Monthly Archives: December 2015

GUEST POST – Clotilde Dusolier’s Very Chocolately Fudgy Cake

Morning.

God I’m lazy. Here I am, soliciting guest posts from people when it’s Christmas and what I should instead no doubt be doing is frantically baking  up mince pies with double butter shortcrust (NO BECAUSE MINCE PIES ARE FOUL) or feeding a Christmas Pudding I made three months ago (NO BECAUSE CHRISTMAS PUDDING IS MASSIVELY OVER-RATED) or just getting stuck into the cooking sherry as I concoct some kind of foul trifle (NO….WAIT! I MEAN YES! TO BOTH COOKING BOOZE AND TRIFLE). I should be doing all these things and add them to cornucopia of Christmas-themed posts currently flooding the internet.

Anyway, I’m not doing any of those things. In passing, chatting to a friend, she mentioned she’d been baking and I barked, ‘Oh fancy doing a guest post?’ at her for no good reason. She kindly said yes and, thus, below you have L’s version of a bloody delicious, never-fail chocolate cake-that-isn’t-quite-a-cake-but-is-delicious.

L usually blogs about fashion, particularly fashion for those of us who no longer live in the realm of twenty-somethings. Or thirty-somethings. If you like you can go visit her much more stylishly designed site at The Stylopedia where there’s a lot of less to make you fat and a lot more to make you glitter.

I’ve gone relatively full Christmas this year, I think partly in an attempt to quell the nauseating homesickness I’m experiencing. I’ve done Decorating The House and had Carols on the Telly. It’s worse than ever, the homesickness, and I long, really really long, for a hot Christmas and the beach and seafood and drinking white wine in the sun (as described by fellow Perth-person Tim Minchin here).

Christmas in the UK is usually very pleasant, mostly spent in a reclining position at the in-laws’, being fed never-ending food and booze. I’ve nothing to complain about – well, other than this year’s Christmas lunch menu of Lasagne. I mean, what? IT IS NOT CHRISTMAS FOOD – and complain I musn’t. I will, however, miss home.

Stupid sunny, good, beachy family and friends Australia.

Stupid.

Right. Here’s L with a reassuringly sweary post. I’m off to cry in a corner for a little bit. I’m at work, so that will no doubt go down really well.

Oh – Merry Christmas!

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Usually I blog about clothes and style, so I’m sailing into virgin water here on a food blog, but here goes…. It turns out they’re not so dissimilar anyway; it is all about putting shit you like together and hoping it works!

Everyone needs to have a basic little black dress that can be dressed up or down for any occasion.  It requires zero thought; you just put it on, and the right one looks like you’ve made more effort than you actually have.  It looks suitable.  Appropriate.  Maybe even kick-ass on a good day.

Everyone also needs to have the dessert equivalent of a little black dress. The chocolate cake recipe below is exactly that.  It is an easy yet gasp-inducing cake that you can wheel out for a fancy dinner party, a family gathering, a child’s birthday party, or when every other dessert seems like a hassle. This cake is, in fact, my favourite thing to eat in the whole world.  If I feel like it (I usually do) I toss in a generous handful of toasted pecans in the batter.  If I am on a diet and I want to make sure that I don’t eat it, I add raspberries, because everyone knows that raspberries are disgusting as fuck, far too sour, furry, and usually full of black mould precisely three minutes after you bring them home from the grocery store, and thus would ruin what would otherwise be an amazingly dark, dense, perfect chocolate cake. (Editor’s note: L is very wrong about raspberries. Very, very wrong).
Ok, maybe everyone doesn’t know that, but now you do.  Shockingly, the original recipe calls for (read: is ruined by) the addition of 200g of fork-mashed raspberries, but I am going to leave those out in order to preserve all that is right and good in this world.  You can still add them if you like raspberries and don’t know any better.  Another good reason to omit raspberries is to avoid the burning shame and crippling guilt of buying raspberries, a summer fruit, in the middle of winter in England. (Editor’s note: I do this. I buy raspberries in winter in England. I know it’s bad and I still do it).  Still, we will press on and make Gateau Chocolat Framboise/ Chocolate Raspberry Cake (mais, sans raspberries) in Clotilde Dusolier’s amazingly yummy cookbook Chocolate and Zucchini (See?  Clotilde even has to go and defile chocolate with zucchini.  She can’t help herself. Leave the chocolate ALONE, Clotilde!  Mon Dieu!)
Anyway, since this is the run up to Christmas, we’re going to put a slight Christmassy spin on this perfect cracker of a cake.  O Come all Ye Bakeful and assemble (joyfully and triumphantly) the following six ingredients:

225g unsalted butter, plus a pat to grease the pan (I used salted.  No one died).

