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Chocolate Recipes

24 November 2009

Strawberry Tart


Week four into the pastry module and I am well and truly on a butter high. Not exactly great for the cholesterol but I’ve only got two weeks left until the end of term.

One of our recent lessons included making sweet paste, also known as “pate sucree”. 

Sweet paste is used for tart bases or shortbread cookies. There are several methods in which to make it with the ‘creaming’ or ‘rub in’ method resulting in a lighter and crumblier end product. 

There are a few important points to remember when making sweet paste, especially if it’s for a tart base.
First, when mixing or kneading the dough, do so with a light, gentle touch. Overworking the dough develops the gluten strands and results in a tough and often dry crumb.

Secondly, when the recipe says ‘rest the dough’ – rest the dough. No shortcuts or shaving off a few minutes here or there.

Resting pate sucree means wrapping it in plastic cling wrap and allowing it to sit in the fridge for about 20 to 30 minutes. If you don’t let it rest, the dough will be too soft to handle and shrink if you try to bake it.  A dismal thing if it’s ever happened to you but it's something that can be avoided by just being patient. 

This strawberry tart took me a lot of time and patience to make. It's a scorching summer here in Sydney and soaring temperatures don't exactly make for perfect pastry-making conditions. Handling buttery pastry can be a difficult thing in the heat but I did it.

The tart was filled with a luscious dark chocolate crème patisserie and topped with fresh strawberries.

It was a funny moment when I'd finished taking photos of the tart. It was so lovely to look at. I stared at it for a while and realized with a slight twinge of disappointment that all there was to do now was to eat it.

I have found this attachment occurring throughout my pastry-making. And I'm not the only one. My classmates suffer from the same parental urges. We all hover protectively over our own danishes in class.

Ultimately, the eating always beats the looking.

Continue reading "Strawberry Tart" »

03 March 2009

Chocolate Melting Moments


My first melting moment seems a long time ago. I was sitting in a cafe in Australia when I ordered this shortbread sandwich. It was lemon and passionfruit and I've never forgotten it.

True to its name, the cookie melted on my tongue. Its texture is different from regular shortbread. It's crumbly yet it's moist. It's buttery yet it's dry.

What gives them their soft texture is the addition of cornstarch, also known in Australia as 'corn flour'.

In this chocolate melting moment recipe, I use a little pure vanilla extract to enhance the icing however you could also use peppermint, coffee or even raspberry extract.

Continue reading "Chocolate Melting Moments" »

03 February 2009

Ricotta Ravioli with Dark Chocolate Sauce


A few months ago I wrote about my first experience with chocolate pasta. Since then I've often thought about the endless possibilities of sweet flavour combinations.

After a recent pasta-making class at Quince cooking studio in Vancouver, I promptly raced out and finally bought a pasta machine.

The cooking class was taught by chef Adam Pegg of La Quercia restaurant. Pegg studied in Italy for several years and spent much of his time studying pasta-making techniques in the Emilia-Romagna region. Emilia-Romagna is considered by many in Italy to produce some of the country's finest fresh pasta.

Pegg recalled his good fortune in spending many a day with little old ladies in their homes learning how to perfect their craft. Even as a young man Pegg couldn't keep up with the dexterous workings of those seasoned veterans. 

During class we learned how to make orecchiette (little ears), mini gnocchi, fettucine and ravioli. I've been wanting to make my own ravioli for a while, especially paper-thin sheets, which I think, makes for the best ravioli.

So I bought my new machine this Sunday morning past and set it to work as soon as I got home. Our glass dining table became a mini pasta workshop. The flour was flying. Several happy hours later I was serving ricotta and lemon zest-filled ravioli topped with a dark chocolate sauce, followed by fettucine served with shaved Himalayan truffles (the poor man's truffle, but more on that next week).

The ravioli was sublime. If you don't have a pasta machine and can't be bothered making your own then you could always substitute the pasta with Chinese dumpling wrappers but there's just something about freshly made pasta that cannot be topped.


Continue reading "Ricotta Ravioli with Dark Chocolate Sauce" »

20 January 2009

Dark Chocolate Souffle


The soufflé, once the bane of my existence, is now something I enjoy cooking and relish eating. The chemistry of this dish is one that fascinates me and I often think about the trials and errors of the first chefs who invented and perfected it.

The soufflé, a French invention, is dated back to late 18th century and translates to “breath of air”. Soufflés can be served hot or cold and sweet or savory.

The technique of preparing a hot soufflé begins with the making of a roux – a combination of melted butter and flour – which acts as a base and thickening agent, like that of a Béchamel sauce. The next steps are pretty simple and are laid out in my recipe below.

In my experience, the trick to soufflés is not to over-mix. Have a steady, yet gentle hand when combining the egg whites to the roux sauce. The second, and probably most important point, is to not open the oven door when the soufflés are cooking.

