Tag Archives: Chilli

Warm cauliflower, feta & almond salad

Nestled within my lengthy list of first world irritations and peeves is one which frequently shoots right up the list when I’m baking or cooking: measuring dry ingredients in terms of volume.  I’m looking at you, USA.  New Zealand and Australia, you’re guilty, too, though admittedly a little less so.  Things like caster sugar and flour I can deal with (I still think it’s ridiculous, but at least it’s easy enough to convert to a weight).  It’s when we get to things like raisins, nuts, chocolate chips that it starts to be an issue.  Things that it makes no sense to measure as a volume.  And then we get to the truly ridiculous.  Exhibit A: “3 cups of bite-size pieces of cauliflower.”

“3 cups of bite-size pieces of cauliflower” doesn’t help me a great deal when I’m doing my shopping and cauliflower comes in whole heads, not bite-sized pieces.  Perhaps some people have the magical ability of looking at produce and being able to accurately estimate what volume it will take up when chopped up.  I do not have this magical ability.  This isn’t helped by the fact that I suck at anything that involves estimating.  In fact, I nearly didn’t try this warm cauliflower, feta and almond salad out, solely on account of the specified 3 cups of bite-sized pieces of cauliflower.

Luckily I did though, because this salad is truly delicious, both warm or cooled to room temperature.  It’s super versatile as well, and works on its own as a light meal, as a side dish or as a more substantial meal when mixed with couscous or pasta.  I’m a little on-the-fence about cauliflower – I like it in gratin form with a béchamel sauce and covered in cheese, but other than that I usually find it a little bland and boring.  I was more attracted by the rest of the salad’s ingredients – red onion, lemon, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, feta, almonds – than the cauliflower.  But I actually think that cauliflower works wonderfully here.  It adds a lovely crunch (a cooked crunch though, not a raw crunch), and since most of the other ingredients are quite flavourful, it helps mellow that out and balance them all together.  This is one of my new favourite warm salads.  Not only is it scrumptious, it’s easy enough to prepare and is entirely “from scratch.”  As a result, I’m submitting it to this week’s Made With Love Mondays, hosted by Javelin Warrior.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I found 3 cups of bite-sized pieces of cauliflower to be just a little less than one cauliflower.  I measured it out of interest whilst I was preparing the salad.

Warm cauliflower, feta & almond salad

Serves 3-4 as a light meal or starter
Adapted from Dish, August-September 2012

This salad is an incredibly versatile dish.  It works as a light salad on its own or can be used as a side dish (the original recipe serves it with chicken).  It can also be turned into a more substantial meal by adding couscous or pasta, which is great for a packed lunch, since it’s delicious whether served warm or cooled.  As with any salad, the ingredient quantities are really more guidelines than set in stone.

Ingredients

1 cauliflower
2-3 tbsp organic rapeseed oil (canola oil)
1 large red onion
3 cloves of garlic
1 unwaxed lemon
90 ml white wine
½ tsp ground cumin
Pinch of chilli flakes
5-6 sun-dried tomatoes
Small handful parsley leaves stripped from the stems
Handful roasted skin-on almonds
2 tbsp capers, drained
150g feta

Directions

1.  Chop the cauliflower up into bite-sized pieces.  Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat.  Add the cauliflower once hot with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, until coloured in places.  Add 2 tbsp of water to the pan, cover and cook for a further 2 mins, occasionally shaking the pan.  The cauliflower should still be a little crunchy.  Transfer to a heat-proof bowl and set aside.

2.  Whilst the cauliflower is cooking, dice the onion and set aside.  Return the pan to the heat, add a little more oil if required, add the onion and cook until soft but not brown.  As the onion is cooking, finely dice the garlic, and zest and juice the lemon.  Once the onion is soft, add the garlic, lemon zest and juice, wine, ground cumin and chilli flakes and 85 ml of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 3 mins.

