Chocolate has beguiled us for millennia.
Exotic, indulgent, hedonistic and sensual, its power over us somehow exceeds the sum of its parts, according to Sue Quinn whose tempting new book makes for perfect reading for chocoholics.
Salvador Dalí-inspired flourless chestnut, chocolate and rum cake
This gorgeously gooey flourless cake was inspired by ‘Chocolate with Rum’, a recipe in Salvador Dalí’s fantastical cookbook Les Diners de Gala. It’s one of my favourites. At once a cookbook and an art book, it combines Dalí’s wild artistic imaginings with his passion for gastronomy. He and his wife Gala were famous for their lavish dinner parties: guests attended in costume, live monkeys decorated the room and meals were served in objects, including satin slippers. But food — including chocolate — was an inspiration for his surrealist images as well as being one of life’s great pleasures. His 1930 painting Chocolate depicts a woman in the shape of an urn, with chocolate dribbling from her mouth into a cup and onto an apple below. Dalí also famously appeared in a bizarre television advertisement for Lanvin chocolate, complete with an animated moustache. There’s nothing surreal about this very rich cake, which makes an excellent and easy dessert.
300ml / 10fl oz dark rum
150g / 5¼oz pitted prunes
200g / 7oz unsalted butter, roughly chopped, plus extra for greasing
200g / 7oz dark chocolate (70pc cocoa solids), chopped
200g / 7oz caster (superfine) sugar
200g / 7oz chestnut purée
3 large eggs, separated
Generous pinch of salt
Cocoa powder, for dusting (optional)
Cold crème fraîche, to serve
1. Place the rum and prunes in a pan, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and leave to cool for at least 15 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 160°C/325°F/gas mark 3 and butter and line the base of a 20-cm/8-in loose-bottomed or springform cake tin with baking paper. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Remove the bowl from the pan and set aside to cool a little.
3. Place the butter, sugar, chestnut purée, egg yolks, salt and the prunes with their rum in a food processor and blitz until smooth and creamy. Add the melted, cooled chocolate and blitz again until completely combined. Scrape into a mixing bowl.
4. Beat the egg whites in a scrupulously clean bowl with electric beaters or in a stand mixer until stiff but not too firm or dry, or you won’t be able to fold them easily into the chocolate mixture. Beat one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen, then gently and gradually fold in the rest — don’t be tempted to beat or you will lose the air. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake tin and smooth the top.
5. Bake for 1 hour–1 hour 15 minutes: when done, the cake should be dry and firm on top (but not springy, as it will be mousse-like in the centre) and coming away from the edges of the tin. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes; it will shrink a bit but that is as it should be and will firm up a little as it cools. Release from the tin and sit on a wire rack to cool completely.
6. Dust with sifted cocoa — this isn’t essential but adds a lovely bitter note — and serve with cold crème fraîche.
Chocolate Mousse with sesame honeycomb and olive oil
I was determined to devise my own version of this sublime dessert after scoffing platefuls of it at London restaurant Lupins. The combination of intense dark chocolate, sweet-salty-chewy honeycomb, sesame seeds and grassy olive oil is,
as one reviewer described it, “an outrageous creation”. She was correct. Add the very best chocolate and olive oil you can afford.
For the mousse:
150g / 5¼oz dark chocolate (between 70–75pc cocoa solids), finely chopped
2 large egg yolks
20g / ¾oz caster (superfine) sugar
75ml / 2½fl oz whole milk
175ml / 6fl oz double (heavy) cream
For the honeycomb:
40g / 1½oz white sesame seeds
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
100g / 3½oz caster (superfine) sugar
2 tbsp golden (corn) syrup
1 tbsp honey
Good-quality extra virgin olive oil, rosemary-infused if you have it, for drizzling
1. Start with the mousse. Have the chocolate ready by the hob in a heatproof bowl.
2. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a stand mixer or in a heatproof bowl with electric beaters until pale and creamy.
3. Combine the milk and cream in a pan and bring to a simmer. Pour the hot milk over the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly.
4. Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, for 5–10 minutes until it has thickened to a custard-like consistency: when you lift a wooden spoon out of it, it should stay coated. Pour the custard over the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and glossy, then pour through a sieve into a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, making sure it sticks to the chocolate to prevent a skin forming.
5. Chill for 2 hours, or until set. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before serving.
6. For the honeycomb, line a baking sheet with baking paper and have the sesame seeds and bicarbonate of soda measured out and ready by the hob. Place the sugar, golden syrup and honey in a high-sided pan and stir to combine. Set the pan over a medium heat and simmer until the mixture has turned a deep amber colour (a drop spooned into a glass of cold water should turn hard). Remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in the sesame seeds and then the bicarbonate of soda.
7. Stir constantly as the mixture froths up. Quickly pour onto the prepared baking sheet and leave for about 1 hour, or until hard. Break into pieces.
8. To serve, use 2 dessertspoons to scoop the mousse into oval shapes (quenelles) and place a couple of these in the centre of each serving plate. Sprinkle over some of the honeycomb pieces and drizzle with the olive oil. Serve immediately.
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