Chocolate Brownie Puddle Cake

I really wasn’t sure what to call this. To my mind, the base is more of a chocolate truffle or mousse than a brownie, but Matt Tebbutt calls it a brownie, so who am I to object? It is his recipe, after all.

brownie puddle

Let me back-track slightly. The idea for this ‘puddle cake’ started to grow when I came across both Matt’s recipe for Espresso and Walnut Brownies and Emily’s recipe for Chocolate-Peanut Butter Marble Cake on the same day last week (I actually found Matt’s brownie recipe whilst browsing cookbooks in the supermarket – it’s in his book, Cooks Country, and is very slightly different from the version I found online). The brownies were introduced as ‘one of the most popular puds on the menu at the restaurant’, whilst in Emily’s recipe I discovered what she describes as ‘the most delicious chocolate frosting in in the world’.

Knowing that we were soon to be visited by chocolate-pudding-loving friends from Bournemouth, I was keen to take advantage of their tastebuds by trying out my germinating idea on them …

To put it simply, I was wondering, “Why not bake these brownies in a springform pan and fill the part where it dipped in the middle with Emily’s frosting?” Okay, it’s hardly the thought of a genius, but this idea of mine just wouldn’t go away. As the weekend approached, I even began to dream of chocolate puddles and molten brownies.

I very nearly missed my opportunity. Even on the Monday morning when O had taken the children out of the house to give me a chance to get things ready, I still wasn’t sure that I would really go ahead and make the cake. This was partly because I was supposed to be making gingersnaps to go with the lemon-meringue ice-cream and poached rhubarb we were having for dessert in the evening, but also because I knew my savoury-toothed husband would be less than pleased to return to the copious amounts of washing-up I knew this cake would generate!

Needless to say, the chocolate brownie puddle cake found a way of coming into existence once the gingersnaps were safely cooling. I don’t think there were even too many dirty pots left by the time O returned, but that may be my guilty conscience putting a glossy spin on the proceedings.

I was pleased that it did grind me down into subservience, though. As I wrote at the beginning of this post, it wasn’t really a brownie as such. But it was certainly chocolate heaven.

chocolate heaven

Chocolate Brownie Puddle Cake (adapted from a recipe by Matt Tebbett and filled with Emily’s most delicious chocolate frosting)

For the base:

300 g (10 1/2 oz) plain chocolate
150 g (5 1/4 oz) unsalted butter
150 g (5 1/4 oz) light brown muscovado sugar)
4 medium eggs
2 oz raisins soaked in hot coffee
150 g (5 1/4 oz) mascarpone cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees C. Grease and baseline a 9″ round springform cake pan.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or microwave (I used to do it the first way, but it takes far less time in a microwave – you just need to be careful to stir it frequently and to take it out before all the chocolate has melted completely so the last lumps can melt in the residual heat).

Blend the butter and sugar in a food processor until they are fluffy and pale.

Add the eggs one at a time, whizzing to incorporate.

Drain the raisins and whizz them into the mixture.

Add the mascarpone cheese and whizz to combine.

Pour in the melted chocolate and give the whole thing a final quick whizz to fold everything together.

Scrape into the prepared cake pan and bake in the centre of the oven for 45 to 50 minutes. The centre will be dipped and look gooey, but will feel surprisingly firm and springy when you press it gently.

Leave to cool in the pan on a wire rack (don’t be tempted to speed up the cooling by putting it in the fridge – the texture will change from meltingly smooth to densely fudgy).

To assemble:

When the base has cooled to room temperature, remove the sides of the pan and fill the centre of the cake with a half-quantity of Emily’s most delicious chocolate frosting (or make the full amount of frosting and save the leftovers for something else). Decorate with grated chocolate.

Any leftovers can be kept in the fridge for a couple of days, although the texture will be different (and very delicious too, but in a fudgier way).

Strawberries and Rhubarb

It’s the beginning of the school Easter holidays and Spring is well underway here in Devon. We have watched the furry-covered magnolia buds bursting into full blossom in the gardens at the University where O works, and L and M have collected the fallen ‘fairy blankets’ from the ground beneath the trees. We have blue skies at last, too!

magnolias

Back at home, our garden is picking itself up after being cruelly assaulted by winter’s frosts and builders’ footsteps. Whilst I generally throw in a few suggestions of things I’d like for my kitchen pots, the main planting and sprouting of any fruit and vegetables in our garden is O’s province. However, O is in Cambridge taking exams this week, so I’ve been left in charge of the nursery. And it’s a very different kind of nursery from the one that has been my own domain for the past seven years. Instead of changing nappies and spreading cream on sore baby bottoms, I’ve found myself piling soil around newly sprouting potato plants and making sure the strawberries have just the right amount of water to drink.

spring strawberry

Come back soon, O – having sole responsibility for these babies is terrifying me!

strawberry and flower

Although it will be a while before our strawberries are ripe and juicy-red, this time of year brings an abundant supply of strikingly rosy forced and blanched rhubarb. Not a fruit as such, it still bridges the period between autumnal apples and sweet summer berries when it comes to puddings and desserts. It may not be truly seasonal, but the warm, dark conditions in which forced rhubarb is grown produce a stem that is more tender and less stringy than the outdoor variety of later months. And the rhubarb is also an almost disconcertingly vivid pink.

rhubarb

I have fond memories of rhubarb from my childhood in the North-East of England. There are photos of my sister and me hiding under our gigantic umbrellas of rhubarb leaves whilst playing in our parents’ garden (I must note here that the leaves are toxic if consumed due to overconcentration of oxalic acid – fortunately, we never felt in the remotest way inclined to munch on a rhubarb leaf when we were little). I do remember biting into the raw stem however, dipping it into a bowl of sugar to take away the tartness of its taste. It might have been relatively unfashionable until recently in the South of England, but I wouldn’t mind betting that rhubarb never lost its popularity during those years in the allotments and gardens of the North.

