Posts Tagged ‘chocolate’

“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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It seems that the days of the corner shop are fading into obscurity. Supermarkets can supply the time-pushed shopper with everything, all under one roof.

However, is this a smart way to shop? The days of my childhood were mostly spent reading but I did look forward to a visit to the local sweet shop where I would buy a quarter of Butterscotch sweets and red shoelaces. As I got older, I, like so many other children, got sucked into collecting bubblegum cards. My favourite were Garbage Pail Kids and regular readers of this blog and our last one will probably find this of no great surprise.

But as the supermarkets grew bigger, these smaller shops became pushed out, made redundant. They couldn’t compete with the low prices being offered in larger stores.  This is a reflection of our faster, one-stop lifestyles, aptly implemented with fast food chains and internet shopping too.
The days of looking forward to visiting the local sweet shop seemed like they were over, but the tide is turning.

Only recently, whilst (I admit it) surfing a well-known internet auction site, I came across a shop selling all the penny sweets I had once loved as a child, but, of more interest to me now, a variety of chocolate bars that are difficult to source. The most startling discovery of all? This shop is not just a cyber-shop with a favicon as its shop front but is an actual living, breathing, functioning sweet shop by the sea-side in Great Yarmouth.

Sweet Dreams Traditional Sweet Shop is just that: old fashioned and sweet. Just how all sweet shops should be. So the external décor isn’t quite reminiscent of the sweet shops of Dickensian times but these days customers (notably children) are lured in by colourful signs and the promise of more colour and excitement inside. And besides, the myriad colours of the jars, filled to the brim of sweets, candys, sherberts and liquorice are enough to make the most anti-sugar person melt.

Sweet Dreams Traditional Sweet Shop was opened by Patricia, Nigel and Andrew on the 9th March 2005 and have recently opened up their cybershop too, providing almost every sweet you can remember from your childhood (and some you can’t), they also cater for the diabetic or person watching their sugar which is thoughtful. And, if you wanted to bring back a gift from your trip to Great Yarmouth, they have a vast selection of Swiss Lindt and British Beeches chocolates, along with Britain’s other well kept chocolate secret, Caleys. In effect, what Patricia, Nigel and Andrew are doing is keeping other British industries going, as well as bolstering the smaller, specialists businesses.

So, next time you visit Great Yarmouth, make sure to pop into Sweet Dreams Traditional Sweet Shop, buy a bag of penny sweets for yourself and a box of chocolates to take home and find yourself revelling in a childhood dream brought to life. And if you can’t get to Great Yarmouth, maybe you can find a traditional sweet shop closer to home (and let me know where they are!!).

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Sugar High Friday. Perhaps the most famous food blogging event, certainly the one with the greatest longevity. Is it because we all have a sweet tooth at heart? Or perhaps food blogging events encourage the experimentalist in us all, ushering us on to cook that recipe that you’ve always looked longingly at but skipped the best, fearing our own abilities or taste buds?

Whatever the reason, blogging events are a great way to connect with other bloggers. Where else can you find people just as mad about food and eating?

Sugar High Fridays, founded by The Domestic Goddess (no, not that Domestic Goddess) in 2004, has seen 47 months of artistic, imaginative, fanciful, brilliant, cavity-inducing and just plain crazy desserts, sweets and confections. For those of you unfamiliar, each month an inventive host (fellow food blogger) spends ages wracking his/her brain deciding on an even more interesting theme to previous months. Some months it can be something really tricky like cacao nibs, last month it was the humble cupcake. But this month, Pastrygirl from Dessert First has given us a really inspired theme: Sugar and Spice. The only criteria is that it must contain one or more spices and – of course – be sweet.

I have been pouring over Andrew Garrison Shott’s Making Fine Chocolates and his own innovative flavours of truffles and decided, after much deliberation, to make his White Chocolate with Lemongrass and Coconut Truffles. A truly exotic sounding truffle, these are fiddly and sticky to make but the flavours harmonise on the tastebuds perfectly. They also look almost professional and would make a charming petits fours after a rich meal that doesn’t really call for dessert. The main talking point (aside from discussing who does and doesn’t like coconut) is the unexpected dark middle, spiked generously with rum, and the crisp, tropical flavours of the coconut and lemongrass. A bit like a cocktail in a truffle. What more could you ask for?

I admit that I had a few issues with the recipe. I’m not sure if this came from the conversions of US to UK measurements and descriptions of ingredients but I added some extra cream and this loosened up the lemongrass steeped mixture a treat.

