Coming back to real life after India was a huge uncomfortable bump. I was feeling rather blue, real life is just pants. I was still day dreaming about flexing my yoga skills under blue skys with the parrots flying overhead. So I was very glad to have my chocolate day course booked in for the week after my return with the fabulous Mark Tilling, twice crowned UK’s best chocolatier at Squires Kitchen near Guildford. This was the second part of my prize after winning Tate and Lyles Baking Dreams competition back in November (I haven’t stopped entering competitions since, you’ve got to be in it to win it).
I had a three hour session with Mark, focussing on tempering chocolate which is when chocolate is melted, heated and cooled to specific temperatures to make it pliable. Once you have it at the right temperature, you can create professional chocolate curls and shards with a perfect sheen. Mark taught me how to use transfer sheets where you can spread your chocolate onto an acetate sheet which has different edible patterns on so you can make amazing cake decorations like these. Tres sophisticated!
Mark showed me how to use moulds to create my own chocolate bars. The tempered chocolate can be coloured, every time I have tried to colour chocolate before it had gone grainy or seized up and I learnt where I had been going wrong. I had been using gel colour but chocolate needs powdered colouring or oil based, gel is water based and will not mix which was causing it to go wrong. I was also surprised to learn it is best to melt chocolate in the microwave in short bursts, I had always done it in a bain marie but it often goes grainy. Mark told me this was caused by water getting into the chocolate from the bain marie so the microwave in 15-30 second bursts is the way forward! To the white chocolate, I added lilac swirls. We also made dark chocolate bars with added fruit and nuts too.
By adding colouring to white chocolate, you can create some amazingly vivid decorations. Mark showed me how to make chocolate cigarillos by using a palette knife to spread it over a cold marble surface and then use a scraper held at a certain angle to push the cooled chocolate off the slab to make gorgeous cigarillos. I cant wait to use these to decorate a cake!
I also requested the perfect recipe to make chocolate ganache. I just expected a recipe but Mark helped me make one from scratch which was so divine! It was rich and decadent. I left it to cool over night and used it to make truffles the next day, rolling them in mixed nuts and freeze dried raspberries (everyone I know will be getting truffles for Christmas). Once the practical lesson had finished, Mark sat down with me to a spot of lunch where I bombarded him with questions about his career and baking. I left with a goody bag, certificate (ohh I love a certificate) and a bag full of chocolatey goodness. It was such an interesting day, Mark was engaging and great to chat to, I would recommend a day at Squires Kitchen to anyone wanting to expand their skills!
To this weeks bake at my mums request who is obsessed with rhubarb. The cake is deliciously moist and flavourful, I love using brown sugar as it adds a real richness to your sponge. Yogurt helps with the moisture and adds a tangy flavour, looking in your fridge, if you don’t have yogurt you can substitute for full fat milk (use slightly less milk or the mixture will be too wet) or sour cream. There are chunks of rhubarb in the cake and then roasted rhubarb lavished on top, it is a super tasty bake. Always add a pinch of salt to your bakes, it balances out the sweetness.
Rhubarb yogurt cake
- 240g rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 300g light brown muscavado sugar
- 115g butter, room temperature
- 3 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract)
- 100g yogurt
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 190g self raising flour
- 2 sticks of rhubarb
- 50g sugar
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
- In a medium frying pan, mix the cut rhubarb with 50g sugar. Over medium-high heat, cook the rhubarb until it is fork tender but not mushy, about 5 minutes. The rhubarb needs to be able to hold its shape or it will get lost in the cake batter. Set aside to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and remaining sugar until light and fluffy.
- Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions.
- Mix in the vanilla bean paste, yogurt and salt until uniform.
- Stir in the flour until just incorporated. Gently fold in the cooled rhubarb pieces and any juice remaining in the pan.
- Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- To make the rhubarb topping, chop your two sticks of rhubarb into 1 inch pieces and places on a baking tray. Sprinkle over the sugar and cover loosely with foil, put into the oven for 30 minutes at 160 degrees until soft. Allow to cool completely before adding to the top of your cake.