Banana and chocolate cake

I’m on a hunt for a good banana bread recipe. I’ve tried a couple of recipes and none are quite hitting the mark. This one is totally delicious straight out of the oven but it’s definitely more of a cake than a ‘bread’. It was wonderful for a little afternoon tea but the next day I found it too moist. You should be able to spread banana bread with butter!!

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It’s based on a Nigel Slater recipe we changed because we didn’t have the right sugar and I couldn’t be bothered to grate the chocolate. I should add Lexie loved this cake – both making and eating it! She was great at mashing the bananas with a fork, cracking open the eggs and helping me break the chocolate (i.e. trying to eat as much of it as possible).

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Banana and chocolate cake

  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 125g soft butter
  • 235g brown sugar (we used demerara which is pretty crunchy but it was tasty!)
  • 400g peeled weight of ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • loaf tin, 24 x 12 x 7, lined with baking paper
  • 1 big bar of milk chocolate

Preheat the oven 180/gas 4. Cream together the sugar and butter. Beat the eggs and add the vanilla extract then add this to the sugar/butter mix.

On a plate mash the bananas with a fork so they are still a bit lumpy. Break the chocolate into large chunks and mix into the banana. Add all of this to the sugar/egg mixture.

Mix the flour and baking powder then slowly sift and fold this into the mixture. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake in the oven for about 50 mins. Use a knife or a strand of spaghetti to check it’s done by skewering the middle of the cake – it should come out clean. If it’s still gooey, cover with foil and bake for a few more mins.

Once it’s done let it cool for 15 mins then remove from the tin. Let it to cool a little longer then remove from the paper and serve in thick slices.

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Chocolate and almond cake

Hmm my last recipe was sweet and so is this one… Looks like I’m getting to the ‘cake’ phase of pregnancy. With Lexie, I had a sugar aversion during my first trimester but, by the time I finished breastfeeding, cake had become a major food group. A la ‘sleeping child = nice cup of tea/coffee and slice of cake.’ Indeed it is 3:37pm and, after a lovely and hectic morning at the London Transport museum my child is asleep. Here I sit with a lovely little latte and a slice of this scrummy chocolate and almond cake. If only my flat were tidy rather than toy strewn madhouse then we’d be pretty close to nirvana… (yes I could be tidying up instead of blogging BUT I’M NOT.)

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That picture is not my slice! That’s what is left of the cake at the moment. My much more reasonable portion is pictured below. The other pictures are from the London Transport museum. Ok so the recipe is another recommendation from my friend Dani. I’ve made it about 6 times now and think it tastes better the next day or even after a few days. It’s a Hugh Fearnley jobby (his recipes are so reliable I find, as if he’s Delia’s prodigal son) but I’ve changed it a little after a few mishaps/larder emergencies. I had no caster sugar so twice I used granulated white sugar. I’ve since made the recipe properly (and also once with a bar of Lindt chocolate orange by mistake) and I prefer it with granulated sugar. Lewis says I’m cray cray as one must always bake with caster sugar but I think granulated gives it a cruncher crumb and nicer texture. I also usually half or third the recipe as it’s a big cake.

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Chocolate and almond cake

Prep time: 15-20 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins
Budget: £5-£10 depending on what essentials you have £5-£10 (£5 chocolate, £1.50 eggs)
Ease: Easy to medium
Serves: At least 6
Ingredients:

  • 250g dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa solids – we use Lindt), broken into chunks
  • 250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 4 medium eggs, separated
  • 200g granulated sugar!!!! Or as the original recipe states either 100g caster mixed with 100g soft light brown sugar OR 200g just caster sugar)
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 23cm springform cake tin

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Preheat the oven to 170/gas 3 and grease the cake tin with butter. I use the leftover paper from the butter used in the recipe to do this. Put the chocolate and butter in a bain marie or, as I do, in a smaller saucepan suspended over a larger pan of barely simmering water, ideally making sure the water isn’t touching the smaller pan. Stir occasionally until the butter and chocolate have melted.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl until well combined. Then stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Combine the flour and almonds and then fold these in.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they hold firm peaks. Stir a large spoonful of egg white into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, then carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites with a large metal spoon, trying to keep in as much air as possible. When I first made this, I didn’t mix the egg white in properly so my cake was marbled with streaks of chewy egg white. So it should be a glossy brown when you are done.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin, place in the oven and bake for about 30 mins, until only just set. Hugh says: “It should still wobble slightly in the centre – this means the cake will have a divinely sticky, fudgy texture once it’s cooled down.” YUMMY! Then leave to cool for 10-15 mins before taking it out of the tin. It tastes better cold than warm and way better the next day, especially if you use the granulated sugar.

