Topped with Gold Tagliatelle
I love chocolate! I love the flavour, the smell, but most of all I love working with it. In my 22 years as a professional pastry chef I have been lucky enough to travel to Columbia to visit cocoa plantations and see the plants growing; to meet the farmers and witness first hand the manufacturing process – from bean to bar; and most of all, I have had the pleasure of a job that involves working with kilos and kilos of it, all in one go. Imagine a huge bowl of melted, glossy, warm and rich dark chocolate. Pour it onto your work bench and slowly spread this mellifluous mass out in front of you. Watch it spread across the surface and then using a palette knife move it back and forth, cooling and working it so that it starts to thicken and shimmer like mother of pearl. This is not a job, it’s a pleasure, and its part of the process I regularly undertake to temper chocolate in order to create show pieces for fancy dinners and competitions, or delicate decorations for intricate desserts.
These days I have a new pleasure. Making my own chocolate from bean. Table top conching machines have become available, and I now make my own chocolate on a small scale for the Manchester restaurant where I develop dessert recipes. This process has opened a whole new avenue of joy for me, because rather than having to buy a high-quality couverture chocolate and design a chocolate dessert or bon bon based on the manufactures flavour profile, I can make my own. The simple addition of a piece of freeze dried fruit, a couple of grams of spice, a coffee bean or some toasted nuts enables me to make a chocolate deeply embedded with the exact flavour that I want.
When I tell people what I do for a living and mention the “C” word, the usual reaction is them telling me that they love chocolate too, followed by the phrase, “but I don’t like dark chocolate”. I feel myself die a little inside. Although I understand that it is their choice, it’s a bit like telling a producer of fine wines that you only like to drink Blue Nun or an artisan cheese producer that Dairy Lea is your favourite cheese. I long for them to understand some of the joy that I find in the rich complexity of fine couverture.
Top tips for using and enjoying chocolate
Buy the best quality you can afford. The higher the cocoa % on the label the more cocoa mass and therefore more flavour. If you are unsure about dark chocolate, start at a lower percentage and taste your way up! Place a small piece in your mouth and allow it to melt first before chewing it up and swallowing. This will allow the flavour to develop, and for you to taste all the different notes.
Take a chocolate course, to develop your skills and confidence in working with it.
Make a nice dessert from it! Try this recipe, it is is one of my restaurant spec dishes. There is quite a lot to it. The sponge, the ice cream and the chocolate sauce are easy enough to make as a stand-alone dessert if you don’t want to fuss with the rest of it. All can be frozen and used when needed.
You will need to make –
- Chocolate jelly sheet
- Caramelized white chocolate “tagliatelli”
- Chocolate and ale sponge
- Crunchy cocoa powder
- Coffee ice cream
- Marsala ganache
Cocoa nib stock
300g cocoa nibs (available for good health food shops or on line)
Put the water and the nibs in a pan and bring to the boil. Take off heat and leave to infuse for 2 hours then strain. Reserve the liquid.
310g Caster sugar
280g cocoa nib stock
120g cocoa (best quality you can get)
225g double cream
50g 70% dark chocolate
Heat the sugar with the cocoa nib stock and cream. Pour onto the cocoa powder and return to a simmer whisking continuously. Pour just enough of the simmering liquid over the chopped chocolate and stir until chocolate has melted. Continue adding the hot liquid a bit at a time until it is all mixed into the chocolate. Pass through a fine sieve and cool. Weigh off what you need for the jelly sheet and put the rest in a squeezy bottle.
Chocolate jelly sheet
250g choc sauce
1g agar agar
1 leaf gelatin
Sheets of acetate or a flat tray lined with cling film
Soak the gelatin sheet in cold water until it softens, then drain off water and squeeze out any excess. Put the chocolate sauce in a pan with the agar agar and bring to the boil, taking care not to burn it. Take off heat and add the gelatin sheet and stir.
