Chocolate heaven desserts
Cakes & bakes
Pastries & puddings
Chocolate treats & drinks
Sauces, icings & frostings
There are few things in the world that evoke such intense emotions as chocolate. Silky, smooth and sensuous, chocolate has been around for centuries. It is thought to have been discovered in Mexico by the Aztec Indians, and then brought to Spain in the 16th century. It is believed that the Aztec Indians first used beans from the cacao tree to make a drink for royal occasions, and that the Spaniards made this bitter drink more palatable by adding cane sugar and spices such as cinnamon and vanilla. By the 17th century, drinking chocolate was fashionable throughout Europe, and by the 19th century chocolate to eat had been developed, and traditional hand-manufacturing methods for making chocolates gave way to mass production.
Today, chocolate has become more popular than ever. Gourmet chocolate boutiques cater for the growing passion for top-quality chocolate. Around the world, consumers are demanding better-sourced and higher-quality ingredients, so Fairtrade chocolate (where the cocoa beans have been sourced direct from farmers at prices that allow the farming communities to thrive and expand) and organic chocolate are both reaching a wider market.
This comprehensive book explains all you need to know about chocolate. It guides the home cook through a range of delicious chocolate recipes, from fabulous home-made cakes, brownies, ice creams, puddings and muffins to spectacular desserts and hand-made chocolates. Some of them will be familiar favourites, while others will provide some new and exciting ways to use chocolate.
As well as providing a wealth of simple-to-follow recipes, and briefly outlining the origins of chocolate, this book explains in simple terms the most common ingredients and methods used when cooking with chocolate – all designed to make the recipes even easier for you to reproduce at home.
WHAT IS CHOCOLATE?
Cocoa beans, from which chocolate is derived, are a product of the cacao tree. This is believed to have originated in the tropical areas of South America, although the exact location is a source of some dispute. A relatively delicate plant, the cacao tree needs protection from wind and a good amount of shade; it usually bears fruit in the fifth year of cultivation in natural conditions. Although there are around 20 different varieties of cacao plant, only three are widely used in the making of chocolate – Forastero, Crillo and Trinitero.
The fruit of the cacao plant, known as ‘pods’, contain between 20 and 50 cream-coloured beans, and it takes around 400 beans to make just 500g/1lb chocolate. The beans are fermented, dried, cleaned and roasted. Then the roasted beans are ground to produce a thick cacao liquor, or cacao mass, and finally pressed to extract the fat, known as cocoa butter.
Cacao liquor and cocoa butter are the essential ingredients of any chocolate product, and the amount included varies from around 25 per cent of the product’s weight up to approximately 80 per cent, occasionally more. Other ingredients, including sugar, vanilla and milk, are added to the chocolate before it goes through the final processing stages. Generally, the sweeter the chocolate, the more sugar has been added and the less cacao liquor and cocoa butter it contains. The darker and more bitter the chocolate, the higher the cacao liquor and cocoa butter content; this is widely considered to be a superior chocolate. However, chocolate preferences vary between individuals, so it is best to experiment with what you have available to see which you prefer.
TYPES OF CHOCOLATE
There are a number of basic categories of chocolate. The first is dark chocolate, sometimes referred to as plain chocolate or couverture. This is designed for both eating and cooking. Look for chocolate with a high cocoa content (usually marked as a percentage on the label). Ideally, the percentage should be somewhere between 70 and 85 per cent, although it is important to remember what you are ultimately using it for. The most readily available chocolate tends to range between 60 and 70 per cent, which renders good results, though higher percentages do exist.
The recipes in this book have all been made from dark chocolate (where specified) with a cocoa butter content of 70 per cent. However, if you want to enjoy the best-quality chocolate straight from the packet, be aware that many people prefer the highest cocoa butter content they can find, which can be up to about 85 per cent. I prefer not to use a chocolate of that percentage for cooking as the result can often be too bitter for a chocolate sauce or cake, which requires a slightly sweeter finish.
Also commonly available is milk chocolate, which generally contains less than 3 per cent cocoa butter, and has sugar, milk powder and vanilla added. Milk chocolate is not as successful in baking and cooking as dark chocolate, but you can happily use it as a substitute in mousses, fillings, drinks and cookies, particularly if they are destined for children, who prefer the less bitter flavour. However, once again, for the tastiest results look for good-quality milk chocolate, as many manufacturers use vegetable oils, artificial flavours, fillers and milk solids in their products. Organic varieties of chocolate make a good choice here.
White chocolate is another widely available product, although it is technically not chocolate at all. This is because white chocolate does not contain cacao liquor, instead being made from cocoa butter, sugar, milk and vanilla. Although not a pure chocolate, white chocolate is still very popular and gives good results in cooking.
