Hot Chocolate for a Cold Day

Baile na BuaileI shouldn’t be in the office on a Saturday, but it’s snowing outside, and besides the plumber and refrigeration guy have come to try to fix our water chiller, showing such diligence on a Saturday, that here I am.

A couple of days ago, I found a blog called The Big Drought that made a mention of this site, and he talked about the hot chocolate he drank in our shop. Bittersweet chocolateGiven the weather, and given the fact the fellow’s off drink for the year, I thought I’d give up the recipe for our bittersweet hot chocolate.

It’s thick, rich, and not for the faint-hearted!

The ingredients are simple, but the process is important if you want a smooth result.

Murphys Bittersweet Hot Chocolate

125 g chocolate (good quality 70%)
500 ml milk
45 gm sugar (2 tablespoons + 1.5 teaspoons)

Chocolate1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave.
2. Heat the milk and sugar together to about 45C and make sure the sugar is dissolved.
3. Add the warmed milk to the melted chocolate in small parts, mixing all the time, to create a smooth emulsion.
4. Warm to drinking temperature (55C).
5. Garnish with grated chocolate and/or whipped cream and enjoy!

Four servings.

Notes:

Hot Chocolate1. The quality will really depend on the quality of chocolate that you use. I suggest Valrhona, Callebaut, or Lindt dark chocolate.

2. The amount of sugar will vary depending on the chocolate. Obviously you can add more if you want it sweeter. Adding less won’t necessarily make it more “chocolate-y” as the taste buds need some sweetness to bring out the flavour of the chocolate.

3. See also Chocolate and Chocolate Sauce

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Snow in Dingle & 5 Ways to Improve Coffee

Today, with quite a bit of work and stress, we managed to get the Dingle shop back open. It was an odd thing to open an ice cream shop with snow all about Dingle. What an impressive sight first thing in the morning, although the snow melted quickly everywhere except the mountains.

There are so many bits a pieces after four months of being closed, that you end up running around for days collecting, cleaning, buying.

However, it’s a great feeling to having the shop back in operation, and it’s a wonderful thing to have the espresso machine up and running. My day certainly improved with a double caffe moccha!

Now, please forgive a rant… What astonishes me is the dreadful quality of coffee most places in Ireland. So many of us have become coffee drinkers, but somehow quality hasn’t followed as quickly as I would have thought. We’re travelling to countries that serve decent coffee, and most Irish people know the difference between good and bad, so why aren’t more baristas about the place upping their game? It takes relatively little effort to make decent espressos etc., and I’m amazed that more people don’t do it.

Here are five ways to instantly improve coffee drinks:

1. Run an espresso shot to 1 oz. Anything longer will bring in a watery taste and bitterness.

2. If you’re making a latte or cappuccino, don’t overheat the milk! There is a reason that in Italy you will never burn your mouth on a latte. There is as reason that you’re supposed to simmer milk, not boil it. Over 65C, the milk proteins change and the fat separates out. We have such great milk in this country. Why ruin it?

3. Get the grind right. If it’s too fine and packed too tight, you will get a burned taste. If it’s too coarse, the shot will be watery. A good shot should have a head like a pint of porter without being burned.

4. Filter the water coming to the espresso machine.

5. Grind your beans fresh! It’s amazing how quickly ground coffee can taste stale.

There are lots of places to learn about coffee. Bellisimo is one of a million helpful sites.

Finally, I have to thank Pauline, one of our customers-who-have-become-friends, who rang to let us know that our ice cream was poorly displayed in Superquinn – Sundrive. It’s an amazing thing to have customers looking out for us, especially now that we’re selling through a distributor and have less contact with the shops than we used to. How can we thank them?

For now, just… Thanks!

Honey Lavender Ice Cream

Provence A couple of years ago, I traveled across the South of France with a friend, eating our way from town to town. It was May, the weather was perfect, and the eating was mostly very good. The taste that really stayed with me after the trip, was a pot of honey infused with lavender that I bought at a food market in San Rémy.

It’s a funny thing, sometimes I think that we are fools here to work so carefully with ingredients and process. Most ice cream makers would buy their mix and flavours in big tubs from companies such as Pregel and Fabbri. They are the smart businesspeople, and I really mean that. If you want to make money with an ice cream shop and want to make your own ice cream without too much bother, that is how you do it. You save a fortune on labour and ingredients, and a good percentage of customers aren’t too bothered.

