Chocolate coconut scones

chocolate coconut scones

 

Oh my, I forgot what it was like to be struck by flu. I wasn’t too annoyed about the fever and the fact that every muscle and bone in my body hurt. It was the utter exhaustion that came with it that stopped me in my tracks. I’m still not 100% since it hit me 3 weeks ago but I do feel the brain fog slowly lifting and I’m starting to feel strong again. So in order to ease myself gently back into the baking zone I’ve made chocolate coconut scones for you this week. Scones are the simplest thing to make. It took me a while to realise that though. Actually, it was moving away from the UK that forced me to make my own. Scones aren’t readily available in the shops here in Berlin. And I have to say that so far I haven’t found a coffee shop or bakery that sells ones that I think make the cut.

Right at the start of my blogging days, I made these plain and raisin scones. And this time I am using the same basic recipe out of “Mary Berry’s Baking Bible”. I chose not to add sugar to these scone because I think the chocolate and coconut chips add enough sweetness. If you do prefer your scones sweeter, just add some sugar (see recipe below).

Scones are great to have around the house. You can freeze them in a box or bag and take out however many you need. Perfect for unexpected coffees with friends. An easy to grab snack for the kids when heading out to the playground. That something sweet for your movie night. You can eat these chocolate coconut scones as they are or you can add some butter or clotted cream if you want. Either way, they are delicious.

Chocolate and coconut is one of my favourite flavour combinations so I decided to put it in a scone. What’s a flavour combo you’d like to see in a scone or bun? 

scrumptious chocolate coconut scones

Chocolate coconut scones

Makes 16 small scones

Ingredients:

225g flour

1 rounded teaspoon of baking powder

40g softened butter

optional: 25g sugar

1 egg

about 100-110ml milk

75g dark chocolate for baking (or use chocolate chips if you want)

20g coconut chips

Method:

  1. Heat your oven to 220 degrees C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Put the coconut chips in a food processor and whizz for about a minute so that the pieces are about the size of a pea. Finely chop up the chocolate with a sharp knife.
  3. Put the flour, baking powder and butter in a bowl. Use your fingers to rub it all together until it resembles really fine breadcrumbs.
  4. Add the coconut chips and chocolate to the mixture and rub it in.
  5. Crack the egg into a measuring jug and add the milk until the mixture totals 150ml. Whisk and then take a tbsp of the mixture and leave it in a small bowl (this will be our glaze for later).
  6. Add the liquids to the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon to combine. Then use your hands again to make a smooth but still wet dough. Do not kneed it too much, you just want it all to come together nicely.
  7. Use your hands or a rolling pin to flatten the dough on a floured surface/silicone mat until it’s about the thickness of your baby finger.
  8. Use a fluted cutter or a small glass to cut out the scones. Don’t twist the cutter/glas! Push straight down and lift the scone straight out. Place them on the baking tray.
  9. Use the left over egg-milk mixture to glaze your chocolate coconut scones and bake them for 10 minutes until they are a nice golden brown.
  10. Cool them on a wire rack.

ENJOY!!

a basket full of yummy chocolate coconut scones

Crispy and chewy chocolate biscuits

As this is my last post for this year I want to start by wishing you all a very merry Christmas and best wishes for the new year.

It’s the third week of advent and it seems that it is entirely dedicated to baking. Although, to be honest, I am suffering from a very annoying cold which means I’ve had to scale back my plans a bit.

Did you enjoy last week’s post on St. Lucia? We were in Spain staying with my Swedish parents-in-law for the occasion. We ate a lot of saffron buns and gingersnaps and the kids dressed up as Lucia and the gingerbread man.

Being on holiday in Spain, we ate a lot of good food. Between tapas, paella and ice-cream there was also room for local cured meats, traditional Spanish Christmas treats and these crispy and chewy chocolate biscuits courtesy of my mother-in-law.