Cocoa powder and drinking chocolate are also derived from chocolate. ‘Dutch-processed’ cocoa, where the cocoa is treated with an alkali to give a slightly different flavour and a darker appearance, is considered to give the best taste. Cocoa powder is derived from the pressed cake that remains after most of the cocoa butter has been removed. It may have 10 per cent or more cocoa butter content. Most commercial drinking chocolate (which is designed to be made into a hot or cold drink) is usually made from a mixture of cocoa powder and sugar. Both cocoa powder and drinking chocolate have their uses in cooking, but, as with chocolate, the quality does vary, so experiment with the different brands and buy the best you can afford.
As a rough guide, chocolate will keep for a year if stored in the correct conditions. Store in a cool place – around 20°C (70°F) – and don’t refrigerate it unless the temperature is very hot, as the moist environment of the refrigerator will shorten the life of the chocolate. Chocolate also absorbs the odours of foods stored around it, so be sure to keep it wrapped tightly in plastic film or in a container with a tight-fitting lid.
The white film sometimes found on chocolate that has been stored incorrectly is called a ‘bloom’. This is caused by condensation that has melted the surface sugar on the chocolate, and although it will not taste or look as nice as chocolate in good condition, it can still be used for melting or baking.
Most of the ingredients used for the recipes in this book are widely available and are often very standard, but it is worth noting a few specific points.
Butter – all recipes, unless otherwise stated, use salted butter.
Eggs – large eggs are used in all the recipes. Some recipes contain raw eggs, which carry a slight risk of salmonella, and should therefore be served with care and not be given to small children, pregnant women or the elderly.
Flour – plain flour and self-raising flour are used throughout this book. Plain flour is also known as all-purpose flour. If you do not have any self-raising, and need to make some, simply add 1½ tsp baking powder and ½ tsp salt to every 125g/4¼oz/1 cup plain flour.
Gold leaf – this is an edible product and is most commonly available from specialist cake-decorating suppliers.
Leaf gelatine – this comes in solid sheets that you soak in cold water until they soften. They dissolve easily in very warm liquid. Where necessary, you can substitute powdered gelatine – 10g/¼oz will set around 500ml/17fl oz/2 cups liquid.
Sugar – caster sugar is used predominantly in the baking section of this book because its fine-grained quality gives the best results.
You will not need much specialist equipment when working with chocolate. The recipes in this book use a standard range of kitchen utensils, including loose-bottomed spring-form cake tins and fluted tart tins in a variety of shapes and sizes. However, some items you may not already have do make the process that much easier.
Baking beans – these are ceramic beads that are used to weight a pastry case when baked ‘blind’, that is, without a filling.
Baking paper (sometimes called baking parchment) – this is used for lining tins and baking trays. It is better than greaseproof paper.
Double boiler – this consists of a saucepan fitted with a smaller pan on top. The base pan holds water, which is heated, while the ingredients sit in the top, away from direct contact with the heat. It is useful for heating and melting delicate ingredients such as chocolate and egg custards.
Electric hand mixer – this will enable you to beat and whisk ingredients with the minimum of effort. Alternatively, use a hand whisk or free-standing electric mixer (where applicable).
Food processor – use this to crush biscuits for crumb crusts and to bind cookie dough, among other culinary jobs.
Baking trays and tins – use nonstick bakeware where possible, ideally silicone, which is durable and flexible. Note that cake and flan tins come in various depths, and it is important to use the recommended depth to avoid having too much or too little filling. Choose tins with loose bottoms for ease.
Using a bain marie – this French cookery term refers to a ‘water bath’. You use this method to cook food in the oven very gently (often fragile dishes such as baked custards) and to prevent overcooking. You place the dish in which the food is cooked inside a larger vessel (sometimes with a cloth underneath to protect the base), which you then fill with water to come half way up the dish.
Melting chocolate – chocolate is a delicate product, and can burn easily. It melts best at temperatures between 40°C/104°F and 45°C/113°F. A double boiler is effective (see above), and prevents the chocolate from overheating, but you can also melt chocolate in a single saucepan directly on the stove over a very low heat, as long as you watch it closely and stir it gently. Alternatively, you can use a microwave oven. As the time needed will vary according to the amount of chocolate to be melted and the power of the oven, it’s best to experiment to find out what works best for you. As a guide, use 30-second bursts until the chocolate has melted, stirring gently in between.
Tempering – this is a process involving the heating and cooling of chocolate at specific temperatures, which stabilizes the chocolate and gives it a shiny appearance. It also gives the chocolate a hard texture. Tempering is mainly used by professional chocolate makers, and can be done by hand or by machine. This process is not necessary for the recipes throughout this book.
