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Well, if you’re going to make a chocolate cake, you may as well push the boat out right? Wrong. At heart I love truly simple things: choc-chip cookies, chocolate with no nuts, no caramel, no nougat, chocolate sponge cake with buttercream icing or maybe just whipped cream. My favourite pizza is even plain ol’ cheese and tomato and my drink of choice? Water. Well, during the week anyway.

Yet, to push the boat out for the penultimate day of Chocolate Week, I decided not to make a simple chocolate sandwich cake. I chose (that’s right, chose) to make that Hungarian classic, Dobos Torte.

A multi-layered gateaux, reminiscent to some of Martha Stewarts Crepe Cake, although much simpler than that to produce, the Dobos Torte was invented by Hungarian Confectioner Jozsef C Dobos. Dobos idea was the produce a long-lasting cake and the caramel topping on the final layer was his solution.

It is simple enough to produce, eggs whisked with sugar, vanilla and flour, then this frothy batter is spread out on five 7″ baking paper circles and baked for 10 minutes. The resultant thin layers are then sandwiched together with chocolate buttercream, the top layer coated with hot caramel.

So far so good, my cake looks a little shabby. My icing skills are not honed enough and the cake is too domed for the crisp top layer to rest flat but it looks OK. In fact, it looks almost impressive.

And then we come to tasting it. The sponge has a mean, rubbery texture that is not particularly pleasant. This is no doubt down to Dobos desire to produce a cake that will last into infinity. Well, these sponge slices certainly resemble their car-cleaning cousins.The butter cream is tooth-achingly rich but curiously still not chocolatey enough. The topping is tricky to cut and can only really be eaten with the fingers, in one piece.

My own cooking notes would be as follow: ground almonds rather than flour would be a worthy edition to the sponge recipe and a dark, dark chocolate ganache better for the filling. You can’t really improve on the caramel topping for sheer drama and your guests are happy to wrestle with that layer than all well and good.

Incidentally, there are over 100 variations of this recipe, some include butter in the sponge which I think would improve both the texture and the flavour immeasurably. However, I have given the recipe below should anyone wish to replicate it. Good luck!

DOBOS TORTE – serves 8

Ingredients:

SPONGE LAYERS

3 Eggs

100g Caster Sugar

1tsp Vanilla Extract

100g Plain Flour

FILLING:
175 Dark Chocolate

175 Softened, Unsalted Butter

2 tsbp Milk

350g Sieved Icing (confectioners) Sugar

CARAMEL:

100g Granulated Sugar

4 Tbsp Water

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 200c/400f.

Cut out five 7″ dia Greaseproof Paper Circles and, place two of them on two baking sheets.

Whisk together the sugar and eggs for 10 minutes using a hand-held whisk, until pale and voluminous. Sift in the flour, pour in the vanilla and fold in.

Spoon three dessertspoonfuls on each of your two prepared circles, spreading out with the back of the spoon to within 1/2 an inch of the edge of the circle. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly golden and slightly puffy. Leave to cool, on the paper, on cooling racks.

Repeat with the remaining 3 circles, to give a total of five layers.

To make the buttercream, melt the chocolate over a double boiler and leave to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, whisk together the icing sugar, butter and milk. Beat in the melted chocolate.

To assemble, you will probably need to trim each of the layers slightly to ensure that they are the same size. there is no easy way to do this except to say, ensure that you do not layer the cakes bottom sides touching as they will just stick together.

Place one layer on your serving plate and spread with the buttercream, ensuring you get right to the edges and do not have too much in the middle. Repeat with three more of the sponges. Spread the icing around the edge of the cake.

To make the caramel layer, melt the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium high heat until it turns golden but not dark. Place your final sponge layer on a cooling tray over some sheets of kitchen paper (the caramel will run everywhere when you pour it over the sponge).

When the caramel turns golden, about 5 minutes or so, working quickly, pour over the final sponge layer, tilting the cooling tray to ensure that the whole cake is covered. Leave to cool for a few minutes then, using a long bladed knife, mark (but do not cut) the segments of the cake.

Carefully remove from the cooling rack and place on top of your iced cake. If you have any icing left (and you should have plenty), pipe whorls on each segment.

