There aren’t too many chaps who class the start of their career as a week spent with Heston Blumenthal at the tender age of 16. Pastry chef Will Torrent does – and goes on to further flesh out one of the most impressive C.V.s in the business with all sorts of achievements and accolades.
His latest – and perhaps greatest – project? The production of a volume that’s literally and completely chocablock with recipes. Suffice to say, the cocoa content from cover to cover is lofty. This book is one for purists; purely devoted to the pleasures of chocolate in all its fine forms.
The first time I encountered Will’s skills was whilst uploading a clever water-based recipe for a Tabasco-lashed chocolate pudding to Foodepedia. The next was whilst ‘decorating’/decimating the top of a Christmas cake at a Waitrose Christmas press preview. The most recent was at the same store’s annual festive showcase, where he fed me too many – but not enough – of his Christmas pudding pancakes with brandy butter.
So it’s a pleasure to make his acquaintance once more through the arrival of a copy of his new cookbook, ‘Chocolate at Home’. It seems where Will goes, a Torrent of delicious food is far from far behind; and this new book does indeed bring home not bacon, but sweet, sweet temptation aplenty.
The 80 recipes range across the spectrum, commencing with ’nuff truffle types to fill a supersized selection box, and concluding with some rather nice ice creams and wickedly decadent drinks, taking in show-stopping centrepiece cakes and bakes, cookies and bars en route. The muted colour palette means that texture is the star in Jonathan Gregson’s ever-excellent illustrative photographs – of which at least one illustrates each item.
You could give it pride of place on the coffee table and look at this book as a mere and mighty catalogue of chocolate porn, but that would be to miss out on the rock-solid recipes themselves. ‘Strict attention to detail balanced by a nice conciseness’ is the method which these methods follow; meaning that keen chocolatiers shouldn’t go far wrong no matter how limited their experience.
Whatever your craving – or level of capability and ambition – ‘Chocolate at Home’ offers something to suit. From classy and classic rolled truffles to lime-spiked whisky and ginger barrels; homely chocolate chip cookies and oooey-gooey maple and pecan brownies to a sublime salted caramel and rum top hat cake; a splendidly-stodgy choc pud to a multi-textured apricot and rosemary delice; on-trend chocolate tea to caramelised coffee and chocolate ice cream. See? Told you.
The book also includes one heck of a lot of introductory information. Chocolate could never not be a fun topic, but its serious side is often neglected; sugar-coated; or both. Will turns over thirty pages to subjects such as cocoa cultivation, history, chocolate from bean to bar, sourcing, handling, and technique. If you don’t want to read it, skip straight to the recipes. But you should. You’ll likely learn something and definitely enjoy doing so.
Not, perhaps, as much as eating the efforts you’ve made from the recipes – the digestion of which will probably take longer than it would to read that opening digest. If you passed over it in the first instance in favour of getting your hands dirty and your craving quashed, return afresh to the prose and eat it up accompanied by a slice or two of fig, walnut and chocolate pizza and a glass of mango, passionfruit and white choc milkshake. You will find this time spent reading Will’s words worthwhile.
‘Chocolate at Home’ is a tome that will hold real appeal for anyone regularly or occasionally afflicted with crippling cocoa cravings. It looks good, it’s well laid-out, the content is concrete, and the recipes are broad, diverse, and, as a collection, comprise just sufficient ‘wack factor’ to add quirkiness and interest whilst keeping it intelligent.
Will Will become a regular resident in the kitchens of aspiring chocolatiers countrywide? I think it’s an adequate assumption.
Now try your hand at some of Will’s wares with this recipe from ‘Chocolate at Home’…
Will Torrent’s Mississippi banoffee mud pies
I love to combine different flavours and desserts into one! So here I’ve taken two of my favourite big and bold American desserts; Mississippi mud pies and banoffee pie, and mashed them into one. Adding a layer of caramel mixed with caramelized banana purée gives a lovely texture and flavour to the classic chocolate and cream combo of Mississippi mud pies. If you want to, you can add a the zest and juice of a lime to the caramel to work in another famous American dessert; key lime pie. It’s pie, thrice!
- 300 g chocolate coated digestive biscuits
- 75 g unsalted butter, melted
Caramel banana sauce
- 15 g unsalted butter
- 3 large ripe bananas, sliced
- 75 g caster sugar
- 400 g canned ready-made caramel, such as Carnation
- 2 leaves gelatine
- 125 g caster sugar
- 800 ml whipping cream
- 200 g dark chocolate, chopped
- a pinch of salt
- 400 ml double cream
- chocolate shavings
- 8 x 9-cm round fluted tartlet pans with removable bases
Break the digestive biscuits into pieces and put into a food processor. Whizz until finely chopped and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Pour in the melted butter and cocoa powder and stir well to combine. Press the buttery crumbs into the prepared tartlet pans in an even layer to cover the base and sides. Cover and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes while you prepare the caramelized banana layer.
To make the caramel banana sauce, heat the butter in a large frying pan set over a medium heat. Add the sliced bananas and cook until they start to soften. Add the sugar and continue to cook until the bananas have caramelized and are coated in amber-coloured caramel. Transfer to a food processor and blend until smooth. Tip into a bowl, add the caramel and mix until thoroughly combined.
To make the mousse, soak the gelatine leaves in cold water for 10 minutes to soften. Meanwhile, tip the sugar into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan or pot set over a low–medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of water and dissolve the sugar without stirring. Bring to the boil and continue to cook until the sugar becomes an amber-coloured caramel. Swirl the pan if necessary to ensure the caramel cooks evenly.
In another saucepan or pot, bring 240 ml of the cream to the boil. Slowly and carefully pour the hot cream into the caramel in stages, it will bubble furiously at first. Stir until smooth and remove from the heat.
Tip the chopped chocolate into a heatproof bowl. Drain the gelatine, blot briefly on a paper towel to remove any excess water.
Pour the caramel cream into the chocolate, add the gelatine and mix until smooth. Set aside to cool.
In another bowl whip the remaining cream until it holds soft peaks. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate cream mixture.
Divide the caramel banana sauce evenly between the chilled tartlet cases. Top with the chocolate mousse, filling each pie to the top and spreading smooth with a palette knife. Chill in the fridge until firm.
To finish, whip the cream until it holds floppy peaks. Spoon on top of the pies, scatter with chocolate shavings and serve immediately.
- Recipe extract from ‘Chocolate at Home’ by Will Torrent, photography © Jonathan Gregson, published by Ryland Peters and Small RRP £19.99
- To read a review of Chantal Coady’s ‘Rococo: Mastering the Art of Chocolate’ cookbook, click here