Monthly Archives: August 2012

Guest Post – Striped Cake

Another guest post.  I was going to save this one for when we were away (not long now, cannot wait, am frothing with anticipation for Italy is the land of wine, bread and cheese, the holy trinity of happiness) but I’ve got a couple stored up now and maybe one other guest post (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) so figure would give this one an airing.

It’s by J who I actually do know in real life, and who is so smart that sometimes* I don’t understand what she says.

*most of the time.

The cake is very pretty and you should make it.

J wrote this/baked this a week or so ago when things were hot in London.  Obviously now they’re cold and rainy again.

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So here in London town over the last weekend, we had what you’d probably cheerfully describe as a scorcher, if you don’t count the mysterious 20 minutes where the atmosphere completely lost its shit over the collective sound of 8 million people creaking open the barbecue lid and asking each other what they’d done with the bloody firelighters you lit it last time where are they what the hell did you put them in that cupboard for you imbecile, and decided to chuck Lake Tahoe through a sieve over most of the city.
In other words, it was beautifully sunny apart from a thunderstorm. I assume. I don’t actually know. My reaction to hot weather follows a well-worn pattern – staple-gun the curtains closed, switch the TV on, start up a constant low-level whinging about how hot it is and exactly how I feel about that, and irrationally bake the first thing I see.
I’m Jules and I would happily destroy the sun.
But enough of my Bond villain fantasies – luckily the first thing I saw on TV was a rather tasty cake, and B, being the generous and amazing soul she is, has allowed me to share my average baking experience with you guys. Also, she’s not allowed to eat cake right now. I wish I had her willpower, and her beautiful doe-eyed whippet. Alas I have cankles and a psychotic cat.
But I do have cake, baked by one of those pretty lady sorts you see having lifestyles on TV cookery programmes, who was wrong about many, many things. Here she is being wrong about how posh tea should be allowed to be, which is not so posh it’s served to you by a woman in a three-piece suit.
She called the cake Crouching Tiger Hidden Giraffe cake, which is also wrong, on grounds of extreme tweeness being the cause of all that is foul and awry in this goddamn country. I have called it Striped Cake. It’s utilitarian, like IKEA, where it would be called STRUPTALAGCUKKEN. And you will need this. The scratchcards are non-essential but might make me rich. Italy is hiding the squalor of my kitchen. I apologise for both.
475g self-raising flour, but not all at the same time
25g cocoa
250ml vegetable oil
250g caster sugar
100ml milk
4 medium eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder TWICE
zest of half an orange (if you want)
vanilla extract
Oven on: 180 degrees in new money.
So, to make a Striped Cake, you will need two contrasting cake batters, or the stripes will be invisible and no-one will know of your striping genius. TV Lady suggests you make a load of base mix and then split it in two before you add your final flours. This is wrong, unless you have her unending supply of identical TV crockery or a Robocop-style HUD that can accurately analyse cake mix volumes by sight. I have neither of these things. I have a one bowl and a load of unused shoes. So in your bowl and one of your shoes, mix together two batches of base cake-slop out of 125ml veg oil, 125g sugar, 50ml milk, 2 eggs and 87.5g of flour. I will let you round that last number up a bit, as you’re such good boys and girls. No need to sieve or cream – just whip the living heck of out it all till you’ve got something the consistency of pathetic, wan, watery custard with no lumps and no hope.
Here is the TV Lady splitting her mixture into her identical crockery, wrongly. You won’t need to cos you made it in two separate batches in the first place.
Now, this cake is all ebony and ivory live together in perfect harmony, so you want to make one mix chocolatey yum and one vanilla-y nom. So to one batch, add 175g flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and some vanilla extract – like, a shake and a bit? Whatever – and to the other batch, add 25g cocoa and 125g flour, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and the orange zest if you can be arsed. I did and I couldn’t taste it, but I haven’t got a good zester, so basically just had to try and verbally persuade the orange skin to jump into the mix of its own accord. YMMV. Blend your flours into your batters seperately, one with each hand at the same time, like you’re Johnny Five. Or maybe Tom Cruise in Cocktail.
So now you’ve got two contrasting mixes. Happy days. Here comes the boring bit. TV Lady would have you get the mix into piping bags and assemble the cake that way:
This is wrong, unless you like spreading batter all over your hands, arms, the kitchen counter and any pets that get in the way, and ending up crying with two half-empty bags sagging like terrible botched implants in your impotent fists. I hate piping bags with a furious passion. Use spoons. Spoons are easy.
Grab yourself a cake tin, 20 inches. Line with greaseproof paper and butter. Then spoon into the centre of the tin some vanilla mix, about the size of an Olympic gold medal. Then into the centre of that medal splodge, spoon in about the same amount of chocolate mix. This will make the vanilla mix expand like a flower to accept the pressing chocolate goodness. Ahem. Like this:
Now do this again and again, 100,000 times. Lose the will to live. Eat half the cake batter raw. Feel like an epic hyper-evolved being on the subsequent sugar rush. Try not to barf. (Don’t do this step if you’re bun-ovening. Mazel tov!)
You will end up with this – which is actually my cake!
Shove in oven for 35 mins. Remove. Cool. Cut into. Admire the beautiful stripes. Consume in a frenzy while watching Breaking Bad, because it’s AMAZING. That’s it!

