Will Torrent’s Chocolate At Home

I buy pretty much every book about chocolate I see. It’s a little silly, I suppose, as many are just theme and variations on the same recipes or stories, but, well, you probably all know by now that I’m a little obsessed. :-) I was delighted when the lovely Will Torrent asked if I’d like to preview his now newly-released book, Chocolate At Home. This is Will’s second recipe book and covers his main love, chocolate. This is just one of the reasons I like Will. He’s also a super guy and incredibly talented.

Chocolate At Home by Will TorrentI’ve had the book for about two weeks now and I’ve had a chance to make three of the recipes from it. Usually I just look to recipe books for inspiration and then twist the recipe a little. I tried not to do this in the spirit of giving the recipes a representative review, but I still couldn’t resist two small tweaks to two of the recipes. Well, three if you count the fact that I split the brioche recipe for the doughnuts in two and continued with one half exactly as instructed and used the other to make a brioche loaf that had an extended life as French toast and bread and butter pudding.

IMG_20140914_173839I digress. What I love most about this book is how beautiful it is. The photography is stunning and every single result looks like something I want to eat. Now. The only drawback to this effect is that there are only one or two recipes in the book that are suitable to relieve that immediate craving. Most of the recipes require some pre-planning (like resting time of some sort) or just some detailed procedures to produce the various components to get the end result. The flipside of a time-consuming recipe means that it should be a small stretch for the home baker. In this book you know you’re not going to get just a rehash of other chocolate books but some truly original recipes.

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The first chapter dedicated to filled chocolates is an extensive guide to making your own stunning and interesting chocolate box collection. Cognac, caramel and pear domes, anyone? I think I’m going to wait until Christmas break to tackle chocolates with layers, despite how helpful and specific Will’s guidelines and the accompanying images are. I’m just too intimidated by how perfect the end result is in the book’s images. And I’m wary of not having the time to do it properly and wasting precious chocolate if I – as I undoubtedly will – cover my kitchen in it.

Chocolate At Home Sable biscuitsWhat I did make were the Chocolate sables (I left out the orange zest and covered some in dark instead of milk chocolate, but these were still ridiculously moreish), Chocolate brioche doughnuts and the Salted caramel and rum top hat cake. The cake was much easier than the separated components initially made it seem and the overall result was fantastic to look at and stretched to serve quite a few people (even after I got several generous pieces just for me!). I didn’t have rum so made my ganache with chocolate stout instead. The beer ganache was fabulous but I would recommend sticking to the rum for this cake.

The book includes a great guide to the different methods of tempering, a little background to chocolate, a resource guide for where to find what you need to make everything and helpfully includes metric and American measurements.

Next on my to-make list is the Chocolate & chestnut roulade…

If you’ve got the book and tried any recipes, please share with us in the comments below!

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Win tickets to Hotel Chocolat’s Cocoa Bar Cafe party!

Rabot1745 Hotel Chocolat restaurant Last December I had lunch at Hotel Chocolat’s then newly-opened restaurant, Rabot 1745. It’s been on my list of things to write about since then.  Oops.   Now I have a renewed reason to tell you about my wonderful dining experience was, as more casual versions of cocoa savoury meals are popping up across Britain.  These Cocoa Bars and Cafes are also delivered by the Hotel Chocolat brand, whose team this year are celebrating a “Decade of Deliciousness”.   On August 21st Hotel Chocolat are hosting a launch party for their High Street Kensington Cocoa Bar Cafe. And I have three pairs of tickets to give away! To be in with a chance of winning you need to find the post mentioning this on Facebook and share it or find the tweet on @chocolatetours and retweet it and fill in the form below.  You’ll need to also confirm your subscription to the email list (via email that is sent to you) in order for me to get a list of names from which to draw the winners from.

 

You can enter by post if you prefer.  Send the responses from the form below to Chocolate Ecstasy Tours, 3rd Floor, 207 Regent Street, London, W1B 3HH, ensuring you include a phone number or email address to contact you.

