Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cappuccino Cream

I love to work with chocolate. I began manipulating it in the now distant 2003, when due to my sick leave, I was at home all the time and, back pain permitting, spending an hour pottering above a double-boiler seemed like an exciting enough proposition. By chocolate I do not refer to Mars bars, or Twix, or Snickers, neither am I thinking of Cadbury's and such related crap. I do think there is a place for this type of rubbish sometimes, but classifying the above as chocolate is a bit like thinking Dan Brown produces literature. There is so little cocoa and so much vegetable fat in Cadbruy's it would be illegal in certain places (I am thinking France, Belgium, Switzerland, all purveyors of excellent chocolate made from, gasp, high content of cocoa).

Another interesting problem is presented by white chocolate; some say it ain't chocolate at all because it contains no cocoa, only cocoa butter. Yet, by definition, it is cocoa, because cocoa butter is extracted from cocoa beans. The challenge of course is to find excellent white chocolate and I can tell you it is not easy by any means.

The higher the cocoa content and the more unstable chocolate is; I know that in my early practising days I ended up burning plentiful batches of perfectly respectable 85% cocoa, especially so when a spirit was added. I am more careful (and capable) as of late and I have overcome the early difficulties, but when it comes to white chocolate, I am still a little scared. Still, the following recipe for a cappuccino cream I have modified for years is worth the trouble. It tastes incredible but make sure you understand that it contains a scary lot of double cream and that you really should not eat it by the spoonful in one sitting, ok?

100g white chocolate (I have currently settled for Menier, readily available at the supermarket, but if you can, you should really get the white by La Maison Du Chocolat, no contest on this one)
400ml double cream
2 teaspoons of Nescafe (I know, blasphemy, but you need it here, you cannot use real coffee)

Put the chocolate to melt either in a double boiler (really, really, really low heat and little water... once it starts to melt it splits just by being looked at) or, easier, in the microwave. Once done, remove from heat and set aside as you get on with the two teaspoons of Nescafe which you will pulverise completely in a mortar (or whatever else you've got to hand). Add the powder to the double cream and give it a stir.

Now the annoying part begins and let me warn you, it may drive you crazy. Get your melted white chocolate and add the double cream, giving it a quick stir (only one quick stir). If all is well, the cream will thicken almost immediately and will remain smooth throughout. Add cocoa powder on top, place in the fridge and you're done.

If all is not well, something else will happen: the white chocolate will split from itself and will begin to solidify within the cream, leaving you with a mess specked with white particles. Keep your cool, get a small hand-held whip and set to work. Whip it forcefully by hand for as long as it takes (and it may take long), until the chocolate will return to a smooth state and will get incorporated to the cream. Trust me, it will happen, but it likes to give a scare first.

Why does this happen? A multitude of reasons: the chocolate may still bit a little too warm (but you cannot let it go too cold because it will begin to set and return to bar-like state), you have whipped the cream too forcefully upon contact with the chocolate, you have whipped the cream too forcefully upon contact with the coffee powder, you are using a particularly ailing brand of white chocolate, the cream is too cold, the container is too tepid... You get the picture, many variables at play with something that is, by its very nature, extremely unpredictable. I have done this amazing cream on multiple occasions; sometimes it's ready immediately, others it requires whipping by hand. Whatever happens to you, do not let an apparent disaster prevent you from re-doing it all and trying again until it turns as smooth as you see above. It has the consistency of ice-cream and goes well with cakes (by the side, on top, within layers) or indeed by itself by the spoonful.
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