Tag Archives: chocolate

It’s chocolate time!

My sincere apologies for the great big break!  I fully intended to update from a family members computer whilst away, but quite frankly, it just didn’t happen.  Lots of other wonderful stuff did.  Admitedly, as I look at the bleak frozen expanse which happens to be just outside my window right now, I can assure you that I would rather be back in sunny, sunny Florida – more daylight hours, warmer, dryer weather, and wouldn’t you know it, my hair frizzes less, and my skin cleared up.  Hints are no longer being made to Husband – subtelty is obviously not working.  We need to move to the US now.  Sorry England – it’s been nice(ish), but I think I’m more than ready to go home. So there you go.  Ahem.

Onward to more food related things…

I know, I know.  We’ve all had more than enough chocolate over the last few weeks / months to last quite a long while.  But really – is there such a thing?

Admittedly, I can eat enough chocolate to feel just a wee bit ill, but I’ll soon get over it.  And maybe I’m not as excited about it this year as last year, but we got out the Quality Street tins have been on sale since forever, and got more expensive as we got closer to Christmas – score one for us for buying (and eating) about 5 tins in September…  By November, we needed a break, and by December, they just weren’t that exciting any more.

That’s my VERY EXCITED snowflake – just had to pop my kid in there, didn’t I? Totally unrelated, except for a bit of a holiday theme – and to introduce my helper…

A few years back, I used to work for a large UK general retailer with a Milton Keynes based head office.  Milton Keynes has an unfavourable reputation among many people in the UK, but once you get over the round-abouts (and it will teach you how to drive around them like no where else), it’s really rather a nice place .

Point of the story… (random, I know) – there was a shop in the mall in the city centre which sold American foods – the first time I visited, I easily dropped 50 quid with just shear excitement.

I soon learned to contain myself, and began to feel a bit self-righteous about spending enough on a chocolate bar to pay for it’s flight across the Atlantic.  So, feeling a bit homesick one day, and lusting for a peppermint patty, but without one to hand, and tight-fisted as I am, unwilling to fork out my child’s college fund to pay for one, I decided to learn how to make one myself.

It started with a recipe from VegWeb, which gave me the basics, and I just sort of took it from there – after a few tries, I played around a bit with other flavours, and now, every Christmas, and sometimes more often, I make my own cream chocolates – so here’s my recipe for you:

Home made Chocolate Creams

  • sweetened condensed milk (lowfat is ok) – about 400g tin (I think it’s 397g, if we want to be pendantic…)
  • flavouring extract of choice (see flavour options below) – about 1 TBS
  • optional – food colouring – as much as you want for desired colour
  • about 1.5kg icing sugar
  • 500 g chocolate of your choice (I prefer dark chocolate – it works with everything
  • 2-3 TBS fat of choice – oil produces a smoother finish, butter has a nice mouth feel, but can discolour the chocolate
  1. In a large mixing bowl, add milk, flavouring, and colouring if using
  2. Blend well, then start to add in icing sugar – about 120 g at a time
  3. Continue adding icing sugar until your mixture resembles play-doh and is no longer sticky to the touch.  If you’re using a hand mixer – be careful, you don’t want this to happen:
  4. If using a hand mixer or a kitchen-aid, go for the bread hooks – this is not a light dough…
  5. Knead the dough cream a bit with a bit more icing sugar, making sure it’s not at all tacky to the touch
  6. Roll dough into small balls (you can totally make these huge – I just like the bite-size idea better)
  7. Place balls onto cookie sheets lined with greaseproof paper and leave to dry – a few hours at least, best overnight.  They will firm up, and you will be able to flip them and dry the underside after about 2 hours – so do that.  It makes the chocolate dipping bit easier!
  8. Melt chocolate in a bowl over scalding water (I used to do these with microwave melted chocolate – but it’s just easier to melt it properly – just trust me).
  9. Dip cream centres into melted chocolate, using two forks – one to dip, one to drip melted chocolate off cream centre – otherwise you have a big thick chocolate blob with a teeny tiny cream centre.  If you want that – go for it.  We’re easy that way.
  10. Place the chocolate covered cream onto a greaseproof paper lined baking sheet to firm up.
  11. Decorate if desired. 
  12. Store in a cool place, between sheets of greaseproof paper, if stacking
  13. Recipe makes about 4 baking sheets of chocolates

  Flavouring options (in lieu of things I would do differently, because the different flavours are pretty much it…):
The sky’s the limit here – I do peppermint, to which you really should add equal parts mint and vanilla – trust me, as well as strawberry, orange and lemon.  I can imagine these would be wonderful with almond, with an almond stuffed in the centre, or any variation thereon.  You’re only limited by what flavourings you have.  Just remember – if you’re going to do lots of different flavours, do something different to the tops of the chocolates – so you can tell them apart!


