Emergency Chocolate Mousse

Trust me, you need this emergency chocolate mousse. All I’ve been hearing about lately is people suffering from baking disasters: collapsed choux buns, sunken cakes, curdled custards and burnt biscuits. We must be in the midst of an epidemic.

The symptoms of this peculiar affliction begin slowly; caused by a slightly dodgy oven or a slapdash approach to measurement. Sometimes it’s a missing ingredient and you decide to ‘wing it,’ sometimes you’re too busy looking at other people’s bakes on Instagram and have a lapse in attention. It escalates quickly and, before you know it, you are in the throes of disaster, crying into your charred creation, angrily throwing it into the sink or, in extreme cases, sitting in the corner of the kitchen, covered in flour, rocking back and forth muttering about how Mary Berry made it look so easy on television.

I succumb to this on a regular basis. Even for those of us for whom cooking is a hobby, it can still be a massively stressful experience as, now more than ever, we are expected to share our food with others and, even more frighteningly, on social media. The worst bout of disaster for me came when I tried, and spectacularly failed, to make a tray of gin and tonic jellies for a Band of Bakers event. I came home before the event to collect them and they were still liquid, even after 14 hours in the fridge. I had ignored the symptoms, you see: I have a terrible track record with gelatine and booze is notoriously difficult to work with. I threw the whole lot down the sink and needed a remedy.

It was not the first time that the emergency chocolate mousse has been my saviour, it has managed to cure me of dessert-related meltdowns on several occasions in the past. Of course, if you balls up your planned dessert royally, you can just go to the shop and buy one, and I thoroughly advocate this; unless, of course, you write a food blog and run a baking club, in which case you had better turn out something homemade or your credibility will plummet. Or so my inner fears go at these moments.

The best thing about this mousse is that it takes hardly any time to make. The second best thing is that you can buy most of the ingredients from the corner shop which if, like me, you’re a bit of a way from a supermarket and don’t have a car, is a godsend. After my failed gin and tonic jellies were so unceremoniously dumped, I managed to get to the corner shop, buy ingredients, make the mousse and chill it, all within an hour. It also tastes pretty good and, more importantly, homemade. If you have a posh corner shop, or at least one that sells more than booze and crisps, you can get creative with what you serve with the mousse. I spooned mine into little individual cups and served half with some fresh strawberries they had in that day, and the other half with sweets from the pick and mix stand.

Of course, you may be one of those lucky individuals for whom nothing goes wrong, but if you’re susceptible to the odd bout of baking disasters, I would bookmark this page and make a note of your local shop’s opening hours. At least until they discover a vaccine.

Emergency Chocolate Mousse

Note: if you don’t have these exact ingredients to hand, don’t worry about it. 300g of any chocolate will suffice, and if you don’t have brandy you can sub it out with any other whisky or liqueurs you have in the booze cupboard – or leave it out all together.

150g dark chocolate
100g milk chocolate
50g white chocolate
3 eggs
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp brandy
250ml whipped cream

Break all of the chocolate into small pieces into a glass bowl and place it over a pan of simmering water. Stir the chocolate until it melts and then set aside to cool.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar until thick and pale, then fold in the cooled chocolate, being careful not to knock too much air out of the eggs. Gently fold in the brandy and whipped cream.

Either divide into individual serving dishes, or serve from the large bowl.

Serves four. Adapted from a recipe by Gino D’Acampo.

Fried Nutella and Strawberry French Toast Sandwich

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Farmdrop Feast, where I ate gorgeous local food and spent the evening learning about local farms and organic food production. Yesterday, I received a box of goodies from the lovely people at Farmdrop, so set about planning some breakfasts.  First up was the punnet of delicious organic strawberries.

I’m sorry to do this to you again, but there ain’t nothin’ healthy about this breakfast. If course, I could have taken those strawberries and turned them into a smoothie or a fruit salad; but I saw the unopened jar of Nutella in the cupboard and the idea just came to me to make french toast. A word to the wise: only make this on a day when you will have an hour or so to lay down afterwards, just trust me.

Fried Nutella and Strawberry French Toast Sandwich

2 slices white bread
3 tbsp Nutella, or other chocolate hazelnut spread
3 strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 egg
Splash of milk
A knob of butter, for frying
Olive oil

Spread the Nutella thickly across one side of each of the slices of bread, leaving a border of about half an inch around the outside. Thinly slice the strawberries and carefully lay across the Nutella on one of the slices. Lay the other slice on top to make a sandwich.

In a large, shallow dish whisk together the egg and milk.  Place the sandwich in the mixture, leaving for a minute or so to absorb the egg, and then turn over and do the same for the other side.  In a large frying pan, heat a little butter in some olive oil over a medium-high heat, then fry the sandwich for a couple of minutes on each side until browned. Slice in half and transfer to a plate.

Serves one.

