samedi 14 novembre 2009

The return of the chocolate habit and the Mauerfall

When I was a teenager, my brother sent me a a Christmas present from Geneva where he was working then. Inside the big box which I ripped open excitedly was a beautiful cauldron (chaudron or Kessel) made of the finest Swiss chocolate. This is apparently a symbol of Geneva because the people there defeated the attacking Savoyards by pouring hot soup over them which must have hurt. It looked so amazing; I often used to put it on the table in front of me and gaze at it longingly but could never bring myself to eat it because it was just too beautiful. The months passed and my mother asked me when I was going to finally destroy this amazing work of art but it just seemed too cruel until the day when the chocolate started to turn a bit white and it was no longer at its best so had to be thrown away. I didn't tell my brother!

Looking back, perhaps this reveals some things about myself; firstly that I couldn't have been as much of a chocoholic as today when I wouldn't hesitate for a second about breaking it into pieces and eating it and secondly, that I already had a passion for beautifully presented food. You might wonder about the title of this post; why the return of the chocolate habit when I obviously never stopped liking the stuff? Actually, before I started this blog in March, I rarely made anything else apart from chocolate cakes but since then, I've become completely crazy about lemons, raspberries and cakes with fruit.

Some chocolate moments from the last few months

I started thinking back though to defining chocolate moments, I remember my first visit to Angélina's in Paris, famous for hot chocolate and also for the Mont Blanc dessert. Standing in line, waiting to be seated, I saw what looked like a young student in a velvet jacket savouring a cup of chocolate which he was holding in his long, elegant fingers with an expression of contemplation on his face, like I imagine Proust would have looked when he tasted the madeleine. We were eventually given a table next to a young gay couple dressed in tight T-shirts which showed off their muscles. I can still clearly remember my look of disbelief when they placed their order which went something like this; "Alors deux chocolats chauds, deux rhum babas, deux opéras, six macarons, deux monts blancs etc." We changed tables because it was too noisy there but later on I heard the sound of ambulance sirens close by and wondered whether the enormous afternoon tea had been too much for the two guys! When the chocolate finally arrived (I decided that even I didn't have room for a mont blanc as well), it was sweet, rich and thick like custard so you could eat it with a spoon. I don't think I ate anything else for the rest of the day! Since then, I have never stopped searching for that kind of indulgent hot chocolate and there have been a few amazing ones; in Calvados in Spain, at the café Savoy in Prague, at Anna Blume's here in Berlin and most recently in Venice. In fact, since my return from Italy, I haven't stopped craving chocolate and of course, any kind of resistance would be ridiculous.

I couldn't leave you either without a few words about in events in Berlin this past week. As you know, on Monday, it was the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and I felt a sense of pride in knowing that all eyes were on my city that day. In the evening straight after work, I went to Potsdamer Platz to see some of the celebrations. Coming out of the subway, I heard the final movement of Beethoven's Seventh playing in the streets and gathered with many others in the rain in front of the giant TV screen just a few hundred metres from the Brandenburg gate but where you couldn't see anything else for the large crowds of people who must have been standing there for hours. We huddled together with the rain dripping off our umbrellas and started to sing Berliner Luft with Placido Domingo. It's hard to imagine the euphoria and optimism of twenty years ago, especially with the economic climate of today and of course, the celebrations couldn't capture that. Many Berliners also stayed at home to remember a painful moment of history since 9th November was also Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) when the Nazis attacked Jews and destroyed their property - thanks to Alexa for reminding me of this with her wonderful post.

If you look closely, you can see the line of bricks on the road where the wall once stood.

Often in Berlin, I look around for parts of the divided city that are still visible and of the history I never knew - they are there but you have to sometimes look carefully. Going home later that night, I felt so happy to be here in this ever changing place full of energy and inspiration. Funnily, I rarely walk around the tourist attractions close to the Brandenburg gate but on Friday took my camera to capture the light and colours of late autumn and enjoy the freedom of crossing from East to West which others before me were not so lucky to have. I found myself smiling at the thought that I have finally found my city at last.