Provence AgainStill, I suppose the world needs a few fools, and I can’t get past the taste thing. Fresh ingredients just taste better, and besides it’s much more fun to play. For example, I’ve never seen Lavender and honey ice cream from a mix company! So last year, I put my mind to making it, and I think it’s a wonderful flavour. Recently I was asked for the recipe, so I’ve modified it for home use.

Here it is, if you want to try it. Chances are your kids (if you have any) will hate it, so you can eat it all yourself. Let me know how you get on.

By the way, this may sound strange, but it’s a great partner to chocolate cake!

LavenderMurphy’s Honey Lavender Cream

1 Cup (237ml) Sugar
5 Egg Yolks
1 1/8 Cups (266ml) Cream
1 1/8 Cups(266ml) Milk
2 Tablespoons Lavender Flowers
2 Cups (475ml) Water
3 tablespoons liquid honey

1. Cook the lavender flowers in the water over low heat until the water has reduced to 1/10th of the volume.

2. Remove from the heat and strain. Stir in the honey.

3. Beat the sugar and egg yolks together until thick and pale yellow.

4. Bring the milk to a simmer.

5. Beat the milk into the eggs and sugar in a slow stream.

6. Pour the mixture back into pan and place over low heat. Stir until the custard thickens (around 70C). Use a thermometer, as at 75C the eggs will scramble!

7. Allow the custard to cool.

8. Mix in the lavender and honey.

9. Whip the cream.

10. Gently fold in the custard.

Ice Cream Mix11. Freeze using a domestic ice cream machine, or cover and place in the freezer.

Yield: 6 Servings

Notes:

1. I suggest you use a simple, liquid honey. Darker or more complex honeys will have a very strong flavour, so in that case use less!

2. Lavender flowers should be available at your local health food shop.

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Craquantes and Other Bits and Pieces

Chocolate PearlsStill on the subject of chocolate, I received a sample yesterday of Valrhona crunchy chocolate pieces from our supplier Odaios (see left). It surely is a wonderful thing to be in this business and get such presents! I’m practically sick from them; they are so good, and the sample size is so large! If there are any left on Tuesday, they will make a great addition to a batch of ice cream.

The factory was also brightened by the lovely Clodagh McKenna and Aoife, the producer for the excellent RTE radio show Winter Food. They recorded us and various factory noises. We should be on next Saturday’s show so listen in if you can.

Clodagh wanted a recipe for ice cream. I was thinking of white chocolate and rose water. I guess I can’t get chocolate off my mind!

Since I can’t, I might as well mention that my friend Conor brought back chocolate covered espresso beans from Caffe Sant’Eustachio in Rome, who make some of the best coffee in the world. As I munch away I think that it’s a pity he couldn’t bring back a cappuccino to go with them! Happily the Dingle shop will be open on Wednesday, and I’ll be back in the coffee again.

CourtyardAs we’re on that subject, I have been trying to do something with the interior courtyard in the shop. We inherited a half-plastered wall and have left it that way for the last six years. Finally I’ve decided to tackle it and tried painting it with a wash of our blue. It’s a bit electric, though. I don’t know what I think! I should be in there today painting away and getting ready for the opening, but I’m feeling lazy and besides we’ve given over the shop to the West Kerry Mental Health Assn for the weekend so they could raise some money by selling books.

Finally, this whole blogging thing is still quite new to me, but it’s quite exciting to see what’s out there, and what they are writing about. conoroneill is an interesting gourmet site, and I just did a search to see who’s writing about our company, and he was one of them! Sometimes one can feel a bit isolated as a foody in a rural part of Ireland (mind you, Dingle has its fair share), and this should help!

Chocolate and Chocolate Sauce

We have been spending a lot of time these days talking about chocolate, and being chocoholics there are worse conversations to have!

Over the last six years, we have had an on-going discussion about Valrhona vs. Callebaut. We originally used the Callebaut for everything, then switched to Valrhona two years ago. The difference in Melted Chocolatetaste is immense – the Callebaut is deep and rich, the Valrhona is clean and simple on the palate. Valrhona is a much smaller company, and they have a top reputation among the gourmet community. In terms of eating chocolate, we wouldn’t touch another. But things get complicated with ice cream. Often “cruder” flavours taste better when they are combined with the ice cream mix…

In any case, we did a test for chocolate sauce using both, and liked the Valrhona better on its own, but the Callebaut better when served over vanilla ice cream.