Broad Bean & Ricotta Bruschetta

Hi again.

I’ve been (fairly) accused of not posting much veggie stuff.  All the baking stuff is veggie of course…..hmmm so basically I post veggie stuff HEAPS.  Anyway if you’re vegan this won’t be much good for you as it includes ricotta but if you’re just a nice, normal veggie or indeed a massive, raging meat-lover, then these little bites will make your face happy and your intestines efficient.

Broad beans are the enemy for most of us, or at least as children.  Actually I must say I was never asked to eat them as children as we rarely had to eat anything my mum didn’t like (she mostly likes chocolate, nectarines, lemons, and toasted ham and cheese, which I also mostly like) and she definitely doesn’t like these.  I’d always heard of them as horrid things and had never tried them till recently.  You MUST pod them and you MUST put up with the feral reek whilst they boil for the requisite period of time, but you’ll be rewarded with a meagre serve of quite delicious greenness.

I stole this idea from Ottolenghi after a visit to his Nopi restaurant about a year ago.  I am probably making it so wrong but even my version is delish.

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Get yourself some broad beans, a pot of ricotta, some ciabatta, seasoning, lemon and  some fresh mint.

Oh, and olive oil.  Nice stuff.  If you get nasty olive oil SHAME ON YOU.

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There’s a trick to podding broad beans.  It’s not very complex.  I have marvellously dextrous fingers (comes from years of plaiting horse-manes) but even you with your big fish-finger sized lumpy fingers will be able to do this.  Snap off the top and pull the long stringy bit down and away.  Then just put some pressure on the sides of the long bean and run your thumb down.

It’ll open up like the greased thighs of of a suckling pig.

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You’ll see here the contents of podded beans from one whole packet.  Not much, eh.

I podded two packets.

Rinse in the colander, under some nice cold water and throw into salted, boiling water for about 8 mins for beans of this size, or 5 mins or so for smaller ones.

Drain and rinse again under some cold water to stop them cooking.

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They’ll look like the leathery testicles of an ancient donkey.  Fear not.

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With a fingernail, or a small paring knife if you’ve bitten your nails to stubs, nick a hole in the leathery testicular-ish skin.  Then put a little pressure on the bean and out will pop, from the death-grey pod, some green beans, looking all young and fresh.

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Juxtaposition, innit.

Throw them in a bowl.  Keep going.  It’ll take a little while so don’t hurry it and ponder something deep.  I believe I did a bit of thinking about maths homework.  I came to the conclusion that I still hadn’t finished it.

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Now season the beans to taste, add a good dollop of olive oil and a handful of finely chopped mint.  Also squeeze in some lemon juice to taste.  Mix through.

Slice your ciabatta and toast properly on one side, under the grill, and then toast the other side till it just starts to get crispy but no more.  Rub some cut garlic over the less-toasted side and drizzle over some olive oil.  Spoon on the ricotta (a good teaspoon per slice) and pile on the beans.

Eat.  Feel well sophisticated.  Use a piece of kitchen towel as a napkin.  Fall back down to earth.

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Guest Post – Banana Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

Hi there.

You are being guest posted.

