Monday, 28 December 2009

Christmas Desserts

- Cloud Forest Chocolate Cake and Key Lime Pie

No-one in the family is keen on traditional Christmas pudding, and I also wanted to make things which would keep for a day or two, in case no-one even wanted dessert after Christmas Lunch.

I made my first choice quickly, as something chocolatey is a tradition with us. I decided to splash out on a block of Willie Harcourt-Cooze's Venezuelan Black Cacao and use his recipe for Cloud Forest Cake. Of the three varieties of cacao available, I chose the Rio Caribe Superior, which is described as having 'a zesty note of citrus fruit'.

Although some comments after the recipe suggest that it's not an easy recipe, I've made it twice now with no problems - the most difficult, and time consuming, part is grating the 100% cacao, as the blocks are very hard. Even with a large microplane, it took me 15 minutes (the first time with a smaller microplane, it took me 30 minutes!). I found I needed to cook the cake for about 10 minutes longer to ensure it was cooked to the centre.

The cacao has a very distinctive flavour which is carried through to the cooked dessert. The cake has a dense close texture, and has just the right amount of sugar to make it palatable, but still retain the intensity and bitterness of the cacao.

The cake is so rich that double cream, sweetened slightly and whipped with vanilla extract, actually lightens it!

If you are a chocoholic, but haven't yet tried coooking with 100% cacao, I recommend you try it once - the results are worlds away from cooking with standard supermarket 70% chocolate bars.

For my second dessert, I wanted something sweeter and lighter, as a counterbalance to the chocolate dessert. When I was making a decision about desserts, I planned to bake a Christmas cake with lemon in, and another cake with orange as the predominant flavour. In the event, the orange cake didn't get made, but my original plans kept me away from choosing either lemon or orange as the basis for dessert.

However, I did decide that citrus would be good balance against the rich chocolate, so finally opted for a Key Lime Pie. Never having made it before, choosing the right recipe wasn't simple.

Deciding to go with a cook I can trust, I looked at Foodycat's blog entry here, and realised the recipe she recommended was almost identical to Delia Smith's, which sounded promising, as Delia may not be exciting, but she is reliable!

Again, this was a very simple recipe to follow - the only change I made was not to use grape nuts in the pie crust - just 200g crushed digestive biscuits and 100g melted butter. I sprinkle the baked dessert with more lime zest, and served whipped cream separately. My limes were very small - it took 8 limes to give 150mls juice, and four of them to give enough finely grated zest.

Despite not having real Key Limes, this was still a well-flavoured dessert and made a good counterpoint to all the rich food at the Christmas lunch.


Choclette said...

Both of these desserts look fab Suelle. Thanks for the tip on what to do with Willie's cocoa bars - I bought one ages ago but wasn't sure how to use it, so it's still sitting untouched in the cupboard.

Happy New Year

Foodycat said...

I'm glad you liked the key lime pie! I think it has such a nice flavour. I think the last time I made it - using proper key limes - it took 5 to get enough juice!