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Archive for the ‘Gluten Free’ Category

To make chocolate healthy pretty much means to  lose what we love most about it: cream, full fat milk, sugar.  What this loosely translates as is chocolate in its most natural form: pods, nibs, cocoa butter, unprocessed cocoa. However, I am always up for a challenge, and having sourced some Cacao Nibs on an unnamed online auction site,  I set to work.

Raw. Like Cacao.

Raw. Like Cacao.

It is no secret that I am a major chocolate fan (you have been reading this blog right?) so I was incredibly excited about trying the nibs. I had read such wonderful things about their health properties but more importantly (to me anyway), their taste!
When they did turn up, I opened the packaging and deeply inhaled the rich, earthy smell, more redolent of purest cocoa powder than chocolate bars. The nibs themselves resemble tiny wood chips and their texture is not far off wood either (not that I am a secret wood nibbler though). Taste wise they are much like a very high cocoa content chocolate: the flavour doesn’t come through straight away, but gets stronger as it melts and the taste lingers on your tongue. There is a slight smokiness to the nibs and they leave a not too unpleasant bitter taste in the mouth.
In this most purest of form, they are apparently a great aphrodisiac, one of the greatest sources of anti-oxidants and are supposedly good for boosting your mood. I can’t vouch too much for any of these claims but what I can wholeheartedly confirm is their intensely delicious taste when cooked or mixed with a natural sweetener.
In preparation for the experiment, I bought a book called Naked Chocolate written by superfood junkies, David Woolfe and Shazzie (no surname), who take every opportunity to extole the virtues of cacao nibs, blue sea algae and all manner of revolting sounding ‘foods’. Whilst I don’t buy into their hippy ethos of pure living through the consumption of raw foods, I am, if nothing else, always up for trying new and unusual ingredients. Generally I would not use the recipes listed in their book; for one, most of the ingredients are not your usual store cupboard staples (Optimum Source Chlorella, anyone?) and therefore they are extremely limiting, but I also enjoy trying to utilise unusual ingredients into ‘normal’ recipes such as cookies, or even chilli. I think it’s important as a cook to familiarise yourself with recherche ingredients, and to use them in everyday recipes is the best way of achieving this familiarity.
The truffles are an adaptation of a recipe taken from the Naked Chocolate book. In fact, an amalgamation of two recipes: their truffle recipe and their chocolate sauce recipe which forms the base of many other recipes.
I made the sauce several nights ago, being not entirely sure what I was going to do with it. I was planning on making a tart or maybe some muffins but eschewed those in favour of truffles. Also, truffles exude an air of luxury, something we could do with during these lean times!
As I mentioned, they are made using a simple combination of nibs, vanilla, dates (which add natural sweetness and moistness) and sesame seeds (which add texture and give longevity to the truffles) and take no longer than five minutes from start to finish, unlike dairy truffles, which are made with fresh cream and have to chill in the fridge before you can form them. Therefore, it is feasible that you can be sitting down, bowl of truffles on your lap, watching reruns of Millennium before the craving has barely kicked in. I like this kind of cooking!
I admit that I felt a pang of dubiousness when I read the ingredients; would these taste like some mealy-mouthed, flavourless vegan substitute for rich, dairy truffles? Far from it. Whilst the texture is unlike that of creamy truffles, these have a grainy bite that is not at all unpleasant. They feel and taste substantial, and the pure caffeine in the nibs gives you a great sense of well-being. They are an instant good mood hit. The sesame seeds add a nutty flavour that is particularly tasty, and, when rolled in some deep, dark cocoa powder, they really taste sensational.
Remember though that I still had some of the chocolate sauce leftover in the fridge (we scooped some of it out with our fingers every time we visited the fridge) and because I had deep concerns about the dry texture of the truffles, I added what was left of the sauce to the final mixture. I am not certain that the final recipe required this so I am just going to give you the basic four ingredient recipe. However, if you find that the truffle mixture is a little too dry, or not sweet enough, I would suggest adding a drizzle of Agave Syrup or honey and a few drops of unflavoured vegetable oil. Remember that the nibs have no additives so may well need some lubricant.
CACAO NIB TRUFFLESmakes 12-14 depending on size
Ingredients:
Half Cup Cacao Nibs
Half Cup Sesame Seeds
Half Cup Dates
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Some Agave Syrup or Honey to taste
Few drops of Vegetable Oil
Cocoa Powder, Sesame seeds, icing sugar for rolling
METHOD:
In a coffee grinder, blend the nibs and sesame seeds until they form a dry, crumbly mixture. It will not be smooth, rather it will be quite pleasantly textured.
In a blender, whizz up the dates until finely processed. Depending on the age of the dates (mine were old and dried out that they resembled boot leather), they may take longer to process.
Add the nib/sesame seed mixture and process until combined.
Taste for sweetness and add some agave or honey. Process and taste again. If the mixture is still very dry (which it shouldn’t be at this point), you can add a little of the vegetable oil.
Pour the mixture out into a dish and press down with the back of a wooden spoon to form a firm block.
You can now form the mixture into small balls, the size of walnuts, and roll them into some cocoa powder or sesame seeds, depending on your preference.
Options: You could add some rum or kirsch to mixture, omitting the Vanilla Extract, or swap the dates for dried figs or perhaps glace cherries. You could also add some chopped preserved ginger or roll the truffles in some chopped pistachios or hazelnuts.
This recipe comes with a warning: these truffles are seriously delicious!

