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Cover: Loco for cocoa

Recipes with chocolate

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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06Apr 12

Chocolate Easter Nest Torte Part 2

Chocolate Easter Nest Torte 

 

Here’s the 2nd part of the Chocolate Eater Nest Torte recipe which covers instructions on making the moussey torte topping, and the pretty nest-style decoration for the top of the cake.  There’s a lot of work involved overall, but it’s fun, and the result is truly worth it!

Ingredients:

For the torte topping

  • 2 tbsp cold water
  • 2 tbsp powdered gelatine
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 200g good dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml whipping cream

For the decoration

  • 150g good milk chocolate, roughly sliced
  • 1-2 packs of mini chocolate eggs

Preparation Guidelines:

For the torte topping:

  1. Dissolve the gelatine in the water and leave to soften.  Meanwhile, beat the egg yolks in a clean bowl, and mix together with the sugar, cornflour and a splash of milk.  Make a custard by heating the remaining milk in a saucepan, bringing it just to the boil, then whisking it in well to the egg yolk mixture, returning it to the saucepan and cooking it gently until thickened, stirring constantly and not overheating.  Remove the custard from the heat and stir in the gelatine, dissolving it. Add the chocolate and let sit until melted in, and then stir well.  Transfer the mix to a bowl, cut and lay a piece of greaseproof paper over the surface to prevent a skin, leave to cool until just starting to thicken, and remove the paper.
  2. Whip the cream firm and work into the chocolate mix.  Spoon the mixture on top of the chocolate sponge (part 1), inside the chocolate casing (part 1), levelling the surface, then chill in the fridge for 1-2 hrs until set.  You can then remove the paper strip from around the chocolate casing.

For the decoration:

3. Roughly slice the milk chocolate into long, thin shards.  Scatter them gently in a nest shape on top of the torte and fill the nest with the mini eggs.

Time: 2 hrs plus cooling and chilling time for the whole cake making process, including part 1

Cocoa Treats: 12 servings

Note: For more spring cake ideas, try this Easter cake with orange and marzipan.

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02Apr 12

Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate PuddingThis is the kind of pudding that takes me back to childhood. Those midweek nights of fish fingers and beans, when Mum filled the house with the wonderful smell of chocolate baking in the oven.  She’d put the dish on the table on a big wicker mat and ladle out this chocolate pudding into our eagerly clutched bowls, as long as we’d polished off the whole of our first course…. of course!

 

We loved eating it hot with a dollop of choc chip ice cream. (Check out the recipe on my blog for this ice cream, as well as another chocolate pudding option chocolate fondant with cherries and vanilla anglaise.) This recipe serves 2-3 people, so just double up the quantities if you have a bigger family, or if you have friends coming round.

Ingredients:

  • 150ml milk
  • 125g good dark chocolate, broken into pieces
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 75g light muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 12g cocoa powder
  • 12g self-raising flour
  • Dusting of cocoa powder

Preparation Guidelines:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Gently warm the chocolate and the milk together in a saucepan until the chocolate melts completely.  Remove from the heat and stir together until smooth and cohesive.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar into the butter until light and creamy.  Mix in the separated egg yolk, cocoa powder and flour.  Then gradually add the chocolate and milk mixture until evenly combined.
  4. Whisk the egg white in a clean bowl until it is stiff before spooning and mixing it into the chocolate mixture.
  5. Spoon the mixture into a 1L capacity oven-proof dish and set the dish inside a roasting tin.  Boil a kettle of water and pour 2cm water into the roasting tin all around the chocolate dish.
  6. Bake in the oven for around 30 mins, until the top of the mixture has crusted but the mixture underneath remains a little soft. Dust with cocoa powder and serve with whipped cream.

Time:   20 mins to prepare, 40 mins to cook

Cocoa Treats: 2-3 servings

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29Mar 12

Grandma’s Chocolate Tiffin

Grandma's TiffinThe word ‘tiffin’ is a 19th century word inherited from the colonial days of the Raj. It’s a loosely Indian term meaning a light snack or lunch, or referring to any light meal. It also has some relation to an old English term, ‘tiffing’, which meant ‘to take a sip’. Tiffin as we now know it today, came about when with the typical light British ‘afternoon tea’, merged with the Indian custom of taking a slightly more filling snack between meals. In some parts of India and Nepal it still means an in-between-meals snack. In Mumbai it means a packed lunch, and there are even dedicated people (sometimes called ‘tiffin wallahs’) whose job it is to deliver tiffin in boxes to workers and schoolchildren during the day.

My favourite kind of tiffin is my Grandma’s recipe – a rich, chocolate, biscuit and fruit crunch.  Grandma’s Chocolate Tiffin is one of those comfort foods that take me back to all those ‘feel-good’, happy childhood memories that I never want to lose. It’s great fun to make with, and for, children, and it’s so simple.

Ingredients:

  • 115g butter or margarine
  • 60g sugar
  • 60g golden syrup
  • 60g shredded or desiccated coconut
  • 60g raisins
  • 60g of white chocolate broken into small pieces
  • 20g drinking chocolate or cocoa powder
  • 150g good quality milk chocolate (or dark chocolate if you prefer)
  • 225g rich tea biscuits

Preparation Guidelines

  1. Grease a shallow tin (medium sized, 8” x 10” approx).
  2. Break biscuits into small pieces.
  3. Melt the butter or margarine in a saucepan with the sugar and syrup.
  4. Add the drinking chocolate, coconut and raisins. NB – you could substitute chopped walnuts or other nuts for the coconut if you prefer, or leave out altogether. It’s just the same with the raisins if you find them too sweet.  Whatever you choose, it will be de-licious – the chocolate will make sure of that – so play around!
  5. Bring just to the boil then remove from heat and stir in the biscuit pieces and white chocolate.
  6. Spread the mix in the shallow pre-greased tin and leave to cool.
  7. Melt the chocolate in a separate bowl. NB – it’s best to melt the chocolate either in a bowl over a pan of hot water, or in a small microwave-proof bowl in the microwave for a just few seconds; it melts very quickly so keep a close eye on it.
  8. Spread the melted chocolate over the biscuit mix and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  9. Cut when cold.

Time:    15-20 mins

Cocoa Treats:    around 20 pieces

 

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