Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bread with Chocolate and Olive Oil

Long ago, I was part of the varsity tennis team in high school, which granted us privilege to skip school, visit other countries (the most exotic was the Phillippines), and spend a week playing tennis games. Being part of any varsity sport was exciting and special, it was like being given liquid gold.

The team had five girls and every year, we got along splendidly. During the day, we eyed handsome boys from other schools and we cursed under our breaths at the opposing players. At night, we were paired with a fellow team member and stayed with “host families” who became our temporarily care takers.

I was barely a foodie back then, my knowledge of cooking consisted of instant noodles (oh, the shame) and scrambled eggs, I ate whatever my mom planned or whatever tasted familiar. My favorite breakfast was peanut butter on toast with sliced bananas. The Japanese family I was stayed with have never seen this combination of ingredients, but they were kind and smiled politely, ensuring that I was well fed.

When I returned to the guest bedroom to prepare my bag for the day, I found my roommate dressed in our red and blue tennis uniform, sitting on the edge of her bed eating. She unfurled squares of chocolate and wrapped them with white bread, munching quietly with the blinds still closed. They weren't just any chocolate, but the Côte d'Or Mignonnettes, glossy tablets with an elephant mold in the centre.

I was assigned to stay with her again for another tournament, this time we were in Beijing and the host family was German (the father moved to China for work and brought along his wife and children). Our breakfast spread could rival the royal family. Jams, butter, cream cheese, three types of bread, yogurt, milk, juices, a generous selection of tea crowded the table, and then there was the box of chocolate sprinkles. After spreading her toast with butter, my roommate held the white box high above her plate and designed an even layer of decorative chocolate on her bread. Did I mention she was European?

It shocked me that chocolate and bread could constitute a healthy breakfast, let alone a meal that was supposed to provide energy for hour-long matches. Still, she gracefully won her games, helping us win the trophy that year, her breakfast didn't have anything to do with her tennis skills, she was just a great player.

Chocolate and bread have long been recognized as a couple, from nutella to pain au chocolat, it's ubiquitous in Europe and I think it's just starting to gain more popularity on this side of the Atlantic. I think we should start a trend.

This recipe is from Matt Bittman, adapted from Ferrian Adria of El Bulli who serves this as dessert to his staff as part of the staff meals. It's as easy as pie: grate dark chocolate on warm bread, drizzle with olive oil and add a dash of sea salt. What you get is a spruced up version of nutella on bread. The chocolate melts into the little pores of the bread, the oil brings out the flavor of the roasted cocoa beans and then you catch a faint breeze of its floral notes and finally, the salt gives it that final touch, binding salty and sweet. I made this twice this weekend, I'm thinking of making it tomorrow, and again and again.

I can't guarantee this will win you any awards, but if you make this for your special someone, it might just score you something big.

If you're still hungry, you can read my featured blog entry for My Food Geek about some very sweet scones.

Bread with Chocolate and Olive Oil
From Matt Bittman of the New York Times

I used Valhrona Grand Cru Guanaja 70% with Cocoa Nibs, which is my last souvenir bar (sniffle) from Paris and it worked great. Any dark chocolate with at least 60% cocoa will do.

Makes 6 servings (or 3 if you're hungry)

6 thick slices country-style bread (about 10 ounces total)
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely grated. (A Microplane is not essential, but it helps.)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt.

1. Heat the oven to 325°F. Put the bread on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes total. Spoon the chocolate over the toast in a thin, even layer. Drizzle the toast with the oil and sprinkle with the salt. Serve.
Recipe here!

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