Review: The Thorntons Chocolate Afternoon Tea.

Thorntons Chocolate Tea

Nicey (but pricey)

Chocolate Week 2013 is almost upon us – so what better way to kick things off than by sneaking a peek at the Thorntons Chocolate Afternoon Tea?

Inspired by the flavours of several new Thorntons offerings – and on sale for a limited time – it certainly isn’t your average menu (unless your local tea room always sells Salmon and Cocoa Sandwiches).

At £33 per person, however (£41 with Champagne), it also isn’t the cheapest of ways to chow down.

So what do you get for your money?

Well, there’s a comfortable seat in the opulent Park Lane Hotel, a harpist strumming pop songs in the corner, a plate of ornate-looking savouries (filled mainly with meat and fish), plus fine Loose Leaf Tea poured from silver pots.

The main event – the Scones and handcrafted Desserts – are also extremely stylish, with Chocolate running through the whole affair.

I enjoyed gobbling up the three Scones (Plain, Chocolate, and Chocolate Chip), which were fresh and still warm, albeit quite small.

The Raspberry and Chocolate Jam went down a treat as well – though I can’t say I could taste the Choc in the Lemon and White Chocolate Curd.

The Desserts looked both immaculate and enticing. However, sharing each one between two proved to be very messy, and meant that the final mouthfuls were rather too miniature for my liking.

In general, I found myself craving more.

More of the Passion Fruit Mousse, with its solid White Chocolate flower.

More of the silky Coconut Mousse (a luxurious lovechild of Teacake and Bounty).

I especially wanted more of the Raspberry Cheesecake Bombe: the gorgeous round pink Chocolate shell, which was filled with a Raspberry froth.

But, alas, it was not to be.

Instead, at the end of the Tea, my blood sugar quota was filled with a taster of three new Thorntons Truffles – plus an edible Chocolate name tag to take home.

The verdict then?

Undoubtedly sleek, a definite treat, but, at times, far too petite.

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Rated: The Oreo Cookie Cookie.

Oreo Cookie Cookie

Context, people. Context

What? This is it. The big one. The game changer.

From here on in, I know exactly how to deal with disappointing Biscuits.

Answer? Bake them into another, tastier Biscuit.

Take the Oreo Cookie – one of my least favourite snacks (as you regular Ogglers know).

Too dry, dusty and bitter on its own, when pressed into a soft Cookie base it suddenly tastes 100% more delicious, all its faults having been muted.

This lesson was taught to me by the folks at CookieShake, Nottingham, to whom I am now eternally grateful.

The combination, you see, was revelatory, resulting in a moist and chewy Cookie with a crunchy creamy centre.

Twas textural titillation at its finest

Where? The CookieShake shop

How Much? 99p per Cookie (BARGAIN)

Rating?

8/10

Just imagine how good it would be with a Custard Cream…

Gothenburg Goodies: The Punschrulle.

The fourth and final part of a Pud-Hog Sweet Series from Sweden

Punschrullar

Grub’s up

What? It’s always nice to end a series on a high, and I can honestly say that the Punschrulle was hands down the tastiest thing I ate in Gothenburg.

It was also the smallest: a thumb-length roll of green Marzipan, with both ends dipped in Dark Chocolate.

I have to admit, at first glance it didn’t entice me, looking rather more larval than lovely (don’t you think?).

As soon as my teeth sank into it, however, I was smitten.

It was the filling which sealed the deal.

Punschrulle

Munched-rulle

Fool that I was, I hadn’t even imagined there would be anything inside, but indeed there was – and it was DIVINE.

In the nicest suprise I’ve had all year, my teeth broke through to a secret stash of Chocolate, Cake Crumbs, finely chopped Nuts and what may well have been a snifter of Rum.

Clearly, this was no bog-standard Marzipan log: it was more like a luminous Truffle – and an awesome one at that,

It was rich; it was soft; it was pretty much velvet in edible form. And, though I tried to prolong the ecstasy of it, all too soon it was gone.

Which brings me to the Punschrulle’s one and only major drawback: it should be at least three times bigger

Where? This traditional treat can be found at various Swedish bakeries – mine was bought from the small chain of bakeries, Cederleüfs & Svenheimers

How Much? 20 kr a piece (about £2)

Rating?

