Well, here I am, sitting in my hotel room in a rather nice West of England city, trying not to gaze at the traditionally awful hotel art – it is always so terribly hung and thus gives me a squint and a bad mood – typing a blog post on my iPad. It’ll no doubt be full of spelling and other errors.
One of my few skills is that of Very Fast Typing. It’s the result of the only thing my mum really ever made me do at school – typing classes. Yes, I’m old enough to have (1) had typing as an elective, and (2) learnt on those big manual machines that required a builder’s arm strength to get the keys to depress. The teacher – Mrs White, often known as Radar as she absolutely 100% had ears on sticks and eyes in the back of her head; nothing got past her on the chat/passing notes front – wouldn’t let you graduate to the very fancy electric typewriters until you’d gained a speed of at least 30wpm on the big heavy bastards.
Graduate I did and over the next year got up to heady speeds of 60wpm and more. Jobs involving typing, and the endless bloody parade of university assignments, got me to 100wpm at my peak. It’s aces, touch typing. Only hangover I have though is the damned habit of 2 spaces after a full stop. Properly antiquated these days, that is. Anyway the point of all this is that typing on iPads, with just my index fingers, is bloody horrid for those of us who can type properly. I can type multi-syllabic words with ease, without ever needing to look at the keyboard. I can have a conversation with you about one thing whilst at the same time typing something else. But can I type on an iPad? Hell no. I think mostly cause my brain moves so much faster than my fingers and by the time they’ve caught up I’m just no longer funny.
As I’m working away so much I’m doing far less cooking than normal. This seems to be manifesting itself through the medium of cooking binges, one such 3.5hr mammoth session occurring on Sunday just gone in order to feed some friends for lunch. 3.5hrs for one main, one side, one sauce, one pudding, a 2-part starter and some bread. Not bad going. It was all bloody Ottolenghi stuff, though (bread excepted), which means multiple bastarding processes and bowls and ingredients lists as long as the hair I found on my chin the other night. LOOOOOOOONG. I could’ve wound it twice around my face to effect some kind of homemade facelift had I not gone straight in with the tweezers in an hysterical state. I was so whisker-free pre-NewHuman. Lovely and smooth chin, I had. Now? Caveman.
For pudding I made Ottolenghi’s sticky chocolate loaf, no doubt previewed by this post’s title. He puts prunes and Armagnac in his but, in lieu of prunes and Armagnac, I used dried apricots and cognac. He uses yoghurt but I’d already accidentally used mine in the sauce for the main so used sour cream instead. It all seemed to work out fine. Do what you like. Clearly it’s fine. I mean, I wouldn’t use, like, figs and Malibu or bananas and vodka. Go with the prune or apricot option.
220g pitted Agen prunes (I used a 250g bag of good dried apricots. Was probably a bit less in the end because I donated two pieces to NewHuman’s rapacious appetite, no doubt rotting his teeth in the process. I never said I’d be any good at this parenting thing…)
100ml Armagnac or cognac
115g plain flour
15g good cocoa powder (I used a bit more)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt. Not sea salt, fine kitchen salt please
60ml sunflower oil
60ml buttermilk or yoghurt (as I said, I used sour cream)
1 egg, from a happy chicken, please
30g caster sugar
60g light brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses (I used golden syrup, bugger buying a big lot of molasses just for this)
150g good dark chocolate, chopped (I used 70%)
For the syrup:
80g cup caster sugar
The leftover cognac or Armagnac from when you soaked the fruit or 2 tablespoons of new if you’re wasteful
First thing you do (after putting oven on to preheat at 170C and lining two smallish loaf tins) if using apricots is cut half of them up into quarters. If you’re using prunes, don’t bother, just divide them into two lots. Put the chopped half and the booze into a saucepan over a medium heat and warm up. Ottolenghi says until just warm. I was busy with a million other things so they definitely boiled. Was fine. Put to one side to cool a bit.
Then, as you can see below, you make cake mayonnaise. Kind of. Put the remaining fruit (the stuff not currently absolutely pissed in its warm booze-bath) into a food processor with the oil and the buttermilk or yoghurt. Whazz it up till it looks like shiny mayonnaise-y paste.
Scrape it all into a bowl and with a whisk mix in the egg, then the sugars, both, and the molasses/golden syrup. I actually did it in the opposite order. Was fine.
Chop your chocolate. I bloody love chopping chocolate. I’m not sure why but it’s one of those viscerally satisfying activities. Set it aside.
Fold in your flour et al with a spatula, making sure everything is nicely incorporated. Mix through the chopped chocolate.
Looks like poo-sick, as we have come to expect of all the best bakes.
Evenly distribute between your two lined loaf tins. You’ll note below I used pre-made liners. I had no time to neatly line them myself so I went with the very common supermarket ones. For shame.
Get your boozy fruit and start to push into the cake mix. If you are using prunes chop them into halves or quarters first. It’s gross AND delicious. You can see below kind of what I mean, I hope. But push them down into the cake mix a little more than you can see in the photo. Mostly cover them.
In another saucepan combine the water and sugar for the syrup, over a medium heat, swirl it around a bit till the sugar dissolves. Once dissolved take it off the heat and pour in the remaining booze from the boozy fruit. Let cool while the cakes cook.
Then using a pastry brush generously slather on the syrup, all of it. The loaves can take it. They love it. They are greedy for it. Don’t be shy. Take note of NewHuman’s top. I’m not allowed to complain about the weather but let’s just say the heating has come on recently.
Right. Below is the done loaf thing, topped with a bit of leftover syrup (oh yeah, if you’re having company keep some syrup behind for serving, it’ll make you look fancy). Cause I’m posh and classy and that I also dumped on some leftover boozy fruit. Was yum. Eat with vanilla ice cream.