I usually press my nose against the oven window in anticipation of the majestic rising until it gets too hot. It's a wonderful thing to watch a soufflé rise. The joy is fleeting, however, because once you open the door, you have about 40 seconds of wonderful puff followed by rapid deflation. As you can imagine, taking photos of a soufflé happens at Formula-1-pit-stop-pace.

Whenever I'm making one, I always wonder how restaurants can serve soufflés when they're so briefly at their perfection.

This is my fifth time making a souffle and my third successful attempt. My first two attempts were abysmal failures - they tasted great, they just didn't rise. I called them "shriveled toads" at the time.

Soufflé number 3 was also successful but had a slightly heavier texture as I used coconut milk in a Thai-inspired Pandan souffle .

Souffle number 4 was also successful and punctuated with hints of passionfruit.


Continue reading "Dark Chocolate Souffle" »

30 October 2008

Vegan Cupcakes -- a revelation


Some may think the words 'vegan' and 'cupcake' should never meet in a sentence. Unfortunately, the word 'vegan' still has some rather drab connotations. It conjures up images of tofu-like textures and pale imitations. Cupcakes, on the other hand, inspire child-like delight and sinful decadence. The idea of a dairy-free cupcake certainly didn't do anything for me.

That was until I tried a cupcake from the cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

They're quite spectacular. Light, moist and decadent -- all perfect cupcake prerequisites.

In the recipe, milk is substituted with plain soy milk and apple cider vinegar. It's rather ingenious really. The cider curdles the soy milk and turns it into the consistency of buttermilk. Eggs are substituted with a little canola oil which gives the cupcake its moist, fluffy texture.

The icing is a combination of non-hydrogenated margarine, vegan shortening, soy milk, icing sugar and cocoa powder.

I made the cupcakes for the Thanksgiving party I recently catered for. My reason for choosing a vegan recipe was purely out of practicality - not to cater to anyone's dietary restrictions. I know these cupcakes to be reliable and their 'veganess' takes nothing away from their 'cupcakeness'.

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World is the brainchild of punk rocker Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Romero. Moskowitz has authored several vegan cookbooks all of which have won critical claim amongst the vegan community.

These cupcakes are a great way for the uninitiated to venture into the ever-more-popular world of veganism.

Continue reading "Vegan Cupcakes -- a revelation" »

14 October 2008

Homemade Chocolate Truffles


Ganache -- a combination of cream and chocolate that forms the velvety  heart of truffles. It can be used to glaze cakes, to coat nuts or be coated with a crisp layer of chocolate.

To make ganache, gently heat cream until it starts to boil and then pour it over chopped chocolate or chocolate buds, all the while constantly stirring until the mixture is smooth and silken.

Let the chocolate/cream mixture cool to room temperature and then cover it and refrigerate it for at least 2 hours. I usually let it set overnight.

I also like to add a little liqueur like Grand Marnier. Some other flavours that go well include coconut essence, a tablespoon of black coffee or try rolling the ganache in desiccated coconut or chopped pistachios or hazelnuts.


Truffles are surprisingly easy to make but be prepared to get your hands dirty. It's a rather messy affair and you're likely to end up with chocolate in your eyebrows.

But don't despair, the mess is worth the result. Just lay down a sheet or two of newspaper and remember this tip -- keep your hands cold.

Ganache is delicate and sensitive to heat. When it comes to rolling time, I  always have a bag of ice next to me and in between every second rolling of the truffle balls I simply lay my chocolately hands on the bag and cool them down.

It does wonders for the truffles and makes things less gooey.

Check out these easy step-by-step instructions for making truffles. If you're not using nuts in the centre, then just skip over point 6 and 8.

Continue reading "Homemade Chocolate Truffles" »

23 June 2008

Chocolate Pasta? You've got to be kidding!


I kid you not: chocolate fettuccine. While some might balk at such a combination, I whole-heartedly welcomed the chance to try something so novel.

On a recent trip to Seattle's famed Pike Place Markets I spotted the extraordinary pasta when squeezing my way through the ravenous Saturday crowds. 

The dried chocolate pasta and a whole range of interesting artisan noodles are sold at Papparadelles Pasta stand.

I served the pasta at a dinner party for dessert but it was more like the main course of the meal. I served it with cream which I had whipped until it was frothy and then mixed with a freshly made raspberry sauce. I added a dash of cointreau to the cream for a subtle citrus aroma.

A pasta dish isn't ready until it's been topped with some cheese so I grated on some dark, semi-sweet chocolate.

The verdict: it was a hit. But honestly, it wasn't out-of-this-world mind-blowing. I think it was more a combination of the novelty of chocolate pasta and the heavenly raspberry cream sauce that had everyone so giddy. The pasta itself is not sweet and tastes like unsweetened cocoa.

