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52 New Recipes in 2010 – 04, Chocolate Chestnut Cake

February 15, 2010

Truth be told, I’m not much of a baker. Oh, I enjoy it fine and most of my cakes are edible, but I don’t really love it like some people do – it creates all that washing up and I much prefer savoury flavours! When I lived in suburbia and finding decent, affordable fresh food was a real challenge, I did used to bake almost all my own bread, which was gloriously stress-relieving and tasty, but now I can buy an enormous loaf of freshly-baked bread from the Turkish bakery at the end of my road for the princely sum of £1.15 and never seem to be at home long enough to do things like letting dough rise, so that kind of fell by the wayside.

Also, 90% of the skill in baking (until you get really good and actually understand how it all works and can start to experiment with things) appears to be in being able to use your oven properly, which frankly requires more attention to detail and rigorous experimentation than I can normally be bothered to do. It all seems a bit mystical – all that melting and stirring, you put something in the oven that looks like cake mix and then you can’t look at it for 30 minutes until you can take something that looks completely different out of the oven. Ideally this should look like cake, but sometimes it doesn’t, and then you’ve wasted all that time and all those ingredients. I’m aware the alchemy is the charm for some people, but I find it a bit unsettling. Vegetables are much more straightforward – and 90% of the skill in cooking is in sourcing good ingredients, so you’re most of the way there before you start chopping. 😉

Still, sometimes the urge for cake overtakes me. And it did so the other week. I’d seen some chestnuts in the shops and was tempted to have a play around with them, and my friend coming to dinner provided the perfect excuse to make a chocolate and chestnut cake.

The recipe came from River Cottage Year and here I must say that although Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is one of my culinary heroes (say what you like about the River Cottage ethos being elitist, his recipes are usually straightforward and almost always work – and his infectious enthusiasm and fondnes for bad puns are rather endearing), I take issue with the fact that he describes this cake as “an absolute doddle to make”. He does also say that you can use tinned chestnuts if you like, but using the fresh ones was VERY fiddly and took quite a while. Instructions are here.

Still, the cake part was easy enough – melt chocolate and butter, mash up cooked chestnuts with milk, mix egg yolks and sugar then combine these altogether, fold in egg whites and whack in the oven. However, despite following the instructions to the letter, the cake was not cooked when I took it out 30 minutes later, nor was it cooked when I eventually took it out after another 15 minutes for fear it might burn.

Harrumph.

Risotto just wouldn’t do that to you.

Still, despite the slightly-gooier-than-intended centre, it was enthusiastically demolished by self, friends and housemates. I’d definitely make it again. And nobody got food poisoning. Just another reason to always use good quality eggs. 🙂

The cake in all its glory

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