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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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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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The first in an erstwhile series of classic recipes, designed to be simple, quick and – hopefully – foolproof.  The use of the word “Masterclass” is tongue in cheek as many of these recipes will be made for the first time by myself too and any comments or suggestions are gratefully received.

All recipes, of course, are using chocolate. This week, Sachertorte.

I have an ongoing love affair with gateaux, particularly those from Vienna. I have yet to try them at Demels or indeed any coffee shop in Austria (much less Vienna) having never visited there but this doesn’t stop me lusting after their tender, multi-layered cakes, the flaky pastries interlaced with stained glass preserves or the tall cups of coffee topped with frothy clouds of whipped cream. For now, I must make do with reading the pertinent Foods of the World book, devoted to Vienna or the tattered issues of Gourmet Magazine from the late 60s which serialised Lillian Langseth-Christensens Old Vienna Cookbook.
Now, whilst I love to look at these seemingly superhuman feats of patisserie, I am not the best or most patient baker. I don’t have much time to devote to churning out trays of cookies or muffins and even if I did, we don’t have a large family to devour them. That said, my work colleagues are always willing and able guinea pigs (albeit a little too critical at times) so I decided to bake a cake that I have found alluring and beautiful ever since I first saw its thick, glossy dark icing and woodly dense interior: the Sachertorte.
The original recipe, first invented at the Hotel Sacher, is a closely guarded secret.

The Original Sacher Torte made by Hotel Sacher

The Original Sacher Torte made by Hotel Sacher

It is a cake that arouses such passion in people that Demels and the Hotel Sacher had some intense legal wranglings over the decoration and naming of the cake. Eventually the Hotel Sacher won the court case and the right to call the cake, Sachertorte, identified by its chocolate seal. Demels now refer to their version as Demels Sachertorte. Seems like a case of “You Say Tomato and I Say, er, Tomato” if you ask me but family reputations are built and destroyed upon such trifles (or rather, gateaux).
The cake itself is famous for its deeply dark texture, an apricot jam filling and the glossy dark mantle of chocolate icing, this is a chocolate cake for adults. The recipe I made used ground almonds instead of flour, two whole bars of the blackest chocolate, and over 300g of sugar! This being in addition to 6 eggs and several freshly ground coffee beans. The eggs are separated, the whites whisked to snowy white stiffness and the yolks made frothy with the sugar. The two are then combined and baked for an hour (although, I took mine out of the oven maybe 10 minutes earlier as it would have dried out too much otherwise).
The taste of the cake is as rich as you might expect but with the unexpectedly tart apricot jam flavour. I don’t normally like fruit with chocolate but this was a whole new taste experience for me. Apparently the cake should be stored for a week when, like a vintage wine, it matures and deepens in flavour. Of course, this is impossible.
After making the cake, I wondered why it had taken me so long – it is so easy and makes a perfect coffee cake or dinner party dessert, served, as the Viennesse, with whipped cream.
LORNA WING’S SACHERTORTE – Serves at least 8
Ingredients:
200g Excellent Quality Dark Chocolate
1 1/2 Teaspoons Ground Coffee (freshly ground if possible)
6 Eggs (5 separated)
150g Ground Almonds
310g Granulated Sugar (not caster)
6 Tablespoons Apricot Jam
Icing:
100g Excellent Quality Dark Chocolate
40g Unsalted Butter
METHOD:


Preheat oven to 180c.
Butter and line a 9″ Springform Tin (I actually used an 8″ tin because that’s all I have but it didn’t effect the cake).
Gently melt the 200g chocolate in a double boiler.
In a large bowl, whisk the 5 egg yolks and remaining whole egg with the sugar until pale and fluffy, like homemade mayonnaise.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiffly peaking.
Add the almonds, molten chocolate and ground coffee to the egg yolk mix and combine well.
Gently but firmly fold in the whipped egg whites until throughly combined. The mixture will seem very grainy.
Pour into the cake tin and bake for about an hour (it may be done sooner). Halfway through cooking or when the top has set, cover with some foil. This cake burns easily because of the egg whites.
When cooked, remove from the oven (the top may crack or sink, again due to the high egg content). Don’t worry because you can always do as I did – turn it upside down!
Leave to cool on a rack.
Once cool you can begin the icing. Melt the Apricot Jam in a small saucepan over a gentle heat.
Unmould the cake, and decide which side up you are going to ice it. Brush over the now liquid Apricot Jam thickly over the top and sides. This is not merely going to help the icing stick but will be an important and surprising layer of the cake.
In a double boiler, melt the 100g chocolate. Once liquified, add the butter and stir until melted. It might look as if it’s going to seize up but keep stirring over the gently heat and it will become runny, like double cream.
Pour over the cake, spreading fairly quickly over the top and sides until it is coated all over. With the back of a spoon, make a circular pattern. You can pipe the familiar Sacher moniker on the cake with a little melted chocolate if required.

Leave for a week or a day until you cut it if you can bear it! This cake lasts superbly due to the high quantity of ground almonds in it and makes a wonderful treat for your gluten intolerant friends who often miss out on lovely gateaux.

Recipe from Green and Blacks Chocolate Recipes.

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