I personally prefer fresh pasta and think that the end result is always better. One day when I have a pasta machine I'm going to try my hand at freshly made chocolate ravioli with an orange mousse centre.

Until that day comes, I'll keep buying dried chocolate pasta as it's lots of fun.


Continue reading "Chocolate Pasta? You've got to be kidding!" »

13 June 2008

Profiteroles with Dark Chocolate Orange Ice Cream


I made profiteroles for the first time a few days ago and here they are! The orange chocolate ice cream filling was actually an afterthought when I realised that the crème patisserie (pastry cream) was going to need three hours to chill.

I simply couldn't wait that long and luckily I had the ice cream sitting in my freezer. It was meant to be and it was perfect match. I've been meaning to make mini ice-cream sandwiches for a while using brioche and vanilla ice cream but these profiteroles were an excellent substitute.

The recipe I used for the choux pastry was from epicurious and like the reviews said, it was easy and they turned out perfectly. However, I wasn't so sure at the start if things were going well as the choux looked too runny and I wasn't sure how they were going to puff up, if at all. I used a pastry bag to squeeze out 'tall rounds' and as soon as I squeezed them out they promptly deflated and spread out. Not a good start.

Round two. I grumpily scooped all the miserable little chouxs back into a metal bowl and then put the bowl by the window to cool down. Incidentally, I'm in Vancouver where it's meant to be the start of summer and it's 10 degrees. So I cooled the choux  for about 15 minutes and let it firm up a bit and then spooned it back into the pastry bag and gave it another go.

The 'tall rounds' weren't exactly skyscrapers but they were keeping their tallish roundish shapes so I whisked them into the oven and then magically before my eager eyes, they rose.

Continue reading "Profiteroles with Dark Chocolate Orange Ice Cream" »

04 April 2008

Oaxaqueñan Chocolate


We are just back from our trip to Mexico with a bag full of goodies to talk about. Most of our time was spent exploring the fascinating markets in Oaxaca city, with a final stint for some sun in Puerto Angel. 

The Oaxaca region is rightly considered the food bowl of Mexico with its fertile valleys producing an abundance of tropical fruit and vegetables. It is also famous for its moles, a type of sauce, its string cheese (quesillo), its toasted grasshoppers (chapulines) and its chocolate.   

Chocolate has played an important part in the Mexican diet for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Once considered the 'food of the gods', chocolate was made from roasting cocoa beans, grinding them and then mixing them with sugar, spices and walnuts or almonds.

This traditional method of making chocolate can still be found in Mexico however it's getting harder to find with the rise of commercial chocolatiers like Mayordomo. The signature Mayordomo shop is located in the 'chocolate quarter' of Oaxaca on 20 de Novembre Street and Hildago Aveue. The smell is intoxicating and lures young and old in to sample its wares. The lines went out the door.

I bought several chunks of chocolate from a smaller chocolatier in the 20 de Novembre Mercado (market). The fragrant chocolate is infused with cinnamon, raw sugar and just a hint of cloves. It's not the kind of treat that you'd just snack on as it's quite gritty but it's perfect for hot chocolates or in sauces.


Chocolate drinks are made using a Molinillo (moh-lin-nyee-oh); a traditional wooden implement used to whisk the hot chocolate until it froths. The Molinillo is held between the palms of the hand and then spun back and forth to break down the chocolate and aerate the hot milk or water.


The whisking makes a very distinct and comforting sound. This, paired with the rich aroma of the hot chocolate, greeted us almost every morning during our trip. We've got at least 20 cups of chocolate left in our precious chunks. Drinking the last one will be bittersweet.

04 March 2008

Chocolate Banana Springrolls: fit for a King


If Elvis was still alive, I think that chocolate banana spring rolls would be his midnight snack of choice. They're sweet, extremely delicious and deep-fried (all prerequisites for Elvis' snacks ).

These ones were perhaps a little petite for The King: he'd have probably stuffed a bunch of bananas and a block of chocolate into entire sheets of the poor, bulging spring roll skins. He likely would have also tried to squeeze in a jar of peanut butter for good measure.  I, on the other hand, feeling guilty for my 4 o'clock deep-fried dessert, was a little more restrained.

You need not feel too guilty, though. Despite the deep-frying, these crunchy little treats aren't at all oily . The trick to this is to use sunflower oil at a really high temperature so that they're in and out in a less than a minute. Sunflower oil is also excellent when frying at high temperatures as it doesn't burn easily.


The snap-frying gives the rolls just enough time to melt the chocolate and warm the banana. The result is a wonderful combination of textures: little crispy cases of warm, soft 'banocolate' (my new word for banana & chocolate).

Continue reading "Chocolate Banana Springrolls: fit for a King" »

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