July 3, 2012
I am going a little off piste here to consider chocolate as an ingredient, making some chocolate pie recipes by Eric Lanlard.
“A meal without chocolate is a meal which lacks something essential”.
Helene Darroze, Michelin-starred chef.
At heart I am a chocolate purist, whose preference will always be for an unadorned dark bar. But I also wish to acknowledge that chocolate is the most glorious ingredient. Historically it has of course been used to create both sweet and savoury dishes. In considering the sweet stuff, I would go so far as to say that a chocolate pudding is the only one on the menu I usually consider and I rarely deviate. The brilliant Helene Darroze was truly after my own heart, when she wrote the above to explain her inclusion of a chocolate pudding on all of the menus at her eponymous restaurant in Paris.
So I would like to take a moment here, with Helene Darroze’s wise words in mind, to consider chocolate as an ingredient in sweets and baking. It is unlikely that you have Michelin-starred pastry chefs magicking up chocolate puddings for your delectation on a regular basis. But the advantage of being in charge of the cooking is that you have full control of your ingredients.
With all our knowledge of chocolate it makes sense to consider which chocolate to use before starting to cook. It is not so long ago that recipes books began to indicate a suitable percentage. But of course percentage is a very small part of the story. The flavour profile of the chocolate you use is at least as important. For my own cooking I buy sacks of chocolate couverture directly from Kings Fine Foods, and Classic Fine Foods, which makes it much easier and more economical to use the good stuff. I keep Amadei Le Gocce white and Le Gocce high percentage milk. But my most used are Amadei’s Le Gocce 65%, Cru Virunga 70% from Original Beans, and Valrhona Manjari 64%. Between these I feel I have what I need to suit most of my favourite recipes. The milk and white get used most as chunks in cookies and muffins for visiting kids, or adults I know won’t be interested in the dark stuff. But I also confess to having an awed love of Milk Chocolate Malt ice cream from Simon Hopkinson’s classic book; Roast Chicken And Other Stories. Try it, it is sublime; Maltezers given a gourmet revamp as the smoothest of ice creams.
For a chocolate fondant, that glorious ultimate of chocolate puddings, a dark chocolate with some clout is called for. I generally use Cru Virunga. Its dark complexity and intense flavour ensure you still get a true chocolate hit, despite the sweet and rich other ingredients in a fondant recipe. If you use a mellower chocolate like the Amadei, the result can be too sweet, even bland in flavour, like an ordinary chocolate cake.
But for a chocolate ganache tart, I prefer something different. Here the chocolate is an even more dominant ingredient, extended just enough to allow you to eat the stuff in slices rather than the small squares of a pure bar. Something intense like Cru Virunga on its own could be too strong. My preference is to mix Amadei 65% with Cru Virunga. While it might be unorthodox, and goes against my purist chocolate eating views, for cooking this hits the right balance. And Valrhona Manjari on its own makes a wonderful tart, it has complexity, but its light fruitiness stop it from being too intense to eat by the slice. Of course these are just my own favourites, and each of you will have your own. The point I am making is to think about what chocolate you are going to use, especially if it is a central ingredient. The result will reflect the quality and appropriateness of your choice.
I was recently lucky enough to meet and talk baking with Master Patissier, Eric Lanlard. He knows a thing or two about baking and chocolate. The launch of his new pastry book Tart it Up! (Mitchell Beazley) was a perfect opportunity to catch up. And I was hoping to glean a few new chocolate recipes.
Held at the Halcyon Gallery in London’s Bruton Street, it was a glamorous affair, involving pink champagne quaffed in front of rock and roll art by Mauro Perucchetti and Bob Dylon. Eric greeted the assembled company of chefs, food writers, media folk and pastry enthusiasts with his customary warm smile and generous hugs.
I left clutching my newly minted copy of Tart it Up! And only lasted until I had grabbed a seat on the bus home, before opening it to peruse. I was gratified to find not one but ten chocolate recipes. And they all looked yum!
I, rather arbitrarily, decided the first I wanted to make were the Peanut Butter and Chocolate Pie and the Southern Chocolate Mud Pie. I think I was having an American Dream moment.
The book is a joy to use. The clear instructions and beautiful tempting photographs make the recipes desirable and doable for the novice pastry cook. But for those with more experience there are plenty of new ideas to tempt. Chocolate pastry was a new one on me. I tend to favour a straight pate sucree for all my sweet tarts. But this was worth doing, the cocoa adding a slight smoky depth that balanced out the sweetness of the fillings.
Eric has been kind enough to let me share both the recipes I chose with you. So click the link below or go to features, where they are reproduced in full. Do have a go at making them. Your waistline may not thank you, but you will be too blissed out to care!