Flaverotica

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What do people want when they buy chocolate?
They want everything , they want nothing but chocolate , they want filled bars, they want the mutant truffle, they want white , dark , bitter, milky , bean-to-bar gluten free fair trade rawganic kosher halal fruit based aaaaaaaaarghhhh !

Deep breath.

So basically,what I want to say is: you can do whatever you want when creating a line of chocolates. It will always be right, always be wrong, and most importantly , it will always be your vision!

The flavour route: there are only two true paths one is a simple path in that you just follow the path well trodden , the flavours have been done , tried tested and voted upon. The other path is simple too , you just pave the way as you go. Wrong . It’s not as simple as it looks. That brick you want to lay as the next step forward doesn’t always fit in place . Flavours are a pain in the behind sometimes.
On the well trodden path we all know that the Aztec and Mayan chaps had the whole cocoa chili pepper salty flavorxaptel thing sorted out LONG before any fancy city chocolatier rethought it up so it’s pretty safe nowadays to combine pepper and chocolate… It’s rapidly become the PB and J of the artisan chocolatier and I won’t knock it . There is a satisfying firework vibe to the proceedings when you first hold the soon to be tasted treat between your expectant finger tips. You know something’s going to happen and that is the unique art of this ancient combination. It’s a flavour with a reputation above and beyond any praliné or matcha infusion.
It does something.
The touch paper is lit the moment you bite into the chocolate. That initial snap and the first suggestion of the chocolate are a prelude to the collapse of that hard shell into a tongue enveloping bitterwsweet balm. The anticipation and apprehension are undeniable;like the best of Mr. Hitchcock we know the chilli is in there… but where is it?!
Never fear, the melting of the crisp chocolate was only intended to lull you into a false sense of (in)security . It begins with a slight tingle , almost akin to effervescence on the sides of your tongue, is it warm? Is it fresh? Ok, the cacao is back, and in the case of these tortillas some bakey corn and salt, then the flavour bubble bursts. Your up until now cocoa butter-coated taste buds are sufficiently ‘cleaned up’ to received the saliva reactivated capsaicin and its show time! Wave upon wave of tingling warmth cover your tongue and trickle past your tonsils, this flavour is a living thing , a wild animal, tethered (for your safety) by the familiar strength and trustworthiness of cacao and sugar. The storm gradually subsides, the crimson tide of pepper ebbs, swishing back onto the beach with each suck of the teeth and probe of the tongue. And then , it’s a memory , a warm rosy glow , cuddled up on the rug of your palate snuggling and smooching with that remaining flavour of dark chocolate sweetness.

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I spent a lot of time creating a line of chocolates that would work flavour wise.
I love tart sweetness combined with chocolate . Chocolate is very full bodied and rich , even white chocolate , so that acidity cutting through the sweetness and richness and mouth-coatingness is a sensation parallel to none in my book .
One of my favourite combinations is rhubarb and white chocolate ; it has both nursery tea time charm and adult sophistication at once. That gorgeous baby pink ganache speckled with a dusting of ground sage is a feast for the eye. Then I dip it into 57% couverture and it becomes a dressed to kill vixen of a bonbon . The bitter sweetness as you bite into the coating with an audible ::crack:: giving way first to the bright acidity of the rhubarb and then to a wave of cream. The aftermath is a mouthgasm of cacao, fruit , sage, cream…… That’s what I meant by spending a lot of time creating .

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I love the aroma of mint . That cool, alive and positively green aroma as you crush the fresh leaves under your nose and breathe it all in. There’s nothing quite like it.
The combination of mint and chocolate is not exactly a new thing, it teeters on the fence between classic and cliché and often the first thought is of sugary sweet centers with a toothpaste like flavour punch. I wanted to take this tired candy and create something that presented the true vitality of these phenomenal flavours. I wanted that fresh mint leaf experience without it being aromatic graffiti on the beautiful wall that is chocolate.
Well, as many of my followers know, I believe that the chocolate should be the star of the show and not the supporting role. The star of my Dark Minted Chocolate Bars is a Belgian couverture, 60% cacao, well balanced, rich, with a subtle marriage of bitterness and sweetness. This accented with a hint of organic essential oils of spearmint and peppermint. The herbaceous tones of the mint develop after the initial cacao hit to your taste buds ; I like that ‘layering’ of flavours. The bars are hand piped and decorated, not moulded, because I want each one to be truly handmade. Unique , like me, like the person not sharing this tastefully sized, minty chocolate corner of the universe that was intended just for them .

