Being the wife of a pastry chef, I often get asked do I get amazing desserts made for me all the time at home? Ha! No. Chefs typically work long hours, so the thought of whipping up a quick creme brûlée when they get in from a 12 hour day is pretty rare. So to save myself from much embarrassment when I attempt to impress my other half with what I think are delicious sweet treats, the best solution is to ask for a recipe from the professional himself. Except when Christmas mince pies are called for and then a French pastry chef just doesn't cut it, sorry. So this week we are sharing with you a favourite recipe from Nico that even I can pull off.
60 g Free range organic egg yolks (about 3 medium size eggs)
115 g Organic coconut sugar (1)
170 g Ripe avocado flesh (about 1 large avocado)
90 g 70% dark chocolate
115 g Organic coconut sugar (2)
40 g Ground almonds
10 g Dutch cocoa powder
90 g Soft peak whipped egg whites
Melt the chocolate over simmering water, mash and mix in the avocado flesh.
Mix egg yolks and coconut sugar together (1) and add to the avocado-chocolate mixture.
Mix in the coconut sugar (2), the ground almond and the Dutch cocoa powder.
Whip the egg whites into soft peaks and fold into the mixture.
Pour into a baking dish lined with baking paper and bake in the oven at 175 C for 30 minutes.
Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool, then portion into squares.
Store in the fridge in an airtight container, but enjoyed best at room temperature.
These brownies are gooey and rich and have the added benefit of being gluten free and dairy free. Avocados are hot property at the moment here in Auckland, so if you're wanting to save a few bucks and are not fussed about keeping the brownies dairy free then the avocados can be replaced with butter. Just as yum, but you can't eat as many without feeling naughty. Enjoy!
Image courtesy of National Geographic
Chocolate grows on trees. Not the rectangular segment kind or the gooey truffle kind, but in the form of a pod holding seeds called cacao beans. The tree is called Theobroma Cacao.
Cacao (pronounced ka kow) as opposed to cocoa (pronounced koh koh) becomes cocoa once it has been processed. Confused?! This is why many raw chocolate products you see are called cacao because it hasn't been through the roasting process.
The two words are regularly used interchangeably, whether rightly or wrongly. If it’s something you feel strongly about, this is an interesting article that asks chocolate experts for their personal take on the difference between the two. I particularly like the uppity comment by a famous chocolatier in the US, Jacques Torres: ‘cocoa means nothing to me’ and the comment further down that says ‘folks who look down their nose at others because of word choice are snooty-patooties’. I must try to use snooty-patooties in a normal sentence this week.
Anyway, back to the beans… there are three main types. Now concentrate, because there will be a test at the end.
- Forastero - Most chocolate is produced using Forastero beans. They are the most disease resistant variety, resulting in mass production and guaranteed sales for farmers. It is less expensive because of its high-yielding qualities. Meaning ‘foreign’ in Spanish, it originated in the Amazon. Most likely to be found in cheaper chocolate and mixed with other ingredients to improve the flavour. It is responsible for around 80% of the worlds chocolate.
- Criollo - This type of bean is the hardest to farm and is only used in luxury chocolate because of its aromatic flavours and its price tag. Criollo means ‘native’ and originates from Venezuela.
- Trinitario - This is a cross-breed between Forastero and Criollo that originated in Trinidad. This is the bean most likely to be found in high quality dark chocolate and is sometimes mixed with Forastero beans to add a finer flavour.
If you rate yourself as a chocoholic you may think that the Forastero beans are worth avoiding, but flavour is not only effected by the type of bean but also by origin. Much like wine, chocolate can now be bought from a single origin which has a flavour profile given by the local soil, temperature, sunshine and rainfall. Not only this, but the way the chocolate has been processed also effects its flavour and this is why so many chocolate companies are now set up as bean to bar manufacturers so they can fully control the process. One day…
Our Nico has a passion for everything food. He trained in France, in the coastal city of La Rochelle. He started working as a pastry chef 18 years ago and has experience working with some of the best chefs in the world. One of them being French master chef Pierre Gagnaire. Nico was Head Pastry Chef to a team of 11 at the two Michelin Star restaurant, Sketch, in London. Here he adopted Gagnaire’s culinary philosophy: honesty, sincerity and integrity. Before this he worked in Relais & Châteaux restaurants in the USA and the Coutanceau group in France.
Nico was attracted to New Zealand because of his love for rugby and here he has worked as Head Pastry Chef for Kauri Cliffs and at Peter Gordon’s Sugar Club at the Sky Tower.
Each piece of Nico’s chocolate is hand crafted using his perfected skills, knowledge and creativity. His style is influenced by a variety of cultures and cuisine and his attention to detail and high standards means his chocolate will be some of the best you have ever tasted.
Nico has been busy making batches of water ganache and testing different flavours. So far the clear favourite is lime and coconut milk (or mylk if you live in Ponsonby). The coconut gives the bonbon a creamy centre and the lime delivers a fresh burst of citrus that cuts through the rich chocolate.
He has also added desiccated coconut within the ganache to add some texture. Yuuuuum! Now he's just gotta work on how to make it look as good as it tastes :-)
On Sunday we went for a lovely long lunch at Brick Bay.
We justified the bottle of wine and dessert by walking the sculpture trail afterwards. We did the obvious guess the price game with all the sculptures and regularly liked the cheapest ones! What does that tell you?!
During our walk we got a bit peckish (the truffle oil fries obviously wasn't enough to maintain stamina on a 1 hour walk) so we snacked on some of the native leaves. We found kawakawa and what we think was kanuka, which led us to think about other flavour possibilities for our chocolates using foraged leaves and flowers.
Since then we've been doing some research and came across some chocolate dipped kawakawa fruit. Mmm...delicious! Can’t wait for summer when they are in season to try some.