Archive for April, 2015

As a cook, I compartmentalise chocolate into two groups.  First: normal everyday milk chocolate bars full of sugar, biscuits, dried fruits or nuts that seduce us with glittery, colourful wrappers; appealing to the inner child.  They serve as a mere sugar rush, a boost of energy to keep me going through the day.  Second: dark chocolate with its sophisticated, bittersweet, melt-in-the-mouth, 70% cocoa solids, I mainly use in cooking and baking.

“brownies, fudge cakes, hot chocolate, chocolate mousse, chocolate cheesecake, chocolate pots, chocolate sponge cake, sacher torte, black forest gateau, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate fondants, chocolate truffles, chocolate torte, chocolate tarts, chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate pudding, chocolate souffle, devil’s food cupcakes, chocolate fondue, chocolate creme brulee, rocky road, chocolate-rice krispie cakes…”

Why do we like chocolate so much?  Chocolate is medically proven to stimulate the release of hormones called endorphins in our brains, generating feelings of pleasure and promoting a sense of well being.  Chocolate also appeals to the senses – primarily taste but also smell and hearing; good dark chocolate should make a ‘snapping’ sound when broken opposed to the dull ‘thud’ that milk chocolate makes.  The glossy sheen and cool feel of chocolate, melting at blood temperature, serving to seduce us further.

What can divide us is chocolate cake.  Be it a plain chocolate sponge or traditional Sacher Torte or Black Forest Gateau, no matter how much we like eating chocolate, chocolate cake does not interest everyone.  True chocoholics find chocolate cake too cakey (duh!); just not chocolatey enough.  However, everyone loves chocolate brownies with their dark, fudgy interior or chocolate fondants with their gooey oozy centres – some cooks even making chocolate truffles to put into the fondant to guarantee a river of molten chocolate as you dive into the pudding.

I claim not to have a thing for chocolate but looking back over my blogs there seem to be a lot of chocolate inspired recipes.  I’ve made chocolate pots, cheesecakes, chocolate cakes, brownies, chocolate puddini bon bons, rocky road and I even grate dark chocolate into my chilli-con-carne!  I once tweeted a celebrated food writer asking her for recipes to use up my left-over Easter eggs – she was clearly appalled by the fact that I had not scoffed the lot by Bank Holiday Monday!

“Left-over Easter eggs?!” was the only reply I got.

So here goes, another chocolate dessert recipe for the collection.  These chocolate puddings have the decadence of a
chocolate fondant but the lightness of a mousse.  They have all the makings of a serious, grown-up dessert but are so easy to knock up that you can make them mid-week with minimal fuss.  The great thing about them is that you can freeze them and cook from frozen at a later date.

chocolate pudding

Baked Chocolate Puddings
Ingredients
100g of good quality dark chocolate
100g of butter
1 tbspn liqueur (Brandy or any other liqueur that works with chocolate)
2 large eggs and 2 extra yolks
55g golden caster sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract
30g Plain Flour

Method
1st:
Break the chocolate into pieces and melt along with the butter, add your liqueur of choice (I use Cointreau as I always seem to have a bottle in my cupboard.)  Stir until smooth and glossy.

2nd: While the chocolate is melting, place the sugar, eggs, yolks and vanilla extract (I tend to use vanilla bean paste) in a mixing bowl and whisk for 6-10 minutes until the mixture has doubled in volume.  I recommend using either an electric hand whisk or an electronic mixer as you’ll need some serious muscle power to whisk this by hand to get to the ribbon stage.

3rd: Mix the cooled chocolate mixture into the mousse-like egg mixture.  Sift the flour over and then mix everything using a large metal spoon.  Carefully fold everything together taking care not to beat all the air out of the mixture.

4th: Divide the mixture between your pudding basins, cover with cling film and chill or freeze them until you need them.

5th: Preheat the oven to 200˚C.  Remove the clingfilm and bake in the centre of the oven for 12 mins (14 if chilled first and 15 if frozen.)  Allow them to stand for 1/2mins before turning them out and serving with cream.

Chocolate pudding

 Heaven on a plate!

Easter-bannerHaving just come out of the Easter Long-Weekend, what everyone is in agreement with is, that no matter what,

Easter is all about CHOCOLATE!

Even more so than Christmas, in particular, the now traditional chocolate eggs.  But where did this tradition come from?

There are two ideas here that intertwine to the point where we gift eachother chocolate eggs.  The first is the idea that eggs are seen as a sign of fertility and new life – hence why a lot of Easter dishes are enriched with egg: hot cross buns, bollo hornazo, torta de acelgas, etc.  Christians refer to this period as Easter, however, various pagans previously prayed to their respective Goddess of Sex and Fertility: Eostre (Anglo-Saxon), Ishtar (Babylonian), Ashtaroth (Ancient Hebrew), Astarte (Ancient Greek) before the rise of Christianity.

Hence, the egg became a symbol of new birth.

Secondly, the 40 days of Lent were originally fasting days where you were not allowed to eat dairy products.  Lent was meant to be an austere time.  On Shrove Tuesday, you had gorged on pancakes full of egg, milk and sugar, confessed your sins and cleaned out your larder – you were now officially shriven.  But chickens carried on laying eggs through lent!  So how could these be saved?  These eggs were boiled, thus prolonging their shelf-life and eaten at the end of Lent.  Eventually the tradition of giving eggs as gifts arose: starting with these boiled eggs which evolved into decorated boiled eggs, to jewel encrusted Imperial Fabergé eggs made especially for Tsar Alexander III to give to his wife!  In due course, chocolatiers made chocolate versions of these Fabergé eggs with sweet treats hidden inside which the masses could afford.  Where does the Easter Bunny fit in?!?

But whether you fasted for 40 days, or were praying to your Goddess of Fertility, Easter Sunday was and is all about chocolate!  And even though cracking open those chocolate eggs lined above your cupboard was a great breakfast and you are probably still recovering from that chocolate hangover, here is a chocolate recipe to indulge in at anytime!

taken from http://www.taste.com.au

Toblerone Cheesecake
Ingredients
125g double chocolate digestive biscuits

80g melted butter

30g ground almonds

500g cream cheese

100g caster sugar

120ml double cream

400g toblerone chocolate

Method
1st:
Melt the butter and allow to cool.  In a food processor blitz the biscuits and add the ground almonds.  Pour over the cooled butter, mix well and line the bottom of a spring form baking tin with this mixture.  Press this down with a glass jar / tumbler to reach the edges.  Chill in the fridge for 30mins.

2nd: Melt 200g of toblerone chocolate and allow to cool slightly.

3rd: In the food processor blend the cream cheese, caster sugar and double cream.  Pour in the cooled, melted chocolate and blend until everything is incorporated thoroughly.  Pour over the biscuit base and chill overnight or for 4 hours.

4th: (optional extra) crush 100g of toblerone chocolate and mix this into the cheesecake mixture.

 

5th: Crush the remaining toblerone and pour over the top of the cheesecake before serving.

 Go on, indulge me.

photo taken from http://www.taste.com.au