Blog Archive

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Original Fat Witch Brownie Mix

When I could be sipping on an ice cold Pimms or similar means of intoxication, some bright spark decides it would be a good idea to make brownies! At the moment, just the thought of turning on the oven is enough to send my temperature control system into overload. The perspiration has already started to ooze and the sweaty, dripping chef look is not good today or any other day. To say my kitchen is humid is a gross understatement, the atmosphere is almost as thick as the batter I'm about to make...yeah, great idea! Mmm...but the smell from the oven is promising.

The Fat Witch Bakery is situated in the middle of Manhattan's Chelsea Market, New York, a place where you can lose yourself for an hour or two wandering around an amazing array of retail experiences. 

According to their philosophy Fat Witches care only about quality rather than quantity and don't try to bake for everyone, just those who have good taste. Being good witches they only bake in small covens, I mean, batches. Pat Helding, founder of Fat Witch Bakery, is a New York sensation as are her bewitching brownies. Pat, left her Wall Street job and started her mail order business in 1991.

Random NYC Wall Art
As you can imagine there are many different witchy brews and mixes that will no doubt have you under their spell in no time including: Java Witch; Blonde Witch; Red Witch; Snow Witch; Breakfast Witch and Fat Witch Walnut. Alas there is no 'Witchy Woman'. Those of you who left your youth in the last century will remember the lyrics to that great Eagles track, 'Witchy Woman' - raven hair and ruby lips, sparks fly from her fingertips, echo voices in the night she's a restless spirit on an endless'll have to play it to appreciate it.

When you come to make your own brownie mix you will need 12 tablespoons of unsalted butter, yes you heard me right that's 12 tablespoons or 6 oz in old money, 2 eggs, a mixing bowl, mixing spoon or electric mixer, spatula and an 8"x8" baking pan...unbelievably no broomsticks or eye of newt required which was a real downer. 
Have you tried that new brownie mix from
Fat Witch Bakery?
A quick search online proved fruitless. Pat's book is available but the mix isn't but I'm sure it will be the meantime catch a plane or broomstick to the Big Apple.

Well Stacked Witches!
They are indeed very chocolatey, yummy and not overly oily considering the amount of butter. I added chopped pecans to my mix. Firm and chocolatey....what's not to like?! If you like brownies then why not read my blog post on Paul A Young's delicious sea-salted caramel pecan brownie....

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Such a Sucker for Sacher

Vienna, Sacher Torte,
Before leaving for Vienna orders had been eagerly handed out by friends to bring back a plethora of Sacher Tortes or else I would end up with egg on my face. 

Should I phone the hotel to warn them that a huge order was about to catch them unawares? I shouldn't have worried as brand 'Sacher' is in rude health with tortes literally flying out the door clutched by squillions of tourists like myself. 

Sacher HotelThe Hotel Sacher Wien - opened in 1876 by Edward Sacher, son of the creator of the original Sacher-Torte. You don't want to be heard criticising the beloved Sacher as it stands for all things Viennese including lifestyle, culture, tradition and luxury, no less. Not many 16 year old chefs can claim to have created a cake that represented their countries culture! But, Franz Sacher, whisked up this dessert at the court of Prince Metternich and since then it has become famous in the 'torte' culinary corridors of cake power. His weekly pocket money must have been immense. The recipe remains a state secret and only the original Sacher has the 'Hotel Sacher' seal. 

Essentially, a Sacher Torte is a chocolate cake, wrapped in a thick chocolate icing, which is glued to the sponge using apricot jam. Sounds delicious! Served traditionally with whipped cream produced in a variety of sizes from 12cm to 22cm. Sold at prices that will have you choking on your Sacher crumbs. Each cake is handmade by a fair Viennese maiden, man or bearded woman if we have to be gender specific. 

Beautifully presented in bright paper and sturdy wooden boxes that will withstand small nuclear blasts. Welcome to brand Sacher.

In my mind their customer service is better than their torte. Especially when I came to eat mine which was dry and crumbly not unlike my skin. I fired off a short and succinct email requesting Franz Sacher's or one of his close decedent's head on a dessert plate....

The Sacher team responded immediately by sending a replacement within a matter of days. The replacement was very enjoyable and went down a treat with some but not all. The apricot jam used to attach the chocolate icing is not to everybody's taste and is overpowering. Oh well, more for me.

If €50 is not enough to spend on a chocolate cake you can also blow your hard earned wonga on a bottle of Original Sacher Liqueur or tins of Original Sacher Hot Chocolate. 

In my opinion the French Opera Cake is far superior in both taste and texture.

You can find Hotel Sacher Wien on Philharmonikerstrasse 4, A-1010, Wien. Just follow the link for more information. Sacher.  

Monday, 26 May 2014

Kleines Cafe - Vienna

Vienna Cafe Scene
3, Franziskanerplatz
Spend an hour or two at Kleines Cafe
Planning a weekend away in Vienna? Short on time? 

Then these are some of the 'must see' places.... 

Vienna is packed with an amazing array of historical buildings, museums, theatres, restaurants and cafes but some are just better than others. 

In the next few posts I will try and squeeze in some places of interest for the traveller short on time.

We literally stumbled upon the Kleines Cafe (Little Cafe), owned by actor Hanno Poschl, situated in the delightful Franziskanerplatz, on our first evening stroll through Innere Stadt. 

A cafe that lives up to its name and don't be surprised to find it full to the brim! On a day when the rain was pouring we slipped back to this warm, cozy and welcoming cafe where they still allow smoking! But, don't even think about puffing on your pipes or cuban cigars as these are strictly verboten! Two cappuccinos, water, scrambled eggs for two and thickly buttered slices of bread will set you back approx. €20. 

