Posts Tagged ‘Chocolate’

The World’s Best Hotel

September 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Hotel Chocolat, let me count the ways in which I love thee…

Well, firstly, there’s my Chocolate Tasting Club solid selection box which arrives through my door every month, and I’m, along with the OH, steadily working my way through the latest package of goodies which arrived last week.

Secondly, there’s your amazing quality chocolates, including your high cocoa percentage milks and your seriously tasty darks.

Thirdly, there’s your Rocky Road mini slab. Enough said.

And you’re kind of ethical too. Well done.

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Nigella’s Hot Chocolate Sauce

September 18, 2009 1 comment

Having a quick and easy chocolate sauce in your repertoire is really useful for all manner of things. Hot fudge sundaes, of course, tarting up shop bought ice cream, a fabulous dip for fresh fruit, or for pouring over a hot chocolate pudding, in place of, or better still in addition to, ice cream or cream. And, of course, for this.

This is my standby chocolate sauce of choice, from Nigella Express. Firstly, don’t be alarmed by the addition of Camp coffee (a thick syrup of coffee, sugar and chicory used to make a no-doubt vile instant coffee drink, but extremely useful in cooking) or strong espresso, this doesn’t make it a coffee-chocolate sauce, but adds a real depth of flavour and richness to the sauce. The golden syrup, meanwhile, makes everything glossy and shiny, and who could argue with that?

Nigella’s Hot Chocolate Sauce (likely enough to generously pour over 4 puddings, at least)

  • 75g dark chocolate (70%)
  • 125ml double cream
  • 2 tablespoons Camp coffee, or 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup

Break up the chocolate into a heavy based saucepan, and add the cream, coffee and syrup. Melt slowly over a low heat, stirring, until everything is melted and combined. Pour into a jug or other suitable vessel from which to pour over your pudding.

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Baked Chocolate Orange Cheesecake

September 15, 2009 2 comments

Chocolate Orange Cheesecake

Chocolate and orange is one of those combinations people either seem to love or hate. This may well serve to convert them. The orange flavour is subtle, but enough, and the cake rich, but just right. And this comes to you, from me, via way of a few detours.

I wanted to make a chocolate orange cheesecake because I had flicked through the Philadelphia (as in the brand of soft cream cheese) Cookbook, and seen one there, but was taken by the idea only. There was no real chocolate, which I knew I wanted (needed?), and their method seemed a bit of a faff. I had an idea of how to make a baked cheesecake, and what to put in, so next I turned to (of course) Nigella, (Feast, to be exact), to get an idea of the proportions for the ingredients to make sure I ended up with cheesecake rather than a cheesy custard sat atop a burnt biscuit. That done, I fiddled with ingredients and amounts some more, dispensed with the idea of a waterbath, and here is my final version.

Do allow this the time it needs to chill. I, being both too greedy and too impatient for my own good, didn’t, for the first slice at least, and although it was good slightly warm, it was a little more moist-mousse-pudding-cheese-cake, only reaching its desired baked cheesecake taste and texture once fully cold.  

Baked Chocolate Orange Cheesecake (10-12 slices maybe?)

For the base:

  • 200g (dark) chocolate digestive biscuits
  • 75g butter

For the filling:

  • 150g good dark chocolate (70%)
  • 500g soft cream cheese (e.g. Philadelphia)
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks (freeze the whites!)
  • 150ml double cream
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder, dissolved in two tablespoons hot water
  • zest of 1 orange, juice of half an orange

Preheat the oven to 160°C.

To make the base, bash the biscuits the fine crumbs. My trusty mini-chopper did this for me. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat, and stir in the biscuit crumbs, until you have a damp, clinging mixture. (If you were processing the biscuits to make the crumbs, you could pour the melted butter down the funnel of the machine, continuing to mix until you get the desired result.) Tip into a 23cm springform tin, shake to spread and then firm into an even-as-you-can base by pressing it with your fingers. Whack into the freezer to set a little while you make the filling.

Melt the chocolate, either in a bowl over simmering water, or very carefully in the microwave, watching and regularly stirring. Put it to one side to cool a little.

