Nutty Mocolate Cake (Gluten free)

This wonderful interpretation of the chocolate cake came to me thanks to the lovely, genuis of Indigo whole foods, an independent health/organic food shop in my native Moseley. Full of healthy non chemically tampered with goods, this shop is but one of the independent food shops in this wonderful part of Birmingham.

Upon perusing the shop and all of its wonders I came across convienience food at its finest, in the form of ground hazlenuts. Something I have never set eyes on (sold in this form) before, I snapped them up, dreaming of the lovely incarnations this ingredient would become. Time to put on my thinking cap.

Hazelnut and chocolate is a no brainer, Nutella anybody??? With chocolate cake for me being oh so drab, what better remedy than a generous helping of nuts to impart their wonderful, nutty, natural oiliness to the dry and dreariness that can all to often be, chocolate cake. I decided to use a combination of ground almonds and ground hazelnuts in the place of flour, meaning this cake is gluten free (egg whites whipped within an inch of their life are the raising secret agents). This being  a happy by product of me wanting the nutty texture, hence gluten free being in brackets. I did not set out to make a gluten free cake, it just turned out that way, which is great for everyones stomach, too much wheat cannot be a good thing!  Gluten free does not automatically spring delicious to mind, but trust me this is.

By the way this is called a Mocolate cake because I’ve sneaked in a bit off coffee, giving a lovely balance of flavours.

Nutty Mocolate Cake

125g Ground Hazlenuts

75g Ground Almonds

4 Eggs (seperated)

200g Chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

125g Unsalted Butter

125g Golden Caster Sugar

3 tbsp Coffee dissolved in 3 tbsp Hot Water

Turn oven on to 180 C. Melt chocolate in a bain marie (bowl over simmering water- water must never touch bowl!!) Cream butter and sugar until lovely and fluffy. Add yolks, nuts, chocolate, coffee. Mix, mix, mix!! Whisk egg whites until stiff. Gently fold in. Cook for around 20 mins (or until done).

Serve with whipped up cream. This is a cake that doesn’t have to be tarted up to be good (and it is on more than one level). Oh yeah and did I mention, high in protein!!! Nom, nom!!!

Please note- the picture is not my own, I had guests when this was made so, caught up in the excitement,  I stupidly forgot to take pictures ! This picture is courtesy of google images- a true likeness of the cake and its wonderful texture.

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Chocolate crunch/Chocolate concrete!!!!

Another school classic! My food over the last week or so has been the closest I will get to a time machine, transporting me back to those innocent years prior to adulthood corruption . This was the crowning glory of school dinners, served with pink, strawberry flavoured custard, chocolate crunch was the treat that defined those treasured formative years.

Understandably, I underwent feelings of pity, shock and dismay when I found that my manfriend  had never heard of the stuff! Scandalous! Being 3 years younger than myself I thought that perhaps this was one of the things that Jamie got rid of in his butchering of the typical canteen style school dinner. Upon further investigation (in the form of words had with colleagues, friends and family about said subject), I found this to be an invalid conclusion. Those of a similar age to my partner had also experienced chocolate crunch at school with its famous pink partner in crime, some even mention a green peppermint custard companion, something I was never bestowed with.

This led me to thinking. Is chocolate crunch a regional phenomenon? Is it just a Brummie thing? With my manfreind being from Nottingham, further probing of friends from outside of Birmingham found that they had also never heard of it. This explanation was beginning to seem more and more likely. Eventually, further investigation exposed this as an untruth (a friend from the same side of Birmingham had also never heard of it).

Curiouser and curiouser!

This travesty in the form of the depravation of one of childhoods most treasured puds could only be fixed through an accurate dedication to chocolate crunch replication.  I was too lazy to make my own custard so the plain (non pink) tinned stuff would have to do.

In all honesty my friends deprivation was a mere excuse for rustling this up. The truth of the matter is, I wanted something easy and chocolatey that could be whipped up in the time it took for my dinner to go down, this literally takes 30mins from start to finish!

A four ingredient wonder, that is too easy to be true. For those who have never tried it, is not unlike an amalgamation of a cake and a biscuit. I assume granulated sugar should always be used to boost the crunchy texture.

Best eaten warm with custard, but can also enjoyed as a cold crunchy snack!

