Feeling the need to eat chocolate!

I don’t know why but I can’t stop thinking about chocolate today, must be feeling the need to indulge I guess. Anyway, I decided to take a look back at some of the chocolate features I have done in the past and came across this rather romantic shoot with a kinda glam/vintage/gold look – a bit kitsch I suppose. Well to be honest, the food is the hero and I know they all tasted fantastic.

Whether you call them churros (Spain) doughnuts (UK) or beignets (France) this deep fried pastries are 100% delicious especially when drizzled with a rich chocolate sauce.

Cinnamon spiced churros with chocolate Grand Marnier sauce

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Serves: 6

250 ml water

120 g butter

180 g plain flour, twice sifted

pinch salt

3 medium eggs (size 3)

75 g caster sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

chocolate Grand Marnier sauce

125 g dark chocolate

100 ml single cream

2 tbsp Grand Marnier

vegetable oil for frying

Heat the water and butter in a saucepan over low heat, stirring until the butter melts. Tip in the flour and salt and beat well with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes away from the pan edges (this will be almost immediate). Leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Using an electric whisk beat the eggs into the dough one at a time until smooth and slightly glossy. Spoon the dough into a piping bag fitted with a 1cm star nozzle.

Heat vegetable oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan to a depth of 7 cm until it reaches 170c/330f on a sugar thermometer (or until a small amount of the dough sizzles as soon as it is dropped into the oil). Carefully pipe approximately 15 cm lengths of the dough straight into the hot oil, using a knife to cut the dough off at the nozzle. Fry 3 at a time for 3 minutes until crisp and golden, turning half way through using metal tongs. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. Keep warm in a moderate oven while cooking the rest.

Combine the sugar and cinnamon on a plate and roll the churros in the mixture until coated.

Meanwhile, heat the chocolate and cream together in a small saucepan over a low heat, stirring, until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat Grand Marnier. Arrange the churros on a platter and serve with the chocolate sauce for dipping.

Chocolate pecan tartlets

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Serves: 6

pastry

200 g plain flour, sifted

1/2 tsp salt

100 g chilled butter, diced

50 g caster sugar

2 egg yolks

2-3 tbsp iced water

filling

100 g dark chocolate

20 g butter

80 g light soft brown sugar

2 medium eggs

100 ml golden syrup

1 tsp vanilla essence

200 g pecan halves

icing sugar, to dust

vanilla ice cream, to serve

Heat the oven to 200c/400f/gas mark 6. Make the pastry. Sift the flour into a bowl and stir in the salt. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the middle and work in the egg yolks and enough water to just bring the dough together.

Gently work the dough into a ball, flatten to a disc and wrap in cling film. Chill the dough for 30 minutes. Divide the dough equally into 6 and roll each one out to an 18 cm disc. Press into 6 x 12 cm tartlet tins.

Prick the bases with a fork and chill for a further 20 minutes.

Line the pastry cases with baking paper and baking beans and bake blind for 12 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and bake for a further 5 minutes or until pastry is crisp and lightly golden. Leave to go cold. Reduce oven temperature to 170c/325f/gas mark 3.

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a small saucepan, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Whisk the eggs, golden syrup and vanilla essence together until smooth and then stir in the chocolate mixture.

Place the pastry cases on a baking tray and divide the nuts between each one. Carefully pour in the filling. Bake the tartlets for 20 minutes or until just firm in the centre, remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 30 minutes. Dust with icing sugar and serve with ice cream.

Triple layer chocolate and Tia Maria mousse

triple chocolate mousse 1

Serves: 8-12

cake base

60 g dark chocolate

2 medium eggs, separated

55 g caster sugar

2 tbsp cocoa powder, sifted

mousse

4 gelatine leaves (200 bloom)

50 ml Tia Maria

300 g dark chocolate

3 medium egg, separated

250 ml double cream

satin glaze

150 g dark chocolate

60 g unsalted butter

90 thickened cream

1 tbsp liquid glucose

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4 and oil and line the base of a 22 cm cake tin baking paper. Make the cake base. Melt the chocolate in a bowl set of a pan of just simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) and stir until melted. Cool for 5 minutes. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together for 3 minutes until thick and glossy and then stir in the egg yolks, cocoa powder and finally the melted chocolate until evenly combined. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Oil and line the base and sides of a deep 20 cm loose bottom cake tin. Press the cooled cake into the base of the tin so it fits as snuggly as possible. Set aside.