I did the majority of this next part with a handheld electric mixer, although there’s no reason you couldn’t do it by hand. Beat the cream cheese until it’s really soft. Tip in the sugar and cornflour, and beat some more to combine. Add the eggs and then the yolks one at a time, (or if like me, they’re all cracked in a bowl together, pour them in a bit at a time), continuing to beat. In another bowl, whisk the cream until it forms peaks, then quickly beat this into the cream cheese mixture too. Add the cocoa solution, the melted chocolate, and the orange zest and juice, and give everything a final beating, until you have a smooth batter. It will be quite runny, don’t worry.

I wrapped 2 sheets of foil round the outside of my tin, so that it had a protective wall that rose about 5cm above the top of the tin.

Whole Choc Orange Cheesecake

This was for two reasons – to give the cheesecake a little protection from the heat, so the top didn’t burn or dry out too much, as my oven is fan-assisted, and fairly vigorous at that, and also as my tin is a bit old and I didn’t want it to leak.

Pour the filling over the biscuit base, and cook in the oven for an hour, checking after 45 minutes. The top should be firm, but feel like it is a little wobbly below. And it will fall a little, so don’t be surprised! I let mine cool in the oven for the first half hour or so, then removed to a wire rack. When it’s completely cold, chill for at least two hours before serving.

Chocolate Cheesecake Pots

August 27, 2009 1 comment

Chocolate Cheesecake Pots

This recipe started as a way of using up some leftovers – I had half a tub of mascarpone and half a pot of double cream left in the fridge from some other meals I’d made, and wanted to make sure they got used, and, with a few bits and pieces added, cheesecake seemed the obvious answer.

Using up leftovers is, as we are increasingly reminded, important in two respects. Firstly, it saves money, clearly, buying food and then throwing it away is not fiscally prudent, and secondly, throwing away food is bad for the environment. When I talk about leftovers, I guess there are two meanings – food you’ve cooked too much of, and, like here, leftover ingredients where perhaps you didn’t need a whole tub of mascarpone for the recipe you had bought it for. Perhaps food you have cooked too much of is easier to deal with – you’ve roasted a chicken, it’s not all been eaten, so you can use leftover meat in sandwiches, stir-fries and the like. Made too much bolognese? Reheat it the next day, or freeze it for another time. But it can be more difficult not to waste leftover ingredients, particularly if your concern is saving money, because usually you’ll need to add more to them, which of course, means further expenditure. Forward planning is one option, as I increasingly try to do with food, but the fact we buy most things in packages of certain sizes means it’s likely something will often be leftover, and here we are back to my cream and mascarpone.

These cheesecake pots were good, more than good in fact, and maybe now the cream and cheese will be purchased especially for them, but all I added to them were ingredients I had in the house anyway – and nothing unusual, nothing that the average home baker, probably, wouldn’t have in their own cupboards. Of course, as I’ve touched on, the addition of chocolate and other bits means this is obviously more expensive than throwing away half a tub of cheese and a dribble of cream, which don’t freeze particularly well, but why not indulge, and remind yourself you’re doing the planet a favour too?

You’ll also need the pots, and this amount (very nearly, and see picture for evidence) filled 4 ramekins about 4cm deep and 7cm in diameter. (Incidentally, I didn’t go out and buy ramekins, but bought Gu Hot Chocolate Souffles which come in ramekins, and wholeheartedly encourage you to do the same. Indeed, I have stacks of ramekins and other little pots that arrived with a dessert already inside them!)

Chocolate Cheesecake Pots (makes 4)

  • 85g bourbon chocolate biscuits (or any biscuits really, perhaps with a little cocoa added if not chocolate ones)
  • 30g butter
  • 125g mascarpone
  • 100g good dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
  • 75ml double cream
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa mixed to a paste with 1 tablespoon hot water

Blitz the biscuits to fine crumbs in a mini-chopper or processor, or if you’re having a bad day, seal them into a freezer bag and pulverise them with a rolling pin. Melt the butter gently in a saucepan, then, off the heat, stir in the biscuit crumbs. Divide the buttery crumbs between the ramekins and press down with your fingers to form a firm-ish base, then whack them into the freezer to harden a little while you get on with the rest of it.