Leave to setup for a couple of hours and then serve.

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Winter is drawing rapidly closer – the clocks are due to fall back and it will soon be dark when I leave work – my desire to cook good wholesome food seems to be an all time high. I am so excited about the impending winter events, Halloween (celebrated by the ancient Celts as part of the Samhain festival and which indicated the end of the year and thus the onset of Winter), Bonfire Night, Thanksgiving and finally Christmas and New Years, that I have already started planning menus for all of them.  I have an urge to cook for large crowds, yet I am very rarely given the opportunity unless we visit my husband’s family in the US.
The winter months seem like the perfect time to be overly generous with your food (you should be anyway, but when it’s cold, it seems like we need extra nuturing), and if it doesn’t all get eaten in a sub-zero body-protecting frenzy, we have leftovers instead.

So, with Hallowe‘en pending and in true bloodthirsty mode, I have a bunch of baby beetroot lingering in the fridge, with which (witch?) to make Muffins.

Beetroot was charmingly referred to as Blood Turnip in the 19th Century so it seems like a perfect vegetable to prepare for All Hallows Eve.
I hope that some unsuspecting Trick or Treaters will come to the door that night so I can confront them with blood pink stained hands, half peeled beet clutched demonically in my fist, paring knife in the other.  When they yell “trick or treat” at me, I will say “Borscht or Candy?”
I had great fun peeling the beetroot. It is amazing to see this dull, deep red root vegetable transformed into a vibrant, ruby coloured gem (traditionally used as the colourant for pink lemonade – shattering my dreams, as I thought that some remote tropical land grew pink lemons) as you gently remove the soft outer skin. I didn’t wear gloves as recommended, and my fingers weren’t really stained too badly at all.

For the Beetroot Muffins, which sound like something from a Roald Dahl novel, the beets have to be roasted in the oven for about an hour and a half, skin on, wrapped in foil. With those snugly ensconced in the oven, I got on with making dinner.

The Romans thought of Beetroot as an aphrodisiac, but taking into consideration that it also has a highly effective laxative quality (Apicius devoted at least five recipes to using beetroot to relieve constipation), it’s probably not recommended for a romantic night in for the just the two of you.
These Beetroot Muffins, which are a glossy chocolate mauve colour and are rich enough to serve dusted with icing sugar and a swirl of whipped cream but are also sturdy enough to survive travelling in a lunchbox. The beetroot gives them a delicious moistness, meaning that they keep well in the cake tin (if they last that long!) and, more importantly, they are a tasty way of getting all of the beetroot’s nutrients into you.

However, because I’m entering this into the the eleventh edition of Muffin Monday, hosted by Cuisine Plurielle, I have decided to make it even more Autumnal, to tie in the with theme, Colors and Flavors of Autumn.

Whilst on their own, the muffins are richly chocolatey with a hidden depth (that’ll be the beets), I decided that a tangy fruit layer would work really well with the dark, dark chocolate, so I added a layer of freshly picked blackberries, of which there is a surfeit of along the roadside. And then I got to thinking, how am I going to use up those baby marshmallows that I bought for hot chocolate? So, I decided to throw a couple of them in the mixture too, plus stud the top of the muffins with them.  I suppose I was thinking campfire s’mores and picking wild fruit in the woods. Finally, I sprinkled the tops with some Cacao Nibs, mostly just because I had them but they do give them muffins a woody looking effect and add an unusual texture.

N.B. This recipe uses roasted beetroot, but you can buy it vacuum packed and ready cooked at the supermarket which saves quite a lot of time. Just be sure that it isn’t pickled!

