cookies?”
Ah yes. The Cookies. Oatmeal cookies, studded generously with large chunks of dark chocolate and mahogany hunks of pecan. The original recipe calls for walnuts but I find that Pecans have a sweeter taste but generous bite.
The wonderful thing about cookie recipes is that you can alter the flavourings to suit your palate (or in my case, stomach) or store cupboard. These would taste just as good without the chocolate or nuts, just plain old fantastic oatmeal cookies.
Going against most recommendations, I halved the recipe, straight down the middle, for the simple reason that whilst I could eat 3 dozen of this oatie beauties, my stomach and I would come to serious blows. And despite this, the recipe turned out perfectly: these cookies/biscuits are crisp on the bottom, chewy in the middle. If you eat them still hot, the chocolate chunks still run fluidly throughout and there is nothing nicer than eating melted chocolate. When cold, they are just as good.
Being the true American that he is, Paul ate his with a glass of milk. I simply ate mine whilst watching the Road to Perdition, crumbs falling all over as the film reached its tense crescendo.

Other variations of this cookie could involve swapping chocolate for raisins or dried cranberries, various nuts or seeds, if you want a slightly healthier version.

oatmeal-cookiesOATMEAL COOKIES adapted from Carole Walter’s Great Cookies
Makes about 20 cookies that are 2.5″ wide, roughly
1/3 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
1 1/4 Cup Oatmeal (not instant)
1/6 Cup Caster (or granulated) Sugar
3/4 Cup Plain Flour
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter (not really soft)
1 Tablespoon Corn Syrup or Golden Syrup
1 Small Egg
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Chocolate Chips (I hit a bar of Lindt 70% chocolate repeatedly against a work surface to break them into decent size chunks)
1 Cup Chopped Pecans, or nut of your choice
Preheat oven to 180c. Line two baking sheets with baking paper or lightly oil them.
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the brown and white sugar and a third of the oatmeal until sand-like. This will take about 3 minutes.
Sift together the flour, salt and baking powder together. Stir in the rest of the oatmeal. Set aside.
Using your stand alone mixer or electric hand whisk, blend the butter with corn syrup on low speed until light.
Beat in the processed oatmeal/sugar mixture in three additions. Add the egg and vanilla extract.
Turning the speed up to medium, add the sifted flour in three more additions, mixing until only just combined.
Finally, fold in the nuts and chocolate chips.
Using either a couple of teaspoons or a small ice cream scoop (which I highly recommend!), drop spoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each scoopful. They will spread out during cooking but not horrendously.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until starting to turn golden around the edges.
Leave to cool for a couple of minutes on the baking sheets then remove to a cooling rack.
According to Walter, these cookies will last 2 weeks in an airtight tin. I doubt that they will last that long!

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“What’s that? A healthy Chocolate Cake?” I hear you gasp. Well, yes and no. It has no butter in it, so you’re already losing the fat element. It has banana, of course, which we all know is really good for you (high in potassium which is great for regulating blood pressure and the function of the heart, not to mention they’re incredibly soothing if you suffer from mouth ulcers), and it has Malt Extract. Whilst this may seem like an extravagance, Malt Extract not only tastes fantastic but it is a useful daily supplement due to it’s abundance of Vitamin B. And it habanana-cake-3s the most amazing affinity with chocolate (It is also a slow digesting sweetner which is better for people with issues with sugar. But mostly, it just tastes fantastic. Fans of Maltesers/Malt Balls will be nodding in vociferous encouragment). A further incentive for buying some Malt Extract: if added to bread dough, it gives a wonderful flavour.

Furthermore, the cake uses unrefined Demerara Sugar which is a slightly more natural sugar and gives a wonderful caramel-like taste to anything it touches. The chocolate element is a low-sugar cocoa. I used Green and Blacks Organic Cocoa Powder which has a richer taste than say Cadburys Cocoa Powder (although Cadburys powder has a milk chocolate taste which some people may prefer). This dark as coal dust Cocoa has rich, almost smoky taste, deeply chocolately and definitely for the grown ups.
The icing is also a healthier option, just water, icing sugar and more cocoa powder. None of that sticky, unctuous butter icing for this cake. Water Icing always reminds me of my Grandmother who used to ice her Fairy Cakes with it. Most bakeries over here still use it on their iced buns, Belgian Buns etc. It is a much more economical option too.

monkey1Anyway, a cake that tastes this moist, this chocolately and this banana-ry doesn’t need any other fripperies.
And because it is so simple to make – literally a pour and stir cake – children interested in cooking would also have lots of fun joining in, mashing the banana and getting all gooped up from the malt and syrup. You could even convert this into little cupcakes instead and if you’re feeling really artistic, make some marzipan bananas!

