Tag Archives: Chocolate

The Big Europe Trip: Gruyeres and Bern

21 Jul

The morning started off with a bit of a hiccup when we got on the train going in the wrong direction.

It was a high speed nonstop train and we rode all the way to Zurich. I made a handy map for you – the blue line is the train we thought we were taking and the red line is the train we actually took.
Screenshot 2019-07-21 at 09.50.30(This was the day James quietly took over navigation duties).

Luckily I’d planned to get there quite early, so even with the unexpected detour we still had plenty of time to sight see.

Gruyeres was very touristy but gorgeous, with green valleys and mountains in every direction.
IMG_20190430_121918The town itself was also very picturesque.IMG_20190430_144634There was a cheese factory we could tour, but James is lactose intolerant and I don’t really like Gruyere cheese so we skipped it.

We did a tour of Gruyeres Castle, which has stood since the 13th century. They had cobblestone floors!
IMG_20190430_123156 The formal garden was also very nice. And more mountains!
IMG_20190430_130541 (1)Afterwards we went to the H.R. Giger museum (no photos allowed) and the Alien bar. The food and drinks were awful but we were there mainly to admire the decor.
MVIMG_20190430_132612The people working there were really nice, and let James behind the bar for a photo. =)IMG_20190430_134025After Gruyeres we walked about an hour to Broc. This was at the start of our walk where you could see the castle we had just visited.
IMG_20190430_152453In Broc, we signed up for a chocolate tour at the Cailler factory. Everything we did that day (the chocolate tour, the H.R. Giger museum, Gruyeres Castle, and the cheese factory tour if we’d chosen to do it) was free with the Swiss Travel Pass, so that was a nice surprise.IMG_20190430_171413The first part of the tour taught us about the history of chocolate and the Cailler brand. Then we saw Cailler chocolates being made and packaged in a mini factory (this was James’ favourite part).
IMG_20190430_164459My favourite part was the unlimited samples.
IMG_20190430_170131There were maybe seven or eight different varieties of Cailler chocolate for tasting. We tried one of each (though James skipped the milk chocolate). MVIMG_20190430_170053Unfortunately we were too full to even think about buying chocolates at their gift shop. We ended up buying Cailler chocolate at random supermarkets later in the trip, but I think it would have been cheaper here.

With James navigating, we managed to get back to Bern without incident. We arrived in the early evening, and even had time to do some touristy stuff before dinner.

Here we are at the famous Bern Rose Garden, with a beautiful view of the city.IMG_20190430_191042James and Einstein, Bern’s most famous resident.
MVIMG_20190430_191615We also visited the bear enclosures, where we saw some other famous Bern residents.IMG_20190430_193228We were also on time to see the hourly display at the Zytglogge, a landmark medieval clock tower in Old Town.
IMG_20190430_194933It was another early night for us, since we had a big day coming up – Lauterbrunnen!

Chocolate Making Class at Chocolate Box

23 Jan

A couple of weeks ago a friend turned 30 and to celebrate his girlfriend took a bunch of us out to a chocolate class at Chocolate Box in Downtown Seattle.

They had a class area set up in a little nook at the back of the store. You can see on the shelves that they also sold wine. The guy explained that they can’t compete on price with the big stores so they focus on selling chocolate and wine from (mainly local) small producers.

To begin with they gave us some hot chocolate with marshmallows. The photo made it look a bit gross but it was the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had!

It’s made from melted chocolate, not cocoa powder, and it was really rich – more chocolatey than milky. The marshmallows were also really good – apparently they’re made by hand by some local company. By the way it’s a small cup (maybe shot glass sized), not giant marshmallows.

At the start of the class we learned about how chocolate is made (from a fruit!) and what it goes through to become a chocolate bar. You can wiki the process if you’re interested but this is one of the steps – the cocoa nib. Please forgive my gross gym calluses.

The nib is pretty much a health food but it is super gross. Apparently some people don’t mind it but I found it really bitter.

The guy also talked about distinguishing good chocolate from mass market chocolate. The main one that I remember is that good chocolate has a lingering mouthfeel – it kind of coats your mouth even after you’ve eaten it, if that makes sense. It’s also rich enough that I reeeaaally didn’t want to eat lots of it.

After the talk we made our own chocolate bars and decorated them with nuts, fruits and spices. As the birthday boy Luke was allowed to lick the spoon.

Our chocolate bars were taken off to cool while we did the rest of the class and we got them back at the end.

The top one is mine. I had cardamom, sunflower seeds, peanuts, walnuts and peanut butter chips.

The bottom one if James’. He used habanero sugar, peanut butter chips and dried fruit.

By the way the habanero sugar was awesome – sweet but with a spicy kick. I don’t know what you’d use it for but I was pretty much sprinkling it on my hand and licking it off.

For the next part of the class we got to temper our own chocolate and coat various things (marshmallow, tortilla chip, strawberry and two biscuits) with it. James decided to be artistic and put one of the biscuits on top of the marshmallow to form a chocolate mushroom.

