5 Hot Chocolate Recipes That Take it to the Next Level

Save the guilt for spring time – winter means comfort, and we plan on spending the duration of the cooler weather indulging in all things hearty, rich and decadently wicked. Take your winter drinking habits to the next level by backing off the tea, coffee and chalky cocoa powder and stepping into the world of mind blowing hot chocolate. Generally, a few commandments are key to a quality chocolate concoction – namely, using solid (mostly dark) chocolate, adding a pinch of salt and using whole milk – but experimentation is the spice of life, so get busy with our top five picks.

5. Hot Chocolate with Mint and Marshmallows


 

Fact: There’s something wrong if you don’t like the combination of mint and chocolate. And there’s something even more disturbing at play if you don’t like the combination of mint and chocolate GANACHE. This recipe by What Should I Eat for Breakfast Today understands the importance of such things and in tune cleverly fuses together cream, dark chocolate, fresh milk and cream to create a drink so decadent that it can only be consumed in thimble sized quantities... joke -it’s so addictive you’ll have to have the cup prized from your sticky fingers.

4. Confetti Cake Batter and White Chocolate Hot Chocolate

 

 

Just stop and drink this all in for a second. Cake batter. White chocolate. Hot chocolate. Consuming cake in liquid form has never looked so delicious and Cravings of a Lunatic takes it to the next level with the addition of sweet condensed milk, white chocolate and whipped cream. Turn on your slow cooker, turn up the tunes and get prepared for the party that’s about to take place in your mouth.

3. Vegan Mexican Hot Chocolate



Dairy don’t-ers, rejoice! Coconut whipped cream, almond milk and a spice infusion of sweet cinnamon, earthy nutmeg and spicy cayenne have united in your cup to make winter your favourite time of year. Although this recipe by Minimalist Baker does use the aforementioned cocoa powder that we have preached against, you could experiment with vegan friendly chocolate OR perhaps go naughty and indulge in not so vegan friendly dark chocolate (if you’re not a fully fledged vegan, of course). Alternatively, you could just ignore us and go with the recipe as stated.

2. Cardamom & Orange Spiced White Hot Chocolate

 


Distinctively delicious, this recipe by Will Cook for Friends highlights winter’s signature aromas of crushed cardamom pods, vanilla extract and fragrant orange zest. Drink winter in. Literally. To truly make this something special, a few pointers are to be kept in mind;

-          Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer part of the rind and try to avoid gathering any of the white pith (no bitter, mo’ better)

-          Back away from anything labelled ‘white chips’ when seeking out a white chocolate – they are mostly sugar and hydrogenated oils (think chalky, grainy or bland) – go for a cocoa butter content of about 30% for heaven to appear on your tastebuds.

-           When faced with the decision of green and black cardamom – go green.

1. Coconut S’mores Hot Chocolate

 

 

AKA the pièce de résistance of hot chocolates, this creamy concoction takes out the top spot on our hot (chocolate) list. It’s not hard to see why. Creamy, thick, rich, moist, luxurious – it’s an inhalation of melted chocolate goodness and the addition of coconut, marshmallows and cream is the icing on the cake. But we haven’t reached the best part yet – this recipe is TOTALLY HEALTHY! And by that we mean using coconut milk, dark chocolate and coconut cream. Coconut is a fruit, right? It’s practically like drinking a fruit smoothie. A delicious, sweet, gooey chocolate fruit smoothie...  Excuse us. We are off to How Sweet Eats to get our daily vitamin hit.

Taming Angus but Keeping his Bellow

By David Ellis from vintnews 


Hamish MacGowan has done a couple of interesting things with his 2012 Angus the Bull Cabernet Sauvignon: he’s made this one from fruit sourced for the first time purely from Central Victoria, and he’s lowered the alcohol content by almost 1.5%.

Yet while tweaking this vintage to obvious advantage, he’s not taken away from the wine’s primary mission of the past ten years or so, which has been to provide an absolutely ideal accompaniment to prime beef. But rather he’s given it more poise, vibrancy and freshness – as he says, “a little more sophistication.”

