A French dessert menu classic that’s so quick to prepare and great for any occasion.
How many chocolate storefronts do you know resemble dark chocolate? Every time I walk past the Chapon boutique in Paris’s growing sweet-lined rue du Bac, I could almost lick off the writing imagining it’s made of cocoa butter and gold leaf.
You may remember my visit to the first ever Bac Sucré Event in June this year, where I already wrote a bit about Chocolaterie Chapon. During the event, my daughter Lucie and I signed up for a short talk by Patrice Chapon, explaining how he has been making his chocolate since 1985 from “bean-to-bar” from his workshop in Chelles (a suburb 20km north-east of Paris).
Originally a restaurant chef then pastry chef in Deauville, I love how Monsieur Chapon then popped over the Channel for a short stint as official ice-cream maker to the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace – how cool is it to have had the Queen Mother surprise you one day with rose petals from the royal gardens, asking you to make a sorbet with them? After inspiration from Harrod’s food hall, he realised his real vocation was back in France making chocolate and by 2005, he opened this second shop in Paris.
It takes 10 days to make the chocolate as we see it in the store. Even the cacao growers in the tropics (10° North or South of the Equator) are amazed at what final result can be achieved from these simple looking beans.
He procures the beans after they’ve been fermented and dried, then does the rest himself. He grills them – 20 kilos at a time – for about 30 minutes at 105°C until they start to smell and taste like chocolate, even if still bitter at this stage. After grinding to obtain cocoa nibs then 8 hours maturing, he adds sugar (and powdered milk for milk chocolate), he continues to grind then liquify the cacao by a method called conching. Any acids or bitterness disappear after at least 48 hours and as if by magic, the end result after tempering and mixing, we’re left to discover the end result.
Tasting our way through the characteristic tropical-patterned packaged chocolate bars, each variety has its own subtle but particular flavours: Cuba has notes of spice and exotic fruits, Lucie agreed that Ghana has banana notes, and Madagascar has real after-notes of red fruits.
With wide-eyed children looking on at the generous samples laid out in front of us, Chapon surprised them with his witty Willy Wonka remark in French, “With this ticket, adults have a tasting of a chocolate mousse cone; children have their tasting of salsify” (which is a popular root that’s served as vegetable here, especially I hear at the school canteen). Their confused expressions were quickly transformed as their eyes feasted on chocolate lollipops.
My eyes were for the salted praline Dômes au Sel, winners of the Mairie de Paris Chocolate Grand Prix in 2003.
True to the chocolate bars, the mousses were so dense in chocolate, yet light and airy. Chapon states that he uses about 20-30% less chocolate in his mousses due to the high cocoa content than more standard chocolate mousses that our grandmothers made.
As I left the boutique, realising again that I’d bought way too much chocolate (confessions of a chocoholic), I noticed that the recipe for the legendary chocolate mousse was printed on the brown paper bag.
With so many chocolate varieties to choose from, I thought I’d be adventurous and go for the 100% pure cacao Rio Caribe of Venezuela. On the tablet’s back label, it even specifies “100% minimum”, which would excite any cocoa connoisseur!
If I have to make one remark, the recipe’s chocolate quantity of 185g isn’t that ideal for us shoppers, since most of the tablets are 75g and so with two bars I was 35g short of pure Venezuela. As it’s 100%, also note that it’s drier than most classic mousses. The aftertaste is intense – a little goes a long way to appreciate the flavours. Just as in wine-tasting, I’d even go as far as to say that this chocolate mousse is earthy or as we say in wine terms, “sous bois” or undergrowth (for more on tasting, see my post about different notes on the nose). It was almost leafy or, dare I say, mossy. In French, moss is mousse – so I’ll leave you to groan at your own pun!
Chapon Chocolate Mousse Recipe
Patrice Chapon states the best chocolate to use for his mousse is either Equagha, équateur, Mexique or 100% Rio Caribe. His new tablet, Brésil, would also be good.
185g Pure Origin Chocolate Chapon (I used 100% Venezuela Rio Caribe)
100g semi-skimmed fresh milk
1 egg yolk
6 egg whites
37g cane sugar
1. Heat the milk until it boils. Grate the chocolate in a large bowl.
2. Pour the hot milk over the grated chocolate and stir gently until well mixed using a wooden spoon. Add the yolk and continue to stir until the mixture is brilliant.