I asked E, who is another person I don’t actually know in real life but whom I seem to quite like on Twitter because she’s sweary and makes inappropiate comments about parenting.  She cooks a bit, and she mentioned she was making these things, and I thought YUM (because I was hungry and cake-deprived) but also YAY (because I don’t have to put you lot through yet another diet-dull post).

Here you go, then.  Banana cupcakes and peanut butter frosting.  How could you not?

PS: If some of the below photos aren’t turned around the right way it’s totally not my fault.

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Full disclosure: I do not like cupcakes. They’re so PRETTY, with their fancy-pants frostings and decorations and bright colours, but I have yet to meet a cupcake that delivers on its visual promise. Dry, indifferent sponge, frosting so sweet that it feels like my teeth are wearing itty bitty woolly jumpers. No thank you, sir.

I do, however, like bananas. And peanut butter. And banana bread. And peanut butter and banana milkshakes. And Elvis. I really like Elvis. So when I staggered across this recipe on my interweb travels I felt compelled* to make them.

*I really needed a sugar hit.

These do not have that airy, light (and dry, amirite?) cupcake consistency. They’re moist, and dense, and delicious. Ok, I guess – since we’re being honest here – they’re ACTUALLY banana bread in cupcake casings. With frosting on top. But, providing you like both bananas and peanut butter, they are bloody amazing and I love them long time.

I’ve adapted this recipe from one I found on Epicurious. Epicurious is an American site and thus all the measurements are in bloody cups and sticks (I mean, a STICK of butter? Whatefa, my American friends?) which I converted using my American cup measure and a digital scale. I’ll leave the original American measurements in though, in case you’d rather follow those.

For 12 cupcakes you will need:

170g (1 ¼ cups) flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

¼ teaspoon salt

2-3 very ripe bananas, peeled.

100g (½ cup) sour cream or Greek yoghurt (I used low fat because I like to delude myself)

1 ½ teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

150g (3/4 cup) sugar

110 g (1 stick) butter at room temperature

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

Frosting:

100g icing sugar

½ pack cream cheese (again, low fat because wheeee, delusions!)

50g unsalted butter at room temperature

Smooth peanut butter – now, the original recipe calls for ½ cup peanut butter. Personally I found that this was not peanutty enough for me, so I kept adding it tablespoon by tablespoon until I had the flavour I wanted (i.e. it tasted VERY much like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup) which took about half a 340g jar of Sun Pat. Add it to taste, is what I’m trying to say.

You will also need cupcake cases and preferably a cupcake or muffin pan.

Do like so:

Preheat oven to 170c. Line your cupcake/muffin pan with cupcake cases.

Mix together flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a medium bowl. Mash bananas in another bowl. I like to leave them a little lumpy, but mash yours as smooth as you like. Mix the sour cream/Greek yoghurt and vanilla essence into the bananas.

In a third, larger bowl, beat sugar and butter until all light and fluffy. I recommend an electric mixer for this, because doing it by hand feels far too much like exercise. Add egg and egg yolk until well blended. Then add your flour mixture in three additions alternating with banana mixture in two additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture and beating until just blended after each addition. Do not over blend.

I do not know what would happen if you don’t follow these instructions to the goddamn LETTER. Probably your kitchen would explode. And something about the Four Horsemen.

Divide batter between the cupcake cases. Be quite generous – it won’t rise that much.

Resist the temptation to eat all the batter straight out of the bowl because this is OMG THE BEST BATTER EVER. I had to chase my toddler away using a big stick. Seriously, it’ll be like a demented piranha frenzy in your kitchen when it comes to licking the bowl/whisks.

Bake cupcakes for about 20 minutes, until they pass the toothpick/skewer test. Now, your cupcakes might fall a little after having been removed from the oven but *Kenneth Branagh face* BE NOT AFEARD, this is perfectly normal and as it should be. Honest. Yup.

Put cupcakes on a rack and let cool completely.

Whilst the cupcakes are doing their baking and cooling thing whizz together the frosting. Sift the icing sugar into a big bowl, add the cream cheese, butter and peanut butter (peanut butter to taste as per above) and beat until smooth. It’ll look a bit blah, but it will taste like dreams and rainbows.

Spread the frosting onto the completely cooled cupcakes, as seen below.

