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.
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.
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.
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!