chocolate | The Proof of the Pudding


Ok, so I’ll be the first to admit that this recipe isn’t going to win any brownie (seewhatIdidthere?) points for originality – the combination of sea salt and caramel or toffee, essentially sweet and salty, is not going to be a revelation to you. However, this is what I’ve been baking lately and goddammit if it isn’t delicious, so it feels only fair to share the recipe in case you’re in need of a ridiculously indulgent treat. Because that’s exactly what this is, and it will satisfy any chocolate cravings instantly.

Last month we were given a joint birthday hamper filled with some amazing goodies, including this toffee crème:

(There’s also a mocha crème that we haven’t opened yet, which I think shows incredible restraint. When that day comes….uhhhhhh.)

Anyway, this. Is. The. Bomb. It’s brilliant on top of vanilla ice cream, and obviously it can be eaten straight out the jar with a teaspoon (been there, done that), but I thought I’d have a go at using it in some baking, and salted brownies was the obvious answer. This recipe is based on the best brownie recipe ever. Of course, you don’t need to have this particular product to make the recipe – you could use any caramel or toffee that you already have or can find in the shops, as long as it’s soft enough to swirl through the brownie mix.

One year ago:
– Chocolate fondant
– Rhubarb curd and rhubarb cordial

Two years ago:
– Banana bread
– Triple chocolate cheesecake
– Slow cooked BBQ pulled pork

Ingredients (makes about 16 brownies) 190g dark chocolate 190g unsalted butter, plus a little extra for greasing 3 medium eggs 250g caster sugar ½ tsp vanilla extract 115g plain flour ½ tsp sea salt flakes, plus a few extra pinches for the top

3 or 4 tbsp of toffee crème (or other toffee/caramel product!)

Method 1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Grease a 20x20cm baking tin with a knob of butter and line it with baking parchment, leaving a little paper hanging over two of the sides – this will make it much easier to lift the brownie out at the end.

Ok first, click here and press play. Now I have your attention let’s continue…

It’s either the saviour or the downfall of Masterchef contestants everywhere. If perfected then in the words of Gregg Wallace “Ah, mate, I tell you what, that’s the sort of thing I would dip my head in”. If it doesn’t work then there’s no bigger disappointment and a contestant’s dream will be fading fast. But! I’m here to tell you that it need not be the downfall of the home cook. Sure, it takes a bit of time, and you need to stick to the recipe instructions meticulously, but this is my go-to impressive pudding for a dinner party and it has worked every time. I really hope you give this recipe a go, and please let me know if you do – it’s such a satisfying dessert to make. Good luck!

Ingredients (serves 4) 25g butter, melted 4 tsp cocoa powder 100g dark chocolate 100g butter Large shot of chocolate liquor (or any liquor of your choice) 2 medium eggs, plus two extra yolks 100g caster sugar 100g plain flour

Double cream or ice-cream to serve

Method 1. Brush the inside of four small pudding tins or ramekins with the melted butter.

Use upward strokes with a pastry brush to line the sides – this helps the puddings to rise nicely.

Place in the freezer for 10 minutes, or in the fridge for 30 minutes, and brush on a second layer of butter when the first has hardened. Chill again.

2. Put a teaspoon of cocoa powder into each tin, shake and tip out in order to completely coat the inside – this stops the puddings from sticking to the tins and will guarantee your little cakes will tip out easily after cooking.

3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain-marie and set aside to cool to room temperature.

4. Add a shot of your chosen liquor to the chocolate mixture and stir well.


Chocolate liquor will result in a deeper, richer chocolate flavour, but coffee or mint liquor, Cointreau or brandy would all work as well.

5. Use an electric whisk to beat the eggs and sugar together.
You need to achieve a really thick, bubbly texture so keep whisking until the mixture turns considerably lighter in colour and the batter leaves a trail from the whisks.

You can of course use a hand whisk, but be warned, you will need guns of steel.

6. Sift the flour into the egg mixture and beat to combine.


7. Add the chocolate a bit at a time, beating well to ensure that it incorporates evenly into the batter.

8. Now you’re ready to fill the pudding tins or ramekins. I find that the easiest and most mess-free way to do this is to transfer the batter into a jug and then pour the mixture into the tins from there.