3.  Meanwhile, finely slice the sun-dried tomatoes and chop the parsley.  Roughly chop the almonds and set aside, ready for serving.  Once the onion mixture is ready, stir in the sun-dried tomatoes, capers and most of the parsley, followed by the cauliflower, and season with freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Mix well, remove from the heat and split the cauliflower mixture evenly between plates (or in a large serving bowl), crumble the feta over the top, followed by the roughly chopped almonds and any remaining parsley.

Enjoy!

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We Should Cocoa #14: Aztec brownies

If I’m going to post today, I can’t really do so without briefly mentioning the rugby…  Although France lost, at least we (because I’m totally part of the French rugby team, didn’t you know?) completely blew apart the expectations of most of the rest of the world (well, the bits of the world that care about rugby) that we would play dreadfully and be completely annihilated by the All Blacks.  So hah!  And I’ll be honest, New Zealand deserved to win the World Cup anyway, particularly on home soil.  Now that I’ve got that totally knowledgeable commentary mini rant out the way, let’s talk about brownies.

More specifically, let’s talk about chilli brownies.  The wonderful combination of chocolate and chilli appears to have been somewhat overlooked recently.  Many people seem to be unaware of how perfectly these two flavours go together, which is odd, considering that this particular pairing has been around since the Aztecs or maybe even the Mayans – either way, it’s not exactly a new discovery.  Luckily though, Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog presented the perfect excuse for a foray into this flavour pairing by setting “chilli” as the special ingredient for October’s We Should Cocoa challenge.

It took me most of the month to decide what to actually make.  Cookies, cupcakes, macarons – the possibilities are endless.  In the end, I decided to make chilli brownies in order to use the chilli pepper that went into my chilli crème de cacao experiment, as well as to use some of the actual liqueur.  I had a little moment of inspiration whilst making the brownies, and threw in some cinnamon as well, so they morphed into Aztec brownies.  They also turned out lovely and fudgy, and the chilli flavour is subtle rather than in-your-face, but you can definitely taste it, so it is quite warming (which is always a bonus with winter approaching).  I couldn’t taste that there was alcohol in them, but that could just be me, and I haven’t been able to test these on anybody else to get a second opinion about that.  Either way, they’re still delicious and that’s what counts, right?

Aztec brownies

Makes 9-12 brownies
Adapted from The Craving Chronicles

These are fudgy in the middle, with a lovely warmth from the chilli peppers.  Obviously the strength of the chilli peppers will affect how chilli-y the brownies turn out.  If the chilli peppers that you’re using are very strong, you might wish to omit the chilli powder, depending on your tastes.  One of the chilli peppers that I used was the one that I used to infuse the chilli crème de cacao also used in the recipe.  If you don’t want to make up an entire batch of chilli crème de cacao, you could always just infuse the amount needed with one of the required chilli peppers, or just use normal dark crème de cacao and add a little more chilli powder to the dry ingredients.  These can be stored in an air-tight box for a few days (but they won’t last that long!).

Ingredients

2 chilli peppers
125g all-purpose flour
45g cocoa powder (at least 70%)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp chilli powder
¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
60g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
55g unsalted butter
2 eggs
125g light brown sugar
80ml chilli crème de cacao (click for the recipe)
1 tsp vanilla extract

To decorate (optional):
Icing sugar
Ground cinnamon

Directions

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 175°C.  Line a 20 x 20 cm baking tin with baking paper.

2.  Slice the peppers in half and remove the seeds but keep the white filaments.  Finely chop the chilli peppers and set aside.

3.  In a heat-proof bowl, melt the chocolate and butter together over a pan of simmering water (make sure that the bottom of the bowl isn’t immersed in the water).  Remove from the heat as soon as they are melted together and set aside to cool slightly for about 5 mins.

4.  Meanwhile, sift the flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, chilli powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large bowl and mix well.