These thin chocolate biscuits are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. They are easy to make and take very little time. You probably already have most ingredients in the house.

When these biscuits come out of the oven it will look like they’re not done. Don’t panic. This is exactly how they’re meant to be. You need them to be soft so you can cut them into thin strips before they cool and harden. I made these crispy and chewy chocolate biscuits for my son’s kindergarten Christmas party yesterday. I took an empty box back home so I think they were well received.

The original recipe calls for light syrup (like Lyle’s Golden Syrup) which I can’t find in my local supermarket. Instead, I used treacle which is darker in colour and slightly different in taste. The result was the same though. Speaking of syrup, what kind do you use for baking gingerbread houses and men? Or does your recipe not call for it at all?

Crispy and chewy chocolate biscuits

(makes about 30-40)

Ingredients:

100g butter at roomtemperature

90g sugar

2 tbsp light syrup or treacle

130g flour

2 1/2 tbsp cocoa (NOT the chocolate drink kind)

1 tsp vanilla sugar

1/2 bicarbonate of soda

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.

2. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with a whisk (or use a handmixer) cream the butter, sugar, vanilla sugar and syrup until light and fluffy.

3. Sift in the flour, cocoa and the bicarbonate of soda and keep mixing.

4. When all the ingredients are well mixed together, take out the dough and shape it into a ball on a floured surface. Divide into 2 equal parts and the roll the balls into sausages about 5cm in diameter.

5. Place the sausages on a baking tray lined with baking paper about 15-20cm apart. Flatten them slightly with floured hands.

6. Bake them in the middle of the oven for 15 min. The dough will spread a lot and become very flat. Take them out and let cool for about 3 minutes, no more! Take a sharp knife and cut strips about 3cm wide along the length of the baked dough.

7. Leave the biscuits on the baking tray to cool completely. Then store in an airtight container so they don’t lose their crispness.

ENJOY!

(No pictures yet as I am having trouble uploading them to this post. You will find some on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook though)

Sacher Torte – Austrian chocolate cake

Sacher Torte

Have a slice of this delicious Austrian chocolate cake - Sacher Torte

Every Sunday I look at my diary and see a pretty straight forward week: work Monday and Tuesday, day off on Wednesday, blog on Thursday and Friday then settle down for the weekend. And then Monday morning comes around. I find myself at my desk with said diary, a pencil and an eraser and everything changes.

A friend moved away earlier than I had expected. In other words, a last-minute get-together had to be arranged quickly. Another friend who I hadn’t seen in years found herself unexpectedly with a day off in Berlin. So Tuesday’s work got cancelled and off we went for a delicious catch up breakfast. I spent most of Wednesday on the sofa fighting a cold so that I could at least work on Thursday. And now we are at the end of the week and I’m looking after my oldest who was sick last night and this morning and therefore can’t go to Kita. Oh, and I did get that cold…

The advantage of having our business is that I can be flexible. If I don’t get it done during the day because I need to take my daughter to the doctor, I can catch up in the evening. If P. has his days off during the week, I can spend the day with him if I plan work and blog around it. It’s not a perfect system, and like this week, it all sort of became a bit chaotic.

I tried very hard to bake something good in all this chaos. I forced myself to step out of the stress lane and focus. Work slow. Be precise. And it worked… until I sort of dropped the cake and it cracked. I hid it with the icing so it looked a bit nicer. In a weird way, it reflects many parents’ life. You might think we’ve got it all under control. It may look like we have the perfect balance of kids-work-us but in reality it’s more like my Sacher Torte this week: a bit cracked, a bit crumbly, a bit not how it should be but still fabulous. How has your week been?

(Here’s a view of the beautiful Café Sacher, home to the original and secret recipe for this delicious cake)

Sacher Torte - delicious Austrian chocolate cake

Sacher Torte (Austrian chocolate cake)

(adapted from a recipe by Mary Berry)

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

150g dark chocolate

150g soft butter

100g sugar

1/2 tbsp vanilla sugar

5 eggs, separated

75g ground almonds

40g plain flower

For the topping:

6 tbsp apricot jam

150g dark chocolate

200ml whipping cream

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease a 23cm round cake tin and line the base with baking paper.

2. Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it gently in a bowl set on a saucepan with 2-3cm of simmering water. Let it cool a bit. Meanwhile, beat the butter until really soft and then gradually add the sugar and the vanilla sugar. Beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

3. Add the cooled chocolate to the mixture and beat again. Then add the egg yolks, one at a time, and beat until fully incorporated.

4.Whisk the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold it into the mixture. Then pour it all in the cake tin. Level the top.

5. Bake for 45-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean and the top of the cake is springy. Remove from the oven and let cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning the cake out onto a wire rack and pealing off the baking paper.

6. When the cake is completely cooled, make the topping. Heat the apricot jam in a saucepan. Strain it to get rid of any lumps and bits. Brush the jam on the top and sides of the cake. Let the jam cool.

7. Melt the chocolate and the cream togheter in a bowl set on a saucepan with 2-3cm simmering water. Allow to cool and thicken a bit. Then pour the chocolate in the center of the cake and let it cover the cake completely. Now leave it to set.

 Enjoy!

Delicious chocolate cake - Sacher Torte

Cappuccino cake

 

Who wouldn't want a bite of this delicious cappuccino cake?

Do you know the show “The Great British Bake Off”? If not, have a look at this and then make your way over here. If you love baking, this is the most exciting thing on TV every Wednesday night. Actually, it’s the most exciting thing on TV all week! I have watched every series and I recommend you do too (get VPN if you’re not in the UK).

I am a good baker but certainly not as good as the guys and girls on the show. But sometimes, I like to think that I am a genius with the flour and the eggs. I pretend that I have just invented a new sensational flavour combination and that I am the master of the 6-strand braided bread. Am I the only one in this?

I bought Mary Berry’s “Baking Bible” a couple of year ago because of #GBBO (that’s Twitter speak for the Great British Bake Off and one to follow) and I am slowly baking my way through it. Last month I made these beautiful madeleines and this week I decided on the chocolate, coffee and cream combination in this cappuccino cake.

Coffee and cream combined with chocolate in this gorgeous cake

Cappuccino cake 

(adapted from Mary Berry’s recipe in “Mary Berry’s Baking Bible”)

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

50g cocoa powder (unsweetened)

3 tbsp boiling water

2 eggs

25 ml milk

100g flour

3 tsp baking powder

50g soft butter

100g sugar

200ml whipping cream

1/2 tsp instant coffee granules dissolved in 1 tsp of very hot water

some cocoa powder for dusting

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and flour a springform cake tin with a diameter of approx. 18cm.

2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the cocoa powder and boiling water into a smooth paste. Then add the eggs, milk, flour, baking powder, butter and sugar and mix until just combined. Do not overmix.

3. Pour the mixture into the tin, level the top and put it in the middle of the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

4. Leave to cool for 5 minutes then remove from the springform and cool the cake further on a wire rack.

5. When the cake is completely cooled, slice it horizontally into 2 disks.

6. Whip the cream until it holds its shape. Spread about half of the cream onto one of the disks.

7. Put the second disk on top of the cream.

8. Mix the coffee granules with the hot water. Let it cool down for a couple of minutes and then fold it gently into the remaining cream. Spread the coffee cream on top of the cake and smooth it out using a palette knife (a regular knife will work too just use the smooth side (not the cutting side).

9. Decorate the cake with a dusting of cocoa powder.

ENJOY!