The Finished Truffle!


makes about 20-30 depending on size


154g Milk Chocolate, chopped

21g Dark Chocolate (64% or higher), chopped

3.5 Tablespoons Double Cream (I added an extra tablespoon to slacken off the mixture, you may not need to)

2 Tablespoons Coconut Milk

1 Thick Stalk Lemongrass, chopped

1 Teaspoon Corn Syrup (or Golden Syrup)

1.5 Teaspoons Salted Butter, cubed and soft

1 Tablespoon Rum

To Finish the Truffles:

2 Cups Shredded Coconut, toasted lightly in a frying pan

2 Bars of 100g White Chocolate, melted in a double boiler and cooled slightly.

Place the chopped milk and dark chocolates in a smallish bowl.

In a small saucepan, heat together over gentle heat, the coconut milk, cream, lemongrass until it almost boils.

Remove from the heat, cover and leave to steep for 10 minutes.

Add the Syrup to the cream mixture and return to the heat. Bring slowly back up to a rolling boil and strain through a sieve onto the chopped chocolate.  Leave to melt for 2 minutes then slowly stir until the chocolate has all melted. You may have to place the bowl in a microwave for a few seconds to help the melting process along.

Add the diced butter and rum and stir well.

Leave this ganache to firm up for 45 minutes to an hour before forming it into round balls and leaving on greaseproof paper overnight to dry out slightly.

To finish the truffles, dip them, one at a time, in the melted white chocolate before rolling in the coconut. Leave the truffles in the coconut to harden completely before removing.


Taken from Making Fine Chocolates by Andrew Garrison Shotts

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We’re all looking for a guilt-free way to indulge ourselves in heaps of chocolate, right? I think I may have the solution.

For all Chocoholic Gaming Afficionados, it was recently brought to my attention that there are three (yes, three!) games out there devoted to Theobroma Cacao.  Since then I have played all three games (not at the same time) avidly and I can confirm that even the most anti-gaming person will soon find themselves hooked on the charming graphics, fun dialogue and compulsive tasks of Chocolatier.

Designed by Big Splash Games, the Chocolatier Series follow a young rookie Chocolatier (that’s you), ably guided by Evangeline Baumeister, of the Baumeister Confectionary Corporation, on his/her travels around the world, opening up new ports, discovering new types of Cacao Beans, buying up sweet shops and chocolate making factories, not to mention developing new and delicious looking recipes.

In the first instalment of the game, set in the mid-1800s, you open up new ports and introduce the whole world to the joys of chocolate, whilst trying to to avoid rivals, hellbent on reducing your chocolate empire to cocoa powder. Perhaps the official website blurb can put it better than I can:

Oh the gloriously rich and delectable life of a chocolatier! Constantly surrounded by mounds of chocolate bars and boxes of mouth-watering truffles! Become a master chocolatier one ingredient at a time as you travel the world to find the best prices and maximize production…

Educational (well, sort of) AND addictive to the chocolate fan, this will eat up your time without you gaining a single ounce, visit Playfirst for a free download to try out this great game!

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Whilst some foods are pertinent to the quirks of our own families, sometimes to the point that other people look at us as if to say “What a bunch of weirdos! Who has mayonnaise with gravy??” other foods are so deeply ingrained within the global culinary awakening of childhood that it is almost as if a worldwide brainwashing has taken place.

What child from the 80s doesn’t remember being driven to the local diner or greasy spoon and fed burgers, milkshakes and a ooey, gooey banana split or a chocolate sundae to finish?

In my case, the burger and fries were just preamble, the necessary main course leading up to the dessert. Of course, I loved every greasy, calorific mouthful, the Thousand Island dressing dripping all over my hands, and the salty, vinegar laced chips, almost too hot to eat. This was all washed down with a soda stream fizzy drink, usually Coca Cola, which I wasn’t allowed at home. Even today, I drink Coke only with junk food (or scotch), the two seemed so intertwined.

And then, once the burger had been consumed and the chips devoured, only then could I choose which whipped cream covered, sugar engorged sweet I could have.

Sometimes it was the Double Layer Chocolate Gateau, always decorated with a rapidly dissolving whorl of cream from a can. Other times, a scoop or two of plain old ice cream. Mostly though I would always go for the Banana Split, depending on who was paying. A chipped glass dish, tinged a faded green through age, filled with sliced bananas, vanilla ice cream – chocolate if you’re eating in a high-class establishment like Wimpy – chocolate sauce, chopped hazelnuts, whipped cream and maybe a cherry. To an eight year old, this is a little bit of heaven in a grubby fast-food booth with oleaginous walls.

I had never thought of replicating this old-fashioned but conversely timeless diner classic at home. When you reach a certain age though, Banana Splits seem hopelessly uncool, a bit like tinned Fruit Salad or Prawn Cocktail. Never is this more pertinent in England, a country full of food snobs. However, times are changing. People are rebelling against this food snobbery and want food like we used to eat. Restaurants no longer cringe at the thought of serving Shepherds Pie (albeit in a twee little dish), and the humble but much maligned Prawn Cocktail has been deconstructed to suit current tastes.