9/10

Marzi-porn

Gothenburg Goodies: The Salmiak Bar.

Part Three of a Pud-Hog Sweet Series from Sweden

Center Salmiac Bar

The Rolos that FORCE you to share

What? Salmiak – or Ammonium Chloride – is something you don’t often see in England (specialist shops aside). In Sweden, however, the flavour’s all over the place.

A type of salted Liquorice, it often crops up as a filling in various Chocolate Bars, and you might well assume that something so widespread would be reasonably tame. After all, if most people eat it, how weird can it be?

In a word: that s*** CRAY.

Take Center, a product made by Cloetta – a ‘leading confectionery company in the Nordic region’.

As Chocolate goes, you’d be hard-pressed to find something more intense.

Imagine a packet of Rolos on drugs: harmless soft Caramel fillings that have mutated into mouth-watering punches of salt, sweet and acid.

POW.

Ma Hog and I shared a packet between us – enraptured at first (‘It’s a taste SENSATION!’), then gradually overwhelmed by the strength of the flavour. By the time we were nearing the end, both of us found it a struggle to go on: we had found the Rolo’s antithesis.

You take the last one,’ I begged her.

‘No,’ she insisted. ‘You.’

I suppose we shouldn’t have been so surprised: we were eating Ammonium Chloride, for crying out loud; a chemical used in galvanising, found on coal dumps and volcanic vents.

I guess that explains why it felt like my taste buds were burning…

Where? You can buy Salmiak Chocolate in most supermarkets/newsagents in Sweden. Just don’t eat the whole pack alone

How Much? Our Center cost 13.9 kr (£1.40 at the time of writing)

Rating?

8/10 for bite one; 6/10 from thereon in

Mouth ulcer sufferers beware

Rated: The Dalston Crunchie Cake.

Gird your loins, Ogglers: things are about to get RUDE

What? Quite possibly the most OBSCENE-looking treat I’ve ever laid eyes on. Sold as a Chocolate and Honeycomb Cake, it’s essentially what happens when a Crunchie Bar and Cake Mix get it on.

Namely: goo galore.

The Sponge alone was a dream come true: extra golden, extra moist, and extra tasty – not too dissimilar to Honeycomb, in fact.

It was the Icing, however, which took the whole thing to another dimension.

As far as I could tell, this comprised primarily of numerous Cadbury’s Crunchie Bars that had been melted down and mixed with some sumptuous soft Cream Cheese (occasionally lending the substance a slightly strange tang).

As if that wasn’t enough to excite me, there were even generous shards of Crunchie studded across the top.

The richness of it all was immense – and, cheese-tang aside, transported me to a state of more-or-less babbling incoherence.

By the end, I too was a sticky, wet mess.

Like I said: OBSCENE

Where? The Dalston Superstore, a trendy bar-cum-eatery on the central Hipster Highway (a.k.a. Kingsland High Street)

How Much? £3 for a takeaway slice

Rating?

9/10

I say again: OBSCENE

The St Bart’s Body Parts Bake-Off.

Those of you who follow the Pud-Hog on Twitter might remember, way back in October, me mentioning a special little Cake sale here in London.

Held on the St Bart’s campus by a pop-up bakery movement called Eat Your Heart Out, it drummed up lots of web-based attention, and no wonder: it was full of medical edibles.

Lung Sponges, black with emphysema; kidneys, frosted with polycistic Icing; Cupcakes covered in STDs.

For the squeamish, no doubt it was gag-worthy.

But for pud pioneers like the Man and I, it was the chance to boldly go where no Hog had gone before…

Into the world of the edible Carbuncle!

… in to the world of the edible Carbuncle

With almost six months having passed now since the actual event, I’m aware that I’m rather behind in terms of reporting.

In my defence though, Ogglers, I was rather overwhelmed. With a whole file full of photos, and several tastings of note, my first drafts were several pages long.

My plan, you see, was to give you a thorough review; to impart my newfound knowledge on the taste of what we bought for a mere £3 a piece: a colourfully Wounded Bakewell (meh), a Macaroon Heart (crisp and creamy with buttercream innards), a fleshy pink Cupcake complete with rum-filled syringe (surprisingly dry), and a bar in the shape of a Carbuncle (Maltesers + Condensed Milk + dyed White Chocolate + Icing Sugar = waaaaay too much for even the sweetest sweet tooth).

