I still have Sweden on the mind! I was thinking the other day of Delicato balls, those rather moreish oaty chocolate balls rolled in dessicated coconut that one can purchase in Ikea (are they still available there?). Turns out they’re very easy to make and go by the name of chokladbollar; if you read about them on Wikipedia, you’ll see that they used to go by a more politically-incorrect moniker. The current word though feels right on the tongue – chok-lad-bol-lar. (I bet I’m saying it incorrectly.)

They’re quite popular in Sweden and especially at children’s parties though I see no reason why adults wouldn’t like them. In addition to the chocolatey sweetness, oatmeal gives these balls a pleasant chew and it’s hard to stop at just one. They’re perfect too with a cup of hot coffee or tea and there’s certainly nothing kiddy about that.

Chokladbollar

Chokladbollar
adapted from this recipe.
makes 15-20.

100g unsalted butter, softened
100g sugar
2 tbsps cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsps cold strong coffee
just a little under 1.5 cups of rolled oats
unsweetened, dessicated coconut

In a food processor or mini chopper (that’s what I have), pulse the rolled oats a few times until you end up with a coarse grind but not so fine that you have powder.

Mix together the butter and sugar until well combined. Add the cocoa powder, vanilla and coffee and again mix to incorporate. Add the ground oats and mix thoroughly. Take lumps of the mixture and form into 1 inch diameter balls. Roll in the coconut to coat and place them in a covered container. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Another quick granja post while I boo hoo hoo about the weather in London – these grey skies are really starting to get me down. The day of blue skies cheered me up yesterday but there’s nothing like a grey Monday morning to get one down. Ah well, I will think of xocolata to cheer me up.

The very simply named La Granja hadn’t been on our radar at all but I passed it one evening and saw from the Time Out cuttings in the window that it was quite highly rated. And then Blai’s mother brought him one afternoon to that granja and the next thing we knew, my brother and I were brought there too, before a tapas dinner. The granja is quite small but is less known that those on c/Petritxol and so the queues are quite short and manageable. We were seated right at the back, right by their exposed Roman wall, which was quite the highlight of the visit for me. You can just see it in the background of the first photo in this post.

Our Order

I think my brother isn’t as much into hot chocolate as we are and so opted for a cafe amb llet (coffee with milk/cafe con leche). He liked it.

Cafe amb Llet

We with the sweet teeth order Suïssos again, of course. Mini Suïssos, as we had a dinner ahead of us. And no pastries to fill us up either; La Granja does not sell xurros and only has the very Catalan melindros. I think other pastries were also available such as croissants and ensaimadas and there was a list of savoury sandwiches on their menu too. They’ve even got quite the extensive drinks list, from flavoured hot chocolates to cold milkshakes.

A Mini Suis

Look at that mountain of freshly whipped cream!

But how was the xocolata? Well, it was thinner than I’ve ever had before but that didn’t mean it was bad. It was very deeply cocoa-y and by default there was a sprinkling of cinnamon on top of the cream. It was good; I can’t say it was my favourite xocolata in Barcelona but Blai believes it might be his.

La Granja
C/Banys Nous, 4
Barcelona, Spain

Granja Dulcinea, in the Barri Gòtic, was the very first that Blai ever took me to in Barcelona when I first visited about 8 years ago. The place is adorable with a little upstairs part allowing the cafe to sit more people than you imagine. As it was the first granja I’ve ever visited, I held a bit of a soft spot for it. It had been a while since I’d tasted their hot chocolate and I got the chance to when we revisited this year. Suïssos (xocolata with whipped cream on top) all around, of course!

Suísos

The thick hot chocolate here was slightly sweeter than that at Granja La Pallaresa on the same street (C/Petritxol). I think I still prefer the chocolate at the latter but both places are excellent for drinks. Judging from the crowds at both places, each has an equal number of fans.

Xurros

The xurros could have been a little crisper but otherwise they were good. I’ve not yet encountered a bad xurro!

Chocolate Time

Whatever your hot chocolate preference, Granja Dulcinea is still not a bad place to try some – it’s quite a classic granja and there’s a great buzz inside. Just to warn you though, the queues to get into these milk bars on Petritxol are always quite long around the holiday season.

Granja Dulcinea
c/Petrixol, 2
Barcelona

As my Brussels post was becoming a bit epic, I decided to post the take home goodies separately. A number of well known Belgian food shops are located in and around the Place du Sablon and I decided to hit up the ones that were particular to Brussels. Neuhaus, Godiva and Cote D’Or chocolates can all be purchased in London so those were all missed (I’m not a fan of Godiva myself). That left Wittamer, Pierre Marcolini and Dandoy.

I started at Wittamer and chose 250g of chocolates at about €12.

