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

molten chocolate pudding 1

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.


 

 

 

Cakes and Bakes – fabulous tea time treats

Classic Tarte Tatin

Serves 8

100 g brown sugar

4 tbsp water

250 g puff pastry

75 g butter, diced

1.5 kg russet or other eating apples, peeled, quartered and cored

creme fraiche, to serve

Pre-heat the oven to 200 c/fan-forced 180 c. Make the caramel. Place the sugar and water in an oven-proof frying pan and heat gently over a low heat to dissolve the sugar, increase the heat and boil for 2-3 minutes until the sauce turns golden. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted. Arrange the apples cut side up in the pan fitting them in snuggly. Return the pan to the heat and cook over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes until the apples are beginning to brown on the undersides. Check undersides by carefully lifting the apples with a palette knife.

Meanwhile, roll out the pastry to a circle just slightly larger than the pan. When the apples are ready, remove the pan from the heat and place the pastry over the apples, pressing down into the sides of the pan. Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 5 minutes.Invert the pie onto a large plate and serve warm with some creme fraiche.

Photography by Ian Wallace
Photography by Ian Wallace

Strawberry and goat cheese tartlets

Serves: 8

250 g sweet shortcrust pastry, thawed if frozen

1 egg yolk

35 g caster sugar

125 g firm ricotta cheese

125 g soft goat cheese strawberries

500 g strawberries, hulled and halved

75 g caster sugar vanilla pod, split

Preheat oven to 200°c/fan-forced 180c. Line a roasting tin with baking paper. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface until 2 mm thick. Using a 12 cm pastry cutter, stamp out 6 rounds (rerolling as necessary). Use to line 6 x 10 cm fluted flan tins, trimming away the excess and prick the bases with a fork. Chill for 20 minutes. Line pastry cases with baking paper and baking beans and bake for 10 minutes or until edges are light golden. Remove the baking paper and beans and bake for a further 2-3 minutes or until golden and crisp. Set aside to cool.

Prepare the strawberries. Place the strawberries, sugar and vanilla pod in the prepared tin. Transfer to oven and bake for 15 minutes or until softened and juicy. Remove from the oven and leave to go cold. Make the filling. Place the egg yolk, sugar and ricotta in a food processor and blend until really smooth. Add the goat cheese and blend again briefly until smooth. Divide the mixture between the tart cases and serve topped with the roasted strawberries.

Photography Ian Wallace
Photography Ian Wallace

Pistachio honey and rosewater cake

Serves: 8

125 g caster sugar

4 eggs, separated

3 lemons

125 ml Greek yogurt, plus extra to serve

50 g dried breadcrumbs

150 g ground pistachio nuts

100 ml clear honey

2 tbsp rosewater

Pre-heat the oven to 180c/fan-forced 160c. Grease and line a 20 cm round cake tin. Beat the sugar, egg yolks and the grated rind of 1 of the lemons together until pale and creamy. Stir in the yogurt and fold in the breadcrumbs and 125 g of the pistachio nuts, reserving the rest for decoration. Whisk the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff and fold into the cake mixture. Transfer to the prepared tin and bake for 30-35 minutes, until risen and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven, cool in the tin for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile make the syrup: peel the remaining lemons and cut the rind into very thin strips. Squeeze the juice into a small pan and add the honey. Bring to the boil, add shredded rind, and simmer for 1 minute. Cool slightly and stir in the rosewater. Place the warm cake on a serving plate, prick all over with a skewer, pour over the syrup and leave until cold. Sprinkle the cake with the reserved pistachio nuts and rose petals (if using) and serve with some extra yogurt.

Plumb and almond tart
Photography by Ian Wallace

Plum and almond tart

Serves: 8

250 g sweet shortcrust pastry

2 tbsp raspberry jam

125 g unsalted butter, softened

125 g caster sugar

125 g ground almonds

3 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla essence
4 plums, halved, stoned and cut into thick slices

maple syrup ice cream

750ml double cream

1 vanilla pod, split

5 egg yolks

125 ml maple syrup icing sugar, to dust

Firstly make the ice cream. Heat the cream and vanilla pod in a small pan until it just reaches boiling point. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes. Remove the vanilla pod and scrape the seeds into the cream. Whisk the egg yolks and maple syrup together and then beat in the cream. Heat gently, stirring until the cream thickens to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Allow to cool and then churn in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions until frozen*

Preheat the oven to 190c/fan-forced 170 c. Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to form a 25 cm round and use to line a 23 cm fluted flan tin. Trim off excess pastry and prick the base. Chill for 20 minutes. Line the pastry with baking paper and baking beans and bake for 12 minutes. Remove paper and beans and bake for a further 5-6 minutes until the pastry is crisp and lightly golden. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Using electric beaters, beat the butter, sugar, and ground almonds in a bowl until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until combined. Spread the pastry case with the jam and top with the almond mixture. Gently press the plum slices into the almond mixture and bake for 30-35 minutes until the filling is golden and firm. Remove from oven and leave to cool. Dust with icing sugar and serve in wedges with the ice cream.

Photography by Ian Wallace
Photography by Ian Wallace

Walnut cake with honey cream

Serves: 8

The cake can be made up to a day ahead. Store in an airtight container. Make the honey cream just before serving.

6 eggs, separated

225 g caster sugar

4 tbsp clear honey

250 g walnuts, ground

300 ml thickened cream

4 fresh figs, quartered

 icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 180 c/fan-forced 160c c. Grease and line a 23 cm round spring form cake tin. Put the egg yolks in a large bowl, add 150 g of the sugar and 2 tablespoons of the honey and whisk together until pale. Stir in the walnuts. Whisk the egg whites separately in a clean bowl until soft peaks form and then gradually whisk in the remaining sugar. Stir a large spoonful into the cake mix to loosen, fold in the rest until evenly incorporated and spoon into the prepared tin. Bake for 30-35 minutes until risen and springy to the touch.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes then run a palette knife around the edge of the cake to loosen from the sides and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Whisk the cream and remaining honey together until thickened. Cut the cake into wedges, dust with icing sugar and serve with the honey cream and figs.