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Chocolate and Mint Arctic Roll

This is my entry for this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge.  This month’s challenge is to make a swiss roll or roulade.  Well, you have already witnessed my roulade attempt for last week’s Sunday lunch.  Well, this was this week’s Sunday dessert.  My two girls have fallen in love with mint choc chip ice cream and I keep having to buy tubs from the supermarket to sate their appetite. I have wanted to make mint ice cream for a while.  The mint in our garden is in its prime, a month earlier than usual.  It is also rampant so finding another use for it is a big bonus.

I have always wondered how you got the mint flavour in there – do you infuse the cream or infuse a sugar syrup? (Obviously, if you are a commercial ice cream seller you use mint flavouring and you don’t go in for this infusing malarkey). I googled mint ice cream and found that you can infuse the cream or you can infuse a sugar syrup.  I decided to go with the former.

My first attempt was a disaster.  I decided that to get the green colour you probably needed to chop the leaves and the stalks.  I forgot that mint turns brown when bruised and the cream turned a mucky brown colour on top – not very appetising.

So, the second time round I removed the leaves from the stalks and discarded the stalks (the chickens loved them). I kept the leaves whole and infused them for an hour in the warm cream.  This seemed to work very well but the cream wasn’t very green.  So I thought I would puree the mint leaves and push them through a sieve with the cream again, risking that this may turn the cream brown.  Well, in actual fact I nearly turned the cream red (reminder to self – stick blenders are extremely sharp and will cut your fingers!). Fortunately, all blood was contained well away from the infused cream and I had no reason to tell my guests that we were having mint and strawberry ice cream, as suggested by my helpful neighbour.  I also still have my index finger and thumb intact, just about.

Anyway, as it turns out the infused cream did have a subtle green glow about it.

Not quite commercial mint choc chip green  but lovely anyway.  I was surprised by the taste, it is nothing like commercial mint ice cream.  It had a subtle mint taste with a slight earthiness about it.  I really enjoyed it. I don’t think the kids were as impressed though because it didn’t taste like what they are used to.

I could have just served it as it is but I still wanted to enter this month’s challenge, so I thought an arctic roll might just hit the spot.

I made a traditional swiss roll rather than a roulade.  The difference for me between the two is the flour used in a swiss roll.  If I was making it again I might use the roulade recipe as it is richer and not quite so dry as a swiss roll.  But this did roll better.  I borrowed my mum’s tin – the right size for the recipe, and rolled it straight away as it came out of the oven.  Then unrolled it to fill it with ice cream. No cracks!

Next time I will make the ice cream the day before to give it time to freeze properly and I might just take James Martin’s advice to freeze the ice cream in a plastic pipe as trying to roll it in greaseproof paper was messy and difficult.

For the Mint choc chip ice cream
600ml double cream
60g mint leaves
50g caster sugar
6 egg yolks
1 dsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g dark chocolate, chopped into chip sized pieces

For the swiss roll
3 eggs
75g caster sugar
50g plain flour
25g cocoa powder

Method
For the ice cream:

Pour the double cream into a saucepan and add the mint leaves.  Place the pan on a medium heat and bring up to almost boiling point.  Remove the pan from the heat and  leave to infuse for 1 hour.

Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, cornflour and vanilla extract together until combined.  Sieve the cream into a jug and discard the mint leaves.  Pour the cream over the eggs and whisk well.  Return this mixture to the saucepan and cook over a gentle heat, stirring all the time, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Allow to cool and then freeze in an ice cream maker following the manufacturer’s instructions or pour into a plastic container and place in the freezer removing every half hour for two hours to beat the mixture and remove ice crystals.

I would then recommend sourcing a clean plastic pipe as James Martin advises and freezing the ice cream in this.  Otherwise, lay a piece of greaseproof paper on a worktop and spoon on the ice cream and roll up into a tube shape measuring 5cm x 30 cm.  I found this quite difficult because I had made my ice cream that day and it was melting as soon as I handled it.  So I would advise making the ice cream the day before to give it time to freeze properly.

For the swiss roll

Grease and line with greaseproof paper a shallow swiss roll tin measuring 33cm x 23cm.

Whisk together the eggs and the sugar in a large bowl until the whisk leaves a trail when lifted. Sieve the flour and cocoa powder together and fold very carefully into the mixture.  Spread this evenly onto the tin.

Bake in a preheated oven at 200°c, gas mark 6 or with the grid shelf on the floor of the roasting oven of the Aga for 8 minutes until the sides are shrinking away from the tin.

Whilst the swiss roll is cooking, lay a piece of greaseproof paper, which is bigger than the swiss roll tray, on the worktop and dust with cocoa powder or sugar.

