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Recipes For A Wonderful Chocolate Feast

Mar 18, 2008
The health benefits, aphrodisiac qualities and incomparable taste of chocolate have been passionately championed for centuries. And if there's one thing that all chocolate lovers agree on, it is the pure pleasure one gets from eating it in its myriad forms.

Cocoa has been used by generations of cooks around the world to create a wealth of sweets, cakes and biscuits, truffles, drinks and glorious desserts, and I would like to begin your chocolate initiation with cakes. Why not try a grandfather's cake (torta del nonno) to impress your dinner guests, or a sumptuous Queen of Sheba chocolate almond cake?

These are not for the faint-hearted, neither are hot puddings, which are indulgently rich, and suitable for only the most hardened chocolate fiends. But for the more sophisticated sweet tooth, try chocolate-dipped Florentines, and if you like the chilled desserts to keep you cool, try the chilly treats that are the gianduja semifreddo, where chocolate is deliciously complemented with hazelnuts as an ingredient.

If there's anything better than receiving chocolates from someone, it must surely be to know that they are homemade. Truffles and sweets are the ultimate sin, so allow yourself to have a go at some decadent Italian chocolate truffles - it's up to you to decide whether you give them away...

Chocolate Truffles.
This classic truffle recipe is very rich and dense, and reliant on the best-qualify chocolate that you can afford. For real truffle addicts, stir a little truffle honey or a drop of real truffle oil into the mixture - the combination is delicious.

Break the chocolate into small pieces and place in a Pyrex/china basin. Fit the bowl into the rim of a saucepan so that it is suspended over simmering water. Stir gently until all is melted and remove from pan. Beat in the butter, egg yolk, liqueur and truffle honey, if using. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until set.

Sift some cocoa onto a plate. Using a teaspoon, scoop the chilled chocolate mixture into rough mounds, shape into a knobbly truffle shape in your hands, and then drop into the cocoa. Roll around until it is completely covered and put on the prepared baking sheet. Layer in an airtight container between sheets of greaseproof paper and refrigerate for up to five days, or freeze for up to a month.

150g dark chocolate (60-70 per cent cocoa solids)
100g salted butter, cubed
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp Mozart Black Chocolate Liqueur or
dark Creme de Cacao
1 teaspoon truffle honey, or a drop of real truffle oil (optional)
Unsweetened cocoa, to dust.

Torta Del Nonno (Grandfathers Cake)
Everyone in Italy knows this fabulous cake, filled with chocolate custard cream and topped with crunchy pine nuts. Its fragrance is so evocative, when I bake it in Italy, people appear as if by magic in my kitchen in search of this rich treat.

To make the pastry, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl, using an electric whisk, until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks, orange zest, vanilla extract and salt. Stir in the flour until almost mixed. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and knead gently until smooth. Divide into two pieces - one slightly bigger than the other. Form into discs, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Roll out the larger piece of pastry as thinly as possible and use to line the tart tin. Prick the pastry all over with a fork and freeze for at least 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 190 degrees C/Gas Mark 5. Line the tart with aluminium foil or greaseproof paper, fill with baking beans and bake blind for 15 minutes. Remove the foil and baking beans and return to the oven for 10 more minutes to dry out. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. Leave the oven on. Meanwhile, to make the chocolate custard filling, heat the milk with the chocolate in a large pan. When it is just about to boil, take it off the heat. Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a large bowl, then whisk in the flour and cocoa.

Whisk in the hot chocolate milk. Return the mixture to the pan and heat gently, stirring until starting to thicken. Once it reaches a very slow boil, simmer for 2 minutes, then stir in the vanilla extract. Pour into the cooled pastry case and leave to cool.

Roll the remaining pastry out to a circle that is slightly larger than the diameter of the tart tin. Brush the rim of the pastry case with the beaten egg yolks and cover the filling with the pastry circle, pressing it firmly against the cooked edges, then trim away the excess. Brush the pastry with more egg yolk and scatter over the pine nuts. Make a couple of air holes in the top. Bake for 1 hour, then remove from the oven and leave to cool completely. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

2 egg yolks, beaten, to glaze
4-6 tablespoons pine nuts
Icing sugar, to dust
175g unsalted butter, softened
100g golden caster sugar
2 egg yolks
Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
A pinch of salt
250g plain flour
600ml milk
50g dark chocolate (60-70 per cent cocoa solids)finely choipped
2 egg yolks
75g grams caster sugar
1 tablespoon plain flour, cornflour or potato starch
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
About the Author
Chocolate Models

You may not always agree with my writings but I hope to inform.

Harwood E Woodpecker
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