Guilty pleasure? Should I? Oh, if you insist… Stop pussyfooting around, says Bill Granger, and make these chocolate snacks a treat in their own right...
One thing I've learnt about chocolate over the years is that there's no point tip-toeing around, looking for a "guilt-free" approach. You've got to own your decision to indulge and just dive in. There is a place for good-quality milk chocolate bars, but when it comes to cooking, I always use plain. It's that intense bitterness that draws me in every time.
I live with four chocoholics and have ended up with quite a repertoire of recipes to keep them in their habit. Mostly I'll make these as an afternoon treat in their own right. These are serious snacks – too much to serve as a dessert after a meal. Well, not too often anyway…
Bill's restaurant, Granger & Co, is at 175 Westbourne Grove, London W11, tel: 020 7229 9111, grangerandco.com
Chocolate and peanut-butter tart
I've always been more of a Snickers man than a Mars bar man and although it's been years since I've had a bar, I'll often revisit the beautiful combination that is chocolate and salted peanuts.
For the shortbread pastry case
110g/3½oz butter, cubed
50g/2oz caster sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
150g/5oz plain flour
For the filling
125g/4oz unsalted butter
125g/4oz plain chocolate
125g/4oz caster sugar
4 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
Handful of salted peanuts
Vanilla ice-cream or crème fraîche to serve
Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas3. For the shortbread, place the butter, sugar, cocoa and flour in a large bowl and rub together with the tips of your fingers, until the mixture starts to look like moist, rough breadcrumbs. Press the mixture firmly into the base and sides of a 35cm x 12cm loose-bottomed tart tin and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. Bake for 20 minutes then set aside.
For the filling, melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl, over a pan of gently simmering water. Set aside to cool completely. Beat the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk, until pale and creamy. Using a large metal spoon, fold the chocolate mixture then the flour into the whisked eggs. Spoon into the pastry case, evening out the surface. Top with dollops of peanut butter and swirl through. Scatter with peanuts and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
Allow the tart to cool slightly then serve warm with vanilla ice-cream or crème fraîche.
Cinnamon bread sticks with chocolate sauce
I'm a great fan of churros: deep-fried dough and chocolate sauce – what's not to like? I'm not too keen on deep-frying, though, so this is somewhere between churros and a pain au chocolat. The smooth and glossy sauce is also perfect in a sundae or simply spread on toast.
300g/10oz strong white bread flour, plus extra for kneading
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp light-flavoured oil, plus extra for greasing
3 tbsp demerara sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
For the chocolate sauce
150g/5oz plain chocolate, broken into small pieces
4 tbsp double cream
1 tbsp golden syrup
Put the flour, yeast, sugar and salt into a bowl, stir to combine. Make a well in the centre then pour in 200ml/7fl oz of tepid water and stir to form a soft dough. Tip out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a cloth and set aside for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6 and lightly grease an oven tray. Combine the demerara sugar and cinnamon. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and stretch it out to about 20cm x 20cm. Brush it with oil then scatter with half the sugar-and-cinnamon mix, pushing the mixture down lightly, then place the dough sugared-side down on the prepared oven tray. Brush with oil and top with the remaining sugar-and-cinnamon mix and cut into 12 lengths. Separate the sticks slightly and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until cooked through and crisp. Transfer to a wire rack.
For the chocolate sauce, put all the ingredients in a small pan over a very low heat. Stir occasionally, until the chocolate has melted. Stir in a pinch of salt. Serve the warm bread sticks with the chocolate sauce on the side.
Banana, chocolate and coconut muffins
Here's another childhood combination that has endured the test of time. The sweetness of the banana in these light muffins really balances out the bitterness of the dark chocolate.
250g/8oz plain flour
125g/4oz caster sugar
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp light-flavoured oil
200ml/7fl oz buttermilk
1 ripe banana, sliced
100g/3½oz plain chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp desiccated coconut, plus extra for sprinkling
Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases or squares of baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas4. Sieve the flour, sugar and baking powder into a large bowl.
Lightly whisk the eggs, oil and buttermilk together and roughly fold this mixture into the dry ingredients. Stop folding once you have a lumpy dough, with pockets of flour. Fold in the banana, chocolate and coconut.
Spoon into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean when poked into the middle. Cool on a wire rack.