5.  Lightly beat the eggs together in a small bowl.  Slowly add about 3-4 tbsp of the melted chocolate to the eggs, beating constantly.  Once combined, stir the egg mixture into the remaining chocolate mixture.  Then add the sugar, chilli crème de cacao and vanilla essence and return the bowl to the simmering pan of water over a low heat.  Mix for a few mins until the sugar has melted.

6.  Fold the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined.  Pour the mixture into the lined baking tin and bake for 18-20 mins until a toothpick comes out almost clean (remember that the brownie will continue to cook slightly once it is removed from the oven and that it will also harden).  Allow the brownie to sit in the pan for about 10 mins before lifting out onto a cooling rack and sprinkle lightly with icing sugar and ground cinnamon (optional).  Eat warm or allow to cool.

Enjoy!

PS – I’m well aware that my photos are a bit yellow-y.  Unfortunately, I’m not quite sure how to sort that out – my Photoshop skills are pretty limited.

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Chilli crème de cacao

Chilli and chocolate are a match made in heaven.  Fact.  And I don’t even really like chilli all that much usually (spicy food isn’t my favourite).  But I do like chilli with chocolate. Dark chocolate, of course – I’m not convinced that chilli and milk or white chocolate would be all that fabulous…  I’ve done the chilli and chocolate combination a couple of times on Sharky Oven Gloves, first in the form of some rather delicious chilli chai and chocolate cupcakes and then in the form of some equally scrumptious chilli and chocolate icebox cookies (being ladybird-shaped was a total bonus.  The cookies that is, not me.)

A few weeks ago, I had a rather brilliant idea.  As we’ve just established, chilli and chocolate go wonderfully well together.  So why not infused dark crème de cacao with some chilli peppers?  Genius, right?  I don’t know why I’ve never thought of trying it out before…  Rather surprisingly, recipes for chilli-infused crème de cacao appear to be rather scarce, so I made it up as I went along (which I tend to do anyway).  The recipes I found for other chilli-infused alcohols (think tequila, vodka, etc) all specified that the seeds should be removed but the little stringy filaments left in.  No specific explanations were given but I decided to heed the advice – presumably the flavour imparted by the seeds isn’t all that great.

The resulting chilli crème de cacao is rather wonderful.  The length of infusion depends on your preferred level of spiciness.  I’m automatically a fan of anything that requires regular taste-testing and this recipe definitely ticks all the right boxes.  Some of this liqueur is destined for baking, though I haven’t quite decided what I’ll be making with it yet, but you can rest assured that I’ll keep you informed.  Adding a liberal splash of the liqueur to a hot chocolate would also be a great way to jazz it up.  The same goes for cocktails – it could be a great addition to make a cocktail unique (depending on the cocktail, obviously).

Chilli crème de cacao

Makes 250 ml
Recipe from my imagination

This recipe can easily be scaled up without problems – I only made a small quantity since I was experimenting.  The infusion time will depend on the combination of how spicy the chilli pepper that you use is (as chilli peppers go, mine wasn’t too too strong) and how spicy you want to make the liqueur.  Tasting the liqueur regularly is the only way to determine how long you want to let it infuse (what a shame).  Once removed, the infused chilli pepper can be chopped up and used for baking.

Ingredients

1 chilli pepper
250 ml dark crème de cacao

Directions

1.  Wash and dry the chilli pepper.  Halve it and carefully remove the seeds, but making sure to keep the white filaments, then add to a jam jar or preserving jar (depending on how much you are making).  Pour the crème de cacao over the chilli peppers and close the jar.  Store in a dark place (cover in foil if you can’t put it in a cupboard or something).

2.  After about 24 hours, taste the liqueur to check the strength of the chilli.  If not strong enough, return the liqueur to its dark place of hiding and check again in about 24 h (mine took about 48h).  When the liqueur is ready to your taste, strain the crème de cacao through a cheesecloth (kitchen roll also works) and decant into a bottle to store.

