There are only a handful of sweet treats that are unanimous favourites in our house. Of course, there’s my recreation of the legend that is Ben’s Cookies (although there is considerable discussion around which is the supreme flavour – the correct answer is Dark Chocolate and Ginger, in case you were in any doubt). Then there is Chocolate and Banana Bread, the classic loaf cake which gets better as it ages (although it rarely gets the opportunity). Chocolate Cupcakes always go down well, especially with a swirl of frosting and some stylish sprinkles (the aesthetics of which matter more to some than others) and let’s not forget Best Ever Chocolate Brownies – we gave them that name for a reason.
But to be honest, I think that this Chocolate Tiffin just edges ahead in the competition for our family’s all-time favourite ‘I’d move heaven and earth to eat it’ status. I’m not certain, but I think I’ve been making this tiffin for the best part of 20 years and it never fails to delight. I got the recipe from an old friend, whose idea was to replace the traditional digestive biscuits with ginger nuts. For me, it’s a gamechanger.
In the run-up to Christmas, I have started asking the family for festive food requests and this one is always there, right up alongside Mince Pies and Gingerbread Christmas Trees (adorned with Smarties of course). But don’t imagine this is just a festive speciality, Chocolate Tiffin is definitely for every month of the year and it is so easy and well behaved that it’s absolutely one of my regular ‘go-to’ recipes.
How do you make Chocolate Tiffin?
- Line your tin with baking parchment – don’t be tempted to skip this step.
- Crush the biscuits – you can take out your frustrations on a bag of ginger nuts by bashing them to smithereens with a rolling pin and that's the hard bit done.
- Melt the gooey chocolatey stuff in a pan.
- Mix the crushed biscuits into the pan of melted gooey chocolatey stuff - and you'll be left with a very sticky mixture to spread out. It will stick to a spoon; it will stick to your hands but ...TOP TIP ALERT ...it will NOT stick to an orange. Bingo ... and thank you to Hella for being such an able and glamorous hand model. When you're done, use a tiny amount of washing up liquid to wash the greasiness off the orange skin and then sneak it back into the fruit bowl. Job done.
- Melt the chocolate.
- Cover the tiffin with the melted chocolate.
- Chill in the fridge until solid – allow at least 3 hours.
- Cut into portions – and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Which chocolate should you use?
I always gravitate towards Lindt chocolate because I like the flavour and it’s widely available in Dubai. Choose something that you enjoy (I’d advise 70% cocoa solids) and don’t compromise on quality too much – in many ways the crisp chocolate topping layer is the star of the show.
Which dried fruits work well?
This is a great recipe for using up leftovers of random packets of dried fruits. Cranberries and dried cherries are particular favourites of mine, but I also like raisins, apricots (cut into smaller pieces) and crystallized ginger. Leftover glacé cherries from Christmas add a great pop of colour.
So, what is so great about this Chocolate Tiffin?
For me, the difference between a 'fine' tiffin and a gorgeous tiffin is the quality of the chocolate. I think it has to be dark and 70% cocoa solids. Just say NO to cooking chocolate - yes, it's cheaper but you absolutely get what you pay for. Also, if you are normally a milk chocolate fan, please don’t be thrown by the dark chocolate recommendation; the biscuit layer with its golden syrup stickiness is sweet and the chocolate layer needs to balance that. And then there are the ginger nuts – that little kick of ginger, just slightly stands out and it is delicious.
What have I learned from over two decades of making this recipe?
- Smash the biscuits into small pieces rather than rubble. Some discernible pieces are preferable but not so big that the tiffin struggles to stick together. Use a chopping board to protect your worktop or table from your aggression.
- When you think the biscuits are crushed enough, turn over the bag - there will always be some stray big pieces on the other side.
- Choose a pan large enough to accommodate the crushed biscuits when you're melting the chocolate mixture.
- If you are looking for a more professional finish (ie a smooth, flat top), you can finish the spreading out of the biscuit layer, by cutting a piece of baking parchment that covers the surface and using a glass with a straight, vertical side to roll over and flatten out the surface.
- There’s no need to let the biscuit base chill before you pour on the melted chocolate.
- When it comes to cutting up the Chocolate Tiffin, you have choices. Firstly, to get clean cuts through the chocolate topping, you can either leave the tray out of the fridge for a few minutes so it’s ever so slightly warmed or, alternatively you can dip your knife in boiling water and then dry it off before each cut. Of course, if you are relaxed about the chocolate cracking when you cut it, just pile straight in without a worry.
- There’s also the question of portion size. I rather like little pieces - kind of canapé sized - but man-sized portions also work. If I'm giving these as a gift, I might trim the rough edges off - these are the cook's treat - but otherwise rustic edges are good.
- This is definitely best served straight from the fridge.
Why am I certain that this will become one of your favourite sweet treats?
- It’s quick and easy and there’s no need to even turn the oven on.
- Cut into small cubes, it is delicious as part of a dessert platter.
- Perfect with a coffee; delicious with a glass of milk ... or a glass of wine.
- It makes a lovely gift, wrapped in cellophane or packaged in a pretty box.
- It keeps for weeks in the fridge (in an airtight container), but it’s so susceptible to fridge raids that I wouldn’t rely on it having a long life.
- It’s a great recipe to make with young children.
- It tastes absolutely gorgeous. Really it does.
I challenge you to try this recipe and not to fall in love. Go on, you know you want to ….Print