Beautiful Chocolate cake with cream filling and coffee cream on top

Oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies – Baking with kids

Oat and chocolate chips cookies in a child's suitcase

If you have toddlers and you travel with them, be it by car, plane or train, you have at some point googled this subject. And on every list op tips and tricks there is an entire paragraph dedicated to snacks. Not only to keep hungry travellers happy but also as a bargaining tool when said travellers refuse to go through the metal detector at the airport or fights the carseat belts.

drawing of Madagascar by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski

Here’s the thing with snacks. No mini-traveller will accept carrot sticks as a bribe. And no parent will give hungry tummies a packet of gummy bears pretending it’s a meal (although… I can totally see how a situation could arise where this would be the only way forward…). If you want to keep things on the healthier side, you’re better off making the snacks yourself. But if you’re in the middle of packing and the munchkins want to help by throwing every possible item of clothing they own in your suitcase, the last thing you’ll want to do is spend a lot of time on baking “responsible” cookies. The effort required for these cookies is minimal. One bowl, one spoon, one scale (or 1 set of measuring spoons in Cups) and 3 minutes of elbow grease. Or take some time out from the holiday prep and get your mini-travellers involved. I’ve been making these oat cookies with my daughter since she mastered some sort of stirring motion around her first birthday.

The cookies are practically crumb free so no post-car journey vacuuming required.  And if you add raisins instead of chocolate chips you will also arrive at your destination without chocolate fingers on your new T-shirt. I hope your travels this summer will not involve too much munchkin stress. And if you think you’re going to lose the will to ever travel again, just grab a cookie! Safe travels!

oat and chocolate chip cookies

Oat and chocolate chip or raisin cookies (no refined sugar)

(makes 9 cookies)

Ingredients:

80g or 3/4 cups oats

40g or half of 3/4 cups flour

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp baking soda

30ml or 1/8 cup honey

30ml or 1/8 cup maple syrup

30ml or 1/8 cup rapeseed oil (or another neutral tasting oil, no olive oil)

1/4tsp vanilla essence

1 banana, mashed, no lumps (for a more crunchy cookie, use 1/2 banana)

4 tbsp chocolate chips or raisins

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. Using a wooden spoon, mix all the ingredients in a bowl.

3. Spoon 1 tbsp of the mixture at a time onto the baking tray, making 3 rows of 3.

4. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

5. Cool on a wire rack.

Note: These cookies do lose their crunch quickly even when stored in an airtight container.

ENJOY!

Child's suitcase with toys and books

The Children’s Atlas “Alle Welt” is by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinska translated to German by Thomas Weiler and published by Moritz Verlag, Frankfurt am Main.

The book “Nijntje vliegt” is by Dick Bruna and published by Mercis Publishing, Amsterdam.

The book “Mumin Var är Lilla My?” is published by Alfabeta Bokförlag AB, Stockholm. It is translated from the English version “Moomins lift-the-flap Hide and Seek” which is published by Puffin Books, Penguin Group.  

This recipe has been adapted in several ways over the last 3 years. I do not remember the blog I found the original recipe on. 

Swedish sticky chocolate cake – Kladdkaka

kladdkaka with cream and blueberries

In Sweden, where P. is from, there is this tradition that on Saturday everyone goes to the supermarket and fills a big bag full of sweets from the huge pick and mix stand. When you get home, you can keep your lördagsgodis (Saturday sweets) in the bag or put them in a large bowl and munch away all weekend long. This mix of bonbons, chocolates, fudges, caramels and more is a colourful display.

Sometimes, I think our little family is a bit like that bowl of mixed colours and flavours. P. is Swedish, I am from Belgium, the kids were born in Northern Ireland and we chose to settle in Germany. Berlin is our home and we plan to stay here. But how do you answer the question: Where are you from? In my case, I answer by saying that I am from Belgium but live in Germany. P. answers the same way. But what about our kids? They are not from Belgium. They are not from Sweden. They are essentially from Germany.

Blueberries on black background

I’ve been thinking about these things a lot lately. How will our kids deal with all of this? What sort of questions will they ask when they are older? What nationality will they take when they turn 18 and have to choose? How will they give Belgium, Sweden and Northern Ireland a place in their life? In their being? Who will they be and how will they define themselves?