Enjoy!  (Moderately, of course…)

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Zoosday (but not) Tuesday: Ladybird icebox cookies

For the duration of this post, please pretend that it’s still Tuesday.  This also involves pretending that I didn’t have to spend yesterday thoroughly cleaning the flat for our inspection today (as it’s our penultimate inspection, the estate agents told us they’d point out “problem areas” that we need to sort before we move out – I figured I should probably make an effort to avoid the whole flat being labelled as one giant “problem area”), that I didn’t have to go to bed at 9pm with an eye migraine (don’t worry, I’m absolutely fine again) and that I totally had time to bake and write a blog post.

So, today is the first Tuesday of the month (ahem), which means it’s Zoosday Tuesday!  I hope you’re excited…!  I’ve just realised that I completely forgot to do Zoosday Tuesday last month.  Woops.  I think the blame can be aportioned between my general disorganisation and scatty-brainedness and the Dissertation (of Doom) which was due two days later and thus took up all of my time.  Oh well, never mind.  Back to this month.  I wasn’t really sure what I was going to bake for today, nor which animal I was going feature, right up until Monday evening when the combination of a postcard on my wall and half a box of custard powder (not attached to my wall) that needs to be used inspired me to make chocolate and custard icebox cookies again, but in ladybird form!  The chocolate dough would clearly work for the black head, and the elytra (the spotted case covering its wings) could be made from custard dough with added red food colouring.  Simple and straightforward!  Ok, there aren’t going to be any legs, but it’s a cookie, not an anatomical model for a museum display.

Today (actual today – Wednesday – even though we’re pretending it’s Tuesday) turned out to be a bit of an odd day.  The day basically revolved around baking these cookies.  I started off making the dough this morning, which was interspersed by the flat inspection (which it turned out I didn’t have to spend an entire day cleaning in preparation for.  They didn’t even notice the icing sugar explosion that had already occurred in the kitchen by the time they arrived.  Never mind, at least I have a super-clean flat) and a visit by one of the people living here next year.  Having prepared both doughs, I suddenly realised that it would be much more fun to make the red part chilli-flavoured!  So I added some cayenne pepper to the custard dough, though the quantities were total guesswork.  Then I went out for lunch so the cookies had to be put on hold.

Post lunch, time to actually bake the cookies.  This turned out to be a lot more eventful than your average cookie-baking session.  The first batch went smoothly.  The second batch not so much.  Through sheer stupidity, I accidentally managed to set some baking parchment on fire (nothing remotely serious, don’t worry – in fact I put it out so quickly that the smoke alarm didn’t even have time to go off) and also burnt myself by trying to pick up a baking tray that I’d just taken out of the oven.  Then about 10 minutes after the baking parchment incident, the doorbell went.  I opened the door to find two firemen standing there.  How did they know?  I wasn’t aware the fire department operates a telepathic service.  Turns out they don’t and were just here to check the fire extinguisher.  I’m quite glad I managed to avoid setting further bits of paper on fire whilst they were here.  I feel that might have been a bit awkward.  Instead, I fed them half-decorated cookies before they left.  Please tell me these sorts of random situations don’t only happen to me?

So how did the (eventful) cookies turn out?  Rather scrumptious, though I thought they were rather on the peppery side.  That’s more of a personal taste thing, and Kat and one of her friends who both taste-tested them thought they were delicious.  I think you’ll agree that they are also super-duper cute, so I’m declaring them a success!  Now, I should probably conclude what has turned into a rather epic post with a reminder that you can stop pretending it’s Tuesday (thanks for humouring me)…

Chilli & chocolate icebox ladybird cookies

Makes about 32 cookies
Adapted from Diamonds for Dessert

These obviously don’t have to be made as ladybirds – any pattern would work (though you might want to adjust the quantities of custard, cayenne and cocoa so that the dough is split 50:50).  The amount of cayenne depends very much on personal taste, so do be sure to check the dough before you add more!  Chilli powder would also work, but again, check the dough as you add.  For the red food colouring, if you have a paste, use that as you’ll need less to get a vibrant colour.  Adding black colouring to the chocolate dough is optional, but it will make the heads darker.