 

Why do you want to come?

 

Well, there will be chocolate! If that’s not reason enough, there will also be Prosecco and cocoa canapés.  You’ll get to taste for yourself (if you haven’t already) that cocoa (or cacao, if you will) can be enjoyed within savoury food as well as desserts, truffles and all that other good sweet stuff.   I have tasted savoury cacao treats at Hotel Chocolat’s parties before and I have loved what I tried so I am sure you’ll be in for a treat at this party as well.  After the success of their St Lucia restaurant (within a year it was the top rated restaurant on Tripadvisor and generously praised by food writers as well), the company’s co-founder, Angus Thirwell, was keen to replicate the delicious food in London.  Angus was adamant that the restaurant should not be some novelty dining room, suitable only for the chocolate-obsessed, but to be a genuine contender for restaurant awards, including the coveted Michelin stars.  Finding the right venue plagued Angus for years, leading to rumours of this impending eaterie hanging as temptation for what felt like years to those of us who had the privilege of sampling some of the savouries already.   When Rabot 1745 finally opened last December I was invited me to take a guest to try it out during its soft launch.  I went for lunch on a cold, dry day between Christmas and New Year and we chose a different dish each for our three courses.  Within the two savoury courses, three of the four dishes were equal to anything I’ve tried in a Michelin starred restaurant.  The rib of beef with white chocolate horseradish mash was a glorious, comforting dish with a perfect hit of flavour, not a skerrick of chocolate could actually be detected in its taste.  My fish with cocoa balsamic was perfectly cooked and superbly seasoned.  Again, not especially chocolatey, just using cocoa as you’d use salt, to bring out other flavours rather than be a too-distinct flavour on its own.  To that end the restaurant also provides a third mill on each table: alongside salt and pepper is a grinder for cocoa nibs – pieces of the cocoa bean – just in case you do want to further chocify your dinner. 3-Rabot1745 grinders The menu has completely changed since I went so there’s little point in me describing my dishes in more detail but I am pleased to notice that they have added warm puddings to the menu.  That was my one disappointment, that a chocolate-themed restaurant didn’t have any rich, indulgent hot desserts during the winter. Now I really want to try the sticky toffee and cacao beer pudding with cacao-infused whipped cream.  Or the “chocolate soup, soft meringue floating island, sliced bananas, toasted almonds, caramel drizzle”.  I’ve been meaning to go back since I first went.  They do a great lunch deal, but it seems for now they’ve paused what seemed like a most indulgent breakfast menu that included lobster. 2-Rabot1745 cocktail

Hotel Chocolat Cocoa Martini 

4-Rabot1745 beef starter 5-Rabot1745 scallops 6-Rabot1745 beef

If you aren’t able to make this party I highly recommend getting yourself to a Cocoa Bar Cafe next time you’re near one.  Don’t miss the delicious in-house hot chocolate made with the chocolate conched onsite. Where can I find a Cocoa Bar Café?

  • Kensington - 163 Kensington High Street, London, W8 6SU
  • Edinburgh John Lewis – 7a Frederick Street, EH2 2EY
  • York John Lewis - Vangarde Way, YO32 9AE
  • Edinburgh - 7a Frederick Street, EH2 2EY
  • Liverpool - Unit 10, 2-4 St. Peter’s Arcade, Liverpool One, L1 3DE
  • Copenhagen - Østergade 13, København K, 1100
  • Roast+Conch, Leeds - 55 Boar Lane, LS1 5EL
  • Boston, Mass., USA - 141A Newbury Street
Win tickets to the Cocoa Bar Cafe party!
By entering this competition you agree to sign up for our newsletter which is sent 3-5 times a year and includes chocolate news and sometimes competitions, discounts and recipes.  If you don’t like it you can always unsubscribe at any time.
Competition winners will be drawn at midday Wednesday 13th August 2014.  If no response is received by 9am Thursday 14th August winner(s) will be redrawn.  No further redraws will take place.
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7-Rabot1745 Chocolate Pots

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I scream for ice cream. #realornothing Häagen Dazs official vanilla ice cream recipe!

