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“Chocolate
  is a favourite
  all over the
  world. The
  choice is
  yours — so
  where do
  you start?”


THINK OF CHOCOLATE and you think of what? Do you immed-iately think of the softly melting flavour of Cadbury's? Comfort eating where any old bar will do? Or are your tastes more refined?

Associated with romance, chocolate is one of the best selling treats and it is often given as a token of affection. It was discovered by the Mesoamerican civilisation and used in a variety of drinks and sauces by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs — the drink was very bitter, unlike the chocolate drinks we know today. Chocolate is made from the seeds of the Theobroma cacao, a tree revered by the Aztecs, to whom the beans were currency. The word 'Theobroma' is Greek, and means 'Food of the Gods'. We'd go along with that.

In the Sixteenth Century, chocolate was brought back to Europe by explorers and, once sweetened, became a fashionable luxury. The first chocolate factory was established in Spain, in 1580. Columbus had come back from the West Indies with chocolate, but it was the conqueror of Mexico, Fernando Cortez, who first brought the secret of cocoa and chocolate to Europe earlier in the 16th Century. It was a closely guarded secret at the Spanish Court for almost one hundred years, but eventually it arrived in France and then appeared in England. By the 17th Century, chocolate houses — where you could also get tea and coffee — were thriving in London for dedicated followers of fashion.

The first chocolate bars were available by the 1800s and Coenrad van Houten, a Dutchman, had perfected the extraction of cocoa butter from the bean by the early 1820s. Towards the end of the 1800s, the Swiss Rudolphe Lindt was adding extra cocoa butter to his chocolate recipe, which made it much smoother and more palatable. A few years earlier, fellow Swiss Daniel Peter had used a new product — Nestle's condensed milk — to perfect milk chocolate. The industrial revolution and mechanical age was to lead to the larger scale manufacture of chocolate.

Drinking chocolate was still popular during the early part of the 19th Century, by which time Van Houten's method had almost eclipsed the then traditional method. Here at MotorBar we prefer drinking cocoa
to hot chocolate as we can regulate the sweetness. We highly recommend the intense flavour of Van Houten cocoa powder — scrumptiously yummy!

In 1824, John Cadbury opened a shop selling tea, coffee, drinking chocolate and cocoa in Birmingham, in the UK. He went on to manufacture drinking chocolate and cocoa and went into partnership with his brother, Benjamin. Thirty years later, Cadbury's received a Royal Warrant as purveyors of chocolate to Queen Victoria and John's sons, Richard and George, took over the business in 1861 when their father retired.

After some lean years, the brothers acquired the Bournbrook Estate
in 1878 (soon to be renamed Bournville) and they completed their first factory on the site the following year. Cadbury's is now the best-
loved chocolate in the UK and tours of the Bournville factory are available — go to Cadbury's websites at www.cadburyworld.co.uk or www.cadbury.co.uk and you will find a taster of what's in store for you there.

By the Second World War, the quality of chocolate had improved and prices were coming down to match demand. Chocolate was becoming popular with the masses, but rationing during the war meant it wasn't readily available. When the Americans arrived, it was a case of over paid, oversexed, over here and hand over the chocolate!

Today, in the 21st Century, we have so many chocolate products to choose from. But what fun we have trying them! Although Cadbury's Whole Nut has always been a firm favourite of mine, if I'm feeling extravagant I dip into the fabulous zChocolat (www.zChocolat.com). Created by acclaimed chocolatiers, these luxury French chocolates
are of the finest quality, with less fat and sugar content. They are available to order online with a selection of fillings encased in milk, white and plain chocolate to suit all tastes. They really are exquisite and you can choose your favourites as gifts for special occasions such as Christmas and birthdays. Their cocoa-dusted almonds are second
to none.

Thorntons also have a good quality choice in their own shops — we recommend Alpini. Their bars are also available in some supermarkets and you can buy online at www.thorntons.co.uk. If you want to
earn a few Chocolate Brownie points, Divine fair trade chocolate is widely available. Go to www.divinechocolate.com.

