Review: William Curley Chocolate Club – March 2015

William Curley March box
As mentioned in my first review of the William Curley Chocolate Club, I’m lucky enough to have a 3-month subscription to their lovely little boxes of joy. As the contents of each box vary from month to month, I thought I’d give a quick rundown of the second box I received, this time for March.

The treats again came packaged in a beautiful black box with a ribbon, but I forgot to take a picture in my haste to get to the contents! Never mind – here’s what was inside:

  • House dark truffles
  • Sea salt caramel mou sweets
  • Pistachio sables
  • House dark 65 chocolate bar
  • Aztec hot chocolate

William Curley house dark truffles
The house dark truffles were the first thing I tried, and they were as good as I expected considering how much I enjoyed a similar truffle in the February box. Rich, smooth and oh so flavoursome, I could have easily had 10 of these!

William Curley sea salt caramel mou
I was really excited about trying the sea salt caramel mou sweets, because they looked and sounded so good! The caramel was divine – absolutely perfect, in fact – and the hint of sea salt made these sweets genuinely delicious.

William Curley pistachio sables
I was surprised and excited to see these pistachio sables in the box – I’d assumed everything would be chocolate or sweet-based. But as I love pistachios, I couldn’t wait to try these. The biscuits were very shortbread-like – buttery and crumbly – and the pistachio flavour was amazing intense. They really didn’t skimp on the pistachios when making these, for which I am eternally grateful!

William Curley house dark chocolate bar
This is basically William Curley’s ‘standard’ dark chocolate bar with 65% cocoa solids, but there was nothing standard at all about the flavour! The packaging referred to ‘ripe fruit notes’ that were definitely there and made this a lot more enjoyable than absentmindedly tucking into your average bar of dark chocolate.

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
I haven’t actually had the Aztec hot chocolate as a proper drink yet, but I used some of it in the Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies I made recently. I had a taste before throwing it in, and it seems to be a nicely intense dark chocolate with just a hint of chilli. Hopefully I’ll get round to sampling it as a drink soon!

Overall, this was another excellent box that I thoroughly enjoyed. I’m sad that the next box will be my last one (under this subscription anyway!), but I’m looking forward to seeing what it contains!

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Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
I’ve had a craving for something extremely chocolatey for the last couple of weeks, so I thought I’d give in and bake some brownies for the first time in a while. My boyfriend had been talking about cooking something Mexican at some point, which prompted me to look for a dessert to match – and that’s when I found the recipe for these Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies.

I’ve seen a few recipes for chilli brownies before, but this one seemed unique thanks to the addition of cinnamon, which goes really well with chocolate.

As mentioned, I did want to make something *really* chocolatey, so I adapted the recipe to include more than just cocoa powder. As well as the cocoa, I threw in some chopped dark chocolate (just standard supermarket chocolate) and a little bit of the Aztec hot chocolate I got in the most recent William Curley subscription box.

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies - the chocolate I used
In the original recipe, the chilli kick comes from a quarter of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, but I read some comments that suggested this doesn’t make the brownies spicy enough. So I thought I was well within my rights to add the Aztec hot chocolate (which has a hint of chilli) and also up the amount of cayenne pepper to half a teaspoon.

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownie mix
I only thought to taste the mix after I’d transferred it to the tin, and at first I thought it still wasn’t spicy enough – so I liberally sprinkled some more cayenne pepper on top.

After I put the tin in the oven, though, I realised that I could detect a distinct burn from the bit of mix I’d tasted – which probably meant that I’d made the brownies too spicy by adding more cayenne, as I have a higher than average tolerance for chilli (I regularly complain to my mum – the curry queen – that her food isn’t hot enough!).

Oops…

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
I found that I had to leave the brownies in the oven for longer than the recipe said, which is pretty standard for me when making brownies! I took them out when they still looked a bit wobbly in the middle, but I probably should have left them in for a bit longer, as the brownies in the middle were definitely a lot gooier than the ones around the edges. They were still gobbled up, though!

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
Gooey or not, the brownies were absolutely delicious – and not too spicy at all, in the end! The chilli kick was pretty faint for me, but everyone who tasted them also said it was just a background flavour and not too much, so that was a relief.

I’m glad I added the extra chocolate because it really did add an extra dimension, especially the chopped dark chocolate, which created little pockets of gooey loveliness throughout the brownies. The cinnamon definitely lifted these brownies above your bog standard chocolate brownies.

I would definitely make these again – but perhaps add even more cayenne next time…!

Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies
Mexican chilli and cinnamon brownies recipe

Adapted from this recipe.

Makes 18

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 80g cocoa powder
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 50g to 100g chilli hot chocolate (I used William Curley Aztec hot chocolate)
  • 120g plain flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 0.5 tsp cayenne pepper (or more if you’d like it spicier!)
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp baking powder

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4/180C. Line a 9 in x 13 in baking tin with a piece of baking parchment/greaseproof paper big enough to hang over the sides.
  2. Gently melt the butter in a large saucepan without letting it come to the boil. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
  3. Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla to the saucepan and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  4. Add the cocoa powder, chopped chocolate, hot chocolate, flour, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and baking powder to the saucepan. Stir gently until smooth.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared tin and tip it from side to side to get the mix into all the corners. Bake for at least 20-25 minutes – if the mix still looks wobbly and liquid, leave the tin in the oven and check at 5 or 10-minute intervals until the brownies are cooked and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out with fudgy mix on it.
  6. Cool the brownies in the tin, cut them into 18 pieces and remove them by lifting the paper out of the tin.

Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns
As mentioned several times before, I’m trying to practice my bread-making more, as I’m not particularly good at it. These Easter hot cross buns from a Paul Hollywood recipe presented a bit of a challenge for me, but I think I just about overcame it!

One of the intriguing things about this recipe is the addition of chunks of fresh apple, which help keep the hot cross buns moist and add a bit more flavour. There are also a lot of sultanas and mixed peel, along with a generous helping of cinnamon.

The main issue I had to grapple with was, as always, the proving of the dough. The recipe says it takes 4 hours in total to prove the dough (you need to do it three times), but the whole thing including baking took me well over 7 hours!

Hot cross buns
The problem was that the dough seemed ridiculously slow to rise. Things improved when I attempted to warm up the kitchen, covered the trays with greased clingfilm instead of placing them in plastic bags and placed the final shaped dough balls on a chair in front of a hot oven (the last two points are Lorraine Pascale tips!), but I suspect the sheer weight of all the fruit in the dough inhibited the rise somewhat. Either that or I should have kneaded the dough a lot more!

I also had issues with shaping the dough into nice, neat, round buns, which is an ongoing problem for me! Some of the buns ended up slightly deformed as a result, but I just ate those first…

Hot cross buns
I baked the buns in two batches. The first batch was nearly burnt on top, so I put the second batch in for a few minutes less than the first, which seemed to help.

Hot cross buns
Despite the near-burning and the proving issues, the buns tasted so good. The first one I had, fresh from the oven, was absolutely delicious and beautifully sticky from the apricot jam glaze. They were equally good toasted and buttered, too. I really can tell the difference between these and shop-bought hot cross buns!

Would I make these again? Well, perhaps in the height of summer and when I know I have a whole day free! If you have a warmer kitchen than mine, I would recommend this recipe. Paul Hollywood might be a harsh taskmaster, but his bread recipes really do tend to be a cut above the rest.

Hot cross buns
Paul Hollywood’s hot cross buns recipe

Can be found here: http://paulhollywood.com/recipes/easter-hot-cross-buns/