Ice cream is especially important right now when we are finally getting back to the UK summers I remember from when I first returned to England ten years ago. Thankfully I received an invitation from Great British Chefs to join them at an event with Häagen Dazs last Monday where I was promised to be shown the “secrets to real ice cream”. I took that to mean there’d be samples too. Thankfully, that was true. Thought first – and even more happily – there were cocktails.  This was a Strawberry Rossini. But unlike their ice cream, this prosecco was combined with a strawberry liqueur.  It did come with a real strawberry though.

Cocktails and London with Haagen Dazs 

Haagen Dazs ice cream #realornothingI remember my shock finding out – some years ago now – that Häagen Dazs was not actually a European company, but an American one, where the founders chose a foreign name to give the impression it had a more authentic history.  At the time I was appalled and I’m sure my estimation of the “realness” of their ice cream went down, but now… well, choosing a name is hard and anything is fair game.  Godiva is hardly a Belgian name so why should I criticise Americans doing the same in reverse?

 

Cake is my Achilles heel.  Ice cream I can usually pass up.  Unless it is the incredible Gelupo or La Gelatiera.  My mum makes pretty spectacular ice cream too. OK, so I do like good ice cream.  In my snobbery I had assumed that Häagen Dazs was also full of unnecessary fillers like most of the ice cream brands that have been around for more than ten years.  Maybe if ice cream was something I ever bought for myself from a supermarket I might have bothered to find out.  Regardless, I was intrigued about their #realornothing campaign and especially so when I received this invitation to a Häagen Dazs event where they promised to prove how their ice cream was all natural, made only with real ingredients.


Analysing ice cream with Haagen Dazs #realornothingThe team had rented a beautiful apartment by Waterloo and taken it over – there were empty pints of Häagen Dazs everywhere and fake grass on the terrace which, after being lead up there initially, was hard to be drawn away from into the hot kitchen.  After watching the process of vanilla ice cream being made – in Blue Peter-style stages, of course, where we sampled the ice cream pre-freeze, like a hug of thin, warm custard – we were then guided by one of the company’s product developers through a taste analysis of four ice creams.  They were all vanilla and the last was disgusting.  It was clearly included to show the difference between real ice cream and the watered-down then gummed up and aerated version found in most supermarkets.  Although they wouldn’t reveal to us the brands except which was Häagen Dazs.  The Häagen Dazs Vanilla is a little too strong in vanilla for my personal preference but it’s impressive the recipe hasn’t changed for the last 53 years and as the next stage of our ice cream adventure was to taste through the range of eight ice creams I found plenty to like  Especially the Macadamia Nut Brittle. And the Salted Caramel. And the Mint Leaves and Chocolate.  And the Strawberries and Cream.  OK, I liked them all.  They sent us home with some beautiful Clarence Court Eggs, vanilla pods and caster sugar.  Just need cream and milk and I’m ready to make my own version of Häagen Dazs.  Or I could just go and buy some…

 

#realornothing is definitely how food should be.  It’s my unofficial rule to (almost!) everything I eat and along with rarely drinking anything other than water and herbal teas I think it’s the biggest factor in me staying pretty much the same dress size for the past nine years of running Chocolate Ecstasy Tours.

All about Haagen Dazs #realornothing

If you do want to make ice cream at home, here’s some tips I picked up from our demonstration and the official Häagen Dazs recipe below:

Top Tips

  • dehydrate the used vanilla pods and place in sugar to make lovely vanilla-scented sugar
  • mix sugar with the eggs at the last possible minute or else it starts to “cure” (cook) the eggs
  • stir through the warmed cream and don’t overbeat
  • get an LED thermometer – £10 online to keep an eye temperature

 

Ingredients

600ml double cream

200ml whole milk

2 vanilla pods

6 egg yolks

150g vanilla infused caster sugar

 

Method

Pour the double cream and milk into a saucepan.

