Category Archives: Chocolate/Cocoa

Easy Festive Sweet Treats and Desserts

Unbaked Chocolate Cake

If most of your Christmas dishes are time-consuming or difficult, the last thing you need to complicate your life with is an elaborate dessert. Leafing through my old hand-written copy book and browsing through my blog, I realised most sweets I prepare got easier and quicker throughout the years. Thanks to this, the dessert is the part of the meal I am least nervous about because I got used to effortless recipes, which – surprisingly – please my guests as much as the difficult ones used to. The best illustration of what I’m talking about is the above Unbaked Chocolate Cake I have discovered thanks to Katerina, my dear Greek friend and extraordinary inspiring cook from Culinary Flavors. It takes a while to prepare, always yields perfect results and is a huge hit every time I serve it.

Apart from the above cake, I have chosen for you baked desserts, creams, truffles and other sweet treats I consider particularly easy and sometimes also very quick to make. You will notice most of them are light; it’s not intentional but simply illustrates the majority of the sweets I have been preparing in recent years. All are seasonal (I mean from the European point of view), so no need to chase down tasteless and expensive strawberries or peaches in the middle of winter. I hope you will find at least one useful easy idea here. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to all of my dear visitors!

TARTS AND CAKES

French Lemon Tart or Tartlets

French Lemon Tart or Tartlets

Super Thin Apple and Applesauce Tart

Super Thin Apple and Applesauce Tart

Pear and Fresh Cheese Tart

Pear and Fresh Cheese Tart

Guinness Chocolate Cake

Guinness Chocolate Cake

CREAMS AND CREAMY INDIVIDUAL DESSERTS

Chocolate and Coconut Cream with Agar

Chocolate and Coconut Cream with Agar

Wobbly Cream with Pear and Lime Zest

Wobbly Cream with Pear and Lime Zest

Coffee and Coconut Wobbly Cream with Agar

Coffee and Coconut Wobbly Cream with Agar

Light Crème Brûlée (Light Burnt Cream)

Light Crème Brûlée (Light Burnt Cream)

Light Unbaked Cheesecake with Passion Fruit

Light Unbaked Cheesecake with Passion Fruit

Matcha and Coconut Wobbly Cream

Matcha and Coconut Wobbly Cream

TRUFFLES AND SWEET FINGER FOOD

Bounty (Coconut, Chocolate and Rum) Truffles

Bounty (Coconut, Chocolate and Rum) Truffles

Prunes in Chocolate

Prunes in Chocolate

Chocolate Truffles with Prunes and Chocolate

Chocolate Truffles with Prunes and Chocolate

Chewy Coconut Cookies (Macaroons)

3-Ingredient Chewy Coconut Cookies (Macaroons)

 

 

 

Greek Yogurt and Chocolate Mousse with Cherries

choco_cherry_pThis year, thanks to favourable weather conditions, cherries have appeared in France and Switzerland early, so I have been enjoying them for quite a long time. This refreshing slightly tangy dessert keeps them raw, untransformed, preserving not only their taste, but, I guess, much of the precious vitamin C. Obviously, they make a perfect pair with dark chocolate. The photograph you see above was taken last year when I was offered some black sour cherries (unavailable here), but I have tested this mousse with sweet cherries several times this year and it was equally delicious (well, to be frank… almost… if, like me, you appreciate sour cherries).

WARNING! This lighter mousse contains Greek yogurt and it will be slightly tangy in taste, so if you don’t like tanginess combined with chocolate and/or you wish to prepare a richer dessert, you might want to try the below quick eggless chocolate mousse version instead, prepared with cream (and without gelatin):

Quick Eggless Chocolate Mousse

Quick Eggless Chocolate Mousse

TIPS: The amounts of gelatin used depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller; powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products (for example sugar) and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid, so check the package instructions. (The whole mixture has more than 500 ml (+ cherries), so the mousse will be firm, but not hard as a standard jelly).

If you want to make this dessert quicker and in an easier way, you can omit the gelatin and you will obtain a cream rather than a firm mousse. The taste will be the same.

The colour of this mousse will depend on the chocolate’s quality. The darker it is and the higher its cocoa content is, the darker the mousse will be.