BEETROOT MUFFINS Makes 12
Ingredients:
300g Beetroot Raw (to give about 250g cooked and peeled, see method) or 250g Vacuum Packed Ready Cooked Beetroot
75g Cocoa Powder (I use Green and Blacks because it has a wonderful dark, rich flavour)
180g Plain Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
250g Caster Sugar
3 Large Eggs
200ml Unflavoured Oil (such as corn oil or sunflower oil)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
Handful of Blackberries and Mini Marshmallows (optional)

METHOD:
1) Preheat oven to 200c. Wrap your uncooked beetroot, unpeeled, in tin foil. Fit snugly in a roasting tin and roast in the oven for about an hour and half or until tender. If using ready cooked beetroot, skip this and go straight to step 2.
2) Meanwhile, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the caster sugar. Put to one side.
3) Once your beetroot is cooked, peel and chop into large chunks. Puree in your blender. Add the eggs, one at a time until blended.
4) Add the Vanilla Extract and Oil and blend until thoroughly mixed. The blender will now look Pepto-Bismal Pink.
5) Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in your hot pink beetroot mixture. Combine gently but do not overstir.
6) Pour into a lined muffin tin. If you want to add the blackberries and marshmallows, half fill the cases, sprinkle over some of the fruit and marshmallows, then cover over with more batter. Sprinkle some of the marshmallows on top. I added a sprinkling of Cacao Nibs which add a delicious crunch and look gorgeous.
7) Bake for 25-30 minutes at 180c or until springy to the touch.
The baked muffins will have a slight sheen to them but they will be cooked through.
Enjoy but in moderation and remembering Apicius’ five recipes…

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You didn’t really see that one coming, did you?

OK, so whilst Orangettes are not one of the first recipes that spring to mind when you think chocolate, they are charmingly pretty with their orange stained glass peel and their dipped velvet chocolate peplums…I couldn’t resist them.

Orangettes, whilst time consuming to produce, are a simple confection, crystallised (or candied) citrus peel dipped in dark, dark melted chocolate. For the guest whose tooth is not as sweet as some, this is a perfect treat. Tangy and chewy, crisp and melty. Like a grown up penny sweet.

There is something about their graceful, slender, almost transparent figures, Chanel-like, draped fashionably in dark chocolate that is so intrinsically Parisian that you feel as though you could be sitting at the Café de Flore sipping a Pastis and nibbling an Orangette on the side.

Whilst discussing poetry with Rimbaud in a 19th Parisian Café would be a truly delightful way to spend an afternoon, making Orangettes is fun too.

There are many recipes out there, utilising a simple sugar syrup to poach the peel in, but if you add a vanilla pod, some peppercorns and star anise as Pierre Herme does in his fabulous book, Chocolate Desserts, you can infuse your peel with an ethereal flavour.  The scent of the syrup is the essence of Christmas itself and these Orangettes just cry out to be served on a cold Winter’s day with some glog.

ORANGETTES – makes a lot!

Ingredients:

5 Oranges, 6 Lemons or 4 Grapefruit

4 Cups Water

2.5 Cups Sugar (I used white granulated)

1/4 cup freshly squeezed Lemon Juice

10 Peppercorns, bashed (I used Szechuan)

1 Piece Star Anise

Pulp & Bean Whole Vanilla Pod

METHOD:

To prepare the oranges, cut into quarters, remove the pulp and slice the peel into thin strips. Using a very sharp knife, remove the pith as method shown on picture above (thanks Paul!), almost as though you were filleting a fish.

Meanwhile, bring a pan of water to boil and blanch the peel for two minutes. Drain in a colander and run under the cold tap for 2 minutes. Repeat this twice more.

Place all the remaining ingredients in a small pan and bring to the boil. Add the thrice blanched peel and turn heat down to a low simmer. Cover and leave for about an hour and a half.

Remove from the heat, leave covered and allow to steep in your amazingly perfumed syrup overnight.

The next day, remove the strips from the syrup and leave to dry on a cooling rack for at least half a day.

To coat in chocolate, melt 100g of darkest chocolate over a double boiler (or in the microwave) and, using cooking tweezers or small tongs (or whatever impliment you have that works for you), dip each piece of peel, coating fully, partially or mostly and leave to set on a baking sheet.

You can omit the dipping stage and just store the crystallised peel in a jar in the fridge where it would be delicious as is or perfect chopped up and added to cakes or desserts.

Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme

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Chocolate Brownies. Possibly the most perfect of all the ways to indulge in Theobroma Cacao. The chocolate hit in a well made brownie is so strong it can feel like you’ve just downed three double espressos in less than 10 seconds flat.
And there’s the non-prep side of things. It takes no time at all to whip up a batch of brownies and even less time to devour them. The only difficult part is melting the chocolate and if you have a microwave then you even remove the double boiler element.
Of course, there is a down side to such a simply wonderful cake. Brownies don’t really look like much other than brown, heavy, stodgy bits of brick. But think again! There lies within a simple, evil genius. People unfamiliar with the Brownie may overlook it once, but once bitten, never again shy.
I baked my first batch of chocolate brownies a few years ago, using a Tamasin Day-Lewis recipe from her Good Tempered Food and found them to be completely and utterly darkly delicious. They are as chocolatey as you could ever imagine, fudgy and dense. I don’t bake them too often though because any good Brownie recipe hinges on using excellent quality chocolate and I covet my expensive chocolate as though it were an internal organ.
The characteristics of the brownie, whether it’s chocolate or otherwise (blondies also exist and are just as yummy) is that moist, almost undercooked middle that takes very little time to get used to. This is where I often have problems. Many of my brownies are under or over cooked but I adore that squidgy middle so much that I have strong reservations about leaving them in the oven for the stated time in the recipe.

The recipe I have used here is from Sara Jayne Paines – Chocolate The Definitive Guide and is, as the name suggests, rich and fudgy. However, if you are making a lot of Brownies for a large crowd, I would also refer you to the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook‘s Outrageous Brownies recipe which is truly superlative (if bank busting).

CHOCOLATE FUDGE BROWNIES – makes about 10-15 depending on how small you cut your squares

Ingredients:

400g Good Quality Dark Chocolate, at least 65%,  chopped finely

300g Unsalted Butter, diced

4 Eggs

400g Brown Sugar

1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

55g Plain Flour mixed with pinch salt and

2 tsp Baking Powder

285g Pecan Nuts, lightly toasted

8″ x 11.5″ x 2″ tin, floured and buttered

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 160c.

Melt together the butter and chocolate either in a double boiler (this amount takes a long time) or in the microwave.

Meanwhile, whisk lightly together the eggs, vanilla and sugar.

Pour the melted chocolate/butter over the whisked eggs/sugar/vanilla and combine well.

Sift in the flour/baking powder/salt and fold into the mixture.

Finally, fold in the nuts.

Pour the batter into your prepared baking tin and bake for an hour or until a skewer comes out mostly clean.

Leave to cool completely before removing from the tin and cutting into squares.

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If the genuine truffle is the sheer essence of the earthy fungus, then a chocolate truffle must be the absolute peak of all that is chocolatey.  Even the simplest of all chocolate truffles, cream, butter and melted chocolate tossed in the darkest, smokiest cocoa powder, is a treat to behold. The velvety touch of the powder as it mingles with your heat of your fingers, the seductive crack of the chocolate coating yielding to the soft inner truffle. Decadence that Oscar Wilde would truly have approved of.

In my ongoing quest to find the perfect chocolate recipe, I have been avidly scouring a book called Making Fine Chocolates by master chocolatier, Andrew Garrison Shotts. His book is modestly written and you warm easily to author. His recipes produce (theoretically at least) stunning chocolates that would proudly grace any high quality confectionary. Whilst my truffles are not as perfectly spherical as illustrated in the book, they tasted truly wicked yet, because of their infinite richness, you don’t want more than one (oh go on then, just one more) so they have a virtuous side to them too.

They are also fun to make and make you feel, if only temporarily, that with time, practise and money, you too could be one of those chocolatiers on the Lindt adverts, stiring huge copper pans filled with molten chocolate.

This recipe is incredibly simple to make but you will wow your friends if you pass out cellophane bags, filled with your truffles and  tied cutely with ribbon, as gifts.  And, to ring the changes, you could dip them in white chocolate, milk chocolate and then toss them in toasted coconut, chopped hazelnuts, flaked chocolate. Let your imagination run riot!

Classic Dark 72 Percent Truffles – makes approx.30

Ingredients

119g 72% (or thereabouts, some some brands are 70 or 75%) chocolate, chopped

112g Heavy Cream

2 teaspoons corn (or golden) syrup

14 Salted Butter, cubed, soft

To coat Truffles:

Cocoa Powder

250g Chocolate, melted gently over double boiler

METHOD:

To make the truffles:

Place the chopped chocolate in a bowl and leave to one side.

