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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Monday, November 07, 2005

Chocolate Chilli.....

I meant to write about this on the weekend, conscious of wanting maintain my regular updates. In fact, I meant to do a lot of things on the weekend, but one of the perks of the job as a cataloguer is to handle the material that arrives in the library for cataloguing, and some of the monographs can be pretty interesting. My attention was caught by a new book about Kim Jong Il and North Korea, and I secretly carried it home for the weekend. I really couldn't put it down; North Korea is a disturbing country. So.....no posting on the weekend. The computer was never even switched on!

But, last week was my brother's birthday (coinciding with the Melbourne Cup Day public holiday I didn't get as a university employee!....bah!!) and I asked what he would like for a cake. After being reminded that he really doesn't go in for cakes, and could I make an icecream cake? (nope), he suggested something chocolate. With maybe some cinnamon? I suggested, with him being such a big fan of anything extremely hot, a chocolate, cinnamon, chilli combination might be the go. He gave his assent, and I had a think about what to do.

It was pretty easy to make a decision. I remembered the chocolate gingerbread I made earlier in the year, to which I added some chilli powder. The resulting cake was dense, rich, chocolatey and spicy. Most importantly, I remembered it being not too sweet; an important consideration, when it was being presented to 6 boys in their 20s - all of whom are not really into sweets. This cake is smoky and almost bitter from the large amount of treacle (or molasses). It also carries chilli flavour really well.
I added about 3/4 teaspoon of chilli powder - going slowly because it's always easier to add than subtract! I was aware of not wanting to blow people's heads off, but also wanting to create a distinctive afterburn. Tasting the raw batter, I definitely could detect a kick, but it didn't translate to the cooked cake so much. Yes, there was certainly a warmth in your mouth, and a slight heat in your throat, but it was more like a spice. Actually it was fairly similar to the heat from fresh ginger. My brother enjoyed it, but recommended I up the chilli content next time. If I used 3/4 teaspoon this time, he suggested going for 2 teaspoons next time! Yep, he does likes things hot, although he hasn't quite taken after my uncle who chose to chew on one of the decorative dried chillies instead....!!

I went for the gingerbeer/chocolate icing this time; even buying the top stuff Bundaberg ginger beer, but I wasn't so impressed by it. There wasn't enough of either the ginger beer or the cocoa to really create a distinctive taste of either flavour. The sour lemon icing I used last time worked much better. This icing mainly tasted of sweetness, so I decided to split the cake open in the middle and fill it with whipped cream. It made it look more festive and birthday cake-like too. Additionally, at that stage I was still under the impression that the cake would be pretty hot, and I thought the masking properties of dairy might be needed. As we know, it didn't, but the cream cut through the dark richness really well, which is what you need when you're eating it after a big celebratory dinner.
Read on for the recipe:

Chocolate Chilli Gingerbread
Adapted from the Chocolate Gingerbread in Feast.

'This is very rich, very strong: not for children, but perfect for the rest of us' Nigella Lawson.

For the cake:
175g butter
125g dark brown sugar
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle OR molasses
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon chili powder (or to your own taste and pain threshold)
1 1/4 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons warm water
2 eggs
250ml milk
275g plain flour
40g cocoa
175g chocolate chips (preferably dark)
For the icing:
250g icing sugar
30g butter
1 tablespoon cocoa
60ml ginger ale (ginger beer)

1 pot whipping cream

Preheat oven to 170C and tear off a big piece of baking paper to line the bottom and sides of a roasting tin approx 30x20x5cm deep.
In a large saucepan, melt the butter along with the sugars, golden syrup, treacle or molasses, cloves, cinnamon, chili and ground ginger. In a cup dissolve the bicarb of soda in the water. Take the saucepan off the heat and beat in the eggs, milk and bicarb in its water. Stir in the flour and cocoa and beat with a wooden spoon to mix. Fold in the chocolate chips, pour into the lined tin and bake for about 45 minutes-1 hour until risen and firm. It will be slightly damp underneath the set top which is the way you want it.

Remove to a wire rack and let cool in the tin. Once cool, remove and slice in half with a serrated knife and make the icing.
Sieve icing sugar. In a heavy-based saucepan heat the butter, cocoa and ginger ale. Once the butter's melted, whisk in the icing sugar. Let cool slightly, and whip the cream until fairly stiff. Plop the cream over the bottom layer, and pour over the icing to cover the top.
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