Split the vanilla pods lengthways and scrape the seeds out using the back of your knife and add to the pan with the milk/cream and the scraped pods.

On a medium heat warm until nearly biling point then turn off the heat and allow to infuse for a minimum of 30 minutes.  The longer you leave, the more the vanilla infuses.

When infused, reheat to a simmer.

In a mixing bowl whick the egg yolks and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Slowly whisk the infused cream into the bowl with the eggs and sugar.  You must keep whisking otherwise you may end up with scrambled eggs.

Pour back into the saucepan and cook – stirring constantly – until it reaches 80C then remove from the heat.  Strain the mixture through a fine sieve so it catches the pods/seeds into a new saucepan.

Allow to cool to room temperature.

Once cooled add to your ice cream maker and churn for 35-40 minutes until it reaches ice cream consistency.  Serve straight away.

 

My suggestions

If you don’t have an ice cream maker you can always freeze it in a container in your freezer and after the first 20 minutes give it a good mix.  Depending on your mix and the freezer you might have to do this once or twice more, but if you haven’t overbeaten the mixture there’s a good chance you won’t get too many ice crystals.

 

For extra deliciousness warm some more cream, with a dash of milk and some good quality dark chocolate to pour over the top.  Or melt chocolate alone (in the microwave or in a bowl above simmering water) and then it will freeze hard as you pour it over your ice cream.

 

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Hot Chocolate weather is back… And the supermarkets are stocking Hans Sloane!

Hans Sloane Hot Chocolate hamperTypically this blog is about behind-the-scenes visits and one-off event reports, but today it’s just about good ol’ hot chocolate because it’s been grey all week and the thoughts of this delicious drink have been never far from the top of my mind.

Time’s passing so quickly I can’t even remember when I received the knock on the door delivering this beautiful hamper from the Hans Sloane company with samples of their “chocolate for drinking” and a mug and milk frother.  All I remember is that it was unseasonably warm so after taking a quick Instagram snap I popped the hamper on top of the cupboard waiting for a day when the weather would suit hot chocolate again – and I wasn’t already about to be indulging in one on a chocolate tour!

Cue this week.  So much for summer from mid-April until the end of June.  Tuesday was the first day following four consecutive days of guiding chocolate tours and I guess I was becoming especially accustomed to having the hot chocolate option…  Back down came the hamper.

Hans Sloane Hot Chocolate milk chocolateThere are three different types of Hans Sloane “chocolate for drinking”: dark, milk and honey.  The latter is also made using milk.  Supposing that there are only so many hot chocolates one can drink at once (or should…) I decided just to try and honey and the dark versions.  First with the honey.  I followed the instructions – 3 tablespoons of polished pearls of chocolate per 250ml of milk or water – using Kokos dairy-free milk.  I frothed the milk in the pan before and after adding the chocolate.  It was like drinking sweet, liquid gold: pale coloured, smooth, warm and so comforting.  I think if I’d finished it then I might have realised it was a little too sweet for my tastes but the addition of honey powder in the pearls makes it seem simultaneously that much more adult (honey’s healthy, right?) and comforting like being a child again.  I think I used to be given warm honey and milk when I was sick, cold or sad when I was small.  Perhaps that’s what aroused that feeling of comfort in me.  If you can relate, I highly recommend getting your hands on this particular hot chocolate.  Though even my sweet-toothed other half did find it even sweet for him (didn’t stop him drinking it!) so you may want to also buy the dark chocolate version and mix the two together in the same cup.

Hans Sloane Hot Chocolate Bodum frother

Then, the dark: this was much more what I would expect of a gourmet, at-home hot chocolate for adults.  My favourite bit about this product is how quickly it melts and how nicely it mixes with the milk.  Hans Sloane Dark Hot ChocolateI always make hot chocolate with real chocolate and often there is chocolate left at the bottom of the mug and bits floating at the top (neither, I admit, is a particular problem).  I don’t think it’s just down to the wonderful Bodum frother that was included in my gift hamper, because I have used one before, but something in the ratio of ingredients in the pearls, or even their rounded shape?  I had planned to drink this one, thinking my fiancé would be happy with the first.  Turns out he also liked this one so I left it with him and made another, this time with water and replaced half the last tablespoon with some of the milk honey pearls.  Highly recommended!

