Sous vide at home: chocolate masterclass

by Great British Chefs

Indulge your love for chocolate like a Michelin-starred chef by following Russell Brown’s simple suggestions on cooking the beloved ingredient using sous vide.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

Great British Chefs is a team of passionate food lovers dedicated to bringing you the latest food stories, news and reviews.

If you’re the proud owner of a sous vide machine, you’ve no doubt cooked steaks to perfection, experimented with eggs and maybe even infused your own bespoke spirits for cocktails. But it can also be an incredibly useful bit of kit when preparing desserts – especially if you love working with chocolate.

Chef-consultant Russell Brown knows all too well how much sous vide can help achieve excellent results in the kitchen at home. He’s also a big fan of all things chocolaty, making him the perfect person to demonstrate how the technique can eliminate the risks and worries of cooking chocolate in both sweet and savoury recipes.

Chocolate and chilli is a flavour combination that’s only been commonplace in the UK for the past five years or so, but it is a traditional and much-loved pairing in Mexican cuisine. Russell begins by making unctuous, slow-cooked venison in a chilli-chocolate sauce to use in his simple yet incredibly tasty tacos. Toasting and then rehydrating ancho chillies in boiling water brings out their mild, smoky flavour, which he uses to flavour his sauce made from softened shallots, garlic, thyme, Dijon mustard, tomato puree, wine and stock. Once it’s reduced down he whisks a small amount of chocolate into the mixture until just melted – this doesn’t mean the sauce will taste of chocolate necessarily, but it will add a delicious depth of flavour that helps the other ingredients shine. Once browned chunks of diced venison are added, everything is chilled and placed in a bag which is then vacuum sealed and cooked in a 75°C water bath for twelve hours.

By this point the venison has broken down into soft, meltingly tender pieces and all the flavours from the sauce have melded together. This would be nice enough on its own, but Russell uses it to fill a corn taco alongside lettuce, crème fraiche, cheddar, coriander and jalapenos for a very haute Mexican dish that’s bound to impress.

Next up is a caramelised white chocolate mousse; a dish that’s quite difficult to create without a sous vide. By cooking the chocolate under vacuum in a 90°C water bath for six hours, the sugars gently begin to caramelise, turning the chocolate golden brown and creating a fudgy texture and flavour. This is then blended with gelatine and milk before being chilled and lightened with some whipped double cream. Once left to set overnight, it’s ready to eat. Russell suggests serving the mousse with caramelised apple slices and a streusel crumb for texture, but you can use fruit, biscuit or anything else that takes your fancy.

Russell’s final recipe is for a fool-proof chocolate ganache, which can be used to make truffles, decorate plates or simply served on its own. It’s as simple as placing all the ingredients in a bag, sealing and then cooking in a water bath at 58°C for four hours. As well as chocolate and double cream, Russell includes orange zest and juice, cinnamon and honey, but all sorts of other ingredients can be used to flavour the ganache.

Once cooked, the mixture is strained through a fine sieve into a bowl. To cool the ganache down quickly, Russell places the bowl in a tin full of cold water and whisks it until it reaches around 28°C – this makes it malleable enough to pipe yet hold its shape. If you want to make truffles for petit fours or as a gift for someone, pipe the chocolate into little blobs, allow to cool overnight then cover in tempered chocolate and cocoa powder for an attractive finish.

The beauty of cooking chocolate using sous vide is that so many different flavours and textures can be achieved without any risk of burning – something that happens all too often with traditional cooking methods. Sous vide also allows plenty of time for the flavours of other ingredients to infuse into the chocolate, paving the way to pâtisserie, desserts and even interesting savoury dishes with precise, professional results every time. Give it a go at home and see just how easy it can be.