Green & Black's Ultimate Chocolate Recipes is equal parts cookbook, fever dream, and love letter. The dishes on offer are the sort that make you trace the pages with your fingers and then slip into a cocoa-reverie: How would the kitchen smell mid-way through a bout of Chocolate Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake? What peace could be made with a few pieces of this Velvet Salted Caramel Chocolate Torte?
The collection, curated by Micah Carr-Hill, Green & Black's "Head of Taste," has a chocolate-centric recipe for every category of dessert -- from tarts to ice cream to marshmallows -- but it's neither grab bag nor free for all. Carr-Hill sidesteps the bargain-bin "everything's great with chocolate!" mentality and includes only the preparations that will showcase the nuance and complexity of the cocoa itself.
Even the simple dishes exhibit an air of seriousness; these are thoughtful arrangements meant for attentive, committed cooks who are in search of deep, stirring, chocolate-laced magic.
Buche de Noel
A buche de Noel is the traditional dessert the French serve at Christmas and, like so much of their patisserie, it has the potential for other celebratory occasions throughout the year. Annie Bell gave us her recipe for this very chocolatey, very festive yule log.
For the cake:
1/2 cup cocoa
Pinch of sea salt
3 extra-large free-range eggs
1/2 cup muscovado sugar
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting
Butter, for greasing
For the filling:
3 1/2 oz dark (70% chocolate solids) chocolate, broken into pieces
13 oz unsweetened chestnut puree
1/4 cup light muscovado sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Serves 6 to 8
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 400 F. Butter a 10 x 13 in jelly roll pan, line it with parchment paper, and butter the paper as well.
Sift the cocoa into a bowl and add the salt. Place the eggs and muscovado sugar in a bowl and whisk for 8 to 10 minutes, using an electric beater, until the mixture is pale and mousse-like. Lightly fold in the cocoa in two rounds. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth it using an offset spatula. Give the pan a couple of sharp taps on the work surface to eliminate any large air bubbles and bake the cake for 8 to 10 minutes, until set and springy to the touch.
Lay out a clean kitchen towel and sift over a fine layer of confectioners' sugar. Turn the cake on it and carefully roll it up with the towel, leaving the paper in place, starting at the short end so you end up with a short, fat roll. Leave to cool for 40 to 60 minutes.
To make the filling, gently melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, then set it aside to cool to room temperature. Cream the chestnut puree, sugar, and vanilla in a food processor, then add the chocolate. Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks, and fold it into the chocolate chestnut mixture in two rounds.
Carefully unroll the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Spread with half the chocolate chestnut mousse, then roll the cake up again and transfer it to a long serving plate, seam downward. You could also line a small board with silver foil and decorate the edge. Smooth the rest of the filling over the top, then make lines along its length with a fork, swirling the ends to create a log effect, and making a few knots on the log, too.
Chill the roulade for an hour; if keeping it for longer than this, loosely cover it with plastic wrap and bring it back up to room temperature for 30 minutes before eating.
Shortly before serving, shower the log with confectioners' sugar.