Preheat the oven to 180½C/350½F/gas mark 4. Prepare a heart-shaped cake tin, or, if you prefer, a round one, about
Whip the cream and, having halved the cake, spread one half with the cream. Whichever fruit you choose should be sliced or halved as appropriate, piled on to the cream and the top half of the cake then replaced. Dust with icing sugar before serving. When using kumquats in the cake, I often halve them and poach them gently with passion-fruit pulp and sugar.
Any good restaurant worth its name will have at least one chocolate dessert, and perhaps a sampling plate of six or seven. From this single ingredient one can create a broad palette of flavours and textures, from an austerely elegant chocolate sorbet to the voluptuous terrine of three chocolates. Dense chocolate tarts and airy steamed puddings, old-fashioned mousses and hot soufflés, chocolate meringues and chocolate bavarois are just some of the desserts that you can make. Then come a whole army of cakes, biscuits and confectionery, and, fortunately, there are a few good books on the subject to offer guidance and inspiration.
Generally, I prefer my chocolate as plain as possible, with not too many added ingredients, so I would say yes to chocolate cake but no to chocolate tart filled with berries. Probably the world’s favourite chocolate dessert is the warm chocolate cake. Served with the centre still slightly runny, making its own sauce, the creation of this cake is ascribed to various origins. It has since spawned many versions all over the world.
When cooking with chocolate, do not look for 'cooking chocolate’, unless it is that sold as cou verture and used by professional pastry cooks and confectioners. Look for a chocolate with a cocoa solids content of at least 70 per cent. And the higher the cocoa butter content the better, for a well-textured chocolate and the best flavour. Fortunately, supermarkets caught on some time ago to the reality of chocolate. I do not want to see tumblers of milk pouring into my bar of choco late; I want to see cocoa beans tumbling into it.
I particularly like the Waitrose Continental plain chocolate, made in France, with a mini mum of 72 per cent cocoa solids. Maison Blanc sells Michel Cluizel Grand Amer, which has a minimum of 85 per cent cocoa solids.
From Lakeland (tel: 015394 881 00) comes a ‘new’ product, imported from America, Pure Chocolate Extract; a couple of tablespoons of this will give tremendous class to your chocolate puddings and cakes. By infusing cocoa beans in alcohol in a process invented a hundred years ago, the volatile flavour ‘top notes’ of chocolate are captured in much the same way that perfume is captured in alcohol. For more about chocolate, see Chapter 4.
© 2000 Frances Bissell. All rights reserved.