As soon as the swiss roll is removed from the oven carefully invert it into the greaseproof paper.  Peel away the paper that is on the bottom and, using the paper underneath to help you, roll into a swiss roll.  Place on a wire rack to cool.

When you are ready to serve, remove the roll of ice cream from the freezer, unroll the swiss roll.  Place the ice cream in the middle and re roll the swiss roll to cover.  Serve in slices.

Homemade butter

My eldest daughter came home from school on Friday full of tales about how they had made butter at school and asking if we could make some at home.

I have been wanting to make my own butter for ages now and just haven’t got round to it.  I have been hunting for the perfect butter pats and nearly bought these, but then didn’t, but I will next time I pass the shop.

So we set to it to see how easy it is to make your own butter.  The eldest had made hers in a jar at school – pouring the cream in and then shaking and shaking until it turned into a solid block.  She wanted to do it this way again but she wanted to do it straight away and I didn’t have a sterile jar.  So we did it in the KitchenAid instead.  It was very easy, very quick and deeply satisfying.  We have enjoyed the butter on our bread, on pikelets and on our toast all weekend.

400ml of double cream yields 200g butter and 150ml of buttermilk.  I am not sure it works out much cheaper to make your own butter, but I will make sure I use up any odds of cream in this way from now on. The buttermilk will be used to make some scones later today.  If I had my act together better over the weekend I would have made the scones then and enjoyed them with the butter. You could also use the buttermilk in soda bread or waffles.

I added sea salt to the butter as I like my butter slightly salted, if you prefer yours unsalted then by all means leave it out.

400ml double cream
scant ½ tsp fine sea salt

Method

Place the cream and the salt (if using) in a mixing bowl and whisk. The mixture will begin to look like this.

Continue whisking and in no time at all the butter will clump together and separate from the buttermilk.

Place the butter onto a board and squash with a wooden spoon (or butter pats) until all of the buttermilk has been squeezed out.  If you don’t do this, the remaining buttermilk will turn the butter sour.

Then using two spatulas (or butter pats) shape the butter into a block, or something resembling a block if you are aged six.

Enjoy your butter and that smug glow you will have developed.

Summer Roulade

I made this on sunday, with the first British strawberries that I have seen this year.  The rolling didn’t work out too well. But I thought to myself, ‘well I will post it as it tastes good’.  Then just before I post it I read Chele’s latest blog about this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge. This month’s challenge is not an ingredient, but a technique and you guessed it – the making and rolling of a roulade/ swiss roll.  Oh well, maybe more practice is needed before I can submit an entry into this month’s challenge.

Last time I made this roulade it rolled much better.  But last time I had run over to my parent’s house to borrow her swiss roll tin, which measures 29cm x 18cm and has shallow sides.  On Sunday I used my Aga half-sized roasting dish which measure 27cm x 16cm and so this resulted in a slightly thicker and slightly shorter cake.  This made it more difficult to roll, so I think getting the right sized tin is definitely the way to go if you want to enter any challenges.  If you just want a tasty cake then live a little on the edge and use a tin that is approximately the right size.

The recipe for the cake element is based on Delia’s Squidgy Chocolate Log from her Complete Cookery Course.

For the cake:

6 eggs
150g caster sugar
50g cocoa powder

Method

Line a swiss roll (shallow) tin that measures  29cm x 18cm with greaseproof paper or silicone sheet.

Separate the eggs.  Whisk the yolks until they start to thicken.  Add the sugar and whisk until a little thicker. Sift over the cocoa powder and fold in.

In a separate and scrupulously clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks.  Add one third of the egg whites and fold in carefully and then add the rest of the egg whites in two further batches.  Folding carefully to retain as much air as possible.  Pour the mixture carefully into the prepare tin and bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4 or the centre of the Baking Oven of the Aga for about 20 minutes until it is springy to the touch.

Leave in the tin to cool.

For the filling:

3 tablespoons of strawberry jam
300ml double cream
about 8 strawberries
1 tbsp cocoa powder

Place a sheet of greaseproof paper, slightly larger than the cake, onto the worktop and dust with cocoa. Softly whip the cream.   Turn the cake out of the tin onto the greaseproof paper.  Spread the jam evenly over the surface and then spread the cream on top.  Halve the strawberries and dot them on top of the cream.  Using the greaseproof paper roll the cake gently into a roll.  If it cracks, it will still taste good. Serve with extra double cream poured over.

Rainbow Cake

“Finally!”, I hear you shout.  This is the cake I made for the crystallised violets.  It was my niece’s 22nd birthday and she had asked for a cake reminiscent of childhood birthday cakes.  This, then, had to be a rainbow cake. Then I added my own childhood memories – a topping of melted Dairy Milk and chocolate rose leaves.  I hope she has similar memories to mine.  She was pleased with the cake and I think it soaked up some of the alcohol consumed that day.

