The world is full of chocolate fiends. And it is no wonder – apart from making you happy chocolate is meant to be good for you. YES! It is said that it may assist with memory loss, may lower cholesterol and it might even prevent a stroke. Brilliant! Chocolate is very popular in drinks in Italy. Here in Australia we have “Milo” which is no comparison to Italian Ciobar. Ciobar claims to be “thick and creamy” (denso e cremoso) so you can pretty much eat it with a spoon. I just love it because it reminds me of living in Italy as a teenager. The folk at Ciobar are quite media savvy – they have a Facebook, a Twitter account, Pinterest and Instagram and run competitions (puts Milo to shame really). If you can find some at a local Italian deli or supermarket, I urge you to try it (photo at the end if this post). I doubt its health benefits but it will make you happy when you drink it, so that has to be good!
Apparently the healthiest type of chocolate is one that has a high amount of cocoa solids and less sugar. The cake I made for this post uses chocolate with 70% cocoa, so the healthier kind. I found the recipe in an old Gourmet Traveller magazine, whilst browsing for a recipe that used pistachio nuts and pears. I was imagining a pear tart with a pistachio frangipane but found this recipe instead with lots of dark chocolate in it. I love chopped chocolate pieces in a cake as they go hard after the cake has been cooked and allowed to cool. This cake has everything going for it – pears for moistness, pistachios for their colour and nutty flavour and 70% chocolate for the (ahem) health benefits. The original recipe had a ganache (made with cream and chocolate) on top of the cake but I replaced it with chopped pistachios and dusted cocoa powder. It makes a delicious cake for afternoon tea or for a special after-dinner treat for guests. I wouldn’t suggest pairing it with Ciobar, as delicious as it is!
Dark chocolate, pistachio and pear cake
200 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids),
coarsely chopped 70 g(¾ cup) pistachio kernels, plus extra to serve
150 g unsalted butter, softened
150 g caster sugar
150 g(1 cup) plain flour, sieved
1 tsp baking powder
1 pear, cored, peeled and coarsely chopped
cocoa for dusting
Preheat oven to 160C. Process chocolate and pistachios in a food processor until coarse crumbs form, set aside. Beat butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well combined, then stir in flour and baking powder. Stir through pistachio and chocolate mixture, then pear, pour into a 22cm-diameter springform cake tin greased and lined with baking paper. Bake until an inserted skewer withdraws clean (45-50 minutes), cool in tin for 10 minutes, turn out and cool to room temperature on a wire rack.
And in case you have not seen Ciobar before, here are a couple of sachets in two different flavours – original chocolate and white chocolate. There are a couple of other flavours as well gianduia (chocolate and hazelnuts) and fondente (rich chocolate). Che bontà! (how delicious!)