Whatever the answers, we will give them the freedom to search and find their way. Their roots might be growing in German soil, but their heritage, their seeds of life, that has come from 3 beautiful and inspiring places.

P. and I wil make sure they know about their heritage. And part of this heritage for me personally is food. And not just the national dishes, but the simple tomato soup Oma (grandmother in Belgium) makes or the lobster thermidor Farfar (grandfather in Sweden) cooks on special occasions.

This week’s recipe is a Swedish sticky (Kladd) cake (kaka). It’s easy and requires just 1 bowl and something to mix the batter with. I bet you my nearly 4 year old could do this. So let the lesson “this is your heritage” begin…

kladdkaka with bowl of cream and bowl of blueberries

 Swedish sticky chocolate cake – Kladdkaka

Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 eggs

270g sugar

60g flour

1 tsp vanilla sugar

2 heaped tbsp unsweetened cocoa

100g melted butter

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Grease and flour a round springform tin (important!).

2. In a bowl, use a handmixer or whisk to mix all the ingredients together until the mixture is smooth.

3. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for  30 minutes.

4. Let the cake cool in the tin.

5. When ready to serve, remove the springform side. Do not attempt to remove the cake from the bottom of the tin, it is too sticky and fudge-like. Use a cake cutter (preferably one that won’t scratch your tin) to cut and scrape/lift a piece of the cake. It will come loose, it’s just nice and sticky.

6. Serve with some vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, berries, toasted nuts or sliced, fresh fruit

ENJOY!

 blueberries rolling out of bowl

Strawberry and chocolate cake

slice of chocolate cake with strawberries and cream

Is there such a thing as baker’s block? If not, there should be. I bake on Thursdays and by Wednesday afternoon this week my mind was still blank. Frustration set in. Instead of forcing the issue I cleared my mind and did some other stuff. And by stuff I mean planning a wedding.

Stack of wedding magazines

4 months until we indulge in a little champagne and decadence. I can’t wait! The initial momentum I experienced right after the “will you-yes I will” moment disappeared after a couple of months. So with a venue booked, caterer chosen, dress bought and photographer and DJ picked, I went into wedding hibernation mode. And that’s where I’ve been for the last 6 months. Now I’m desperately trying to get it back so I can finish off the last bits and pieces. Any tips?

And then I saw this tweet:

Natalie

I met Natalie in April at the Hive Conference in Berlin. She is a fabulous woman with bundels of energy and enthusiasm. She is part of Apartment Diet and I am bummed I missed their workshop at the event. Anyway, Natalie just published a book called “The Wedding Virus” (find it here) and I downloaded it last night. I am now counting the hours until I can start reading it this evening.

Now, back to that Tweet…

cake, strawberries and wedding magazines

I was sitting at my dining room table, wedding planner open and budget spreadsheet on my laptop, baking still in the back of my mind and then I read this quote on Natalie’s Twitter Feed. And I had a moment. I sighed and thought: “Yes, and you can add chocolate and champagne to that”. So I did! I immediatly got out of my baker’s block and then I got rid of the line in the planner that said: start wedding fitness routine.

(P.S. Feel free to enjoy this cake with champagne in the bath. But I will not be held responsible for the consequences.)

Chocolate cake with strawberries and cream on cake stand

Chocolate cake with strawberries and vanilla mascarpone cream

(Glas of champagne optional but recommended)

Serves 6

Ingredients for the chocolate cake:

2 eggs

180g sugar

100g flour

1 tsp vanilla sugar

2 heaped tbsp cacao, unsweetened

100g melted butter

Ingredients for the vanilla mascarpone cream:

200ml whipping cream

200ml mascarpone

3 tbsp sugar

1 1/2 tbsp vanilla sugar

250g-500g strawberries (depends how many you want inside the cake) roughly all the same size

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C

2. Line(or grease and flour) 2 18cm/7inch springform tins.

3. Throw all the ingredients for the cake in a standmixer (or a bowl and use a handmixer) and mix with the paddle attached. Be careful that your melted butter isn’t too hot or your eggs will cook.

