World Chocolate Day - Chocolate Recipes

To celebrate World Chocolate Day we take a look at what makes chocolate so special and share some recipes below.

History of Chocolate
This well-loved food, once called the "drink of the gods" by the Maya people, has a rich history. Chocolate comes from the seeds of the cacao pod, which grows on the cacao tree. Theobroma cacao is native to the tropical rainforests of Central America, where it has grown for thousands of years. It was likely cultivated by the Olmecs and Maya peoples about 2,500 years ago. By about 2,000 years ago, the Maya were experienced cacao bean farmers, and were fond of grinding them up for a refreshing hot beverage. Aztecs later continued this love of chocolate, and the Spanish then discovered the drink in the 1500s and passed it around the world.
How to make chocolate
Chocolate manufacture requires six steps.
First comes fermentation and drying. The beans are harvested from the pods and allowed to naturally ferment over two days to two weeks. Heat kills the delicate germinating seed, and natural yeasts grow to develop complex flavours. The beans are then sun-dried to preserve them for shipping.
Next, the beans are roasted. Cocoa beans are roasted for the same reason that coffee beans are - to develop complex flavours via the Maillard reaction, and to drive off unpleasant acidic compounds developed in the fermentation process.
Cracking and winnowing follow roasting. This step is purely mechanical, to separate the valuable nibs from the worthless shells.
After this, the nibs must be refined. The tongue can perceive particles larger than 30 micrometres in size, so extensive grinding is needed for a good mouthfeel.
The raw cocoa liquor is then "conched," a lengthy process which drives off the rest of the acidic flavouring compounds. It takes place in steel vessels that stir the mass over several hours so that the remaining water gets extracted and the cacao butter gets evenly distributed in the chocolate.
Finally, the finished product is tempered to give the chocolate a good gloss and snap.
Swiss and Belgium Chocolate
These two nations have become worldwide famous for their chocolate. Swiss chocolates and Belgian chocolates have been exported around the world since the beginning of the twentieth century.
The Swiss came up with the idea to add cocoa butter and the method to do it which gave the chocolate a much nicer texture. The Belgians invented the praline, the chocolate truffles and many different exotic fillings. There are several differences between Swiss and Belgian chocolates. The beans for Belgian chocolate come mainly from Africa. The Swiss acquire them from both Africa and Latin America. Texture, storage and the use of milk in chocolate are other distinctive features of these great chocolates. The Swiss chocolate has usually a smoother texture and would rather avoid using artificial emulsifiers. Swiss tend to produce milk chocolate, and in general, they contain more sugar and less cocoa than Belgian chocolates, which are often dark. Belgian chocolatiers have a competitive advantage when it comes to pralines.
Benefits of Chocolate
Eating dark chocolate offers you a good mix of minerals, including Magnesium, Zinc, Iron, Phosphorus and Copper. The purer and darker the chocolate, the greater your health benefits. Raw chocolate or minimally processed dark chocolate high in cocoa solids is healthier than milk chocolate and white chocolate. Dark chocolate has anywhere from 50 to 90 per cent cocoa solids, while milk chocolate is typically 10 to 30 per cent. White chocolate is pure cocoa butter and doesn't offer you any health benefits.
Try our chocolate recipes below.

Chocolate & Peanut Caramel Tart

serves 10

Peanut Pastry
40g salted peanuts
150g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp icing sugar
90g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg yolk
Peanut Caramel
150g caster sugar
125ml double cream
25g unsalted butter
50g salted peanuts, roughly chopped
200ml double cream
150g dark chocolate, finely chopped


For the pastry, put the peanuts into a food processor and whizz until fine. Add the flour, icing sugar, butter and a pinch of salt, and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs but still has little lumps of butter. Add the egg yolk and pulse briefly, then add ice-cold water, 1 tbsp at a time, whizzing until it comes together as a dough. Form into a rough disc, wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface to the thickness of a £1 coin, then use it to line a shallow (about 21/2-3cm deep) loose-bottomed 23cm tart tin. Prick the base all over with a fork and line with baking paper, then fill with baking beans and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges are just browning. Remove the baking beans and paper, and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown all over. Cool completely in the tin.

For the peanut caramel, put the caster sugar and 2 tbsp of water into a non-stick pan. Heat gently until the sugar melts, then turn up the heat and bubble until you have a rich caramel the colour of a rusty penny. Carefully pour in the double cream, mix, then add the butter and stir until melted. Leave to cool slightly then pour into the tart case. Sprinkle evenly with the chopped salted peanuts and leave at room temperature for 1 hour or until fully set.

For the ganache, gently heat the double cream until simmering. Put the chopped chocolate into a bowl and pour over the cream. Leave for 1 minute, then stir until smooth and the chocolate is fully melted. Pour over the set caramel, even out with a spatula and chill for 1-2 hours or until set. Cut into slices to serve.

Chocolate & Black Bean Chilli

700g beef chuck, cut in 1/2-inch dice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided use
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided use
2 tablespoons chilli powder, divided use
Masa harina, 85g extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lard, 400g minced red onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, stems removed, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons tomato paste, 1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon sugar, 1 bottle of beer
1 tin tomatoes, 85ml chicken stock
1 to 2 tins of black beans, drained
25g unsweetened chocolate, cut into large chunks
Toppings: sour cream, chopped onion, grated cheese


Place diced chuck in a large bowl. Add salt, pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cumin and 1 tablespoon chilli powder. Mix well. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons masa harina and toss again to coat. The masa harina will thicken the sauce as chilli cooks and give it a unique Mexican flavour.

Heat a cast-iron, or other heavy-bottomed, pan on the stove over medium heat. Add olive oil and, when it shimmers, add meat in one layer and brown it on all sides. Add lard to the pan. Remove browned meat to paper towelling. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and saute for 5 minutes over medium heat until they start to caramelise and get soft. Add jalapenos and allow to cook for 2 more minutes until soft. Add tomato paste and sugar. Add the remaining teaspoon of cumin, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, oregano and 1 heaping tablespoon of chilli powder. Add beer. Stir to incorporate everything. Add tomatoes, and stir. Return meat to pan. Add chicken stock. Simmer for 1-1/2 hours until meat is tender. Strain liquid from black beans, add beans to the pan and bring up to simmer. Add chocolate and stir until it melts. Serve immediately with toppings of choice or refrigerate for 2 to 3 days.

Homemade Chocolate Milk


350ml milk, any type
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons sugar


Pour the milk into a glass and slowly add cocoa powder while blending with a hand blender or a small whisk. A blender or a small whisk works best because they reduce the clumping of the cocoa powder. Add powdered sugar until well blended. Serve immediately or cover and place in the refrigerator until ready to drink.