Chocolate Week Cooking Tips and a Recipe from Thornbury Castle Pastry Chef Stuart Martin
Chocolate always features somewhere on the afternoon tea at Thornbury Castle in Gloucestershire, and at lunch and dinner too, thanks to the hotel’s head pastry and senior sous chef Stuart Martin. And for Chocolate Week 2015 (12-18th Oct), the castle kitchen has changed a few of its regular dishes in order to really celebrate this fantastic foodstuff.
Says Stuart: ‘My favourite recipes involving chocolate have to be chocolate fondant, various brownies (especially a really gooey one eaten cold), and chocolate and walnut cookies. I can never resist eating a couple straight out of the oven…
‘The most popular chocolate dish at Thornbury Castle Hotel has to be our warm chocolate fondant, which is cooked perfectly to maximise the warm liquid centre. Currently served with homemade cherry ice cream and a compôte of morello and griottine cherries, it’s the perfect way to end a meal.
‘Cooking has always been part of my life. I was lucky enough to have a mother who is a great cook, and often 'helped' in the kitchen growing up – not just tasting things but making them too (along with a mess, but that’s something I've got better with over time now I have to tidy my own things).
‘I’ve always been interested in the pastry side of cooking. I think it’s the precision – it’s a science that requires more exact measurements than dishes from the main kitchen. I also chose pastry because I thought I could do better – brought-in desserts have always frustrated me, and few home-made ones ever truly excited me.
‘In my mind, dessert should WOW guests. If I've done my job right, they should keep them talking on the way home and for days to come. I've never wanted to make good desserts – I’ve wanted to make amazing desserts. My big break came when I was introduced to a chef with the same passion for consistency and perfection, who let me develop my own style, encouraged me and gave me support to help develop many skills. This is now the third time I've worked under Mark Veale, executive head chef at Thornbury Castle.’
Stuart’s Top 5 Tips for Cooking with Chocolate
• Use the best-quality chocolate you can find, especially if making chocolates. The shell is the last taste in the mouth of a chocolate, so make it special.
• Use milk chocolate with fruit as the flavours come through more.
• Use a stick blender on ganache before cooling, for the best glossy finish – it breaks down and distributes the cocoa butter more evenly throughout.
• You don’t have to temper (melt, cool and rewarm) most chocolate before using it as it has generally already been tempered, just as long as it does not exceed 90°F (32°C) for dark chocolate or 85-87°F (29-30°C) for milk or white chocolate when melting. For this, the bain marie should not exceed 140°F (60°C), or use the lowest power setting on your microwave, stirring frequently.
• Buy more chocolate than the recipe requires – we all know some will go missing!
Stuart’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
225g butter (unsalted)
340g soft brown sugar
390g plain flour
40g walnuts (or other nuts)
350g dark chocolate chips
Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, using the paddle attachment mix on low-medium speed until mixed together (be careful to not over-mix)
Roll into batons and wrap in double-layered cling film. Place in the fridge to firm up for an hour.
Remove the clingfilm, cut into thumb-width pieces and lay flat on a lined tray, leaving plenty of space between each one as they will spread out during the cooking process.
Cook at 180°C for 12-14 minutes.
Read more about food and drink at Thornbury Castle.