3. In a separate bowl, whip up the egg whites using an electric whisk, adding half of the sugar at first and then at the end when they are whipped and fluffy (but not firm).
4. Gradually incorporate the egg whites, folding it in delicately until all mixed together and smooth.
5. Either keep it in the bowl or transfer to individual serving bowls (I would suggest little ones here, as this mousse is so intense!)
6. Refrigerate overnight (I suggest covering with cling film) and enjoy next day.
Serving suggestion: scoop the mousse …
or spoon into Almond Tuiles from my new book, Teatime in Paris!
If you’re in Paris, either drop in and taste the mousse for yourself at Chapon’s boutiques.
They will also be taking part again this year in the Salon du Chocolat, 28th October to 1st November, Porte de Versailles.
69, rue du Bac, 75007 Paris
Tel. 01-42 22 95 98
For more chocolate and pastry treats, join me and my friend, Ann Mah, for a tasting down rue du Bac in Paris.
That did it – it had to be a chocolate pear cake since the pears just sat there showing off their perfect hippy contours in the fruit bowl, pride of place on the breakfast table.
Really. No takers? It was the same for lunch, goûter, and dinner. Were they just too pretty to look at? I decided it was “conference” time with the family last weekend; would they also like their pears hugged in chocolate, the unanimous response was
“Oh, we love pears!”
Chocolate Pear Cake Inspiration
I hit on the idea of this chocolate pear cake while trying out a delicious recipe for a Drunken Damson Dessert by Angela Reid from Green & Black’s Chocolate Recipe Book. As I poured the chocolate mix on top of my damson-replaced nectarines soaked in the gin, I was thinking that next time I should try a non-alcoholic version and flip it upside-down so that the pears would be caramelised and glistening on top – rather like a Tarte Tatin style chocolate cake.
This is nearly a flourless cake since I added just a couple of tablespoons, just to cake it up a bit but for gluten-free diets you can skip the flour. I also love adding coffee to pear (see this coffee and poached pear recipe); the coffee also brings out the dark chocolate’s intensity.
The photos really don’t do this cake justice. The family didn’t give me much time to photograph it and, as it was at the end of the day, the sun was playing up and I was juggling the rest of dinner. There wasn’t even time to do a photo set-up. Plonk! Snap! But enough of my excuses. I suggest you make this and show me your better shots! What counts is that it tastes fabulous and I’ll have to make it again soon.
Upside-Down Chocolate Pear Cake
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 50 minutes
2 tbsp water
3 pears (Guyot or Conference)
250g dark chocolate (at least 64% cocoa solids)
175g butter (unsalted)
1 tpsp coffee powder
2 tbsp plain flour (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F (gas 6). Butter a 25cm cake pan (no need to if using a silicone round cake mould, or moule à manqué that’s non-stick).
2. Make a caramel by stirring the sugar into the water in a heavy-based saucepan. Leave to simmer (don’t stir at this stage) until a golden caramel forms then stir in the butter. Immediately pour the caramel into the cake pan.
3. Peel the pears and cut them in half. Remove the cores with a sharp knife then cut each half into three slices. Arrange them as packed together as you can on top of the caramel (they’ll shrink as they cook) and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove to cool slightly.
4. Using a hand whisk, beat the eggs with the sugar in a large bowl until pale and creamy. Break up the chocolate into pieces and melt it together with the butter and coffee powder in a heat-proof bowl on top of a pan of simmering water (bain-marie), ensuring that the water doesn’t touch the chocolate bowl. When smooth and melted, whisk together the chocolate into the egg, then add the flour (if using), mix then pour the chocolate batter on top of the pears. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
5. Leave to cool slightly for about 10 minutes. Using a sharp blade of a knife, go around the sides to ensure nothing is sticking. Place a large serving plate over the pan and, holding on to both plate and pan, flip the plate upside down to demould the cake.
Serve either cold or slightly warm with cream but it’s just as good entirely on its own.
