Ottolenghi’s Sticky Chocolate Loaf 

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.

Gather:

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:

80ml water

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.

  Sift your flour, baking powder, bicarb, cocoa and salt. As I hope you know by know I never sift. If I’m feeling good I’ll whisk. I didn’t even whisk this time.  I forked. 

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.  

  Should look like the above. 

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.    

  Into the oven with the sticky little suckers. About 45 minutes should do you, till a skewer comes out clean.

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.

Once  cooked take out and poke into it with a skewer, multiple times, like a Live Action Role Play enthusiast at a medieval re-enactment. But, like, for real. Actually skewer it.

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.

 
 

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3 thoughts on “Ottolenghi’s Sticky Chocolate Loaf 

  1. narf77 says:

    You had me at “Ottolenghi”. Add “Sticky” into the equation and this post is the stuff that personal humid daydreams are made of. At least you abstained from giving New Human the Armagnac (you did abstain, didn’t you?) I was a tough love mum. My kids all asked me at one time or other to taste the cocoa. You can guess where this part of my comment is going. Tough love. Mum’s revenge for mass pilfering of the tasty parts of the recipe. This applies to bicarb soda as well. Just sayin’…

    Learned my lesson with the sea salt. Pink Himalayan salt might be all fine and dandy for the top of your chocolate brownies but as a crunchy ingredient for a sponge cake, not so good. I am not sure if our chooks are happy. They hang around out the front of the house like a militant mass in the early afternoons. Looking up at the deck like they are expecting me to deliver a Churchillesque speech or something. Maybe they are happy but most likely they are Bolshevik and restless like everything else here on Serendipity Farm.

    2 kinds of obvious sugar and one not so obvious (and Aussie) AND syrup? NOW you are talking! (Boozy syrup at that…Homer Simpson drooling now no longer an option).

    Surrogate complaining. I like it. I am stealing it for February this year when the garden has dried up and blown away in the El Nino… The dog will be wearing a suitable t-shirt. Cheers for the idea. Not sure I can get Earl to wear the shoes but Bezial is a “good dog” and suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous photographic demands wearing any accouterments we choose to place upon his person.

    Good cake. VERY good cake. So good I am sharing it with my cake queen of a sister who will make it for work. Boozy morning tea at the hospital where the people taking your blood are half cut? “Don’t mind if I DO!” 😉

    • b-kom says:

      I hope the cake pleases the good people of the Aussie health system! It’s not a very big showy thing but definitely flavoursome. Poor chooks, they prob could do with cake themselves. And the dogs. MORE CAKE FOR ALL!

      • narf77 says:

        The dog can hardly fit through the door. Less cake for the dog. The chooks agree with you. “More cake for chooks!” I think everything is better with cake 🙂

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