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Issue 50 - Heavenly Delights

Scotland Magazine Issue 50
April 2010

 

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Heavenly Delights

Sue Lawrence tempts us with some soft, gooey and mouth watering treats.

It is a little-known fact that the reason eating chocolate is such a gloriously deep, satisfying experience is that it is the only substance to melt at blood temperature. Once melted, chocolate gently explodes into a warm, sensual liquid, filling your mouth with an incomparable, hedonistic feeling that is so good that you just want to go on and on savouring it.

I know I am not alone in agreeing with chocoholics about what was regarded by the Aztecs as “food of the Gods”. Emperor Montezuma is reputed to have drunk hot chocolate as an aphrodisiac and regularly retired to his harem fortified with “xoco-atl”. He did, however, first drain his golden goblet of the exotic drink (it was flavoured with chillies and cinnamon in those days), for chocolate was forbidden to Aztec women.

Given the response of most women now when confronted with a gooey hot chocolate pudding or a slab of dark, moist chocolate cake, it is perhaps hardly surprising. Gustatory pleasure was obviously a man’s prerogative in the 16th century.

But now we can all savour the delights of once forbidden fruits. Ever since Cortes brought back the cocoa bean to Charles V of Spain in 1528, it has been revered. It was even recommended as an alternative to gin by the Quaker families (Rowntree, Fry, Cadbury, Terry) in the 19th century. Thankfully it is not flavoured now with chillies and cinnamon but with sugar, vanilla and often milk; it is also bought for pleasure, not as a substitute for “mother’s ruin”.

There are also many savoury dishes made with bitter chocolate from Mexican turkey and chilli stew to Italian-style hare sauce for pasta.

And whether you are proffered an inviting box of chocolate truffles, a rich chocolate ice-cream or a dense, rich cake, quality is paramount. For using inferior chocolate in cooking can leave a nasty taste in the mouth; it is a waste of time, effort and your other ingredients. What you want to look for is chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids, which means that you have true cocoa character and less sugar or other potentially dodgy additives.

Always check on the labels of the chocolate you intend to cook with and avoid “Cake Covering” like the plague. Its label makes interesting reading: sugar, hydrogenated fat then finally cocoa powder, as well as other flavourings.

We in Britain used to regard olive oil with deep suspicion because of its unpalatable greasy aftertaste, before we discovered extra-virgin olive oil with its clean, pure taste. The same applies to quality chocolate: once you use a good chocolate in cooking, you will never go back to those bars of socalled dark chocolate we used to sling in with equanimity. Avoid anything under 50 per cent cocoa solids for dark chocolate and 30 per cent for milk.

There are even those aficionados who insist we ought to check out the bean. No, really. Just like wine connoisseurs insist on a Bordeaux cabernet or a Marlborough sauvignon blanc, so chocolate gourmets can pin it all down to the provenance of the bean. They can tell their Venezuelan Criollo from their Brazilian Forastero just as you might know your Shiraz from your Pinot Noir; or your Hersheys from your Valrhona.

CHOCOLATE FUDGE CAKE Serves 8 to 10 This is a wonderfully moist cake that will please adults and kids alike!

Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat the eggs, vanilla and syrup together then fold into the butter mixture. Fold in the cocoa and flour then stir in the milk. Combine until smooth.

Turn into 2 x 8” / 20cm buttered sandwich tins, smooth the surface and bake at 180C / 350F / Gas 4 for 25 minutes then remove and turn onto a cake rack.

For the filling, heat the cream gently in a saucepan then add the chocolate and sugar, stirring well. Once melted, beat in the butter until smooth then leave until cold and thickened – about 30 minutes.

Use to fill and top the cake.

CAKE 100g / 3½ oz butter, softened 250 g / 9 oz golden caster sugar 4 large free-range eggs 1 tsp vanilla essence 1 tbsp golden syrup 75g / 3 oz cocoa, sifted 200g self-raising flour, sifted 50 ml / 2 fl oz milk FUDGE FILLING 150 ml / 5 fl oz double cream 200 g / 7 oz dark chocolate 25g / 1 oz light muscovado sugar 40g / 1½ oz butter Sue’s top tip Buy some superb chocolates made in rural Perthshire for a special treat: here you will find hot chocolate (dark and white), dipped fruit such as cherries, chocolate Florentines, chocolate dipped brazil and pecan nuts and of course gorgeous selection boxes.

http://www.highlandchocolatier.com PEAR AND CHOCOLATE BROWNIE PUDDING Serves 4 to 6 Serve this gooey delicious pudding warm, not too hot, and with plenty of thick pouring cream or ice-cream, 200g dark chocolate, chopped 125 g butter, softened 100 g golden caster sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract 2 large free-range eggs 75g self-raising flour, sifted 25g cocoa, sifted 3 large ripe pears Melt 125g chocolate with the butter then cool slightly. Beat in the sugar and vanilla then the eggs. Fold in the flour and cocoa and combine gently.

Peel the pears and cut into thick slices. Place in the base of a buttered 1 litre oven dish and scatter over the remaining chocolate.

Spoon over the brownie mixture and bake at 180C / 350F / Gas 4 for 35 to 40 minutes until just firm.

Cool for at least 15 minutes then serve warm with ice-cream or thick cream.