Fill the tins evenly and then chill in the fridge until ready to cook – wait at least 30 minutes, but you can leave them overnight if you’re preparing ahead.

9. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/Gas Mark 4. Place the puddings on a baking tray and bake for 12 minutes. I have always found that this timing works perfectly, so I trust it every time and don’t let myself be tempted to take them out sooner or leave them in longer.

The puddings should rise out the tins slightly and be well cooked round the outside, but soft in the centre.

10. Gently tip the fondants out onto small plates or bowls (this should be easy due to the double layer of butter and the cocoa powder in steps 1 and 2).
Serve with lashings of double cream or good quality vanilla ice-cream.


Sit back and revel in the ooh-s and aah-s that will ensue as your guests cut into the fondants and the chocolate centre oozes out. To. Die. For.


The credit for this cake goes 100% to Deb from the Smitten Kitchen blog. This is one of my favourite food blogs out there, and when I saw her picture of this cake on Instagram a few weeks ago I knew straight away that I had to make it. Happily, it coincided with my other half’s birthday and with his only request for his cake being “chocolate, chocolate, chocolate” this seemed like it was the only and ideal solution.
This cake was a complete success. Although it’s really all about the piles of sweet chocolatey buttercream on top, the sponge itself was delicious. It’s dense, almost like a brownie, but the overall effect is not too overwhelming as it’s a fairly thin sponge cut into small pieces. Instead of using buttermilk as in the original recipe, I went for Deb’s suggestion of substituting for red wine. On the day I baked it, we didn’t think the red wine flavour came through strongly, although it did add some much needed acidity to cut through the rich chocolate flavour, but on the second and third days after mellowing in the fridge you could definitely taste the red wine. If you’re baking this cake for little ones (it would be the perfect birthday cake for a kids party, and the quantities can easily be increased to make a larger cake) then just switch back to the buttermilk.

Ingredients (cuts into 12-16 small pieces) 85g softened butter 145g soft dark brown sugar 25g caster sugar 1 large egg, plus one large egg yolk 1 tsp vanilla extract 175ml red wine 40g cocoa powder 125g plain flour ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda ½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

55g dark chocolate 180g icing sugar 115g softened butter Pinch of salt 1-2 tbsp whole milk or cream ½ tsp vanilla extract

Topping of your choice – I used rainbow chocolate beans from Sainsburys

Method 1. Preheat the oven to 175C/150C fan/Gas Mark 3. Grease a 20x20cm cake tin and line it with a square of baking parchment.

2. Tip the soft butter and both dark and caster sugars into a large bowl.

Use a hand whisk to mix until the mixture is fluffy and turns lighter in colour.

3. Add the egg, yolk and vanilla extract and beat again until fully combined.

4. Pour in the red wine and mix again. At this point I had a minor panic as the mixture looked split. However, Deb says in her original recipe “don’t worry if the batter looks uneven”, so I decided to put my full trust in her and continue. Sift the dry ingredients (cocoa powder, flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and salt) into the bowl and give one final mix to combine.

And lo and behold I had a smooth, unctuous cake batter. Never doubt the Smitten Kitchen.

5. Pour the batter into your cake tin and smooth the top out with a palette knife or the back of a spoon.

6. Bake for 25 minutes until a skewer comes out the middle of the cake clean. Place the tin on a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes, then turn the sponge out to cool completely.

7. While the cake cools make the icing. Melt the dark chocolate in a bain-marie and then set aside to cool to room temperature. This is important, because if the chocolate is still hot when you add it to the buttercream then it will melt the butter and ruin your icing.

8. Whisk the butter and icing sugar together until very light and fluffy. Don’t skimp on the time you give to this step as this is what gives the frosting a gorgeous texture.

9. Add the melted chocolate, salt, milk or cream and vanilla extract and whip again for 5 minutes until well combined.

10. Carefully move the sponge onto your serving plate or board and pile the frosting in the middle of the cake.

Using a palette knife or the back of a butter knife spread the chocolate buttercream over the cake. Start in the middle and push the icing towards the edge of the cake, swirling as you go.