Gently heat the cream and syrup in a pan until it reaches a rolling boil.

Pour over the chopped chocolate and leave to stand for 2 minutes. Stir slowly, then add butter.

If the mixture does not appear to be melting completely, flash off in the microwave for 5-10 seconds.

Stir well and leave to cool and thicken into a glossy, rich ganache for 45 minutes.

You can now either pipe the truffles onto greaseproof paper or spoon them out. Leave them to dry in the open air overnight.

To coat the truffles:

To prepare the coating, melt the chocolate in a double boiler into glossy and flowing. Leave to cool until for a minute or two.

In a dish, thickly sprinkle some cocoa powder.

Using a small fork (I used a cocktail fork) or cocktail stick, plunge the truffles into the rich, melted chocolate, one at a time, until completely enrobed. Gently place the dipped truffles into the cocoa powder, sprinkling more powder over the top so that they are completely covered. Leave in the cocoa powder to set the chocolate.

If you prefer, place the dipped chocolates straight onto a sheet of greaseproof paper to set.

Finally, finally you can eat them!

Recipe adapted from Andrew Garrison Shotts Making Fine Chocolates

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Today marks the official start of Chocolate Week, an auspicious observation of all things chocolately. You may ask “why devote a whole week to chocolate”? I would quickly answer:  a week is not long enough to explore every facet of the world’s favourite confectionary. There a literally hundreds of brands of chocolate bars, some candy, some gourmet. And then you have liqueurs, hot chocolates, ice creams, biscuits, nibs and beans. There are Premier Cru, Single Origin, Single Estates, Vintages and Couvertures.  The list is truly endless and for the chocolate fanatic, Chocolate Week gives us the chance to spend even more time indulging in our favourite, well, indulgence.

This week, we at Cocoa Lounge are devoting each day to the ultimate in Chocolate Recipes. Our choices are purely personal but we hope that you will enjoy trying them out. Chocolate is such a generous ingredient that loves the company of other ingredients so please feel free to experiment with our recipes and let us know what you come up with!

To kick off Day 1 of Official Chocolate Week – the ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie.  This recipe comes from my mother-in-law who is from the Dairy State, Wisconsin. This probably accounts for the large amount of butter in these delicious, crumbly, chocolatey cookies. Well, that and the half cup of peanut butter and copious amounts of chocolate chips too….

This recipe makes 30 or so cookies but they do not stay around for long. Warm from the oven, with the chocolate still molten, they are dreamy. When cool they are a softer cookie, not crisp like the ones over here in the UK but this is no bad thing. The peanut butter is an inspired addition and to cut through the richness, I would recommend a dark chocolate. Paul’s Mom uses Hershey’s Mini Kisses which hold their distinctive droplet shape. Unfortunately, us Brits have to make do with chocolate chips or just chopped chocolate.

The batter is super fast to whip up and you can have a batch prepared from bowl to mouth in about an hour.

Other additions would be raisins, white chocolate chips and cranberries, pecans or any nut in general. Omit the chocolate altogether, make a larger cookie and these are great for ice cream sandwiches. Play around, have fun but most of all, enjoy!

JUDITH’S PEANUT BUTTER CHOC CHIP COOKIES – makes approx. 30

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup Peanut Butter, crunchy or smooth depending on preference

3/4 Cup (160g) Butter, softened

1/2 Cup Muscovado Sugar

1/2 Cup White Sugar

1 Egg

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 1/4 Cups Plain Flour

1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda

1/4 Teaspoon Salt

6oz Mini Kisses or 6oz chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 180c.

Line 2 baking sheets with greaseproof paper.

In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, sugars, vanilla and egg until completely amalgamated.

Sift in the flour, baking soda and salt. Using an electric hand whisk, mix until just combined.

Fold in the chocolate.

Leaving plenty of space in between, spoon out the cookie dough onto your baking sheets using a teaspoon or small ice cream scoop.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Leave to cool on the tray for 2 minutes then remove to a cooling rack. They will still be soft but firm up as they cool.

Repeat until all the cookie mixture is used up. As you can see, I reused the baking paper between batches with no harm at all.

Enjoy!

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