Hamish stresses that it’s not a huge and sudden leap in style, but something he and his team have been working towards over the past few years. “Lowering the alcohol (to 14%) is both a considered change in my winemaking philosophy, and an anticipation of where I believe the consumer’s preference is trending,” he says.

“Blending 58% Central Victoria fruit, 28% Goulburn Valley and 14% from the  Strathbogie Ranges has given a wine with lovely varietal ripe black fruits, rich dark chocolate and vanillin smoky aromas,” Hamish adds. “And a full-bodied palate characterised by firm tannins and a savoury, masculine finish. I’d say it’s the most food-friendly example Angus we’ve made to date.”

And most importantly, still that perfect match with prime beef – particularly at $19.95.

One to note: We don’t usually think about wine as something to play around with in terms of mixing with other beverages to come up with in cocktail creations.

However, Italy’s Rosso Antico cocktail base is in fact a dessert wine made from five different wine types infused with 32 selected herbs. And with its bitter-sweet flavour it not only makes for a very agreeable drop on its own served chilled on ice with a slice of lemon, but provides a nice base for a wide range of cocktails when mixed with everything from white or dark rum, to vodka, gin, fresh fruit juices and soda water. 

Pay $22, start mixing – and sharing ideas with fellow cocktail shakers.

Falling for Byron

By Julie Fison.

Sand, surf, beards and kale – there’s nowhere quite like Byron Bay. 

I’ve just arrived in the beautiful coastal town and I’m already feeling the Byron vibe at Bayleaf. The café in Marvell Street with its whitewashed walls, intricately decorated waiters and bearded baristas oozes hipster style. I’m told it also has Byron’s best coffee. But I’ve walked ten kilometres this morning so I chose an iced tea and a breakfast burrito, packed with spicy chorizo and topped with scrambled egg. My walking buddies opt for the breakfast greens  (with kale, of course). It’s every kid’s nightmare but the ladies are thoroughly impressed. 

After lunch it’s back to the beach to burn off our lunch. The sun is hanging in a perfect winter sky over Mount Warning, and just offshore dolphins are chasing a school of fish and I don’t think I ever want to leave.

I have to admit that Byron and I have been through a rough patch these past few years. Every time I’ve been to visit it’s poured, the wind has howled and I’ve been left wondering why I didn’t go to Noosa.

Now I’m on a three-day walk organised by Girls Trekking Adventures and I realise what I’ve been missing.

Our guides do a brilliant job of showing us the best of Byron – leading us on a trek along Tallow Beach, assembling an al fresco lunch at Broken Head, and nudging us through a pre-dawn walk to Byron’s iconic lighthouse to watch the first rays of sunlight peaking over the horizon. I may be a little bit grumpy about heading off in the darkness but the sunrise is totally worth the effort.

We enjoy a home-cooked meal at our lovely accommodation - Byron Cove Beach House, one night, and hit the town on the second night for cocktails and tapas at St Elmo’s. The food is modern Spanish and delicious. My favourites are the Pato Confitado – crispy confit duck with jamon, shiitake and poached egg, and the lusciously refreshing Jalisco iced tea – a long cocktail with lychees and coriander.

On our last day we head for the hinterland to Harvest Café in the tiny village of Newrybar. The restaurant is situated in a restored Federation house with wrap- around verandahs, a country chic feel and award winning food – an ideal place for a long lazy lunch and the perfect way to finish off the weekend.

As the old saying goes - If you want to walk fast, walk alone; if you want to walk far, go together.

And if you want to eat well along the way, head for Byron Bay.

The 12 Cakes of Christmas (in July)

Derived from the desire for a white Christmas (and possibly the desire for some mid winter face stuffing), Christmas in July is the perfect excuse for a cosy gathering over roast meats, sticky desserts, tacky paper hats and a roaring open fire.

This year, shake it up like a snow globe and toss the fruit mince out the window. These 12 Christmas cakes make a worthy table centrepiece that will leave your fellow festivity celebrants green with envy. Be sure to spare a slice for the hopeless romantic under the mistletoe – they may need it.