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Minding my own business

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“Mijn hemel ! Ik ben het zo zat” I wailed a week before I was to hang up my apron for good at Puccini Bomboni …. Oh , a translation? I was “totally over it” in modern day speak… the chocolate making that had been so good to me . The business that had rewarded me (and I it) was no longer what I wanted. It didn’t serve me to continue. What did serve very nicely was the prospect of sun sea and endless summertime and I was going after it on an island off the coast of Africa.
That was in 2006 , that was another life, another me.

Once you have chocolate in your blood there is no denying it. We in the business love it with a passion, it is a love hate relationship, we curse at this medium as we lovingly craft it . The bug , the chocolate virus, presents itself in various ways, from mildest cases of “I love some chocolates for the holidays ” to chronic ” OMG I can’t get through the day with out it”.
Once infected (there is no incubation period) you can be symptomatic, or you can be like me : a carrier. The dealer… There to get you hooked and supply what you need.

As artisan chocolatier I am one of the four horsemen of the Choc-pocalyse… I’m at the front of the jolly band , I’m the one in between the Angel of Death (Nutella) and the Angel of War ( Nestlé) . We gallop over populated areas spreading melt-in-the-mouth deliciousness with a bitter sweet undertone. Our shields are covered with purple foil and our swords drip with Couverture.
The innovator of the bunch , I spread new and exotic confections and each time the populace thinks they are over it I morph into something totally new and so it continues.

Enough of the parody , I was getting carried away with my fancy pants-ness . The thing is, I was over it , the repetition day after day , the masses of chocolate that would be lovingly and craftily transformed into things of beauty and then consumed at the door of the shop whilst the consumer texted unthinkingly . The work never ended, a stockpile was never completed … Thankful and thankless work that I lovehated to do.

Hence the virus symbolism; once it’s there it’s there.Even if it lays dormant for a while it will flare up again.
It hibernated inside me for a good 6 years … I did odd jobs, made special editions for a single customer or event here and there. But it was done in my opinion.
I loved the variety of private cooking . The hanging out with people , cooking and chatting and entertaining and getting PAID for it .
The Caribbean isn’t a great chocolate destination so ‘dinner theatre’ as it was described by one regular customer, was my creative outlet. The combination of being with people and doing what I love to do is 1+1=infinity.

Yes, that outlet, there has to be one or I will implode. I can’t not be doing something. I can’t not be creating. Be it baking , photography , cooking, writing. Something has to emanate from this factory that is PJ , it’s my purpose; it has to be because I feel so damn good when I’m doing it.

My latest endeavor , Chocolatasm, is a balls-out dive bomb back into the world of cacao. I could have done something a little more timid but no, this is a bonafide Chocolate House : ‘La Maison’ Chocolatasm has opened his doors ( yeah , my baby is a boy).

The idea was to provide something out of the ordinary , maybe I’m not so the exception in some European countries but seeing as I was to be operating in the USA, my endeavours would surely have some level of wow to them . Well, that’s what I was hoping at least…

All my truffles are called bonbons, yeah , I’m going to be technical and hissy about this . A truffle is no longer a truffle in the true sense of the word . Anything that has a soft filling is called a truffle these days and it drives me insane.
Chocolaterie Une zéro Une :
“A truffle is a confection that consists only of chocolate and cream. That’s it. The truffles (….) are hand shaped to resemble a ‘real’ truffle, of the fungi variety, and are dusted with cocoa powder. Bonbons are fillings that are coated with chocolate. The fillings can be ganaches (chocolate, cream, flavoring), pralines (ground nuts), marzipan, caramels or creams.” Karletta Moniz.