4. Divide the mixture equally between your 2 tins. If you only have 1 tin I suggest you make half the batter, bake it and then make another batch.

5. Bake for 20 minutes.

6. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then cool fully on a wire rack.

7. Make the cream when the cakes have completely cooled down. Do this by putting all the ingredients in the bowl of your standmixer which is now fitted with the whisk (or use a bowl and handmixer). Mix on high until the mixture becomes thick and creamy.

8. Wash the strawberries and cut the tops off flat so that they can stand on their own, upside down as it were. Slice in 2 vertically. When you have enough to cover the circumference, stop cutting the strawberries in half. Keep them whole with the tops off.

9. Take your (cleaned) springform tin and put one of the cakes in. Put the sliced strawberries on the cake around the edge with the cut side lightly pressed against the springform.

10. Put the rest of the unsliced strawberries inside the strawberry edge you’ve just made. Strawberry tops onto the cake surface so they don’t fall over.

11. Carefully fill the gaps with the mascarpone cream. Smooth over the surface when you have covered all the strawberries. Don’t overfill with the cream. You’re looking to just cover the strawberries.

12. Place the second cake (top side down) on top of the cream.

13. Put the cake in the fridge so it can set a bit. When ready to serve, take it out of the fridge and carefully remove the springform. Let it sit for about 15 minutes so that it can warm up a bit to room temperature.

Optional: dust lightly with powdered sugar and serve with some champagne and the rest of the strawberries.

Strawberries and champagne

ENJOY!

close up slice chocolate cake with strawberries and cream

close up chocolate cake with strawberries and cream

Vegan chocolate shortbread with salted caramel and nuts

 

vegan chocolate shortbread with salted caramel close-up

About 20 years ago my two younger brothers decided to become vegetarians. They were teenagers. And my mother took them seriously. She never said it was a phase, something that would pass, a teenage rebellion thing. No, she attended vegetarian cooking courses so that she could be sure that her boys were getting all the vitamins, minerals etc. they needed to grown strong and healthy. Ready-made veggie burgers rarely entered our house. My mother took it all in her stride and educated herself on what vegetarianism was all about. She also proved that it wasn’t that hard to cook vegetarian meals on a daily basis. The hard thing is to change your mindset. If before, you were a meat-potato-veg person, stepping away from that can sometimes require a bit of creativity and effort.

white fresia on grey background

My brothers made the step to a meat free life in the 90’s and they tell me things have really moved on since then. More and more people are aware and more and more shops and restaurants recognise the growing number of people choosing this way of life. Living in Berlin I have really been exposed to the possibilities of eating vegetarian. More recently, I have found myself curious at the concept of a vegan lifestyle. I don’t plan to become 100% vegetarian or vegan, but I realised that our little family does eat this way more often than not for different reasons.

vegan chocolate shortbread with salted caramel side shot with palm leaf

This shortbread with salted caramel is my first attempt at creating a vegan baking recipe. I had to do quite a bit of research which I really enjoyed. Anything for a challenge! The recipe is by no means perfect but I think it is a good first attempt. Let me know what you think about it.

vegan chocolate shortbread with salted caramel side shot

Vegan chocolate shortbread with salted caramel and nuts

Ingredients for the shortbread:

100g room temperature coconut oil

50g sugar

150g flour

3 tbsp raw cacao

5 tbsp almond milk

Ingredients for the salted caramel with nuts:

220g sugar

60ml water

120ml coconut cream

1/2 tsp fleur de sel

50g unsalted peanuts, chopped

Method:

1. Line a 20×26 tin with baking paper. You could also use a round tin with 21cm diameter.

2. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

3. Using a hand mixer, cream the coconut oil and sugar for a couple of minutes.

4. Add the flour, cacao and almond milk and mix with a wooden spoon. You can also use your hands.

5. Press the dough into the tin and bake for 20 minutes.

6. Allow to cool in the tin.

Make the caramel:

1. In a clean saucepan, add water then sugar. Put the pan on medium heat and leave it. Don’t be temped to stir or swirl the mixture.

