Aswell as thinking of ways to use my recent supply of chocolate from Hotel Chocolat, I've also been on the lookout for a recipe that fits the bill for this month's We Should Cocoa challenge - a monthly baking challenge where participants have to cook with chocolate and another, pre-selected, ingredient. This month's challenge is being hosted by Choclette from The Chocolate Log Blog and she has selected cobnuts or hazelnuts as the added ingredient.
Cobnuts, as I have learnt since embarking on this challenge, are just a variety of hazelnut. I was initially just going to stick with hazelnuts, but by chance I came across a big pile of cobnuts for sale at a local farmers market so grabbed a bagful while I had the chance. If you fancy learning more about cobnuts then you might want to take a look at the Kentish Cobnuts Association website.
The recipe I selected this month is one I've had my eye for years and the title suggests great things. Chocolate pastry and a chocolate filling topped with nut-speckled meringue sounded like my kind of pudding and I'm pleased to say it lived up to all my expectations. The pastry was deliciously sweet, the filling was rich and the meringue topping was light with added crunch from the cobnuts.
It was also pretty straightforward to make. Chocolate pastry can be notoriously tricky to roll out but I used my tried and tested method of rolling it out between two pieces of clingfilm and had no problems. I had a bit of a hitch with the filling when I realised I didn't have enough cornflour but I topped it up with plain flour with no obvious problems. The chocolate custard turned out quite thick but I won't know until I try it again whether that was down to the flour. All in all it tasted pretty fantastic and I think it tasted even better the next day when the filling had cooled completely and set even more. This is definitely a 5 star recipe.
Chocolate & Cobnut Meringue Pie
(adapted from Chocolate by Marks & Spencer)
175g/6oz plain flour
75g/3oz unsalted butter
25g/1oz plain chocolate, grated
25g/1oz icing sugar
1-2 teaspoons cold water
3 egg yolks
25g/1oz caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
600ml/1 pint milk
175g/6oz plain chocolate, chopped (I used my lovely Hotel Chocolat 70% Dark Chocolate Drops again)
3 egg whites
175g/6oz caster sugar
25g/1oz cobnuts (or hazeluts), toasted and finely chopped
1) To make the pastry, sift the flour into a bowl and add the butter, cut into small pieces, then rub it into the flour (I blitz it together in my food processor). Stir in the chocolate, icing sugar, egg yolk and enough water to mix to a firm dough. Knead lightly, then wrap and chill for 30 minutes (I left mine overnight in the fridge but it needed to sit for a while at room temperature to warm it up a bit the next day).
2) Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use to line a 23cm/9 inch plain or fluted flan ring set on a baking sheet. Bake blind, (by lining the tin with greaseproof paper and filling it with baking beans or dried beans) in a preheated oven, 200c/400f/gas mark 6, for 15 minutes. Remove the paper and beans and cook for a further 5 minutes.
3) To make the filling, mix together the cornflour, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla essence and a little of the milk in a large bowl. Bring the remaining milk to the boil in a saucepan. Pour over the egg mixture, stirring.
4) Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook for 2 minutes, stirring until thickened. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted. Pour the mixture into the pastry case.
5) To make the meringue, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Gradually whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, until the mixture is stiff and glossy. Stir the nuts into the meringue.
6) Spoon the mixture over the pie, shaping peaks with the back of a spoon. Place under a preheated hot grill for about 2 minutes (pay attention to this bit! The meringue can turn from pale brown to almost black in seconds - I just caught mine in time!) until the peaks are golden. Serve warm or cold with pouring cream.