Make the mousse. Place the gelatine leaves in a bowl and cover with cold water, leave to soak for 5 minutes until the leaves soften. Squeeze the water from the gelatine and place in a small saucepan with the Tia Maria. Heat very gently, stirring until the gelatine is completely dissolved.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of just simmering water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water) stirring until smooth. Let cool for 5 minutes, then beat in the egg yolks and cream and stir in the gelatine mixture. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until stiff and carefully fold through the chocolate mixture until evenly combined. Pour over the cake base and chill for 4 hours or until firm.

Make the glaze. Place the chocolate, butter, cream and liquid glucose in a small saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until smooth. Cool for 5 minutes and then very carefully pour over the top of the set mousse. Chill for a further 1 hour until set.

Carefully remove the mousse cake from the tin and peel away the paper. Decorate the top with your preferred decorations. To serve use a knife dipped into hot water to help cut smoothly through the three layers.

Divine chocolate cups with salted cocoa nib caramel shards

divine choc cups 1

Serves: 6

Cocoa nib are lightly crushed cocoa beans. They are readily available from larger supermarkets, health food stores or online.

250 ml double cream

1/2 vanilla pod

125 g dark chocolate

2 egg yolks

1 tbsp caster sugar

salted cocoa nib caramel shards

125 g caster sugar

3 tbsp water

2 tbsp cocoa nibs

1 tsp sea salt

Preheat the oven to 140c/275f/gas mark 1 and place 6 x 100 ml cups or ramekin dishes in a baking tin. Place 175 ml of cream in a small saucepan and scrape in the seeds from the vanilla pod. Heat gently until the cream just starts to simmer, but do not allow the mixture to boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for 20 minutes.

Melt the remaining cream and chocolate together in a bowl set over a pan of just simmering water (do not let the bowl touch the water) stirring until smooth. Beat the egg yolks and sugar together and stir in the chocolate cream and vanilla cream until combined.

Divide the mixture between the cups and pour in enough boiling water to come half way up the sides. Transfer to the oven and bake for about 30-35 minutes until they are just firm in the middle. Cool and then refrigerate over night.

Make the caramel about 30 minutes before serving. Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat very gently without stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook for about 5 minutes until the liquid turns a golden caramel colour.

Meanwhile, place a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray and have the cocoa nibs and sea salt to hand. As soon as the caramel is ready pour onto the prepared paper and allow it to form a thin pool. Immediately scatter over the coco nibs and sea salt and set aside to cool and set. Break the toffee into shards and serve a few shards on top of each chocolate cup.

Molten chocolate and dulce de leche puddings

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Serves: 4

100 g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

100g dark chocolate

2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks

1 tsp vanilla essence

125 g caster sugar

100 g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

4 tsp salted caramel sauce

cocoa powder, to dust

double cream, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4. Line the bases and brush the insides of 4 x 150 ml metal dariole molds with melted butter and chill for 10 minutes. Arrange the molds on a baking tin.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and chocolate together in a saucepan, stirring until melted. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Beat the eggs, egg yolks, vanilla essence and sugar in a bowl, using an electric whisk, for 3-4 minutes until thick and fluffy. Sift over the flour and carefully fold in along with the chocolate mixture until smooth.

Spoon half the mix into the prepared molds, add 1 teaspoon of salted caramel sauce to the middle of each one and cover with the remaining chocolate mixture to about 5 mm from the top. Bake for 15 minutes until the tops are set and slightly cracked. Remove from the oven but let cool in the tins for 5 minutes.

Invert the puddings onto serving plates tapping the bases lightly if necessary. Remove the paper from the bases. Dust with cocoa powder and serve immediately with cream.


 

 

 


Recipe of the week……….cheesecake

Baked cheesecake with Pedro Ximemez and dried fruit compote

Pedro Ximenez is a Spanish white grape variety. It is used to make the most intensely flavoured, thick, sweet sherry. It pairs beautifully with chocolate and coffee as well as dried fruits and vanilla. Here it adds a festive flavour to a baked cheesecake. Enjoy with an extra glass of this delicious sherry on the side.