12. The Blackest Forest Gateaux  11. Gingerbread Bundt Cakes with Cinnamon Glaze


 

Encompassing rich black chocolate cake, dark chocolate ganache and sweet cherry filling topped with mascarpone whipped cream, this horrifyingly decadent dessert has to be on the Christmas in July wish list – or even better, on the baking list. Delve onto the dark side and enjoy a little naughtiness by Desserts for Breakfast.

On a slightly lighter note, these gingerbread bundt cakes drowned in a sweet cinnamon glaze by These Peas Are Hollow leave the house with a lingering scent of spice AND are compact enough to be eaten by oneself in a single sitting ... Christmas spirit of sharing not required.  

 

10. Triple Chocolate Layer Cake with Maple Roasted Cranberries 9. Gingerbread Cake Roll

 


He knows when you’ve been naughty – so you might as well indulge in this triple chocolate layer cake with maple roasted cranberries by Carpe Season and let Santa move along. This may take you a few days to prepare and assemble but trust us, it’s the gift every cake lover wants to receive. If you need extra convincing, take in the wise words of the creator herself - “there’s a time and place for dessert; the time is now, and the place is in my mouth”.

If you prefer something traditional to the liking of ye olde yule log, the gingerbread cake roll by Roxana’s Home Baking is what you need to be baking up. Filled with spiced cream, this molasses and honey infused gingerbread cake is best served the day after preparing, allowing the flavours of the cream to be infused into the spongy cake – delicious. 

 

8. Reindeer Cupcakes 7. Gingerbread Christmas Tree Cookie Cake


 

What do you do when Santa doesn’t cough up any gifts? – eat his reindeers (in cupcake form of course). Perfect for little hands – and even bigger hands – this recipe by With Sprinkles on Top is all kinds of sweet, decorated with chocolate frosting, pretzels, vanilla cookies and M&M’s. Sweets on sweets? – it’s a Christmas (in July) miracle!

And of course, what’s the festive season if not for the iconic Martha Stewart herself? Worthy of showcasing as a table centrepiece, delights like the gingerbread Christmas tree cookie cake set the tone for a white Christmas – and can be sneakily deconstructed, one layer at a time.

 

6. Melted Snowman Truffle Cake Balls 5. Coconut Cake with Spun Sugar Christmas Trees




 

Okay. This nearly falls into the category of a cookie/biscuit, but smashed biscuit + cream cheese  = truffle. And truffles are kind of like balls of cake. Digressions aside, this recipe by Cookies and Cups is all too easy. It does replace a mini Oreo snowman hat with a Rolo for added deliciousness, so don’t be afraid to get creative with the decorations.

On the contrary, this coconut cake with spun sugar Christmas trees reigns in a majestic minimalism. Carefully crafted by Raspberri Cupcakes, this recipe is fitting for the cooler weather because despite how nice it may sound, nobody wants to spin sugar in the summer heat. Layered with whipped lemon cream cheese icing, the green toffee trees are the shining star on this delicious Christmas cake. Salvage your kitchen bench by lining them with baking paper prior to spinning your sugar – unless you want to lick toffee off the bench top for the next few weeks. Hmmm ... actually...

 

4. Gift Wrapped Chocolate Brownie 3. Frosted Cranberry and Rosemary Winter Cake



 


To the untrained eye, this is just a regular brownie with a stencilled bow of icing sugar on top. But to those willing to look closer, it’s a gift wrapped square of heaven. Another creation from the Queen of Christmas cookery (aka – Martha Stewart), this easy recipe can be stencilled onto individual brownies or onto one giant one. If stencilled onto a giant brownie, this also signifies that you don’t have to share it.

This cake looks almost too good to eat ... yeah, we said almost. Layered with spice, tart cranberries and rich mascarpone with herbaceous rosemary twigs, this decadent creation is a table centrepiece well worth bragging about – sure, your dinner guests might try to stuff it in your mouth to shut you up, but we don’t really see what’s wrong with that. Find a recipe for a decadent rosemary cranberry cake just like this at Darling Magazine.

