Archives for category: Chocolate

DAMN this is good. I know I wrote about chocolate ice cream not so long ago, and that was good too, but this is a different creature altogether. Stomach-groaningly rich, like the purest, creamiest frozen chocolate truffle. It has luxury written all over it in metaphorical gold plated lettering. You may struggle to eat even a moderate sized bowlful (but you will probably succeed). Well, Fergus Henderson does rather throw down the gauntlet by claiming that this is ‘the perfect chocolate ice cream’. Luckily, you will agree, because you will be far too full for picking up anything, gauntlets or otherwise.

And now the bad news: it takes a week to make. Wait! Doesn’t delayed gratification make things taste even better? Perhaps this depends on whether you’re the sort of person who likes to give themself kitchen projects. I first read about this incredible sounding, calendar-requiring ice cream on Seven Spoons and was committed to the idea straight away (from which you can infer that I am). Shortly afterwards, fate delivered ‘Beyond Nose To Tail’ into my hands via my local Oxfam. It’s a great book, full of wise instructions such as ‘be firm, but fair with salads’. I skipped through the pig’s head and trotter sections, because I’m a faint-hearted girl, and straight to puddings (including the sub-division ‘steadying puddings’) and baking and ice cream. Oh joy! There it was. It’s not actually time consuming to make, but you must mobilise will power and leave it in your freezer for a few days before eating it. It makes a difference: on the fourth day, to rescue a disappointing dinner of pizza overly charred on the barbecue, it tasted even better, the caramel notes issuing forth more confidently. We finished it there and then. Time to buy some more chocolate and hope the weather holds out for next week.

St John’s chocolate ice cream

Makes about 1 litre

200g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids. I used the relatively cheap yet nice Isis Luxury Belgian brand, available at Waitrose (course)
6 egg yolks
115g caster sugar
500ml full-fat milk
50ml double cream
40g cocoa powder

for the caramel:
70g caster sugar
75ml water

Break the chocolate into squares and melt in a bowl over a pan of hot water (or in a microwave, if you have one).

Beat the egg yolks and caster sugar until pale and thick, enough to trace a figure of 8 on the surface. This will take around 5 minutes with an electric beater/whisk.

Bring the milk, cream and cocoa powder to the boil slowly in a large pan, whisking to disperse lumps and prevent the cocoa powder sticking on the bottom of the pan. Pour this over the egg yolk mixture, whisking to mix evenly, then put it all back in the saucepan and scrape in the melted chocolate. The recipe now says to cook over a low heat for a further 8 minutes, but mine was already very thick so I left it on the heat for much less time, a couple of minutes perhaps. It should coat the spoon thickly, but obviously you want to avoid the eggs scrambling. When you’re happy with the custard, remove it from the heat.

Make the caramel by bringing the sugar and water to the boil. Keep the heat low at first, stirring the sugar to dissolve it, then raise the heat and don’t stir until the mixture is thick and chestnust brown. Quickly pour the caramel into the ice-cream base, whisking vigorously.

Pour everything through a sieve into a plastic container and cool it down in an ice-bath. When cool, leave in the fridge for 2 days before churning in an ice-cream machine. After churning and freezing, leave for 3-4 days before eating.

From ‘Beyond Nose to Tail’ by Fergus Henderson and Justin Piers Gellatly

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This is taken from the book ‘Street Food Revolution’, which I highly recommend – lots of interesting stories about people passionate about their own little corner of the food universe, facing adversity and coming out the other side with some truly tested recipes. And then being so good as to pass them on. The chapter which most captivated me was the story of Kitty Travers and La Grotta Ices; because how could you not fall in love with the idea of raspberry and fig leaf granita, or lemon granita for breakfast with biscotti? What I actually got the ice-cream machine out for, though, was this chocolate pudding ice-cream, intrigued by the concept of an egg-free ice-cream thickened with cornflour. She says it’s ‘cheaper, lighter for the digestion…and it doesn’t inhibit the flavours of the other ingredients like egg can’. And, I might add, you’re not stuck with a load of egg whites to use up.

I’m not sure I can wholly agree with the claim that it’s ‘ridiculously simple’ – there are definitely easier ice-creams out there – but it’s not difficult, and it’s worth following the instructions properly because the end result is the silkiest, smoothest ice-cream you’ve ever tasted. It’s surprisingly rich for something that’s actually pretty low in fat, but in a delicate, non-sickly way. In other words, go and make this. You won’t regret it.

Chocolate pudding ice-cream

Serves 4-5

450ml whole milk
15g cornflour
50g good quality cocoa powder
75g golden granulated or caster sugar
pinch of salt

Mix 100ml of the milk with the cornflour to a smooth paste.

Heat the remaining milk in a saucepan over a medium heat. Mix the cocoa powder, sugar and salt in a bowl large enough to hold all of the milk. When the milk reaches a simmering point, pour it over the cocoa mixture, whisking as you do so to take care of any lumps.

Return the mixture to the pan on the hob and cook over a low heat, barely at a simmer, for 6 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent it catching.

Add the cornflour mixture and whisk again. Simmer for a further 2 minutes until quite a bit thicker.

