I love chocolate. Everyone loves Chocolate.
Okay, not EVERYONE, in fact my BFF, Jacquelin, hates the stuff.
I remember once when we were in high school we went to get ice cream and upon entering the store, Jacquelin’s face started to look a little funny. All of a sudden she bolted. Straight out of the shop.
They were making chocolate dipped waffle cones and the smell, which I was thoroughly enjoying, made her nauseous enough to head for the hills! I must say though, when push comes to shove, Jacquelin will still eat a Fantale, so there’s definitely a tiny bit of chocolate-love hiding inside even the biggest chocolate-hater!
Aside from the ‘Jacquelins’ of the world, who I truly believe are few and far between, most people adore the stuff. Today I’m going to run through a few of the basics when it comes to chocolate and cooking with it, and then I want to hear all of your chocolate tips, chocolate stories and dream-come-true chocolate recipes (I’ve included one of my favourites below for my famous Chocolate ‘Lasagne’!)
10 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CHOCOLATE
1) It all starts with the Theobroma Cacao, or more commonly, the Cacao Tree. The fruit of the Cacao Tree is the Cacao Pod and inside these pods are Cacao Beans (or nibs). Chocolate is the product resulting from a long and intricate process that begins with these special little beans.
2) There are loads of different types of chocolate, but when the average person is asked about this their mind normally goes straight to “Milk”, “Dark” and “White.” As I am sure you have heard many times before, White Chocolate “isn’t really chocolate” as it contains no cocoa solids (from the chocolate liquor.) Chocolate liquor is pure chocolate in liquid form i.e. the cacao bean, that has undergone several processes, been separated from its skin and then melted.
3) You often hear the words “Couverture Chocolate” bandied around, especially on all of these reality TV cooking shows! But what does it mean? “Couverture Chocolate” refers to the high-end stuff. It’s pretty much the best you can get. To be classed as “Couverture” the chocolate has to be made from a minimum of 32% cocoa butter. It has a super silky texture and is exceptionally rich in flavour. Yum!
4) Tempering chocolate is the process of treating chocolate so that it retains a shine, is ultra smooth and has the perfect snap-factor. When you buy a block of chocolate at the supermarket, it has already been tempered. However, if you melt this at home to make something e.g. Easter eggs using a mould, you will need to temper it again if you want your final product to also be smooth, shiny, and snap like there’s no tomorrow when it is eaten.
5) The best (and safest!) way to melt chocolate so as to prevent it from seizing up is over a double boiler. To do this fill the base of a saucepan with water. Place a bowl on top of the saucepan so that it sits there comfortably (you will need to find matching sizes.) Make sure that the bottom of the bowl is not in direct contact with the water, if it is, empty some water out. Turn on the stove to a medium heat and start stirring the chocolate. Do this continuously until all chocolate is melted.
6) Technically speaking, when you break down the composition of both a strawberry and a raspberry, the latter is a more suitable/compatible match with chocolate! I personally like both of them with chocolate but must say I prefer strawberries! Oh my untrained palette.
7) Apart from raspberries and strawberries, chocolate tastes AMAZING when combined with the following flavours; coffee, mint, orange, chilli, hazelnut, banana, salt and loads more. I would love to hear what your favourite combinations are!
8) Making Chocolate Ganache is really easy! All you need is chocolate and cream (some also use butter for extra gloss, I don’t!). To make it, place 350 grams of chocolate and 1 cup of pouring cream in a pan on the stovetop. Melt over a medium heat, stirring continuously. This will yield approximately 2 cups of ganache. You can use milk, white or dark chocolate.
9) To make a very basic Chocolate Icing for a plain chocolate cake all you need is icing sugar, cocoa powder, a little bit of butter and a dash of water. Combine all of these ingredients in a bowl and you’re good to go! (To make enough icing to cover a 25 cm square cake use 250g sifted icing sugar, 1 and a half tablespoons of cocoa powder, 20g melted butter and 2 tablespoons of hot water.)
10) I’ve heard many times over the years that eating chocolate triggers a release of endorphins in your brain, which basically makes you happy. The first part of that sentence I’m not 100% sure about (Scientists? Doctors? Help a sister out!) However, the second part of that sentence I am 1000% sure to be true, so tear open that packet and get chomping! You have full permission to jump in!
PHOODIE’S CHOCOLATE ‘LASAGNE’
Note: This ‘Lasagne’ is approx. 35 cm wide x 45cm long x 35 cm high – it serves 60 people. As the ingredients for this recipe do tend to be a little pricey, an alternative would be to make it on a smaller scale. You could either reduce the number of layers in the ‘lasagne’ or you could make the same number of layers but just a smaller sized cake.
Chocolate Brownie (to make 4 layers of brownie)
6 x batches of THESE BROWNIES – instead of the nuts though, I added an extra half cup of chocolate chips! (I used half dark chocolate chips and half white chocolate chips.) Note: Each of my brownie layers required 1 and a half of this recipe – hence 6 times the recipe gives 4 layers!
Ferrero Meringue (to makes 3 layers of meringue)
12 egg whites (4 per meringue)
3 cups caster sugar (1 cup per meringue, or 1/4 cup per egg white)
1 cap white wine vinegar
20 Ferrero Rocher Chocolates – roughly chopped
Milk Chocolate Ganache
800 grams Milk Chocolate (I used buttons)
300 ml Thickened cream
60 Ferrero Chocolates – roughly chopped
1) Make the 4 brownie layers and allow to cool.
2) Make the 3 meringue layers and allow to cool.
– Place 12 egg whites in electric mixer bowl and mix on high speed.
– Once you have turned mixer on DO NOT TURN IT OFF until finished!!
– Once the egg whites have formed soft peaks start adding in the sugar slowly but steadily – ALL THE WHILE KEEPING THE MIXER GOING AT HIGH SPEED!
– You want the mixture to become glossy and firm with stiff peaks.
– After you are done adding all the sugar and the mixture is appearing as described above, add in the cap of white wine vinegar – ALL THE WHILE KEEPING THE MIXER GOING AT HIGH SPEED!
– Turn the mixer off and add in your roughly chopped Ferrero’s…. it is VERY important that these are GENTLY FOLDED through and not thoroughly stirred as you do not want to “flatten” your Meringue mixture!
– Divide the mixture into 3. Place each third on a baking paper lined tray. Sculpt each one into a rectangle; approximately the same size as each brownie layer i.e. 35 x 45 cm and about 1.5cm high. Place into oven (170 deg. cel. fan forced) for about 20 mins or until coloured on top and firm to touch. Leave in TURNED OFF oven overnight if possible, to “set”.
3) Make your ganache by placing the chocolate and the cream into a pan and melting over a medium heat. Stir the whole time. Set aside to cool slightly.
4) Roughly chop the 60 Ferrero chocolates. Set aside.
5) Assemble the ‘Lasagne’
– Place a layer of brownie onto a cake board. Spread over a layer of ganache and sprinkle some Ferrero on top.
– Place a layer of meringue on top. Spread over a layer of ganache and sprinkle some Ferrero on top.
– Repeat until all brownie and meringue layers have been used. You will have a brownie on the top. Add remaining ganache to the brownie and GENEROUSLY cover in remaining chopped Ferrero chocolates.
Enjoy a slab of this with a dollop of thick cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream!
Are you a chocoholic? Any tips for cooking with Chocolate, or about Chocolate in general? Any delicious chocolate recipes to share?