Sunday, October 15, 2006

Weekend Chocolate Treats

Whenever I so much as walk past the Grand Hyatt Singapore , I make it a point to nip inside and pick up a bag of chocolate chip cookies from Mezza9. Those melt-in-your mouth cocoa-rich cookies don’t come cheap, mind. For something like $6, you get less than 10 cookies which a greedy goose like me can (and naturally, I do) easily inhale in one short sitting. As luck would have it, last week, while searching for a quick exercise in kitchen therapy, I flipped through my as yet unused copy of Paris Sweets and decided on the simple sounding recipe for Korova Cookies by Pierre Herme. Little did I realise that I had stumbled upon the recipe for those same chocolate chip cookies I often lust over at Mezza9 — well, almost.

Korova, says the brilliant Dorie Greenspan and author of Paris Sweets, was the name of the milk bar in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and the name of this restaurant located off Champs-Elysees for which Pierre Herme created these cookies. Think ice-box cookies gone luxe with 1/3 cup of the best Dutch-processed cocoa, 150 grams of the finest bittersweet chocolate you can find, and a good half-teaspoon of fleur de sel to take it to great heights.

The difference between the Korova Cookies and the ones from Mezza9 is essentially the size of the chocolate chips used — Mezza9 uses whole chocolate chips, while the recipe for Korova calls for the chocolate to be chopped into small bits.

Cocoa Nibs
There is an entire list of foods that I have yet to taste — an authentic tagine is one of them, as is an authentic cassoulet. Yet another was cocoa nibs which was within easy enough reach since it wouldn’t require my traveling hundreds of miles to persuade a French countrywoman or a Moroccan grandmother to cook one for me. When the nibs finally arrived, I excitedly tried almost every cocoa nib recipe that lay in my ever-growing library of cookbooks. That first weekend, I made a simple cocoa nib ice cream from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet
and had a go at Emily Luchetti’s Cocoa Nib Florentines from A Passion For Ice Cream. I have to admit, it turns out I’m not that big a fan of cocoa nibs after all. They impart a nice chocolatey flavour to the ice cream, but they also burn and turn bitter easily, as I found out with my attempt at those Florentines. Anita of Dessert First was far more successful, so you may want to check out her post on them here.

The ice cream from Bittersweet was good. It was a Philadelphia style recipe that didn’t require a custard base, but it was a tad too milky for me. As a child, my mother would literally force down a cup of full-cream powdered milk, spiked with a teaspoon or so of Milo (presumably to make it more palatable). How I loathed it so. Alas, while I am a massive fan of Ms Medrich’s recipes, this one unfortunately brought back the taste of that childhood memory. Not so good. On a brighter note, an old friend of mine who popped by for dinner one night tried the ice cream and asked if he could take the whole tub home.

Fast forward to yet another Cocoa Nib ice cream recipe from Chocolate Obsession.This one had a richer custard base which I like a lot more (I like my ice cream dense and almost sticky). To add a little something extra to it, I also caramalised some nibs which I eventually decided to strewn over the ice cream as opposed to mixing it in as the recipe suggested. Now that’s also because I damn near burnt the nibs while caramalising them and was afraid I might spoil the flavour of my ice cream with any bitter crunch.

While I like this version of the Cocoa Nib Ice Cream, it’s not something I’d devour with abandon like I would, say, real rich dark chocolate ice cream. So I did the next best thing and turned it into an ice cream sandwich with the Korova cookies. Now that turned out to be a very good thing.