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Chocolate mousse

My favourite restaurant in Paris is called Le Square Trousseau. It’s so beautiful. The original zinc bar has featured in lots of movies and the food is classic and incredible – garlic snails, steak and chips, steak tartare, confit duck, lemon sole – as are the wines (Drappier champagne, Morgon reds). They always have an ‘all you can eat’ chocolate mousse on the dessert list which sounds quite naff but is so divine! You get a huge bowl of chocolate mousse to share regardless of the size of your group and you pay for what you eat – it’s heavenly.

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After a particularly stressful evening trying to get our daughter to sleep Lewis surprised me with a tray of chocolate mousses. He’d made them as I’d been trying to settle her. Amazing! And totally delicious (although I had to wait for them to chill before I got to eat them!). He adapted Simon Hopkinson recipe from the gloriously retro ‘The Prawn Cocktail Years’. We now leave out the rum and coffee – I ate one and found it impossible to sleep so… This also proved to be the perfect dessert for my celebratory birthday dinner with old school friends I rarely see without children!

(Quick note: I’m keen to try this chocolate mousse recipe – maybe without the salted caramel – when I do I’ll update this post and compare.)

Chocolate mousse (serves 4)

Prep time: 20 mins
Cooking time: 6 hours or overnight in the fridge to set

  • 200g good quality dark chocolate
  • 4 tbsp water (or 3 tbps expresso coffee and 1 1/2 tbps rum)
  • 25g butter
  • 3 large eggs – separated

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Break the chocolate into bits and place in a bowl with the butter and water. Suspend bowl (as in not in contact with) over a pan of simmering water. Let the ingredients melt stirring gently from time to time.

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Once melted remove the bowl from the pan and stir the egg yolks in one by one. Beat the egg whites until they are fluffy. Take 2 tbpn of egg white and fold into the chocolate mixture. Then fold the rest of the egg white in with a metal spoon until it’s completely mixed.

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Pour the mixture into little ramekins or glasses, cover with cling film and leave in fridge to chill for 6 hours or overnight.

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Chocolate chip cookies

A few years ago I spent Christmas in the Basque country with my family. The main celebration is on Christmas Eve with everyone out in the bars, dressed in traditional Basque clothes. Male choirs walk around the town singing carols then everyone goes home around 10pm to start dinner. The food is incredible – jamon, foie gras, smoked salmon, asparagus, steak, turrones…

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Basque men

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The whole experience was amazing but I was heartsick as Lewis was home in London. One phone call to him made me particularly maudlin. It was Christmas Eve and he was looking after his dad’s dog and making chocolate chip cookies to give to his family as presents… awwww! Of course he made me the cookies upon my return and they’ve been a favourite ever since.

The recipe is Hugh Fearnley and very easy to make with kids. They take about 7 minutes to bake and the day we realised we could freeze them in batches then cook from frozen was a very good day!

Chocolate chip cookies (makes 12-14 cookies)

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 10 mins

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 75g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 lightly beaten egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 100g dark chocolate, chopped into smallish chunks – Bourneville or Sainsbury’s dark chocolate are nice

Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190 degrees and grease a baking tray with butter. Weigh out all your ingredients (tutu optional).

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Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Put the sugars into a mixing bowl, pour in the melted butter and beat well with a wooden spoon. Beat in the egg and vanilla (this is Lewis ‘adding vanilla for Phillipa blog’ face).

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Sift the flour into the bowl and add the baking powder and salt. Stir them in, then add the chopped chocolate (eat some chocolate).

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Using two tablespoons put little blobs of cookie dough on to the baking tray – leave lots of space between them. Either use 2 baking trays or bake in 2 batches (or freeze half the cookie balls – see below). Bake for 8-10 mins until the cookies are pale golden brown. Remove from the oven and leave for a few minutes then use a spatula to put the cookies on a wire rack or plate to cool. I always eat at least one cookie straight from the oven when it’s all goey chocolately (or “chocolalli” as Lexie’s little friend Bonnie says). Lexie prefers to eat hers nudie on the sofa. Remember to store them in a biscuit tin so they are nice the next day. 

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To freeze the cookies (we usually bake 6 and freeze 6) put the little blobs of cookie on a plate and pop in the freezer. Once they are pretty frozen you can pop them into a plastic freezer bag. Then every time you want a cookie just take a ball out of the freezer and bake in the oven for 8-10 mins. This is Lewis ‘putting the cookies in the freezer for Phillipa’s blog’ face.

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