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  1. peppermint-2816012_1920

    I love growing my own herbs, so when I saw a chocolate mint in my local garden centre, I though I would give it a go! It was very easy to plant and look after - it practically doesn't need any help.

    Chocolate Mint is a medium growing mint reaching up to 60cm tall, but it can spread quite a bit. The large ovate leaves are a bronze – dark green, with deep reddish-purple stems. 

    It is called chocolate mint, but the aroma and flavour are not always recognisable. I can detect the mint with a hint of chocolate, but my husband can only taste the mint. Not sure whether my palet is more sensitive or whether after years of working with chocolate I can taste chocolate in everything.

    How to grow chocolate mint

    Chocolate mint develops its best colour growing in a full sun, but can take part shade. It is happy in most soil types and likes moist areas in the garden. I grow mine in a raised herb garden, which is mainly sunny and the plan seems to be doing just fine.

    Chocolate Mint is quite fast growing plant and spreads by sending roots out underground and on the soils surface. It is best kept contained within large containers or secure garden beds. Like many of the mints it can easily take over the garden, if not kept contained or cut back regularly. Because of that chocolate mint is very easy to propagate, which is easily done by dividing large plant into several smaller ones.

    How to use chocolate mint

    I prefer to keep mine chocolate mint herb growing in the garden all year round and just pinch a few leaves when I need to. But you can easily cut hard the plant several times a year and harvest the leaves by drying. To dry your chocolate mint leaves, just leave them on a clean paper sheet somewhere dry and warm, but not on direct sunlight. Once dry, just keep them in a paper bag and store out of the direct light in a dry cupboard.

    Chocolate mint, like other mints can help with minor ailments and digestive disorders.

    Chocolate mint is of course perfect to use in kitchen - both for baking or cooking. The flavour is mostly of peppermint, with subtle chocolate undertones. It may be used to garnish meat, stews, sauces, soups and other meals. This mint adds an interesting flavour to breads and other creative bakes.

    Of course, chocolate mint  it is particularly useful for garnishing desserts and for supplementing the ingredients in chocolate desserts. For example, chocolate mint ice cream, chocolate mousse, chocolate brownies or chocolate mint slices. You can also add it to any drinks that have a chocolate or minty flavour, such as hot chocolate. Many people add chocolate mint to other varieties of tea and even coffee, as well as making herbal tea.

    The easiest way to make chocolate mint tea is to gather few fresh leaves, put them in a tea cup and pour over boiling water. Leave to infuse for 3-5 minutes. Drink as it is or add a square of plain chocolate to develop the chocolate flavour even further. As with most herbal teas, it's best drank without milk.

    Hope you've enjoyed my little diversion from kitchen to garden and do let me know how you get on with your own chocolate mint plant.

    Happy gardening!

    Magdalena

     

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  2.  

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    This recipe for salted caramel sauce is one of the easiest recipes with sugar I've ever made. And not just that - it's also very versatile - pour it on top of your favourite pudding, ice cream, use it as a filling or just dive in with a spoon!

    There are really just four basic ingredients:

    • 200g granulated sugar
    • 90g salted butter
    • 120ml double cream
    • 1 teaspoon salt

    And here is what you do to make your salted caramel sauce:

    Heat the granulated sugar in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. The sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to make the liquid too brown or even burn it. It's easily done.


    Once the sugar is completely melted, add the butter. The mixture is going to bubble and increase in volume. Stir the butter gently into the caramel until it is completely melted. The next job is to add the double cream - pour it in very slowly and watch out as the caramel sauce bubbles even more. Be careful, because the caramel has a habbit of splattering around and hot sugar is no fun!

    Boil the caramel sauce for about 1 minute or shorter if the mixture looks like it starts to burn. You can always move the pan slightly to make sure the caramel mixture is boiling evenly. Not sure why, but our hob is always burning slightly more in the right top corner, eventhough it's a gas one!


    Once done, remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Pour directly to a prepared jam jars (if making as a present) or allow to cool down before using.

    And what are the possible uses for this amazing salted caramel sauce? I'm sure I don't need to list them all here, as this caramel goes with absolutely everything. Let me know how you get on with yours...

    Enjoy!

    Magdalena

  3. chocolate-2560177_1920

    This is probably one of the easiest chocolate recipes I've ever tried. Quick to make and it taste delicious. If you ever forget a pudding or the children want something sweet, this is the recipe!

    Like with many recipes, there are many versions, so I've decided to try few to see which one is the best one (the life of a food blogger is trully hard...). The main difference is whether the recipe includes eggs or not. Both are equally good, but in a different way. The one with egg is richer and slightly softer (it's very close to brownies, but not as gooey)

    Here is what you need for chocolate crunch recipe (without egg)

    170g unsalted butter

    170g caster sugar

    225g plain flour

    30g cocoa powder

    First of all melt the butter in a saucepan or in a microwave. Remove from heat and mix the remaining ingredients into the melted butter, until you can see the cocoa is nicely mixed in. Scoope the mixture into a greased cake tin (7 inch round cake tin or a tin for tray bakes). Brush with a little milk and sprinkle sugar on top.

    Bake at 180c (gas 4) for 10-15 minutes. Make sure you cut into slices whilst still warm, otherwise it gets very hard and it crumbles as you cut it.


    This chocolate crunch bake can be eaten hot (with a custard) or cold!

    And here is what you need for a chocolate crunch recipe with an egg

    25 g Cocoa Powder
    175 g Caster Sugar
    1 Egg
    225 g Self Raising Flour
    160 g Butter

    1/2 teaspoon of vanila essence

    First of all mix the flour, sugar and cocoa together in a large bowl.
    Add the melted butter and vanilla essence to the dry ingredients and beat in the egg.

    Press the mixture, evenly into lightly greased tin. Brush the tops with water and sprinkle with some additional sugar.
    Oven bake at 170°C for at about 30 minutes.

    As ever I love to know what you think, so let me know, if you make this chocolate crunch recipe!

    Happy baking!

    Magdalena

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    When I run my sourdough bread baking courses, I often get asked criptical questions from my curious students. The answers to some of the questions like: 'Is sourdough bread gluten free ?' initially seem very obvious, but strangely enough when you dig a little deeper the answer is not that clear cut.

    So, first of all to satisfy your curiosity to know whether sourdough bread is gluten free, well, of course it depends on what type of flour you use! Since it's very difficult to bake a true sourdough bread from completely gluten free flour, traditional sourdough breads are not gluten free.

  5. hands-2430200_1280

    How are cocoa beans harvested? It’s a question we’re often asked, here at Cocoa & Heart by our curious and interested students who naturally want to know more about the origins of the chocolate they’re working with.

    Harvesting cocoa beans is a time consuming and largely highly intensive manual labour activity where a large machete like knife plays a starring role. So, let’s cut to the chase.

    The pods containing cocoa beans grow right from the trunk of the cocoa tree. This means harvesting requires cutting down the ripe pods from the trees and opening them up to remove the wet, sticky, pulp like, white beans.