Celebrating that most wonderful of decadent ingredients.
Who doesn't love chocolate? There has always been a sense of luxury connected to it. Savouring the finest chocolate should be an exceptional experience. Much knowledge and effort goes into creating such a delicious product, compared to the mass-produced offerings that often taste disappointing. Try to buy the best quality chocolate you can afford, with the highest cocoa content, knowing that the end result will be considerably richer in flavour and texture.
The recipes today - a cake, muffins and a pudding - are delightful in their simplicity. There are no tricky ingredients but all the recipes are lovely for a winter's day.
Muffins can often be uninspiring, largely because some of those sold commercially are made from instant muffin mix, but if you come across lovingly made muffins with proper ingredients - and not too big - they make for a delightful accompaniment to one's morning coffee. I've added hazelnuts to this recipe because I love the flavour when combined with chocolate. Remember to fold the batter gently until just mixed so the result is soft and not overworked.
Everyone should have a perfect chocolate cake in their repertoire. This one suits me because of the lack of flour and the inclusion of ground almonds, which makes the texture short, the flavour superior and produces a cake that can be used for dessert, with a wee glass of dessert wine or port and a dollop of softly whipped cream.
A self-saucing pudding is one of the most decadent winter dessert recipes I can think of. It is really important to use dark chocolate and dark - preferably Dutch - cocoa in this recipe so the pudding is divinely decadent. Spooning through the crusty pudding top reveals a rich sauce and when paired with soft vanilla bean icecream or runny cream, the result is fantastic.
I am not a great fan of the microwave. I don't own one because apart from heating up leftovers, I don't see the reason for one. But if you do, chocolate can be melted very successfully using a gentle heat and microwaving in 30 second increments until just melted, then only a slight stir is needed. Chop the chocolate first before heating.By Amanda Laird Email Amanda