225g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped into pieces (70% is perfect, don’t go much less, but you can definitely go darker).

200g sugar
4 large eggs (don’t be a dick; buy free range organic ones)
40g plain flour (so little flour it’s practically gluten free!)
1 tsp of crushed Maldon salt flakes, or 1/2 tsp of fine sea salt (absolutely crucial to the overall deliciousness of this cake)
Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a 25cm springform pan with a pat of butter.  Even better, line the bottom of the pan with baking parchment and it will prevent it from sticking like a bastard, breaking apart, and ruining your afternoon.  And still grease both pan and parchment with butter though.  Always with the butter.

Melt the chocolate and the butter in a a double boiler, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring from time to time to combine.  I don’t do this.  I just melt the butter and chocolate on a verrrrry low heat, and comply with the instructions to stir now and then. Add the sugar, and stir with a wooded spoon.  Let cool for 5 minutes.  (I did not use a wooden spoon, sue me).Add the eggs one by one, stirring well between each addition. Tip in the flour and the salt (Clotilde says to sift the flour.  I have never bothered, and the cake hasn’t suffered), and stir until well combined.  This is the part where you can add in the roughly chopped toasted pecans (I did today) or the 200g of fork-mashed raspberries (shudder) or whatever else takes your fancy.  A generous pinch of cinnamon if you want to go all Mexican.  Sometimes my husband adds in a slosh of rum.  He thinks everything is better with a little alcohol added, and that probably includes me.
(Yes, there is an Elf On The Shelf in crash position in my fruit bowl).

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes.As you near the 30 minute mark, circle around your kitchen like a goldfish, and check it every minute, since ovens all vary.  Mine needs 32 minutes exactly on the middle shelf.  Do the usual thing of inserting a toothpick or knife in the centre (Editor’s note: L is American so I’d like to give her some credit her for spelling ‘centre’ properly) to make sure it is cooked through.  Do not overcook and let the edges get overly browned, or you will lose the lovely almost gooey and wet texture of the finished product.  A dry cake is the worst.  The worst.  No point really.   Chuck it in the bin.

Whilst the cake is in the oven, either lick the bowl and spoon yourself, or even better, give that job to your child… simultaneously garnering the Best and Worst Mother of the Year awards in one fell swoop.  The Best, from your delighted child, of course.  And The Worst from your child’s dentist and all the Calgary Avansino type Moms out there.  Google her if you don’t know her; you’ll want to kill yourself.

B often has photos of her family and dog on here, so I will do the same so you feel at home. Meet Pippa, the Dog’s stand-in for this post.  B and I met each other through our whippets, true fact.

Once baked, transfer the pan to a cooling rack, run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake, and unclasp the sides of the pan.

  Let it finish cooling before transferring to a plate.  This is the part when you will thank me for bossing your into using the parchment paper because it makes this process SO MUCH EASIER.  You’re welcome.

The original recipe says to cover the cake tightly with plastic wrap, and to refrigerate it for 8 hours or overnight, removing it from the refrigerator half an hour before serving.  I never do this.  I do cover the cake with a cloche (Oooooo!  Get me, so French with my fucking gateau under a cloche) and try my hardest not to eat more than two pieces in a row.

Now, for the fun part.  If it is just you and family at home, or if you are going to a barbecue or something, serve the cake au naturel.  If you are having people over, then go mad and fancy it up a bit.  At first I thought I’d accessorise with some berries and a holly leaf that I nicked from the wreath on our front door…

  …but  then I changed my mind and went for the dusty-snowflake-with-icing-sugar effect instead.  If I had some edible silver glitter, I would probably sprinkle a touch of that on as well.  Probably.  Accessorise however you like.  It isn’t a particularly beautiful cake (hence the accessorising) but what it lacks in beauty, it makes up for in flavour.
This cake is not quite a brownie and not quite a ganache; it is something in-between.  Equal parts butter and chocolate will do that!  Can you see how squishy and gorgeous it is?  A slice of unadulterated chocolate heaven, I tell you.

