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Cover: Loco for cocoa

Desserts

31May 12

Chocolate Triangle Cake

Chocolate Triangle CakeThe Mayans were amazing and sophisticated people. They learnt how to cultivate cocoa trees, and they developed ways of fermenting and roasting the beans so that they could be consumed. At the same time the Roman Empire was peaking, the Mayans were building their huge pyramids.

 

So here’s a recipe inspired by those incredible Mayan Pyramids.  To create the unique shape of this chocolate triangle cake, the mixture is poured and set into a tilted cake tin.  I have used almonds and raisins in this recipe but you can substitute any dried fruit or nuts you like; for example hazelnuts, mixed nuts, dried apricots, de-stoned prunes, dates, or glacé cherries to name a few.

Ingredients:

  • 300g milk chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 100-150g good dark chocolate
  • 170g digestive biscuits, broken into roughly shaped pieces
  • 125g raisins
  • 100ml evaporated milk
  • 100g almonds, roughly chopped
  • 100g white chocolate

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Take an 18cm square cake tin and line the base and 3 upright sides with clingfilm, leaving one side without film.
  2. Pour the evaporated milk into a heavy-bottom pan, add the milk chocolate and on a low heat, gradually melt and stir the mixture together.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool, but not to set.
  3. Stir in the nuts, raisins, and biscuit pieces.
  4. Place the cake tin at a 45 degree angle by propping it up on one side with a box.  It should sit with the unlined side of the tin being the side that is propped up, and therefore raised above the level of work surface. Transfer the cake mixture to the propped up tin, smooth the top surface and leave until it is firm.  At this stage you can put the tin into the fridge to set the cake completely.
  5. Once thoroughly set, remove the cake from the fridge, turn out of the tin and peel off the clingfilm.  If any bits of biscuit sit above the level of the chocolate mixture, you can slice these off so that the cake will sit flat on a serving plate.
  6. Melt the dark chocolate and spread it in a very thin layer over the top sides of the pyramid.
  7. Melt the white chocolate and drizzle in a decorative pattern for presentation.

Time:  20 minutes to prepare plus cooling and setting

Cocoa Treats: 10 servings

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29May 12

Iced Fruit Mountains and Hot Chocolate Snow

Iced Fruit MountainsFor this recipe, I’ve combined two recipe favourites into one – meringue with fruit and cream and iced forest fruits with hot chocolate sauce. My recipe uses white chocolate and contrasts the tartness of the dark berries with the sweetness of the meringue and chocolate cream sauce. It’s great because you take the hot sauce to the table and let your guests pour as much or as little as they like over their fruity meringue mountains. (Also try frozen berries with white chocolate sauce, which is very similar but doesn’t use meringue.)

 

Iced Fruit Mountains and Hot Chocolate Snow is a sumptuous melting pot of a dessert. It looks and tastes heavenly, and makes a great finish to a special meal. It’s also achingly easy. Small fruits definitely work best for this because larger ones (like strawberries or large blackberries) take too long to defrost. If you really want to use larger fruits, you’ll need to defrost them in advance so that they’re not hard and cold in the middle – then they should be perfectly defrosted as the hot sauce pours over them.

Ingredients:

  • 4 small individual meringue nests
  • 400g frozen berries, small raspberries or fruits of the forest
  • 200ml double cream
  • 200g white chocolate

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. 15-30 minutes before you want to serve, place the meringue bases on individual serving dishes or plates, and heap the frozen berries onto them to create little mountains of fruit. Keep at room temperature so the fruit begins to defrost.
  2. Break the chocolate into small pieces, and put in a heatproof bowl.
  3. Pour the cream over the chocolate, and heat this mix over a pan of simmering water for 10-15 minutes until hot and blended.
  4. Pour the hot chocolate cream into a warmed jug and take straight to the table together with the meringue fruit mountains.
  5. Let your guests pour on the melted ‘snow’.

Note:    You can freeze your own selection of fruit throughout the year for this and other desserts by laying fresh berries on a tray in the freezer, freezing until solid, then bagging up. This process stops them from solidifying into large clumps that are difficult to thaw or separate. It also makes it easier for you to extract the berries a bit at a time without damaging their appearance.