Ingredients

For the cookies:
225g butter
170g caster sugar
65g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla extract
290g flour
45g custard powder
3-4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
Red food colouring
15g cocoa powder (at least 70%)
Black food colouring (optional)

For the decoration:
A few squares white chocolate
50g dark chocolate (at least 70%)

Directions

1.  Cream together the butter and both sugars.  Mix in the egg yolks one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract.  Split off a quarter of the mixture and set aside.

2.  Sift 215g of flour and the custard powder into a large bowl containing ¾ of the butter mixture and mix until a dough begins to form (I used my hand whisk, and the mixture went all crumbly before coming together).  Add the cayenne pepper and red food colouring, and mix until the dough comes together (you may need to use your hands).  Place the chilli dough on a piece of cling film and roll into a log of about 4-4.5cm diameter.

3.  Sift the remaining 75g of flour and the cocoa powder into another bowl and add the remaining butter mixture to it.  Mix until a dough forms, adding a few drops of black food colouring if using.  Place the chocolate dough on a sheet of cling film and roll it into a thin log of the same length as the chilli dough roll.

4.  Lay the thin chocolate dough roll along the top of the wider chilli dough roll, smoothing the joins with your fingers.  Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 15mins.

5.  Line two baking sheets with baking paper and pre-heat the oven to 170°C.  Once the dough is firm, remove the log from the fridge, and slice it into slices of about 8mm thickness.  Place the slices onto the baking sheets (leave enough space between them so that they can spread out a little bit in the oven) and refrigerate for a further 10 minutes.

6.  Bake the cookies for 12-15mins.  Leave the cookies on the baking sheets for 3mins before removing to a wire rack to cool fully before decorating.

To decorate:
7.  Melt a few squares of white chocolate in a small heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Use a toothpick (or a piping bag with a fine tip) to dab the eyes of the ladybirds.

8.  Melt the dark chocolate in another heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water.  Use a piping bag with a fine tip to delineate the elytra and draw the spots (the spots don’t have to be the same on every ladybird).

9.  Allow the chocolate decorations to set completely before piling the cookies onto a serving plate or into an airtight box for storage.

Enjoy!

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Poisson d’avril: Crab slippers

It is, of course, April Fools’ Day today, a day of jokes and pranks, etc.  I feel I should post something funny or jokey, but well, let’s just say that being witty isn’t exactly my forte.  So I’m not even going to try and come up with something that inevitably won’t be all that funny – I’ll leave the amusement of the day up to the BBC (though I doubt they’ll ever top their 1957 Panorama report about the Swiss spaghetti harvest).  Instead, I’m going to be taking the French route.

In France, the 1st of April is know as “poisson d’avril” or “April fish,” and small children run around trying to stick or hook paper fish to people’s backs without them noticing (people they know, I should add).  It makes total sense as a child.  Thinking about it now though, not so much.  Anyhow, let’s skip over that.  When I was younger, we were never in France for the 1st of April, so I never got to partake in the whole tradition.  Despite not living in France or the UK as I grew up, we still followed quite a few traditions, such as Burns Night, the 14th of July (French National Day), or Galettes des rois for the Epiphany.  This isn’t one of them – try sticking a paper fish to a non-French person’s back and explaining yourself when they turn around and ask you what on Earth you’re doing?  Actually, don’t.  They’ll think you’re really weird, and you won’t even be able to trot out the I’m-6-years-old-therefore-I’m-still-allowed-to-do-slightly-strange-things excuse.  Unless you are actually 6 years old, in which case, go right ahead and let me know how you get on (though I’m not sure why you’d be reading this in the first place…).

