Sunday 29 July 2007

Rain Rain Go Away

We were recently in Canada and had a lovely three weeks of glorious sunny and warm weather. I guess the whole time we were gone they had nothing but rain over here in Britain. Judging from the state of our garden when we returned, it was quite a lot. The grass was about a food high and all the flowers had bolted and gone wild. Since our return we have been inundated with more and more rain. I think I am growing webbed feet. I have been in the mood for some serious compensation and it comes in the form of chocolate.

My friend Nic ( Cherrapeno ) recently turned me on to the glories of Lindt Chili Chocolate. Thanks Nic! I have fallen in love. I have never been overly fond of dark chocolate, preferring instead chocolate of the milk variety, Green and Black's Organic Milk Chocolate to be exact, but I was hooked at first bite with this Chili Chocolate. In fact it is now a race between Nic and I as to who exactly is going to get to the grocery store and scoop it all up before it's all gone. I won the other day (sorry Nic!) and got the last two packages and this is what I came up with!

*Chili Chocolate Dipped Strawberries*
Serves 4

I suppose you could use plain dark chocolate for these, milk chocolate, or even white chocolate, but chili chocolate, well ... you just died and went to heaven ... simple, easy, delectable. Remember of course that you will have to eat all of these on the day that you make them. They aren't good keepers. However that should not be a problem as I cannot forsee anyone having any of these any longer than a day!

1 punnet of fresh strawberries
100g bar of Lindt Chili Chocolate

Make sure your strawberries are clean, blemish free and completely dry and free of any surface moisture. Break the chili chocolate into small pieces and place in a microwaveable bowl. Zap on high for 30 second intervals, taking out and stirring it each time until it is completely smooth and melted.

Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and set aside.

Take the strawberries and holding them by the stems dip them into the melted chocolate, swirling them and coating them to your desired amount, holding them over the bowl for a few seconds for the excess to drip off before placing them onto the lined baking tray to set and harden. Repeat with all the berries. Let sit until completely hard before tucking in and enjoying! I don't advise refrigerating them as it will make the chocolate go dull.

Another way of enjoying your chocolate that is equally delicious and just as easy is this little idea I came up with the other morning. What do you do when you have freshly baked croissants, bars of Green and Black's Organic Milk Chocolate and a few pots of preserves laying about??? Well, take a look below! (I know I'm being very hedonistic, but what a way to go!)

*Chocolate and Fruit Filled Croissants*
Serves 1

These are so easy to whip up you’ll be doing them all the time. You can multiply the amounts to make as many as you want. I hate to call it a recipe, because it is and it isn’t. What I can do though, is to tell you how scrumdiddlyumptious they are !!! I think the word is moreish!

1 fresh baked butter croissant (you can find these in any good in-store bakery or local Deli)
1 bar of good quality milk chocolate (I use Green and Black’s Organic)
2 TBS of good quality fruit preserves (the one above I used Ginger conserve because ginger goes so well with chocolate, and in the one below I used Black Cherry, because, well, as you know cherries go really well with chocolate too!)
Icing Sugar for dusting

Pre-heat your oven to 200*C/400*F. Take your croissant and split it in half. Place it on an oven tray, opened out. Break up the chocolate into small pieces and scatter them over the open croissant. Place in the oven and heat until the croissant is nicely warmed and the chocolate is all gooey and melted in the centre.

In the meantime place your fruit preserves into a small microwave able dish and place it in the microwave for about 20 seconds to heat it up. Take it out and give it a stir.
Remove the warmed Croissant from the oven and place it on a plate. Spoon the warmed preserves over and close it all up. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

And finally for your viewing and drooling pleasure. I had alot of extra strawberries hanging about that I needed to use up so I decided to make this delicious Strawberry Tiramisu. I'd seen one in M&S the other day, but was totally unwilling to cough up £6.99 to pay for the pleasure, thinking to myself instead, "I can do that!" Chocolate doesn't only come in brown ...

*Strawberry White Chocolate Tiramisu*
Serves 6 to 8 lucky people

It might sound like a lot of faff, but, once you have all the elements prepared, the dessert itself goes together very quickly. Plan ahead as it will have to chill in the refrigerator overnight. This truly is delicious and in it’s entirety impressive. You’re guests will love you when you pull this rabbit out of the hat!

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ cup scalded milk
1 TBS butter
½ pint strawberries, hulled, halved and mashed slightly
½ cup caster sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup or golden syrup
2 TBS brandy (optional)
12 ounces of white chocolate, chopped
1 ½ cups heavy cream, divided
3 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 ½ pints of strawberries, hulled and chopped
White chocolate curls

First make the cake. Pre-heat the oven to 160*C/350*F. Lightly grease and flour an 8 inch spring form pan. Set aside.

Separate the eggs carefully, putting the whites and yolks into different bowls. Beat the whites until stiff. Beat the yolks until thick and lemony coloured. Fold into the egg whites and beat together. Add the sugar slowly and beat with a spoon for five minutes. ( I use a mixer coz I am lazy)

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold into the beaten mixture. Put the milk into a small saucepan along with the butter and heat it just until the milk is hot and the butter is melted. Stir this into the beaten mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven to a rack to cook for five minutes before removing from the pan to finish cooling completely.

While the cake is baking make the strawberry syrup. Place the strawberries for the syrup into a small saucepan and cook them over medium heat, stirring occasionally until they come to a complete boil. This should take about six minutes or so.

Line a strainer with cheesecloth and place it over a bowl. Pour the hot strawberries into the strainer, mashing them a bit with the back of a spoon to extract all the juice. Discard the pulp. Return the strawberry juice to the pan along with the sugar and the syrup. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until it comes to a full boil. Boil one minute. Remove from the heat and skim any foam from off the top with a metal spoon. Stir in the brandy if using, and set aside to cool, just until warm.

Wash the spring form pan completely and dry it. Put it back together.
Put the white chocolate pieces, along with ¼ cup of the heavy cream, into a bowl and place the bowl over a pan of hot water on top of the stove. (make sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water) Melt the chocolate along with the cream, stirring until smooth. Once melted, remove from the heat and cool completely.

Put the mascarpone cheese into a large mixing bowl. Whip it until fluffy. Stir in the melted chocolate mixture. Whip the remaining 1 ¼ cup of heavy cream until stiff in another bowl. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarapone cheese and chocolate mixture. Gently fold in the chopped strawberries.

Take the cake and carefully trim the top off until it is completely flat. Carefully slice it through the middle into three layers. Place one layer into the cleaned spring form pan. Brush it completely with the warm syrup, allowing it to soak into the cake. Cover with 1/3 of the chocolate mixture. Carefully lay another piece of cake over top. Brush that completely with the warm syrup as well, again allowing it to soak in. Cover with another 1/3 of the chocolate mixture. Place the final layer of cake carefully on top and once again brush with more strawberry syrup, allowing it to soak in. Cover with the remaining chocolate mixture and smooth the top as much as possible. Cover with cling film, and place in the refrigerator until set, at least four hours or over night if possible.

To serve, set the cake pan onto a pretty plate and remove the sides of the pan. Scatter white chocolate curls over the top of the cake and garnish with more berries if desired, before cutting into slices to serve. Delicious!

Anyways, all of that chocolate must have worked because the sun is shining, the birds are singing and it looks to be a nice day. I'm off now to enjoy some of the sunshine and walk off some of that chocolate!