Saturday, October 20, 2007

Celebrating chocolate week

According to English newspaper The Guardian, October 15-21 is Chocolate Week. What a great thing to celebrate! Chocolate recipes are by far my favourite and, out of the thousands of recipes I've collected over the years, the chocolate file is the largest. No matter how many chocolate cake or biscuit recipes I have, I can never resist collecting a new one. They essentially all use the same ingredients but there's always a new twist that entices me to try it - perhaps some coffee granules added to a choc-chip biscuit recipe, or a white chocolate fondant centre in gooey chocolate puddings.

What else is there to say about chocolate that hasn't been written before? We all know its wonderful properties and how a piece of moist chocolate cake can fix almost anything in the world. Whether you choose to whip up a basic cake on a whim, a more grand affair that requires a long list of ingredients and concentration in the kitchen, or some choc-chip biscuits to share with friends, there's always a chocolate recipe available to satisfy.

I've noticed recently that most chocolate recipes call for the "best quality chocolate you can afford", usually meaning expensive Vahlrona or Callebaut chocolate. I have no doubt that in some recipes you may notice the difference if cheap chocolate is used but I also think that this is another example of food snobbery, something that seems to be creeping in more and more to modern recipes. There's been quite a few occasions when I've gone to the trouble and effort of sourcing difficult and expensive ingredients only to end up disappointed with the final result. The recipe works, the end result is fine and yet there's a feeling of flatness, that the end did not justify the means. But that's another article all together!

I'm a sucker for any food recipe that has a chocolate picture on the front cover. It doesn't matter if I've already got 10 versions of the recipe; I have to add this one as well. Clearly I'm not the only one who feels this way, judging by how often chocolate will appear on a front cover.

Chocolate is indulgent and chocolate is fun. You can get a mini-hit through a choc-chip biscuit or a major overdose through a decadent dessert. It's not something to scoff but to savour. A French chocolatier once told me that you should eat a little bit of chocolate every day and that you should make it the best piece of chocolate you can afford (there's that phrase again!) so that you can savour it and then feel satisfied. My preference is for dark chocolate and I find that I am satisfied after a couple of small squares, whereas a chocolate bar leaves me feeling like I've had too much.

In Melbourne, we are spoiled for choice with our chocolate shops: Koko Black in Royal Arcade, Haighs Chocolate shops around the city, Cacao in Fitzroy St, St Kilda, Fraus in Victoria St, North Melbourne for wickedly rich hot chocolate, and chocolate afternoon teas at the Sofitel are just some of the treats on offer.

To celebrate Chocolate Week, here's a recipe for Choc-Nut Biscuits that I made up. It's an easy and fast recipe and will satisfy any mid-afternoon craving for chocolate.


125 g butter
125g white sugar
125g brown sugar
250g self-raising flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g chocolate chips
100g chopped nuts (your choice - I find walnuts or blanched almonds are good)

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla, then stir in the sifted flour. Add the choc chips and the nuts, mixing well.

Put spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking trays (it may be quite sticky, so shape as best you can), and allow plenty of room for spreading. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden. Cool on the tray for about five minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

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