Break the chocolate into pieces, and then melt gently in a bowl over simmering water. (Or, melt, very carefully, in the microwave, say in twenty second blasts on half power, and remebering that chocolate likes to play tricks on you by keeping its shape when melted, so stirring in between each nuking.)

In one bowl, beat the mascarpone, with an electric hand whisk, until light and smooth. Put to one side.

In another bowl, whip the cream to somewhere between soft and firm peaks, but don’t overdo it. Quickly beat in the icing sugar and the cocoa-water paste, until evenly combined. Then gently fold in the melted chocolate, until just combined and a consistent colour all the way through.

Finally, quickly beat the mascarpone into the cream-and-chocolate mix. Now, I know we’ve just folded in the chocolate, but I think quick and rough is the order of the day when mixing in the mascarpone, as you want to make sure that everything is well mixed rather than having lumps of cheese, so I would return to beating here.

Remove the ramekins from the freezer and divide the cheesecake mix between them, pushing down gently with a silicone spatula to ensure you don’t leave a gap between cheesecake and base, although this is easier said than done with these small pots, and since you’ll be eating them from the pot with a spoon, it doesn’t matter too much.

Stick the pots back in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how eager you are to eat these, so they set a little, and then remove to the fridge to store, and indeed leave at least half an hour before you tuck in anyway, just in case they’ve begun to freeze.


Nigella’s Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake

July 30, 2009 Leave a comment

Nigella's Chocolate Raspberry Pudding CakeI’m sure as the blog progresses, it will become more than clear that I adore everything Nigella, and I’ve already mentioned my penchant for chocolate puddings. This recipe was recently re-printed in Sainsbury’s magazine, and sounded so delicious I couldn’t stop myself. (It also convinced me to re-read How To Eat, cover to cover, and make a list of things to try I hadn’t gotten around to yet.)

I have to confess, I was a little disappointed initially. I’ve made a lot of hot chocolate-y puddings with a wettish, mousse-like inside, and although this was lovely, there was something about this pudding that just wasn’t quite as great as some of the others. (Like I say, this was still good, I think the mild disappointment was far more stinging because it was a) chocolate, and b) Nigella, two things that never usually let me down.)

However, talk about improving with age. Returning to the cake a day later, the texture had become more dense, the small amount of raspberry liquor more pronounced, and, for whatever reason, I found this re-visit much more enjoyable. Nigella recommends re-heating second helpings to aid the texture, which I duly did, and, made hot and served with vanilla ice-cream, this was good. However, what was better was the slice I just ate cold, as is, which was deliciously dense, and had an almost peanut butter-like claggy, sticks-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth quality which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Recipe below, but I strongly recommend you buy How To Eat: The Pleasures and Principles Of Good Food, which is a fantastic read.  

Nigella Lawson’s Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake

(Some alternative ingredients are in the original recipe, this is how I made it)

  • 185g self-raising flour
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons creme de framboise
  • 95g caster sugar
  • 95g muscovado sugar
  • 250g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids minimum)
  • 2 teaspoons good instant coffee made up with 370ml hot water
  • 2 eggs, beaten slightly
  • 250g raspberries (or more if using well defrosted, frozen raspberries)

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter a 22cm spring-form cake tin and line the base.

Sift the flour and cocoa into a bowl and put to one side.

Put the butter, liqueur, sugars, chocolate and coffee/water mixture into a saucepan and stir over a low-heat until it’s all melted and is ‘thickly, glossily smooth’.

Stir this mixture into the sifted flour and cocoa, and then beat until it’s smooth again. Then beat in the eggs. Nigella warns you at this point not to panic at the fact this is quite runny, but trust her, the cake will cook just fine.

Pour the mixture into the tin to a depth of about 2cm, cover with raspberries, and pour the rest of the mixture on top. Push down and raspberries that bob to the surface, then greedily lick your fingers.

Bake for 40-45 minutes. I put mine in for 40, and my oven seems to be a bit of a scorcher, so it was done by then, perhaps a touch overdone.  Don’t test with a skewer, as the middle is meant to be moist. Set the tin on a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes, and then turn out the cake.

