an occupational hazard


tiny chocolate cakes

The Easter weekend ended up being a bit of a busy one for stonesoup. I finally got around to updating a few things that have been on my to do list for a while now. I hope you’ll notice the few subtle changes to the appearance. Small things like removing the boarder from the header and getting rid of the blue in the colour scheme. But the bulk of the work went into a reorganization of the recipe index – complete with photos and links to my flickr. All very exciting.

The other change has been that I’ve finally updated my ‘about the author’ page. Long overdue but the thing I really wanted to share with you this week was that I had a bit of a revelation about myself.

It all started when I was writing about my current job – designing chocolate biscuits. Something I’ve been doing for over a year now so not exactly new news. But I was thinking about that, and along with the whole Easter egg thing and I dawned on me. Over the last six months or so I’ve actually become a chocolate lover.

I say ‘lover’ because I don’t exactly feel like I’m up to the chocoholic stage just yet. If I look at myself now compared with this time last year, my knowledge of and appreciation for the humble cocoa bean and its products has increased exponentially. And with it has my devotion.

While I’ve never been as extreme as my lovely sister Naomi, who used to hide her Easter eggs under her bed because she just didn’t (and still doesn’t) like chocolate, I was never a massive chocolate fan. When I was little I’d always take a caramel milk shake over a chocolate one. The white and pink icecream in the Nepolitana pack always took my fancy well ahead of the brown. Sure the chocolate options were OK – just not my first choice.

Over the last month, Glen and I have implemented alcohol free Mondays. As a reward after dinner we’ve been having a couple of squares of good quality dark chocolate with our lemongrass and ginger tea. The amazing thing is that I’ve found myself really looking forward to Mondays and not really minding going without the vino if it means we can have the chocolate guilt free. I know. I’m a changed girl.

I’m blaming my job. You see I’ve been lucky enough to attend a couple of courses with different chocolatiers in the name of work. I’ve been involved in in-house ‘market basket’ studies where we buy different chocolate products and taste them in an effort to understand the choices that consumers are exposed to. I’ve been in charge of organizing a monthly team afternoon tea excursion to various chocolate shops. I’ve even been working on a project to improve the quality of the chocolate that we make for our biscuits. Which has meant that I’ve actually been making chocolate from scratch – well at least cocoa butter, cocoa liquor, sugar and some milk powder.

All of this has added up to me slowly falling in love. I know all of you out there who have had more of an at-first-sight relationship with your chocolate will be wondering why it took me so long. And all I can say is ‘better late than never’.

It’s been a while since I wrote about something sweet. With Easter weekend here and my new self awareness, it just had to be time for something rich and fudgey and over-the-top-chocolate. A big thankyou to the talented Emma Knowles from Australian Gourmet Traveller for this weeks inspiration. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about chocolate, it’s that a little bit of exceptional quality goes a long way. And these tiny chocolate cakes play the part to perfection. Just remember to stop at one (or two or ???).

tiny chocolate cakes
makes 22-24

Adapted from a recipe by the lovely Emma Knowles in this months Australian Gourmet Traveller.

Emma notes not to be tempted to halve this recipe as the quantities are already so small. And she’s right. There were no problems in our house getting rid of these delicious little morsels. They will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to a week. Just remember to allow them to come to room temperature before eating. There’s a massive increase in flavor perception in warmer chocolate than from when it comes straight from the fridge.

Like brownies, one of the secrets to these cakes is to not overcook them. It’s important to keep them nice and moist – although to be honest the lovely ganache on top does balance things out if you do keep them in the oven a little past ideal.

If you don’t have any papers to line your tin, don’t make my mistake. With my first batch I just thought I’d grease the tins extra well and all would be fine. Unfortunately I ended up with cakes that were well and truly stuck to the bottom. When I tried to loosen them with a knife all I ended up with was crumbs – tasty but not exactly photogenic.

60g unsalted butter
65g caster sugar
1/4C Frangelico
100g dark chocolate (approx 70% cocoa solids), chopped
1 egg yolk
55g self raising flour
20g alkalized (Dutch processed) cocoa powder
for the ganache:
300g dark chocolate (approx 70% cocoa solids)
1/2C pouring cream

For the cakes. Preheat oven to 160C (320F). Line a 24 hole mini muffin or cup cake tray with papers.

Combine butter, sugar and Frangelico in a medium saucepan and stir over a medium heat until the butter is melted. Remove from the heat and add chocolate. Allow to sit for a few minutes and then stir until chocolate is melted, putting the saucepan back on the heat every now and then if you need extra heat.

Stir through egg yolk. Sift together flour and cocoa powder and then fold the mixture through your chocolate base. Divide between prepared mini muffin tins – you’ll only have a teaspoonful or so for each cake.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until the tops feel firm to the touch. Cool in the tins for at least 10 minutes and then remove. Cool completely before adding the ganache.

For the ganache. Place cream and chocolate in a medium saucepan. Place on a very low heat and gently stir until the chocolate looks like it’s starting to melt. Remove from the heat and continue to stir until the chocolate has melted. If needed you can periodically pop the saucepan back on the heat for a few seconds at a time.

Cover the surface with cling film and allow to cool completely.

To finish, place ganache in a piping bag or plastic bag. Cut off one corner of the bag to leave a hole about 5mm diameter. Pipe ganache on top of each cake in a spiral patter.

note. Apologies to any readers who use imperial measurements. I haven’t had a chance to convert and test this recipe in non-metric but will hopefully get it sorted out in the next few days (any excuse to make another batch) so please tune back in.

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