I can’t frost cupcakes, by the way. I contemplated watching a YouTube tutorial in honour of this guest post and all but in the end I couldn’t be arsed. Fuck it. Rustic presentation is all the rage.

Eat your cupcakes. They might not look as airy-fairy as your normal cupcakes, but they are DELICIOUS. And probably very bad for you. But let’s not think about that right now.

Falling Beautifully Off The Wagon

Hullo.

Continuing the fascinating peek into the world of my ‘I’m on yet another diet’ eating habits, what follows is a series of pictures leading up to a big fail.  Saturday.  Big fail.

Best day in ages, it was.

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Before then, however, earlier in the week I had what was romantically called a ‘granola parfait’ but really was a bit of muesli and yoghurt muddled together in a parfait glass.  I paid about £5 for it, if I recall rightly.  Must’ve been aces.*

*wasn’t.

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Then on Friday night me and the boyfriend had sushi which was a relaxing of The Rules through addition of rice (soft, delicious rice) and soy sauce (sexy salt bloat).  It was great.  I was briefly in a good mood after eating this.  Didn’t last.

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A rather large lunch, over the weekend.  This was post-wagon falling so I was probably not yet fully into self-recrimination and flagellation.  Today, Monday, I’m all over that punishment shit.

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The reason for the whole falling off the wagon thing was due to a trip we took on the lovely hot Saturday, to the coast, to visit some family at their new (and very enviable) beach house.  They served up carbs in delicious forms, including WINE and POTATO and BREADSTICKS and I partook, joyously.  It was a slope as slippery as the beachy seaweed.  I got pissed on 2 glasses of wine, so I had of course a total of at least 4.

The sea was actually a bit blue, which for British sea is a bit weird.

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Now the worst bit.  Wasn’t enough that I had sinned so awfully at lunch (more to come on that shortly) but that we got home and ordered dirty pizza and cracked another bottle of wine.  I ate all the pizza you can see, but somewhere in my warped brain the fact I didn’t eat the crusts put me in calorie-credit.

I am an idiot.

And below you see before you the glory that is a slice of Vienetta, which we were gifted with dessert back at the beachouse.

I love Vienetta. Who knew it wasn’t classy?  Not me.

Anyway today it’s back to rabbit food and exercise.  I’m miserable again but that brief experience of life as a normal was wonderful.

Skinny jeans still don’t fit.

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Suffering & Woe

Evening.

I’m afraid I’ve not made anything remotely delicious or bad for you for days.  Weeks, actually, now.  Nor have I eaten anything really delicious or bad for you.  You’d be right to assume I’m a cranky old cow with a desperate need for about a litre of cold white wine and approximately 2-3 large loaves of bread.

In lieu of having anything interesting to show you on the kitchen/baking front I’ve been reduced to taking photos of the food I’ve been eating.  I know it’s really quite ungrateful to moan about having to diet, on the basis that I only need to diet because I’ve been greedy and have access to a surfeit of food in a world where that isn’t the case for everyone.  I’m still moaning though, so add ungrateful to the aforementioned cranky.

Right – ahoy with the salad.

Below is a version of the super-salad I previously blogged.  I ate these for about 5 days running, then stopped and haven’t been able to face them since. The one you see here before you today is riddled with wild pink salmon.  Riddled.

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For our next example, as seen below, I tried to trick myself into thinking that a mixture of finely sliced salami, veg and some feta wasn’t a salad by (i) including salami, (ii) eating it from a bowl, and (iii) eating it with a spoon.

It didn’t work.  I can be incredibly thick sometimes.

*shoots a warning look at the boyfriend who might be tempted to say something very unwise upon reading that last sentence*

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And lo, before you is my nemesis, the stationary bike.  I’ve been going to the gym every day and this is MY BIKE.  I went night before last (as yesterday was a swimming day, I like variety) and some sweaty bugger was on it.  I was irate.  Didn’t do anything, obviously.

Anyway I am in a seemingly perpetual war with this thing to get to 5km in 10 mins.  I’m so close, it’s like a big slice of bread and Vegemite (or Promite, I do love Promite) I just can’t reach.