Chocolate fountains are proving popular in a number of restaurants
and you can buy them to use at home with pieces of fruit, biscuits or cake. John Lewis at www.johnlewis.com has a choice of three:
Prima Chocolate Fondue Fountain at 49.95; Sephra Chocolate Fondue Fountain at 89.95 and Sephra Classic Chocolate Fondue Fountain at 119. Or go to www.firebox.com where there is a choice of two models, standard and deluxe, at 29.95 and 49.95 respectively.

No self-respecting chocoholic could be satisfied until they had visited The Chocolate Society at www.chocolate.co.uk. Established in 1991, The Chocolate Society was founded 'to promote the consumption and pure enjoyment of the finest quality chocolates'. The site is easy to navigate and gives you the background history of the society, opportunities for home shopping, recipes and details about their shops. The shop at Elizabeth Street, London, SW1, serves good quality tea and coffee and superb hot chocolate with '40g of pure chocolate per cup'.

There is also a 'Did You Know' section with chocolate facts, including that fine chocolate can actually help lower your cholesterol. It also contains a useful tip: Chocolate contains phenyl ethylamine, an amino acid which has aphrodisiac properties and is also good for helping to ease a hangover.

Search the internet for 'chocolate' and you could spend all week indulging yourself! Fortnum & Mason come highly recommended — especially by a friend who insisted he didn't mind which chocolate
he ate. He was lured by a small plain chocolate praline bar from
the famous London store and admitted they were really rather
good! Visit the store at 181 Piccadilly, London W1 or go to www. fortnumandmason.com where you will be able to purchase a
limited selection from their range.

We found www.HotelChocolate.co.uk but — although we have ear-marked it as an interesting site — we have yet to sample the chocolates available. We can, however, give you a few pointers if
it's chocolate recipes you're looking for. There are many widely available on the net and at most of the chocolate sites. Go to www. epicucious.com and check out their recipe for double chocolate cake using Callebaut chocolate. Talking of the superior baking chocolate Callebaut, we have included some sample recipes here courtesy of www.barry-callebaut.com. The company was formed when Belgian couverture Callebaut and French Cacao Barry joined forces in 1996
and the union has proved successful.

If you want to try more of their recipes, visit the site and go to Chocophilia, then to Recipes, where — as well as the recipes below — you will find an interesting selection of both well-known and unusual ideas, including Bass in Coarse Sea Salt with Bitter Chocolate.


Chocolate Delight
(Cake made without flour)
6 Servings
25 minutes + 50 minutes baking time

Ingredients

* butter for greasing
* 100g brown sugar
* 150g unsalted butter
   (at room temperature)
* 3 egg yolks
* 3 egg whites
* 150g dark chocolate
* 170g ground almonds
* 2.5 tablespoons of sugar
* chocolate decorations
* red berry jelly

Preparation — Grease a 23-cm d
iameter baking tin (with an opening ring) with the butter and cover the bottom with greaseproof baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 150C.

In the meantime, mix the brown sugar together with the butter in a large bowl. Beat the egg yolks into the mixture one at a time. Break the chocolate into pieces and mix into the egg mixture together with the ground almonds. Continue mixing until you have a smooth mixture. Then beat the egg whites together with 2.5 tablespoons of sugar. Carefully fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture in four separate parts and mix in gently. Take care not to mix it brusquely so that you ensure the mixture retains its volume. Pour the mix into the baking tin and bake the cake for 50 minutes until it becomes slightly rounded in the middle. Leave it to cool down completely before you remove the baking tin. Then spread a thin layer of red berry jelly on the top of the cake and finish off with a few chocolate decorations or some icing sugar.

Tip — You can also serve this with a light whipped cream. For this
whip up 300 grams of whipping cream until stiff together with two tablespoons of icing sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence.

Chocolate Crown with Nuts

Ingredients

* 300g butter
* 330g sugar
* 230g eggs
* 1 crushed vanilla pod
* 170g dark chocolate
* 85g ground hazelnuts
* 50g ground walnuts
* 130g flour
* a pinch of salt
* apricot preserve
* icing or glaze

Preparation — Melt the butter and add the sugar. Blend in the lightly beaten eggs, the nuts, melted chocolate, vanilla, flour and, lastly, the salt. Blend into an airy cake mix. Pour into a circular cake tin and bake for 50 minutes at 200C. Then, let the cake cool on a stand. Brush with apricot preserve, then pour a light icing glaze over the cakes, allowing it to drip and set.

