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  1. cake-1652050_1280

    My favourite chocolate concrete recipe and the best one I've tried so far! Brings back memories for school dinners and so simple to make. Crunchy on the top and served with custard, cream or just on it's own!

    Here is what you need for chocolate concrete cake:

    160g unsalted butter 

    175g granulated sugar

    225g self-raising flour

    25g cocoa powder

    1 egg

    And here is what you do:

    First of all preheat the oven to gas mark 3 or 170C. If you have an electric fan oven, you might need to adjust the temperature to 150-160C and take the cake out a little earlier than 45 minutes (I normally check mine after 30 min)

    Melt the butter in the microwave or on the hob, add the sugar and mix well. Add the flour and cocoa powder and mix until you have a fairly stiff mixture.

    Beat one egg separately in a bowl and gently mix into the flour mixture. Pour the mixture into a greased and lined 30cmx18 cm baking tray and spread evenly.

    Spray the top with a bit of water and bake for about 45 minutes. Once done, sprinkle with more sugar and allow to cool for a bit before serving with a custard or cream.

    Make sure you cut the finished cake to slices before it cools down. It hardens as it cools, so if you don't want it to crumble, be ready with the cutting knife!

    As you see this is really quick recipe, which doesn't require much equipment, specialist ingredients or even much time! Perfect if you want to just bake something really quickly for a desert.

    Depending on what type of cocoa powder you use, you might get a different taste result. If you want slightly stronger flavour add a little instant coffee granules mixed as a paste with tiny bit of boiling water.

    You can also experiment with additional flavours. These are, of course not traditional, but still work beautifully with the chocolate mixture. Vanilla extract or orange essence would go down very well.

    Traditionally, schools in the UK (this is for all the 1980s kids!) would serve this with mint custard, which is just like a normal custard with a hint of peppermint flavour and green food colouring. The mint flavour custard goes amazing well with the chocolate.

    Another option is to serve this chocolate concrete cake with strawberry pink custard, I guess it depends which primary school you went to!

    I'm off to try and test another chocolate recipe, but until then, do let me know how you get on with your own version!

    Happy Baking!

    Magdalena

    P.S

    It looks like there are several versions of this amazing chocolate concrete cake, so here is another one that I've tried (which is slightly firmer in texture and doesn't need an egg).

    200g plain flour

    200g granulated sugar

    100g butter

    50g cocoa powder

    Follow the baking instructions as before, but take the oven temperature to 180C, Gas mark 4 (or 160C fan oven). The baking time is slightly shorter - check after about 30 minutes.

  2. dreamstimelarge_74392142

     

    The talented people who attend our chocolate making courses are an inquisitive lot and rightly so. As well as being interested in making beautiful chocolate truffles, naturally they like to know more about cocoa beans and the unique properties that go to make up chocolate.

    After all, we all want to know more about what we eat – especially when we’re busy making lovely types of chocolate for ourselves.

    So, here at Cocoa and Heart, we get asked lots of questions about cocoa beans when we’re running our chocolate making courses. We thought it would be a good idea to compile our own favourite list of cocoa beans facts.

    1. The cacao (or cocoa) tree's botanical name is Theobroma Cacao, which means "food of the gods" in Greek.
    2. The cocoa tree grows to be about 30 feet tall bearing white flowers and colourful fruit
    3. Cocoa trees originate from South America's rainforests but today most of our cocoa is grown by about 2.5 million farmers, mainly on smallholdings in West Africa.
    4. Cocoa trees need both rain and sun but are usually found in the shade and are often grown beneath other trees such as mango, banana, papaya, or rubber trees.
    5. Cocoa trees can live for over a hundred years, but will only produce cocoa beans for about the first twenty-five of those years.
    6. There are three common species of Cocoa trees: Criollo (Central America), Forastero (West Africa and South America), and Trinitario (all producing regions).
    7. It takes up to 5 years for a cocoa tree to produce its first seed pods It takes about 400 beans to make a pound of chocolate.
    8. A tree produces about one thousand cocoa beans every year. That is enough to make about two pounds of chocolate.
    9. Once the beans dry, they turn a brownish-red colour.
    10. Cocoa solids and cocoa butter are the two main components from the beans that go into making the chocolate we enjoy today.
    11. The world’s population eats about two billion pounds of chocolate every year.
    12. The first chocolate bar was made in Switzerland in 1819, and milk chocolate was invented in 1875. Before that, chocolate was mostly enjoyed as a drink.
    13. The Mayans and Atzecs of Central and South America, used to drink bitter chocolate mixed with water into a frothy liquid. Often they added chillies and spices for extra flavour.
    14. Sugar was only added to chocolate much later by the Spanish to sweeten the flavour for royal courtiers.
    15. The Aztecs used cocoa beans as a form of currency and people paid their taxes in cocoa beans since they were highly prized and could be stored easily and for long periods.
    16. Cocoa beans contain naturally occurring flavonoids - these are also connected to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

    That’s enough cocoa beans facts for the moment. All these fascinating cocoa beans facts has made me quite hungry. And what for? More chocolate of course? So, back to work for us!