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Yesterday I was Out in the Wide World at lunch time and so had this.  It’s Vietnamese summer rolls (that stuff it’s rolled in probably = carbs. Shit) and some stir-fried morning glory which is on my top 5 list of things I love most in the world.  Of course the soy sauce the morning glory is drenched in results in amazing amounts of salt-bloat but for about 30 mins I was not only convinced I felt full, I believe I actually was full.

Those were good minutes.

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Then yesterday I cracked and roasted a chicken.  I bought a nice free-range organic chicken, shoved some lemon, garlic and a massive amount of tarragon up its handily located orifice and roasted it.  Then I ate a lot of it without any accompaniment.  It was good.  I’m having some more of it tonight.  With zucchini, cause I’m all multi-world when it comes to vegetables and we’re off to Italy in 3 weeks and I’m practicing my accent.  Courgette is just meh.  Zucchini – it has some bite.

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Finally, to top off the crapness, I’ve commissioned some 1:1 maths tutoring before I head, probably unwisely, back into the world of tertiary education to commence an MSc.  I can’t do maths, I’m all dyscalculia’d right up, didn’t do it in high school, didn’t do it at uni.  Don’t do it now if I can help it.  I’m notoriously bad at anything other than the early times-tables.  Below is some maths homework.  I have HOMEWORK.  I, currently, have a list of about 10 maths exercises to complete before the next time my lovely Greek tutor comes again.  I try and try to divert him during our precious hour together, asking inappropriate questions about his partner and discussing holiday destinations but the man is very focused.

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Salad Bloody Diet Bloody Lunch

Hello.
I’ve begun to eat less excessively this week.  All this average baking has made me fatter than a hippo and not nearly as cute.  It’s bloody awful trying to eat well.  I’m not doing anything terribly specific other than generally avoiding carbs (I LOVE CARBS CARBS MAKE ME HAPPY I WOULD MARRY CARBS IF IT WERE LEGAL OR POSSIBLE) and no blowouts unless it’s a pre-arranged thing.  Obviously I organised a few pre-arranged things before beginning this regime.  I’m not stupid.

I’m also hitting the gym every day.  That makes me feel very uncool but listen, if no-one ever got to see me wearing my speedo bathers the world would be a less funny place.  I’m not sure how much fun this blog will be in terms of posts until I start eating like a normal again.

Anyway today it’s salad.  It’s salad every bloody day, and I’m on a constant quest to make them taste of something.  It’s easy to make really delicious salads full of carbs and oil and CARBS and stuff but not all that easy to make something tasty under 250 calories.  Christ, this is inhuman.

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Put about a cup of rocket or lettuce or whatever on a quite big plate.  Arrange the pointless greens so they cover as much of the lunar surface as possible.  This is all about making nothing look like something.

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Chop one tomato into quite small chunks and distribute likewise.

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Chop up some cucumber too.  Maybe 1.5 inches worth.  You don’t want to be generous here, specially not with a vegetable that masquerades as food whilst being made purely of water. Slice up one side of a capsicum.  This picture is blurry because I was obviously shaking with anticipation at eating such a delicious gourmet feast.

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Evidence of dog begging for pickled onions.  Stupid dog.  Everyone knows dogs aren’t allowed to eat onions.

Cut up 3 little onions into bits and chuck on the salad.

Do the same with a gherkin.

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Wow.  It’s all coming together nicely.  Make sure you cover the plate up as far as possible, this needs to look big.

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Delicious delicious cheese.  Above is about 1 serving size of feta (apparently 30g).  Crumble over the salad.  I also sometimes use about 1/3 of a buffalo mozzarella ball, torn up.  I’m very middle class.  I rarely use cheddar.

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There will be bits of feta cheese left on your fingers.  Eat those bits.  If you eat a bit of finger at the same time don’t worry as I don’t think eating your own flesh counts as actual calories.  How can it?

Today I used some cooked chicken breast for the meat part, but am also partial to a small tin of wild red salmon or some parma ham or speck or something.  Sprinkle over your Salad Mountain.

Cracked black pepper goes on next and than about half-teaspoon of olive oil which will, if you’re at all clever, look like a crapload more with some skilled drizzling.

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Eat in front of the Olympics. Drink a big bottle of water along with it.  Tell the dog to stop the shameless begging.