Nigella recommends eating this about an hour later, however I couldn’t wait that long. The top was quite cracked, which could have been prettied-up with icing sugar, and although Nigella recommends serving with more raspberries, and Greek Yoghurt, whipped double cream, or creme fraiche, my usual accompaniment of choice for hot chocolate puddings is good, shop-bought vanilla ice cream which didn’t disappoint.

Photo to follow!

How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food by Nigella Lawson is published by Chatto & Windus.

Thoughts on Creme de Framboise

Sometimes recipes call for a certain liqueur – and of course, there is no need to buy a bottle just to add a tablespoon to a cake you may only make once. I happened to have a bottle of creme de framboise, the raspberry liqueur used in this recipe in the house – in fact, in a cupboard with a load of other bottles of random liqueurs with a few inches missing purchased in anticipation of an exotic cocktail party (Blue Curacao anyone?). However, it does seem to work well in this cake, and I thought I might share a suggestion for using it up.

A little added to a glass of Champagne (or Prosecco), perhaps with a floating fresh raspberry or two, would be delightful, but for those Cherry Coke fans out there, you can make a decent (albeit raspberry rather than cherry) homespun fruity-caffeine concoction of your own which is really delicious.

Categories: Pudding, Recipe Tags: , , ,

Simply Divine

July 29, 2009 Leave a comment

I like chocolate. A lot. Who wouldn’t? So much deliciousness to be had. I cook a lot with chocolate, and in fact, despite recent branching out into other areas (and a recent lemon meringue pie was so good, I’ll no doubt cook again soon and wax lyrical here), the vast majority of my puddings seem to be chocolate based.

The good news then, is that recent years seem to have resulted in an explosion in the availability, variety and quality of chocolate available to buy, especially 70%+ dark chocolate, the backbone of most of my cocoa bean based baking. There is also a much better range of milk chocolate, with higher than standard cocoa content, sometimes useful in cooking and always welcome in eating.

Traditionally, my personal favourite for eating has been Green & Blacks – what could possibly go better with a steaming mug of freshly brewed coffee than a slab of Maya Gold. Or  Dark & Ginger. Or Dark & Cherry. Or Milk & Butterscotch. You get the picture.

For cooking, I’m somewhat less fussy. Of course, dark has to be a minimum of 70% cocoa solids, but other than that, until someone educates me to the contrary (perhaps my palette isn’t as discerning as I’d like), as long as it’s good, it doesn’t make a lot of difference. So one of the deciding factors will probably be the price. Lots of ‘own-brand’ (usually the ‘finest’ or ‘taste the difference’ or ‘doesn’t the shiny, expensive looking packaging make this more tempting’ type ranges) available in supermarkets are really quite good, and clearly, when faced with the choice you’d have to be mad to buy chocolate for cooking from the ‘home baking’ aisle rather than the confectionary aisle, the difference seemingly lower quality, more expensive and less choice. (And, for me, there is something alarmingly off-putting about Doctor Oetker’s 70’s cream-and-stripe packaging, which might be shallow but I’m swayed by pretty boxes.)

So, when stocking up and looking for the bright shelf-edge labels indicating a potential bargain to be had (and for ‘multi-buy’ type offers, do quickly calculate that it is a genuine bargain and you aren’t just saving three pence, feeling smug for it and buying warehouse-type quantities of something you won’t use) I came across Divine Chocolate. And it is. It’s delicious, the milk bar is really creamy, and the dark bar has the telling ‘snap’ of quality. It worked great in cooking, and, it’s Fairtrade too. Now, I must confess I am a wanabe ethical shopper – I support the principles of Fairtrade, and the products usually are of good quality, but if shopping in the weeks before a payday, sometimes find the price-tag a little prohibitive. Good news then! Divine is really competitively priced, cheaper in fact that some similar quality, non-ethical (and I’m not suggesting for a minute that non-Fairtrade stamped products mean the manufacturers must treat their producers like dirt), so winners all round.

I’m also going to enthusiastically recommend Divine’s Milk Chocolate and Orange bar. My orange chocolate of choice, as I’ve already said and will no doubt crop up again, is G&B’s Maya Gold, but for a milkier, creamier treat, or for those of you that don’t like the spice of Maya, or indeed, dark chocolate as eating chocolate, this is a star. Much nicer than a certain foil-wrapped spherical version produced by a chap called Terrence.

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