Over the last year and a half – of teaching myself to bake – I have discovered one thing – people will never ever turn down chocolate! In scenes reminiscent to a hoard of migrating wildebeest purposely making their way across the Masai Mara in Africa, my work colleagues leave very little evidence that any of my chocolate experiments existed at all. In fact had a crime been committed then any CSI team would struggle to find a morsel and I’d be sent to the looney bin for making something up! This of course has no bearing on my skills as a chef, a baker or a chocolatier, it simply means they’re hungry and desperate for an endorphin hit! I happily oblige as often as I can! They have proven to be a captive audience, an audience I will continue to use as guinea pigs, death by chocolate has a rather delicious ring about it!
All this leads me nicely to the latest book to land on my desk, Joanne Harris – Author of Chocolat – and Fran Warde’s The Little Book of Chocolat. If you’re looking for an afternoon treat or perhaps something a little more substantial, ideas for a dinner party or a special homemade gift for your nearest and dearest then this small but perfectly formed book would be a great addition to your collection.
I decided to attempt two recipes initially, more will surely follow as I devour this cute book, Chocolate Fudge Squares (page 27) and P’tite Mère’s Chocolate Chestnut Truffles (page 30). The fudge peaces couldn’t be easier to make and they came out looking great and believe me, they won’t last long even though the recipe makes 50 pieces. I made two batches, the first following the recipe and the second I added a little flavour using Valencian Orange flavouring and the result was a cross between a chocolate orange (that breaks into segments and everyone has at Christmas) and dark chocolate fudge. As the recipe says there’s no cooking involved save for a little melting in the pan and before you know it the fudge is cooling in the fridge. Definitely child friendly, with the help of a supervising adult, in fact both recipes covered here fall into that category.
The second recipe reminds me of my dad, he loved hot chestnuts. I remember shopping with him on many occasions as a teenager, my dad buying a packet of warm chestnuts – amazing in winter – and we could never get enough of them! I digress! This recipe takes a little longer than the aforementioned fudge but the results are definitely worth it as you can see from the picture. My only disappointment with the outcome – the truffles were a little softer than I had hoped for. I used 51% dark chocolate and followed the recipe religiously so I’m not sure what happened. The guys in work didn’t seem to mind and all that was left in the tin after 15 minutes was a dusting of cocoa powder! Despite their soft appearance they didn’t have time to collapse!
I will definitely be making both again, especially the truffles but I do want to get them firmer next time and when I do they’ll make great birthday presents.
The book itself is full of exciting recipes and comes complete with end product pictures to help guide you to what they should look like – always a help! I’ll be attempting the famous Sacher Torte and the Pistachio and Chocolate Shortbread next, both very different but both equally chocolatey – should keep the hunger at bay in work! Now on to the two recipes featured in this article.
Takes 2 hours – Makes 50
200g (7oz) dark chocolate, broken into small, even-sized pieces
100g (3½oz) chestnut purée
200g (7oz) double cream
75g (2¾oz) unrefined light brown sugar
25g (1oz) cocoa powder
Line a baking tray approximately 20cm x 16cm (8in x 6¼in) with parchment. Melt the chocolate, chestnut purée, cream and sugar in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Remove from the heat and mix until evenly blended. Place in the fridge until firmly set (at least 1 hour).
When set, use a teaspoon to scoop out evenly sized balls and roll them between your palms one at a time. Put the cocoa in a shallow bowl and toss each truffle in the powder. Repeat until all are coated. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week (assuming that you can resist them for that long).
Dark Chocolate Fudge Squares
Takes 1 1/2 hours – Makes 50
400g dark or milk chocolate, broken into small, even-sized pieces
397g condensed milk
100g icing sugar
30g cocoa powder, sifted
Line a 20cm square, shallow tin with baking parchment.
Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie. In a non stick saucepan, melt the butter and gently warm the condensed milk, then add the melted chocolate and mix until smooth. Beat the icing sugar until blended and smooth.
[It’s at this point you can add chopped nuts or any flavouring you want to add – I suggest 55g of mixed nuts or 1tsp of flavouring. Orange and Peppermint work very well with the dark chocolate]
Put the mixture into the prepared tin, spread evenly into the corners, smooth over the top and place in the fridge to set for at least an hour. Remove and cut into small squares and dust with cocoa.
Both recipes taken from The Little Book of Chocolat by Joanne Harris and Fran Warde. The book is priced at £12.99 at published by Transworld Books. Both Joanne and Fran are on twitter so go ahead and follow them both! Magnifique!!