The mousses keep well (covered) in the fridge for several days.

Preparation: 20 minutes + several hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4-5):

350 ml (about 12 fl oz) Greek yogurt (if you use low-fat yogurt, it might be too sour, so I cannot guarantee the same taste result)

200 g (about 7 oz) good quality dark chocolate (I use here organic, min. 72% cocoa chocolate) + some more for decoration (if you wish)

about 25 big pitted cherries + 20 for decoration

5 flat tablespoons confectioner’s sugar

(1 flat teaspoon instant coffee)

(several tablespoons kirsch)

1 tablespoon gelatin in powder or other amount necessary to set 500 ml liquid, see TIPS above (you can use leaves too, in amounts necessary to set 500 ml/2 cups liquid)

Break the chocolate into pieces and melt it in a pan on a very low heat or in a water bath (stirring and watching it constantly so that it doesn’t burn) or in a microwave (if you microwave it, do it in two-three stages because once it’s “cooked”, it cannot be used).

Put aside and let it cool down.

When the chocolate is warm, but no longer hot, pour it into a food processor.

Add the yogurt, the sugar, the coffee and the kirsch if you use it.

Mix the yogurt and chocolate mixture until smooth.
Taste if it’s sweet enough for your taste and add more sugar if needed. Mix again.

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm water or even hot water if it’s advised on your package. If using leaves, soften them in cold water, squeeze and dissolve also in 4 tablespoons warm water.

Mix well the dissolved gelatin with the yogurt mixture. 

Divide the pitted cherries into individual serving bowls.

Pour the mousse over them.

Put the mousse into the fridge for 2 -3 hours until it sets.

Decorate with shaved chocolate and cherries just before serving.

 

Chocolate Truffles with Prunes and Walnuts

prunwaltrufpBefore you start yawning, seeing a second truffle recipe in a row, I must assure you I have a very good reason for that. These truffles are perhaps not very spectacular, perhaps they will not please crowds, but for me they count among the most successful culinary experiments of recent years. Slightly tangy, slightly bitter, chunky, chewy, boozy, they combine three different textures and sharp adult flavours. All this makes them an addictive, fantastic treat for all the prune lovers.

The idea was simple: starting with my beloved Prunes in Chocolate as a basis, I decided to throw in some walnuts and splash some rum I often add to Prunes in Chocolate too. The barely cooled mixture in the pan was already so fabulous, it was difficult not to eat all of it with a spoon. Compared to other truffles, these were quick and easy to prepare, though, due to the chunks of nuts and prunes, they will never be as smooth as most truffles I make. On the other hand, at least they resemble real truffles! If you don’t like walnuts, you can choose any nut you prefer (or no nuts at all), but in my opinion prunes are the crucial element.

If you don’t have time and/or patience, but the idea of prunes combined with chocolate tempts you, you might try these super quick, effortless and absolutely delicious Prunes in Chocolate:

Prunes in Chocolate

Prunes in Chocolate

As a reminder, here are some other truffles I have written about:

Bounty (Coconut, Chocolate and Rum) Truffles

Bounty (Coconut, Chocolate and Rum) Truffles

Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles

Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles

 

Matcha and Oat Truffles

Matcha and Oat Truffles

 

Leftover Cake/Cookie Truffles

Leftover Cake/Cookie Truffles

Hazelnut Truffles

Hazelnut Truffles

TIPS: Whether you prefer bitter or milk (or even white) chocolate, choose always good quality product to prepare truffles. For me good quality chocolate starts at the level where cocoa butter is the only fat on the ingredients list. (This doesn’t necessarily mean expensive chocolate!).

Do not attempt “slimming down” these truffles, i.e. making them without butter or cream. These are necessary to soften the chocolate.

During the chocolate melting process, keep very low heat, stir constantly and do not let it boil.

While forming the truffles, make sure your hands are not too warm, running cold water on them from time to time and rolling the truffles between your fingers and not on the palm of your hand (which is warmer).

The truffles should be kept in the fridge (it can be the warmest part of the fridge), so make sure you say it while offering a box. Take them out about 30 minutes before serving.

