The production of chocolate the culinary wonder that arouses strong sensations and emotions begins with the fermentation of fresh cocoa beans, in a process that eliminates their pungency and moderates their bitterness. During the fermenting, new flavors emerge with hints of fruit, sherry and flowers; thereafter, the beans are roasted, and at this stage the sweet and nutty flavors are released.
In order to allow the beans to open up and attain the entire range of flavors within them, sugar is added to the beans during production. The same is true of chocolate cakes and pastries: Adding a small amount of sugar enables the bitter chocolate flavor to open up. In my opinion, when used in the proper quantity, honey (and not sugar) is a more natural ingredient to be combined with chocolate, best allowing its fruit and nut flavors to come to the fore.
On Rosh Hashanah, we are used to eating pure honey cakes, but baked goods that combine honey with chocolate can refresh the traditional dessert menu.
Honey is known as a natural substance that’s far more healthful than sugar, especially white sugar. Its taste and color depend on the flower from which its nectar derives. Honey from citrus-fruit flowers will have a light amber color and a coarse texture. Honey from eucalyptus flowers will have a deeper and darker color, with a slightly sharp taste. Honey from wildflowers will have a dominant taste, with a smell reminiscent of the fragrance of blossoms and a color that changes with the season and the area from which the nectar came. Choose the honey you prefer when baking as long as it’s natural.
Before beginning, it’s important to know that fine chocolate is determined according to two parameters: the percentage of cocoa solids and freshness. The percentage of solids recommended for baking is over 55 percent and no more than 70 percent. To ensure freshness, we recommend buying chocolate in a store that has a high turnover and checking the packaging and expiration dates. Chocolate should be stored in a dark place at a temperature that is between 15 and 18 degrees Celsius.
Chocolate honey cake
The perfect pairing of honey and chocolate creates a fragrant and tasty holiday cake. It is also beautiful thanks to its shiny frosting and its height. And note: This cake is tastier after a day or two of refrigeration: Just take it out about two hours before serving.
3/4 container (200 ml.) sweet cream
200 gm. fine bittersweet chocolate (at least 60% cocoa solids, but no more than 70%)
200 gm. butter at room temperature
50 gm. (1/4 cup) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup (150 gm.)liquid honey
1 tsp. high-quality instant coffee
2 tbsp. cognac
1 1/2 cups (210 gm.) sifted flour
3 tbsp. high-quality sifted cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
For the frosting:
1/2 container (120 ml.) sweet cream
100 gm. bittersweet chocolate
1 tbsp. liquid honey or glucose
Heat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Cook the cream in a pot until it boils gently. Turn off the heat; add the chocolate. Stir well and cool. Grease a bundt pan with melted butter, and with a fine strainer generously sprinkle cocoa powder over the pan, including along the sides, until they are completely covered. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, honey, instant coffee and sugar for 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, and finally the cognac. Mix well. Sift the dry ingredients together, lower the mixer speed and alternately add them and the melted chocolate to the bowl; mix a little.
Put the batter into the pan, 1 tablespoon at a time. Bake for 35-40 minutes. After an hour of cooling, turn it over carefully onto a serving plate.
To prepare the frosting: Heat the cream with honey or glucose in a pot (or in the microwave), until it’s almost boiling. Turn off the heat; add the chocolate and stir until you get a smooth consistency. Pour over the cake and cover it well.
The cake can be kept covered in the refrigerator for three or four days. Serve at room temperature. We recommend adding 1 tablespoon sour cream mixed with a little powdered sugar or a dollop of sweet whipped cream to each portion.
Chocolate, honey and ginger truffles
125 ml. (1/2 cup) sweet cream
2 tbsp. honey
300 gm. bittersweet chocolate
100 gm. soft butter
3 tbsp. cognac
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
2 egg yolks
For the coating:
High-quality cocoa, sifted
Cook the cream and honey in a pot until they just begin to boil. Turn off the heat; add the chocolate and butter, and stir until they melt. Add the cognac and ginger and stir. Add the egg yolks and stir until you get a smooth and shiny consistency. Transfer to a small baking pan lined with baking paper, and cool overnight. Turn over on a cutting board and with a ruler and a sharp knife cut small squares. If the mixture becomes too warm during cutting, cool in the refrigerator for 15 minutes and then continue.
Dip each square in sifted cocoa and cool in a sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer. Remove from the refrigerator and serve after 3 minutes.
I like to bake and serve these wonderful brownies all year round. I usually cut them into very small cubes and serve them at the end of a meal. Out of season, I use dried figs or well-ground fig preserves. The combination of the preserves and the bittersweet chocolate creates a soft and rich texture. Don’t skip the nuts; the method of baking them in honey for a long time eliminates the trace of bitterness of the nuts, and produces a sweet and crunchy texture. Use a 20 x 20 cm. pan
8 ripe or dried figs
1/3 cup (100 gm.) honey
For nut-honey mixture:
70 gm. nuts
70 gm. (1/4 cup) honey
For the cake:
250 gm. bittersweet chocolate (a minimum of 60% cocoa solids)
100 gm. butter
50 gm. (1/4 cup) powdered sugar
6 tbsp. (60 gm.) sifted flour
1 tbsp. sifted cocoa
In a small pot, boil the figs and honey, cover and cook over a very low flame for an hour and a half. If you are using dried figs, add 1/4 cup water to the pot. Strain all the liquids and grind in a small food processor.
While cooking the figs, heat the oven to 100 degrees Celsius. Place the nuts and honey in a bowl, stir and transfer to a small toaster-oven pan lined with baking paper. Roast for 1 hour. Cool and chop coarsely. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler; mix well and cool to room temperature.
In a mixer bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until you get a light and somewhat foamy mixture; fold in the chocolate and figs. Manually and with folding motions, add the flour and cocoa to the batter.
Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line the square pan with baking paper. Pour the mixture in and scatter the chopped nuts over it. After putting the pan in the oven, immediately lower the temperature to 150 degrees Celsius; bake for 25 minutes. Remove and refrigerate for a few hours before cutting into small cubes. Store in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator and eat after 5 or 10 minutes.
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