Tag Archives: chocolate

White Wine Poached Pear and Chocolate Ganache Tart with Almond Sweet Pastry

Yield: 1 10” tart or 12 individual (1 ¾ oz each)

Almond sweet pastry crust

250 g flour
75 g sugar
pinch salt
50 g ground almonds
170 g butter, cubed and chilled
1 egg
1 tsp rum

Combine flour, sugar, salt, and almonds in food processor
Add butter cubes and process until mealy
Add egg, yolks, and rum and process until dough comes together
Turn out and knead lightly
Pat into disc
Wrap and chill for 1/2 hour
Roll out into a 12 inch circle and line a 10 inch tart shell with a removable bottom
Chill thoroughly

Preheat oven to 350 F

Dock and blind bake for 35 minutes, until fully cooked and golden brown
Set aside until needed

White wine poached pears

2 cups white wine
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 inch piece ginger, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
2 star anise
6 peppercorns
1 tbsp fennel seed
4 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
6 pears, peeled, halved, and cored

Bring all ingredients except pears up to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes to develop flavour
Add pears and simmer until tender, 20-40 minutes, depending on the ripeness of the fruit
Remove with a slotted spoon, and place in a shallow dish
Pour poaching liquid over and allow to cool to room temperature
(pears may be poached and refrigerated for a few days in advance)

Ganache filling

2 cups pear poaching liquid
1 cup whipping cream
250 g dark chocolate, chopped

Reduce poaching liquid until it measures 1/2 cup and is thickened slightly (it should look like liquid honey in colour and viscosity) Keep warm
Place chocolate in a medium bowl
Scald cream and pour over chocolate, mixing well to melt.
Add reduced pear liquid and whisk well, making sure there are no lumps (you can set the bowl over a pan with a small amount of hot water if necessary to aid in the melting process)
Pour filling into prepared tart shell and set in fridge to set.
Once filling is firm, remove pears from liquid and pat dry ( I usually blot them lightly on a clean kitchen towel or paper towel)
Slice thinly almost all the way to the stem end and fan around tart (stem end should point towards the centre)
Allow to chill for at least 4 hours before serving.
If you like, you can reduce the remaining poaching liquid as before and use the glaze to either brush over or use as a sauce

Ultimate Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have become a steadfast believer in direct ratios in cooking, as I find all of the best recipes seem to be based on some direct correlation in measures or weights of ingredients. I now use that methodology when writing a new recipe, and usually end up with good results. These cookies are no different. They are extremely satisfying, although with the large number of whole peanuts in the batter they tend to be a bit delicate, so eat them quickly. I’m sure it won’t be a problem, it never is in our house.

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup natural peanut butter
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips
2 cups salted peanuts

Preheat oven to 350
Cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy
Add peanut butter and mix until well combined
Add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth
Mix flour, baking soda, and salt, and add to peanut butter mixture
Stir until just incorporated
Add peanuts and chocolate chips and stir until just combined
Scoop into 3 tbsp (45 mL) balls and place on baking sheets lined with parchment
Flatten lightly with a fork
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on the bottom
Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then remove and place on a rack to cool completely


For many of us, the ultimate Sunday Dinner had to always be roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. Not that it happened every week, but when it did, it always meant a really satisfying meal. My Mother in law’s birthday is this week, so we decided to have the family over for Sunday Dinner. What else to make for the older generation but roast beef, and if you want to really see a group of septuagenarians get excited, roast a prime rib! A birthday cake was also in order, so I settled on making a chocolate cake of some sort, and figured I’d give it some thought.

We toddled off to market, picked up a few carrots and parsnips (my wife’s favourite easy vegetable, mashed together), settled on mashed potatoes (what else?) , and picked up a hefty 13 pound rib of beef at the butcher. Back to the house, and a serious cake project was underway. I had prepared the layers the night before, so that they would be easy to handle, and cut them crosswise into two. I whipped up some cream with cocoa and icing sugar, and layered it in between, placing the cake back into the fridge to cool. (It’s important to note, that for a nice even top, invert the layers so that the piece on top is the base of one of the layers, with nice flat surface to work on.)

