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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

A busy weekend of music, beginning by going to the Mahler 3 with the Melbourne Sypmony, in which a friend of ours was playing, then Arvo Part rehearsals Saturday morning, onto an outing to see A's father conduct the Symphony Under The Stars concert, then a bit of Josquin and Tallis tonight at Evensong. And this isn't even very busy yet; the 2 weeks leading up to Easter will be frantic!

We're in the season of free outdoor concerts here at the moment. There's jazz-in-the-park, cinema-in-the-park, theatre-in-the-park and concerts-in-the-park (not the same park, obviously!). Last night was an orchestral concert full of big pieces good for outdoor performances for a huge crowd who had all appeared to bring champagne, strawberries and young children...it was very family friendly...the little kiddies had a ball listening to the orchestra and trying to climb onto the stage! Everyone was relaxed and planning to have a good time.

I decided to try a cake I had seen in Nigella's book, Feast, to bring along to accompany my home-made pate (it freezes well, remember!) and crackers. Outdoor concerts are probably the one classical music venue where it doesn't matter if you crunch and chew your way through an entire piece!
When first flicking through the Chocolate Cake Hall of Fame chapter in 'Feast', my eye was caught by the photo and description of the Chocolate Gingerbread; it sounded just like my type of thing; rich, dense, smoky and not too sweet. A chocolate cake for adults with more sophisticated tastes. Yum.
The mixture is so easy to make; it's all done in one saucepan, but make sure you use a very large one. I didn't and got into some troubles on the way. I actually found, tasting the batter at the end, that I didn't find it spicy enough; the cocoa and chocolate chips had dominated and overshadowed the ginger and spices. I didn't want this; I didn't want a chocolate cake. I wanted a spicy, chocolate flavoured gingerbread so I increased the amount of ginger by about 4 times (!! I emptied my jar!) and added about a 1 1/2 teaspoons of chili powder - inspired by things I've heard about chocolate and chili. This is why I've called it a spicy chocolate gingerbread.
I baked it up and took it out of the oven about 3 minutes before I had to leave for the concert; so it was still warm from the oven when we were eating it; gorgeous! It's the type of cake that improves after a day or so, and the piece I had today was even more spectacular.

It's very rich, very moist and soft, but not too sweet; in fact it has an almost bitter edge from the treacle, and a wonderful throat warming aftertaste from the heat of the chili. Despite the huge amount of ginger, it still doesn't taste overwhelmingly like gingerbread; this is definitely a chocolate cake, but a very sophisticated one. I think it'd be excellent with some fresh ginger mixed into the batter, like in Nigella's gingerbread in Domestic Goddess; I'll try this next time.
I had great intentions of making the gingerbeer icing, but just didn't have a chance to get to the shop for ginger ale, so I made a sour lemon icing. The refreshing lemon goes really well with the musky, spicy cake.
This one is definitely a must try!

Spicy Chocolate Gingerbread

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

For the cake
175g butter

125g dark brown sugar
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle OR molasses
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger (you may not find these quantities of spices enough. I added quite a bit more)

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
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)

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 and that's the way you want it.

Remove to a wire rack and let cool in the tin. Once cool, 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. Lift the chocolate gingerbread out of the tin and unwrap the paper. Pour over the icing just to cover the top and cut into fat slabs when set.

Makes about 12 slabs.


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