Petrol station oatmeal cookies

When I was a little girl, one of my favourite things to do on a Sunday morning was to go to the CVS with my dad to pick up the paper.  Not to enjoy the journey or anything, but because he always bought me candy when we got to the drug store (my particular favourite was, and still is, Toffifee, but I would swing with whatever floated my boat at the time…).

I kind of have a similar tradition with my little girl.

Because I work about 50 miles from home, and drive a car powered on petrol rather than diesel (purchased well before I had a 100 mile a day commute), and because one of my big driving fears is running out of fuel, I tend to fill up my car about twice a week.  You won’t be surprised to know that food, fuel and childcare costs use 66% of my take home pay, with the balance going to my wonderful student loan for the three University degrees I’m not using because I couldn’t afford to… (Not bitter, really…).

So on Saturday morning, Monks and I head out to the petrol station well before Daddy wakes up.  I get a tank full of gas, and she gets a treat for breakfast.  If I’m feeling a bit flush, I might even swing for a coffee for myself (Monks doesn’t like coffee – before you call Family Services, she’s only tried decaf – she no longer asks to try my coffee in the morning).

This Saturday, when we got inside the petrol station, Monks had a good rummage around – there wasn’t much to choose from as they hadn’t stocked up on the day’s pastries yet (not sure why they don’t do this before they open… but that’s okay – we’ll moan about that another time).  She eventually settled on some pan au chocolats and then found these:

I know I can whip up some cookies in no time at home, but she seemed so eager, and it’s just been one of those weeks (Monday began with a flat tire, broken front axle of the car, migraine headache, 3 hours sleep, etc. – the week finished better than it began, but really, it wasn’t a very big ask…)

She usually has a bit of a bite to each in the car on the way home – yes, I let my kid have cookies for breakfast.  I often had cake for breakfast on the weekends growing up.  I still got in to Oxford.  So I’m going with it.

When I got her in the car, I asked her if she wanted a cookie or a chocolate croissant (because her French lessons provided by the insanely expensive nursery apparently don’t extend beyond Frere Jacques), and she said she wanted the raisin cookie.  Bless.  She thought the chocolate chips were raisins.  She was devastated to hear they were not raisins, but chunks of chocolate (we’re still working on her with the whole chocolate thing – she clearly takes after her dad), so agreed to the croissant.  The only way to return a smile to her face was to promise her that we would make some raisin cookies when we got home.  So that’s just what we did.

Not- petrol station Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1c sugar (I used demerara)
  • 0.5 c butter, softened
  • 0.33 c golden syrup or honey
  • 2 large or 3 small eggs
  • 1.75 c flour
  • 2 c rolled oats (mine had added wheat bran – go fibre!)
  • 1.125 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 c raisins
  • 0.5 – 0.75 c chocolate chunks (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C, and line cookie sheets with greaseproof paper
  2. Mix sugar, butter, golden syrup or honey and eggs (ideal if you have a helper)
  3. In separate bowl, mix flour, oats, baking soda and salt, then add raisins and chocolate if using (if you have a family member who recently left you with a 4 pound bag of assorted hershey’s chocolates – definitely use chocolates – particularly if you have gotten through the majority of the bag alone over a 2.5 week period)
  4. Mix wet into dry bowl
  5. Once well combined, either with wet hands or teaspoons (or tablespoons if you want really big cookies) drop blobs of dough onto cookie sheets (these don’t spread hugely, so aim for about 1.5-2″ apart between cookies – I went for 9-12 per baking tray, and only two of my cookies came out holding hands, which is sweet in its own way)
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes
  7. Let cool for a few minutes on baking tray before transferring onto wire rack to coolMy daughter almost shares a particularly vexatious habit with my husband – he doesn’t like to eat home baked goods whilst they are still warm (what planet is he from?!).  As usual, I blame my mother-in-law.

I did manage to convince her to eat one whilst they were warm but not melting chocolatey goodness hot.  She came back for a second one.  Job done.

Things I would do differently, things I learned:

  • The original recipe which I’ve had for about 10 years now (ergo not attributed, as it was scribbled down long ago) has the 1 1/8 of baking soda in it.  This seems really wrong, and leads to a very soft, pillowy cookie.  I wonder if this shouldn’t actually be baking powder, so I will try this next time
  • I bet this would rock with dried cranberries and white chocolate – because most things do.
  • You can cut hershey’s miniatures with scissors – no knife required!These are dollar/pound store scissors (three in the pack) and really did the job well, so the next time someone is so generous with the chocolate, I’m going to take the scissors to them earlier.
  • I could have saved GBP1 by not buying chocolate chunk cookies – next time, ask Monkey what kind of cookies she thinks they are before purchasing!
  • When typing out a recipe for oatmeal cookies – make sure you add the oatmeal

This recipe makes enough biscuits to feed a normal family for about a month.  If they stay in the house with me, I expect they’ll be done before Friday.  So they’re going to work on Monday.

Have a lovely weekend 🙂