The cocoa coating will become slightly moist in the fridge, so either coat them just before serving or coat them twice: once before putting them into the fridge and once again before serving. Of course the dry coating changes only the look, not the taste.

Preparation: about 1 hour (including the cooling time)

Ingredients (yields about 12 walnut-sized truffles):

100 g (about 3.5 oz) dark good quality chocolate, broken into small pieces

30 g (about 1 oz) butter

30 ml (about 1 oz) liquid cream (no thickeners; at least 20% fat)

10 chopped prunes

12 walnut kernels, chopped

2 tablespoons rum

2-3 tablespoons bitter cocoa to coat the truffles

Pour the cream into a small pan. Add the butter and the chocolate.

Melt the chocolate and the butter at low heat, constantly stirring.

When you see that about 80% of the chocolate has melted, take the pan off the heat and stir vigorously until it dissolves completely. (If you wait too long, you might overcook the chocolate).

Add the chopped prunes, walnuts, rum and combine well.

Put aside in a cool place for about 20 minutes until it sets to a point where truffles can be formed.

If the mixture sets too much and is too hard to form, wait a bit. It will soften at room temperature.

Quickly form truffles (try using only the fingers  because the palm of your hand is always much warmer).

Repeat the same with each truffle.

Put the truffles into a bowl filled with cocoa and, moving the bowl, coat the truffles thoroughly or put them into the fridge and wait with cocoa coating just before serving (see the TIPS above).

Place the truffles on a plate or in paper cases and refrigerate a couple of hours before serving or before offering them.

The truffles should always be kept in the fridge (it can be the warmest part, but the fridge is obligatory).

Chocolate Truffles with Hazelnuts and Coffee

hazeltrufflespLast days have been particularly cold and all I crave are soups and chocolate treats. Truffles are among the easiest chocolate snacks I know. The possibilities are endless, the process is very easy, so it’s not difficult to invent at least one new version every year. My usual basis is ganache (a mixture of chocolate and cream, though some people add also butter) which, cooled, is already enough to form truffles, but I often also add nuts, puffed grains or dried fruits as the binding agents for a more filling, richer, more homely result.

These were particularly simple. Coffee was actually a very pleasant addition to hazelnuts and if I had coffee or hazelnut liqueur, I am sure it would make these truffles even better and more complex. I have made two batches: one with dark chocolate and one with milk chocolate. For the first time on this blog (and I think in my whole life) I must admit that milk chocolate was a better choice. Actually, it pairs better with hazelnuts (in fact it paired so well, I ate these truffles too quickly to take photographs… what you see above is obviously the dark chocolate batch).

These truffles are more filling and I would say rustic compared to the 100% ganache truffles (such as these Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles). They are however a bit easier to form and, like all the truffles, apart from being an excellent tea snack, they are also might be a good idea for a small present. Their taste improves with time (especially if you use alcohol), so it’s good to prepare them one day ahead.

In case you don’t like hazelnuts, but feel like playing with truffles, here are some other suggestions:

Bounty (Coconut, Chocolate and Rum) Truffles

Bounty (Coconut, Chocolate and Rum) Truffles

Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles

Matcha and White Chocolate Truffles

 

Matcha and Oat Truffles

Matcha and Oat Truffles

 

Leftover Cake/Cookie Truffles

Leftover Cake/Cookie Truffles

TIPS:

During the chocolate melting process, keep a very low heat, stir constantly and do not let it boil.

While forming the truffles, make sure your hands are not too warm, running cold water on them from time to time and rolling the truffles between your fingers and not on the palm of your hand (which is warmer).

The truffles should be kept in the fridge (it can be the warmest part of the fridge), so make sure you say it while offering a box.

Preparation: about 30 min + 3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (yields about 16 walnut-sized truffles):

100 g/about 3,5 oz good quality chocolate (dark or milk chocolate)

100 ml/about 3/4 cup liquid cream (I have used 25% fat cream)

1 tablespoon instant coffee (or a small – 50 ml espresso; if using espresso, add 50 ml less cream)

100 g/about 1 cup chopped hazelnuts + several heaped tablespoons ground hazelnuts for coating

(coffee liqueur)

Bring the cream to a boil.

Put aside.