You’ll be hungry again in about 10 mins but that is cause this whole meal is only about 212 calories according to my maths, which is admittedly notoriously bad.

Try on your skinny jeans. They won’t fit.

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The Mythical Chocolate Fondant

So we had some (lovely) friends over for lunch yesterday.  Running late, of course, because I had dragged the boyfriend to the gym beforehand and was having such fun torturing him with all the horrid stuff my trainer makes me do that I lost touch with the time.  Rushed home to whip up this for dessert before undertaking necessary ablutions prior to their arrival.

Chocolate fondant has some weird mythical power over people – they’re either scared to make it or impressed by it.  I am not sure why as to date I’ve never had trouble with it, to the extent that I’m willing to cook it in ShitOven.  It’s basically warm cake batter.  Anyway this recipe is from the BBC good food website and has not yet failed, so give it a go.  You want to allow yourself about 20 mins for prep, then chill it all in the fridge whilst you go clean yourself up, you filthy animals, and then 10-12 mins to cook. EASY.

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You’ll need to pre-heat your oven to about 180-200C/Gas Mark 6.

You’ll want:
50g butter, melted

some cocoa powder

200g of really nice dark chocolate, bashed angrily into small pieces

200g butter, sliced up a bit

200g caster sugar (I think the BBC site says golden caster sugar but I usually don’t bother)

4 eggs PLUS 4 more egg yolks

200g plain flour

First thing you need to do is brush the moulds with melted butter and chuck them in the fridge for a few mins.  Get them back out, brush them again and then dust with the cocoa flour.  I usually chuck in half a teaspoon of cocoa and then, over the kitchen bin, roll the cocoa around the mould.  Classy AND effective.  Put the moulds back in the fridge.

I had a picture, wonderful it was too, of the moulds all buttered and cocoa-d up but WordPress is yet again being a bitch so you aren’t seeing it.

OMG IT’S REALLY IRRITATING ME.  Something’s going wrong so this post will be all effed up.  Sorry.

No, bugger that I’m not sorry.  I’m angry.  At WordPress.  YEAH.

Below is a photo of the butter and chocolate which you want to melt in a little saucepan over another little saucepan of gently simmering water.  Let it cool once all combined and melted and unctious and delicious.

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Above are the eggs and sugar, pre-combining.  You want to whisk the living hell out of them till they go all pale and fluffy.  Right now I’d recommend you pretend they’re WordPress, as that’ll fuell your whisking nicely if you’re not in possession of a good electric whisk.

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See above for pale and fluffy sugar-and-eggs.

Then sift in (no cheating here, I’m afraid) your flour, and combine gently.  With any luck you’ll note bubbles floating gently throughout – you want these bubbles.  Keep them, treat them gently, like the first cup of coffee you have every day.

Below is the first wash of chocolate stirred through – you want to gently mix through your chocolate in three parts.  It’s the arty part of this.

Directly below that, through the power of Shit-Wordpress (clear related to ShitOven) you’ll see a pic of the mix with the second third of chocolate mixed through.  Fascinating stuff, eh?

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Mix in the last bit of chocolate gently but thoroughly and pour into a jug.

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Then pour into the moulds, as demonstrated below.  Chuck them back into the fridge.  Don’t fill them to the brim, it’s foolish.  This mix made enough for five big fondants, so probably 6-8 smaller, dainty ones for people of adult disposition.  We were all comatose (but happy) after eating these.

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I am rather proud of the boyfriend for allowing me to dress him up as a swimmer, having been rather exercised by the Olympic swimming finals.  Poor Australia is having a bad Olympics, though, bit hard to take.  This pic was inspired by a previous guest-poster who did the same to her clearly willing partner.  Such fun.

After having had fun with your boy/girlfriend then throw those fondants in the oven.  Keep a close eye, don’t go opening and closing the oven door, and have a look at 10 mins in.  They should look cakey with a wobble in the middle.  I left these in for 12 mins.

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See above for example of quite well cooked despite ShitOven fondants.

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Turn them out onto a plate or bowl or whatever, they should slip out of the moulds with the ease of supermodels embarking on relationships with people in not very good bands.

Eat.  There were raspberries to go with these but I forgot.  We ate with vanilla icecream and a slight sense of well-fed regret.

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