So my bonbons are made in a way I learned at school … I don’t use molds , I form my ganaches by hand , some are piped, some scooped and some sliced. I like the variety of textures and the effect those textures have on a flavour profile. My hazelnut Praline with cinnamon is light and airy , the rich thickness of its flavour is carried over your tongue as you bite into it , not heavy at all whereas the bright fresh tang of my Rhubarb ganache is a thick creamy bite that stays longer on your taste buds .
The same goes for the chocolate, a high cacao chocolate will either kill or carry certain flavour additions, I want the chocolate to be king of this castle , upstaging such a handsome product with overpowering flavours would be a crime,in my humble opinion, and I love the exploration of a flavour profile , that “CHOCOLATEcinnamonCHOCOLATEh a z e l n u tCHOCOLATE” kind of experience for want of a better description.
The shapes I want to be eye catching and original , I’m not one for adding colour or tons of decoration, the value of an artisan is how he is with the ‘couture’ element of the process , anyone can stick on a transfer these days and call it “my design”… yes, the flavour and the quality of the ingredients should carry a product but the appearance, when mimicked across the board can reduce the finest of confections to nothing more than “fancy candies” .
Harsh words? Yeah , I suppose so and I apologise for any bruised egos but its just the way I feel after being run through the mill of “No! Sloppy! Start again! No! That’s not the right shape! Dump it! Start again!” Quality is excellence ,and that excellence is standing out as exceptional in the true sense of the word.
My bonbons aren’t food, they are delicious compositions , created for one reason , the pleasure they give both taste wise and visually.

I’m blowing my own trumpet here but to be honest I AM extremely humble, I aspire to be a great chocolatier, I have many heroes and examples I follow. I feel passionately about certain aspects, well, the PJK fundamentals of chocolaterie, actually:
Be original , use the best ingredients available to you, MAKE IT YOURSELF! Keep it pure, and respect the chocolate.

I’m hoping that America appreciates my offerings, only time will tell and I’m sure there will be changes made , additions to and removals from my somewhat eclectic assortment. We’ll see.

One thing that won’t change? The love I feel when I am working .
Chocolatasm online boutique

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Pastry cream-filled penance or Tarte Tropezienne

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“David! Can you open up another bottle of wine?!” Our hostess chanted from the table on the deck we were hanging around ; that would be the table we could hardly even put our wine glasses down on without first sliding the hummus under the edge of the cheese plate and balancing the dipping oil on top of the dolmades. The table was GROANING from the weight of the ‘heavy hors d’oeuvres’ that was dinner at the Mad Mare Farm. It was a long overdue get-together so the wine flowed , and then kept on flowing… through the wander to the pasture where the Mares live and the panic ridden (I have a horse story) proffering of carrots that were clearly too small to give these hoofed Behemoths without losing fingers and then to the neighbours’ paddock where a donkey and a zebra were living in sin … I know, right?! A donkey and a zebra … in backwoods Georgia?! I’m sure God doesn’t approve of such unholiness.

Needless to say, waking up the next morning with the remnants of Cabernet, Merlot and Zinf filtering through my garlic infused body meant I was going to need more than a couple of cups of coffee to get through the day.

When I’m hung over I like to bake… there’s something about the doing of it, the mixing , the aroma of hot flour and the covert finger scoops of raw cake batter that revives me . Maybe it’s the creative juice …the sugar…? Whatever , it makes me feel nice .

I made a bucket of tea and checked out the pantry: eggs, milk, butter, sugar, etc etc… yeah, that’s a start.

I began by making random Pastry Cream or Creme Patissier as we call it in Fancyland (the small nation neighbouring Who-the-f-do-you-think-you-are-alia) I got some eggs separated, two for the yolks and one I left whole. Mixed that all with 1/4 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of sugar and a splash of the 2 cups of milk I was then going to boil with the seeds scraped out of one vanilla pod.

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When the milk came to the boil I poured it, whisking the whole time, onto the egg mixture. Tipped it back into the pan and heated for a couple of minutes until thickened. I then transferred it back to the bowl and added half a stick of salted butter and stirred until it was melted and completely incorporated .

My plan was to let this cool and fill a cake with with it so I didn’t cover it, I just kept stirring every now and then as it cooled to stop a skin forming .

Then I realised that the last of the butter was now in the creme.

Well , bang goes that idea.

I had a think and another B-complex and put on some water for another lake of tea …

I put 3 eggs in a bowl added a cup of sugar with the grated zest of a lemon, a pinch of salt and 1/2 cup of juice ( the lemon topped up to 1/2 cup with orange juice) whipped that til light and fluffy.