11. Finally, liberally sprinkle your cake with the topping of your choice. Don’t hold back: chocolate sprinkles, flakes, buttons, popping candy are all more than acceptable here.

The cake will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days, and longer in the fridge – after the first day the texture of the sponge became even fudgier. This recipe really is chocolate heaven.


It feels like there’s always a long gap between my latest blog posts, since I’ve only been posting one recipe a week for a while now. Life has been busy, especially what with a certain political event happening in my country next Thursday (oh, and I guess there’s that PhD thing to be getting on with too). As much as a healthy dose of democracy is wonderful (and necessary) in life, at times what you really need is a respite from excessive politics. And what is the greatest antidote to politics? No, not alcohol: that is fuel of politics (or at least, “politics” around the dinner table with friends and family). Chocolate. Chocolate is the answer.

This chocolate mousse recipe could not be simpler if it tried – in fact, it comes from a children’s cookery book that we absolutely loved as kids. Posh it up with berries and cream if you want to serve for a fancy dessert, but really this can be whipped up in an instant (barring the chilling time in the fridge) if life is getting just a bit much and you need a large dose of comfort.

Ingredients (serves 2) 60g good quality dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids) 2 eggs Sea salt Berries, or other fruit, to decorate

Crème fraiche for serving

Method 1. Break the chocolate into small chunks and place in a bain marie (a bowl placed over a pan of water, without the bowl actually touching the water) over a low heat. Heat slowly until the chocolate melts. Remove from the heat and set aside to allow the chocolate to cool.

2. Separate the eggs and beat the two yolks together well.

3. Pour the yolks into the cooled melted chocolate and mix well to form a thick, glossy mixture.

4. Add a large pinch of salt to the egg whites and whisk until the whites are fluffy and make stiff peaks when you lift the whisk.

5. Now the whisked whites need to be combined with the chocolate mixture – this is the trickiest step as you want to retain as much of the air that you just whisked into the whites as possible, so that the mousse has a lovely light texture. A good technique is to add about a third of the whites to the chocolate and stir fairly briskly to combine well and loosen the chocolate mixture. Now add another third of the whites, but this time fold gently with a large metal spoon until just combined – this should be a lot easier since the first batch of egg white went in. Finally fold in the remaining egg white, again folding gently.

6. Spoon the mixture into two small dishes or glasses and chill for at least a couple of hours before serving.

When you’re ready to serve, top the chocolate mousses with your chosen fruit and a small spoon of crème fraiche.


This is a rich pudding, with quite a bitter taste from the dark chocolate. You can use a lower coca content if you don’t like that bitter edge, but some gorgeously sweet berries will balance everything out otherwise. Comfort eat away!


There are some food combinations that just undeniably work: tomato and basil, salmon and dill, goats cheese and figs, lamb and mint, and so it goes on. In my books, chocolate and fruit are one of these matches made in heaven. I’ve been seeing punnets of really plump, dark raspberries in the shops lately and find them utterly irresistible. After a fruitful (seewhatIdidthere) trip to the greengrocers on Sunday morning, I spent Sunday afternoon whipping up some treats for an afternoon tea catch-up with some of my very favourite ladies. Of course there had to be chocolate included in the spread somewhere, and so the chocolate-raspberry loaf was born.

If raspberries aren’t really to your taste (although we may have to have a little falling out if this is the case) or if you can’t get your paws on any, then this recipe would definitely be easy to adapt. Try candied orange peel folded through the sponge mix and orange zest in the icing. Or dried cherries and a splash of Kirsch. Or freeze-dried strawberries in the sponge and strawberry puree whisked through the icing. If the idea of fruit anywhere near your chocolate is an insult, then just leave the offending ingredients out for an unadulterated chocolate hit. A table spoon or two of cocoa powder in the icing might be more up your street. Whatever you decide, the underlying recipe is ridiculously easy – we’re using the “all-in-one” method where all the ingredients are whisked together in one go. No creaming, no risk of egg-curdling, no sifting. Convinced? Ready, set, let’s go!