 

2. Ruffle Tree Cake  1. Pinecone Cakes


 

Glory to the newborn Christmas cake! We have a feeling this sweet sensation by Bubble and Sweet can easily be the new celebratory tree you get excited to decorate and is so much more Christmassy than fruit cake could ever look (sorry fruit cake, but you’ve had your time to shine).  Made with white chocolate mud cake and layers of white chocolate ganache, rolled fondant, strawberry bon bons and glittered fondant decorations, this ruffle tree cake may take a little patience to complete, but rest assured is well worth an attempt.

Last but not least, we return again to the Christmas cooking wonder (the Santa of the kitchen?) Martha Stewart, whose pinecone cakes are some kind of wonderful. Spread the Christmas cheer and give these little beauties out as gifts with instructions to ‘go eat a pinecone’, or perhaps make them the shining star of dessert to finish your Christmas in July celebrations.

Christmas In July: Australian Origins

While an Australian Christmas is iconically framed like this: 

Christmas in July is your time to enjoy more of this: 

The origins of Christmas in July are not clear, however, it is generally believed that the practice started with a group of Irish tourists visiting the New South Wales Blue Mountains in July of 1980. As snow fell outside, it is alleged that the group managed to convince a local hotel owner to hold a party called ‘Yulefest.’ It was enjoyed so much that the group returned each year with more and more people and so Christmas in July was born.

Around the country restaurants will be helping you celebrate Christmas in July with events and specials, check out your local restaurant deals here.  Great holidays don’t usually come around twice a year so make sure you rustle up some of these great recipes in our 12 cakes of Christmas blog

A Healthy Roast for Christmas in July

Enjoy a low fat roast this Christmas in July (or for Christmas later in the year).

By Annette Sym from Symply Too Good

Christmas is a special time of the year so why not celebrate it twice a year and have double the joy. Christmas in Australia is during summer so to experience having an “English” Christmas, July is the perfect time. Here are some tips to making a delicious roast dinner with my healthy spin to it. 

Cooking a low fat roast: 

If you are cooking roast pork then the best choice is a lean loin. If you want crackling remember it is quite high in saturated fats so my suggestion would be to remove all the crackling from the leg or loin, place the crackling on a separate baking tray, rub in a generous amount of cooking salt and cook in a hot oven.The fat should dissolve but if there is any left under the rind then scoop it out. 

Baked Vegetables: 

For delicious low fat baked vegetables par boil, drain then place on a baking tray that has been coated with cooking spray, then spray generously over vegetables and bake in a hot oven for around 40 minutes until golden brown, turning once. Some vegetables I love roasting are carrots, potato, sweet potato, onion, parsnip, beetroot and swede. 

Roast Chicken:

To roast either a whole chicken or turkey breast the low fat way, prick the skin in several places then place the bird on a wire cake rack (that has been coated with cooking spray) and sit rack in a baking tray. 

Ham:

If you want to eat ham as well then buy a lean leg of ham and cut as much fat off as possible. 

White Sauce:

To make a white sauce to top cauliflower, melt 15g low fat margarine in a small saucepan, add 2 tbsps. plain flour and mix well. Gradually add 1½ cups skim milk using a whisk. Once boiled add in ⅓ cup grated low fat cheese and add a little pepper.

Gravy:

To make a low fat gravy use Gravox low joule gravy mix.

5 British Desserts That Will Make You Feel Like Royalty

 

Synonymous with comfort, British cuisine has the ability to make you feel stuffed and satisfied – and mid winter happens to be the perfect time to put our preaching into practice.

Sifting through our collection of sticky sweet tarts, pies and puddings, we have compiled our top 5 favourite British puds that we believe make you feel like royalty. Just for the record, we’re pretty sure the Royals consume their desserts under blankets on the couch too... 

5. Spotted Dick

 

 

Yes yes. Once we finished having a laugh at the name we decided to give it a whirl - and the iconic boiled British pud didn’t disappoint. With some of the earliest recipes dating back to 1847, this long standing favourite has many a theory of where its name originated come from, the most plausible being the evolution of “pudding” to “puddink” to “puddick” and then just “dick”. Quite recently, several hospitals across Britain attempted to rename the pudding to “spotted Richard”... but the attempted political correctness never really caught on and the humorously named British dessert lives on strong.   

