Cooking With Chocolate

Chocolate is a fascinating substance that comprises a whole range of both raw and processed foods derived from the seeds of the South American cocao tree Theobroma cacao.

Archaelogical evidence suggests that it has been cultivated for three millennia in Central America and Mexico, with its earliest documented use around 1100 BCE. The majority of the Mesoamerican peoples made chocolate beverages, including the Maya and Aztecs, who made it into a beverage known as xocoltl, a Nahuatl word literally meaning 'bitter water'.

Chocolate itself is produced as a by-product of the fermentation of cocoa beans. Subsequently the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted, and the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The nibs are then ground and liquified, resulting in pure chocolate in fluid form: chocolate liquor. The liquor can be further processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter. Chocolate is produced by the mixing of cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying portions.

Everything from raw cocoa nibs to various forms of processed chocolate can be used in cookery and chocolate, because of its bittering qualities can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes, as the recipes below show.

Chocolate Nemesis Cake

Ingredients:
675g good dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
10 whole eggs
575g caster sugar
450g unsalted butter softened

Method:
Using an electric whisk, beat the eggs with a third of the sugar until the volume quadruples " this will take at least 10mins. Meanwhile heat the remaining sugar in a small pan with 250ml water until the sugar has completely dissolved to a syrup.

Place the chocolate and butter in the hot syrup and stir to combine. Remove from the heat once molten and allow to cool slightly. Add the warm syrup to the eggs and continue to beat, rather more gently, until completely combined (about 20 seconds). Line a greased 30 by 5cm cake tin with baking paper and pour in the batter. Place this in a casserole dish and add almost enough water to come up to the top of the tin. Place in an oven pre-heated to 160°C and bake for 30 minutes, or until set. The top should be springy when you place the flat of your hand on it.

Allow to cool completely in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.

Mole Poblano

Ingredients:
3 ancho chillies
3 pasilla chillies
3 mulato chillies
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
30g almonds, toasted
30g sesame seeds, toasted
1 tsp coriander, ground
6 large, ripe, tomatoes, blanched, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
60g raisins
60g dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa content)
150ml chicken stock
1 tsp ground cinnamon
lard for frying
1.8kg chicken pieces
black pepper, to taste

Method:
De-stem and de-seed the chillies then toast in a dry frying pan for a few minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer to the chicken stock and allow to re-hydrate for 20 minutes. After this time remove the chillies from the stock and place in a blender along with the onion, garlic, almonds, sesame seeds, spices and a few twists of black pepper and render to a smooth paste.

Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie (double boiler) then add a little lard to a frying pan and use this to fry the raisins until they puff up. Remove and set aside then add a little more lard to the pan. Fry the chilli paste in the lard for a few minutes then stir-in the chicken stock then add the tomatoes and raisins. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, our until the sauce begins to thicken then add the chocolate.
Meanwhile fry the chicken in a large frying pan until browned on all sides. Transfer to an oven-proof dish (or a casserole dish), cover with the sauce and place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and bake for about 35 minutes.

I hope these recipes have given you an indication of just how versatile chocolate is as a cooking ingredient and that you now want to find out more about the culinary possibilities of chocolate.

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About The Author, Gwydion
Dyfed Lloyd Evans runs the Celtnet Recipes Website where you can find many more Chocolate-based recipes.