Chocolate Crunch/ Concrete

200g plain flour

200g granulated sugar

100g butter (melted)

50 cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 180.  Line tin with baking parchment (I used 20cm square tin). Mix flour, sugar, cocoa. Finger mix (scrunch) until crumbly. Pour mixture into tin. Pack it down until compact (as with shortbread I like to punch it down because its fun). Cook for 20 mins. Once removed sprinkle with a little granulated sugar.

Bad quality photo courtesy of Blackberry

Bad quality photo courtesy of Blackberry

Please note, this is more crunchy when cold, if you like it softer eat straight from the oven!!!

Chocolate and Chilli Brownies

Chocolate and chilli. All the rage with food fashionistas, a combination which, at first glance seems a teeny bit ridiculous (why taint something as perfect as chocolate with something as aggressive as chilli?) but, once the surface has been scratched this is a wow flavour pairing that seems so natural one wonders why everyone isn’t doing it. All the time.

Chocolate brownies are a product of my dreams. An American export worth keeping. My lust for these ungodly specimens aroused by my American exchange Year 7 maths teacher Mrs Butler. What a battle axe she was. We all sat to attention for this one, no throwing of paper or hurling of spit in her lessons, for her we all stood to attention, sitting in fear of the time she was to call us up to the board for the ritual humiliation that was writing the answers, which were (in my case) inevitably going to be wrong. Her effictiveness as a maths teacher aside, the lasting effect she had on me was the memory of her American treats. Chocolate brownies were to me an unknown gem, a little taste of gluttonous heaven flown over directly from the states into my humble, deprived lap. In these short snippets of joy, the light was shining down upon my measly brummie soul. Made from the fabric of heaven itself, fudgy, gooey, melt in the mouth indulgent, rich chocolate squares of unadulterated pleasure. Where had these been all my life?

Ever since this defining moment I have set to work finding the perfect brownie recipe. A labour of love of mine it has taken many non perfect (cakey) attempts to come out with what is for me the perfect brownie. This recipe really does work every time (providing you don’t overcook them), a shiny crisp top layer with dark, sensual, gooey under bits. I do believe this is achieved through the whisking of the eggs with the sugar, incorporating the secret ingredient to brownie perfection, air. Knock this out in the later stages and your brownies will be a goner. Treat these with tenderness and affection and with careful folding and attention these will not disappoint. (I cannot take credit for this recipe it can be found here

As a rule it is safe to say one should use best quality dark chocolate. 70% cocoa solids preferable. Look for chocolate that does not contain vegetable oil (although if and when strapped for cash I do have to admit to using Tesco’s no frills 30p dark chocolate and getting good results).

Chocolate and Chilli Brownies

185g Dark Chocolate (broken into small pieces)

85g Plain Flour

185g Unsalted Butter (cut into cubes)

40g Cocoa Powder

100g White Chocolate/Milk Chocolate or mixture of both cut or bashed into small chunks

3 large eggs

275g Golden Caster Sugar

Put dark chocolate and butter into bowl (big enough to fit over top of saucepan without touching the bottom). Fill saucepan quater full with water and put over low heat until reaches a simmer. Place bowl over pan and stir until melted (make sure the bowl does not touch the water in the pan).

Bain marie

Bain marie

Turn oven to 160 (fan), 180 (conventional). Line 20cm square tin. Sift flour and cocoa butter into bowl. Break eggs into bowl. Add Golden Caster Sugar. Whisk until light and creamy (I recommend an electric whisk, although if alike me one is not to hand the resulting dead arm is worth the end result). It should be double it’s original size and should leave a trail for a few seconds when the whisk is wiggled. Pour cooled chocolate over egg mixture.

Food art!

Food art!

Fold (carefully) with spatula using figure of 8, plunging  in at one  side, taking it underneath, bring up at opposite side and again at the middle. Move bowl round after each folding. This part is crucial so as not to knock the air out that you spent all that blood sweat and tears to incorporate!! Sift already sifted dry ingredients mix into wet ingredients. Fold carefully to incorporate. Carefully add chopped white/milk chocolate. Bake for 20 mins.

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Cool in tin then foist out carefully trying best not to crack perfect shiny top bit.

Please note it is always better to under cook brownies than over cook, when removing from the oven they will still have a slight wobble, this is a good sign. They should still be shiny and crisp at the top.

Enjoy!!

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