Foodies can be discerning and finicky, only desiring certain dishes or ingredients. Foodies can also be far from fastidious, open in their passions, barely differentiating between caviar and corn dogs.
Most of us fall somewhere along this spectrum, pledging allegiance to neither extreme.
We have to be omnivorous in our appetites to survive the good times and bad, naturally, but who can deny they inevitably have their own favourites?
Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is my weakness. Give me a bar with a cocoa percentage of over 70 per cent and I am a happy man. Above 90 per cent and I will believe that you are heaven-sent, an angel from on high.
Many of my favourite recipes, it will come as no surprise, revolve around decadent applications of chocolate. From raspberry and dark chocolate friands to chocolate tarts for Christmas. Molten peanut butter chocolate cakes that spill their liquid manna like treasures, like secrets
Chocolate chip cookies and chocolate cakes. Even a bowl of Mexican style chilli wouldn’t be harmed by the addition of a few squares of dark chocolate; I would argue it is unquestionably improved.
It is the last dish, however, that sparked my love of blending the sweet with the savoury.
Desserts often include a pinch of salt in their recipes, to balance the flavours though we don’t taste the salt. Meat dishes benefit from some form of sugar too, be it honey glazed chicken wings or that cloying sweetness we associate with luscious cuts of chasiu.
If we could add chocolate to something savoury such as a bowl of tomatoes, meat and beans, surely the reverse could work too.
The most obvious is the salted caramel we observe drizzled on all manner of cakes, cookies and ice cream. But how about something with more character than straightforward salt?
How about miso?
Now, just as I am an ardent fan of chocolate, I am perhaps as fervent about the joys of miso, that classic Japanese seasoning made from fermented soybeans.
Beyond sheer saltiness, miso has a depth of flavour that is almost indescribable that we now recognise as umami, the fifth flavour after salty, sweet, bitter and sour. Used judiciously, miso is subtle but tremendous in how much it can elevate a dish.
So why not marry two of my most beloved ingredients — chocolate and miso? Believe you me, this is a match made in heaven!
CHOCOLATE MISO CAKE WITH NUTTY GANACHE
I have used white miso (also known as shiro miso) here for its lighter flavour, so that it adds a delicate umami note to the cake without overpowering the taste of chocolate.
Those who are adventurous shouldn’t refrain from trying other types of miso such as red miso (aka miso) which has a more assertive pungency.
The chocolate employed in this recipe comes in two forms — normal cocoa powder, which is a better foundation for the miso, and dark chocolate, which is paired with crunchy peanut butter for a nuttier ganache with a bit of a bite.
Greek yoghurt, perhaps a third in my list of often-used ingredients, ensures that the chocolate cake turns out moist without being overly crumbly. Perhaps it’s true what they say — good things come in threes.
Above all, do not be afraid to experiment with these new flavour contrasts. Life is about getting a little messy and enjoying the surprise.
Ingredients: Chocolate Miso Cake
200g unsalted butter
250g caster sugar
4 medium eggs
500g all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
150g Greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons white miso
Ingredients: Nutty Ganache
350g dark chocolate (70 per cent and above), coarsely chopped
350g heavy whipping cream
60g crunchy peanut butter
Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Line two loaf tins (approximately 23cm x 13cm x 7cm each) with parchment paper so the resultant cakes will be easy to remove after baking.
Beat the butter and sugar in the mixer for about five minutes. When the mixture is light and fluffy, add the eggs, one at a time. Breaking them first into a small bowl will allow you to catch any pieces of broken shell.
Once these wet ingredients are well combined, add the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt). And when these have been incorporated, add the Greek yoghurt and miso. Continue to mix.
When all the ingredients are well combined, pour the batter into the loaf tins and bake until a skewer comes out clean from the centre of the cakes, approximately 45-50 minutes.
Remove and allow the cakes to cool for half an hour before releasing them from the loaf tins. Remove the parchment paper before glazing the cakes with the nutty ganache.
To make the nutty ganache, first pour the dark chocolate into a large mixing bowl. In a separate pan, heat the whipping cream and peanut butter slowly until well combined. Make sure the mixture is only barely simmering and never quite reaching a boil.
Once the mixture is well combined, pour it over the dark chocolate. Allow the ingredients to rest for a minute before whisking them together until a uniformed ganache is formed.
Allow the ganache to sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes. Once it reaches a velvety consistency, you may pour it over your chocolate miso cake. Cover the entire surface or only a portion depending on your desired effect.
Let the ganache set on the cake’s surface before slicing (using a sharp knife dipped in hot water to prevent any crumbs from sticking to the ganache) and serve