The glorious colours in Tiergarten

By the Russian war memorial on Straße des 17. Juni.

The Siegessäule (column of victory) in Tiergarten, made famous by Wim Wenders' Himmel Über Berlin).

And the recipes? When I returned home on Monday, I ate the rest of the amazing Italian chocolate pudding I had rediscovered from Nigella Express. Tasting it, I wondered why it had taken me so long to get around to making it. You can eat it warm with a spoon as luxurious hot chocolate but I prefer it cold for its seriously intense chocolate flavour and velvety texture. I had mine with the last of my funnily shaped biscuits from Venice which reminded me of the golden sunshine of Italy. To accompany that, there was also a dense chocolate loaf; when I cut and photographed the slices, I noticed that they looked like a B for Berlin which seemed appropriate!

Budino de cioccolato from Nigella Lawson's Nigella Express

250ml full-fat milk
125ml double cream
60g caster sugar
1 x 15ml tablespoon cornflour
35g cocoa powder
2 x 15ml tablespoons boiling water
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
60g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), finely chopped

1. Begin by boiling the water in the kettle. Warm the cream and milk together in a saucepan or in a heatproof bowl in the microwave.
2. Mix the sugar, cornflour and sifted cocoa powder in another bowl and add the boiling water to them to make a paste.
3. Whisk in the egg yolks one at a time, followed by the warmed milk and cream and finally the vanilla extract.
4. Put the pan over a fairly low heat and stir constantly until you have a thick chocolate mixture.
5. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped dark chocolate. Pour into four little cups or glasses.
6. Cover them with cligfilm to stop skin forming and when they are cool, leave to chill in the fridge. They taste even better the next day but I couldn't wait that long!

Dark chocolate loaf

125g butter
125g sugar
3 eggs, separated
50g ground almonds (optional)
200g plain flour
1 sachet baking powder
40g best quality cocoa (in Germany, you can find this at Kaisers or Kaufland at a resonable price)
100g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids), melted
100ml boiling water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

1. Put the kettle on to boil and in a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Add the egg yolks, vanilla extract and ground almonds, followed by melted chocolate.
3. In a perfectly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff then carefully fold them into the cake mix.
4. Alternate pouring a little of the boiling water with the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder until the cake mix is smooth and thick.
5. Pour into a greased and lined cake loaf tin and bake in the oven at 170° until it looks crunchy on the outside. The middle should still be damp and squidgy so don't let it cook too long. Best enjoyed on a lazy Sunday afternoon!

26 commentaires:

  1. Two wonderful chocolate recipes! Mouthwatering...

    Those chocolate cauldrons are called "Marmite de l'Escalade" and are traditionally broken on the 12th of December. On that day we commemorate the defeat of the Savoyards who tried to take Geneva. The story says that a lady was cooking soup in a big cauldron and threw it on the head of the soldiers, thus helping save the town...



  2. In love with the return of the chocolat habit!!!! Quoi que la premiere recette a pas l'air mauvaise....

    Tout à l'air délicieux Vaness com d'hab!! Bizzz

  3. Ton B-cake est adorable, surtout servi avec le "i" de la cuillère.
    Je trouve aussi qu'Angélina donne l'impression de plonger en pleine Belle Epoque (le service, le décor, les gens qui viennent y goûter)(même si quelques cuillères de chocolat suffisent à mon bonheur).
    Et sinon tu racontes si bien ces histoires d'enfance et de chocolat !