Time:   15-20 minutes to prepare

Cocoa Treats:  4 servings

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21May 12

Chocolate Crepes with Hazelnut Liqueur

Chocolate CrepesChocolate Crepes are fun and easy to make with children or for the big kid in you!  You can experiment with different fruit fillings too – try raspberries or strawberries! Crepes Suzette is another fruit option for the orange lovers out there.

Ingredients:

For the crepe batter:

  • 120ml milk
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 ½ tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 5 tbsp plain flour
  • A few drops of vanilla essence
  • 2 tsp hazelnut liqueur

For the chocolate sauce:

  • ½ tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp hazelnut liqueur
  • 2 tbsp icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Make the crepe batter first.  Melt the butter and leave to one side to cool slightly.  Then mix the milk, butter, egg yolk, vanilla essence and hazelnut liqueur together in a medium-sized bowl.  Add the icing sugar, whisking it in until very well mixed.  Gradually add the flour, whisking it together until the crepe mixture is completely smooth. Put the batter to one side.
  2. Next make the chocolate sauce.  Take a saucepan, and add the butter to it, melting it nice and slowly over a low heat.  Stir in the milk and the hazelnut liqueur.  Add the cocoa powder and the icing sugar, combining all the ingredients thoroughly.  Turn the heat down very low to keep the mixture warm as you cook the crepes.
  3. So now it’s time to cook the crepes.  Grease the surface of a non-stick frying pan (or a crepe pan if you have one) with a little butter and place on a medium heat.  Pour in about 60ml of the crepe batter, swirl it into a thin disk and leave on the heat for around 2 mins before flipping it and cooking for a minute on the other side.  Have fun with the flipping too – call the family in to watch this bit!
  4. And to put it all together!  Pop the crepe on a plate and spoon over with the chocolate sauce.  Fold or roll the crepe as you like it, drizzle a little more chocolate sauce over the top, and sprinkle over with a little icing sugar.  Repeat the process until all 4 crepes are cooked, filled and decorated.

Note: These crepes are delicious with slices of chopped banana added too.

Time: 25 mins to prepare, 10 mins to cook

Cocoa Treats: 4

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17May 12

White Chocolate Mousse

White Chocolate MousseTo my palette, there’s nothing much more exquisite than the combination of chocolate and liqueur.  A rich round off to a romantic candlelit meal with someone special, accompanied by a glass of cava or champagneWhite chocolate doesn’t contain any cocoa solids and in truth is masquerading as chocolate, but we adore the divine blend of cocoa butter, milk solids and sugar.  The composition of white chocolate gives it a lower melting point than chocolate made with cocoa solids, and this just serves to accentuate it’s melt-in-the-mouth sensuality. This white chocolate mousse is one of my favourites.  Make it and you’ll find out why.

 

Ingredients:

  • 230g good white chocolate, broken into pieces, and a little grated to decorate
  • 4 tbsp orange liqueur
  • 295ml double cream
  • 2 egg whites
  • 30ml water
  • A few shavings of orange zest to decorate

You will also need an electric whisk.

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Melt the chocolate slowly in a heat-proof container over hot water, mixing in the water and the liqueur, and stirring gently.  When molten and combined, allow the mixture to cool.
  2. Whip the cream in a large bowl with the electric whisk, until the cream is firm and peaking.  Then fold it gently into the melted chocolate.
  3. Clean and dry the whisking blades on your electric whisk, and use them to beat the egg whites in a clean bowl.  Once light, fluffy and aerated, stir the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.
  4. With a spatula, gently tease the mousse mixture out into 6 wine glasses or serving bowls and chill them in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.
  5. Just before presenting the mousse, decorate it with a little grated chocolate or orange zest, and serve it up for the pure pleasure of your company.

Note: Equally as pleasure-inducing are mint, raspberry or coffee liqueurs in place of the orange liqueur.  Have a little experiment with the toppings too!

Time: Less than 30 minutes preparation time, plus a minimum of 1 hour chilling time

Cocoa Treats: 6

If you love this version, also try this rich chocolate mousse.

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12May 12

Chocolate Minty Cheesecake

Minty Chocolate CheesecakeMint and vanilla cheesecake makes for a fantastic flavour combination, but if you like mint chocolate, this dessert is for you. Chocolate Minty Cheesecake has a crunchy biscuit base, topped by a cream cheesecake with chocolate mint crunches in every mouthful. It is great for parties, and children love it.  Best served freestanding as it cuts nicely into wedges. You’ll need a loose bottom or spring-form tin to do the presentation justice.

