Joanne Harris’ Chocolat is a book about alchemy of sin, about life’s temptations, about choices that make us what we are. Chocolat is also the book Bhags and I have picked as book of the month for our brand new book club "This Book makes me Cook". When Bhags ran her event with the same name last month, I told her I enjoyed getting inspiration for my cooking from fiction and will continue posting recipes inspired from books. She then suggested that we do it together. And so the idea was born. We are going to pick a book every month, read it and tell you about the book and the recipe our reading inspired.
First the book : The vividly colorful story of a gypsy mother and daughter who make their home in a sleepy french village. The relationships they form, their friends, their rivals, the memories that come back to haunt them - all of these come alive in Harris' telling.
And what lovely descriptions is this book full of. Chocolat should come with “Warning : Don’t open unless you have loads of chocolate at hand." And another, more serious instruction. Don’t read this book if you want to get over it quickly. For Chocolat will tease you, test you, and haunt you for a long, long time.
When I put the book down and started thinking what I would like to make, the choices were many. Vianne, the book's lead character, the keeper of the chocolate shop, makes her hot chocolate from pure cocoa liquor before they add fat to set the chocolate. How I wish I could get hold of it. Or how about making the fondue she serves at Armande's birthday dinner with a multitude of cakes.
Another image stood out. Of the young Anouk eating pain au chocolat for breakfast. And a pain au chocolat in Roux' plate much later in the book, the bread that reignited his friendship with Vianne. So pain au chocolat it is!
This is my first time making puff pastry and it seemed like a lot of hard work. But its really the long time it takes (for you have to wait between stages) and not as much effort as it seems to be. To make pain au chocolat, mix 1/4 tsp caster sugar in 1/4 cup warm water. Sprinkle 1/3 tsp active dry yeast, stir well and keep it aside for 10 minutes until the yeast is bubbling. Mix 1 cup plain flour and a pinch of salt. Rub in 1/2 tbsp butter. Stir in the yeast, water and 1/2 a beaten egg and mix to a soft dough. Knead until you get a smooth dough. While you are doing all this (or actually before you start), divide 40 gms butter into 3 parts and leave it out of fridge to soften.
Roll the dough to a rectangle and mark it vertically into thirds. Dot one portion of the butter over 2/3rds of the rectangle, leaving a small border around the edges. Fold the plain part over the butter and then fold over the other side to seal. Give the dough a quarter turn, roll out the dough into a rectangle and repeat the folding but without any butter this time. Wrap the dough in a plastic sheet and leave it in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
Repeat this whole rolling and folding two more times, with a 30 minute gap each time. Yes, I told you its tedious, specially when you want the bread NOW! The fourth time, roll and fold it without any more butter and chill for another 30 minutes. Roll the dough to a rectangle roughly 9 X 6 inches and cut into 3 pieces (3 X 6 inches each). Take out the remaining beaten egg now and brush over the rectangles. Place a dark chocolate sqaure at one end of the rectangle and roll up. Press the ends down and put the roll on a greased baking sheet. Do the same for the other two. Cover and let rise for 30-40 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C and bake the rolls for around 30 minutes until they turn golden.
Yes, it was hard work but it was bliss getting the choclatey puff pastry out of the oven.
I picked Chocolat this month, and Bhags tells me she thoroughly enjoyed it. Bhags has picked "Three Men in a Boat" for July. It's a classic I've never read before, and I look forward to reading it. If you would like to come join the club, do let me or Bhags know.