I simply adore the smell of the kitchen at Christmas. It’s heavy with the scent of cloves, cinnamon, ginger, sweet wine, golden syrup, orange peel and off course, chocolate. Its so good it should be bottled and sold.
The Christmas period is the perfect time to prepare a few simple classics like chocolate truffles, biscotti and brandy snaps. I know brandy snaps can be a little fiddly, but once you have mastered the basics, they are actually really very easy to make. Just remember that once out of the oven the Brandy snap wafer is far too soft and delicate to curl, it needs to be left for about two to three minutes to start to firm up and become flexible. However, as the Brandy Snap wafer further cools it becomes hard and brittle, and within the next four to five minutes they become too brittle to curl, and they will break if you try. So there’s only a small window of opportunity to curl them successfully. If they harden up, just pop them back the oven for a few moments and start over. Chocolate treats are also a must for Christmas. Just when you think you can’t possibly fit another morsel in your mouth, someone brings out the chocolate truffles and you miraculously find room. When making chocolate truffles, buy the best quality bitter chocolate you can get hold of. It really does make all the difference. Most chefs’ use a top grade chocolate called covertures, which has a high proportion of cocoa butter. Never overheat chocolate and always melt it slowly, making sure that the temperature never rises above 49ºc. Stir the chocolate until liquid but never overwork or whisk too vigorously as it can curdle easily.
Delicious home-made chocolate truffles can be turned into a variety of flavours, all stemming from one simple recipe and the combinations are endless. I will give you a basic truffle recipe where they are rolled in cocoa powder. For something different, try flavouring them green tea, bergamot or fresh truffles. Dip them into melted dark or white chocolate and garnish with a little sea salt or curry powder! Happy cooking and have a very merry festive season.
CHOCOLATE, CARDAMOM & COFFEE CREAMS
WITH ORANGE & CINNAMON TUILES
Ingredients serves 6-8
80g dark chocolate
50g coffee beans
4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
½ cinnamon stick
5 egg yolks
Lightly toast the coffee beans, cardamom & cinnamon stick and place them in a spice grinder or food processor. Pulse to a course powder.
Place the cream and coffee mixture in a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to cool and infuse. Pass through a fine sieve into a clean saucepan and return to the heat. Add the chocolate and stir until it has melted.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and add the warm chocolate cream. Pour the mixture back into a saucepan and heat gently, stirring continuously, until it thickens to a custard consistency. Pour the coffee creams into coffee cups or glasses and chill well before serving with a little lightly whipped cream on top. Garnish with orange & cinnamon tuiles.
ORANGE & CINNAMON TUILES
50g unsalted butter
100g golden syrup
100g caster sugar
150g plain flour
Grated zest of one orange
A pinch of ground cinnamon
Gently melt the butter.
Place the flour, cinnamon, orange zest & sugar in a bowl and add the golden syrup. Whisk in the melted butter, cover and chill for 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/ gas mark 6
Line a baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment or a silpat mat. Place three teaspoonfuls of the mixture well apart on the baking sheet and spread out to 8cm circles. Bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes, or until golden-brown. Remove from the oven.
The cooked tuiles need to be quickly and carefully removed, one disc at a time, from the baking sheet, using a metal spatula. Curve each biscuit immediately over a rolling pin, and leave a few minutes until they are cool and crisp. Then remove them to a wire rack and cook the rest, continuing as above until all the mixture has been used up.
As soon as the biscuits are cool, store straight away in an airtight tin to keep them crisp.
600g dark chocolate
2tbsp Grand marnier
Grated zest of half an orange
100G dark cocoa powder
Chop the chocolate or break into small pieces and place in a bowl. Bring the cream and butter to the boil. Remove from the heat and pour over the chopped chocolate, stirring continously until all the chocolate has melted. Add the Grand marnier and grated orange zest. Leave to set in the fridge for at least 3-4 hours.
Sift cocoa powder on to a flat plate, then take heaped half teaspoons of the truffle mixture and dust your hands in cocoa, roll each piece into a ball and then roll it in the cocoa powder to finish the truffles.
Place them immediately into paper cases. Obviously the less handling the better as the warmth of your hands melts the chocolate. Store in an air-tight container the refrigerator.
Marc Fosh – Michelin Star Chef