Spring is my favourite time of year; Durham emerges from hibernation and we enter the calm before the examination storm. I know that the calendar year starts in January, but if I’m honest I never feel it’s started until I can get out of bed without having to look for a torch.
Before I get poetic and misty-eyed let me tell you another reason I love spring: Easter. And Easter means chocolate. February is long gone, and with it any reason to even toy with post-Christmas healthiness. Easter is coming up; the next month or so is basically a celebration of chocolate. Do you need any more of an excuse than that? If you do, just let me add this: post-summative cooking.
So, whether you want to make the perfect Easter gift, reward yourself after a long few days in the library, or just earn brownie points (pardon the pun), here are two great ways to use chocolate – with three more to follow on Thursday:
1. Chocolate Fondant:
Beloved of cookery programs, chocolate fondant is simple both to describe and to make. The description first: it’s a chocolate cake with a gooey chocolate centre. All good? Right.
To make two:
2 ramekins (about
7–8 cm in diameter)
Small glass bowl
Pan of hot water
50g unsalted butter (and a bit extra to grease)
2 tsp cocoa powder
50g dark chocolate
1 additional egg yolk
60g caster sugar
50g plain flour
Preheat oven to 160C/Gas Mark 2.
Butter the two ramekins then dust with the cocoa, so that the butter is all covered; shake out the excess cocoa.
Slowly melt the chocolate and the butter in the small bowl set over a pan of hot water; take off the heat; stir until smooth and leave to cool for 10 minutes.
Whisk the eggs and sugar together until pale and thick; mix in the chocolate mixture. Sift the flour over the mixture and gently fold in with the spatula.
Divide between the ramekins and bake for 12 minutes. NB: this can vary slightly so you might need to practice to work it out for your particular oven. The trick is take it out when the top no longer appears to be wet at all.
If you’re feeling particularly gluttonous (recommended), serve with vanilla ice cream or clotted cream.
2. Chocolate Tart
If you thought that the fondant recipe was too unhealthy, then this isn’t for you. If, like me, you are willing to endure a little bit of artery clogging in exchange for a big mouthful of chocolate pie, read on.
This recipe comes in two flavours, easy and hard. The hard option involves making your own pastry. If you can’t be bothered, buy a pastry case and just make the filling.
Food processor (optional)
Tart tin (about 25cm in diameter)
Small glass bowl
Pan of boiling water
Chopping mat (optional but useful)
For the pastry:
75g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
225g plain flour
For the filling:
3 egg yolks
45g caster sugar
150g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate
Additional flavourings, if desired (I particularly recommend orange essence/Cointreau, almond/amaretto or framboise liqueur)
To make the pastry: put the butter, icing sugar and egg yolks in the mixing bowl (or food processor) and blend together quickly; mix in the flour and work into an even paste roughly the same consistency as playdough. Wrap in cling film and leave to cool in the fridge for at least an hour.
Preheat oven to 180C/gas 4. Roll out the pastry, as thin as you can, ideally on chopping mat lightly dusted with icing sugar and then line the tart tin with it. A chopping mat will help you remove your pastry more easily.
Place greaseproof paper over the pastry; put the baking beans on top of the pastry and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the pastry is the colour of a pale biscuit (shortbread, for example).
Remove from the oven and take the temperature up to 190/gas 5.
If you don’t fancy doing all that, start here:
Put eggs, egg yolks and caster sugar in a bowl and beat vigorously with an electric whisk until really thick and fluffy.
In a bowl over simmering water, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring until you get a smooth paste. If you’re using additional flavourings, add a small amount now.
Pour the chocolate mix onto the egg mixture while still just about warm, beat together until well amalgamated and then pour into the pastry case.
Bake for 5 minutes then remove and leave to cool.
Best enjoyed with thick cream.