However, because it was destined for my niece I couldn’t slice into it to show you how beautiful a rainbow cake is.  Also, the girls had helped me make this cake and were very excited about the rainbowness of it all, and then disappointed to see that it came out of the oven looking very  much like a normal cake.  So I made one for them the very next day and they decorated it with icing.  The second one rose a lot in the middle.  Mixing the colours into the batter can mean you overmix the cake, losing a lot of the air, and I think this is what happened.  It still tasted good though and both girls have requested rainbow cakes for their next birthday.

This is it destined for the oven, and this is it when cooked.

Every slice is different.

225g softened butter
225g caster sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
225g plain (all purpose) flour
2 tsp baking powder
50 ml milk
food colourings of your choice ( we used pink, red, purple and green)

Method

Grease and line a 20cm cake tin. Preheat the oven to 180°c, gas mark 4.

Beat the butter until soft and then add the sugar and beat together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time beating well between each addition. Add the vanilla extract and beat again.

Sift the flour and the baking powder over the batter and gently fold in.  Add the milk and fold again.  Divide the mixture between four bowls (or however many colours you are using) and using the food colouring make each bowl of mixture a different colour.  Try not to overmix the mixture when adding the colours.

Spoon alternate colours into the tin, trying to make a level top without swirling them together too much.

Place into a preheated oven at 180°c, or the baking oven of the four-oven Aga and bake for 45-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes and then take out of the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.

Pistachio Marzipan and Chocolate Cake

It has been a very busy Easter holiday and so I am a bit behind with my posts – sorry.  The next post will be the cake for which I used the crystallised violets but I have just had a look at Choclette’s blog and she reminded me that time is running out if I want to submit an entry for this month’s We Should Cocoa Challenge.  Choclette chose marzipan this month and marzipan is one of my very favourite things.  I adore marzipan chocolates and so the idea of cooking with marzipan and chocolate really appealed. I wanted to try something a little different but that was reminiscent of Easter.  Easter, of course, means  simnel cake, but I didn’t want to make a normal simnel cake.  Then I thought about the pistachios I had bought and then about my chocolate hazelnut cupcakes and whether it might work if I made the same mixture but with pistachios and cooked the cake with a layer of pistachio marzipan like you do with simnel.  The resulting cake was moist and chewy, much more like a brownie than a cake and was better the second day than the first when it had time to settle.

I really liked this cake/ brownie and it can be made with almonds just as easily.  I urge you to have a go at making your own marzipan as it is so much nicer than shop bought. The layer of marzipan sinks to the bottom but is gloriously chewy.  The people who tried this cake gave it the thumbs up and I don’t think they were just being polite.

For the pistachio marzipan

125 pistachios, finely ground in a food processor
60g caster sugar
60g icing sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 free range egg, lightly beaten (you will only need about half the egg)

To make the marzipan:

Place the pistachios and the caster sugar and icing sugar in a bowl and mix well. Add the lemon juice and about half the egg and mix to a soft dough.  Place on a worktop dusted with icing sugar and knead until smooth. Place in the fridge until you are ready to use it.  (I made mine by putting all the ingredients into a food processor and whizzing until smooth, which worked just fine).

For the cake batter:

200g softened butter
200g caster sugar
3 eggs
100g pistachios, finely ground in a food processor
100g spelt flour (you could use wholemeal or plain flour)
25g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder

Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.

Roll out the pistachio marzipan into a disc that fits snugly in the tin and leave to one side whilst you make the cake.

Beat the butter with an electric whisk until creamy and then cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and light.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.  Fold in the pistachios, cocoa powder, flour and baking powder.

Place half the mixture in the tin and then carefully place the disc of marzipan on top.  Cover with the remaining batter, smoothing the top.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180°c, gas mark 4, for 50-60 minutes.  About halfway through check the cake and cover the top with foil if it is beginning to brown.  A skewer should come out clean when the cake is cooked.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin for about ten minutes and then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Crystallised Violets

Violets are a flower I am rather sentimental about and they are one of my favourites. This year seems to be an exceptional year for them.  The field near us has more than I can ever remember  before.  So, this morning the girls and I took a morning walk and picked a few to crystallise.  It is very easy but it is time consuming and it helps if you happen to have a few little hands that are willing to help.

When these are properly dried tomorrow I will remove the stems and we plan  to use them later in the week to decorate a cake.

1 egg white
caster sugar
freshly picked violets

Method

Paint every crevice of the violet with egg white.  You can use a paint brush for this, but as I didn’t have three clean brushes in the house we used cotton buds, which did the job perfectly well. Then sprinkle with caster sugar until completely covered. Place onto a silicone baking sheet or greaseproof paper and  leave to dry.