Made with pastry dough of suet and raisins or dried fruit which is then either steamed or boiled, spotted dick is never really complete unless accompanied by custard. Find the classic spotted dick recipe here and laugh all the way to the kitchen.

If you’re Irish, you may also know this as being a variant of ‘spotted dog’ ... but let’s face it – nobody thinks that’s fun to say.

 

4. Orange Marmalade Bread & Butter Pudding


 

Originally known as ‘whitepot’ (which we believe is a much less appealing name), bread and butter pudding is the fail proof go-to for an easy winter dessert; chunks of buttered bread, raisins and a creamy milk/egg mixture infused with winter’s signature aroma (aka, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg). Dating back to 1845, this no fuss pud is an ever popular English favourite, limited only by the size of your baking dish.

Whatever recipe you choose, it’s essential that the assembled pudding is left about an hour before cooking for the bread to be able to sit and soak up the cinnamon custard-y goodness.  If the thought of white bread is too ... white bread for you, experiment with fancier flavours like sliced brioche or panettone. We’re adding a little extravagance to our English dessert by going with a recipe for orange marmalade bread and butter pudding.

 

3. Eton Mess

 

 

Fact: Eton mess was NOT created when a meringue dessert was accidently crushed by a dog while travelling to a picnic – but the myth would make for a pretty interesting origin story. Traditionally created and served at England’s famous Eton College, this mouth watering mash up of broken meringue, berries and cream is so easy to make – and consume. For added ease, use pre made meringues, which will leave you more time to keep spooning this brilliant British dessert into your mouth.  Head over and start mashing your meringue and making a mess here.

 

2. Banoffee Pie

 

 

Crunchy. Sticky. Creamy. The famous banana toffee hybrid ticks all the right boxes for deliciousness and in our books, is a dessert fit for a Queen. Invented by Nigel Mackenzie and Ian Dowding (who, by the way is pedantic about the original version, detesting the use of “that horrible cream in aerosols”) in 1972, the original banoffee pie veers from the use of a buttery biscuity base, using shortcrust pastry and a topping of coffee flavoured cream, delighting patrons of ‘The Hungry Monk’ as a staple dessert item on the menu until its closing in 2012.

We went against the warnings of banoffee inventor Ian Dowding and cheated with this one, using a biscuit base for our banoffee pie recipe – and just for the record, cheating tastes delicious.

 

1. Queen of Puddings


 

 

Rich, elegant and quintessentially British (just like the Queen herself), this retro British milk pudding layers together baked milk soaked breadcrumbs, jam and fluffy meringue, resulting in a right royal feast. Perfect eaten hot on a chilly night, Queen of Puddings looks just as good as it tastes and makes for a bold statement for your next winter dinner party. If you’re looking to cheat a little or perhaps clean out the sweets tin, replace the breadcrumbs with left over or slightly stale cake. We’re sticking to the classic Queen of puddings recipe, but this regal retro dessert can be made with a modern flourish with fresh flavour combinations like rhubarb and ginger, peach and lavender or chocolate and orange for a dash of decadence.

 

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Iconically British

With chefs Heston Blumenthal and Jamie Oliver making their way into our everyday grocery shop, we thought that there would be no better way to warm up your winter than with some hearty British fare.

From breakfast to dinner we have you covered with five iconically British dishes.

5. There’s no better start than with Jamie Oliver’s Steak and Kidney Pudding: 

As Jamie said a pudding “is so comforting and so completely British I just love everything about it” and we do too.  A perfect meal to cook at home, steaming steak and kidney all wrapped up in a delicious suet pastry, it’s like Christmas has come six months early.  You would never think the British could earn culinary praise from the French but this pudding has earned it, once called “a manna, better than that of the wilderness” in the 17th century by Henri Misson de Valbourg.  

4. The Traditional Sunday Roast:

  

A staple tradition at the heart of British cooking, a meal that still brings the whole family together and even the neighbourhood with pubs and restaurants packed full for Sunday roast dinner. We adopted this tradition, however in true Aussie style we had to go and change the meat to lamb. Cue Sam Kekovich and his generation Lamb campaign.

