The world, I am convinced, is divided between chocoholics and the rest. Like gambling or any other addiction, it overpowers you like a disease. I can happily say no to almost any dessert but not to chocolates — especially good ones. To me, chocolate is so sinful and delicious that I quiver as I write about it.
Cup of sin: Use the best chocolate available for your desserts.
So what exactly is good and bad chocolate? Like everything, this is as subjective as it gets. Author Roald Dahl, a self-confessed chocoholic, loved everything from Mars bars to KitKats. Others are more discerning. Chocolate, like any fine food, has its share of snobbism. You have cacao beans from obscure African and South American countries which are roasted and made into dark chocolate with sugar. Some of this bitter chocolate is as much as 85% pure (the rest is a little bit of sugar, milk fat, flavouring and coco butter). I personally find anything more than 70% too bitter. Like handbags, you have brands—Valrhona, Lindt, Leonidas, Callebaut. All these big companies make couverture, which is used for making desserts and chocolates themselves. It is all a matter of personal preference since these are all brands of high quality.
What then is a ganache or a truffle? Ganache is a mix of superb chocolate and full fat cream. Truffle is a glorified version of the same thing, rolled into a chocolate form by hand or in a mould. Since it is often misshapen, it was called truffle, like the expensive, woody-aroma tuber it resembles.
I’m often asked which chocolate should be used in desserts. Use the best available. Bad chocolate equals bad dessert. Don’t compromise on quality. In India, I would recommend Lindt. To melt chocolate, the classic way to do it is in a bain-marie. This is a ceramic or glass container which fits into a water bath which is heated on the stove. The chocolate is melted by indirect heat, which prevents it from burning. Alternatively, you can melt chocolate in the microwave, but be careful not to overcook it.
I recently came across the most marvellous chocolates in a little shop in Mornington Peninsula outside Melbourne. Inspired by the film Chocolat (2000), Milton and Isilda decided to start a little chocolate business using a mix of traditional methods and state-of-the-art machinery and in three years, have already won an award for their outstanding lime ganache. I really thought nothing could beat that.
I also tasted the most divine, smooth chocolate mousse at the stunning country resort where I was staying for a few days. Lindenderry at Red Hill gives a bit of pampering and some great food. Stefan Klufer, the charming executive chef, came up with this light but sinful chocolate mousse one evening, studded with berries of the season. I thought it was perfect for those who love both dark and milk chocolate, since the flavour sits somewhere in between. I have left the measurements in grams since you have to be very precise with chocolate.
120g dark chocolate
75g milk chocolate
3 eggs, separated
40g castor sugar
A splash of rum
300g fresh berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries)
First whip the cream and keep it in the fridge. Then whisk the egg whites with 20g of the sugar until they form soft peaks, and keep this in the fridge as well.
Now, on a double boiler, whisk the egg yolks with the remaining 20g of sugar. Boil it until the sugar dissolves. Then take the mixture off the heat and keep whisking until it is back to room temperature and it becomes foamy.
In the meantime, gently melt the chocolate on the double boiler.
To finish the mousse, stir the egg yolk mix and one-third of the egg white mix as well as one-third of the cream very quickly into the warm chocolate. Finally, gently fold in all the remaining ingredients.
I recommend filling the mousse into individual portion glasses, refrigerating for a few hours and serving with a selection of fresh berries and biscotti.
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