Here’s a secret special offer you might like. Quote ‘Secret Chocolate Offer’ when you subscribe to The Taster and, with your first issue, we’ll send you a free back issue of our 2014 Chocolate edition containing chocolate tasting notes, a chocolatier’s tale, and a wonderful recipe for Chocolate Délice donated by Chef Molteni of award-winning restaurant, TOZI. All very naughty and forbidden. All very nice. Copies supplied in an unmarked plain brown envelope.
Chocolate comes in two cookable forms: bars and cocoa powder. A cooking bar must be at least 60% cocoa. It makes no difference whether it is labelled bitter, dark, plain, luxury, patissier’s or cooking. Lots of chocolate companies now show plainly on the label if their product is Fairtrade; rumours of child labour and slavery in the chocolate industry still abound, so do consider switching to Fairtrade if you haven’t already. As with fruit & veg, choose flawless, glossy specimens.
The first step, if you have solid chocolate, is generally to melt it. Place it in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. To do this properly, take a wooden spoon or spatula, and stir, stir, stir – you can actually feel little granules breaking down as you do so – this will make the chocolate silky smooth (in the chocolate industry the process is called tempering – ie making the chocolate suitable for enrobing things eg cherries, strawberries, nuts, praline, ganache etc. (You can get as creative as you like – try enrobing dried slices of banana or chunks of apricot or mango, popcorn, marshmallow, coffee beans, whatever you like)
Emergency Easter Cakes
Run out of the house, buy plain chocolate, Shredded Wheat and candy-coated miniature eggs. Melt the chocolate as above, then mix with strands of Shredded Wheat and place in paper cases with the eggs as shown.
Pour melted chocolate over ice cream or sorbet to form a crisp shell
Mix double cream into melted chocolate. This will keep it more liquid than if you leave it as pure chocolate. It is particularly good poured over stewed pears, and of course all pancakes, cakes or puddings. Extra things you can add to the chocolate while it’s melting include:
Φ Ginger (powder; or fresh slices – remember to take them out at the end)
Φ Chilli flakes, to taste
Φ Grated lime or orange zest
Φ Vanilla essence
Φ Allspice and/or cloves (Christmassy – again, remove the cloves at the end)
Chocolate Nut Sundae
Pour an unadorned chocolate sauce onto vanilla icecream and scatter with chopped hazelnuts. Don’t stint on the sauce; the last few spoonfuls should consist of chocolate-drenched nuts only. Eat in a bowl in front of the telly — or, if you serve it in posh glasses at a dinner party/kitchen supper/wedding reception, people will think you delightfully fun and creative yet down-to-earth — everyone loves chocolate nut sundae
I never met a chocolate I didn’t like — Counsellor Deanna Troi (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Easy! Melt dark chocolate and mix it with cream to form a ganache, along with orange zest and a little orange juice. Form into bite-size spheres and roll them in cocoa powder. For celebrations, buy some edible gold sheet and use tweezers to press shreds of gold over the surface of the truffles
Many cake recipes won’t suffer unduly if you replace a few spoonfuls of flour with cocoa powder, and maybe a few drops of chocolate essence. Search online for beetroot chocolate cake — a recent fashion — the sweet beetroot adds depth and a beautiful dark colour. At least, that’s what some people say; Niki Segnit (The Flavour Thesaurus, Bloomsbury) thinks it makes the entire confection taste of earth. If you want to have a crack at it, the experts at LoveBeetroot claim to have the ultimate recipe here:
Think of chocolate croissants and be bold. Bake whole chocolate chunks into sourdough bread. Or just stuff some squares of chocolate into a soft white finger roll (right) — it doesn’t have to be complicated
People always seem so impressed by soufflé, but it’s really not that difficult — so long as you can whisk up an egg white, the way is clear. Below is a piece of real food porn, by Debra and Rod Smith. Actual porn. Play it and tell us we’re wrong (link to the full recipe HERE).
For a taste of South America. This savoury sauce can be highly piquant, loaded with chilli, or sweet and sour. It is good with strong meats such as venison or game, but milder versions also go with poultry — try David Lebovitz’s recipe HERE
Liven up chocolate ice cream by crumbling in ginger, cinnamon, or pretty much any Italian biscuits
The simplest recipe is four parts vodka to one part crème de cacao. Strain through icecubes (or ice it by whatever method you prefer) and serve — obviously — in the proper glass. For more complex drinks, pair crème de cacao or chocolate liqueur with obvious flavour matches: coffee (Kahlua or Baileys), mint (crème de Menthe), orange (Cointreau), toast (dark rum), vanilla, nuts or berries, especially raspberry (flavoured Schnapps or vodka cover most bases)
Every now and then, I’ll run into someone who claims not to like chocolate. While we live in a country where everyone has the right to eat what they want, I want to say for the record that I don’t trust these people; that I think something is wrong with them; and that they’re probably — and this must be said — total duds in bed. — Steve Almond
A BRIEF HISTORY
Chocolate has always enjoyed a special place in cultures lucky enough to obtain a supply. Cocoa-drinking Aztecs believed it was the greatest gift a god had ever given mankind; chocolate-deprived Ancient Greeks had to make do with fire. Some people think the Aztecs got it right. (Incidentally, both beneficent gods — Quetzalcoatl and Prometheus — were banished for giving away such heavenly prizes.)
For three millennia, ‘chocolate’ existed in liquid form only, originally drunk by the Olmecs and Mayans of South America (the world’s first chocoholics). The Aztecs’ favourite drink contained ingredients we might balk at today — chillies, cornmeal and mushrooms, among others — so it may not be surprising that its name, xocalati, literally meant ‘bitter water.’
In the 1500s, Spanish sailors brought cocoa to Spain and hit on the trick of transforming it with sugar. Spain kept the good news to itself, however. It took the engagement gift of a princess to launch chocolate across Europe: in 1643, Princess Maria Theresa of Spain gave her intended — Louis XIV of France, the Sun King and darling of the age — a chest of cocoa beans. France promptly descended into cocoa-mania, helped by amorous French courtiers extolling its aphrodisiac powers.
Within a dozen years, London coffee-houses were serving hot chocolate spiced with, for example, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla. It was one such house (not a French pâtisserie) that first baked chocolate into cakes and rolls. Eventually, chocolate-houses set up to rival the coffee-houses.
Thus far, chocolate had been an elite treat. But from around 1730, prices began falling, helped by the advent of the steam engine, chocolate-making machinery and spreading cocoa plantations.
Solid chocolate made its first appearance, in Italy, around 1800. J.S. Fry & Sons put the first British chocolate bar on sale, at a price cheap enough for mass consumption, in 1847. The Cadbury brothers arrived on the scene two years later.
Since then, chocolate has only ever increased in popularity. Notably, UK chocolate sales doubled in 2005-07, partly due to a new demand for high-quality dark or plain chocolate. Today, the average Brit eats the equivalent of three chocolate bars a week. As with many other foods, ethical production is increasingly an issue. The Taster as ever supports Fairtrade & organic; click on WorldCocoaFoundation to learn more.
And to return to our historic theme, it’s worth pondering on the link between the foil-wrapped chocolate coins we enjoy at Christmas, and the cocoa beans once used by the Aztecs as currency. Chocolate has always meant riches.
AND FINALLY . . . What chocoholics hope to discover in Space:
The Taster hopes this has provided some inspiration as to how to use your chocolate. Although, as another famous quote points out, There are no recipes for leftover chocolate (Anonymous). For more ingredients, go back to our COOK page
There is nothing better than a friend. Unless it is a friend with chocolate — Charles Dickens