Break the chocolate into small pieces and add to the hot cream together with the coffee and liqueur, if using.

Stir constantly until you obtain a smooth texture.

Add the chopped hazelnuts and stir well.

Put the mixture to the fridge for about 3 hours until the mixture is dense enough to be handled.

Quickly form truffles (I have made walnut sized balls) with cold hands.

Put the ground hazelnuts into a deep bowl.

Dust the inside of your hands with some ground hazelnuts, quickly form a truffle (try using only the fingers  because the palm of your hand is always much warmer), put it into a bowl with ground hazelnuts  and, moving the bowl, coat the truffle thoroughly.

Repeat the same with each truffle.

Place the truffles on a plate or in paper cases and refrigerate a couple of hours before serving or before offering them.

The truffles should always be kept in the fridge (it can be the warmest part, but the fridge is obligatory).

Yogurt Strawberry Mousse with Chocolate Ganache

strmousseganachep

How I wish the strawberry season stretched to the whole year… Even though I’m happy to see cherries, apricots or peaches appear on my market, I am unable to ignore strawberries, which now, in their later varieties, have a much more complex and interesting taste. Last weekend I ended up once more making my staple yogurt and fruit mousse. At the same time the chocolate craving wouldn’t leave me, so I decided to cover each portion with a thin layer of dark chocolate ganache instead of the initially planned strawberry coulis. “Sensational” is the only word I find to describe it.

If you like this recipe, you might also like this coconut and strawberry combination:

Coconut and Strawberry Wobbly Cream with Agar

Coconut and Strawberry Wobbly Cream with Agar

TIPS: The amounts of gelatin depend sometimes on the brand. Leaves are sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller,  powdered gelatin sometimes contains other products and doesn’t set as well as pure gelatin in powder… In short, the aim here is to use the amount of gelatin which sets 500 ml/2 cups/about 17 oz liquid. (The whole mousse mixture has more than 500 ml, so the mousse will be firm but not hard as a standard jelly).

If you prefer a sweeter ganache, you can add sugar. I never do because even bitter chocolate is sweet enough for me (of course the instant coffee can be replaced with several teaspoons of strong espresso or skipped; I practically always add a pinch of coffee to my chocolate desserts because it enhances the bitter chocolate flavours). The chocolate ganache can be prepared with milk chocolate too.

The mousses keep well in the fridge for several days (up to five days if the fruits are fresh). If you want to serve them for a dinner, you can prepare the mousses a day before and cover with ganache just before the guests arrive. They will be ready after 30 minutes in the fridge.

Preparation: 10 minutes+ 2 – 3 hours in the fridge

Ingredients (serves 4):

250 g (about 1 cup) unsweetened natural yogurt (you can use also Greek yogurt, which will make this mousse creamier) 

300 g (about 11oz) strawberries (hulled)

4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar or sweetener (or no sugar if you prefer your mousse to be very tangy)

the amount of gelatin necessary to set 500 ml liquid, see TIPS above (you can use leaves too)

Chocolate ganache:

70 g (about 2.5 oz) good quality chocolate (I have used 72% cocoa chocolate), roughly chopped 

70 ml (about 2.4 fl  oz) natural liquid cream, min. 25% fat (do not use crème fraîche or any thickened cream)

(1/2 teaspoon instant coffee or several teaspoons of strong espresso) 

some strawberries for the decoration

Mix the strawberries in a food processor or a blender. Add the sugar and the yogurt (remove the liquid floating on the surface). Mix once more.

Taste and add more sugar if needed.

Dissolve the gelatin in 4 tablespoons warm water (if using leaves, soften them in cold water, squeeze and dissolve also in 4 tablespoons warm water).

In a food processor mix well the dissolved gelatin with the strawberry mixture.

Divide the mousse into serving dishes.

Put the mousse into the fridge for 2 -3 hours until it sets.

When the mousses are well set, prepare the chocolate ganache.

Bring the cream to a boil. Put aside.

Throw the chopped chocolate and the instant coffee into the pan and, quickly stirring, dissolve in the hot cream (do not boil the mixture of chocolate and cream!).

Distribute the warm (not hot) chocolate ganache equally among the mousse portions and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes more.

Serve very cold.