There was a granite stone underneath the paper to cool the chocolate. But if we just left it like that it would have cooled unevenly so we had to keep lifting up the melted chocolate with our fingers and letting it trickle down. This is James working on his chocolate. I don’t know why he is as rosy as Santa.

To test whether it was done we had to dab some on our wrists; if it felt warm or at body temperature it was too warm, but if it felt cool then it was at the correct temperature. Mine took ages to harden, which was a sign that I didn’t temper it properly. =(

We got to keep the leftover chocolate – but it’s really rich so I’m still making my way through it a week later.

James was much better at it than me. His chocolates turned out really well – they got a nice hard shell quite quickly and the guys that worked there commented on his tempering skills. On the right you can see his chocolate mushroom.

We also got a delicious teeny, tiny cupcake while we waited for the chocolate to cool.

That strawberry in the background is one that James dropped on the ground earlier. Luckily they brought over a replacement strawberry for him.

Some of the guys forgot about their strawberries until a few days later so had to throw them out. Which was unfortunately because they were really tasty. James ate his a day after I did, but was a bit grumpy that I had remembered to eat mine but hadn’t thought to put his in the fridge. Sorry Jamesy!

Here are the guys sampling a bunch of chocolates at the end of the class. Behind the bar is where we were earlier, and in the background you can see James packing all our chocolates up.

Everyone shopped while we waited for our chocolates to cool (a lot of us had tempered poorly!). We were all given 10% off vouchers as a thank you – I haven’t used mine yet but I want to pick up some chocolate bits to use in cookies and some of the chocolates that we sampled.

Overall it was really fun! We learned some useful chocolate facts (chocolate doesn’t get better with age – the best time to eat chocolate is now!) and had a great day out with friends.

Actually now that I think about it I think we spent that whole weekend with the same group of people (snowboarding and dinner on Saturday, and on Sunday brunch, the chocolate party, and another friend’s housewarming party in the evening). Everyone gets along and we do lots of stuff together. I think we got really lucky with James’ team – living in Seattle would be much less fun if he didn’t work with such great people.

Random Memory

23 May

I remember when James and I first started dating (almost 11 years ago – eek!) I was really nervous about introducing him to Marguerite, my best friend in high school. I really wanted her to like him, so I was a bit nervous about that first meeting.

The three of us were at a food court in Southbank and Margs had chocolate ice cream. I remember this very clearly, because:

James: (helpfully) You have some ice cream on the tip of your nose.
*horrible silence*
Margs: That’s my mole.

The silence after that was even more horrible because then there were three people sitting there awkwardly, which is worse than two people feeling awkward and one being oblivious. (A lot worse.)

White Chocolate Macadamia Cookies

31 Mar

Last week James brought me some leftover Subway cookies from his airport dinner. I was hankering for a snack, and those cookies were perfect!

So yesterday I decided to make my own white chocolate and macadamia cookies, and searched online for something that might recreate it. A lot of people recommend this recipe from Allrecipes, so I decided to give it a shot.

Unfortunately the cookies were a bit meh. I think a few things went wrong – the first batch came out too dark so I readjusted my oven, but that just resulted in cookies that were too soft. They came out puffier than I would like, and I didn’t chop the nuts enough so there are some unpleasantly large chunks of macadamia in there. And in general I think there should be more white chocolate and less macadamia. But I’ve never really been a fan of macadamia – it’s so expensive and such a bland nut.

The recipe isn’t bad – it’s just when I remember how awesome that Subway cookie tasted, this one didn’t even really come close.

The recipe made about 5 dozen cookies. I made them fairly small though.

There was another recipe on Allrecipes that had brown sugar, which should result in a crispier cookie. I might give that a shot.


  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 225 g white chocolate, chopped
  • 180 g macadamia nuts, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 190C
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in the egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stir into the creamed mixture. Finally, stir in the white chocolate and nuts. Drop cookies by heaping teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart.
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. When cool, store in an airtight container.


Very Rough Nutritional Guide:
1 cookie: 119 calories, 52% fat, 5% protein, 43% carbs

Simple, Delicious Brownies

31 Dec

This recipe from Allrecipes has been my go-to brownie for years.

I’m sure there are brownies that are more dense and chocolatey, but in terms of ease of preparation this one takes the cake. Or brownie. You don’t even need to be in a baking mood to make this – it’s so simple and there’s so little clean-up that it’s hardly like baking at all. And it makes your kitchen smell like chocolate heaven.

I’m making some for NYE party tonight, along with chocolate peanut and caramel slice. Once again I’m taking advantage of my nifty cupcake carrier to transport the peanut slice at the bottom and chocolate brownies on top.


  • 3/4 cup (about 170g) melted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup plain flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt


  1. Preheat oven to 175C. Grease or line an 8″ square tin.
  2. In a large bowl blend melted butter, sugar and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  3. In a medium bowl combine the flour, cocoa and salt. Gradually blend into the egg mixture. (Or if you’re like me, just dump the ingredients into the original bowl one at a time)
  4. Spread batter into prepared tin and bake 35-40 minutes.

The recipes says it makes 18, but obviously it varies depending on how generously you cut the slices.

