How is this for striking a balance in one's daily life: on the same weekend the Sports Relief rolled into town, Brighton was also host to a chocolate festival. So after running 6 miles for a good cause, there was only one place for me to go. The weekend-long festival saw an excellent turnout from vendors, right up to a stand from one of the finest British chocolatiers, William Curley. Needless to say I was a kid in a chocolate shop (albeit a very tired, sweaty one, following my earlier exertions).
Sadly, my current hero and UK's mad scientist of chocolate Paul A. Young didn't put in a show. I've recently treated myself to his beautiful book, "Adventures with Chocolate" - and I do mean it's beautiful. The recipes are spilled across pages so lusciously designed that you could mistake them for fine chocolate themselves. The book offers ideas for everything from chocolate trifles and tarts to ingeniously flavoured truffles. An excellent primer on chocolate sourcing, tasting and tempering is also included for novices. It's clear that Paul treats chocolate as it should be treated: precious and deserving of wine-like connoisseurship.
Recently I've made Paul's very adult, very chocolatey, very delicious chocolate nib cookies. I halved the recipe and adapted it to a slightly sweeter tooth - and I added some toasted hazelnuts. I also chilled my dough a while longer than the book suggested, resulting in taller, fatter cookies. The cocoa nibs were a revelation - unlike chocolate chips, they don't spoil the cookie with overt sweetness but instead add a heightened, almost floral chocolatiness as well as a gorgeous texture.
- 100g demerara sugar
- 110g unsalted butter
- 50g good quality cocoa
- 125g plain white flour
- good fat pinch of sea salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla
- 50g cocoa nibs (available from Infinity Foods in Brighton)
- 50g toasted hazelnuts, lightly chopped
- 100g very good quality dark chocolate (I used Varlhona Noir 61%, available from Waitrose in Brighton)
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Set out two baking sheets and line them with parchment paper. Over low-medium heat, melt the butter and the sugar until the sugar crystals are almost completely dissolved. Add the vanilla and leave to cool while you sift together the cocoa, flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
2. Add the slightly cooled butter-sugar mixture to the dry ingredients. Add the egg and mix until completely combined. Stir in the cocoa nibs and hazelnuts. Roll into 1 inch balls, place on baking sheet and pop into the fridge for a few minutes (if your oven is still heating).
3. Remove from fridge and bake for 7-9 minutes. Let the cookies cool on a rack while you set about melting the chocolate over a double boiler. Once melted, dip each cookie half way into the chocolate and set on parchment paper to cool. Once the chocolate has set, proceed to scoff the lot.