Until some years back, I always thought of myself as more of a cook than a baker. Once bitten by the baking bug, however, there was no turning back. Suddenly, a whole new world opened up to me, a landscape dotted by mounts of sifted flour and clouds of whipped egg whites. What started it all? Why, an all-consuming obsession with chocolate, of course. While I find certain other ingredients and their related handling techniques fascinating, nothing whets my appetite more than a dessert involving chocolate, nothing creates as urgent a need to head straight for the kitchen.
If I sit down and do the math, I fork out a disproportionately large chunk of change stocking up on bars of Valrhona (mostly Manjari 64%, the rest Lacté 41% and Blanc 35% as I adore milk and white chocolate too) every month. Thanks to some unmitigable disasters resulting from the use of what I think of as econo-bars, I've long since learnt that great chocolate desserts start with great chocolate - scrimp on the choice of chocolate and it's practically pointless lavishing all that time and effort on a recipe. Strange but true; cheap chocolate is not going to magically transform into a decadent dessert through the alchemy of the kitchen.
Hardly a week goes by without a chocolate dessert or two (or three) that simply begs to be tried - I've earmarked enough intriguing recipes as must-make in my books to last me a lifetime. The terrific theme for the 13th edition of SHF hosted by Lovescool is The Dark Side
. Below, a chocolate dessert diary of sorts, a typical week's worth of curiousity (and craving) sated. The recipes pair bittersweet chocolate with caramel, with liqueur, and with coffee respectively. All three feature flavour combinations that I like; I have been really psyched about giving these recipes a whirl.Chocolate Caramel Sandwich Cookies
Aside from loads of delicious ideas for all manner of savoury sandwiches, Nancy Silverton's Sandwich Book
also has a whimsical (and equally delicious) chapter dedicated to "sandwiched sweets". Each of these pretty treats features two intensely chocolatey cookies sandwiching a rim of vanilla-scented caramel dotted with a fudgy chocolate centre. As all that peeks out of the circular cut-out is the fudge, biting into one presents a lovely surprise. The finishing touch - a few grains of fleur de sel
- adds further to the surprise.Carmen Meringay
How could I resist a name like that, not to mention the surreal appearance of this dessert in Alice Medrich's Bittersweet
? Once baked, the crisp meringue shells can be filled with anything you fancy, be it mousse or whipped cream-and-berries or ice-cream - think of them as edible containers. I filled them with a bittersweet chocolate and Cointreau mousse.
Tarte au Café
For me, no bout of chocolate dessert making is complete without a Pierre Hermé recipe - this tart is based on one found in Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan. A cookie-like pâte sucrée crust is filled with mocha ganache (the original uses a white chocolate and coffee ganache) and topped with coffee whipped cream. In the original version, white chocolate acts as a vehicle for the coffee flavour. Using bittersweet chocolate reverses the roles; coffee here acts to accentuate the seductively dark flavour of the ganache.