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Hot Chocolate 3 Ways

I have to say that on the rare occassion that I drink hot chocolate I usually reach for the jarred variety and add a slug of whole milk to add richness and somehow lessen the guilt over my poor choice of “cheating” hot beverage. But eventually enough is enough & you have to take a stand & make something that you yourself could proudly share with a like minded foodie. So with this in mind I sat down with pen & paper & decided what my perfect hot chocolate would be be. Not necessarily an every day hot chocolate (I don’t think this should be) but something ritualistic, decadent & memorable. I decided that I could learn a thing or two from how custard is made & use an egg yolk to create something thick, rich & restorative.

The following recipe makes two small luxurious hot chocolates & is made very simply from dark chocolate, whole milk & one egg yolk.  Place 200ml of whole milk over a gentle heat & add 50g of grated 80% dark chocolate. I chose 80% dark chocolate because the remaining 20% is sugar and this is just enough. If you would like your hot chocolate a little sweeter simply select a 70% dark chocolate. What is very important though is that this hot chocolate deserves a high quality, characterful chocolate, ideally single origin. Stir frequently until chocolate has fully melted into the milk. Meanwhile, whisk one medium egg yolk in a small clean bowl. Whisk until smooth and pale. Once the chocolate has melted into the milk pour over the whisked egg yolk in a thin stream continuing to whisk as you do so to prevent the egg scrambling. Return the chocolate, milk and egg to the pan & heat gently stirring frequently with a whisk to ensure it does not catch on the bottom. Watch & whisk for approximately 5 minutes, the hot chocolate will begin to thicken & coat the back of a spoon. Pour the hot chocolate into small coffee cups & enjoy. For an added dimension add a measure of good rum, my choice is Sailor Jerry spiced rum…..

Alternatively, make the most of this decadent hot chocolate & pour over good quality vanilla ice cream & finish with a sprinkling of toasted flaked almonds for an impressive but easy pudding.

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Baking the Blondie

So you may think that a Blondie is just a white chocolate brownie (minus dark chocolate or cocoa powder). I actually found it trickier to produce a good recipe for a Blondie then I did for my Brownie. The simplest way to describe a Blondie is that it is little more than a vanilla sponge cake with white chocolate chunks and so the first time I baked one I was a little disappointed. I stupidly assumed that I would achieve the same, velvet dense texture that I have with my Brownie. I had to start from scratch and the resulting Blondie had to be dense, caramelly, delicately chewy and satisfyingly dense. Here’s what I do. Of course you can tweak this recipe to suit you. I use a single origin white chocolate from the Dominican Republic for my blondies but as long as use a good quality white chocolate and avoid white chocolate chips for baking then all will be fine. So if you’d rather use white caster sugar, or add vanilla or leave out the salt then feel free. You can also switch the plain wheat flour for a gluten free one.

Preheat oven to 170’C fan. Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin. Place 50g chopped white chocolate, 105g unsalted butter, 80g dark Muscovado sugar and 80g soft light brown sugar in a bowl placed over a pan of gently simmering water. Stir until melted. Remove from heat and add 130g plain flour, 1/2 tsp of sea salt and 1 large egg and whisk. It will look split at first, just keep whisking and it will come together to form a smooth toffee coloured Blondie batter.

Add 80g of chopped white chocolate and fold through batter. Pour into loaf tin and smooth over. Place onto a baking tray on the middle shelf of oven and bake for 25 minutes. Check your Blondie, the centre should have a slight wobble, if very wobbly put back into the oven for a few minutes until it has firmed a little. Leave in loaf tin until cool. Cut into 8 or 10 pieces. Now enjoy.

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My Big Brownie Experiment

I’ve done it! My brownie shop is open for business. I’ve baked and photographed and wrapped and written, a brilliant challenge. It all began in October last year, it was quite late one night when I was taken by an urge to bake. I always keep a ‘mental’ list in my head of my next bake and that night it was the turn of the chocolate brownie. Strange that I should not have made one before now, I have certainly eaten plenty.

I consulted with Nigel, Nigella and Hugh, a trusted trio and selected a simple brownie recipe from each. I baked some brownies and they were good but there had to be more to it.

I have a science degree and having worked for a luxury chocolate brand for nearly six years in development, process and ingredient sourcing I knew a bit about chocolate and ingredients and understood the process of experimentation.

To test the recipe I started by tweaking a single element each time I baked thereby focusing on each key brownie attribute; chocolatiness, tenderness and sweetness. Each has to be right and there is a balance, reducing sugar too much can affect tenderness and moisture and increasing the cocoa too far can make for a tougher, dry eat so this became the focus of my experimentation, pushing up the cocoa content whilst retaining the tender brownie texture.

During the baking I used different chocolate and I noticed that the brownies tasted different. With that thought still in my head I baked with a single origin chocolate from Madagascar and was amazed by the intensity of flavour and the red berry notes, gentle acidity and the butteriness coming from the Madagascan chocolate. It was at this time that I realised what I wanted to do, bake amazing brownies with single origin chocolate and experiment with flavour.

I am a perfectionist and although I knew I had the beginnings of something the recipe was far from where I wanted it to be so I continued to bake and tweak and until at last I found brownie happiness. Everyone should have the opportunity to ‘eat better brownies’.