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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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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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