 

Ingredients for the base:

  • 60g digestive biscuits
  • 120g milk chocolate digestive biscuits
  • 60g butter

Ingredients for the topping:

  • 1 tbsp powdered gelatine (or equivalent in gelatine sheets)
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 225g full fat soft cheese
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 115g mint chocolate crisp wafers or sticks
  • 2 eggs
  • 115ml whipping cream

Preparation Guidelines:

The base:

  1. Grease a deep, loose bottom, or spring-form tin (7 to 8 inches).
  2. Crush the biscuits either in a plastic bag with a rolling pin or in a mixer.
  3. Melt the butter in a pan and stir in the biscuits.
  4. Spoon into the base of the tin, and press down a little with the back of the spoon.
  5. Put to chill in the fridge.

The topping:

  1. While the base sets, sprinkle the gelatine over the water in a small bowl. Melt over a pan of hot water and leave to cool slightly.
  2. Beat the soft cheese together with half the castor sugar in a bowl.
  3. Break up the mint wafers or sticks, reserving a few for decoration, and stir into the cheese mixture.
  4. Separate the eggs and beat the yolks into the cheese mix.
  5. Beat in the cooled gel mixture.
  6. Whip the cream until thick, and fold in.
  7. Leave the mixture until it is on the point of setting (30 mins in fridge).
  8. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, and then beat in the remaining sugar.
  9. Fold the egg white and sugar; mix lightly but thoroughly into the cheese mix.
  10. Spoon into prepared base, tilt gently to level the surface, and chill in the fridge for a further 3-4 hrs.

To Serve:

Turn out of the tin and decorate with remaining mint wafers or sticks.

Note:    If you don’t have a loose bottomed or spring-form tin, use a flat-based glass dish; your dessert will look like a minty version of Eton Mess when you dish up, but it will still taste great.

Time:  30-40 mins to prepare, 3-4 hrs or overnight to set in fridge

Cocoa Treats:  8 servings

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08May 12

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip CookieI love to make these chocolate chip cookies with my niece.  I put on my duck egg blue apron – the one she loves with ice cream and lollipop prints on it – and she puts on the one with zoo animals.  We get covered in flour and plenty ends up on the floor, but that’s all part of the fun.

The best moments are popping the mixture onto the tray, watching together through the oven door (from a safe distance) as the cookies spread, and the crowning moment – eating the cookies together when they are still warm, cosied up together on the sofa with a big glass of milk.

These are the real thing; rich, gooey and melty.  The secret to melt-in-the-mouth cookies is not to overcook them. (Try these yummy chocolate chunk and raspberry cookies.)

Ingredients:

  • 355g flour, unsifted
  • 1tsp salt
  • 1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 225g butter, softened
  • 175g soft brown sugar
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 325g dark chocolate chips, or bar, broken into small pieces

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
  2. Put the flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl and combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, bind together the sugar, butter, brown sugar and the vanilla essence.  Add the eggs and cream them into the mixture, then gradually work in the flour until well mixed.  Finally add the chocolate and stir it in.
  4. Sprinkle a little flour onto your work surface, lift the dough out of the mixing bowl and split it into 2, rolling each piece out into thick sausage shapes each about 6cm in diameter.  Once the shapes are formed, you can store the dough in the fridge wrapped in clingfilm until you want to use it.  This way you can grab a bit of dough each day over a few days to make totally fresh cookies whenever you want to enjoy them.
  5. When you are ready to bake some cookies, take the dough out of the fridge.  (You don’t have to cool the dough; you can bake it straight away after making it).
  6. Cut the dough ‘log’ into 2cm thick slices and space them fairly widely apart on a greased baking tray so that they don’t touch when spreading during cooking.
  7. Pop them in the oven for 9 to 11 mins.

Time: Less than 30 mins preparation time.  9-11 mins cooking time for each batch of cookies

Cocoa Treats: Makes 12 – 20 cookies

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01May 12

Dark Chocolate and Orange Mousse

Dark chocolate and orange mousseThis exquisitely intense dark chocolate and orange mousse is very simple and quick to put together.