3.  Eggs Benedict: 

 

Historically not British, but really no one can do this hearty breakfast item better than those that specialise in hearty fare. Add a few truffle shavings on top of the hollandaise and you have an exquisite dish – for breakfast or really whenever you’re hungry. 

 2.  Cottage Pie: 

Traditionally a dish that made the most of the leftovers in the fridge, this delicious meat pie with a crust of mashed potato is a winter favourite for most.  The term “cottage” is used because it was mainly the poorer people of Great Britain who lived in cottages that would make these pies. If made with beef it is a "Cottage Pie," if made with lamb (us Aussies) it is usually called a “Shepherd’s Pie.”  

1.  Scotch Egg: 

What could be more beautifully British than a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in bread crumbs and then deep-fried? NOTHING (except maybe a mars bar). This is a delicious picnic food, or maybe a great change to that hard-boiled egg in your Caesar salad, either way it will certainly leave your taste buds screaming for more. 

Faithful Custodians of Henry's Best

By David Ellis from vintnews 

Fortunate are they who’ve got hold of a bottle or two of Best’s Great Western Bin 0 Shiraz, a wine that’s been made since the late 1800s but of which today only 800 cases are still made on average each year.

Although we know Henry Best planted his first Shiraz vines at Great Western, between Stawell and Ararat in Victoria in 1867, the actual year he created his first Bin O is uncertain. But what we do know is that since the Thompson family acquired the Best’s Great Western vineyards and winery in 1920, they’ve remained extraordinarily faithful “custodians” to Henry Best’s creation. 

Now headed by 5th generation Ben Thompson, the family’s recently released the 2012 Best’s Bin 0 Shiraz that was made from hand-selected fruit sorted and fermented in small batches. It maintains its reputation as an undisputed icon of the Great Western Shiraz style, and has been internationally acclaimed for years.

This 2012 has deliciously spicy dark fruit flavours and a great balance of acidity and smooth tannins for wonderfully enjoyable drinking now, while having the potential to develop beautifully over 15 years or more in the bottle. With just-800 cases available, it’s well worth the $85 asking price to enjoy with a slow roasted shoulder of lamb. 

One to note: The Adelaide Hills has a well-deserved reputation as home to some of Australia’s best Sauvignon Blanc, and a 2013 Howard Vineyard Picnic label is typical of just how good the variety from this region can be.

This one has full-on lemony citrus flavours coupled with hints of spice and gooseberry, making it an ideal companion with seafood from simple grilled fish fillets to garlicky prawns – or as the Picnic label suggests, for outdoor entertaining with cold chicken or other white meats, salads and sharp cheeses on warmer days.

Pay $19 at cellar door for this rewarding drop from the family-owned Howard vineyard and winery at Nairne, the oldest township in the Adelaide Hills.

Brisbane’s First Colombian Independence Day Festival

The streets of Fortitude Valley will come alive on Sunday 20 July 2014 with the inaugural Colombian Independence Day Festival.

The special day commemorates Colombia's uprising against Spanish rule on July 20 1810 in Bogota, subsequently creating a self-governing republic. Colombia's Independence Day is celebrated annually in Colombia and around the world with delicious food and beverages plus lively music and dancing, all of which can be found at Brisbane’s Colombian Independence Day Festival.

Kicking off at 12pm, Ann and Ballow Streets will be filled with the enticing smells of Colombian dishes such as arepas (filled flatbreads) and bunuelos (cheese fritters) from the likes of La Fonda Colombiana, Latin Bakers and Latin Delights.

Live performances from Colombian dance groups, classic Colombian folk tunes and dance classes for festival-goers will keep everyone busting a move or two. Finally, all ticket holders will automatically go into the draw to win an all-expenses paid trip to the Whitsundays thanks to Link Australia.

Tickets to the Colombian Independence Day Festival are $20 each + booking fee. All children under 18 are required to attend with a paying parent or guardian. Children under 12 can attend the festival for free. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Moshtix website.