Go coco crazy ahead of Luxury Cake and Chocolate Conference
Who’s still hanging in there with their January detox and new year’s resolutions? We’re not. We’ve ditched the ascetic eating and disciplinarian menus in favour of the world’s favourite edible pleasure: chocolate. At the end of this week, industry experts will get together for the Dubai Luxury Cake and Chocolate Conference, taking place on Tuesday January 22. It may be a business-focused event, but that hasn’t stopped us from imagining discussions on the perfect pâtes de fruits, or where to find the finest cocoa beans (our money is on deepest, darkest Peru). Torturing ourselves no longer, we’ve sated our cravings by sampling some of Dubai’s tastiest and most decadent chocolate-themed desserts.
Crumbs Elysée’s opera cake Heavenly and indulgent, this sponge cake is layered with chocolate buttercream, ganache and just the faintest, bitter hint of coffee. This is a dense, indulgent number that goes perfectly with the café’s French-style coffee, made with cream. Dhs20 per slice. Al Tanyah Street, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 346 8899).
Jones the Grocer’s white chocolate and salted caramel tart This daily special is back by popular demand until Thursday January 31 (that’s Time Out’s demand, to be precise – we thoroughly enjoyed it on our visit). Encased in simple short pastry, the filling boasts the spectrum of salty caramel sweetness and creamy white chocolate, tempering each other’s tendencies towards the extreme. Dhs19. Al Manara, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 346 6886).
Circle’s chocolate cake Served in seriously sizeable slices, the sponge in this multi-layered cake is sandwiched between liberal layers of delicious chocolate buttercream – we’re talking almost an equal sponge-to-buttercream ratio. This isn’t a dessert for dieters: it’s too big and too rich to eat alone, so we’d advise sharing with friends. The café’s equally enormous chocolate, caramel and hazelnut brownies are also worth sampling. Dhs26 per slice. Beach Park Plaza Centre, Jumeirah (04 342 8177); Media City (04 391 5170).
Indego’s chocolate samosas This creative riff on Indian and European culinary concepts produces a delicious result. Made with dessert-friendly filo pastry rather than the more traditional samosa dough, the parcels are filled with gooey, rich chocolate sauce, enlivened with a hint of Asian spice. Dhs75. Grosvenor House Dubai, Dubai Marina (04 399 8888).
Rivington Grill’s chocolate caramel pie This dessert may look like a classic French tart, but it’s a unique recipe: the pastry is light and crisp, while the dark chocolate filling manages to be both creamy and cocoa-packed. The chocolate is offset by a sweet yet slightly salty caramel layer, fresh clotted cream and a sprinkling of crunchy toffee. Dhs40. Souk Al Bahar (04 423 0903); Souk Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6464).
Kitsch’s ‘Little Nutter’ cupcake Quirky in presentation, with a playful take on the well-known peanut butter cup, this was one of the highlights of Time Out’s extensive cupcake research in 2012. The peanut butter frosting is dense and filling, with a great balance of salty and sweet, while the moist, chocolatey sponge and topping of sprinkles complete the combination. Dhs14 each. Jumeirah Beach Road, Umm Suqeim 1 (04 395 6963).
La Romana’s chocolate gelato Made fresh on the premises, the gelato at La Romana is smooth, densely flavoured and extremely moreish. There are several other chocolate flavours to tempt you, such as white, milk and dark, and even a Ferrero Rocher option. From Dhs14 per scoop. Al Barsha Mall (04 434 0429).
Portugal Genuine Piri Piri Restaurant’s chocolate mousse While the menu may describe this as a ‘mousse’, it’s nothing like the light-as-air, wispy texture of normal mousse. Instead, slip your spoon into a thick, buttery mass of smooth and intensely rich chocolate. Imagine eating a bowl of chocolate ganache and you’re somewhere near the delicious decadence of this dessert. Dhs20. Seaview Hotel, Bur Dubai (04 359 7427).
The history of chocolate 1 Chocolate is believed to date back up to four millennia. Its discovery is attributed to the Olmec people, a pre-Colombian culture that occupied the Gulf of Mexico.
2 The Mayans are closely associated with the early history of chocolate – they were the first to cultivate the plant, in around 600BC. It was brewed into a spicy, bitter drink, used primarily in religious ceremonies, and preserved for the use of the Mayan elite. ‘Cacao’ means ‘God food’ in Mayan. They may have been wrong about the apocalypse, but the Mayans were onto something.
3 The Aztecs also latched on to the value of the cacao bean, giving it the name ‘xocólatl’, from ‘xòcoc’, which means bitter, and ‘atl’, which means water. They occupied a northern region of Mexico that was of higher altitude and more arid, therefore the Aztecs couldn’t cultivate the cacao crop and relied on trade. The bean’s value to Aztec society meant it was even used as currency. In the 16th century, one bean would buy you a tamale, or 100 beans for a turkey. When the Spanish stormed the Aztec treasury in 1519 in search of gold, they found only cocoa beans.
4 Chocolate made its way from central America to Europe with the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th and 17th centuries. The Spanish continued to make the beans into a drink, adding sugar and vanilla to temper the bitter taste. While chocolate as a beverage became known across Europe, the Spanish successfully kept its origin – the beans – a secret for some time.
5 ‘Chocolate houses’, where people would socialise over a cup of the beverage, started to open across Europe. The first English chocolate house opened in London in 1657; the first German house opened in Bremen in 1673.
6 Solid chocolate, akin to the bars we know today, was created inadvertently in 1828 by Dutch chemist Johannes Van Houten, who conducted an experiment to extract the cocoa butter from the roasted ground beans. This led to the drive to make the first chocolate ‘bar’. The industrial revolution allowed for mass production, making it accessible for the first time in its history. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that milk and white varieties of chocolate came in to existence.