Wednesday, 2 December 2015

The Square Chocolate Bar

Just last week we had one of the best meal's in a long time. The Square has been a mainstay of London's fine dining scene for over 20 years and to mark this the owner, Philip Howard, brought out two books of the finest recipes from The Square's history entitled 'Savoury' and 'Sweet'. We're going sweet today attempting to recreate a dessert served with our lunch last week. The Square's famous Chocolate Bar.

Anyone with even a passing interest in pastry or desserts must get this book, its a brilliant work of photography and recipe's that guide the reader through covering every angle of every recipe. Serious time and effort has been invested in this book and it shows.

For this recipe I needed to get my hands on some Valrohna 40% Jivara chocolate....some of the most expensive chocolate around judging by the prices quoted on most websites. In the end I opted for a 500g bag from Clarks who provided the exact chocolate I needed at £10.50 per half kilo. Other specialist ingredients for the dish were edible gold leaf (available in sheets from Sainsbury's), paillet√© feuilletine (I used cornflakes) and praline paste which I substituted for Nutella.

Peanut butter shortbread mix

The bar's are made using 8cm square moulds at the restaurant so I had to improvise by using a large square pastry frame and cutting the bars out later once the layers were in place. The structure of the bar's goes peanut butter shortbread - crunchy feuilletine layer - salted caramel ganache - chocolate mousse - glaze.

I began with the shortbread which is made mixing ground almonds, flour and icing sugar together with butter, peanut butter and a splash of whipping cream. This made a crumbly mixture which is held together between two sheets of greaseproof paper while you roll it into a thin sheet. Chill for 30 minutes and then bake in the oven at 150C.

The feuilletine layer is a similar process. Take raisins and peanuts and pulse in a processor with the cornflakes until ground but not a powder. Mix together with melted chocolate, butter and praline paste and use the same rolling action as with the shortbread. After this had chilled I stencilled out a square by using the mould and left in the fridge to stay firm.
Feuilletine layer mixing
Layering inside the pastry frame

Placing the feuilletine square into the mould was a bit of a head-scratcher. Try to somehow slide the square off the greaseproof paper or just go for the full-on hand plant? I took the second option. Save for a few cracks and breakages, which were repairable, the whole thing up to now was looking decent.

Next came the salted caramel ganache. Making a caramel has become almost second nature now as it strangely seems to feature every time I come to make a dessert....perhaps I just like caramel...anyway! After making said caramel, heat whipping cream, liquid glucose and two vanilla pod's worth of seeds in a pan and mix the two together. This was a risky business where the caramel sauce decides it doesn't like the cream mixture and does it's best to run away from it. Keep on whisking and bring it back together. Salt and butter are then added to melted chocolate before being mixed into the caramel to create the ganache. Word of warning.....its delicious.
Salted caramel ganache
More building work....

Last step in the construction process is the chocolate mousse made by first making a custard and melting the Valrohna before combining the two to create a rich ganache. Whipping cream is then mixed to soft peak before folding into the chocolate to create mousse. You can really taste the quality of the chocolate in the mousse at this point. Such a rich flavour unlike regular supermarket chocolate.

Day two began with the banana ice cream. I'm not the biggest fan of banana's, the horrible mushy texture is off putting but the taste I can deal with. So with that in mind I was pretty confident the ice cream would turn out nicely as you have to infuse milk with banana's and then strain the resulting liquid to use as the base for the ice cream adding double cream and liquid glucose. Egg yolks and sugar then get whisked together and the ice cream is made in the traditional way using the custard method.

While the ice cream churned away I started the daunting task of the glaze. This mix was ridiculously temperature sensitive. I tried adding a powdered glaze to the recommended mix of water (30ml) which you add to your melted chocolate, praline paste and whipping cream. This had horrendous consequences as the glaze was far too thick and turned my chocolate into a ball you could probably play squash with.
Valrohna mousse - just check out that texture!
Completed construction

I went for a second attempt, this time leaving out the glaze. After all the chocolate and cream is melted together you add gelatine to heated whipped cream and stir in gently. This mix was far better with a great shine. My advice would be don't bother with the glaze.

Next step is to cut the chocolate bar into..well.....bars! I used a rectangular cutter but this just ended up with the resulting bar refusing to come out of the mould without the aid of a spoon, ruining your precise smoothing of the mousse. So in the end I cut bar's freehand and placed them over a cake rack set on top of a tray. Layering the glaze on the top they looked pretty good. After chilling for a bit I gave them another whack of glaze as the first layer was a little thin.
Ice cream
Bar's pre-glazing

The crumble was the last step as I was using salted caramel sauce that's been lying around for months begging to be used, plus being on nights I was in a zombie-like state. Dry ingredients mixed together with butter (ground almonds, demerara and caster sugar) along with cocoa powder, salt and flour formed the base of the crumble. 25 minutes in a hot oven and you have something resembling soil. Although much tastier....

Plating up is nice and easy. Take a swipe of the salted caramel down the centre of the plate and add the chocolate bar to the left. Chocolate soil goes to the right and a line of crushed peanuts down the centre topping the bar with edible gold leaf and the soil with a rocher of the banana ice cream. The picture at the start of this article is the updated version, I chose to present it as it appears in the book.

This is a great dessert. Surprisingly light as all the chocolate elements point towards a dessert that's going to lay heavy on you afterwards. The mousse being whipped to soft peak definitely helps the texture and doesn't render it heavy. I will definitely be using Valrohna chocolate in the future as the difference in taste is far superior to any chocolate that I've used before.

A few imperfections such as the banana ice cream was slightly lacking in banana flavour, probably should have left it to infuse for longer. Also the cutting of the bar could have been more accurate. Overall though I'm delighted, its a great dessert to prepare for a large crowd, we'll be eating the leftovers over the next few days. Lucky us!

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