I sifted 2 cups of flour with 2tsp baking powder and folded that into the egg foam along with 2/3 cup olive oil, divided it between two 8″ cake tins, greased and floured , and baked them for about 20 minutes on 350 f.

The smell of that doing its thing in the oven will drive out any amount of hangoverishness anyone may have . Remove them from the oven and then let them cool slightly before turing out onto a rack .

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When they are cooled completely you can cut them each into two layers and assemble the cake while there is still some pastry cream left to assemble it with … ::blush::

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I don’t think it needs too much explaining , 4 layers of cake means you need to mentally divide the pastry cream into 3, spoon the first 1/3 on to the cake layer , spread to edges, top with a second layer …etc etc…

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Kind of like this…

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You can top it off with a flat slice for a sharp edged finish but the traditional Tarte Tropezienne, which is in fact an airy, light brioche filled with custard , has a domed top, which I prefer as it looks totally home made and rustic and such .

The cake is , to all intents and purposes, finished … you can dust it with some powdered sugar and “voila!” get stuck in, as they say .

I wanted it to be MORE THAN THIS! MORE!

Being a chocolatier I have everything one needs to make ganache at hand at all times, but I was kind of like “Yawn! Ganache on a cake , chocolate AGAIN!” . I had an idea.

A cup of whole milk . Boil. Add handfuls of white chocolate drops, stirring between each addition, until you get a thick fluid ‘icing’ kind of goop.

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You can flavour this with lemon zest , orange zest , almond extract even… it’s all good.

I had a bowl of Hazelnut Praline at hand. yeah .. I have Praline in my home . just kicking around like any other ingredient. Normal people have a bottle of ketchup, Paul John Kearins has hazelnut frikkin praline .

You can make this by boiling sugar until it caramelizes then throw in chopped hazelnuts and pour onto a buttered baking sheet, cool, then puree in a food processor to a paste .

It’s the Joan Collins of peanut butters .

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I added a spoonful of the Hazelnut Praline to the Ganache … stirred well and poured it over the layered cake.

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There’s a time and a place for neatness and this isn’t one of them , just let the ganache run down the sides and leave it at that . Lets face it … it’s homemade citrus cake, stuffed with vanilla creme, doused with white chocolate hazelnut holy water … close your eyes when you eat it !

The hangover returned , in it’s “you will now fall asleep for 10 hours” form, so it was a wonderful treat to have a huge slice of penance for breakfast this morning…

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English Christmas in the USA

After a few years not really celebrating christmas in any particular way , the time had come to show my new American Family how we do it on the other side of the pond. Explaining traditional English Christmas dinner reduces the quintessential to English Holiday meal to  ” well … it’s kind of the same as Thanksgiving Dinner , but different” .

Even rereading the last statement feels like a disappointment , but the reality was anything but that………

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The Location for this feast was Utana Bluffs , a gorgeous private mountain community just outside Ellijay in North Georgia. The Park/Hart family have their home there and the surroundings just screamed “Christmas”.

The day began with the preparation of the stuffing for the 14lb organic turkey .

1lb of Pork sausage meat, 2 large onions – finely chopped , half a loaf of white bread- cubed, half a pint of good chicken stock , a bunch of fresh sage – chopped finely, a bunch of fresh rosemary – chopped, 2 granny smith apples – peeled, cored and also finely chopped, fresh ground black pepper.

Bring the stock to a boil and pour over the bread and stand for a few minutes so the bread can absorb the liquid.

Add the chopped ingredients and ground pepper and mix well , then knead the sausage meat into that. Tadaah!

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I stuffed the crop of the turkey, pushing the stuffing up under the skin and over the breast .

The leftover stuffing I pressed into a pie dish and topped with more apple to serve on the side .

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Then the Turkey! I stabbed the breast All over and then mummified it in bacon . As I said, I only stuffed the crop , pushing the stuffing as far over the breast as possible and put a bunch of sage and a whole lemon inside the cavity .

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Foiled it and roasted it on 350 ( convection ) for About four hours . When I took the aluminium foil off it was like I had slow cooked it for a day . It was tender and moist with a crisp bacon crust . I put it back in the oven for a half hour to brown . Slicing through the breast meat you got an evenly sized slice of the sage onion and apple stuffing . The sage and lemon and onion had infused the meat from inside out .

