How can you think of baking or desserts without thinking about chocolate. Dark, rich, milk or white chocolate, it is an addiction for many.
Its smooth texture works wonders on our taste buds. Just like the caffeine in coffee, the cocoa in chocolate has an impact on our energy levels and our mood.
The Mayan civilisation was one of the first to discover the delights of chocolate, but back then it was very different than what we know today.
It was served in liquid form, created by crushing cocoa beans with chilli and water.
For most of its history chocolate was in fact served as a beverage and sugar was only introduced alongside it when it was introduced to the Spanish conquistadors.
Both the Mayans and the Aztecs after them believed that the cacao bean had divine properties and it was used in the most sacred rituals, for birth, marriage and death.
The demand for the cocoa bean began a huge network of trade routes throughout the region and as mentioned once mixed with honey or cane sugar, it quickly became popular throughout Spain.
In 1828, a Dutch chemist found a way to make powdered chocolate by removing half the cacao butter from chocolate liquor, pulverising what remained, and treating the mixture with alkaline salts which cut the bitter taste.
The first modern chocolate bar was created by Joseph Fry, who in 1847 discovered that he could make a moldable chocolate paste by adding melted cacao butter back into the Dutch cocoa powder.
Chocolate can be temperamental to work with, it does not like steam or water added when it is melting and it needs a gentle touch while being tempered.
Tempering gives the chocolate its beautiful shine.
Chocolate Truffles With Orange Zest and Spices
300 mls of cream
zest of an orange
¼ tsp of ground cinnamon
½ tsp of chilli powder
300g of dark chocolate, broken into small even sized pieces
a pinch of sea salt
1 tsp of soft butter
Heat the cream in a pan until it is shivering on top and then take off the heat. This happens just before it boils. Stir in the zest, cinnamon, chilli and chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted.
Stir in the pinch of salt and the butter and set aside to cool.
Once cool put it into the fridge until it has set to a similar consistency as butter.
Coat the palm of your hands lightly with coco powder and take a large spoon of the mixture roll into a ball and place onto a plate of coco powder. Roll the truffle in the powder and then eat.
Double Chocolate and Nut Cookies
80g of coco powder
300g of self-raising flour
1 tsp of baking powder
200g of butter, soft
300g of brown sugar
1 tsp of vanilla essence
2 eggs, lightly beaten
150g of hazelnuts roughly chopped
150g of dark chocolate chips
Sieve the coco, flour and baking powder together and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar until they turn pale in colour and almost double in volume.
Beat in the eggs, mixed with the vanilla essence.
Gently stir in a third of the dry ingredients into the overall mixture, continue with the other two thirds, until they are completely combined.
Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips.
Dollop the mixture on a lined baking tray with a desert spoon and then press it down with the back of a fork.
You can get about 25 cookies from the recipe. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes.
When you remove the cookies from the oven they will still be soft, leave to cool completely on the baking tray.
Chocolate and almond tart
For the pastry:
For the pastry:
50g of almonds
200g of plain flour
10g of icing sugar
140g of cold butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
For the caramel layer:
150g of caster sugar
50g of butter
200g of cream
2 tbs of golden syrup
a pinch of sea salt
For the chocolate topping:
100g of dark chocolate
75g of butter
2 eggs and 1 extra yolk
50g of caster sugar
1 tsp of coco powder
Blitz the almonds in a liquidizer until they are smooth and powder like. Add the flour and icing sugar and blitz once or twice.
Add in the chopped butter and blitz a few times until it looks like rough breadcrumbs. You do not want to go away and leave the liquidizer on as it will create a paste, just turn it on and off again a few times.
Add in the egg yolk and blitz again until it all comes together. Empty it into some cling film, wrap and place into a fridge until it has cooled completely. At least an hour.
Grease and flour a 9 inch spring form tin and set aside. Heat the oven to 160 degrees.
Press the pastry into the spring form tin so that it covers the base and goes up the sides.
Place it into the heated oven with a layer of baking parchment and some baking beads on top. Bake for 20 minutes.
Remove the beans and parchment and crisp up the pastry for five more minutes in the oven.
While it is baking place the sugar for the caramel into a pan with four tablespoons of water.
Allow the sugar to dissolve over a low heat then turn up until it begins to change to a golden colour.
Reduce the heat again and add the butter, cream, salt and syrup. Stir and remove from the heat.
Allow it to cool for five minutes and pour into the base.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain barine, which is a pot or bowl placed above some boiling water.
Make sure steam does not reach to chocolate as this will cause it to stiffen.
While it is melting whisk the eggs and the caster sugar together until it is thick and pale.
Fold into the slightly cooled melted chocolate, stir in the coco and pour into the tart.
Bake for about 25 minutes until it has set. Allow to cool before serving. Serve with a glass of cool amaretto.
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