It almost makes me want the rainy weather to last. OK, I’m lying.  But it does make it slightly more tolerable.  I’m pretty sure these would be equally fabulous melted in a small amount of hot water and then frothed with cold milk when the summer does actually return.

Hans Sloane Honey Hot ChocolateHans Sloane Dark Hot Chocolate with Kokos Coconut Milk

 270g packets of the chocolate pearls are available in Tesco and Waitrose.  RRP is £4.99.  These are not single-origin hot chocolates but certainly nicer than any powder you can buy in the supermarket.

If you were wondering, Sir Hans Sloane was a man of many reasons to be memorable.  He was a great explorer and collector and his collections were pivotal in launching the British museum, he bought most of the land in Chelsea during the 17th and 18th Century before he died in his eighties (which became the Cadagon estate after his eldest daughter married Baron Cadagon) and, most importantly, encouraged the consumption of “hot chocolate” with milk rather than water to his patients for good health.  You can learn more about him if you come on a Chelsea Chocolate Tour! (*cough**plug**cough*).

DISCLOSURE: The hamper was a gift from the Hans Sloane company.

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Pairing Churchill’s Port with Paul A Young Fine Chocolates


My first encounter with port was tasting my mum’s port and lemonade at Christmas. I must have been about 13.  Looking back it seems like an abomination. At the time I thought it was a great way to mask the alcohol that I’d disliked in other drinks I’d tasted. But as I was never a big fan of fizzy drinks either I left port alone until many years later when an older boyfriend introduced it to me again at the end of an indulgent meal with his parents, served in the cutest miniature glass. I’ve tried many since, and enjoyed all of them, but my knowledge has remained thin. Until last week when Churchill’s Port teamed up with Paul A Young Fine Chocolates for an educational session where I finally got a bit of padding to the history and difference between the various descriptors I’d seen on bottles.

The tasting was an introduction to a pairing that’s now available with a flight of ports at the Churchill pop up, the Port House, on Greek Street in Soho.  They are split into the Classic flight and the Premium flight.  Both with three ports each and three chocolates with each (chocolates are optional if you visit, but why would you say no?).  We were fortunate to try not only the premium flight but to sample an extra special vintage range which will perhaps give you some ideas for what you might like to try at home.

Paul, Max & Johnny

So, firstly to enlighten the subject for those of you similarly hereto enjoying blindly. Apparently port began as a wine like any other, first exported from Portugal to England in the 1600s. Because it was made with grapes that grew on the hot, south-facing slopes in the Douro, the wine was sweeter and this caused it to start to ferment again in the bottle, making it unpalatable fairly quickly. To solve this problem they added brandy which killed the yeasts and made it remain stable – with the added feature of making it more alcoholic too. Unsurprisingly it became even more popular so they started adding this clear, flavourless brandy (actually aguardente – a neutral grape spirit) earlier, at the end of the original fermentation.

The Premium Flight

White ports seem to be turning up more often on menus.  According to Churchill’s founder, Johnny Graham, they are the port-maker’s secret.  They are made in the same way as ruby ports, just using only white grapes.  They are best served chilled and are great before dinner, bringing port away from the relegation of after-dinner only.   It’s typically served alongside salty roasted almonds.  As the perfect start to our evening, we sampled this delicious, biscuity, honey wine with Paul’s Roasted Almond & Honey Caramel. A 66% Caribbean chocolate encasing a whole roasted almond surrounded by caramel made with a touch of Richmond honey, giving it a gentle green note.