After months of deliberation, however, I realised life’s too short for blog posts that long. And besides, you don’t buy goodies like these for the flavour; you buy them to wow your friends (and quite possibly make them feel sick).

So here you are Ogglers, without further ado: the photos you’ve all been waiting for.

Prepare to be awed and appalled, by…

THE WOUNDED BAKEWELL TART:

Bam!

Boom!

THE SKIN CAKE:

She'll have you in stitches!

She’ll have you in stitches!

THE ANATOMICALLY CORRECT HEART MACAROON:

Put THAT in your valves and smoke it!

Impossible to beat!

THE FLESH CUPCAKE:

STI Cupcake

A boost for your flesh AND your stomach!

THE LUNG CAKE:

A breath of fresh air!

A breath of fresh air!

THE ANATOMICAL WAX MODEL CAKE:

Head Tissue

Really gets under your skin!

THE POLYCYSTIC KIDNEY DISEASE CAKE:

Polycistic Kidney

How could you re-cyst!?

And last, but by no means least, what looks to me like

A BURNT LEG SPONGE CAKE:

INTO THE HOME OF DE-LEG-TABLE TREATS

De-LEG-table!

And with that, I’m all out of puns and photos.

I just hope you’re not out of sick bags…

Rated: Sweet Tooth Factory’s Boston Cream Pie.

Boston Cream Pie

Neither creamy nor Pie-like

What? This was something I’ve been waiting to have for some time, but never seen anywhere else in London town.

It was my first ever taste of Boston Cream Pie: not a Pie in the traditional sense, but a sponge with Dark Chocolate Icing, and a Vanilla Custard seam.

So was it worth the wait?

Well, while it was light and reasonably tasty, it just wasn’t the Cream-filled yum-fest I’d hoped for.

Perhaps that’s just the way with BCPs, but a Pie without Pastry seems like no kind of Pie to me…

Where? This specimen came from the Sweet Tooth Factory stall

How Much? £3.20

Rating? 5/10

Nice – but nothing special (and fairly pricey with it). Their Salted Caramel Cheesecake is a much more impressive bet…

Rated: Madame Macaroon’s Fab Florentines.

Florentine

Yes, Ma’am!

What? Believe it or not, you are currently looking at THE most delicious Florentine that this Pud-Hog’s ever eaten.

As far as luxury biscuits go, it ticked all the boxes and then some: a generous dose of Almonds, juicy Glacé Cherries, scraps of moist Mixed Peel, and a very decent slathering of Chocolate.

The best thing about it by far, however, was the texture: crispy where it mattered as well as super chewy.

Overall, it seemed more like a Cookie than the harder, toffee-like Florentines made by bakeries such as Fudges – and was, in my view, all the better for it.

Impossible to leave alone, I took mine out of its bag for a taste, then found I just couldn’t stop

Where? Track one down at Madame Macaroon’s stall, loitering in various London locations every Sunday (check the M.M. website and Twitter for details)

How Much? Just ONE of your English pounds (bargain!)

Rating?

9/10

Madame Macaroon? More like Queen Florentine

Recipe: The Dark Chocolate, Berry & White Chocolate Cream Cheese Cake.

Putting the 'goo' in 'damn good'

Putting the ‘goo’ in ‘damn good’

I do not exaggerate, Ogglers, when I say that this is THE BEST CHOCOLATE CAKE I think I’ve ever had – and all thanks to my pal Mimi (she of the Cinnabon Substitute).

Adapted from a few different recipes that have been expertly fused together, it was made for me as a belated birthday present – and was extremely well received.

With a sponge not unlike a Chocolate Fudge Brownie (moist and slightly chewy at the edges), plus a filling so creamy and perfect it hurts (the berries! The cream cheese! The chocolate!) , I defy you to bake one and leave it alone.

Indeed, so bereft was I when I finished my first, I had to make me a second the very next day.

I kid you not.

Anyway, a million thanks to Mimi for curating the recipe – and for letting me share it with you lot via this blog.