So, if you fancy making a healthy, slightly lower-fat than usual chocolate banana cake, here’s the recipe:

2 Bananas, mashed well
225g Self-Raising Flour OR 225g Plain Flour with 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
3 Tablespoons Good Quality Cocoa Powder, preferably organic
115g Light Muscovado Sugar
2 Tablespoons Malt Extract
2 Tablespoons Golden Syrup (or Corn Syrup)
2 Eggs
4 Tablespoons Skimmed Milk
4 Tablespoons Sunflower Oil or similar non-flavoured vegetable oil
6oz Icing Sugar, sifted
5 Teaspoons Cocoa Powder, sifted
Warm water to mix

Grease and line an 8″ Deep Cake Tin.
Preheat oven to 160c.
Sift the flour and cocoa into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the sugar, making sure they are well combined.
Make a well in the middle and add all the other cake ingredients. Stir well to combine and pour into your prepared cake tin.
Bake for between 50 minutes to 1 hour, depending on your oven. A palate knife should come out mostly clean but will still have a little sticky cake crumb sticking to it. This is a moist cake.
Leave to cool on a rack.
Once cool, you can make the icing.
Sieve together the icing sugar and cocoa then, using a fork, whisk in a tablespoon of water at a time, until it forms a thick, dark, glossy paste.
Spread over the top of the cake. Decorate as you wish, with some sliced bananas if you are planning to eat it all the same day or some marzipan fruits.

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So I’m cooking lunch for my mum and, at 10.30am the same morning she asks me what we’re having:

Mum: “Meat?”

Me: “No.”

Mum: {pleading voice} “Not vegetarian?!”

Me: “No.”

Mum: “So…it must be fish?”

Me: “Yes, yes it’s fish”

Mum: “Oh. So have you made a big dessert then?”

Me: “No. Did you want dessert?”

Mum: “Well, fish isn’t very filling and if it’s a fish dish I haven’t had before, I probably won’t like it.” Me: “So you want dessert so fill up on. Just in case?”

Mum: “Well, you do write for this chocolate blog now so it might make sense to give yourself something to write about. Pleeeeease?”

End of telephone conversation.

I suppose I should be offended really but I’m used to my family’s complete and utter fear of what they see as my maverick style of cooking. And all because I’ve cooked maybe 3 or 4 really dud dishes over the last 10 years. And I think that’s pretty good odds myself.

But, I like a challenge so I start rustling around my cookbooks. Paul suggests the 30 minutes chocolate puddings but I don’t want any extemporaneous faff when I get to my mums so I find this perfect recipe, ironically in a cookbook that my mother bought me for my birthday, called Good Food 101 Chocolate Treats: Chocolate Brownie Cake.

Yes, it’s a Brownie baked in a cake tin but it’s more than that. It is fast. All the sugars, chocolate and butter and melted together in a saucepan and then your flour, cocoa and baking powders are stirred in. Almost like your American Dump Cake. Not only is it fast and easy, it is incredibly rich and delicious. I think this could be alluded to the additions of Golden Syrup and cocoa powder, not generally used in traditional brownies.

Anyway, I baked the Chocolate Brownie Cake and was thrilled to see it had the traditional ooey, gooey middle and rich, deep flavour.

We served it with some single cream and raspberries (Paul had vanilla ice cream but then, he is American). Mother was pleased. Oh, and she said the fish dish was filling too…



100g Butter

175g Caster Sugar

75g Muscovado Sugar (light)

125g Good Quality Dark Chocolate, chopped

1 Tbsp Golden Syrup

2 Large Eggs, beaten

1 Tsp Vanilla Extract

100g Plain Flour

½ Tsp Baking Powder

2 Tbsp Cocoa Powder


Preheat oven to 180c.

