Most people don’t need an excuse to eat chocolate….I’m salivating just thinking about a big piece of gooey chocolate cake…. but if you generally try to resist temptation, throw all caution to the wind and indulge yourself because it’s Chocolate Week this week! (14th to 20th October.) Yes, seven full days devoted to the delicious melt-in-the-mouth substance.
Dress to impress – in chocolate!
There are several events up and down the country celebrating chocolate, the most spectacular of which is the Salon du Chocolat show which is taking place at Olympia from 18th to 20th October. This will bring together the very best in chocolate products and ideas and there will be demonstrations from world famous chocolatiers. The highlight of the show must surely be the chocolate fashion show where the models all wear clothes made from chocolate. For more information please click here.
Can eating chocolate be good for your health?
The chocolate industry in the UK alone is worth £3.6 billion. But why do we love chocolate so much? Quite possibly because cocoa solids contain alkaloids such as theobromine, phenethylamine and caffeine which are linked to serotonin levels in the brain, giving you the feel-good factor.
There is also research into whether chocolate has anti-cancer properties and whether it can boost cognitive abilities. Chocolate has even been found to lower blood pressure and the risk of certain cardiovascular problems. So, not only does it taste good, it can be good for you too. Before we get too carried away about the health benefits though, we need to remember that chocolate is, of course, highly calorific on account of its high fat and sugar content. Plus, many of the studies have found that the health benefits relate mainly to dark chocolate containing a high percentage of cocoa solids – and even then only when eaten in moderation.
Correct storage of chocolate
Have you ever opened a bar of chocolate only to find it has an unpleasant white bloom on top? This has occurred because the chocolate has not been stored correctly. Chocolate is very sensitive to temperature and humidity and should always be stored away from other foods as it can absorb aromas. The ideal storage temperature for chocolate is between 15°C and 17°C with a relative humidity of 50%.
10 facts about chocolate
1. The earliest documented use of chocolate is around 1100 BC
2. In the film ‘Psycho’ Alfred Hitchcock used chocolate syrup for blood in the famous shower scene
3. Milk chocolate wasn’t invented until 1875
4. The biggest chocolate bar ever created weighed almost 6 tonnes
5. The Ivory Coast is the world’s largest provider of chocolate
6. Chocolate can cause headaches and migraines in some people
7. Snickers is the best-selling chocolate bar in the world
8. But for solid chocolate bars the world’s best-seller is Cadbury’s Dairy Milk
9. White chocolate is not true chocolate as it doesn’t contain cocoa solids
10. Cadbury are close to unveiling a heat-resistant chocolate bar that can be sold on stalls in Africa
Chocolate recipes (taken from the Chocolate Week website)
Hot Chocolate and Basil Fondants
For the filling:
100ml dbl cream
15g basil leaves
200g white chocolate
For the fondants:
75g Caribbean 66% dk chocolate or nearest alternative, broken into pieces
3 medium free-range eggs
75g golden caster sugar
70g plain flour
For the moulds:
25g plain flour for dusting
Bring the cream and basil to a simmer. Remove from heat and blend with a hand blender, pour over the white chocolate and whisk well until melted, pour into a plastic container and refrigerate for at least an hour. Scoop teaspoon sized balls of ganache.
Melt the butter then add the dark chocolate and mix well until melted. Whisk the eggs and sugar lightly and pour onto the chocolate, whisking well. Add flour and mix until smooth.
Brush 4 ramekins with melted butter and dust with flour. Fill each by one third and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Place a ball of ganache into each ramekin, fill with the remaining chocolate mix. Chill for 1hr.
Cook in a pre-heated oven 180C/350F/gas 4 for 9 minutes. Serve immediately by turning each fondant out onto a serving plate.
Divine Chocolate, Ginger & Chilli Tart
For the pastry
175g plain flour
100g caster sugar
30g Divine Cocoa Powder
100g unsalted butter
2 eggs beaten
For the filling
300g Divine Dark Chocolate
250ml double cream
1 vanilla pod, split
30g stem ginger
For the ganache
125g Divine Dark Chocolate
30g unsalted butter
125ml double cream
1 tbsp. ginger syrup
Pre heat the oven 180 C/ 350 F/ Gas Mark 4
Use a 25cm 2.5cm deep fluted flan tin
- Sift the flour sugar and cocoa into a bowl. Add the butter cut into small pieces and rub into the flour until like breadcrumbs Stir in the eggs and mix with a fork to form a soft dough. Wrap in cling film and chill for an hour.
- Grate the dough using a coarse grater and press across the base and up the sides of the flan tin. Scatter the base with chopped ginger and chill for 20 minutes.
- Melt the chocolate over a saucepan of hot water until melted, remove the bowl from the heat. Beat the eggs in a bowl. .Place the milk and cream in to a saucepan and bring to the boil. Using a whisk pour the milk on to the eggs whisking all the time and whisk in the chocolate.
- Remove the pastry shell from the refrigerator place on a baking sheet and pour the custard into the shell. Bake in the oven for 10minites then reduce the oven to 150/ 300/ Gas mark 2 for 10 minutes then turn the oven down to 110/230/Gas 1/4 for 30 minutes then turn the oven of and leave until almost set cool on a wire rack.
To Make the Ganache
- Melt the butter and chocolate over hot water, stir and leave until cool.
- Whisk the cream in a bowl until softly peaking and add the chocolate and ginger syrup mix until evenly blended. Spread the mixture over the tin and chill.
- Just before serving drag a dessert spoon over the ganache to form curls. Arrange on top of the tart and dust with icing sugar.