  4. Je suis obligée d'écrire un test pour mes élèves mardi et ça m'ennuie un peu! Quel plaisir de lire vos commentaires.
    Rosa - Oh, thanks for the wonderful story. I ddin't know these cauldrons were supposed to broken on a particulr day or what they were called. Looking back it seems stupid not to eat all that wonderful chocolate but I wouldn't make the same mistake today!
    Sarah - Et bien chez toi aussi tout a l'air délicieux, surtout tes fondants au chocolat! Je suis ravie de découvrir une autre chocoholic. Bises!
    Rose - Ah merci, c'est une heureuse coïncidence le gâteau B mais ça convenait bien avec la fête de lundi. J'ai lu que Proust allait aussi chez Angélina mais je ne sais pas s'il aimait le chocolat! J'écoute Dominique A. encore une fois pour faire passer le temps avec le travail ce soir - I'm addicted!

  5. When I started reading your post, I wondered if your cake was shaped like a 'B' on purpose... how appropriate. I'm glad you were excited by the celebration, from here in Paris everything looked very official and got tarnished by the usual controversies.. humph.

  6. Pia - Ha ha, it's funny how things turn out. Well, I like the more fun parts of the celebrations for the people like with the concert and the dominoes instead of endless political speeches. Lucky for Berlin though that Sarko was there to bring down the Wall, eh? Can't believe that Juppé couldn't remember if he was with him in Berlin on 9th November 1989 - how could you forget that?!

  7. tu es française? de quelle ville?

  8. I seriously would pay you a million dollars (If I had some, hehe) so we can trade places!

    Btw, the goods looks soooooo sooo soo sooo soo (yes, I said it that much) GOOD! Oooh, please take me away before I eat my laptop.

  9. Le franc buveur - Non je suis anglaise mais j'ai habité 3 ans en France donc, j'ai l'âme Lyonnaise même si je me sens comme une vraie Berlinoise maintenant. Et toi? Tu es italien ou français car tu maitrises parfaitement les deux (et l'anglais aussi il me semble!)
    Art and appetite - And I'd give a million dollars to be able to make amazing cakes like you do! So I guess you're also a fan of chocolate too ? ;-)

  10. I wish I had a slice of dense, moist, B-shaped chocolate cake right now, in front of me. Mais helas...
    I work not far from Angelina, and yes, it seems so old-fashioned, out of time. The Mont Blanc are huge, I was tempted once, and couldn't finish it. Never again :)

  11. Gracienne - But you know I'd love to make you one and it's a pity you're not here - not sure how it would travel either! I guess the mont blanc would have been too much for me but it would be so nice to return to Angelina's for more old-fashioned hot chocolate.

  12. I so enjoyed your post about going to the celebration of the 20th anniversary in Berlin. Blogging brings us together and we share so much- almost immediately.
    I, too, have had hot chocolate at Angelina's. And oddly enough, am experimenting this afternoon with a recipe for a chocolate cake that I am turning into muffins. So I just had a mouthful of chocolate!
    Both your recipes look wonderful and I can't wait to try the pudding.

  13. Dearest Barbara - thanks so much for the kind words! Yes, it's amazing how much we share. Just now I was also looking at your amazing post about Venice and now our chocolate experiences, yet we live in different parts of the world. That's what's so wonderful about blogging though and finding all those common links still astounds me. The pudding is seriously delicious but won't last long! Your cake/ muffin idea sounds fabulous and I hope it turns out great.

  14. Je suis italien (Rome) mais j'aime beaucoup la France.
    ciao, à bientot.

  15. bonjour Vanessa, tu as une petite surprise sur mon blog!

  16. Quel beau billet! Malgré que ce soit une très belle journée ensoleillée d'automne chez moi, j'avais le moral totalement à plat. Mais la lecture de tes souvenirs d'enfance, m'ont fait sourire et me rappeler que mon premier amour a toujours été le chocolat. Lorsque j'étais jeune et que je suivais ma mère en voyage pour ses expositions, elle devait toujours me faire visiter les boutiques de chocolat. Sinon, je ne voulais pas revenir à la maison! Continue ton beau travail, tu nous fais du bien!

    Passes une très belle journée! Isabelle

  17. Moi aussi, j'ai trouvé ma ville à Berlin... quelle belle surprise que ce blog, Vanessa, il est tout empreint d'une douceur automnale et bon sang... je suis moi même chocoholic.
    Je te mets dans mes links? A bientôt!