The menu is simple and straightforward. Staff are friendly and welcoming, they even lent me a torch when my lens cap rolled into a dark nook.

This is no Starbucks.....which is a good thing. Don't get me wrong I enjoy a Starbucks but it did make me laugh when I overheard an American family squeal in unison when they saw their beloved Starbucks! 

Hanno Poschl, also owns a restaurant, Gasthaus Poschl, which is literally around the corner from Kleines Cafe. Again this is very popular location and I would advise you to book in advance. Ideal for those seeking a traditional Viennese grub including such dishes as Goulash and Wiener Schnitzel. Address: 17 Weihburggasse, not far from Stephansdom. 


If you're using the 'always running to time' U-Bahn jump off at Stephansplatz or Stubentor.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Zotter - Tequila mit Salz und Zitrone

We went in search of the bearded lady, Conchita Wurst, and discovered that not all Austrian women/transvestites have similar decorative and distinguished jaw lines. 

Infact, Austria, as a nation seemed to be keeping their recent 'artistic' victory at this year's Eurovision very low key, underwraps and possibly slightly embarrassed. 

'Rise Like a Phoenix' was certainly not the tune of choice for die Menschen of Wien. Oh well, they have plenty to look forward to now they will be hosting next year's Eurovision Song Contest. Danke Conchita! 

Traditional Viennese folk are probably hoping it will all go away but I'm sure the marketing team at Zotter are already working on a suitable chocolate bar to celebrate the fact. Did you know that Zotter even has a Cemetery of Ideas where old varieties go to do whatever past favourites do and some are even exhumed and resurrected for a short while. 

Zotter wrappers never fail to disappoint with their imaginative designs that always manage to raise an eyebrow or smile.....If you're thinking about collecting, Zotter wrappers, might be the next big thing.

If you're a Zotter fan you'll not be surprised by the variety of chocolates that Zotter produce including this hand-scooped or 'handgeschopft' bar which contains nobel bitter chocolate (70% cocoa) filled with tequila ganache and lemon ganache. A surprising mix of organic and fairtrade products can be found on the ingredients list. 

Zotter Ganache Layer
The bitter chocolate, salt, tequila and lemon ganache work perfectly together. An absolute delight! There is just the right amount of 'salt and alcohol' to have the desired 'tequila' effect without making it overly caustic or alcoholic. 8/10. Priced at €3.35 70g.

Zotter fans will be able to find a huge selection of their favourite chocolate confection in Vienna's Naschmarkt located between the Linke and Rechte Wienzeile. Head to Bio Welt for a huge Zotter selection.  

Once you've secured your chocolate bars take a wander around this fascinating fruit and vegetable market with its interesting mix of expensive Viennese and slightly cheaper Turkish and Asian stalls. 
You'll also find stalls selling hand-crafted soaps, oils and clothing including a multitude of street-food vendors and restaurants to enjoy. 

Saturday, 26 April 2014

An Evening with Aspall

Aspall, Suffolk,
Aspall Est 1728
Crossing the border from Essex to Suffolk under the cover of darkness, always raises a smile and brings back memories of childhood trips to the Suffolk coast. I hated the A12 then and I absolutely loathe it now! Resembling a track that Constable might have trundled down on his way to paint the Haywain the A12 continues to carry its heavy load.
No wonder this part of the world feels slightly dislocated from reality. 

I always wondered how lucky Gerry Milsom must have felt when he setup Le Talbooth just on the right side of the track (Stratford Road) so to speak. Probably one of the best restaurants in Suffolk but so nearly in Essex! That's not to say there aren't any great restaurants in Essex before any of you have a Towie, if that's possible?! 

Jimmy's Farm, a safe haven for Rare Breeds and HQ for The Essex Pig Company is owned and run by Jimmy Doherty, a farmer come TV celebrity and erstwhile inventor. As we arrived all Rare Breeds had retired to the shelter of their duvets and heated pig styes. Only blanket covered donkeys were left in their fields to greet us. So, the welcome as you can imagine was slightly underwhelming. Where was farmer Jimmy? I was most miffed! 

Anyway who needs celebrity. We were here for the main attraction that is Aspall Cyder with a 'y'. The boys and girls from Aspall had given up a night of fun and games at Ipswich Town Football club, to try and enlighten us Aspall groupies, on the virtues and provenance of said company. The presentation was given by a Norfolk bloke working for a Suffolk company that has its roots in France. Confused yet? Well, after copious cyders we were, as were the staff, who continued to break glasses throughout the evening. All good fun and entertaining.

Cyder tasting without a spittoon, the waitress didn't know what I was talking about either, hence why taxis are a la mode for the trip home. Hiccup... 

Berry CyderPulled Pork, Aspall Evening

The menu was simple and straightforward, nothing flash just good homely cooking in a rustic and charming environment but without the draughts. A selection of canapes to start and a chance to drink more cyder. Our main course consisted of Rare Breed pulled pork with lashings of cyder sauce and delicious Savoy cabbage. Service was laid back and friendly. 

Dessert was apple parfait, caramel sauce and apple crisps atop. This was accompanied by a new Aspall creation, Isabel's Berry, not even on the shelves yet, a tribute to their Great Grandma, Isabel, who was often seen tending her berry plants and bushes. 

Isabel's Berry, Cyder, Aspall
Isabel's Berry Suffolk Cyder
Strikingly pink and effervescent this cyder has plenty of sweetness but not too much and punnets of redcurrants and raspberries working their magic. Perfect with summer pudding or gooseberry crumble.....c'mon summer! This one is going to be a hit amongst the ladies and will probably give those Belgian ciders a run for their money.

A great evening hosted by the Aspall team and at £35 per person fantastic value for money. An exceptional Goodie Bag included. Visit Jimmy's Farm event page to find out more.