Very Rough Nutritional Guide:
1 slice: 188 calories, 43% fat, 5% protein, 52% carbs

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Baileys Frosting

18 Dec

Sunday is the Ground Zero end of year party so I thought I would bring some cupcakes to celebrate. Chocolate Guinness cupcakes sound weird, but they’re pretty much just chocolate cupcakes, with a bit of extra depth. I’m not a beer drinker but I can’t even taste the beer in these.

It’s from this recipe on Epicurious – I’ve made it before but this is the first time in cupcake form. The recipe makes a LOT. If I make the whole amount, I have to use a bowl so big that I could conceivably sit in it. If you don’t have a sittable bowl, I’d recommend halving the recipe.


  • 2 cups Guinness
  • 450g unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 cups plain flour
  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 1 TBSP baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups sour cream


  1. Preheat oven to 175C. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans with 2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper. Butter paper. Bring 2 cups stout and 2 cups butter to simmer in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt in large bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until completely combined. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer cakes to rack; cool 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack and cool completely.

Since I made mini cupcakes I only baked them for 12 minutes. The half-recipe made about 60 cupcakes.

The frosting recipe I used was:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 TBSP Baileys

Last time I iced it with a Tia Maria buttercream frosting but I left the Tia Maria at Shoreham after our fishing weekend, so I just went with Baileys.I was originally also going to attempt a Chambord one as well, but that didn’t turn out so I had to trash it.

This is a great basic buttercream frosting recipe – last time I made it James actually ate the leftover frosting out of the bowl. And when I stared at him, he just TURNED HIS BACK ON ME and kept eating.

I topped them with chocolate buttons. For flair!

The cake is very rich and I was worried that the full sized cupcakes would be too much so I opted for mini cupcakes. Having made them, I have to say that I’m not a huge fan of cupcakes in the mini form. I mean, they’re very cute, but there’s too much fiddling around moving the batter into the liners. I’m pretty sure I lost a dozen cupcakes or so to spillage.

Also just a mouthful. I want more cupcake! I’m pretty sure James feels the same way, because he just loaded himself up with 3 or 4 cupcakes before he went upstairs.

As a precaution I pre-packed the cupcakes, ready for Sunday afternoon.

I’m quite pleased with the cupcake stacker (though it seems designed for mini cupcakes – I wouldn’t be able to use the layers for regular-sized cupcakes).

I don’t know if that’s enough of an incentive to brave the whole mini cupcake process again. I swear it added about 40 minutes to the cooking time. Also two of the spoons I used to portion out the cupcakes drowned in the batter when I wasn’t looking, and I had to fish them out later. I kept getting batter all over my hands – I’ve washed them repeatedly and they still smell like chocolate!


Very Rough Nutritional Guide:
1 mini cupcake: 119 calories, 57% fat, 4% protein, 38% carbs, 1% alcohol
(probably a bit less than this because like I said, I lost a few cupcakes worth in spillage)

Nigella Lawson’s Sweet and Salty Crunchie Nut Bars

11 Dec

I don’t think you can get much easier than the recipe for Nigella’s sweet and salty crunchy nut bars. There is the barest hint of cooking, but everything else is just assembly. It’s pretty tasty for the effort, but in my humble opinion, not as tasty as the chocolate, caramel and peanut slice that I’ve made before. This is a bit too densely chocolatey for me, though James seems very fond of it.

Still, James eats a lot of weird stuff – the other day he put some Indian spiced nuts (the packet says Hot Party Mix) into his yoghurt for breakfast. I’m sure it must have tasted foul – he even made a face when he took his first bite … but then he kept eating! Not that I think this slice is in any way equivalent to James’ Hot Party Mix Yoghurt. I’m just saying. He’ll eat anything. Like a labrador.

I misread the golden syrup and only included 1 TBSP (instead of 3) but it seems fine like that. Like most other chocolate and nut concoctions, this one is ugly and unphotogenic. I used a 26cm springform cake tin but you could use any container you wanted.


  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 100g milk chocolate
  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 1 TBSP golden syrup (original recipe specifies 3 TBSP)
  • 250g salted peanuts
  • 4 x 40g Crunchie bars


  1. Line cake tin with foil. Break chocolate into pieces, and drop into a heavy-based saucepan. Add the butter and syrup, put on a low heat, and melt gently together.
  2. Tip the peanuts into a bowl, and crush the Crunchie bars with your hands.
  3. Take the melted chocolate mixture off the heat and stir in the peanuts and crushed Crunchie bars, then tip straight into the cake tin or foil tray. Smooth the top of the mixture as much as you can.
  4. Put into the fridge for about 4 hours and, once set, cut into slices as desired.

It’s supposed to serve 24 but I reckon it would serve more because it’s pretty rich. The recipe is pretty flexible, and you can change the ratio of dark to milk chocolate and play around with the fillings. If you wanted you could add some Hot Party Mix, but then you would be weird.

Very Rough Nutritional Guide:
1 slice: 206 calories, 69% fat, 8% protein, 24% carbs