Line an 8” Cake tin.

In a large saucepan, gently melt together the chocolate, butter, golden syrup and sugars until the mixture is amalgamated and quite smooth.

Remove from heat, beat in the eggs and vanilla and sift in the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. Stir thoroughly and pour into your prepared cake tin.

Bake for 25-30 minutes (mine took 28 minutes).

Leave to cool in the tin for at least 15 minutes, then cut into slices and serve with cream, ice cream or crème fraiche and some fresh fruit.

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Well, if you’re going to make a chocolate cake, you may as well push the boat out right? Wrong. At heart I love truly simple things: choc-chip cookies, chocolate with no nuts, no caramel, no nougat, chocolate sponge cake with buttercream icing or maybe just whipped cream. My favourite pizza is even plain ol’ cheese and tomato and my drink of choice? Water. Well, during the week anyway.

Yet, to push the boat out for the penultimate day of Chocolate Week, I decided not to make a simple chocolate sandwich cake. I chose (that’s right, chose) to make that Hungarian classic, Dobos Torte.

A multi-layered gateaux, reminiscent to some of Martha Stewarts Crepe Cake, although much simpler than that to produce, the Dobos Torte was invented by Hungarian Confectioner Jozsef C Dobos. Dobos idea was the produce a long-lasting cake and the caramel topping on the final layer was his solution.

It is simple enough to produce, eggs whisked with sugar, vanilla and flour, then this frothy batter is spread out on five 7″ baking paper circles and baked for 10 minutes. The resultant thin layers are then sandwiched together with chocolate buttercream, the top layer coated with hot caramel.

So far so good, my cake looks a little shabby. My icing skills are not honed enough and the cake is too domed for the crisp top layer to rest flat but it looks OK. In fact, it looks almost impressive.

And then we come to tasting it. The sponge has a mean, rubbery texture that is not particularly pleasant. This is no doubt down to Dobos desire to produce a cake that will last into infinity. Well, these sponge slices certainly resemble their car-cleaning cousins.The butter cream is tooth-achingly rich but curiously still not chocolatey enough. The topping is tricky to cut and can only really be eaten with the fingers, in one piece.

My own cooking notes would be as follow: ground almonds rather than flour would be a worthy edition to the sponge recipe and a dark, dark chocolate ganache better for the filling. You can’t really improve on the caramel topping for sheer drama and your guests are happy to wrestle with that layer than all well and good.

Incidentally, there are over 100 variations of this recipe, some include butter in the sponge which I think would improve both the texture and the flavour immeasurably. However, I have given the recipe below should anyone wish to replicate it. Good luck!

DOBOS TORTE – serves 8



3 Eggs

100g Caster Sugar

1tsp Vanilla Extract

100g Plain Flour

175 Dark Chocolate

175 Softened, Unsalted Butter

2 tsbp Milk

350g Sieved Icing (confectioners) Sugar


100g Granulated Sugar

4 Tbsp Water


Preheat oven to 200c/400f.

Cut out five 7″ dia Greaseproof Paper Circles and, place two of them on two baking sheets.

Whisk together the sugar and eggs for 10 minutes using a hand-held whisk, until pale and voluminous. Sift in the flour, pour in the vanilla and fold in.

Spoon three dessertspoonfuls on each of your two prepared circles, spreading out with the back of the spoon to within 1/2 an inch of the edge of the circle. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly golden and slightly puffy. Leave to cool, on the paper, on cooling racks.

Repeat with the remaining 3 circles, to give a total of five layers.

To make the buttercream, melt the chocolate over a double boiler and leave to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk together the icing sugar, butter and milk. Beat in the melted chocolate.

To assemble, you will probably need to trim each of the layers slightly to ensure that they are the same size. there is no easy way to do this except to say, ensure that you do not layer the cakes bottom sides touching as they will just stick together.

Place one layer on your serving plate and spread with the buttercream, ensuring you get right to the edges and do not have too much in the middle. Repeat with three more of the sponges. Spread the icing around the edge of the cake.