But how could you improve on that childhood classic, the Banana Split? Its appeal lies within its sickly sweet contours, the overabundance of canned whipped cream and cheap ice cream that melts rapidly under the fluorescent lights of cafes.

True, but how many things did we love as children but find it hard to stomach now we are all grown up? I feel bilious at the thought of poking at dead mice now but as a gory 6 year old, I was thrilled when my half feral farm cat, Daisy, deposited them on my bed, a thoughtful gift of love to her mistress. Many ad hoc mouse autopsies took place in my childhood garden.

I can’t watch cartoons much anymore (except perhaps King of the Hill and Wait Til’ Your Father Gets Home), and reruns of Australian Soap Operas leave me cold. As for foods, the idea of Angel Delight or Frozen Chocolate Gateaux or Penny Sweets do not get me salivating. My favourite childhood meal for a while, Steakhouse Grills (100% guaranteed Beef By-Product reformed into the shape a steak!) make me wonder why it is that kids have no taste at all.

But, with a little revamping, the tastes of our childhood can reach a more adult palate. Dorie Greenspan and Pierre Herme, in their wonderful book, Chocolate Desserts, have revived the Banana Split just for grown ups. Rum sozzled raisins replace the famous Maraschino Cherry and rich, dark chocolate ice cream is a fittingly sophisticated tribute to the strawberry or vanilla ice cream of yore. The squirty cream in a can is swapped for thickly whipped dairy cream that doesn’t just evaporate once it hits the plate.

But before you think that this is but a mere shadow of its childhood innocence, the bananas, the chopped nuts and – if you want to replicate our version – a drizzle of hot fudge sauce, still remain. We sautéed our bananas in a little butter and sugar but both agreed this was a step too far – the rawness of bananas is half the charm of the whole dish.

We omitted the alcoholic raisins, simply because we don’t like them that much, and Paul was craving the hot fudge sauce of his childhood so this replaced Dorie’s chocolate sauce. The nuts are entirely optional but the cherry, although missing from our version (due to a store cupboard shortage) is the essential kitsch embellishment.

If you want to recreate this simple but really decadent dessert at home, here’s how:



2 Firm but ripe bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise

100ml Double Cream, whipped firmly

Tub of excellent quality Dark Chocolate Ice Cream (or if Vanilla if you prefer).

Chopped Nuts of your choice for sprinkling. We used Pecans but Pistachios, Hazelnuts, Almonds would be great too

Maraschino Cherries for decoration

Hot Fudge Sauce (recipe to follow)

Ooey, Gooey Banana Split

Ooey, Gooey Banana Split


Place the sliced bananas in two serving dishes. Scoop out three balls of the ice cream for each dish and place on top of the bananas.

Then, drizzle over some of the hot fudge sauce, pipe (or spoon) whipped cream on top of that, sprinkle with nuts and finish with a cherry.

Oh Fudge Sauce


2/3 Cup Double (Heavy) Cream

3/4 Cup Brown Sugar

2oz Dark Chocolate (Unsweetened)

2tbsp Butter

2tbsp Golden Syrup or Corn Syrup

1/8 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract


Heat cream and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat until the sugar has dissolved.

Stir in the chocolate, butter and syrup.

Bring to the boil and boil for 8 minutes.

Remove from heat and add vanilla and salt.

This sauce keeps well in the fridge, stored in a sterilised jar.

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Chocolate Biscotti

I suppose it’s fortuitous for me as a writer that food holds many happy reminiscences for me. The Banana Splits of my childhood, my husband converting me to the taste of freshly ground coffee, my Mums pernicutious Spaghetti Bolognese and my Grandmother’s Coffee Cake. Since meeting Paul, I also have a whole world of foodie firsts:

Every Kitchen Should Have One!

Every Kitchen Should Have One!