  3. cocoa-bean-1282894_1280

    Author: Nick Marsden

    Where does Chocolate come from? Well, with millions of pounds of chocolate consumed daily in Britain alone, we all know where it goes to!

    But what do we really know about dark, white and milk chocolate?

    Well, let’s start with where chocolate comes by looking at where it’s grown. We’re talking the Cacao (or Cocoa) tree here. If chocolate is marketed as having a mysterious and magical quality, then it all begins with the cacao plant which is found, if that’s the right word in hot and rainy temperatures in a narrow band either side of the Equator.
     
    The cacoa tree is fragile and hides under the canopy of taller, more sturdy trees. As well as being somewhat reclusive, unlike most other plants and trees, it doesn’t self pollinate. So it relies on other animals, spreading the seeds by opening it’s pods and helping it to reproduce.
     
    It’s almost as if it doesn’t want to be found!
     
    Cocoa trees reach maturity in three or four years, and the fruit of the tree, the cocoa pod, grows right from the main trunk of the tree and the larger branches. A single Cocoa tree can produce over a thousand pods a year. Each pod takes up to six months to bear fruit and is encased with a sticky white pulp and contains between 30 and 40 seeds or beans. These are very bitter, and in their raw state have traces of caffeine, vitamin C and magnesium.
     
    The Aztecs and Incas of modern day Mexico and Central America, from whom we get the word chocolate, ground the cocoa beans and drank it hot with chilli peppers and added maize and corn, turning it into a porridge like consistency. There’s evidence that cocoa beans were used at this time as a monetary currency, with people paying their taxes in beans as they were highly prized and could be stored for long periods.
     
    It also played an important part in religious rituals and ceremonies and was thought of as a gift from the god Quetzalcoatl – hence it’s Latin name ‘Theobroma’ food of the gods.
     
    Harvesting the cocoa pods, usually twice a year, is a very labour intensive business with the tough cocoa pods being cut from the tree by hand. The sticky beans are removed and then laid out on a bed of banana leaves on the ground and turned on a regular basis. This is the start of the critical fermentation process which is important in developing the unique flavour and aroma of the beans.The beans are then dried in the sun and cleaned. The shells are removed and the cocoa nibs inside are roasted to increase the flavour. The beans are crushed and processed to produce cocoa mass and cocoa butter.
     
    To make the chocolate found in chocolate bars the paste is mixed with other ingredients, such as milk, sugar and cocoa butter to resemble the chocolate we would recognise. This mixture is sent through rollers to remove any grainy sugars, and then a "conching" machine to aerate and mix the mixture. Finally, the mixture is heated up, stirred, cooled and heated up again several times to ensure the mixture is at its best. This chocolate can be moulded into the shapes we recognise at chocolates or chocolate bars, or have extra ingredients stirred in such as fruit, nuts or caramel pieces.
     
    Where does chocolate come from? It’s originally native to Central and South America but grown throughout the tropics. Most of the top cocoa producing countries are now in Africa or South Asia. Indonesia grew almost no cocoa before the early 1980s, when production increased rapidly. Now it is the world’s third leading producer of cocoa beans, growing 777,500 tonnes in 2013.
     
    Number 2 in the list of top producing countries is Ghana, in West Africa, where it accounts for around 20% of the nation’s GDP. The cocoa tree with pods hanging from the trunk, is celebrated on one of the countries’ coins so almost every Ghanian handles a cocoa pod on a daily basis, in one way or another! Also in West Africa, the Ivory Coast, is the world’s top producing cocoa country accounting for nearly 30% of all cocoa produced worldwide. That’s in excess of 1,448,992 tonnes. Over 60% of revenue coming into the Ivory Coast is through trade in cocoa. With trade in ivory now banned in most countries, perhaps it should be renamed The Cocoa Coast?
     
    So now we know a bit more about where chocolate comes from, the difficult conditions in which the cocoa tree grows and the cocoa beans are harvested. It’s a complex process involved in bringing the ‘food of the gods’ within reach of mere mortals like ourselves.
     
    So the next time you unwrap your favourite chocolate, or bite into a bar, take a moment to consider where chocolate comes from and how it’s managed to make its way to within your easy reach.
  4. ice-2367072_1280

    This chocolate sorbet recipe is perfect as a delicious dessert, but also suitable for dairy free diets. Because it's made without cream or milk, this sorbet is very light and taste amazingly well.