 

Our next wine was a 2005 Late Bottled Vintage (LBV).  Rich and blackcurranty with a hint of vanilla.  LBV’s used to be made from the excess of a vintage year.  These days they are a style to themselves, first matured in barrels for 18-24months and then transferred to bottles or tanks to mature for a minimum of four years before being sold.  These wines are never filtered which means that they will go on becoming ever more delicious over time.  It does mean that they should be decanted before drinking to allow the sediment to settle.  The pairing of this wine with Paul’s Peanut Butter & Jelly Truffle was wonderful.  The “Jelly” is a house-made raspberry conserve that complemented the blackcurrant notes in the port and the milk chocolate in the shell and ganache worked well with the vanilla element in the wine.  Interestingly the two together took on a slightly liquorice edge.  A definite case of the sum of the two being much more than the sum of its parts.

Apparently all ports should be served colder rather than warmer.  Whilst white ports are best properly chilled, the cold end of room temperature is best for ruby ports, perhaps even chillier for tawny ports.  A tawny port is so called because of the colour it gets from maturing in a barrel instead of a bottle or tank. The oxygen that reaches the wine through the wood causes it to lose some of its colour, and changes the flavour.  They will often tend to be more viscous too, as it will evaporate slightly.  It could be made with the same grapes as a vintage port.

The third wine in the classic flight was a 20 year old Tawny Port.  Rich and almost woody, it tasted of a heavy caramel laced with vanilla and something almost smoky or saffron-esque.  Thus making it an almost-obvious pairing to try with Paul’s unique cigar leaf caramel which has the same flavour notes – with the added effect of causing your mouth and throat to tingle.  Really!

Special Bonus Vintage Flight

For this set of pairings there were two mini bars of chocolate and one truffle.  Interestingly, what would be the traditional dessert wines, these ruby vintages, the chocolates they were paired with were all low on sugar and high on savoury.

Our first wine was Churchill’s 2011 Vintage, paired with a mini bar of Duffy’s Ecuadorian 83% chocolate.  Almost too early to drink, according to Johnny and Max, the founder and son of the company.  There are usually only two to three declared vintages a decade, unlike in wine where each year is referred to as a vintage.  In port it is only a vintage if it’s good, and this is approved by outsiders are the port house (companies that make port) sends samples off for certification).  2011 is looking to become a vintage of which there only appear a few a century, the last of which was seen in 1994 but this is set to be even better.  You could see they were almost reluctant to serve it, knowing that it will improve so much more as it remains in the bottle.  It was exceptional.

The next wine was from a single vineyard called Quinta da Grincha that manages to declare a vintage every year.  Clearly doing well.  This was a 2005 Vintage and the pairing with Paul’s Marmite truffle was one of my favourites of the night.  The rich savoury notes of the truffle provided an interesting contrast to stand up to the sweeter, plummy wine.

The final pairing was Churchill’s 1997 Vintage which was paired with a Madagascan 100%.  This was a little too much for some people but surprised others with its lack of bitterness.  For me this chocolate is higher on acidity than bitterness.  It’s definitely an acquired taste but one I personally love for its intensity in pure cocoa flavours .  This particular batch tasted a little earthier than most, but this and the acidity was fabulously tempered by the sweet wine.

I could go on about crusted ports and reserve ports but I strongly suggest you pop down yourself and speak to the super knowledgeable staff!

The Classic Flight (white port, reserve, 10yo tawny) is available to be enjoyed at The Port House for £10 (£16 with chocolates) and the Premium Flight (white port, LVB, 20yo tawny) is £15 (£21 with chocolates).  The Port House is at 26 Greek Street.  Fabulous Spanish tapas are also available to enjoy alongside.  Typical of a Mediterranean tapas bar, it is quite cosy, so go early or late to enjoy!

 Paul A Young Fine Chocolates are available in nearby Wardour Street or one of his three other locations in London.  Paul recently received Gold again at the European Semi Finals on the International Chocolate Awards for his Sea Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter & Jelly and Passionfruit chocolates and Silver for his classic milk truffle.

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