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Serves: 8

150 g digestive biscuits, crushed

50 g ameretti bsicuits, crushed

75 g unsalted butter, melted

500 g ricotta cheese

300 ml sour cream

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

150 g caster sugar

grated zest and juice 1 lemon

fruit compote

125 ml Pedro Ximenez, plus extra to serve

2 tbs clear honey

75 g large golden raisins

50 g dried figs, thinly sliced

50 g dried cranberries

1 vanilla pod, split

spray oil, for greasing

Preheat the oven to 150c/fan forced 130c and grease and line the base and sides of a 22cm spring form cake tin with baking paper.

Mix together the crushed digestives, ameretti biscuits and melted butter until evenly combined. Spoon into the base of the prepared tin. Using the back of the spoon smooth the biscuit mixture until flat and well compressed. Chill whilst preparing the filling.

Place ricotta, sour cream, eggs, sugar, lemon zest and juice in a food processor and blend until really smooth. Pour over the biscuit base and bake for 1 hour until just set in the middle (it will puff up around the edges this is fine). Turn the oven off but leave the cheesecake inside with the door ajar until cool. Transfer to the fridge and chill for several hours.

Make the compote. Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan and stir gently until just boiling, simmer gently for 1 minute and then remove from the heat. Leave to cool. Carefully unmould the cheesecake from the tin, cut into wedges and serve topped with the compote and a glass of Pedro Ximenez.

Tip: If making a day ahead, return the cheesecake to room temperature for 1 hour before serving, this will allow the filling to soften to the perfect texture.


Recipe of the week…………….Ginger Cake

Sticky Ginger Cake with Figs and Caramel Sauce

sticky gingercake

Serves 12

This is a dark, sticky and totally delicious cake, topped with grilled figs and dulce de leche sauce.

250g unsalted butter, softened

225g caster sugar

125g soft brown sugar

3 eggs

75ml (110g) golden syrup

300g plain flour

11/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tbsp ground ginger

150ml hot water

4 figs

150g dulce de leche

Preheat the oven to 160c/325f/gas mark 3 and line a 22cm round cake tin with baking paper. Using a food mixer, beat the butter, caster sugar and 100g of the soft brown sugar together until pale and creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat the eggs in one a time until smooth and then beat in the golden syrup.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and using a large spoon fold in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and hot water until the mixture is smooth. Transfer to the prepared tin, smooth the surface and bake for 11/4 hours or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cover the top of the cake with foil if it starts to burn.

Remove the cake from the oven and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, turning upside down and leave to cool.

Just before serving, cut the figs in quarters and sprinkle with the remaining  soft brown sugar. Place cut side up under a hot grill for about 1 minute until they start to blister. Warm the dulce de leche in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water until it softens and is pourable.

Serve the cake in wedges topped with the figs and drizzle over the caramel sauce.

 

© Food & Travel magazine. First published November 2016. Recipe Louise Pickford. Photo Ian Wallace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Seasonal delights………..Rhubarb

Next on my seasonal hit list is rhubarb, actually a vegetable that we treat like a fruit (the opposite of the tomato, the fruit we tend to use as a vegetable) and a part of the sorrel family, hence perhaps the sharpness of it’s stem. It is this long red/green stems that we cook down to a deliciously tart sauce, that once sweetened can be added to cream and yogurt for a fruit fool or diced and roasted in the oven with cinnamon, sugar and a hint of orange. My favourite way to cook with rhubarb though is in a crumble, and here it is combined with a simple sponge cake, strawberries and almonds to provide the most satisfying combination of dishes.

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Rhubarb, strawberry and almond crumble cake

Serves: 10

125g softened butter

125g caster sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

125g self-raising flour

500g trimmed rhubarb, sliced into 2 cm peices

150g strawberries, hulled and halved

crumble topping

150g plain flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

100g chilled butter, diced

100g caster sugar

25g porridge oats

100g nibbed or flaked almonds

icing sugar, to dust

crème fraiche or Greek yogurt, to serve

Preheat the oven to 180c/160c fan-forced and grease and line a 22cm cake tin with baking paper. Start by making the crumble. Sift the flour and cinnamon into a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture forms crumbs. Stir the in the sugar, oats and almonds and set to one side.

Make the sponge. Place the butter, sugar, eggs and flour into a food mixer or processor and blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Spoon the sponge mix into the prepared cake tin and smooth flat.

Scatter the rhubarb and the strawberries over the sponge mix and then cover with the crumble mixture so you can still see a little of the fruit. Bake for 11/4 hours or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Serve still slightly warm, dusted with icing sugar, and some crème fraiche or Greek yogurt.

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