Smitten Kitchen’s Favourite Chocolate Chip Cookies. Biscuits. They’re Biscuits.

You might not think there’s a big difference between cookies and biscuits. There is. I haven’t really had to define it IN ACTUAL REAL LIFE WORDS until now but I’ve always consciously been very clear there is a difference.

I think it goes like this:

Cookies

Quite big. A lot big. Like, hand-sized big

Flat

Chewy, albeit often crunchy outside

American in style

Massively sugared

Bikkies

Smaller, like no bigger than palm-sized, and even a palm-sized bikkie is verging on cookie

Less sugar in the mix

Crunchier

Not-American. Unless you’re talking scones, which is what Americans call biscuits. Donald Trump is clearly not their biggest problem.

I don’t know how you feel about my very scientific classification. Truthfully I’m not sure (i) I give a shit, and (ii) it matters. It’s probably one of those really personal things, like whether you bunch or fold loo roll.

BUNCH YOU FOOL, BUNCH.

Anyway. The below recipe is from Smitten Kitchen. Again. She might become my new Donna Hay-type habit. We shall see. They are nice biscuit-cookies. Bisookies. Cookuits. Dunno. Some weird merge of the two. You should make them.

We are recently returned from a quick trip to Stockholm. We dragged NewHuman there with us as it’s a city famously friendly in respect of toddler-themed amusements and, obviously, we were going to hit up the cinnamon buns and saffron Christmas buns really hard. That was the plan until the Boyfriend and I arrived at Sinus-Pressure-Exploding-Head-Snot-Factoryville pre-trip so had to work quite hard not to weep with the full strength that being-in-a-foreign-land-with-a-shithead-2.5 year-old-whilst-properly-ill lends itself to.

Still, we survived, and it was actually mostly fun. I ate elk.

Elk is nice. So are cloudberries and cinnamon buns and Stockholm in general. Could totally live there.

Right. Biscuits. MAKE THEM.

Preheat your oven to 150C (this is what Smitten Kitchen says. I did that then bumped up to 160C for the second lot. Was fine, and better).

So, yeah, preheat your oven to 160C.

Gather:

100 grams caster sugar (I used 150g of golden)
130g firmly packed light brown sugar (I used 50g of muscovado)
115 grams unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1cm pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used 2 teaspoons)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
175g plain flour
200 grams dark chocolate chips (I used 100g)
1 packet of dried sour cherries, around 60g, chopped into 3 or 4 pieces each

(Smitten Kitchen lady says to use 130g of chopped walnuts or pecans. You can do that but you’d be insane to when sour cherries are an option).

  I chopped the cold butter to only very approximately 1cm pieces, as evidenced below. Was fine.
  Cream together the sugars and butter until smooth. This takes a little while cause the butter is cold when you start. Use this time to chop up your sour cherries. By the time  you’re done chopping, the mix will be smooth. Baking is magic.  Add your baking powder. Half a teaspoon is a very controversial measurement. Is it heaped or not? Is it half across or lengthways. HOW DO WE KNOW?

I did the below.
  Also then add your vanilla and egg. Mix well.

Then add your flour – you can keep it all in the mixer for this, no need to use your actual hands.

Once combined and kind of dry – it’ll take a minute or so of high-speed whizzing in the mixer – add your choc chips and sour cherries. Or nuts, if you’re using them. DO NOT USE THEM.

  Then plop about 2 teaspoon’s worth of mix onto a tray, leaving a good amount of room. Don’t, like, compress them or roll them into balls or anything, ok? Just leave them be, unmolested.
  Into the oven for 18 minutes. Smitten Kitchen lady says to take them out when ‘pale golden brown’. That’s how I like to describe NewHuman’s hair, when it is in fact ginger.

Below is this year’s Xmas tree effort. Could be worse. Is usefully a few feet off the ground so NewHuman can only grasp the jingle bells which dangle temptingly from the lower branches and I get to say, ‘Dude, no. NO. I SAID NO!’ a lot. Is fun for all.

  OK here are the done biscuits.

I did try to take a picture of one I’d taken a bite out of, to show you the inside, but the photo was far too fuzzy for public consumption.

I’ve come away to the West of England without bringing some of these with me, a fact I’ve only just realised. I am stupid and also now I’m angry.