Lightly oil your sheets of cling film by pouring a few drops of vegetable or rapeseed oil onto them and then wiping with a clean cloth to remove any excess. Pour your chocolate jelly mix onto the acetate and move sheet from side to side so that the jelly runs across it and you have a layer 1-2mm thick. Place in fridge to set. Once set, cut rings (9cm) either with a cutter or with a knife and remove the jelly around them.
425g milk chocolate
300g whipping cream
Bring the cream to the boil with the marsala. Pour into the chopped milk chocolate and stir until emulsified. Pour into a bowl and cling film directly onto the ganache and leave to cool at room temperature, then fill a piping bag with the mix.
Chocolate and stout cake
325g unsalted butter
15g bicarbonate of soda
3.5g baking powder
Warm butter and stout until the butter has melted, then add cocoa and sugar.
Whisk the eggs and butter milk together, then whisk everything together.
Pour mix into a deep sided tray approx. 20cm square that has been floured and greased and bake at 160c for 45minutes or until springy to the touch. Once cooled, cut the cake in half horizontally and then cut 5cm rounds from each.
90g egg white
Cream the butter and the sugar, add the egg whites gradually then add the remaining ingredients. Spread thinly over 3 oven trays that have been lined with parchment and bake at 165c for 7 mins, until cooked. Once it has cooled it should be completely crisp. Grind to a powder in a mixer.
Coffee ice cream
Whole milk 500g
Whipping cream 150g
Star anise 3g
Espresso coffee beans 50g
Liquid glucose 25g
Pasteurized egg yolk 80g
Caster sugar 80g
Milk powder 33g
Lemon juice 15g
Lightly crush the coffee beans and then roast on an oven tray at 180 c for 5 minutes. Place a medium sauce pan on the heat and dry toast the star anise pieces until their aroma is released. Add the milk and cream and bring to the boil. Take off the heat, add the coffee beans and leave to infuse for 30 minutes.
Pass the beans from the milk and weigh the liquid. If it is less than 660g, then add some additional milk to achieve this weight. Return liquid to a clean pan, adding the glucose and bring back to a simmer.
Place the yolks in a bowl and whisk in the sugar, milk powder and stabilizer. Pour the simmering milk onto the yolks, stir well, then return to the pan and cook out gently until the mixture reaches 82c. Pass again and cool over ice. Once chilled season with the salt and lemon. Churn in an ice cream maker.
Caramelized white chocolate tagliatelli
2kg White chocolate
200g cocoa butter
Gold spray (food grade)
Place the white chocolate in a metal gastro and put in the oven at 115c. Stir every 30 mins. It will go thick and lumpy. Do this for 1.5-2hours. The chocolate should have turned to a nice medium caramel colour. Now put the chocolate into a microwavable container and add the cocoa powder, stirring and warming until it has melted and been mixed in. leave to cool and set. For use: place some heavy black oven trays in the freezer. Make sure they are clean and dry. Temper the chocolate then pour a line of it about 2cm wide across the length of the tray and immediately spread as thin as possibly with a palette knife. Slice with a multi wheel cutter lengthways so you have long strips of chocolate that resemble tagliatelli. Cut the length in half then start rolling your nests from 6-8 strands per nest.
Set them in the fridge then spray with gold.
Pipe a round of the ganache in the centre of your bowl. Sprinkle this with the crunchy cocoa powder. Slightly warm the sponge disc in the microwave and place this on the ganache. Coat the sponge with some of you chocolate sauce so it just runs down the sides and soaks in. Put a small ball of the coffee ice cream on top of the sponge and then carefully cover with the jelly disc. Top with your gold tagliatelli.
Dominique has worked as a professional pastry chef for the Roux brothers, Conran restaurants, the Houses of Parliament and for Aiden Byrne at Manchester House. She now runs a luxury farmhouse bed and breakfast in the Forest of Bowland and continues to develop desserts and chocolates on a consultancy basis. She can be contacted through her web site www.dalehousebarn.co.uk