But first… a little background story…

Quetzalcoatl and the cultivation of cocoa

We have to thank the ancient Mayan people for their gift of chocolate to the world.  The Aztecs originally gave it to the Spaniards because they mistook them for gods.  Maybe this is because the Spanish wore armour, and their commanders sported helmets with plumes – which would in the eyes of the Aztecs have linked them to the plumed serpent and guardian deity of the precious cocoa plants, Quetzalcoatl.  Legend has it that Quetzalcoatl was the one who revealed the secrets of the cocoa plant to his worshippers.  He showed them how to cultivate the tree and harvest and prepare the beans.  Quetzalcoatl is the father of all dark chocolatedesserts such as this trifle of four chocolates.

So, in honour of the tale, here is a fittingly dark chocolate Mousse.  It really is a pure celebration of taste and flavour.

Ingredients:

  • 150g good dark chocolate, Lindt 70%, or a darker one if you prefer, broken into pieces
  • 100g bar of Lindt Orange Intense chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 150g marshmallows
  • 50g butter, softened
  • 284ml tub of double cream
  • 45ml hot water, from a kettle that has boiled and left to cool a little
  • 3 tbsp Cointreau – optional… if you happen to have it in the house… if not, the recipe is perfectly scrumptious without it, just up the hot water content to 60ml.

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Melt the chocolate, butter and marshmallows together over a gentle heat in a heavy-based saucepan, stirring occasionally.
  2. Whilst the mixture is melting, pour the double cream into a mixing bowl and whip it into a thick consistency.
  3. Once the chocolate mixture is molten and combined, take the pan off the heat and stir in the Cointreau.
  4. Fold the cream gently into the cooling chocolate until smoothly and evenly mixed.
  5. Portion the mousse out into 4-6 serving dishes and either enjoy it straight away, or pop it in the fridge for later, or even the next day – if you can wait that long!
Note: For a nice presentation, try placing orange slices on the bottom of the glass as well as one on top.

Time: 30 minutes preparation time

Cocoa Treats: for 4 – 6 people

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26Apr 12

Chocolate Caterpillar Cake

Chocolate Caterpillar CakeHere’s the cake that I made for my niece’s 2nd birthday party.  First, you make a chocolate Swiss roll or chocolate roulade, or if you’re pressed for time and energy, you could always buy one; I sometimes do. Then decorate it with molten chocolate and smarties.  It’s fun and colourful and children love it!

Ingredients:

For the Swiss roll cake:

  • 75g flour
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 25g dark cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs

For the Swiss roll filling:

  • 100g icing sugar
  • 100g butter
  • 75g milk chocolate, melted

For the caterpillar topping:

  • 300 – 400g milk chocolate for the caterpillar coating, broken into pieces
  • 4 tubes of smarties

You will also need a 23 x 33 cm Swiss roll tin, an electric whisk (ideally) and 2-4 birthday candles.

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.  Grease the Swiss roll tin and line with baking paper.
  2. Beat the sugar and eggs together in a large mixing bowl, until the mixture becomes creamy and thick.  Ideally you should do this with an electric whisk to generate as much air as possible into the mixture.  Sieve the flour and the cocoa powder together into a separate bowl before gradually working into the sugar and egg mixture.  Add 1 tbsp hot water.  Mix this in very gently trying not to disperse the air bubbles you created when whisking.
  3. Pour the cake mixture into the tin, tilting in each direction to ensure that the mixture reaches into all of the corners.  Bake in the oven for around 10-12 mins, until the cake is cooked and springy to the touch.
  4. Sprinkle caster sugar onto a large piece of baking paper, turning the cooked cake out onto it.  Cut away any hard edges, and make a dent along the width of the sponge, 1 cm in.  From this end, carefully roll the sponge up with the paper, curling into the middle.  Leave the cake like this on a cooling rack.
  5. Work the icing sugar into the butter, creaming them together until they are fluffy and light, then beat in the melted chocolate.  Uncurl the sponge, and coat the top surface with the butter icing before rolling it up again.
  6. Melt the topping chocolate in a saucepan, adding 1-2 tsp water, or as necessary to make the chocolate begin to turn very slightly crumbly in consistency.  This is how the spiky, textured effect of the caterpillar is created.  Gradually work the chocolate over the entire surface of the cooled roll, using a spoon and a fork to spread and create the texture.  The cake will be fragile so it is worth taking time to do this bit carefully.  Add the smarties as you go, dotted about across the entire surface, so that they stick to the melted chocolate before it sets.  Create a smiley face shape with the smarties at each end of the roll.  You can use candles to make the antennae.

