Ah, yeah. It’s time to turn the lights down low and put a little bit of Barry on the stereo, cuddle up to your loved one and share this sexy, oxytocin producing hunk of chocolate love. Mmmmmmmm, baby!
Or you could just eat it on your own in your PJs, reading Twitter whilst your husband is on a late shift. That’s what I did.
Actually, although this is perfect for a valentines dessert, it came about after a cold walk in the park a couple of weeks ago. You know what’s perfect after a winter’s walk in the park, where your fingers are numb and your ears are tingling from the cold? A hot chocolate. Except I’m not massively keen on the hot chocolate, I tend to only have the drink to eat the whipped cream and marshmallows.
I am health personified.
So how do I make a hot chocolate I enjoy eating all the way through and make it even more indulgent? By making fudgy brownies instead of a drink, chewy meringues in place of marshmallows, a rich, chocolate sauce with a boozy kick and a dollop of whipped double cream. Because a hot chocolate ALWAYS needs some cream. You don’t need all the elements, of course, and if you just want to try just one of them, then I implore you to make the brownies. These are fudgy and gooey, but not overly sweet, and the hazelnut flavour is a classic but warming and earthy and perfect for this time of year. Dave can’t stand nuts with chocolate, so I swap the nuts for pieces of milk chocolate when I make this for him. This recipe will serve around four, but you’ll probably have some spare meringues and sauce by the end of it. The meringues will keep in an air tight container for a good week (and they freeze well too) and the sauce will keep for about four days in the fridge. It helps to make the meringues the day before so they can dry out in the oven properly.
For the meringue:
- 2 Egg whites
- 113g Icing sugar
- 2 drops vanilla extract
- Pink food colouring
For the brownies:
- 225g unsalted butter, softened
- 200g light muscavado sugar
- 115g plain chocolate, melted and cooled
- 3 large eggs
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 90g plain flour
- 30g cocoa powder
- 1/4tsp sea salt
- 170g chopped hazelnuts
For the hot chocolate sauce:
- 30g dark chocolate
- 2tbsp butter
- 100ml double cream
- 1tbsp caster sugar
- 1tbsp brandy
To make the meringue, preheat the oven to 110ºC (fan oven temp), and line a baking sheet with some greaseproof paper. Whisk the egg whites and icing sugar until they form stiff peaks. Scare and amaze your daughter as you hold the mixer bowl upside down over her head! Add the vanilla extract and whisk for another minute or so.
Get a skewer and dip it into a pot of food colouring and then run it along the side of a disposable piping bag, making stripes, and then fill with the meringue mixture.
Pipe into little ‘kisses’ by pointing the piping bag directly down onto your baking sheet, squeezing a little bit and then lifting up. I used a star-shaped nozzle, but anything will do, and you can pipe any shape you fancy as well.
Bake for 40 minutes until the outsides are crisp, turn off the oven, leave the oven door ajar and let the meringues stay in there overnight. This makes them chewy on the inside and crisp on the outside. The perfect meringue!
Time to make the brownies.
Preheat the oven to 175ºC and butter a 9×13 inch tin. Whisk the butter until pale and fluffy. Add the sugar and cream together. Whisk in the cooled chocolate, then add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each egg. Add vanilla and then sift in the flour, cocoa and salt and fold until combined. Fold in the nuts. Transfer the batter to the tin, smoothing the mixture evenly. Bake in the oven until the brownies have puffed up around the edges and it’s shiny on the surface, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, leave to cool for a little bit, then cut into cubes and place into a dessert bowl.
Now for the hot chocolate sauce. Put all the ingredients into a bowl and pop that over a saucepan containing some simmering water. Make sure the bowl isn’t touching the water. Stir and watch everything melt into a glorious, silky sauce. Pour over the brownies.
Add a dollop of whipped cream and a meringue or two. Enjoy.