Ingredients 140g butter, softened 180g plain flour 20g cocoa powder 3 tsp baking powder 200g caster sugar 3 large eggs 6 tbsp milk

3 tbsp freeze-dried raspberries

125g butter, softened 250g icing sugar 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 tbsp milk

100g fresh raspberries

Method 1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan/180C/gas Mark 4. Butter a loaf tin and line with baking parchment. Leaving some excess paper hanging over the long sides makes it easier to lift the cake out after baking.

2. Place the butter, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, caster sugar, eggs and milk in a large bowl. Using a hand whisk or wooden spoon mix the ingredients together for a few minutes until they are fully combined and the mixture has a light, aerated texture.

3. Gently fold the freeze-dried raspberries through the cake batter. Try not to over-mix as you will lose some of the air that you whisked in at the previous step.

4. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin and smooth flat with the back of a spoon.

5. Bake for 50 minutes, or until the cake is dark brown and a knife or cake tester comes out the centre of the cake clean. Lift out of the loaf tin and place on a wire rack to cool.

6. Whisk the softened butter together with the icing sugar for 5 minutes. A good tip here is to cover the bowl with a large tea towel to stop every surface in your kitchen becoming dusted in powdered sugar.

7. Add the vanilla extract and milk, and continue whisking for a few more minutes. Finally add the fresh raspberries and whisk until evenly combined.



8. Ice the top of the cooled loaf with a generous layer of raspberry icing.

This cake is super light and fluffy in texture, and the icing is a perfect mix of butter-icing sweetness and sharp raspberry flavour. It is at its peak eaten on the day of baking, but will keep well for another couple of days in an airtight container. Serve with tea or a large glass of ice-cold milk. Lovely.


I’m back! March and April have been two of the craziest months I’ve ever had. It began with three birthdays in one week, immediately followed by Hen/Stag weekends. We moved into our first home and spent just two weeks moving, unpacking, drilling, painting and making multiple trips to Ikea, before we packed up again and sped up north for a fantastic Easter week in the highlands with family and friends. We left a day early to travel to Glasgow to see two of our loveliest friends tie the knot and enjoyed a glorious, fun, exciting and relaxed day celebrating with them in the Scottish sun. And then, this Easter Monday, BAM! No, not bus, but a nice double dose of spring illness. Blocked sinuses, runny noses, sneezing, sore throats: all of the fun. However, life is slowly returning to normal and I’m looking forward to May and June passing in a slightly more chilled fashion….wishful thinking?

Now I have a confession for you. A couple of weeks ago on Instagram I promised to put up the recipe for an Easter cake I was making. I fully intended to – an introduction was written, photos had been taken and the recipe was scrawled in my notebook. However, in the end I wasn’t satisfied with the result. The frosting (ohhhhh the cream cheese frosting), now that I could have eaten an entire bowl of. But the cake itself was just a little too dry. I don’t know if I over baked it or if the recipe needs tweaking but either way it needs another test run (or two). So I’ll save that recipe for another day, but if you’re still with me next Easter then I promise to perfect it by then and hopefully it will be worth the wait!

So today we’re moving on. And we’re moving on to something that I can guarantee you will work and be so ridiculously delicious that you’re actually tempted to go back for a second piece even though you know it will make you queasy. Last night we got to catch up with our old flatmate and dear friend for the first time in a year and half since he jetted off to work in Swaziland. Famed for inventing the greatest party game ever, Does It Float, and for his fish eye stew, he also has the sweetest tooth I know. Seriously, chocolate is not safe in your house if he is there. There was only one thing for it, so I present to you, Triple Chocolate Cheesecake…

Ingredients (serves 10-12, depending on how large you slice!) 250g milk chocolate digestive biscuits 100g butter 300ml double cream 600g cream cheese 300g white chocolate

Dark chocolate to decorate – I used dark chocolate chunks, but you could grate over dark chocolate, use a knife to make chocolate swirls from a large block or melt dark chocolate and drizzle it over the top

Method 1. Place your biscuits in a plastic freezer bag and tie the top. Select your weapon of choice (the trusty rolling pin is a classic, but without one I used the humble tin of beans) and bash the biscuits into small crumbs. Try not to take too much of life’s frustrations out on them or you risk the bag splitting. If you’re worried that you can’t hold back then wrap the bag in a dish cloth just in case. Tip the biscuit crumb into a bowl.

