"All you need is love.
But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt".
Chocolate comprises a number of raw and processed foods produced from the seed of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. The seeds of the cacao tree have an intense bitter taste which are fermented to develop the flavor.
After fermentation, the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted, and the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground to cocoa mass, pure chocolate in rough form. This mass may be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.
The origins of chocolate can be traced back to the ancient Aztec and Mayan people. The Cocoa beans were prized by the Maya Indians as far back as 600 AD. They roasted and added them to chili and other spices to make a drink called Xocoatl, bitter water.
It was not until 1517, when the Spanish conqueror Hernan Cortés sent an expedition to colonise Mexico, that chocolate was first imported to Europe. By 1520 the Spanish, led by Cortes, had defeated the Aztec civilisation,
and in 1528 he returned to Spain bringing cacao with him. Soon 'chocolate' was all the rage amongst the Spanish elite who preferred it without chilli and to be served warm, hence “hot chocolate.”
Gradually chocolate spread across Europe with the Italians and the French setting up cocoa plantations in Cuba and Haiti by 1684 but it wasn’t till 1653 that chocolate finally hit England. It immediately became a hit with Charles II and in royal circles and in 1657 London’s very first Chocolate House was opened in Bishopsgate Street.
During the 18th Century the French produced chocolate pastilles (tablets), but it wasn’t until 1847 that Bristol company Fry & Son mixed cocoa powder with sugar and melted cocoa butter to produce the first moulded “chocolate bar”.
In 1875, a Swiss manufacturer called Daniel Peter added powdered milk to make the first milk chocolate bar. Unfortunately, up to this point, chocolate was course and grainy and would not have had the same melting properties that it has today. It took the mistake of Rodolphe Lindt in 1879 to rectify this when he accidentally left a mixer, containing chocolate, running overnight. This method is called conching. It’s a method still used today and it refines the chocolate, giving it the smooth texture.
Finally in 1905 Cadbury launched the world-famous Dairy Milk bar and chocolate developed.
Here are a few of my favourites. Two of them are extremely simple. The cake and fondant are a little more complicated but well worth the extra effort for that special occasion.
Seriously thick, spicy hot chocolate
-100g dark chocolate
-100ml double cream
-1 tbsp caster sugar
-1 vanilla pod
-1 pinch ground ginger
-1 tsp honey
-1 tsp ground cinnamon
-1 fresh red chilli split
Place milk, cream, honey, sugar, chilli, cardamom, cinnamon, vanilla and ginger in a pan and bring to the boil. Switch of heat and allow to infuse for 10 minutes. Bring back to the boil and pass through a sieve over the chocolate. Whisk until chocolate melted and mix is emulsified. Serve warm with whipped cream, mmm.
Simple chocolate truffles
-453g dark chocolate
Bring cream and rum to boil and pour over chocolate. Stir and leave for 5 minutes then whisk until emulsified and glossy. Pour into a cling film lined mould of desired thickness and set in fridge. Once set cut into desired shape and dust in cocoa.
-370g dark chocolate
-5 large free range eggs separated
-200g soft brown sugar
-70g caster sugar
Line a 20cm cake tin with greaseproof paper. Melt the butter in a pan then reduce the heat and add the chocolate, stir until completely melted.
Place the egg whites in a bowl and whisk to soft peak, slowly add the caster sugar and whisk to hard peaks.
Place sugar in a pan with enough water to wet the sugar and bring to the boil.
In a large bowl whisk the egg yolks, slowly add the chocolate and butter mix and whisk well. Then slowly pour in the sugar syrup whisking all the time. Finally fold in the egg whites. Pour a third of the mix into the cake tin and bake at 170 Celsius for 40 minutes by which point it will have risen up quite a bit.
Test with a skewer, which should come out hot. Allow to cool completely, then flatten the top of the cake with a knife, push down hard so your left with a flat surface. Pour the rest of the mix onto the cake, flatten down with a hot knife and return to the oven for 15 minutes until top had set. Allow to cool completely the de-mould and slice.
Chocolate and Roquefort fondant
An strange combination but seriously moreish. Please give it a go, its really worth the extra effort. I tried this whilst working in a 1 Michelin star restaurant. Everyone was very hesitant at first but it went down an absolute storm.
-25g caster sugar
The day before you make these, bring the cream, water and sugar to the boil. Add the cheese and whisk till melted. Pass through a sieve over the chocolate and mix to melt. Finally whisk in the butter and pour into a container so that mix is approx 2cm deep. Place in freezer.
-4 egg yolks
-65g ground almonds
Whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until light and fluffy. Melt the chocolate and the butter and mix into eggs. Lastly fold in almonds and flour.
Line 6 small pastry rings or darioles moulds. Take the frozen ganache out of freezer and cut into square chunks just smaller than your moulds. Spoon the mixture into the moulds till just over half full. Place a chunk of frozen Ganache in the centre of the mould and push down lights making sure it does not touch the sides . Spoon a little more mix over the top making sure they are completely covered. Place in an oven at 220 Celsius for approx 20 minutes, or until the sponge has set firmly on top. Carefully remove the fondant from its mould and serve immediately.