Sweet, dark and dreamy

Try your hand at classic chocolate desserts.

White chocolate panna cotta (photo credit: HAIM YOSSEF AND TOMER SHOCHAT)
White chocolate panna cotta
Chocolate offers the ultimate comfort, something we all need these days. Like wine, olive oil and coffee, chocolate is no longer divided only into milk and bitter. For chefs and chocolatiers the world over, there are many different kinds and grades of chocolate, depending on where the chocolate is grown, how it is roasted and more.
Chef Orel Kimchi is serving a special chocolate menu in his Tel Aviv restaurant Popina. Kimchi is known for his innovative ways of using different ingredients and his innovative combinations. He says that despite what most of us know about chocolate, it was only in the 18th century that chocolate was sweetened, after the Spanish sailors brought it to Europe. But to this day, salt is used to enhance the chocolate flavors.
Kimchi had developed a special chocolate menu together with Weiss, a French artisanal chocolate brand, and this tasting menu, comprised of savory and sweet chocolate dishes will be served at Popina during the month of October.
But since it is comfort we are seeking, we spoke with Popina’s talented pastry chef Ella Geva, who was kind enough to simplify a few of her favorite chocolate desserts for us. Enjoy.
This decadently rich flourless chocolate cake was created in the River Café restaurant in London, and then became a hit all over the world.
For a 26-cm. round pan
✔ 550 gr. dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
✔ 350 gr. butter
✔ 8 eggs
✔ 3⁄4 cup sugar
✔ 1½ cups sugar
✔ 3⁄4 cup water
To serve:
✔ 500 ml. whipping cream
✔ Cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 150°.
Melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler (bain Marie) and remove from heat to cool.
Meanwhile, heat 3⁄4 cup water with 1½ cups sugar until boiling. Remove from heat and add to the melted chocolate in a very thin drizzle while mixing. Let cool.
Beat the eggs using a mixer and gradually add 3/4 cup sugar while mixing. Continue to beat about 5 minutes until eggs thicken and are light in color.
Fold half of the egg mixture into the chocolate until smooth. Add the rest of the eggs. Fold and pour into the baking pan.
Place the baking pan on a baking sheet with water and bake in a 150° oven for 30 minutes. The cake will still be a little wobbly but not runny.
Let the cake cool completely before removing from the baking pan.
Before serving, sprinkle a little cocoa powder and serve with whipped cream.
Makes 6
The lemongrass flavors and rice pop crunch in this dessert add freshness and make it a perfect dessert after a light supper.
✔ 1 cup milk
✔ 375 ml. cream
✔ 400 gr. white chocolate, divided
✔ 3⁄4 sachet gelatin (10 gr.)
✔ ¼ cup cold water
✔ 3⁄4 cup sugar
✔ 4 stalks lemongrass
✔ 1 cup rice pops
To prepare panna cotta:
Dissolve the gelatin in cold water and set aside.
In a pot, place milk, cream, sugar and lemongrass and bring to a boil. Strain and discard the lemongrass. Add 200 gr. white chocolate and the gelatin. Using a hand held blender, grind the mixture until all the chocolate is melted. Strain again to make sure that there are no lumps. Transfer to 6 individual serving dishes.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
To prepare crunch:
Melt the remaining 200 gr. white chocolate in a double boiler and add the rice pops. Mix well, using a rubber spatula.
Transfer to a lined baking sheet or a tray and refrigerate until chocolate is hard.
Break the crunch into small bits.
Serve the panna cotta topped with the crunch with some cut fruit.
Makes 6
If you like the classic combination of hazelnuts and chocolate, you’ll love this mousse.
✔ 300 gr. dark chocolate
✔ 200 gr. hazelnut nougat (available at specialty baking stores)
✔ 8 egg whites
✔ 5 egg yolks
✔ 150 gr. butter
✔ 100 gr. sugar
✔ 100 gr. roasted hazelnuts, crushed
Melt chocolate and sugar in a double boiler (bain Marie). Add the nougat and mix well. Remove from heat and add the egg yolks one by one, mixing in between.
Beat the egg whites in a mixer bowl, adding the sugar gradually, until foam is soft but steady.
Fold half of the foam into the chocolate mixture, mix and then add the rest of the foam and fold until smooth.
Transfer to individual serving dishes and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Before serving, sprinkle crushed nuts on top.
Makes 6
This classic dessert is served warm straight from the oven. It is fluffy and light and a little moist in the center.
✔ 200 gr. dark chocolate (70% cocoa)
✔ 6 egg whites
✔ ½ cup sugar
✔ Butter for greasing
✔ Powdered sugar
Grease six oven-proof glasses or individual baking dishes with butter.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler.
Beat egg whites at medium speed and gradually add the sugar. Continue beating until the foam is soft but steady. Fold half of the foam into the melted chocolate.
Mix until smooth and add the rest of the foam.
Divide the mousse among the 6 greased individual baking dishes.
Bake the soufflé minutes before serving.
Heat oven to 210° in a turbo mode and bake the soufflé for 5 minutes.
Sprinkle with a little powdered sugar and serve.
Option: Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Serves 4
✔ 2¼ cups sugar
✔ 6 eggs
✔ 1 cup flour
✔ 4 Tbsp. cocoa powder
✔ Pinch salt
✔ 100 gr. butter
✔ 280 gr. dark chocolate
✔ ¼ cup whisky
Preheat oven to 160°.
In a mixer bowl, beat eggs at medium speed, adding the sugar gradually, until eggs are thickened and fluffy.
Meanwhile, melt chocolate and butter in a double boiler. When melted, remove from heat. Add whisky and mix well.
In a separate bowl, mix all the dry ingredients.
Fold the chocolate mixture into the eggs, and then gradually add the dry ingredients.
Mix until smooth.
Transfer to a lined baking pan and bake 20 minutes in a 160° oven. Check with a wooden toothpick to see if done – the toothpick should have a few crumbs on it. It should be moist but not runny.
Serve with whipped cream with a little whisky. 
Recipes and photos courtesy of Popina and pastry chef Ella Geva.
Popina, 3 Ahad Ha’am St., Tel Aviv. (03) 575- 7477. Open daily from 6:30 p.m. Not kosher.