After weeks of anticipation it was finally here – my chocolate indulgence tea party to raise funds for Age UK. I love, love, love chocolate and couldn’t wait to create some new recipes to wow my guests and their taste buds. Several weeks ago I tried different scones/clotted cream/jam combinations to incorporate chocolate and I really didn’t like scones with chocolate baked into the dough. Lesson number one. Lesson number two – I tried an awful (awful being the right word) lot of savoury+chocolate combos and boy let me tell you some things just taste horrible when combined with chocolate (chocolate+olives anyone?!).
Here’s what I finally decided to serve today:
Hot chocolate on arrival in the garden – yes it was a bit chilly and yes it was a bit rich but I couldn’t resist. I also laid out some Willies Cacao samples to taste but I think my guests were a bit shy at that point so they didn’t really dig in.
Once seated in our shabby chic little summerhouse, complete with fairy lights and candles (including a gorgeous little blueberry pie candle from the Emporium Oundle which looked good enough to eat!) we had a good old natter whilst eating:
Cream cheese and chive finger sandwiches
Cheese scones with sweet chilli pepper and dark chocolate swirls
Walnut scones with blue cheese cream
Salted pretzels dipped in milk and dark chocolate
(so I didn’t add too much chocolate to the savouries in the end)
Then… plain scones, served with morello cherry jam or Nutella and a choice of white chocolate or Talisker single malt clotted cream. Something for everyone…including a new male guest who claimed not to like chocolate but who did not let the side down by the end of the afternoon!
Cake/sweet selection included a new favourite, chocolate Guinness cake topped with a cream cheese frosting and chocolate curls. I find this quite heavy personally; and in case you’re wondering, no it doesn’t taste of Guinness – the stout just makes the cake dark and rich.
I made chocolate brownies as my friends always rave about these – I’ve used Nigel Slater’s recipe since it was first published in the Observer in 2004 – it ALWAYS hits the (chocolate) spot! So fudgy and dense – no tinkering required – look for the recipe online and just follow it to impress your friends!
I experimented with a couple of new recipes which I think turned out rather well. These were inspired by my absolute favourite recipe book (I sit and read this in the evening, I just love it) – Green and Black’s Ultimate, published last year, and the Ghiradelli Chocolate Cookbook which I picked up a few years ago when I visited ‘America’s premier chocolatier’ in San Francisco. So, one recipe was rather British in origin and the other quite American.
I made meringue nests, then poked a little hole into them into which I poured salted, velvety caramel (I’m salivating now….it was very gorgeous indeed!), then I put a small blob of whipped cream on top so I could anchor a rich chocolate truffle – I infused the cream with rosemary from the garden – then I drizzled the little beauties with melted milk chocolate and a little more caramel. Heaven.
Experiment no. 2: I crushed oreo cookies, mixed with butter and lined a mini tartlet case with the buttery crumb. Into the freezer they went. Then I whisked some cream with icing sugar and combined it with some smooth peanut butter and some cream cheese. Oh and some chopped dark chocolate. I froze these babies until an hour before the tea party. I could have happily eaten the whole tray of these Peterborough mud pies!
I spent some time experimenting with loose teas to serve today and everyone tried the black tea with almond and the Maya Gold though we all decided the former was a winner (smells like marzipan!) and the latter was quite pleasant, something perhaps to drink at bedtime? The almond tea came from Imperial Teas in Lincoln – worth a visit to the tasting room on the Steep Hill. Maya Gold came from Nothing But Tea in Bedford.
Whilst everyone packed their take home tins (which I’d asked them to bring along!) with leftover cake I handed out little bags of chocolate which I’d tied with ribbon. I tempered dark chocolate with chilli and sea salt and white chocolate with pistachio and cranberry – lovely little gifts which they can either give away or consume greedily!
I’m constantly surprised how cosy our little summerhouse is – the windows steamed up and no one needed to borrow a scarf, though I’d supplied several, just in case… What a pleasant way to spend an afternoon with new and old tea party guests. The conversation didn’t wane for even a minute and covered local schools, special needs, child minding, secret tea rooms, commuting, research, conferences, where we were brought up and jobs. A fabulous tea party and yet again I’m a very happy secret tea party hostess!
Lemony Drizzle x x