2. Let the mixture boil until it goes a dark golden colour. I let my caramel heat up to 195 degrees C on a digital kitchen thermometer. Be careful not to burn the caramel.

CARAMEL GETS EXTREMELY HOT, DONT TOUCH IT!

3. Take the caramel off the heat and carefully add the coconut cream. The mixture will splatter so be careful not to get burned. Mix the coconut cream into the caramel with a wooden spoon.

4. Carefully pour the caramel onto the shortbread.

5. Sprinkle the chopped peanuts and the fleur de sel onto te caramel.

6. Let the caramel cool and set. You can put it in the fridge if you want to speed up the process.

7. Cut into pieces and store in a cool place so the caramel doesn’t melt. I find it keeps well, covered in the fridge.

ENJOY!

vegan shortbread with salted caramel side view

palm leaf

Baking with kids – Top hats

 

top hat sweet with yellow smartie

The Top hat. If it hadn’t been for my daughter I don’t think I would ever have come across these treats. Backtrack 2 years and we were still living the countryside-life in beautiful Northern Ireland. My daughter was 18 months and our son was just born. Two days a week, S. would happily trot up the street to her nursery. Some days she would come home with a painting or some sort of art project, but now and again she would present us with something that resembled a cookie or cupcake. I’m sure it took every last bit of her concentration to put the sprinkles on top of the icing. Or place the raisin in the exact spot she wanted it. It was always nearly a shame to eat her creations.

child's hand putting smart on top of marshmallow

So one day she came home with one of these cute sweets. A top hat. And all it really is, is marshmallow, chocolate and smarties. And they are so easy to make. She helped make them when she was 18 months and now my 2 year old son is also loving making these fluffy creations. The perfect young toddler’s “baking” project.

child's hand picking smarties

Baking with kids – Top Hats

20 mini cupcake cases

100gr melted chocolate

20 big marshmallows to make top hats

(more marshmallows to taste, poke and pull apart)

20 coloured smarties

(more smarties to eat, spill and lick before sticking on the top hats)

Method

1. Melt the chocolate (parents or older kids). I prefer to melt my chocolate in a glass, heatproof bowl set on top of a saucepan with about 3 cm (1 inch) of simmering water. I take the bowl off the pan (careful, it’ll be hot) when nearly all the chocolate is melted. I then stir to melt the remainder. Set the bowl to one side to cool slightly while you and the kids get the cupcake cases ready.

2. Spoon 2-3 tbsp of melted chocolate into the cupcake cases.

3. Put a marshmallow in the middle of the chocolate filled cupcake case.

4. Use a teaspoon to put a generous drop of melted chocolate on top of the marshmallow and stick a smartie on.

5. Put all the top hats on a tray and put them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes so the chocolate cools and becomes solid again.

6. Taste and have lots of wipes/wet cloth/napkins ready because the chocolate will leave its mark.

As with all my recipes for baking with kids, have a look at my tips and tricks. In the end, you know your child best and what her or his abilities are. The important thing is to let them try things and to have fun.

Enjoy!

making top hats

Belgian style chocolate truffles

Three chocolate truffles on a white heartIf you follow me on Twitter you will have seen my panic about the fact that tomorrow is St. Valentine’s. And the fact that I am totally not prepared to shower my loved one with a card, small gift, romantic dinner for two, a glass of something bubbly, …

But if I’m totally honest, P. and I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s. OK, I admit that he usually buys me something small which of course I appreciate but if he didn’t I wouldn’t mind. Why? Let me paint you a romantic picture of our relationship. Be sure to find the humour and sarcasm in this list.