Strain the mixture into a clean container and cool in an ice-water bath, stirring regularly to prevent a skin from forming. When cool, refrigerate for at least 4 hours (this gives the ice-cream better body and texture).

Churn in an ice-cream machine and freeze.

Kitty suggests serving this with ‘cashew nuts and a pinch of lightly toasted Ancho chilli seeds ground up with sea salt, or with sweetened whipped cream and grated dark chocolate’, both of which sound delightful, if you get past eating it on its own, which we didn’t.

From ‘Street Food Revolution’, by Richard Johnson

It’s not usually Mr. Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipes that I’m drawn to in The Guardian Weekend – I’m far more likely to tear out the Ottolenghi page, or the Dan Lepard section. I don’t know why, since we seem to share pretty similar values, food-wise. And often the subject of the column gets me interested, but then the recipes never quite inspire me as I hope. I think maybe some chefs, some food writers connect and some don’t, and me and Hugh have a bit of a disconnect. Or we did.

He found my weak spot in the 4th June issue with a whole feature on brownies, the peak for me being a peanut butter and chocolate brownie recipe – a combination which I have both made and written about before, but these sounded, and crucially looked in the accompanying photo, soooo much better. There’s a peanut butter layer. With cream cheese. I swiped the magazine from work and, well, it’s 26 days later and it’s still languishing on the TV table. However, when my mum asked me to provide some cake for a charity garden do my parents were hosting, I remembered that there was another recipe in the feature, one which had almost passed me by, for cocoa brownies, the kind of thing that could be whipped up fairly quickly from store cupboard ingredients.

Well, to cut to the chase, I made them, I gave them to my mum and they were apparently quite unpopular with the garden-going public; luckily as it turned out, because she saved me a piece and now I can confirm that these are some good brownies indeed. Worth the slightly tedious step of beating sugar and eggs to the required thickness. Like all good brownies, they’re thick and squidgy inside with a crackly top, but the flavour provided by the cocoa is surprisingly deep and rich and the combination of muscovado sugar and browned butter rounds out the sweetness nicely. I included the optional step of adding chocolate chunks to the batter, so I don’t know how they’d be without any chocolate at all, but I’m willing to bet still delicious. Ladies of the Cotswolds, your loss is my gain.

Update! By coincidence, I mentioned this to someone at work who had just made the blondies from the very same feature. She brought some in and they were all kinds of awesome: coconut, cardamom, white chocolate chunks, and straight from the fridge with a texture like fudge. Hugh, I salute you.

Cocoa brownies

Makes 16

170g butter
200g caster sugar
100g light muscovado sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g cocoa powder
50g self-raising flour
1/4 tsp salt
100g dark chocolate, chopped (optional)

Heat the oven to 170c. Grease and line a 22cm square tin, or proportions thereabouts.

Melt the butter over a medium heat until it browns lightly and smells nutty. Set aside to cool while you beat together the sugars and eggs until thick and glossy. You’ll need a food mixer or electric hand mixer for this – it takes a long time, so don’t give up until the mixture is discernibly thickened. You should reach the figure of 8 stage (when you can draw a figure of 8 with a ribbon of batter before it disappears).

Beat the vanilla extract and browned butter into the egg/sugar mixture. Stir together the cocoa, flour and salt and gently fold in. Fold in the chocolate chunks, if using, and scrape the brownie into the tin. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the mixture is no longer wobbly but still moist in the middle. 

From Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘Brownie Pointers’, The Guardian Weekend, 4 June 2011

Is it weird than on my days off from working in a kitchen, I’ll happily spend hours baking in my own kitchen? I’ve started to ask myself this question more often now that the weather looks as if it might actually approximate a summer. Probably I should be out frolicking in parks rather than scouring the local corner shops for dark chocolate (thank you Polish deli, my unlikely saviour this week!). But, the thing is, I need an outlet for my deepest baking urges, the sort that are suppressed at the day job – the sort that involve peanut butter. Only one other person at work likes peanut butter (albeit she likes it so much she has a special song about putting it on toast). We have tried on several occasions to come up with convincing reasons for the absolute imperative of keeping jars of the stuff in stock, but so far to no avail. So, we’re forced to cheat on PB with Nutella while at work, but in the privacy of our own homes we can do what we like.

I found this recipe in Good Food magazine, with the apt caption ‘Like peanut butter? You’ll love these!’ I couldn’t argue with that sort of logic, especially not with a picture of a chocolate and peanut goo-bespattered brownie in front of me. I do like peanut butter, and I did love these. But I think it’s very possible that even if you didn’t, you still would.

Peanut butter brownies

Makes 12-16 brownies

225g crunchy peanut butter
200g dark chocolate, broken into chunks
280g soft light brown sugar
3 medium eggs
100g self-raising flour

Set aside 50g each of the peanut butter and chocolate for the topping. Heat the oven to 180c/160c fan and grease a 20cm square baking tin.

Melt the remaining peanut butter and chocolate with the sugar in a pan, stirring occasionally until the sugar has almost completely melted. Take off the heat and beat in the eggs, one at a time. Stir in the flour and pour the mixture into the tin, levelling it out.