So rather than attempting (and failing) to be funny, I thought I’d do something fish-related (because it’s poisson d’avril – April fish.  See what I did there?).  I realised the other day that I haven’t had crab in forever, and thus I decided to do something with crab.  So actually when I said fish-related, I really meant seafood-related – I’d be a pretty horrific Zoology student if I wasn’t aware that crabs are crustaceans, NOT fish.

I’d been thinking about chaussons aux pommes (“apple slippers” which are essentially stewed apples baked in a puff pastry casing) earlier this week and suddenly realised I could do a savoury version using crab!  “Crab slippers” (cue the rather entertaining mental image of a crab wearing slippers) struck me as a suitably odd-ball name for a recipe to be shared on April Fools’ Day.  I eventually realised that my awesome-sounding crab slippers were actually just crab pasties.  Sad times – pasties just don’t sound quite as fun as slippers!  Never mind though, the main point is that they had to taste good!  I obviously needed something to go with the crab – lime and chilli appealed to me, with a touch of cream.  It’s not a particularly ground-breaking combination, but I’ve never really used it before, so I decided to go for it.  I made these crab slippers pasties for dinner on Wednesday, and had the leftovers cold for lunch yesterday, and thankfully they turned out rather yummy both ways!  The only serious issue that I ran into was when I tried to make little pastry crabs to top the pasties.  It was too fiddly to make them anatomically correct, and they ended up with six appendages instead of ten.  It was pretty traumatic so I only made one.  (That’s not an April Fools’ joke by the way – that sort of thing actually upsets me…)

Crab, chilli & lime pasties

Makes 10 small pasties
Recipe from my imagination

One pasty per person would be enough for a starter, but you’ll need two per person (or even three if you have super-hungry guests) for a main course.  They are equally tasty hot or cold, so perfect to take on a picnic.  Ready-made puff pastry works perfectly for this recipe (that’s what I used), but make sure to use good-quality pastry made with real butter. If you have any leftover pastry, you can use it to decorate the tops of the pasties.

Ingredients

2 onions
650g puff pastry
2 dressed crabs (about 250g of cooked meat)
2 red chilli peppers
2-3 tbsp crème fraîche
1 unwaxed lime
1 tbsp of milk
1 egg yolk

Directions

1.  Butter 2 or 3 baking sheets (depending on how big they are) and pre-heat the oven to 180°C.

2.  Dice the onions and allow them to soften in a bit of butter over a low heat, until just golden.  Allow them to cool whilst preparing the rest of the pasties.

3.  Roll out the pastry into a rectangular shape with a thickness of about 4mm.  Cut out 10 squares of about 10×10 cm and lay them out side-by-side.

4.  De-seed the red peppers, chop them as finely as you can and add them to a large bowl with the crab.  Add the zest and juice of the lime and stir the crab mixture well.  Add the onions (it doesn’t matter if they’re not fully cooled, but don’t add them if they’re still really hot), some black pepper and the crème fraîche and mix well.

5.  Divide the mixture between each of the 10 laid-out squares of pastry (don’t let the mixture go right to the edge, since the pasties have to be sealed).  Brush two perpendicular edges of each pastry square with a tiny bit of milk, fold the square over and seal (the milk helps the pastry stick together), using the tines of a fork to crimp the edges.  If you’re adding decorations to the top, brush the bottom side of the pastry decoration with a bit of milk before sticking to the pasty.

6.  Whisk the egg yolk with a few drops of water, and brush it over the pasties.  Use a sharp knife to cut three small slits in the top of each pasty (I doubt you want exploding pasties), and bake for about 30 mins until the pasties are golden.

Enjoy!

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Chilli chai chocolate c(h)upcakes

In case you’re wondering what on Earth a chupcake is, it’s just a case of me getting a bit over-enthusiastic with the aliteration…  You can stop worrying that it’s a chupa-chups (you know, those lollipops) baked into a cake or something.  My gosh, can you imagine?  How gross!