2. Melt the butter and pour over the biscuits. Mix well.


3. Firmly press the buttery biscuit base into a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin and place in the fridge to cool – I left mine for a couple of hours but 30 minutes should do it.
4. Slowly melt the white chocolate in a bain marie, ensuring that the bowl with the chocolate in it does not touch the water in the pan underneath. White chocolate can become grainy if it’s heated too much, so be patient. Remember that chocolate has a very low melting point so you can even take it off the heat before all the chunks have melted and it will still fully melt. Set aside to cool slightly.

5. Whip the cream cheese and double cream until thick, but not over whipped. Over whipped cream is a sin.

6. Thoroughly mix in the white chocolate.

7. Spoon the cream cheese mixture on top of the base and smooth with the back of a spoon. Chill for at least 2 hours, or longer if you have time.

8. Take the cheesecake out of the fridge 30 minutes before serving. Remove the cake tin and decorate with dark chocolate.

We had the cheesecake with raspberries which I had taken out the freezer a few hours before and sprinkled with a teaspoon of sugar. They went perfectly with the rich, decadent, creamy cheesecake.

Chocoholics, this one is for you!

These brownies were a gift, along with a ridiculously sized growler of porter, for a close friend who turns another year older and wiser today. Ok, maybe just older if the antics of Saturday night are considered. I would argue that the basic brownie recipe that these are based on (Nigella Lawson’s in “How To Be a Domestic Goddess”) is the best out there: a bold claim, I know. If you champion a rival recipe then I would love to hear it!

The original recipe adds chopped walnuts to the brownie mix, but I wanted to do something a bit different. A long list of potential edible extras came to mind: white chocolate chips, peanut butter, marshmallows, raspberries, orange zest, Oreos, and so on. Ross demanded “No Fruit”, but in the end he lost that battle. I think I struck a pretty fair compromise though, by balancing out fruit with booze. Rum and raisin is a classic combination – I love rum and raisin ice-cream – and, once that idea had popped into my head, I just couldn’t let it go without making it. Unfortunately, I had sultanas, not raisins, and the dregs of some apricot liquor, not rum. And so Not-Rum-and-Raisin Brownies were born.

Ingredients (Makes about 15 brownies)

Small handful of sultanas A few glugs of fruit liquor or rum 190g butter 190g good quality dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids is ideal – or higher if you love dark chocolate 3 large eggs 1 tsp vanilla extract 250g caster sugar (Note: this seems like a ridiculous amount of sugar when you weigh it out. We’re making full fat brownies here. Deal with it.) 115g plain flour ½ tsp salt

80g of fudge, chopped into small pieces

Method

1. Soak the sultanas in the liquor and leave for a couple of hours, at least.

2. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan. Butter an 18cm by 28cm tin (at least 3cm deep) and line with baking parchment. If you leave some excess parchment on either of the long sides then lifting the entire bake out of the tin is much easier.

3. Melt the butter and chocolate over a low heat, stirring until glossy and smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

4. Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a bowl.

5. Sift the flour into a separate bowl and add the salt.

6. When the chocolate mixture has cooled enough (unwanted scrambled egg action would be a disaster here), beat in the egg and sugar mixture.

7. Combine the chocolate mixture with the flour. Drain the excess liquid from the sultanas and add to the brownie mixture with the fudge. Beat to a smooth batter.

8. Pour the thick brownie mixture into the lined tin, using a spatula to scrape every last drop out. Give the tin a shoogle (technical term) so that the mixture spreads into the corners.

9. Bake for about 25 minutes, depending on how you like your brownies*.

10. Leave to cool on a baking rack and then cut into pieces. Dust liberally with icing sugar.

*The consistency of brownies is very much a personal preference. 25 minutes in the oven produced a wonderfully fudgy consistency, but if you prefer your brownies soft and gooey in the centre then 20 minutes should do it. Any less than that and you might be scooping out your brownies into a bowl. Do remember that the brownies will keep cooking once they are out the oven.

These went down extremely well, if I do say so myself. The hint of booze was just right and the fudge was slightly melted but still chewy. They are very, very rich so one piece is definitely satisfying enough…unless you are the birthday boy, in which case no one is counting!

Happy Birthday Colum!