Chocolate curls, leaves and piped shapes are simple to make and add a special touch to the final product.
Making chocolate curls – a simple way is to sweep a wide-bladed vegetable peeler over a block of chocolate. Keep the chocolate cool, or the curls will lose their shape. A slightly more complicated way is to spread melted chocolate over a marble slab, if you have one, or the back of a large metal baking tray. Leave to cool, and then slide a long-bladed knife along the surface of the chocolate to create a curl. This can take a little practice, but is very rewarding. You can use this technique with dark, milk or white chocolate, or a combination of two or more, which can look quite impressive.
Making chocolate leaves – simply brush melted chocolate on the back of a clean, well-defined leaf and chill. When cold, simply peel off the leaf, leaving a delicate imprint of veins on the chocolate.
Piping chocolate shapes and lines – you can pipe chocolate shapes with a fine nozzle on to baking paper – but don’t make them too delicate, or they will fall apart. Chill, then lift off as required. You can also randomly pipe lines of dark and white chocolate quite densely over baking paper, then set aside to chill, and break off pieces as required. This is a simple and effective method of decorating ice creams, mousses and meringues.
Chocolate crumb crust
PREPARATION TIME 10 minutes COOKING TIME 10 minutes MAKES 1 x 23cm/9in crumb crust
250g/9oz digestive biscuits
2 tbsp cocoa powder
100g/3½oz butter, melted
1 Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F/gas 6.
2 Break up the biscuits roughly with your hands and then pulse them in a food processor (or place them in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin) until they are fine crumbs. Add the cocoa and melted butter, and pulse until the mixture is well combined.
3 Empty the mixture into a greased 23cm/9in spring-form cake tin, press it over the base and up the sides of the tin (according to the recipe), and bake in the hot oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave the crust to cool completely before removing it from the tin.
Creamy thick chocolate custard
PREPARATION TIME 10 minutes COOKING TIME 10 minutes MAKES 750ml/26fl oz/3 cups
375ml/13fl oz/1½ cups milk
375ml/13fl oz/1½ cups double cream
8 egg yolks
150g/5½oz/⅔ cup caster sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 In a small saucepan, heat the milk and cream over a low heat, until just warm. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cocoa together, using a hand whisk, then whisk in the warm milk mixture. Return the mixture to the pan with the vanilla essence, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon. Do not boil.
2 Transfer to a clean bowl and leave to cool completely.
Fresh caramel sauce
PREPARATION TIME 5 minutes COOKING TIME 5 minutes MAKES 500ml/17fl oz/2 cups
125g/4½oz/½ cup plus 2 tsp caster sugar
125g/4½oz butter, chopped
250ml/9fl oz/1 cup double cream
1 In a medium-sized saucepan, stir together the sugar and butter over a low heat until they melt, using a wooden spoon. Continue stirring gently until the mixture becomes a light caramel colour.
2 Remove the pan from the heat and add the cream (taking care not to burn your hand, as the sugar mixture will spatter), then return the pan to the heat and stir until well combined.
3 Pour the sauce into an airtight jar and set aside to cool completely before placing in the refrigerator. It will keep for 2–3 days.
PREPARATION TIME 10 minutes COOKING TIME 5 minutes MAKES 6 large éclairs or 12 profiteroles
2 tsp caster sugar
60g/2¼oz chilled butter, chopped
90g/3¼oz/¾ cup plain flour, sifted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the sugar, butter and 185ml/6fl oz/¾ cup water over a low heat, and stir until the butter has just melted. Remove from the heat and add all the flour to the butter mixture, stirring well with a wooden spoon (the mixture will form a thick dough.)
2 Return the saucepan to the heat and continue stirring for 1 minute, or until the dough comes away from the sides of the saucepan.
3 Remove the saucepan from the heat and beat in the eggs, using an electric hand mixer. For best results, use the dough while still warm.
Sweet shortcrust pastry
PREPARATION TIME 10 minutes, plus chilling COOKING TIME 30–35 minutes MAKES 1 x 23cm/9in pastry case or 4–6 individual pastry cases
250g/9oz/2 cups plain flour, plus extra for rolling out
3 tbsp icing sugar
150g/5½oz chilled butter, chopped
2 egg yolks
1 In a large bowl, combine the flour and icing sugar. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingertips until it forms small crumbs. (Alternatively, do this in a food processor, but work quickly or the pastry will be tough.) Work in the egg yolks and just enough of 2 tbsp iced water to form a dough, using a flat-bladed knife or spatula. Note that the less water you use, the more tender the pastry will be. Wrap the dough in plastic film and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
2 Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface to roughly 5mm/¼in thick, to fit a 23cm/9in fluted loose-bottomed tart tin, 3–4cm/1½in deep. Place the pastry in the tin to form a pastry case, taking care not to stretch it, and trim around the edge.