Preparing a cake to be glazed with ganache involves some serious engineering and sculpture, so I prepared the ganache with 70% dark chocolate (being very careful not to stir it too much for fear of making it volatile and seizing it) and an equal amount of cream, setting it aside once melted and mixed well. I removed a third for my base coats, so that I could spread it on without getting crumb into the rest of it. A trim of the filled layers to provide straight, even edges, and I took a small palette knife, and spread a thin layer of chocolate all over the cake, to create a seal. Back into the fridge to set.

Once firm, another thin coat, this time trying to even out any irregularities in the sides. Fridge again.

Half an hour later, another thin coat, and this time it’s looking quite nicely shaped, and should provide a nice smooth base for coating. After being cooled and the remaining ganache heated up again over hot water, I was ready to glaze. I carefully transferred the cake to a wire rack over a pan lined with parchment, to allow the excess to drip off the edge rather than pool at the base. The remaining ganache was poured over and with a minimal amount of coaxing from my spatula, allowed to gently flow over the top and down the sides.

This is where the preparation comes in to play. The chilled structure underneath allows the ganache to cool and coat evenly as it flows, creating a picture perfect top coat that will remain shiny and smooth once set.I lifted the rack off of the tray, put it onto another, and set it in the fridge. The excess ganache was scooped up and placed in a piping bag with a small star tip to decorate the edges once the cake was moved onto its platter, and set aside to cool until the consistency of soft butter.

The cake under control, it was by now mid afternoon and time to think about the main course. I grabbed the required elements for a nice rub: a head of garlic, grainy Dijon, coarse salt, olive oil, pepper, and herbs from the garden. Out came the mortar and pestle, and into it placed the peeled garlic and a generous pinch of salt. I mashed it up a bit to break down the garlic into a coarse pulp, added a twist of pepper and the chopped herbs (thyme and rosemary), and a knob of grainy mustard the size of an egg. Again with the mortar and pestle, baptizing it with a generous dose of olive oil, until a reasonably fine paste had been achieved.

The rib was rubbed, place on a rack in a roasting pan and the oven prepared: 375 in the convection, (400 without) just for an hour to get nice colour, at which time the temp would be dropped by 50 degrees to allow a nice gentle roast for the remaining hour or so. I fixed the batter for the Yorkshires: the tried and true hotel banquet recipe; equal parts by weight flour, egg, milk. 250 grams of each yields a dozen, so I made enough for 24. (In volume measure it works out to 1 2/3 cups flour, 1 cup milk, and 4 eggs per, plus a nice pinch of salt)

That taken care of, I peeled the vegetables and potatoes, placed them in pots ready to go and did a bit of prep for the gravy. Whenever I cook a large roast or bird, I set a small pot aside for the carrot (and in this case parsnip) peelings, onion and garlic trim, bits of herb stems and celery tops, etc, and have that simmering on the back of the stove. If there are the odd bits of trim, even better, as the resulting quick stock provides a nice amount of flavour for making the gravy from the drippings. I tend to dice up a half an onion, a couple of stalks celery, and the ends of the carrots, parsnips, etc and transfer those to either around the roast without crowding it causing it to stem, or into an oven proof saute pan for a nice roast. Once the roast comes out of the oven, the rack is lifted, the vegetable if not already in there are added to the drippings and the whole mess is placed on a medium high burner (still in the roasting pan, of course) and caramelized gently. Enough flour is added to make a roux, usually 1/3-1/2 cup per litre of stock, and once a golden brown, the liquid can be added. I always start with a deglaze with wine, there’s usually something open by this point for dinner, so a splash into the pan. (the exception to the rule being if you’ve opened an ’82 Mouton for dinner, in which case open something else for the gravy) Strain out the quick stock you’ve made, and add it, bit by bit, stirring constantly until it’s well incorporated. I usually will just let it simmer gently in the roasting pan for a few minutes, to make sure I’ve adequately removed all bits of flavour from the bottom, before transferring it to a sauce pan over low for a simmer until the roast has rested completely. Just before serving, adjust the seasoning and strain.

