You might have noticed I rarely write about sweets. It’s not because I avoid sugar (my will wouldn’t be strong enough anyway!), but simply because I no longer crave sweets that often. And when I do, a piece of dark chocolate is enough or, at worst, several small chocolates from the artisan shop downstairs. Usually, when I prepare something sweet, it’s for my husband or guests and I often don’t even want to taste it. There are however several exceptions and the most special among them is the creamy, slightly fudgy, chocolatey delight you see above. It instantly won my heart and palate and I will always be deeply grateful to Katerina from Culinary Flavors for this fantastic discovery. The Chocolate Marquise she posted about six years ago has become my most frequent homemade sweet treat. I loved and still love everything about it: the flavours, the textures, the look, as well as its surprising easiness and convenience.
Throughout years I have been slightly modifying Katerina’s recipe, experimenting with different additions to the chocolate base, playing with different methods… but still keeping its essential features. My most recent favourite variation isis particularly bitter (I stopped adding sugar and use chocolate with 70% cocoa content), filled with a mixture of Belgian speculoos biscuits and pistachios. The combination of these humble biscuits and expensive pistachios might seem curious, but in reality it’s so good, I now buy pistachios in bulk only for this cake.
As I’ve mentioned, I have modified Katerina’s recipe, so make sure you visit her fascinating beautifully illustrated blog and read the original Chocolate Marquise recipe. Katerina is a very talented and skilled baker (and a fantastic cook in general!), so I’m sure you will find lots of inspiring dishes and ideas.
Pistachios can be (very) expensive in certain countries, especially the unsalted ones. If you like pistachios and know you’ll use them at least twice a month, I advise buying in bulk (1kg bags for example) either in shops for professional cooks/bakers or on internet.
Do not buy dark-green shelled pistachios! Not only are they more expensive, but most of all they are dyed, as I’ve recently learnt. Natural shelled pistachios have a reddish pink “skin” with some beige or yellow patches.
Belgian speculoos (sometimes called “biscoff”) are flavoured with a mixture of spices associated in many European countries with Christmas cakes/biscuits (mainly cinnamon, I think). They are my favourite here, but you can add any biscuits you like, of course.
If you don’t melt chocolate often, this might be the only tricky part of this otherwise easy cake. There are different ways to do it (in a pan on low heat, in hot water bath, in a microwave…), but my favourite is to melt it, broken into pieces, in a small pan filled with hot cream. Whichever method you use, the most important thing is not to let the chocolate boil. I usually melt butter this way together with chocolate.
This cake keeps at least a week in the fridge (well covered with plastic film).
Preparation: 15-20 minutes + a night in the fridge
Ingredients (serves ten-twelve, fills a 10 x 20 cm/about 4 x 8 in baking dish):
250 g/about 9 oz good quality dark chocolate (you can also use “baking” chocolate or chocolate chips, but good quality one, without vegetable fats or any strange additives and with min. 70% cocoa ; I buy a very good “baking” chocolate in a French supermarket)
150 ml/5 fl oz liquid cream (at least 25% fat)
100 g/about 3,5 oz butter
80 g/about 2.5 oz Speculoos or other biscuits of your choice
250 ml/about 1 cup of unsalted (“raw”) shelled pistachios
(1 flat teaspoon instant coffee or 2 tablespoons very strong brewed coffee)
(2 tablespoons rum (or any aromatic alcohol that would go well with your biscuits and chocolate; I think rum goes well with speculoos))
(crumbled biscuits, cocoa or confectioner’s sugar to sprinkle over the marquise before serving)
If you want to practice my chocolate melting method, put a pan with cream on a medium heat. (If not, melt your chocolate in your favourite way, combine with the cream and melted butter and go straight to the biscuit and coffee addition stage).
In the meantime prepare the chocolate and biscuits (keeping an eye on the cream).
If you have a whole tablet, break the chocolate into pieces (the best way to achieve it is without opening the package, otherwise the chocolate crumbs will be everywhere.
Break the biscuits into unequal pieces (not too big: maximum 1×1 cm/about 0.4 in).
Cut up the butter into small cubes.
When the cream starts boiling, take it quickly off the heat.
Wait about 3 minutes and then add both the butter and the chocolate.
Take a cream whipper or simply a fork and mix well the chocolate, the butter and the cream.
When the mixture becomes homogeneous, add the coffee and the biscuits.
Stir well and, at the end, add the rum (if using).
Line a dish with plastic film and fill with the cake mixture. Of course the smaller the dish, the higher the cake will be.
Put into the fridge for several hours, ideally overnight.
(You can decorate it with powdered/finely broken pistachios or biscuits or cocoa powder or, as I usually do, don’t bother!).
Serve very cold, in slices.