To make the caramel layer, melt the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium high heat until it turns golden but not dark. Place your final sponge layer on a cooling tray over some sheets of kitchen paper (the caramel will run everywhere when you pour it over the sponge).

When the caramel turns golden, about 5 minutes or so, working quickly, pour over the final sponge layer, tilting the cooling tray to ensure that the whole cake is covered. Leave to cool for a few minutes then, using a long bladed knife, mark (but do not cut) the segments of the cake.

Carefully remove from the cooling rack and place on top of your iced cake. If you have any icing left (and you should have plenty), pipe whorls on each segment.

Leave to setup for a couple of hours and then serve.

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Winter is drawing rapidly closer – the clocks are due to fall back and it will soon be dark when I leave work – my desire to cook good wholesome food seems to be an all time high. I am so excited about the impending winter events, Halloween (celebrated by the ancient Celts as part of the Samhain festival and which indicated the end of the year and thus the onset of Winter), Bonfire Night, Thanksgiving and finally Christmas and New Years, that I have already started planning menus for all of them.  I have an urge to cook for large crowds, yet I am very rarely given the opportunity unless we visit my husband’s family in the US.
The winter months seem like the perfect time to be overly generous with your food (you should be anyway, but when it’s cold, it seems like we need extra nuturing), and if it doesn’t all get eaten in a sub-zero body-protecting frenzy, we have leftovers instead.

So, with Hallowe‘en pending and in true bloodthirsty mode, I have a bunch of baby beetroot lingering in the fridge, with which (witch?) to make Muffins.

Beetroot was charmingly referred to as Blood Turnip in the 19th Century so it seems like a perfect vegetable to prepare for All Hallows Eve.
I hope that some unsuspecting Trick or Treaters will come to the door that night so I can confront them with blood pink stained hands, half peeled beet clutched demonically in my fist, paring knife in the other.  When they yell “trick or treat” at me, I will say “Borscht or Candy?”
I had great fun peeling the beetroot. It is amazing to see this dull, deep red root vegetable transformed into a vibrant, ruby coloured gem (traditionally used as the colourant for pink lemonade – shattering my dreams, as I thought that some remote tropical land grew pink lemons) as you gently remove the soft outer skin. I didn’t wear gloves as recommended, and my fingers weren’t really stained too badly at all.

For the Beetroot Muffins, which sound like something from a Roald Dahl novel, the beets have to be roasted in the oven for about an hour and a half, skin on, wrapped in foil. With those snugly ensconced in the oven, I got on with making dinner.

The Romans thought of Beetroot as an aphrodisiac, but taking into consideration that it also has a highly effective laxative quality (Apicius devoted at least five recipes to using beetroot to relieve constipation), it’s probably not recommended for a romantic night in for the just the two of you.
These Beetroot Muffins, which are a glossy chocolate mauve colour and are rich enough to serve dusted with icing sugar and a swirl of whipped cream but are also sturdy enough to survive travelling in a lunchbox. The beetroot gives them a delicious moistness, meaning that they keep well in the cake tin (if they last that long!) and, more importantly, they are a tasty way of getting all of the beetroot’s nutrients into you.

However, because I’m entering this into the the eleventh edition of Muffin Monday, hosted by Cuisine Plurielle, I have decided to make it even more Autumnal, to tie in the with theme, Colors and Flavors of Autumn.

Whilst on their own, the muffins are richly chocolatey with a hidden depth (that’ll be the beets), I decided that a tangy fruit layer would work really well with the dark, dark chocolate, so I added a layer of freshly picked blackberries, of which there is a surfeit of along the roadside. And then I got to thinking, how am I going to use up those baby marshmallows that I bought for hot chocolate? So, I decided to throw a couple of them in the mixture too, plus stud the top of the muffins with them.  I suppose I was thinking campfire s’mores and picking wild fruit in the woods. Finally, I sprinkled the tops with some Cacao Nibs, mostly just because I had them but they do give them muffins a woody looking effect and add an unusual texture.

N.B. This recipe uses roasted beetroot, but you can buy it vacuum packed and ready cooked at the supermarket which saves quite a lot of time. Just be sure that it isn’t pickled!

