I'm a huge fan of chocolate and chocolate desserts, especially those that preserve the decadent qualities of chocolate - melting, oozy, molten brown. Chocolate mousse doesn't do it for me - the chocolate dessert has to be warm to bring out the essence of the intense chocolate experience. Of course, that doesn't mean I didn't try to make chocolate mousse - that was one of the first desserts I tried making from scratch after we moved into our home. We were entertaining some close friends and I wanted to show off my newfound cooking skills. That, naturally, would be the day the refrigerator chose to conk off, so by the time they came, the mousse was chocolate sludge!
I found lots of yummy chocolatey recipes in Nigella Lawson's books. I really enjoy Nigella Lawson's food writing - it's more sensual than a lot of romantic literature out there! I love the way she describes food and the pleasure that she evokes in the entire process of selecting, preparing and cooking the food, and then eating it, of course. The first book I ever bought of hers was called How to be a Domestic Goddess - and I swear to you I almost inhaled it. If only the desserts could come to life, without my having to put any effort into it...One of the most interesting and exotic-sounding, for me at least, was the Chocolate Chestnut Pudding. I did try roasted chestnuts in Switzerland once, after having read so many lyrical descriptions of them by British authors writing about France, and was quite disappointed. Nope, not my bag. But in a cake? Hmm...
I tried this out last year as a special dessert for A's 40th birthday. I thought my usual cakes - Black as midnight or Crazy Cake - were a bit too regular for this, and I wanted a recipe rich in taste as well as experience. I went down to INA market specially to buy chestnuts - that's one market where you will get the most esoteric of ingredients ( esoteric from the Indian PoV) - wasabi paste, walnut oil, fresh truffles, Boursin and what not. The cake itself...it's not really a cake, it's more like a Bomb, so devastating is the experience of devouring it. Its fragrance is deeply redolent of the best things about chocolate. The texture is crumbly and yet moist. And the flavour is so densely chocolatey, that if you're a chocoholic, you will finish the entire thing before offering so much as a smidgen of it to other people. We served it to some close friends who came by on A's birthday - they literally picked each and every crumb off their plates and begged for seconds!
I went down to INA market some time back and got about a kilo of chestnuts that I pureed and put away in anticipation of this cake. I had been waiting for an occasion special enough to make this - A's birthday again seemed like a cliche. Finally, we have a couple of friends from the US who're visiting us on Friday, and they are major chocoholics, so that serves as the occasion.
A word about these two - they are such chocoholics that when they went grocery shopping in France, they typically bought about half a kilo of chocolate to last them through the week! Not only that, but on the fifteen minute walk home from the store, they would have demolished half their stock!!! PK - the female half of the pair - and I finally decided at one time that we had to lose weight, so we went on the GM diet. PK's husband, MK, is of the infuriating never-put-on-weight persuasion. We were hanging around at her house, sadly eyeing our cabbage soup, when MK disappears into the next room. "Don't come in for the next few minutes", he calls out. Well, saying that is like putting a match to gunpowder so PK couldn't resist. She tiptoed up to the room and put her eye to the keyhole. Guess what? MK was busy polishing off a tub of chocolate mousse, which had apparently been calling him from the fridge for quite a while. Being a gentleman, he didn't want to tempt PK off her diet!
Last night, I set to and made the cake. It's sitting there in a tin, eyeing me evilly and saying, "So...you think you won't finish me off before Friday? We haf vays to make you eat..." Lord give me strength!
Chocolate Chestnut Bomb
435 grams chestnut puree
125 gms unsalted butter, softened
6 eggs, separated
250 gms best dark ( but sweetened) chocolate (softened)
50 gms caster sugar
20 gms light muscovado sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp dark rum
As always, didn't have all the ingredients, so went along and improvised. Also, have done the best in terms of photography, what with my meagre camera skills and the morning light which is harsh as opposed to lambent - but do, please, do try making this cake. You'll never regret it!
In a deep bowl, mix together the butter and the chestnut puree until well mixed. Then add the vanilla, rum, the egg yolks and the chocolate and blend until well mixed.In a separate bowl, beat the whites of the eggs with the salt until foamy. Add the caster sugar gradually, and continue beating until the peaks are stiff and glossy. Scatter the muscovado sugar on top and fold in until well mixed.
Working confidently, fold the egg whites into the chocolate-chestnut batter, one third at a time.
Pour the batter into a 22 cm Springform greased and lined tin. Bake at 180 degrees C for 45 minutes ( or thereabouts). The top of the cake will have cracks in it, but who cares - it's meant to look that way. Cool on the rack for 20 minutes. Before serving, dust icing sugar on top and make sure whoever you're sharing this with is already in the room. Otherwise, all you'll have to show for your efforts is a pile of crumbs and a tiny brown smear on your chin!
I improvised with:
Kahlua instead of dark rum
2 tsp vanilla
Brown sugar instead of Muscovado which I don't know what it is and can't find easily here
Soften the chocolate by blitzing it in a microwave for 2 minutes - works like a charm. Ditto the butter, but for 1.5 minutes only. I use an electric beater for all the beating and folding - my biceps can't take the manual experience. Also, for novices - folding means to move the beater through the batter in a figure 8. It allows more air to come in or some such.
Also - am all thumbs when it comes to wrapping anything - I always claim the gifts we give at birthday parties and so on are wrapped by my 4 year old. So lining a round tin with a sheet of rectangular wax paper - well!!!But since it was a Springform ( again, for novices, a cake pan in which the bottom is detachable so its easier to pop the cake out. Just push upwards from below the pan and...whoops, the cake is on the floor and the rest of the pan is hanging off my arm like a giant's bracelet! Ok just kidding but it could happen.), I wrapped the bottom plate in wax paper. I put two pieces of wax paper into the cake pan so they overlapped at the edges, curled over the top like pie crust, and hung out of the hole at the bottom. Then I stomped the bottom plate into the pan and hey presto, the wax paper was stuck in place!
This blog is my entry for In The Bag, hosted this month by A Slice of Cherry Pie