So now that we’ve clarified that, I’ll get started on my rambling…  I’ve discovered a new challenge series: We Should Cocoa.  It’s all about combining a specified ingredient into something chocolate-y.  Amazing, right?  So this month the challenge is being hosted by Choclette at the Chocolate Log Blog and the special ingredient is “Tea.”  I was discussing this latest discovery with Kat when we came across an Earl Grey chocolate cupcake recipe (which looks amazing by the way – I will definitely be trying it out soon!) but guess what?  It’s a submission to the same challenge, ha ha.  Time for a little re-think…

We’re big fans of the teapigs range (and I mean BIG fans), and amongst their wonderful selection of teas they have a rather amazing chilli chai.  So we took inspiration from it and decided that we could adapt the aforementioned cupcake recipe (because it just looks so good), but use chai tea instead of Earl Grey, throw in some chilli, cinnamon and cloves, and top it off with a plain buttercream icing, a dusting of cinnamon and a sprinkling of chilli flakes.  Uhm, yes please!

We had originally planned on making the icing red (as in chilli pepper red), but I completely forgot to get some red food colouring paste, so we ended up using a combination of liquid red food colouring and the pink colouring paste that I happened to have – hence why they are pink (oops).  They’re pretty though, so whatever!  They also tasted rather awesome (if I do say so myself) – first you get the chocolate, followed by the chai and then you’re left with a subtle chilli after-taste.  So is adapting a recipe that’s being submitted to the same challenge sort of cheating?  Well, perhaps a little.  Am I particularly bothered?  These turned out so yummy and so completely unlike the flavours of Earl Grey, that no actually, I’m not all that bothered about it!

Chilli chai chocolate cupcakes

Makes 16 cupcakes
Adapted from Tart to Heart

I’ll warn you now, these are so moreish – and they also don’t feel particularly heavy, though they sound like they should!  If you don’t have any buttermilk, just use 75ml of normal milk and add ⅓ tbsp lemon juice, mix and allow to stand for about 10 mins.  Then just add it as instructed (though sieve it first in case any lemon pips snuck in).

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:
70g unsalted butter
75ml vegetable oil
7 tbsp dark cocoa powder, sifted
150ml water
4 tbsp chai tea (this was equivalent to 8 Twinings Chai teabags)
175g all-purpose flour
230g caster sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp hot chilli powder
¾ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 egg
75ml buttermilk

For the icing:
150g unsalted butter, softened
300g icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
Red (or pink!) food colouring paste (optional)
Ground cinnamon to decorate
Chilli flakes to decorate

Directions

To make the cupcakes:
1.  Preheat the oven to 180°C.  Grease a muffin tin or line with 16 muffin cases.

2.  Finely grind the tea leaves using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle (or crush them using a rolling pin – since we were using tea from teabags, it didn’t matter too much that they weren’t super-finely ground) and sift into a small saucepan (if there are only a few big bits left in the sieve, tip them in).  Add the cubed butter, vegetable oil, water and sifted cocoa powder and heat over medium heat.  Whisk constantly until the mixture is smooth and all the butter has melted.  Set to one side and allow to steep for 10 mins.

3.  Sift the flour, sugar, spices, salt and baking soda into a large bowl and whisk to combine.  Incorporate the buttermilk and egg by gently stirring (do this just before the chocolate and tea mixture has finished steeping).  Add the chocolate mixture and stir with a metal spoon until just combined.

4.  Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cases and bake for 15-20 mins, rotating the tin 180° after about 8 mins.  Once removed from the oven, allow to cool slightly in the tins for 10 mins before removing to a wire rack to cool fully.

To make the icing:
5.  Cream the softened butter in a large bowl.  Add the sifted icing sugar, vanilla extract and food colouring and mix (be prepared for a minor icing sugar explosion) until a smooth buttercream is formed.

6.  Pipe the icing onto the fully-cooled cupcakes, dust with a little ground cinnamon and sprinkle some chilli flakes over the top (don’t go overboard on the chilli flakes – trust me!).

Enjoy!

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