Next time I’m adding some candied ginger and perhaps a teaspoon of ground ginger to replace the coffee. What do you think? Are you more for classic plain or spicy with pear and chocolate?
Update: An intense caramel photo shot with the chocolate and pear cake. Ah, is that better? I made this again and have updated the recipe to suggest you caramelise the pears just a little longer in the oven and have adjusted step 3 accordingly. But if you prefer the previous more natural poached look, then leave in the oven for just 10 minutes in step 3.
“I’m starving!” Lucie flew in the door with the rain blowing in with her. “Canteen was terrible today so I only ate some baguette.”
Normally my bunnies are flexible eaters at school but somehow there are a few days in the year where apparently la cantine doesn’t even meet the I’ll-just-eat-it-because-I’m-hungry mark. I wasn’t much better: if that had been the kids, I’d have scolded them. I’d just returned from an extra bendy weekly yoga session (feeling wobbly and stretched to 2 metres) and, having only downed a yogurt for lunch in a rush, suddenly thought of a warming yet healthily wicked, quickly-made pick-me-up. Besides, Lucie needed energy before disappearing again for a fencing practise. Enough excuses?
Then Julie arrived like clockwork: dump rucksack, throw off Converse – shoelaces still done – blocking the front door and stairs. “What’s for goûter, Mum? Canteen was rubbish, so I ended up …. oooooh, what’s that amazing smell? Chocolate?”
We like plain and simple chocolate cake, or perhaps a layered chocolate cake with ganache, but we love squidgy individual chocolate cakes when they’re fast to prepare and, even better, packed with good quality chocolate (no less than 64% cacao solids) and less sugar. Over the years we’ve surprised ourselves, as gradually we’ve become used to reducing sugar with more bittersweet tasting chocolate in recipes after some happy sampling of the likes from the wonderful pâtisseries that Paris has to offer.
No fancy food photo props here. Luckily I had a couple of minutes (yes, that’s far too long for hungry teenagers!) to attempt to focus on them with my telephone camera!
I also make lighter chocolate moelleux (lava) cakes for dessert with more eggs. What I love about this recipe, is that it’s easier on the butter than in most fondant cakes I’ve tried plus it has a more intense chocolate taste, with the coffee bringing it out even further. A little goes a long way but boy, it’s packed with fatigue-fighting and stress-bashing magnesium! They’re dense: a perfect warm and rewarding teatime treat.
Recipe Chocolate Fondant Cakes with Mocha Glaze
Makes 6 using a non-stick silicon muffin tin or briochette mould
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 6 minutes
100g good quality chocolate (64% cocoa solids)
1/2 tsp instant coffee granules
50g caster sugar
30g plain (all-purpose) flour
Chocolate & Coffee Glaze
20g/20ml espresso coffee
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°fan (Gas mark 6). Measure out the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and place over a pan of simmering water. Add the coffee powder and stir until just melted.
2. Take off the heat then add the sugar and beat in the eggs until mixed together. Add the flour in one go until completely mixed. Place the moulds on a baking tray then spoon into non-stick (I used flexipan silicone moulds – briochette shaped) moulds. If you’re using regular muffin moulds, butter them lightly before filling with batter.
3. Bake for only 6 minutes (yes, I know it’s exact but don’t cook any more than this if you prefer them squidgy).
4. Meanwhile, make the glaze: make a small cup of espresso coffee (ideally directly into a small measuring cup). Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Add the hot coffee and stir until melted then spread over each cake.
The cakes are even better eaten next day after overnight maturing. They can last in an airtight container for up to 3 days. You’ll see how they are dense in chocolate! I also added thin bits of chocolate from Patrick Roger as a decoration but as the kids were wanting them quickly, they melted and oozed down the cake here…
Just after I made them, I noticed on Instagram that it was National Chocolate Cake Day on 27th January. Isn’t it fun how the US celebrate treats during the year? Liz Berg had the same idea for Chocolate Cake Day, with her deliciously runny lava cakes at That Skinny Chick Can Bake. Well no wonder: they’re so quick, comforting, nourishing, easy, delicious and totally satisfying. Next time I’ll do what I normally do and push in a square of pear in the middle of each cake before baking. And for the perfect Valentine’s Day treat, sprinkle on golden edible lustre and top with macaron hearts!