    Whist the preparation time is very short, you need to leave the sorbet to freeze for quite some time, so make sure you start your sorbet making the day before you want to serve it.

    Since the flavour in this recipe comes from the main ingredients - the chocolate, make sure that you use the best chocolate you have ( minimum 60-77% cocoa solids), use the strongest cocoa powder and add intense coffee to enhance the flavour.

    The pinch of salt is also very crucial part of getting the flavour right. If you make this recipe without it, it will be just very sweet and a little bit bland. The salt balances out the sweetness of the sugar. To make sure this chocolate sorbet is the best one you've ever eaten, taste the mixture before you start the freezing process and add tiny bit more of salt if you need to. Other alternatives to bring out the chocolate flavours include few chilli flakes, tiny pinch of ground pink, white or normal peper or pinch of cinnamon. Obviously don't all all of these at the same time!

    You can also change the flavour of your chocolate sorbet by changing the type of sugar you use. For example using soft brown sugar will give you richer darker flavour, whilst using 100g caster suger and 100g molases sugar will give you nearly liquorice taste, which of course, can never be a bad thing!

    Chocolate sorbet recipe ingredients list

    200g caster sugar

    60g cocoa powder

    pinch of salt

    2 teaspoons of coffee mixture to enhance flavour (mix one teaspoon of instant coffee granules with tiny amount of boiled water)

    85g - 100g dark chocolate (use dairy free chocolate to make sure this desert is truly 'dairy free')

    500 ml water

    1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

    30ml chocolate liquer or similar (for extra flavour and to help the sorbet to come out better from the tub)

    Here is what you do:

    Add the sugar, cocoa powder, salt, coffee extract, chocolate and water in a medium size saucepan and start heating over medium heat.

    Bring to a boil and simmer until the sugar and chocolate have disolved. Make sure you stir the pan continuously to prevent the mixture catching (burning).

    Remove from heat, add vanilla extract and alcohol (if using). Transfer to a plastic tub with a lid and leave to chill in the fridge for few hours.

    At this point, if you have a ice cream maker add the mixture to your machine and follow the manufacturer's instructions.

    If you haven't got a ice cream maker, leave out the alcohol at the last stage, put the mixture into a large shallow plastic tub (or use something like a shallow cake tin) to a freezer and set your watch to 60 minutes. Basically for the next few hours, take the tub out of the freezer and with a fork mash up and rake up the sorbet and then put back to freezer. This replicates the ice cream maker churning the sorbet and preventing it from just freezing in one solid block. By 'raking up' the chocolate sorbet you are keeping the ice in small flakes, which makes is so lovely and soft.

    After about 4-5 hrs, the chocolate sorbet is ready and you can add the alcohol and then either serve it or leave it in the freezer and use at a later stage. Because you've done all the fluffing up and raking of the sorbet, it won't set solid.

    So, here you are - a very easy and delicious recipe for chocolate sorbet, which doesn't even need ice cream maker. 

    Enjoy and do let me know how you get on!

    Happy summer!

    Magdalena 

  5. girls-1608658_1920

    We just love running our chocolate making hen parties. It's so much fun and laughter and of course there is loads of chocolate!

    And we often get asked whether we have a good hen party quiz. Well, until recently I've always refered people to other websites until this week I finally had the chance to design our own. I'm very happy to share the hen party quiz with you and you can downloaded for free right here on our blog. You don't need to subscribe to anywhere or part with any details, just download it, print it and use it! 

    And of course we'd love you to share it with your friends and other people you might think it would be useful too.

    So, what is the hen party quiz? It's all about how well do you know your bride and it includes some light hearted quiestions about the bride and the groom. 

    First of all download and print the hen party quiz as many times as you need to (the number of friends in your hen party)

    Before you hand out the hen party quiz to the group, make sure that you get the bride to answer all the questions beforehand. Not that you should take this quiz too seriously, but it helps to have the answers first in case the bride can't remember afterwards!

    Next hand the quiz sheets around with pens or pencils and allocate some time for people to complete the questions. The quiz is perfect 'time filler' for example if you (as the party organiser) need to sort out the next part of the entertaiment or food or something else completely.

    Once the time is up (you probably don't need more than 10-15 minutes for this hen party quiz), get everyone to swap their sheets and mark each other answers. Read out the answers and let everyone to mark their friend's quizz sheets. 

    Tot up the scores on each sheet. You can even do this yourself to make sure nobody is cheating! 

    Let everyone know who is the winner and give them a little something as a prize (this could be something relevant to the quiz - like a photo of where the bride and groom first met, or the favourite food - or something entirely else!

    To download high resolution version - just click on the picture below or here.

    Share this with your friends

    Bridal Quiz