Time: 1 hour and 20 mins preparation time, including decorating, 10 mins cooking time.

Cocoa Treats: 8 slices

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19Apr 12

Dark Chocolate Ganache

Ganaches

Dark Chocolate Ganache is a sensuous, rich and creamy delight that can be used in meringues, biscuits, cakes, puddings, pancakes (like these oat and buckweat pancakes) or even enjoyed on its own.  You can pour and spread it, warm or cool over cakes and other desserts.  You can also whip cooled ganache to sculpt as icing or filling.  It’s very versatile, so once you know how, you can throw it together at any time to add to many other recipes.

You can also vary the proportions of chocolate and cream, depending on what you’ll be using the ganache for later.  This recipe is half cream and half chocolate, and is therefore very rich.  It is what I call a multi-purpose ganache.  The photograph shows both types of ganache: the molten version for spreading and the cooled version for  whipping, both of which are made from this recipe.                                                                                                                              

Ingredients:

  • 250g good quality chocolate (around 52% cocoa), broken into pieces
  • 250ml double cream

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Pour the cream into a small saucepan and bring the mixture up to the boil on the hob, over a medium to high heat.  As the cream begins to boil – it will very quickly rise over the top of the pan, so you need to watch carefully to catch it at the right moment.
  2. Once you have removed the pan from the heat, add the chocolate pieces.  Let them sit in the cream until they melt and then stir them in with a wooden spoon.  Once completely melted and combined, pour the ganache warm over your chosen pudding, or leave the mixture to cool for later use.  Before you put it in the fridge for cooling, cover the surface directly with a piece of clingfilm to avoid the ganache forming a skin.

Notes:  Take care not to let ganache cool too much as it can become stiff and unworkable.

You can experiment with adding different flavours and liqueurs to your ganache.  Try 2-3 tablespoons of one of these: dark rum, orange liqueur, mint liqueur, coffee liqueur, raspberry liqueur, Disaronno Italian liqueur or hazelnut liqueur or essence.  If you want a sweeter Ganache, add 1-3 tablespoons of sugar to the hot cream.

Time:   5 minutes to prepare, 5 minutes to cook, plus cooling time

Cocoa Treats: 2-3 servings, or 400g to use in other recipes.

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18Apr 12

Fudgy Chocolate Sponge Pudding

Fudgy Chocolate Sponge PuddingFor those still chill evenings in the spring, before the summer comes in, why not delight in making and eating this fudgy chocolate sponge pudding, which you can serve with chocolate custard and ice cream?  These sponge puddings are simple to prepare and very quick to cook for a bit of a posh, midweek pud!

When we were children, we used to go and stay with my granny in the Easter holidays, and she lived by the sea – so you can imagine what fun we had playing in the sand and going to the theme parks! It was an exiting and magical time.  Some days, when we got in from a long day of running and hiding in the sand dunes, she would make this pudding for us after we’d hungrily downed our pesto cod and chips and mushy peas!  So this one’s in honour of precious memories with you, Gran!

Ingredients:

  • 400g caster sugar
  • 400g butter
  • 8 tbsp milk
  • 8 eggs
  • 400g self-raising flour
  • 220g fudge, broken into pieces
  • 220g good dark chocolate, broken into pieces

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter together until light and creamy.
  2. Whisk the eggs well in a separate bowl and then add them gradually to the sugar and butter mix.  Once well combined, add and stir in the flour.
  3. Grease 4 microwaveable ramekins with a touch of butter.  Put a quarter of the fudge and chocolate pieces into the bottom of each pot, and then spoon over the sponge mixture, dividing it equally across the 4 ramekins.  Cook each pot of sponge in the microwave for around 4-5 mins until the sponge is beautifully cooked and the chocolate and fudge have melted.
  4. Depending on you preference, serve directly in the ramekins, or turn the sponge puddings out into shallow bowls so that the chocolate and fudge sit at the top of your presentation.

Time: 20 mins to prepare, 5 mins to cook

Cocoa Treats: 4 servings

Note:    Try serving with warm chocolate custard, or with pouring cream

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