On the dark side
Kathy Paterson takes a closer look at a favourite ingredient...chocolate.
Thee chocolate journey begins with harvesting cocoa pods, which are then split open to reveal the cocoa beans which in turn are fermented and dried. The beans are roasted, stripping them down to just cocoa solid and cocoa butter. This is ground into something called cocoa mass.
In the case of something like Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate the cocoa mass is blended with milk and sugar to form chocolate liquor, which is evaporated to make chocolate crumb. The crumb is mixed with more chocolate liquor and pure cocoa butter before “conching’’, a term used for mixing and beating the liquid to ensure it has the correct flavour. The final step is tempering, which is a delicate process of mixing and cooling the chocolate.
The best chocolate has a high cocoa content and uses only pure cocoa butter (rather than vegetable or palm oil). Look for cocoa powder that has been “dutched’’. This process darkens the powder and gives a smoother flavour. Check the label when buying — the higher the fat content, the better the flavour.
I am a big fan of slices, especially those that can be cut up and kept in the refrigerator. To make life easier you can buy hazelnuts that have already been roasted and their skins removed. You will find fresh dates at your greengrocer or in the fresh produce section of your supermarket.
Makes about 40 squares
500g dried figs
300g fresh dates
100g soft pitted prunes
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
¼ cup Grand Marnier
1 Tbsp liquid honey
250g dark chocolate, cut into small pieces, I used Whittaker’s Dark Ghana 72%
100g hazelnuts, roasted, skins removed and cut in half
Dark cocoa powder, to dust
- Line a swiss roll tin or similar with baking paper.
- Thinly slice the figs. Remove date stones and slice flesh, then slice the pitted prunes. Place in a large bowl with the orange zest, juice, Grand Marnier and honey. Cover and leave to stand in a cool place for at least 1 hour.
- Place chocolate in a small heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, ensuring the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water, and allow to melt. Take it off the heat when there are still small lumps then gently stir until completely smooth.
- Stir the hazelnuts and melted chocolate into the fruit mixture and mix well. Spoon into the lined tin and spread, leaving the mixture 2.5-3cm in thickness. (You may not fill the tin.) Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to firm up.
- To serve, cut into about 40 small squares and dust with cocoa. This slice will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week — if you are lucky!
3 large beurre bosc pears
Juice of 1 lemon
1¼ cups flour
¼ cup dark cocoa powder
1½ tsp baking powder
¾ cup caster sugar, plus 2 Tbsp for sprinkling
½ cup ground almonds
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g butter, melted and cooled
½ cup milk
- Heat the oven to 180C. Grease and line a 23cm round cake tin.
- Slice the pears thinly placing in a bowl as you go and sprinkle with the lemon juice to prevent browning.
- Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into a large bowl. Add ¾ cup caster sugar, the ground almonds, eggs and vanilla extract. Using an electric hand beater, beat on a low speed until smooth.
- Gently stir in the butter and milk.
- Spread half the cake mixture over the base of the prepared tin and arrange half of the pear slices on top. Spread over the remaining cake mixture then arrange the remaining pears on top. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp caster sugar.
- Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer is inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.
- Leave to sit in the tin for 10 minutes before removing. Serve warm with chocolate sauce, cream or yoghurt.
Makes about 1 cup
125g dark chocolate, cut into small pieces or coarsely grated
½ cup cream, double cream is good here
¼ cup full fat milk
1 tsp liquid honey
Combine ingredients in a small heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove bowl from heat and leave to cool a little. This sauce thickens as it cools.
If you love a loaf full of flavour and different types of nuts then try this one. The recipe makes one large loaf. Cut into at least 20 slices
200g butter, softened
1 cup vanilla sugar, I used Heilala
1½ cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp ground cardamom
½ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 orange
3 Tbsp Grand Marnier
1 cup dates, coarsely chopped
¾ cup whole blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
¾ cup hazelnuts, roasted and skins removed, coarsely chopped
1 cup pecan nuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup milk chocolate bits, I used milk chocolate callets 34%
- Heat the oven to 175C. Grease and line a large loaf tin, 28cm x 13cm, with baking paper.
- Beat the butter and vanilla sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and spices.
- Mix together the milk, vanilla extract, orange zest and Grand Marnier.
- In a bowl combine the dates, nuts and chocolate.
- Fold sifted dry ingredients alternately with the milk mixture into the creamed mixture until combined. Fold in date mixture.
- Spoon into the prepared tin, cover tin loosely with baking paper and foil and seal edges.
- Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, then remove paper and foil. Bake for a further 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool in the tin before removing. Keep in an airtight container.