For transparency, Farmdrop gave me £30.00 off my first shop. If you live in London and are interested in a veg box or organic food delivery, you should definitely check them out.

Strawberry, Almond and Coconut Baked Porridge

I’ve been making porridge this way ever since I first read the argument for baked oatmeal on Serious Eats. I do occasionally make up a batch in a pan for convenience, but much prefer the creaminess of baking the oats in a custard of milk and eggs. This is usually a winter dish, but I couldn’t resist making it with a punnet of British strawberries I picked up yesterday.

Strawberry, Almond and Coconut Baked Porridge

400g strawberries, hulled and quartered
150g rolled oats
50g flaked almonds
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
65g sugar
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 egg
425ml whole milk

Preheat the oven to 175ºc and butter a pie dish or shallow baking dish.  Scatter the strawberries in the dish, followed by the rolled oats, almonds and desiccated coconut. In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, cinnamon, egg and milk.  Pour over the oats and stir gently to distribute evenly. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until set in the middle. Leave to cool for a little while before serving.

Adapted from a recipe from Serious Eats

Coffee and an Almond Croissant (and Sympathy) at Lerryn’s Cafe, Peckham

How’s this for breakfast-related drama: this morning, on my way to Peckham Rye station, I fell over quite spectacularly, resulting in a bruised hip, knee and ankle, a bashed wrist, ripped tights and some wounded pride. Being in quite a lot of pain I went to the nearest cafe to sit down, get myself a coffee and try and gather myself together. Walking into Lerryn‘s is like walking into the kitchen of your nicest friend, they are friendly, serve coffee in proper mugs and play loud music. They also make delicious almond croissants which are the perfect medicine for a little bit of pain and a lot of embarrassment.
Almond croissants are £2.50
Lerryn’s Cafe, 200 Rye Lane, London SE15 4UR

Raspberry Breakfast Scones

It seems as though every week, one of my favourite fruits or vegetables are coming into season: first asparagus, then strawberries and then, at the weekend, I found my first punnet of British raspberries of the summer. Summer berries are such a joy after the dark months of winter and give the possibility of healthy smoothies, yoghurt bowls and fruit salads for the breakfast table. Me being me: I made cake.

Raspberry Breakfast Scones

250g fresh raspberries
350g plain flour
2½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
115g unsalted butter, chilled
150ml double cream
50ml milk
1 egg, beaten

The day before you make these, freeze the punnet of raspberries. The best way to do this is to freeze them first on a baking tray before transferring them to a tupperware or freezer bag, as this will ensure they don’t stick together.

In a large bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Cut the chilled butter into small cubes and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Pour in the double cream and milk and work together until you have a shaggy dough.

Turn out on to a floured surface and roll out to a 8×10 inch rectangle with the long edge facing you.  Cover the bottom two-thirds of the rectangle with the frozen raspberries, then fold the dough with an envelope fold, starting with the plain dough at the top. Press down the dough and, using your hands, mould it into a round about three-quarters of an inch thick, then cut into six triangles.  Transfer the triangles to a couple of plates and place in the freezer for 30 minutes.

During this time, preheat the oven to 200ºc.  Remove the triangles from the freezer and arrange on two baking sheets lined with greaseproof paper.  Brush with a little beaten egg and then bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with good lemon curd.

Adapted from a recipe by Eggton

Carrot and Walnut Loaf

Last night I had the unenviable task of going through the fridge and throwing out things past their best (glamorous, right?) and came across a few sad-looking carrots from last week’s veg bag. Loathed as I am to throw away anything, I decided to turn these into today’s breakfast by baking up a quick carrot and walnut loaf.

Carrot and Walnut Loaf

2 eggs
225g caster sugar
180ml sunflower oil
185g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 large carrots, coarsley grated
60g walnuts, chopped

Preheat the oven to 175ºc and spray a medium loaf pan with cake release spray (I use Dr. Oetker’s.)  In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar and sunflower oil until smooth. Add to this the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon.  Fold together until just combined, do not overmix.

Fold in two grated large carrots and the chopped walnuts. Scrape the batter into the loaf tin and bake for 45-50 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. Serve in slices with a splodge of Greek yoghurt.

Matcha Doughnut from Crosstown Doughnuts for National Doughnut Week

Yes, it may be the start of the working week, which brings with it all the back-to-the-grind blues, but it is also the start of National Doughnut Week, which is something to be infinitely more cheerful about.  I don’t know about you, but I love a good doughnut so have been happy to see a number of new bakeries open across London in the past couple of years. Crosstown Doughnuts was one of the most eagerly anticipated, selling sourdough doughnuts with a number of fillings from their tiny shop on Broadwick Street. With it being first thing in the morning, I opted for one with a matcha green tea frosting. Totally delicious.
Matcha green tea doughnut, £2.70.
Crosstown Doughnuts, 4 Broadwick Street, London W1F 8HJ

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