Chocolate: the consuming passion

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This was the title of a wonderful book my mother gave me a few years ago. It's a humourous and quirky book aimed at people like me who are self-confessed chocoholics. Most importantly you really learn a lot: e.g. fourteen out of ten people love chocolate; there are studies by chocolate producers that it really doesn't rot your teeth and best of all, statistics about how many calories you burn off when you suddenly have to hide your chocolate if visitors arrive or to swim to Switzerland for chocolate tasting which more than compensates for the amount you consume.

The page that most sticks in my mind though is a diagram about how much chocolate you should eat, depending on how bad your day is. A slightly irritating day for example, can be put right with just a few Hershey's kisses and the worse it becomes, the more you need. The advice for a truly rotten day when you have the blues (or the mean reds as Holly Golightly so nicely puts it in Breakfast at Tiffany's) is to scoff a whole Sachertorte. Sachertorte is truly the chocolate cake par excéllence and I can fully understand why it's the perfect comfort food, although it's hard to imagine the slender Miss Hepburn digging her fork into a piece! I first tried it in Andalusia when it was served for breakfast! Last October, I was lucky enough to get the chance to try to original at the Café Sacher in Vienna. Even though, it's one of the most obvious places with tourists, Ju (fellow chcolate affectionado) had already been and told me just how fabulous it is. Despite it's immense popularity which means it's almost always full, the place exudes a kind of old-fashioned charm and you're treated with Überhöfflichkeit (over-politeness) as you sit back in comfy red armchairs and flick through the menu. The choice of coffees is enormous in Vienna but I decided to have a total chocolate day and combine hot chocoloate with a piece of Sachertorte. It's a luxury but surely one worth its weight in gold. The exquisite china plates you cake is served on, the red silk wallpaper and the satisfying clinking sound of the spoon against the teacup. As you can see from the photo, I certainly savoured every mouthful.


Though the original is well-guarded secret, here's a very good recipe I got from one of Delia Smith's books so you can make your own Sachertorte when you have one of those days.

Recipe

Cake

175g good quality dak chocolate (70% cocoa)
100g brown sugar
100g soft unsalted butter
100 flour
1 sachet baking powder
4 large egg yolks, beaten
4 large egg whites

For the icing
175g dark chocolate (at least 50% cocoa)
100ml double cream (or thick schlagsahne)
2 tsp smooth apricot jam

1. Melt the chocolate either in the mcrowave for about 1 minute or by putting it in a heatproof bowl over a pan or simmering water. Kept an eye on it so it doesn't become hard or lumpy. Leave aside to cool.
2. With a hand held mixer, blend the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Then add the egg yolks a little at a time.
3. When the melted chocolate has had time to cool, add it to the eggs and sugar, stirring carefully.
4. Sift the flour and baking powder together to get rid of any lumps, then using a tablespoon, add it to the egs and chocolate gradually until it's all gone and the mixture is smooth.
5. Use a perfectly clean bowl and beaters for the hand held mixer to whisk the egg whites until they look like stiff peaks (in about 3-4 mins). After use a metal spoon to add it to the cake mix and make sure you don't lose all the air in the egg whites while you're gently blending.
6. Bake in the oven at 150°c for about an hour.
7. Leave the cake in the tin for around 15 mins before putting it onto a cooling rack. Leave it for some time and listen to music or read to pass the time.
8. When it's completely cold, you can make the icing. Warm the jam and brush a layer over the whole cake.
9. Melt the chocolate as above in a bowl over simmering water and mix with the cream. Pour the icing over the cake, coating the top and sides and leave to set for 2-3 hours. If it's cold and you're lucky enough to have a balcony or terrasse, you can speed up the process by putting it outside. Serve with a large dollop of whipped cream and enjoy!

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