Ahh, chocolate — it melts on your tongue, so rich and so smooth. These sweet, deep flavours soothe our hearts. Surely the food of the gods, no?
Of course, before chocolate becomes chocolate, you must pulverize your cacao beans; assess the correct ratio of cocoa powder to cocoa butter; grind the sugar and refine the paste, kneading it to a smooth consistency. The chocolate has to feel just so. Never mind the growing of the bean; cutting the huge pod from its stem with a machete; removing the husk; fermenting, drying, roasting, and finally polishing the fruit. Yes, it’s time-consuming and persnickety work.
And after all that, you pop said chocolate into your mouth. Takes but six seconds to experience all textures, all flavours, at which point those happy brain chemicals of yours are saying, “Please, sir, I want some more!”
Here we look at three Ottawa kitchens offering up plates full of chocolate goodness.
Chocolate and Hazelnut Brick Toast
Donovan Chong, marketing director at My Sweet Tea, ponders the likely origins of Asian brick toast. He calls up the days of British colonization when Hong Kong people got a taste of French toast. “And they wondered, how did those crazy Westerners do it? Hong Kongers weren’t sure — and so they improvised.” My Sweet Tea has a way with their brick toast: they lightly toast and score a thick slice of Asian milk bread. Then they slather chocolate hazelnut cream over the bread so that all the goodness seeps in. Bananas optional. As one customer proclaimed after just one bite: “My new favourite dessert!” $4.50.
My Sweet Tea, 824 Somerset St. W., 613-695-6543, mysweettea.ca
Mini Chocolate Bundt Cake
The classic chocolate cake. Tracey Black says this recipe dates back to when her take-home shop and eatery, Epicuria, opened 23 years ago. The tiny Bundt shape, however, was Isabelle Leroux’s brilliant idea — she’s the pastry chef. She is also the one who came up with the fudge-like ganache icing slyly licking the sides. The cake itself is dark, moist, and light. Not a lie — this chocolate number has everything going for it. No wonder it’s the most popular dessert in the house. $4.25.
Epicuria, 357 St. Laurent Blvd., 613-745-7356, epicuria.ca
“When I opened this shop [in 2005], I thought only Indians would come, but Canadians eat more sweets than Indians,” says Rakesh Ahluwalia, owner of Indian Express. He’s in the kitchen now at his humungous wok, stirring the two ingredients — milk and chocolate — to make a chocolate version of the Indian sweet called barfi. The trick is to keep at this until the mixture has condensed — a very long time. What’s produced is a confection that is chewy and dense, akin to Western fudge (but better). One warning, though: this buttery chocolate concoction is decidedly addictive! $8.99/lb.
Indian Express Food & Sweets, 1000 Somerset St. W., 613-761-6000, indianexpressfoods.com