Wittamer Chocolates

I was quite taken with the fresh cream chocolates – huge, slightly chewy and uh…creamy. That big, tan coloured praline on top was a fresh cream coffee chocolate. However, I was greatly disappointed by a pineapple praline whose description was better than its execution.

After, Pierre Marcolini (why did you close your Kensington shop?!), where I purchased a boxful of his chocolates (34 in a box – one of each available , though the eagle eyed among you will notice two of one kind – hmm)…

Pierre Marcolini Chocolates

… and a length of vanilla marshmallow.

Guimauve Vanille

It’s hard not to compare the products of the two chocolatiers. At €17 for the Pierre Marcolini box (about €70 per kilo), this was more expensive than the Wittamer chocolates. If the little jewel-like chocolates are that pretty girl you have your eye on, the Wittamer chocs are her thug of a brother who won’t let you near her. While delicious, the Wittamer chocs lacked the Marcolini refinement and their flavours were more muted. Of the Marcolini chocolates, the pink peppercorn, safron, the Pierre Marcolini Grand Cru and those with crunchy Quimper wafer were particularly memorable while the mango one was the most disappointing. Notice the trend? Perhaps tropical flavours shouldn’t be attempted. I had to buy the marshmallow after seeing this image on the Marcolini website – it’s so light and fluffy and is probably the best marshmallow I’ve ever had. I’m spoiled for life.

I ended with Dandoy, the Brussels-based biscuiterie. Here I bought 300g (about €11) of a selection of their biscuits, my favourites being Patience (a chewy almond macaroon with a hazelnut on top), Earl Grey (a butter biscuit scented with Earl Grey tea) and Chocolate Perlé (a shortbread with bits of chocolate and hazelnut). They have gorgeous biscuits and an equally gorgeous pain à la grecque (also in my previous post).

Dandoy Biscuits

There are definitely other excellent food shops in Brussels but those were left out due to a lack of time. Good thing there’s a cluster of them in the Place du Sablon!

Pierre Marcolini
Rue des Minimes, 1
Place du Grand Sablon
Brussels, Belgium

Wittamer
12 Place du Grand Sablon
Brussels, Belgium

Dandoy
Rue de Rollebeek, 50
(just off the Place du Grand Sablon)
Brussels, Belgium

A few days after our wedding, I met my good friend Sarah from Vancouver and her husband Kevin for tea. I was told to pick the location and as it usually does, I was all nerves as I wanted to get this choice right! I opted to meet them at Piccadilly Circus with a few ideas on my mind. After learning that Kevin was a bit of a chocoholic, I knew where we’d go – La Maison du Chocolat.

My treats from this most Parisian of chocolate shops have always been takeaway – chocolates, cakes, even their divine hot chocolate. However, I noticed that they’d put in a little cafe corner in the shop a while ago but I’d not had a chance to try it out. All the tables were full when we arrived at a little past 3pm on a Sunday but a couple had just finished and we got a table after a little wait. Throughout our time there though, many other tables freed up and then stayed empty…shame as the little place is great! After choosing from the menu, the waitress came back with three glasses of tap water for us – a nice touch and quite forward looking as we really did need this to wash down all that chocolatey goodness.

It was a hot day and I wanted some ice cream. La Maison has ice creams and sorbets in little tubs but I had my eye on their verrines – layered ice cream desserts in a glass. Of those available, I chose la Verrine Pistache Framboise Chocolat – a layered dessert with a fresh raspberry sorbet, a rich and sticky chocolate ganache, creamy pistachio ice cream and topped with a candied pistachio “gravel”. With a long teaspoon, I was able to dig through all the layers and then … swoon as the combination hit my tongue. (I hope I find some time to go back again this summer while the ice creams are still available.)

Verrine Pistache Framboise Chocolat

I can’t remember what the name of this pastry was (Sarah and Kevin split this) but there was chocolate, passion fruit, banana and coconut all combined inside. We noted that the orange square on top looked disturbingly like a Kraft single – not to worry: it was coloured white chocolate. Actually, a Flickr search brings up a possibility of a name – Ile de Maracuja. It went down very well with the two of them.

Ile de Maracuja

Kevin went all out and had one of their fantastic hot chocolates (made with a fabulously ludicrous chocolate to milk ratio – it’s almost like drinking pure melted chocolate) to drink while we girls stuck with tea. These were not the cheapest teas by any means (I see from my photo that it’s a Dammann Frères tea) but the blow was lessened when each drink (only the teas and coffees) came with one of their lovely chocolates (we had raspberry).

Earl Grey Tea

The total came to £20 for the three of us (I think most of that was my verrine!). Sure it’s not a budget cafe but the pastries here are far better than your average tea shop and I’m happy to splash out a bit for a treat once in a while and especially if you’ve got friends visiting! Thank you for tea that day, Sarah and Kevin, and it was so nice to see you guys again! I miss you both!

La Maison du Chocolat
45-46 Piccadilly
London W1J 0DS