If you want to try our recipe, here it is:

Murphys Ice Cream Chocolate Sauce

  • 150 gm chocolate (Valrhona Araguani or Callebaut 72% is what we used. If you can’t find either, just use a very good quality bittersweet chocolate. Note that it will only taste as good as the quality of chocolate you use!)
  • 75 ml cream (42% fat)
    20 gm cocoa (We use Green and Black Organic)
    175 ml milk
    75 gm sugar

Chocolate SauceFollow these instructions carefully if you want a velvety, glossy result:

  1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler to between 34 and 45C (you can use a mixer bowl in larger pot with water in it)
  2. Mix together the sugar and cocoa.
  3. Put in a pan with the milk and warm to about 45C until dissolved.
  4. Add the milk mixture to the melted chocolate in small parts, mixing in between until it’s incorporated. Keep this up until you have a smooth emulsion. (The chocolate will clump at first and look dreadful, but don’t worry, trust the process!)
  5. Add the cream.

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Raspberries: Using fruit in ice cream

Raspberry Ice CreamI am now back in Ireland and back to work. The cold shouldn’t be such a shock, but it is!

I made ice cream over the last two days, including most of our usual flavours, but the interesting thing is that I retrieved something special from the freezer. In Wicklow, there is a farm called “Sweetbank Farm,” and they grow some of the most amazing fruit. They have a farm shop and are definitely worth a visit during the season.

Last summer, they gave us a good amount or raspberries, tayberries, and other delectables and delighted many customers.

RaspberriesWe also froze some raspberries, and I dug them out to make some ice cream, thinking that there is nothing better in the cold of February than a taste of summer. So I made two batches, one simply with raspberries, the other with raspberries and dark chocolate shavings.

Putting fruit in ice cream can be tricky as the water in the fruit turns to ice, making it quite unpleasant. There are two tricks – alcohol and sugar. Soaking fruit in alcohol (rum raisin is an obvious example) keeps the fruit soft in ice cream. Soaking or cooking it in sugar also does the trick.

Raspberries CookingSince the raspberries were off the farm, I decided cooking was the best route, as it also pasteurises away any bacteria that might be lurking. I used about 10% sugar to volume, added about 5% lemon juice, cooked to a boil (see above), and then cooled immediately. If you try this, don’t cook it for long, or the fruit will lose all its fresh taste and will taste like jam!

Anyway, the result was very tasty indeed, and we’ll see what our customers say when it hits the shops!

Beghrir – Moroccan Pancakes

Tafaroute In Tafraoute, the landscape is miraculous with strange rock formations like pink Henry Moore sculptures and a swathes of yellow flowers that turn dazzling in the sun. The almond trees were in blossom – ghostly white, and snow capped the mountain tops. Tafraoute has fewer tourists than it should, and it certainly was a highlight of the trip.

The breads in general were excellent, the best we have tasted so far, as were the breakfast pancakes called Beghrir. Both are made with semolina and maybe its the water there or the mountains – in any case how simple and wonderful. The pancakes in the morning served with honey and accompanied by a cafe au lait, the bread after a hike in the hills…

Beach sunsetI will post a recipe when I get home and try it out myself. I bought a Moroccan dessert cookbook in French and so it will take a little work!

I am back at the coast now and the sunset was glorious. Two weeks is not a lot to spend in this country. I recommend it very highly, and it was a bargain (379 euro including flights from Shannon and accomodation in Agadir though Sunway, which is so cheap that you don’t hesitate skipping out of town and making your own way around).

I will miss Morocco!

Marrakesh

There is a such romance about the Djemaa el Fna , with the exotic expectation of the snake charmers and fire-breathers that the reality leaves one a little disappointed. The cobras seem small and doped up – the charmers have to flick at them to get them to stand up. As for the stalls, there is little that we haven’t seen in other towns around Morocco, although the spices are better displayed!

Still, there is a great pleasure in looking at the bustle of it all – the seething crowds, the darting mopeds, and hearing the clamour of the music and storytellers, especially when drinking deliciously cold, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and munching on dates…

Mind you, a much better way to spend time in Marrakech is to sneak away to the Jardin Majorelle and spend some time among the plants and beautiful colours. (You could even bring along the dates!)