A quick question: do you bake using digital scales?
I thoroughly recommend using digital scales when baking. If you’re used to ounces, it’s easy to flip the switch on scales. If I give the equivalents in ounces in this recipe, I’m into messy-looking 3/4 oz and 2 1/4 oz etc. Digital scales are easy to find, not expensive to snatch up and you’ll discover that your baking will have constant successful results!
This has been a fun and busy year and I am so relieved to have finally handed in the last proofs of my upcoming new book. Let’s hope Waverley Books are happy with it as it has been an absolute marathon!
I’ve been so lucky to have you popping in to say hello or sharing in the fun on Mad About Macarons, either here on le blog or on Facebook. And most of all, thank you for buying my book (I guess I can say it’s my first, can’t I?) I have loved hearing from you via book reviews and from the Readers’ Forum.
This is a good time to give a short round-up of desserts from le blog that are perfect for this time of year – and also ideal to serve with your macarons!
Whether it’s the most wicked of dark chocolate cakes, the tangiest of lemon tarts or the creamiest of riz au lait or rice pudding, desserts during the holiday season just love that extra je ne sais quoi: Parisian macarons!
If it’s lighter desserts you’re looking for, what about this roasted caramelised pineapple with vanilla and passion fruit recipe. Serve with exotic fruit macarons or what about chocolate, coconut and passion fruit macarons? All from the book.
If you don’t want to spend too much time in the kitchen but fancy some quick and tasty no-bake chocolate desserts, then what about some black forest chocolate puddings, chocolate orange creams or chocolate & candied chestnut cups? What’s more, they are handy egg yolk recipes, so that you can save your egg whites for making macarons a few days later.
Since it’s perfect pear season, why not poach some firm, comice pears in coffee and serve with chocolate-moka macarons? Here’s the recipe for vanilla and coffee poached pears.
Like Amelie Poulin, for crème brûlée dessert lovers who are addicted to cracking the ice-rink of sugar with your spoon, any chocolate – or chocolate-whisky – macarons are happy holiday partners. Try chocolate-passion fruit crème brûlées or whisky toffee frozen crème brûlées.
Funnily enough, Antoine seems to eat more ice cream when it’s cold outside than any other time of year. I don’t think that’s completely French somehow, but a lemon ice cream (served with lemon macarons or tutti-frutti, for example), candied fruit or Plombières (no churn) ice cream, or pistachio-vanilla-wasabi ice cream (served with pistachio macarons) can certainly be a refreshing end to any festive meal. My favourite at this time of year has to be the vanilla and chestnut ice cream, served with vanilla macarons or coffee macarons.
I couldn’t talk about desserts without mentioning one of our favourite macarons: rose. These are delicious served with a white chocolate mousse with orange blossom and rose, pistachio panna cottas, or red fruit bavarois desserts. Before we know it, Valentine’s Day will be upon us!
And don’t forget the savoury macarons that have their very own chapter in the book!
Here are some suggested festive starters or appetisers that can give your guests the oh-la-la with some mini mad macs!
Recipe for Spiced Pumpkin and Leek Soup.
Before you go, let me show you some peppermint creams I made this week – quite by accident!
As you’ve noticed on le blog, I’ve been rolling rather a lot of snowballs and mini Christmas puddings lately. Well, as I was making more Scottish Macaroon Bar Snowballs, I ran out of coconut. As the fondant centres were just looking up at me, saying ‘Cover me!’, I quickly added a few drops of peppermint essence (or oil) to the melted chocolate and as soon as the chocolate hardened, these peppermint creams just vanished! I guess Julie and Lucie liked them…
I shall definitely be making more of these soon. Homemade peppermint creams are super – none of these E numbers in the ingredients – just sugar, potato (yes, you heard me right), good dark chocolate and peppermint!
A huge thank you et merci beaucoup to all of you for following and sharing in the fun on le blog. Have a wonderful festive season and I so look forward to sharing many more treats – and big news – on the blog in 2015! I’m off to get packed. Exceptionally, I’ve closed comments since I won’t have access to the website or emails but I’ll be hanging out as usual on Instagram and Facebook, my lovelies. See you soon x
In the meantime, wishing you all the happiest and healthiest 2015!