Trust me, Ogglers: homemade cakes don’t get much better than this…

The Dark Chocolate, Berry & White Chocolate Cream Cheese Cake (makes a sponge big enough to feed 10 in one go – or 2 over several sittings)

Something to berry your face in

Something to berry your face in

Ingredients:

For the Dark Chocolate Sponge:

  • 125ml cold water
  • 200g broken dark chocolate (the best you can afford)
  • 200g butter
  • 1tbsp dried coffee
  • 85g self raising flour (or 85g plain with ¾ tsp baking powder)
  • 85g plain flour
  • ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 200g golden caster sugar (white caster sugar’s fine too, if that’s all you’ve got in your cupboard)
  • 200g brown muscovado sugar (light, preferably)
  • 25g cocoa (or drinking chocolate – though reduce the sugar content by 50g if using the latter)
  • 3 eggs
  • 75ml buttermilk (I used natural yoghurt in its absence – no probs)

For the Berry, White Chocolate & Cream Cheese Filling:

  • 300g icing sugar
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 150g softened butter
  • 100g white chocolate
  • A handful of berries for garnishing – if using fresh raspberries, this works out at about 20 or so. Alternatively, you can also use 3 to 4 tbsp of mixed berries (i.e. blackcurrants, blueberries, redcurrants, etc). Whatever you fancy for extra juice and tartness…

Method:

To Make the Sponge:

  1. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin and line with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 140 degrees C (fan assisted) or Gas Mark 3
  2. Add the coffee to the cold water and stir well
  3. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and stir in the buttermilk/natural yoghurt. Put aside for later
  4. Pop the dark chocolate, butter and coffee solution into a saucepan. Warm gently and on a low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to stop the bottom burning
  5. While the chocolate mixture is melting, put the flours, bicarb, sugars and cocoa together in a large bowl, using your hands to stir out the lumps (a spoon will do the same job if you’d rather not get messy)
  6. Add the egg mixture and the melted chocolate mixture to the flour mixture, then stir the whole lot until it’s smooth and runny
  7. Pour into the tin and bake for approximately 1 hour 20 minutes (until a knife comes out clean when poked through the top)
  8. Keep the cake inside the tin for a few minutes, then carefully turn it out on to a wire rack

The cake cannot be iced until it has cooled, so take a break and then get to work on the cream cheese frosting…

To Make the Filling:

  1. Beat the butter and cream cheese together in a large bowl until the whole thing is fully blended
  2. Using either a microwave or a saucepan, gently melt the white chocolate.
  3. Stir the melted chocolate into the butter and cream cheese
  4. Sift the icing sugar and beat this in with rest
  5. Try to refrain from eating the lot until the cake is cool (tempting though it might be)

To Assemble:

Don't you love it when a plan comes together?

Don’t you love it when a plan comes together?

  1. Using a long, sharp knife, carefully cut the sponge in two, then smear half of the frosting in the middle
  2. Dot this with about three-quarters of your berry rations, scattering them evenly throughout
  3. Pop the upper sponge on top, then cover it with the rest of your icing and berries, hiding any cracks that might have appeared while the sponge was baking
  4. Hey presto: bring out the cake forks!

NB: This is one of those sweet treats that improves after 24 hours or so. However, if you don’t think you’ll be able to eat the lot within a few days, slice up the surplus and freeze it in airtight containers.

When you’re ready to eat, allow at least four hours for your slices to defrost (leaving them out overnight works for me…).

Happy Hogging!

P-H x

Rated: (New and Improved) Fudges Flapjacks.

Fudges Flapjacks

New, you say? Improved? Better try another to be sure…

What? Golden, chewy, oaty squares, half-dipped in Belgian Dark Chocolate.

Made by a company of genius Dorset bakers, they were recently ‘improved’ through the addition of Agave Nectar and certainly taste more impressive than before.

Not that they used to be bad, of course – they just weren’t nearly as juicy.

Indeed, the new batch I tried seemed suffused with syrup, making for a very moist mouthful.

The Dark Chocolate coating, meanwhile – both crisp and deliciously thick – worked well at keeping the sweetness in its place.

YUM.

I reckon there’s still room for extra goo and squidginess – but there always is where Flapjacks are concerned

Where? You can find Fudges products at most major supermarkets (I always say ‘hello’ to them in Waitrose)

How Much? Just under £3 for 300g (a box of 8 smallish squares)

Rating?

8/10

Fabjacks!