his Mom’s thanksgiving meals and apple cake, richly covered with Miracle Whip, thick fluffy pancakes and hash browns. This is without making note of Cheetoes, Nila Wafers and Saltines. These road trip essentials are available over here in exclusive delicatessens, along with Krispy Kreem Donuts, priced up to the point where they are no longer a cheap road snack but an unnecessary luxury instead.
Of all the great culinary discoveries made by myself in the US, the Coffee Shop with its endless shiny counters stacked high with glass jars filled with cookies, plates gleaming with fruit tarts and, my most favourite coffee house treat of all, the Biscotti.
In Italian, Biscotti loosely translates as “biscuit twice cooked” (bis-cotto) and no word could sum up the Biscotti more succinctly than that. A stiff sort-of cookie dough is made, flavoured with almost any conceivable (and some inconceivable, no doubt) ingredients, then formed into a Ciabatta loaf shape, baked for about 30 minutes, then it is cut into slices – the familiar Biscotti shape – and baked once again for another 10 minutes on each side. What this double bake produces is a hard, crisp biscuit, perfect for dipping into your morning coffee. The Italians don’t call these hard biscuits Biscotti though. In Italy, Biscotti is a generic term that refers to any biscuit, from Amaretti to Pignoli Cookies. Instead, the twice-baked biscuit, a speciality of the Florence region, is called Cantuccini and supermarkets often carry these imported Italian cookies, often studded with almonds or half dipped in chocolate, which melts as you stir your coffee with them. In Italy, they are also served as an after-meal treat, to be dipped in Vin Santo or a sweet dessert wine or liquor.
Biscotti or Cantuccini are simple to make, although a little more labour intensive than the usual drop cookies. However, the dough is easy to work with and they are so adaptable, that you will probably find yourself baking them often (in her book, Great Cookies, Carole Walter even has a Passover recipe, using Matzo meal instead of flour). And, despite the initial reservation of tasting a dried out biscuit, they are incredibly moreish, particularly those half dipped in chocolate. They also have the added bonus of lasting quite some time in the biscuit tin.
Such is the popularity and adaptability of this nibbly biscuit that there are at least twenty cookbooks devoted to just the Biscotti, thousands of jars stuffed full of them in cafes throughout the world and most supermarkets even produce their own versions. Not bad going for a dried out hard biscuit.
Perhaps we are in love with the romantic Italian notion of turning something boring into something magical, merely by dipping it into a cup of hot coffee or chilled wine.
Whatever the reason, this alchemic biscuit is a worthy addition to your baking rota and will accommodate whatever ingredients you have available. You can dress them up or down, and they will always make a welcome gift at any time of the year. They are the perfect vehicle for a delicious, high cocoa content, chocolate.
Here is a basic ‘starter’ recipe using chocolate shavings, nuts and citrus zest. Using this recipe, you can switch any of the flavourings around, using dried fruits instead of chocolate, brown sugar instead of white, add a dash of vanilla or almond extract, dip them in chocolate or icing. You could use a little cornmeal in the mixture or make a highly spiced Cantuccini with ground cloves, cinnamon, cardamom or ginger. I recently saw Giada de Laurentiis dip her Biscotti in Chocolate and then red and green sugar sprinkles for Christmas. You could utilise a similar theme with white and pastel sprinkles for wedding favours or to for baby showers.

1 ½ Sticks Unsalted Butter (170g), room temperature
Zest of 1-2 Lemons and 1-2 Oranges (depending on how citrussy you want it)
1 Cup Sugar
2 ½  Cups Plain Flour
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
¼ Teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
3 Large Organic Free Range Eggs
¼ Teaspoon Salt
1 Bar (about 120g) Good Quality Dark Chocolate (70% is ideal), shaved, rather than chopped. The chocolate could be replaced with half a cup of dried fruit, raisins, cranberries, cherrys, figs etc.
¾ Cup Chopped Nuts of your Choice. I used Pecans, but Almonds, Hazelnuts, Pistachios, Walnuts would be great
Using either a hands free mixer or an electric hand whisk (the mixture does get quite stiff later on), blend together the butter and zests.
Add the sugar and beat for another couple of minutes until pale and fluffy.
Add one egg at a time, beating for about 30 seconds between additions. Take care to scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl regularly.
Sieve the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Then introduce this, in three turns, to the batter, mixing well before the next addition.
Finally, fold in the nuts and chocolate.
Cover and chill the bowl in the fridge for at least an hour.
After an hour, line or grease two large baking sheets and preheat the oven to 175c.
Divide the dough into two halves and, using one half at a time, place on a lightly floured board.
Gently mould into the shape of a Ciabatta Loaf (which is to say, a slightly flattened log, about 10” long by 4” wide) and place each log on the baking sheet. Leave about 3 or 4 inches between the logs. They will spread out slightly but not much.
Bake for 30 minutes on the top shelf, or until lightly golden brown.
Remove from the oven, turn the heat to 150c, and leave to cool for five minutes.
Using a dough scraper or meat cleaver, cut the logs into ½” biscotti, placing them cut side up on the second baking sheet.
Bake for another 10-15 minutes until they feel dry on one side. Turn them over and bake for another 7-10 minutes.
Remove from the oven. They will still feel a little soft at this point. Leave for a couple of minutes until you are able to handle them. Then remove to a cooling rack.
You can then dip them in melted chocolate if you want or just serve them with freshly brewed coffee.
Store in a large jar or biscuit tin.

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