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bank holidays are few and far between and so when one comes along, it should be mightily treasured, full of adventure, smiles, laughter and above all, time spent with crazy good people. Having prepared my Dad for the mischief my brother and I would no doubt be up to in order to make up for the lost time I’d spent with our parents from living away from home, the weekend was sure to be an exciting mix of jovial repartee from the youngsters, Dad jokes, scrabble-wars from my Mum and outlandish comments from the one and only Grandma Avent.
Friday played out beautifully, with two rounds of tea and biscuits on the agenda matched with a historical retelling of some old photographs my Grandma had saved in crinkled, battered envelopes; our Great Great Great Grandmother sitting plump in the middle of 10 children, a babe in arms and a man, unknown to all, on her right. I wanted to revel in the family resemblance but all I could see was The Trunch from Roald Dahl’s Matilda in her sturdy frame, the buttons of her frilled frock bursting and ready to pop (I imagine straight into the photographer’s face). Her stern look and severely swept-back hair did nothing for her round features and the absence of a smile made me grateful that at least our traditional beach selfie would be far more charismatic than this.
We wheeled Grandma to the beach on Saturday, sending her down the zig zag hill to the pier, her whispy hair dancing in the wind and all our cheeks flushed with the pinch of cold in the air. There were surfers out in the waters; rather them than me! The warmth of the sun as it peeped out from behind the thick white marshmallow clouds was the only saving grace to keep us from getting too chilly, as each family member was slowly donating an item of clothing to keep Grandma from going blue.
As we made our way home on Easter Sunday, after the best eggs my Dad had ever boiled in his life(!!) and an over of cricket which finished swiftly as I hit a six over the garden fence, I was already considering the options for a chocolate dessert to have that evening. A beautiful friend of mine brought me a cracking birthday present last year; a framed print with the words “whip it, whip it real good” neatly scrawled across the white background. It stands, propped against my bookshelf and trust me, the recipe I chose calls for a full eight minutes of whipping eggs and sugar so it’s a philosophy that should be taken seriously.
Rather than receiving traditional Easter eggs, my parents decided that my love of salted caramel should also be taken seriously. Having purchased a jar of the sweet, sticky substance in Aldeburgh last weekend and additionally giving me a glossy cellphone bag of duck-egg blue speckled chocolate eggs that were also salted caramel flavoured, this dessert had to follow suit. After much whipping and a little pre-dinner preparation, I had set myself up for a taste-test like no other… I just hoped that the reality lived up to expectations!
Fondant au Chocolat
200g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
1 tbsp cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or more)
5 large eggs
125g caster sugar
100g plain flour
A pinch of flaked sea salt
6tsp salted caramel
Salted caramel ice cream to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 190C / 170C fan / Gas Mark 5, line a baking tray with parchment, then butter and coat six dariole moulds or ramekins with cocoa powder, knocking out the excess. Place on the prepared tray and set aside.
2. Put the butter and chocolate into a heatproof bowl and set over a saucepan of gently simmering water on the stove, making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir occasionally until melted then remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly.
3. Put the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and using an electric hand whisk, whip (this is where the whipping comes in!) for 8 minutes until pale and think.
N.B. It’s necessary to whip for this long until the mixture becomes pale and creamy in order to incorporate enough air…just keep whipping!
4. While still whisking, pour in the chocolate mixture and use a spatula to scrape down the edges of the bowl until all is incorporated.
5. Sift over the flour, cocoa powder and salt then fold in using the spatula until you have a smooth batter.
6. Divide the mixture between the prepared moulds, make a small well in each and add 1tsp of salted caramel to each then bake for 10 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and using a blunt knife, scrape round the edges before turning out onto a plate and serving straight away with the salted caramel ice cream.
N.B. The fondants can be made a day ahead and store in the fridge until ready to bake. They can also be frozen and baked straight from the freezer – just add an extra 5mins to cooking time.
Adapted from Edd Kimber’s Patisserie Made Simple