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Sexy , Huh?

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For the Sides I had decided on the traditional English parsnip, carrots and Brussels sprouts with chestnuts. Of course , I can’t just “do carrots” so I made a mousseline of parsnip apple and carrot

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Parsnips peeled and chopped … I love the scented almost ‘perfumey’ aroma of these root vegetables.

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Large Carrots, cut roughly the same size.

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Add an onion , some fresh rosemary and cover with chicken stock. bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender. drain, remove the soggy woody twiggy rosemary drama without burning you fingers too much and throw into a blender/food processor with a good sized chunk of butter, a pinch of salt , freshly ground pepper, a teaspoonful of ground coriander and one granny smith apple peeled, core and finely chopped.Puree until velvety smooth ….. O . M . G . this is heavenly.

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The potatoes…. so , you want to know how I became the king of oven roasted potatoes?

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Take firm cooking potatoes… wash them well and take out any eyes and blemishes. Cut the ends off diagonally so you have three pieces , triangular and of even size . Cover with very well salted water and bring to the boil. Par-boil for ten minutes. Drain and lay out on the counter to cool.

Pour the meat juices into a roasting tin , if there isn’t a half inch depth I add oil, light olive is nice.

Heat on 375f/ 220c in the oven ( or on the stove) and throw in the potatoes. DON’T move them … just put them back in the oven and give em about 35 minutes before you hustle them around in the fat . THAT’S the secret to crispy potatoes. Mine are even crispy as leftovers the next day . After you have tossed them around in the pan give them another 30 minutes… That’s it .dsc09149

Other Traditional accompaniments to English Christmas dinner are gravy and bread sauce , but first the Crack- Cocaine of all festive nibbles…. Sausage and Bacon rolls.

Sausage and bacon rolls have no other function in the meal other than to make your hand /fork keep moving back and forth to the dish with the verbal statement ” I HAVE to stop eating these Sausage and bacon rolls” .

They are extremely simple to make with ready made ‘chipolata’ sausages but of course I have to be all fancy and do my own.

1lb sausage meat / pork , pork and beef or turkey.

I added garlic, a little fennel , some fresh thyme, and grated lemon zest ( to tie it in with the Turkey) black and white pepper and a splash of brandy for fun. mix it all together and form into little one inch long sausagettes . roll these in bacon ( I used uncured organic smoked) and place them on a baking sheet .Bake along with the potatoes just before dinner is ready .

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Then Bread Sauce.

BREAD….. made into a sauce . with milk . I know how it sounds and the Americans had a perplexed look when I mentioned that that was what we had instead of gravy . Served with a rather neutral meat like turkey, this smooth aromatic and unctuous smothering is one of the most humble and at the same time luxurious accompaniments you can imagine …. and I’m of the opinion if they were serving it 500 years ago it must be good , Believe it or not the English kitchen was once one of the most revered and envied in Europe and this is the kind of delight that was the envy of the European Courts of that time.

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I used  a pint of milk, put it in a pan with a knob of butter , a chopped onion , 3 bay leaves, 5 cloves, a piece of mace, 6 pepper corns, a pinch of salt an a pinch of sugar. bring up to a gentle simmer and then remove from the heat and allow the spices to steep for a couple of hours .

Just before dinner strain the milk into a second pan and reheat. Add 2 cups of fresh white breadcrumbs (or 100g) and stir well until smooth . Stir in some freshly grated nutmeg just before serving…… awe…… some.

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This+ Turkey= angel doing something on your blissbuds.

So after all that kitchen slavery nonsense I needed a cocktail…. Captain Morgan Spiced rum, half apple cider and a splash of coke, garnish with a slice of sour apple.  The rum and spice are warming and festive, the caffeine in the coke will give you a kick towards a few hours at the table and the malic acid in the apple will aid digestion… really , it’s all science. “pour me another” I said often on that day… in the name of eduction and knowledge ‘n stuff.

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The table was set while I was doing all of the above , and the surroundings were perfect for the feast that followed.

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It was such a hit !

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There will be a follow up about the Hell-on-Earth that is English Christmas dinner desserts but as a teaser here is one of the most enormous tiny treats ever , the Great British Mince Pie…. a buffet of flavourful sweetness in a fun-size pastry crust …. more to come …………….