Oven bumped up to 425, it’s time to get the puddings on the roll. My beaten and weathered muffin tins, who are being saved for this noble purpose, are placed on a baking sheet, the prescribed amount of oil added to each (2 Tbsp or so, about 1/8 inch) and the whole sheet placed in the hot oven fro 10 minutes. Yorkshire puddings rise by the action of the egg-rich batter hitting the hot oil, so this is VERY important. Once hot, a ladle of batter into each tin cup, back in the oven on upper rack, and door closed for 12-20 minutes, until puffed and golden. To prevent them from collapsing, it is important to reduce the oven temperature after 20 minutes (to 300), and prop the door ajar a few inches to allow excess steam to escape and the puddings to dry out. !5 minutes later, ready to go!!

A quick mash of potatoes and veg, roast carved and puddings transferred to a platter, the deafening silence of the family, punctuated by the occasional ping of cutlery vs plate registered success. Two helpings apiece, it took great strength to finish the slice of cake presented, but a valiant effort was made by all. And that’s what it’s all about: TRADITION.

Chocolate Ganache Cake

I bill this cake as the world’s largest ding dong. Layers of chocolate cake with cocoa whipped cream inside, all enrobed in dark chocolate ganache. Delicious! Assembly does take awhile, as you first need to slice the cake, place cream between the layers, allow it to set, and then begin the process of applying the ganache in a few thin base coats with a palette knife to provide a solid foundation for the final pour of ganache over top. Each thin layer of ganache must be allowed to set to fully allow the final coat to be flawless, but the results are amazing. I usually use about a third of the ganache in the base coats, placing the bowl over hot water in between coats to melt it again, and reserving 2/3 for the final pour over. The final pour should be done on a rack and what drips onto a parchment lined tray underneath can be deftly scooped into a piping bag to garnish the base, disguising any evidence of moving it off the rack.

1234 chocolate cake

1234 cake is one of the absolute staples of any chef’s repertoire. So named for the simple basic recipe, 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour, and 4 eggs, it’s easy to remember and modify for any variety of uses.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 F
Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, salt, and cocoa powder
Place butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream together until light, fluffy, and sugar is dissolved
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each, and vanilla
Add dry ingredients, alternating with milk in thirds, and mix until well combined.
Grease two 9 inch cake tins and divide batter evenly among them
Bake for 35 minutes, until puffed, firm in the center, and a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the center
Transfer to a rack to cool


500 g 70% chocolate
500 ml whipping cream

Put 2 inches of water into a medium pot and bring up to a boil. Turn OFF
Place chopped chocolate in a mixing bowl
Bring cream up to a boil and pour over chocolate
Place bowl over hot water, and allow to sit until the chocolate is melted
Stir gently until smooth, strain, and set aside to cool slightly

Cocoa whipped cream

500 ml whipping cream
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Place whipping cream and vanilla in a mixing bowl and whip until soft
Add icing sugar and cocoa powder, and continue to whip until stiff

Dark chocolate hazelnut torte with dried cherry compote

Making desserts without gluten and dairy can be a challenge, but this is a terrific example of how simplicity can save the day. With only four ingredients in the cake and a simple dried fruit compote, you have a decadent and luxurious dessert. No one will miss the flour or cream.

14 oz dark (70% cocoa) chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
8 eggs. separated
2 1/2 cups ground hazelnuts (about 1 lb, shelled)
Preheat oven to 375 F

Roast hazelnuts lightly.
Cool and rub to remove the skins.
Place hazelnuts in a food processor and grind until quite fine.

Prepare an 8 inch springform pan by brushing with vegetable oil or nonstick spray
Press 1/2 cup of the ground hazelnuts into bottom to form a crust.

Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl and place over a pot of hot water to melt.
In a separate bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar, beating until thick, pale, and sugar is dissolved.
Add the melted chocolate to the egg yolk mixture and stir until well combined.
Beat egg whites until stiff, and fold into chocolate mixture.
Add remaining 2 cups ground hazelnuts, stir well, and pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 45 minutes, until puffed uniformly, and firm to the touch.
Remove and place on a wire rack to cool.

Dried cherry compote

1 cup dried cherries
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
2 cloves
2 allspice
1/2 cinnamon stick

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan, and bring up to a simmer.
Cover, reduce heat to medium low, and cook for 1/2 hour, until cherries start to soften.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.
Serve room temperature.