I’ve always loved chocolate – it’s the one thing I always have a stash of, and is something that I always turn to in times of need. Be it a simple dark chocolate bar, or more fancy truffles – they all work for me. Strangely enough, I find that I prefer milk chocolate when I’m stressed, but that I prefer dark chocolate when I’m snacking ‘just because’. Maybe it’s the extra sugar content in milk chocolate that I crave in times of stress? Who knows.
If you’re as variable as me when it comes to choice of chocolate, it would seem sensible to have a collection of each – just so there would always be a choice of chocolate to suit my mood. 😉
This is why Hotel Chocolat’s Sleekster Summer Desserts Selection is perfect for someone like me. It’s one of chocolates available from their summer selection, which features more light and fresh flavours. It features a beautiful range of chocolates, which are packaged beautifully as what I have come to expect of this brand. I mean, check out how pretty the Summer Sizzler Peepster is! I’m such a sucker for well packaged items, haha.
But back to the Sleekster Summer Desserts Selection. It not only contains a mix of white, milk, and dark chocolate… but is also imparts a touch of summer (like its name suggests) by taking inspiration from classic summer desserts.
My personal favourite is the Lemon & Passion Fruit Tart – which combines the zesty notes of lemon with passion fruit, all encased in a white chocolate cup. Now I normally find white chocolate WAY too sweet, but somehow when paired with the lemon and passion fruit – it works. I think the sweetness of the white chocolate is offset by the acidity of the fruits, and makes for one very delicious bite.
The other flavour that I enjoyed was the Red Berry Mousse, which features a tangy raspberry and strawberry mousse in a milk chocolate shell. We all know the strawberries and chocolate go very well together, and this particular chocolate emphasizes that fact. I preferred this to the Summer Pudding, which is a white chocolate truffle which features the summer fruitiness of raspberries and strawberries. I thought the Summer Pudding was a little too sweet for me – but bear in mind I’m normally not a white chocolate fan… I know one of my girlfriends would ADORE this.
The other flavours were: Eton Mess, inspired by the classic British dessert with strawberry buttercream, meringue and strawberry pieces. There were actual meringue bits in the chocolate, which was a very nice surprise, but again it was too sweet for my non-white-chocolate palate. There was also the Coconut Bombe, which features the sun-kissed flavours of coconut encased in creamy white chocolate. The coconut pieces that the truffle is rolled in adds a good crunch that contrasts well with the smooth chocolate.
The Chocolate Brownie was exactly what its name suggests – smooth praline encased in a milk chocolate casing… and it’s even shaped like a mini brownie! Chocolate Mousse is the only dark chocolate creation in this selection: a dark chocolate mousse encased in a crisp dark chocolate shell. I liked this, but somehow it wasn’t very ‘summery’. I suspect that is why dark chocolate isn’t used very much in the selection box.
The Neapolitan is much more summery, and revisits the classic ice cream flavours of vanilla and strawberry, which is paired with some mellow milk chocolate. And it’s incredibly pretty to look at as well, with all that pink and white.
If you prefer chocolate bars to truffles, Hotel Chocolat’s Purist bars are just the thing for you. These Purist bars feature some of the world’s rarest, most sought after cocoa – and I must admit I never knew that chocolate could taste so different. I tried three from the Purist bar selection: 70% dash of milk (Rabot Eastate, Saint Lucia), 72% dark organic (Alto El Sol, Peru), and 65% dark 120-hour (Island Growers, Saint Lucia).
I also learnt a new term – “conching”. Conching is the process of mixing and agitating the chocolate in a container filled with metal beads, which helps to evenly distribute the cocoa butter within the chocolate. Prior to conching, chocolate has an uneven and gritty texture. Conching basically produces cocoa and sugar particles smaller than the tongue can detect, hence the smooth feel in the mouth. The length of the conching process determines the final smoothness and quality of the chocolate. High-quality chocolate is conched for about 72 hours, lesser grades about four to six hours. When mixed in this way, the chocolate ends up with a very mild yet rich taste. (Thank you Wikipedia for educating me, as you always do.)
So you can imagine how good the 120 hour conch bar is… the flavours in this were intense yet subtle. I honestly have not tasted chocolate like this before (but of course, I’m not a world expert on chocolate) – it had so many flavour components that made for a very pleasant eating experience. Hotel Chocolat state that the chocolate has multilayered notes of raisins, figs, tobacco, honey and grapefruit – I couldn’t really taste figs, but I definitely tasted a hint of grapefuit, raisins and honey.
The bars are also presented beautifully, and the insides of packaging gives a brief explanation about the origin of the cocoa beans and where they have been processed. I daresay any chocolate lover would really enjoy receiving this as a gift, as it truly opens ones eyes to how diverse chocolate can be.
To see how well the chocolate would fare in baked goods, I decided to make some brownies. I decided to make them into mini-bites, because I own a mini brownie tray, and because they look SO much cuter in miniature size! I used the 72% dark organic Purist bar for the brownies, which is described as an elegant and fruity dark chocolate with flavours of red berries, raisins, vanilla and coconut.
The brownies turned out very well, and were little chocolatey morsels of deliciousness. They’re very rich, so I’m very glad I made them in small bites. I always know when a sweet baked item is a success, because R asks for more (unlike me, he doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth) – and R asked for more of these. The chocolate was absolutely delicious, and definitely had a hint of fruitiness to it which elevated the taste of the brownie.
If you decide to make these brownies (and you SHOULD!) – be sure to use good quality dark chocolate. There isn’t much flour in the recipe, so the chocolate truly is the star here. I used the Purist bar which is 70g, and I adapted the recipe to suit this. Feel free to increase the amount of ingredients to make a larger stash – you basically use a 1:1:1:1 ratio of chocolate:butter:sugar:eggs. Simples.
Adapted from Alain Coumont’s Communal Table: Memories and Recipes
- 70g dark chocolate (I used Hotel Chocolat’s 72% Purist bar)
- 70g butter
- 70g eggs (I used one large egg)
- 50g sugar
- 1 tablespoon plain flour
- pinch of cornflour
1. Break the dark chocolate into pieces, and place in a heatproof bowl. Add the butter to the bowl.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter over a bain marie (place the bowl over a pot of simmering water), until both ingredients have melted. Mix well, and transfer to a large bowl.
3. Sieve the plain flour and corn flour together, and stir with the sugar until well combined. Add the flour/sugar mixture to the bowl containing the melted chocolate and butter. Mix well.
4. Add the egg to the mix, and stir until well combined. Set aside for 15 minutes.
5. Heat the oven to 150’C.
6. Spoon brownie mixture into individual moulds – the original recipe uses cupcake cases, but I used a mini Brownie tray. Bake for 20-25 miinutes, until the tops of the brownie are shiny and slightly firm to touch.
7. Leave to cool slightly, and eat!