3 Line the pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beans. Cook in the hot oven for 20–25 minutes, then remove from the oven and gently lift out the paper and beans. Return the tin to the oven for a further 8–10 minutes, or until the pastry is dry and golden brown. (Alternatively, divide the pastry into 4 or 6 pieces and roll each one out to fit a 10cm/4in fluted loose-bottomed tart tin, 3–4cm/1½in deep, and cook for 10–12 minutes, then a further 5–7 minutes.)
variation To make Chocolate Shortcrust Pastry, add 1 tbsp cocoa powder with the flour and cook the pastry until it is dry and dark brown.
This chapter offers a selection of superb desserts that can be made in a flash with the minimum of fuss and effort. From White Chocolate & Raspberry Eton Mess to Chocolate Zabaglione, these simple and easy recipes are a delight to make and are just as impressive as any time-consuming creation.
PREPARATION TIME 10 minutes COOKING TIME 7–8 minutes
8 egg yolks
4 tbsp caster sugar
5 tbsp Marsala wine
100g/3½oz dark chocolate, melted and left to cool
4 sponge-finger biscuits
1 In a large, heatproof bowl, beat together the yolks, sugar and Marsala wine, using an electric hand mixer. Place the bowl over a pan of gently simmering water (making sure that the bowl does not touch the water or the eggs will scramble). Whisk vigorously until the mixture is frothy and just starting to thicken (this will take around 7–8 minutes), using a hand whisk.
2 Remove the bowl from the heat and beat in the melted chocolate, using an electric hand mixer.
3 Using a large spoon, divide the mixture evenly between 4 dishes. Serve immediately, accompanied by the sponge-finger biscuits.
Chocolate & chestnut mess
PREPARATION TIME 10 minutes
300ml/10½fl oz/1¼ cups double cream
6 tbsp tinned, sweetened chestnut purée
125g/4½oz dark chocolate, grated
2 tbsp coffee liqueur
1 tbsp caster sugar
8 crispy-style meringues
1 In a large bowl, whip the cream and chestnut purée until the mixture is just beginning to thicken, using an electric hand mixer. Add 100g/3½oz of the grated chocolate, the liqueur and sugar and whip until the mixture is smooth and holds its shape lightly (taking care not to over-whip).
2 Put the meringues in a plastic bag, crush them lightly with a rolling pin, then empty them into the cream mixture and fold in, using a metal spoon.
3 Spoon the mixture into 4 dishes and sprinkle the remaining grated chocolate over the top.
White chocolate & raspberry Eton mess
PREPARATION TIME 10 minutes
300ml/10fl oz/1¼ cups double cream
1 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp raspberry liqueur
8 crispy-style meringues
100g/3½oz white chocolate, melted and left to cool
125g/4½oz/1 cup raspberries, lightly crushed
1 In a large bowl, whip the cream, sugar and liqueur together until the mixture just forms soft peaks, using an electric hand mixer.
2 Put the meringues in a plastic bag, crush them lightly with a rolling pin, then empty them into the cream mixture and mix together, using a wooden spoon. Fold in the melted chocolate and raspberries.
3 Spoon the mixture into 4 dishes and serve immediately.
Chocolate liqueur fondue
PREPARATION TIME 10 minutes COOKING TIME 5 minutes
300g/10½oz dark chocolate, broken into pieces
200ml/7fl oz/¾ cup double cream
1 tsp instant coffee granules
1 tbsp coffee or hazelnut liqueur
1 tsp vanilla essence
sponge-finger biscuits, for dipping
1 In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the chocolate, cream and coffee together over a low heat until the chocolate has just melted. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in the liqueur and the vanilla essence.
2 Pour the fondue into a fondue bowl or small dish and serve immediately with the sponge-finger biscuits for dipping.
Quick tiramisu with chocolate
PREPARATION TIME 10 minutes
200g/7oz mascarpone cheese, softened
2 egg yolks
100g/3½oz/¾ cup plus 1 tbsp icing sugar, sifted
200ml/7fl oz/1 cup double cream
100g/3½oz dark or plain chocolate, melted and left to cool
6 sponge-finger biscuits
125ml/4fl oz/½ cup strong coffee
4 tbsp Marsala wine
4 tbsp chocolate shavings
1 In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone, egg yolks and icing sugar together, using an electric hand mixer. Blend in the cream and melted chocolate.
2 Break the sponge-finger biscuits up into small pieces and divide them evenly between 4 dishes.
3 In a small jug, combine the coffee and Marsala wine and pour over the sponge mixture, then spoon over the mascarpone mixture. Top with the chocolate shavings before serving.