Chocolate mousse l'ancienne
8 servings 2 x 20 minutes
+ a few hours for setting

Ingredients (dark chocolate mousse)

* 150g dark chocolate
* 100g sugar
* 50g strong coffee or half
   a teaspoon of instant coffee
* 3 egg yolks
* 5 egg whites
* 1 pinch of salt
* 100 g fresh cream
* 8 chocolate cups

Preparation (dark chocolate mousse)
Break the dark chocolate into pieces and melt in a bain-marie or in the microwave oven (at 750W and remember to stir every 5 to 10 seconds to avoid the chocolate to burn). Then mix the sugar and the strong coffee or the instant coffee together with the melted chocolate and beat well. If you use a bain-marie, remove the receptacle from the bain-marie and only then should you mix the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture one at a time. Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt. Beat the cream (not too stiff) and gently fold the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture a bit at a time. Finish by mixing in the cream. Pour the mousse into eight chocolate cups and leave to set for at least two hours in the fridge. Finish off with decoration elements or royal chocolate shavings.

Ingredients (white chocolate mousse)

* 200g white chocolate
* 1 egg yolk
* 3 egg whites
* 1 pinch of salt
* 100g fresh cream
* 8 chocolate cups

Preparation (white chocolate mousse) — Break the white chocolate into pieces and melt it in the microwave oven or in a bain-marie. When melted, remove the receptacle from the bain-marie and beat the egg yolk into the melted chocolate. Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites and beat them. Also whip up the cream (not too stiff). Carefully fold the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture a spoonful at a time and mix gently. Then mix the cream into the mixture, pour into the chocolate cups and leave to set for at least two hours in the fridge

Tip — How to make chocolate shavings? Grate a piece of chocolate across the coarser side of a grater or use a good clean and cold vegetable peeler.

Chocolate sauces in under
a minute!


Ingredients

* 1 tablespoon of milk or cream
* Depending on taste:
* 2 tablespoons of dark chocolate
   drops or 20g white chocolate or
   20g milk chocolate

Preparation — Depending on the sort of sauce that you want to prepare, you can select dark chocolate drops or choose milk or white chocolate that you should break into pieces. Put the chocolate together with one tablespoon of milk (or cream for a soft and creamy sauce) into a small jug. Place for 15 seconds in the microwave oven at 650W, stir well, heat for a further seven seconds in the microwave, stir one more last time — and it's ready! This is how you can whip up a delicious and fresh chocolate sauce in seconds to serve at table. Delicious on ice cream coupes, red fruits, banana slices, pancakes or waffles.

Hot-Cold Passion and Ivory
4 persons

Ingredients (Ivory)

* 150g white chocolate
* 3dl whole milk
* 2cl coconut liqueur

Preparation — Melt the chocolate and mix with the milk. Add the liqueur and mix. Chill (to just above freezing point).

Ingredients (Passion)

* 100g pineapple flesh
* juice of 2 passion fruits
* 20g sugar

Preparation — Boil down the pieces of pineapple with the juice from the passion fruit and the sugar. Mix and sieve.

Finishing and presentation — Blend the ice cold 'chocolate milk' until it doubles in volume. Pour into tall glasses. Pour the very hot pineapple sauce into the middle. Drink immediately.

Chocolate Pralines
(50 pralines)

Ingredients


* 3.7dl cream
* 40g trimoline
* 4 egg yolks
* 860g dark chocolate

Preparation — Heat the cream right through with the trimoline. Pour this mixture on the chocolate that has been cut to pieces and mix this well.

Then stir the beaten yolks in with the mixture. Spread this out in a stainless steel tray of 38 x 38 cm and let it harden for one night.

Finishing and presentation — Once it has hardened, cut the filling in the tray into small rectangles (1.5 x 3 cm).

Dip them in tempered dark chocolate. Back to top of page

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----------------------------------------------------- Celebration of Chocolate!