Melt the reserved peanut butter in the pan for a couple of minutes, or until runny (or use a microvave). Drizzle roughly over the brownie and bake for 25 minutes or so – I recommend checking earlier as I felt mine could have been a little more gooey.

Melt the reserved chocolate and drizzle over the top, then leave the brownies to cool in the tin before cutting into squares.

Taken from Good Food magazine, May 2011

These ones are good. And I know that 99.9% of chocolate chip cookies are good, but these are different – grown-up and interesting, like the chic mother of the ones you buy in paper bags from supermarket bakery sections. Not that they look exactly chic, in fact, they look exactly like any other big, lumpy round chocolatey cookie (i.e., I had to practice some serious distraction tactics not to eat them all as soon as they came out of the oven). But within the cakey interior lies deep, dark chocolate and a subtle, intriguing bittersweetness from the combination of treacly sugar and wholemeal flour.

The recipe comes from Kim Boyce’s ‘Good to the Grain’, which I’ve mentioned before, and may well again. In the introduction to this recipe, she says “It’s surprising just how delicious this whole-wheat version of an old classic is. Unlike many of the recipes in this book, this cookie is made with 100 percent whole-wheat flour, which gives it a distinctive, nutty taste.” In any other book, I’d read that sentence and think, ‘so – they’re going to taste weird, then’ but I knew I could trust Kim to deliver, plus, I’d read good things about this cookie on Orangette (reading this post again, her description of it as a cross between a chocolate chip cookie and a digestive is spot on). We took them on our first picnic of the year, where we ate them in the waning sunlight with homemade lemonade, fending off a group of large greyhounds. Ah, April, you have been good to us.

Chocolate chip cookies

Makes 20

I’ve rejigged the recipe slightly so it’s suitable for those of us unfortunate enough not to own a mixer. I also converted the measurements from American cup measures to grams – hey, you’re welcome – and I’m pretty sure I reduced the sugar somewhat in doing so; they were still sweet enough even for Tom, though you could always add a bit more regular sugar if you prefer.  

400g wholemeal flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp sea salt

225g room temperature unsalted butter
200g dark brown sugar (I used Billington’s molasses sugar)
200g caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

200g dark chocolate (I used 71%)

Preheat the oven to 180c and place the racks in the upper and lower thirds. Either line two (or more, depending on size) baking trays with greaseproof paper, or just butter them – I didn’t find that they stuck without paper.

Cream the butter and sugars together – you don’t need to be too thorough, they just need to amalgamate. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Mix in the vanilla. Sieve in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt (leave out the salt if you only had salted butter), but tip back into the bowl afterwards any bits of bran etc. left in the sieve.

Roughly chop the chocolate into chunks and stir in. Tip the batter out onto a work surface and use your hands to make sure all of the ingredients are fully incorporated (was this strictly necessary? It meant that instead of scraping out the bowl, I was scraping bits of dough off the worktop to eat, which is a bit less dignified, but I’ll leave that up to you).

Scoop mounds of dough of about 3 tbsp onto the baking trays (I used an ice-cream scoop). Flatten them slightly or not, depending on how thick you want the end result to be. You want no more than 6 cookies to an average sized tray, as they spread a bit.

Bake the cookies for 16-20 minutes (Kim is precise! Mine took 16) until firmish and darkened at the edges. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Adapted from ‘Good to the Grain’ by Kim Boyce

You know how Audrey Hepburn likes to stand outside Tiffany’s having a croissant when she has the ‘mean reds’ because nothing could ever go wrong there? I have a similar thing with health food shops. I find just being inside them makes me feel better about myself. All that organic, non-processed, vitamin-stuffed, vegan-friendly goodness works its hypothetical magic in my brain and I inevitably spend tons of money in gratitude at the escape from psychological embattlement by aisles of Tesco junk.

So last time I went into Uhuru, my Cowley Road sanctuary, I picked up a jar of a sort of raw cacao and nut spread which seemed to me like an inherently great idea, because I love nutella and yet know that despite what the adverts claim (“10 hazelnuts in every jar!” Erm, yeah, and what’s in the rest of it?) it’s sadly not really very good for you. And then I forced myself to put the jar down, because the little voice that pops up in my head on such occasions murmured, “You could make that yourself! And save money!”

So I did.

Chocolate-nut spread

Makes 1 very large jar

I used almonds, because that’s what I had most of, but obviously for a more Nutella-ish vibe hazelnuts would be appropriate. The one in the shop used a mix of nuts, of which Brazil is the only one I can remember. It occurred to me later that maybe toasting the nuts would be nice, too. Agave nectar is a low-GI sweetener obtained from the Mexican plant which tequila comes from, but you could of course use a different sweetener.

160g 100% pure cacao e.g. Willie’s, available in Waitrose
300g almonds or nuts of your choice
3 tbsp or more agave nectar, to taste
water or oil to blend

Chop the cacao roughly and blend in food processor with the nuts (skins on is OK). Keep blending until the mixture forms a paste. This will take quite a while, so you may prefer to do it in batches (or reduce the quantities) to avoid stressing out your food processor. Add agave nectar until it’s as sweet as you want it, and water/oil to thin out the texture if needed.