Point 1: P. celebrates his birthday 2 days after the feast of love and we prefer to celebrate that. Why don’t we celebrate both days? See point 2.

Point 2: We have a nearly 2 year old and a 3 1/2 year old running around. If you have kids, you’ll need no more explanation on this subject. If you don’t, here’s how it is in our house:

“Want to go out for (insert event) tomorrow? There’s a new restaurant on the other side of town serving the most amazing (insert favourite food).”

“Sure… I wonder if the babysitter is available at such short notice? I’ll give her a call.”… “She can do it! I’ll book a table.”

“They only have a 20:30 slot for us. What do you think?”

“By the time we get there, have a 3 course dinner and get back it’ll be midnight or possibly later if the place is amazing… Who is going to get up tomorrow at 6am when the kids decide it’s time to do arts and crafts? You or me?”

Why don’t we plan ahead? See point 3.

Point 3: Planning ahead is almost impossible if you are a family with small kids. If you try, no doubt one of the following will happen: 1 child is sick OR more than 1 child is sick.

So, in our house, romantic gestures are a very much a spontaneous thing. Sort of like: “The kids are in bed, they are actually asleep, quick, get the take-away and I’ll get 2 cold beers out of the fridge.” or “I walked past this shop the other day and they had a book I thought was perfect for you but I couldn’t go in and get it because our son was having a tantrum and our daughter decided walking was overrated and sat down in the middle of the pavement.”

So, for all of us who’s life a matter of last minute decisions and last minute plans, here’s my recipe for Belgian style truffles. 3 ingredients, very little effort involved and I bet you have everything in the house.

Row of truffles on red paper

 Belgian style truffles

(makes 20-30 truffles depending on size)

For the truffles:

200g good quality dark chocolate

100 ml whipping cream

50g butter

optional: 1 tbsp of your favourite liquor (i.e. whisky, Amaretto, Grand Marnier)

For the coating:

200g good quality dark chocolate, in pieces

Method:

Chop the chocolate into very small pieces and put in a bowl. The smaller the better as they will melt quicker.

Heat the cream in a saucepan until it nearly starts to simmer.

Add the butter and stir until it is completely melted.

Pour the cream-butter mixture over the chopped chocolate. Stir as the chocolate melts. At first it will look spotty but it will all come together and you will end up with a shiny, smooth mixture. Add the liquor if using.

Cool in the fridge for about an hour. The mixture will set.

Belgian truffles tend to be oval and not round. Use a teaspoons to scoop out a truffle. Irregular shapes are OK, if not a must.

Put the truffles on a silicone mat or baking paper. Refrigerate while you make the coating.

For the coating: Fill a saucepan with a small amount of water, about 3 cm/1 inch. Let it get warm but not beyond simmering point. Put the chocolate pieces in a glass or metal bowl and let the bowl sit on the pan without it touching the water. Stir as the chocolate melts. Once all the pieces are melted, take the bowl of the pan. Be careful of the steam coming out from under the bowl and use oven mitts to hold the bowl as it will be hot.

Use a fork on which you rest a truffle and dip it in the chocolate. Let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.

Place the coated truffle on a silicone mat or baking paper and let it set. Repeat until all truffles are coated.

Close up row of trufflesThese truffles will not only melt in your mouth but also in your hand so eat fast! That’s the beauty of good quality chocolates, they will cover your hands and fingers. And since these are made with fresh cream and butter they will not last too long either. But try not to keep them in the fridge. As a Belgian and lover of chocolate, storing chocolate in the fridge is a big No-No.

Have a lovely Valentine’s whether you are celebrating or not. P. and I will be in IKEA buying our daughter a toddler bed… maybe we’ll hold hands and steal a kiss as we browse the duvet cover aisle.

ENJOY!

truffles in a row focus on middle one

truffels on and next to white heart