I’m on a roll again. Healthy, easy, no bake, no fuss and festively tasty. Put these welcome words together at this time of year and you get … express mini Christmas puddings! They taste of Christmas and they’re gluten free, Vegan and Nut-free (although do check dried fruit packet ingredients just to be sure).
Unless Scrooge arrives or Antoine changes my mind, this weekend I’m looking forward to sitting en famille to watch the girls’ favourite Christmas movie, The Polar Express, and nibble on a few of these bonbons without any guilt. Do you love that film? It just brings out the kid in us again and makes adult responsibilities drift aside for a couple of hours. We somehow become more aware of bells jingling in the distance…
This recipe started out as ‘snowballs’ from my Scottish Granny’s Black Book, using only oats (mainly), raisins, cocoa powder and milk then covered in desiccated coconut. After experimenting with Granny’s recipe, I’ve rather altered them since, alas, I found them way too sweet. I also wanted an extra Christmassy taste with the addition of more dried fruits, gingerbread spice and orange peel, especially. For the snowball look, I just roll them in desiccated coconut, as Granny used to dip them in icing first then in coconut – but by adding a bit of orange juice and making the mixture quite wet, the coconut sticks no problem without the extra sugar.
However, a couple of years ago, I saw the most gorgeous picture of mini Christmas puds on Pinterest, via the blog, IncludingCake. She had rolled actual Christmas pudding cake into cute little puddings and I pinned it to remind myself to make them one Christmas – so thank you, Jo, for the pudding inspiration! However, I turned the filling around from Christmas puddings to a gluten free/vegan version that feels just as Christmassy with the flavours.
So how do we give these snowballs a make-over Christmas pudding effect? To cover, melt white chocolate or make up a quick icing of icing/powdered sugar with a little orange juice – or why not a boozy splash of Grand Marnier, just to be naughty (but for adults only.)?
Express Mini Christmas Puddings
This recipe is inspired by Granny’s recipe in her Black Book and so I’m sure it came from a magazine, the Sunday Post newspaper or the Jimmy Young radio show back in the 70s. If you’re watching over, sorry for altering it so much, Agnes, but I know you would have loved them! The oats, raisins and coconut are still in there, though, plus a much reduced sugar quantity.
MAKES APPROX 25
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
40g dried apricots, finely chopped
40g dates, finely chopped
5 tbsps orange juice
60g (+ 40g for snowballs) desiccated/shredded coconut
60g caster sugar
40g candied orange peel, finely chopped (or the grated rind of an untreated orange)
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
50g coconut oil
2 tsps gingerbread/pumpkin spice
For puddings, to cover:
50g white chocolate
approx 25 dried cranberries (or glacé cherries)
green marzipan (optional)
1. Place all the above ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with a spoon until all the flavours are well blended. If the coconut oil is solid, melt very gently for just a few seconds in the microwave.
2. Form little balls by rolling a couple of teaspoons of the mixture at a time in the palm of your hands (you could say this is a handy recipe!). Set aside on a plate or baking sheet and place in the fridge for a few minutes.
3. To cover, either melt 50g good quality white chocolate in the microwave (or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water – bain marie) or make up some classic icing by mixing icing/confectioner’s sugar with a teaspoon of orange juice (or Grand Marnier for the adults). Dribble this on the top to form the sauce effect and top with a dried cranberry (craisin) or bit of glacé cherry and green marzipan, cut to shape.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Best eaten at room temperature with your favourite cup of tea at teatime or festive sparkly.
Wait a minute. Please stop what you’re doing, just for a few moments.
Don’t make a sound. Just listen. Do you hear them? Sleigh bells jingling faintly in the distance.
I’m off now. Back to some responsibilities, like setting up the crèche to really get in to the Christmas spirit and remind the children what Christmas is really about.
Before I go, I’m absolutely thrilled and honoured to be featured with such impressive company in the Huffington Post’s 2014 Best Cookbook Gifts for Cooks and Food Lovers on Your List. Thank you for adding Mad About Macarons to the list, Jamie Schler. What a lovely sweet ending to the year!