So when I encountered this season’s first homegrown rhubarb yesterday at Dart’s Farm, I just couldn’t resist buying a bunch. One thing led to another … the children wanted to bake cookies, they clamoured for gingersnaps, ginger is a classic flavouring for rhubarb …

Our rhubarb pudding was inspired by a recipe from Wicked Desserts (Delicious) for simple roasted rhubarb and lemon curd pots. We made our own gingersnaps for the topping and poached rather than roasted the rhubarb pieces.

rhubarb poaching

Although orange and rhubarb are a match made in heaven, I prefer the sublime combination of rhubarb, pomegranate juice and rosewater. Divine. So that’s what I used.

rhubarb lemon mascarpone

Rhubarb and Lemon Curd Pots

7 oz caster sugar
200 ml pomegranate juice
200 ml water
3 tbsp rosewater
1 lb forced rhubarb, cut diagonally into thin slices
1/2 oz butter
6 tbsps lemon curd
250g tub of mascarpone
4 gingersnaps (recipe here)

Place the sugar, pomegranate juice, water and rosewater in a large pan and bring to the boil. Add the rhubarb and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes to reduce. Stir in the butter. Leave to cool.

Swirl the lemon curd into the mascarpone with a knife.

Divide the poached rhubarb between 6 serving pots. Spoon the lemony mascarpone on top.

Crush the gingersnap biscuits and sprinkle the crumbs over the mascarpone.

This post is my entry to CLICK: Spring/Autumn.

Mum’s Orange Trifle

I didn’t expect to be posting anything this month. Quite aside from the usual demands on my time made by my three children, husband and cat (okay, leave the cat out of the equation – being rather proud of his nature, he’s a fairly self-sufficient and independent feline friend), my kitchen currently looks like this …

kitchen view

It certainly doesn’t inspire images of heavenly home-baking and cosy family gatherings around the warmth of the stove.

However, when I read that the theme for this month’s Sugar High Friday was Childhood Delights, I instantly thought of my Mum’s orange trifle. And I knew that here was something I could prepare with the barest of kitchen equipment still available to me (namely, a plastic jug and a microwave). Most importantly, I could not only share the wonders of my Mum’s trifle, but I could also reveal the magical secrets of … The Custard Spoon!

I never liked fruit with “bits” in it as a child. This dislike referred specifically to the seeds in berries, the pips in grapes and the stones in prunes and cherries. I still prefer jelly over jam, and have a reputation in family circles for picking the rind out of the marmalade I spread on my breakfast toast. Manufacturers hadn’t cottoned on to the idea of ‘smooth’ yoghurts for children back then, so my Mum used to patiently sieve the berries out of any yoghurts before giving them to me to eat. Of course, my aversion to ‘bits’ meant that I missed out on many of the desserts typically presented during my childhood days … berry-topped cheesecakes, summer puddings, Black Forest gateaux and trifles.

I had another strong dislike. I couldn’t stand, absolutely hated, cream. Yuk!

When I tell you that my Mum’s trifle was one of my favourite childhood desserts, it’s probably obvious that she made something slightly outside the normal cookbook understanding of ‘trifle’ for me. She used tinned mandarins in place of the more traditional raspberries and cherries, and covered the custard layer with a sprinkling of chocolate flake rather than with lashings of cream.

And when she made a trifle, I always got to lick The Custard Spoon. Mmmm. My girls (and probably T too, when he gets a chance), are following me in this tradition. For the best nostalgic effects, it really has to be an old-fashioned Rattail tablespoon in stainless steel from Sheffield … but as I don’t have one quite like Mum’s, we’ve found that any old spoon can be turned into a perfectly acceptable Custard Spoon.

custard spoon

Mum still makes her trifle for me, even now I’m all “growed up”. L says it’s a “Very, very good trifle and it’s really scrummy”.

When I made my own orange trifle this weekend, L and I fought over the jelly-soaked Swiss roll layer on the bottom … and I’m sure there wasn’t quite as much Flake on the top when I came to serve it as there was when I crumbled it onto the custard. Hmmm …

Mum's orange trifle

Mum’s Orange Trifle

1 Raspberry Swiss Roll
1 tin of mandarins, drained
1 Hartley’s orange jelly tablet
1/2 to 1 pint of Bird’s Custard
1 Cadbury’s Flake

(The exact amount of ingredients required varies according to the size of your dish – Mum probably uses a couple of tins of mandarins as her trifles are fairly sumptuous!)

Cut the Swiss roll into 1/2″ slices and use to line the bottom of a glass bowl or dish.

Cover with a layer of mandarins.

Make up the orange jelly according to the instructions on the packet (the microwave method is the easiest). Pour over the cake and fruit levels of the trifle until the jelly covers the mandarins (any remaining jelly can be poured into small bowls or jelly moulds). Place in the fridge and leave until the jelly is set.

Make up the custard according to the instructions on the packet. The custard needs to be thick enough to set when cold, so make sure that it boils. Leave it to cool slightly, then pour over the jelly layer. Enjoy any leftover custard with The Custard Spoon. Return the trifle to the fridge until the custard is set.

Before serving, crumble the Flake over the top of the custard.