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Chocolate and spice and all things nice

Brown Sugared and Cinnamoned and Cocoa-ed 70% Cacao Chocolate

Brown Sugared and Cinnamoned and Cocoa-ed 70% Cacao Chocolate

 

Trying out new things is part of my job. It’s also my exercise it’s my ” me time ” and my free time . I love flexing my creative muscles and giving myself a culinary work-out .

I recently received a couple of pounds of chocolate from a local supplier and couldn’t really think what to do with so I just blindly threw myself at the pantry and came up with some unexpected treats .

The combination of cinnamon and chocolate is no big surprise these days … but “kick-assed up” with pure cocoa powder and raw cane brown sugar ? well , let’s just say that they disappeared PDQ .

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When I was done making a mess in the kitchen realized I still had melted chocolate left in the bowl so I rummaged through the spices and threw some ground coriander and a pinch of cayenne pepper in … WOW ! The fruity spice of coriander just latches on to the bitterness of the 70% and calms it down without it losing any definition and the warm melty finish gets the best of exclamat!on marks from that hint of cayenne.

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I love doing what I do when I’m not doing what I do … it’s so damn satisfying . Now…. where did I leave that bowl of chocolate ….

 

 

sharing or bewaring ?

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So I have this dilemma that I’ve been wrestling with for a while now….. how much info can I give away ?

I have a couple of pages on Facebook one is what I like to call my “professional face” , the chocolatier-slash-patissier , the other is a fun food group where friends get to post pictures of  their dinner, share recipes etc. A lot of info, advice and ideas are thrown around which is great , I mean… if we can’t get excited about our kitchens we may as well end it all now… right?

So…. the sharing.

I’ll post a fancy assed picture of something I made , demonstrating how freaking wonderful I wish I could be and receive like a thousand responses for “can I have the recipe ? ” ; the more recipe-stalkery individual ( yes they exist , the social culinary media equivalent of Coupon Addicts) will respond with a chilling “Recipe? Thank you very much”.

I don’t want to come across as some kind of big shot  “you are not worthy ” so I share, I spill my guts and I give away my secrets to all and sundry …..why am I such a pushover? Well, the simple answer to that is that I’m so crazy about what I do, I just want everyone else to have a piece of the action too ….. much to the annoyance of my significant other!

” you need managing , babe…. really” is the response to my ” Look !” holding the computer screen in view with my latest piece of self sabotage on display. In the past my stuff has been plundered for the personal gain of others , which I suppose is unavoidable at times and , hell ! Imitation is the highest form of whatever, right?

Any way the best way to end this ramble would be with a recipe , I kid you not !

A while ago I was bored and had a hunt through the pantry and came up with this frighteningly good Chocolate Maple tart….. it was ad lib and kind of awkward but I’ve tidied it up for your enjoyment ….. hopefully it will appease the Recipe-Stalkers too ….

Chocolate Maple Meringue Tart 

90 g (3 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used canola)

1 tbsp water + 2 tbsp maple syrup

1/8 teaspoon salt

150 g (5oz, or 1 cup) flour + 2 tbsp sieved cocoa powder.

Melt the butter , stir in the water and maple syrup and salt .

Add the flour and cocoa and combine quickly and gently to form a ball . Flatten onto baking parchment and rest for  one hour.

Roll out and line a 8-9 inch tart pan… Prick all over with a fork and bake blind for 15mins 200c /400f til golden brown. Cool .

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4 egg yolks

100 g caster sugar

25 g plain flour, sifted

1 vanilla pod, with a line scored down the side, or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

350 ml milk

100g 70-80% chocolate

Whisk yolks sugar and flour.

Boil milk and vanilla . Remove pod.

Whisking constantly stream in the egg/sugar mix.

Return to heat and whisking continuously bring back to boil and cook one minute.

Remove from heat . Break in chocolate and mix well .

Pour into tart shell. Cool slightly then place in fridge to chill completely.

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4 egg whites

1 tsp cornstarch

100g fine sugar

50ml maple syrup

In a grease free bowl combine ALL ingredients at once , and whip until thick and meringue stands up in stiff peaks.

Pile on top of tart or pipe decoratively.

Return to very hot oven for five minutes … Watch constantly ! Until it has a light golden surface.

Tadaaaaah!