Easter recipes - Annie Stirk's recipes
PUBLISHED: 19:36 18 January 2010 | UPDATED: 15:54 20 February 2013
Preparing for Easter can be fun if you follow tips from our food and wine consultant Annie Stirk - who denies she is a chocoholic. But the team at Yorkshire Life know different
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANDY BULMER
Chocolate stirs the senses like no other food, and there are times when only chocolate will do. Since its discovery in South America by the Aztec Indians, eating chocolate has become a real sensual pleasure.We eat on average 200g of chocolate per person per week, with chocolate sales in the UK worth around 3.5 billion.
There are many reported claims about the health benefits of eating chocolate with a high concentration of cocoa solids, and as we all know, stories of its supposed aphrodisiac qualities are well known. Individual chocolate varieties have their own distinctive flavour, texture and aroma, and in fact chocolate and wine tasting have a lot in common.
Easter is such a great excuse for a little chocolate indulgence. The Chocolate and Almond Easter Cake in this month's master class is moist and delicious with its ganache filling and topping, and the Chocolate and Raspberry Trifle is a real tea time treat.
So with daffodils nodding in the garden and spring very much in the air, I hope you have a very Happy Easter.
CHOOSING AND USING CHOCOLATE
Plain chocolate: Plain dark chocolate that has a high proportion of cocoa solids, preferably at least 70 per cent is best for use in cooking. It gives a real chocolate 'hit'. Chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa solids has a rich flavour and is perfect for sauces, ganache, most desserts, cakes and puddings. So it is better to avoid 'chocolate-flavoured' imitations of the real thing.
Milk chocolate: Some of the cocoa solids are replaced by milk solids - usually dried or condensed milk - this gives a sweeter taste, smooth texture and a lighter colour.
White chocolate: This is not technically real chocolate, as it doesn't contain cocoa solids. For the best results, always buy a good quality white chocolate. Good quality chocolate makes a distinctive 'snap' sound when broken. It will also begin to melt when you hold it for a few seconds. The faster it melts, the better the chocolate - indicating high cocoa butter content.
Break the chocolate into pieces and put in a heatproof bowl or in the top of a double boiler. Set over a pan of gently simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl doesn't touch the water.
Heat very gently until the chocolate starts to melt, stir only once or twice until completely melted. The microwave is also really useful for melting chocolate, but do be careful. Use a low/medium setting, and use short bursts of time until the chocolate is melted.
Watch points When melting chocolate, always use a gentle heat. Make sure the base of the bowl is not touching the water. However tempting only stir the chocolate once or twice until it has melted; over-stirring will affect its texture and gloss. Don't let water or steam get into the chocolate or it will 'seize' becoming hard and unworkable.
Any of the following flavours are great stirred into 200g of melted chocolate.
Whisky, rum, cognac, Amaretto or Grand Marnier - stir in about 1 tsp of any of these spirits/liqueurs.
Nuts - 1 or 2 tbsp of finely chopped almonds or hazelnuts.
Spices - add a pinch of ground cinnamon, cardamom seeds or freshly grated nutmeg. Vanilla extract - stir in tsp vanilla.
Coffee - stir in a teaspoon of instant coffee or a shot of espresso.
Butter - stir in 25g towards the end of heating and beat well.
DECORATING WITH CHOCOLATE
Chocolate shavings. One of the easiest ways to decorate a cake. Hold a chocolate bar upright over a plate and shave pieces off the edge with a swivel vegetable peeler. Alternatively, grate the chocolate against a coarse or medium-coarse grater.
Chocolate curls or shards. Melt the chocolate and spread it out in a thin layer on a marble slab or clean work surface. Leave to set. Using a sharp blade (such as a pastry scraper, a cook's knife or a spatula) draw it carefully through the chocolate at a 45 degree angle. If you are in the mood, make a whole pile of chocolate shards and store any un-used ones in a plastic container.
CHOCOLATE & RASPBERRY TRIFLE
200g 70% plain chocolate, melted
250g mascarpone cheese, softened
10 Ratafia biscuits, or use trifle sponges of your choice
225g fresh raspberries
A splash of Amaretto liqueur (optional)
500g fresh custard
600ml double/whipping cream, whipped until floppy
Chocolate shards to decorate
Melt the chocolate, and whisk carefully into the mascarpone.
Place the Ratafia biscuits in the base of a deep glass bowl.
Scatter in half the raspberries and splash with the Amaretto liqueur.
Pour the custard over the fruit.
Carefully spoon the chocolate and mascarpone mix over the custard and smooth carefully.
Add the remaining raspberries over the top of the mascarpone mix.
Pile the whipped cream onto the trifle.
Scatter with chocolate shards.
Refrigerate until needed.