Thursday, 16 February 2012

Savoury Goat Cheese and Chocolate Canapés - We Should Cocoa

This month's We Should Cocoa challenge has been just that - a real challenge, requiring several days of thought. Choclette of Chocolate Log Blog, who is a joint host with Chele from Chocolate Teapot, asked us to make something savoury and vegetarian for the February challenge - and chose the month with the fewest days to give us the hardest challenge, too! For those still unfamiliar with We Should Cocoa, each month we are asked to make something containing chocolate using the special nominated ingredient or method. The full rules can be found here on Choclette's blog.

My only previous experience of using chocolate in savoury cooking has been to add a few squares of dark chocolate to a chilli con carne. Although I could have taken the easy way out and done the same with a vegetarian chilli, I wanted to get into the spirit of the challenge and to make something original, which fitted the main theme of this blog - baking.

I decided to use chocolate pastry, and after a lot of thought, was convinced that nothing large scale was going to work here - small is beautiful, especially if the flavours don't quite work, which is always a worry when breaking new ground. Something which could go on a canapé tray and be eaten in one mouthful was the way to go - all the flavours at once, and no need to eat any more if it didn't suit your taste!

The first task was to think of savoury flavours which went well together, and also which might work with chocolate. Beetroot was an obvious choice as it is quite a sweet vegetable and is often used with chocolate in cakes and brownies. Goat cheese and beetroot are a good savoury pairing, and so is beetroot and horseradish. Right up until the moment I started to mix the filling, I intended to use goat cheese, beetroot and horseradish together but at the last moment I remembered a bar of chocolate containing pink peppercorns which we ate recently, and how deliciously spicy it was. The crunch of the pepper gave an extra textural contrast too. Out went the horseradish and in came a few coarsely crushed pink peppercorns.

There isn't really a recipe for what I did - but here's an outline of how these Goat Cheese and Chocolate Canapés were put together.

The pastry was standard shortcrust, made with plain flour and butter containing sea-salt crystals. I added 1 tablespoon of cocoa to 100g flour and 50g butter, and a few grindings of black pepper to make the pastry really savoury. I don't have any mini-tart moulds, but I do have some speciality Czech moulds, designed for sweet making. They look like little spoons, so I cut out circles of pastry, fitted each circle between two greased moulds, to prevent the pastry rising when cooked, and trimmed the pastry to the shape of the mould. These were then baked at 200C for 15 minutes. Luckily the moulds slipped away from the pastry quite easily.

The filling was an equal quantity of soft goat cheese and full fat cream cheese (about 30g of each for the 8 canapés I made), mixed with a half-teaspoon of coarsely crushed pink peppercorns. A small ball of this mixture was put into each pastry spoon - I think it would look very attractive if it was piped in, but I wasn't working with large enough quantities. The cheese was topped with a cube of cooked beetroot, a tiny parsley leaf and a grating of 100% cacao (Willie's Peruvian Black).

To be honest, the chocolate wasn't a predominant flavour, but I'm not sure the canapé would have been very pleasant if it had tasted strongly of chocolate. All the flavours blended together really well, with the spiciness of the peppercorns leaving the strongest impression after the mouthful was chewed and swallowed. The sweetness of the beetroot was also a major taste factor, although it didn't hide the fact that this was a savoury morsel.

This was an interesting challenge, but I don't think savoury chocolate recipes will feature regularly on my baking itinerary, unless someone else taking part comes up with something irresistible. I'm really looking forward to seeing the round-up for this challenge! Karen at Lavender and Lovage also used goat cheese and beetroot in her entry, and although I had already made my decision to use them, it was good to have it confirmed that these two ingredients would work well with chocolate!

10 comments:

Crunchy Creamy Sweet said...

Magazine worthy! Just sayin' :)

Choclette said...

Suelle, you are a marvel. thank you so much for putting your thinking cap on for this one, you've come out with a winner I reckon. These flavours do combine well together and they look so pretty with the different colours and the spoon shapes. Thank you so much for participating, I know this wasn't an easy one.

Brownieville Girl said...

They look out of this world - really sophisticated!

I'm afraid I went the predictable route!!!

Natalie said...

I love the way these look - so dainty! I agree that savoury chocolate recipes won't be back on the menu unless I see something irresistable - it works, but I'd rather have my chocolate in a dessert!

Hazel at Chicken in a Cherry Sauce said...

Absolutely beautiful! So much thought behind this recipe. I definitely agree that it is a rather challenging challenge! The canapes are adorable. I really enjoyed reading this post!

Phil in the Kitchen said...

Very nice idea - I love those little spoon moulds. I could definitely eat quite a few of these.

Baking Addict said...

Wow these look amazing!! The spoons are so cute and beetroot and cheese definitely go well together. I've had a few ideas but am not too sure if they will work out!

C said...

They look great, and I love the originality of the ideas too. I'm still thinking about this one, and struggling! I have a feeling I'll be looking at the round up and just being impressed at what everyone has managed to produce!

MissCakeBaker said...

I'm so impressed you've come up with these. I'm really not convinced by the whole choc savoury thing but I would definitely try these. I love the little spoon moulds.

Katie said...

They look gorgeous and so professional. Beautiful presentation. Cocoa can add a great bitter flavour to ome foods but never though of using it like this before. Inspired!