300g Beetroot Raw (to give about 250g cooked and peeled, see method) or 250g Vacuum Packed Ready Cooked Beetroot
75g Cocoa Powder (I use Green and Blacks because it has a wonderful dark, rich flavour)
180g Plain Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
250g Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
200ml Unflavoured Oil (such as corn oil or sunflower oil)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Handful of Blackberries and Mini Marshmallows (optional)

1) Preheat oven to 200c. Wrap your uncooked beetroot, unpeeled, in tin foil. Fit snugly in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for about an hour and half or until tender. If using ready cooked beetroot, skip this and go straight to step 2.
2) Meanwhile, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the caster sugar. Put to one side.
3) Once your beetroot is cooked, peel and chop into large chunks. Puree in your blender. Add the eggs, one at a time until blended.
4) Add the Vanilla Extract and Oil and blend until thoroughly mixed. The blender will now look Pepto-Bismal Pink.
5) Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in your hot pink beetroot mixture. Combine gently but do not overstir.
6) Pour into a lined muffin tin. If you want to add the blackberries and marshmallows, half fill the cases, sprinkle over some of the fruit and marshmallows, then cover over with more batter. Sprinkle some of the marshmallows on top. I added a sprinkling of Cacao Nibs which add a delicious crunch and look gorgeous.
7) Bake for 25-30 minutes at 180c or until springy to the touch.
The baked muffins will have a slight sheen to them but they will be cooked through.
Enjoy but in moderation and remembering Apicius’ five recipes…

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You didn’t really see that one coming, did you?

OK, so whilst Orangettes are not one of the first recipes that spring to mind when you think chocolate, they are charmingly pretty with their orange stained glass peel and their dipped velvet chocolate peplums…I couldn’t resist them.

Orangettes, whilst time consuming to produce, are a simple confection, crystallised (or candied) citrus peel dipped in dark, dark melted chocolate. For the guest whose tooth is not as sweet as some, this is a perfect treat. Tangy and chewy, crisp and melty. Like a grown up penny sweet.

There is something about their graceful, slender, almost transparent figures, Chanel-like, draped fashionably in dark chocolate that is so intrinsically Parisian that you feel as though you could be sitting at the Café de Flore sipping a Pastis and nibbling an Orangette on the side.

Whilst discussing poetry with Rimbaud in a 19th Parisian Café would be a truly delightful way to spend an afternoon, making Orangettes is fun too.

There are many recipes out there, utilising a simple sugar syrup to poach the peel in, but if you add a vanilla pod, some peppercorns and star anise as Pierre Herme does in his fabulous book, Chocolate Desserts, you can infuse your peel with an ethereal flavour.  The scent of the syrup is the essence of Christmas itself and these Orangettes just cry out to be served on a cold Winter’s day with some glog.

ORANGETTES – makes a lot!


5 Oranges, 6 Lemons or 4 Grapefruit

4 Cups Water

2.5 Cups Sugar (I used white granulated)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed Lemon Juice

10 Peppercorns, bashed (I used Szechuan)

1 Piece Star Anise

Pulp & Bean Whole Vanilla Pod


To prepare the oranges, cut into quarters, remove the pulp and slice the peel into thin strips. Using a very sharp knife, remove the pith as method shown on picture above (thanks Paul!), almost as though you were filleting a fish.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to boil and blanch the peel for two minutes. Drain in a colander and run under the cold tap for 2 minutes. Repeat this twice more.

Place all the remaining ingredients in a small pan and bring to the boil. Add the thrice blanched peel and turn heat down to a low simmer. Cover and leave for about an hour and a half.

Remove from the heat, leave covered and allow to steep in your amazingly perfumed syrup overnight.

The next day, remove the strips from the syrup and leave to dry on a cooling rack for at least half a day.

To coat in chocolate, melt 100g of darkest chocolate over a double boiler (or in the microwave) and, using cooking tweezers or small tongs (or whatever impliment you have that works for you), dip each piece of peel, coating fully, partially or mostly and leave to set on a baking sheet.

You can omit the dipping stage and just store the crystallised peel in a jar in the fridge where it would be delicious as is or perfect chopped up and added to cakes or desserts.

Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme

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