  18. two recipes for the price of one! they look soooo deicious! i am so glad i found your blog, its lovely! and i love love love berlin, i will be back for more recipes and photos, well done! cheers from london

  19. Thanks as usual for the stories (thanks Rosa too :-)
    Comme toi (avant?) je ne ferais pas des folies pour le chocolat même si j'aime beaucoup mais il faut qu'il soit excellent. Quant à Angelina, quelle histoire et moi aussi je n'ai presque plus rien mangé de la journée:-)
    Super ces recettes simples mais si réconfortantes. Bonne soirée

  20. Wow! Thanks for all your comments - you guys are so great!
    Sarah - Ah merci! Je vais essayer de répondre aux questions bientôt. Bises.
    Isa - J'étais si touchée en lisant ces mots car c'est un très grand compliment pour moi!Je suis contente de pouvoir te rappeler de bon souvenirs; ton histoire est si charmante, merci de l'avoir partagé avec nous et puis prend soin de toi! Tu m'inspires tant avec ton blog et j'espère que ça va mieux bientôt.
    Magda - Ah mais je suis aussi ravie de te lire et de découvrir tous nos gouts communs - c'est chouette. Berlin est simplement une ville qui inspire! C'est gentil de m'ajouter dans tes links.
    Pityenlacocina - Hey, thanks so much for your visit and for the lovely comments. You made me feel so good reading them. I'm glad you're also a Berlin fan.
    Dada - Mais de rien, chère Dada. Tu as bien raison, il faut que le chocolat soit d'une très bonne qualité (pour moi en tout cas) pour me tenter et puis j'ai toujours une petite préférence pour les desserts aux agrumes, mais parfois il me faut du chocolat! Je crois que nous ne sommes pas les seules à n'avoir rien manger après la visite chez Angélina! Bonne soirée à toi aussi et merci :-)

  21. Il faut que Gracianne retourne chez Angelina, j'ai l'impression qu'ils ont rapetissé leur Mont-Blanc ! J'aime le goûter de tes deux voisins gays ... Sûr que l'ambulance était pour eux ... Les grands fous ! ;o))
    Sinon que dire ? Que Berlin est à notre programme depuis déjà quelques années ... Ma maman connaît bien et dit que c'est une ville géniale ... Tes récits et photos vont achever de me convaincre ! Le truc, c'est que l'allemand, je ne maîtrise pas du tout. Bon, l'anglais suffit peut-être ? Une année, j'ai passé 15 jours avec mon père en Autriche et à la fin du séjour, la seule chose que je pouvais dire en allemand, c'était "je voudrais 3 escalopes de veau s'il vous plaît !". Ça craint un peu pour Berlin, non ? ;o)))
    Allez, grosses bises et bonne soirée

  22. ah le chocolat quand tu nous tiens !!!!
    j'avoue j'adore presque tout ce qui est au chocolat, à quelques exceptions près !!!!

  23. Hélène - Retourner chez Angelina est une bonne idée en tout cas! J'espère que le couple gay est toujours vivant - peut-être qu'ils avaient simplement fait un régime très strict avant?!

    Il ne faut pas hésiter avec le voyage à Berlin car c'est une ville très internationale et j'ai des amis qui se débrouillent très bien sans maîtriser l'allemand. Beaucoup de gens ici parlent anglais (j'en enseigne même quelques-uns ;-)) et puis parfois j'ai du mal à trouver des personnes avec qui je peux pratiquer une autre langue! En plus, je serais ravie de vous faire découvrir ma ville et d'aller prendre du thé ensemble. Grosses bises et bon week-end!
    Virginie - Comment je te comprend - j'en ai envie maintenant en fait!

  24. Ce gâteau au chocolat a l'air d'être à tomber!
    Belles photos de voyage :)

  25. Marion - C'est un mes préférés, surtout par des journées grises. Merci de ta visite Marion et bon week-end!