Sunday, September 12, 2010

So as not to arrive empty-handed

I was happy to hear that Renai's baby shower, planned for this weekend, had not been postponed or in any way affected by last week's earthquake. If nothing else, we're all in need of some laughs.

A few of us from work had put together a gift hamper, which Elle had the charge of bringing to the shower. Of course, that left me in the position of turning up empty-handed, which seemed a little rude.

So I decided to ignore Renai's assertion that we didn't need to bring any food, and turned to my Edmonds book for something to make. It didn't take much deliberation to fix on rich chocolate cake (p52): realistically, what could be better for a gathering of giggling women?

First, I needed a few ingredients: ground almonds, cooking chocolate and unsalted butter. I went for a short walk to Bin Inn, there procuring the almonds, before continuing on to New World for the butter and chocolate.

Well, they had the chocolate, but when I went to look at the butter section, I found there was only one brand of unsalted - a full 500g costing over $5.00. Since I only needed 175g, I didn't want a full-sized block, so I decided to continue to Countdown to see if they had anything smaller.

This made for a fairly long walk, and when I got there, the selection was just as small as at New World. Once again, there was only one option for unsalted: the same brand, the same size, at the same price. D'oh.

Eventually I got all my ingredients home, and was able to start the cake. The recipe specified melted chocolate, so the first thing I did was to break the chocolate into pieces and put it in a bowl over some water. While the water was coming to the boil, I started separating my eggs.

I also needed to separate 6 eggs. The practical method is to separate them in smaller bowls, adding each white to a bigger bowl as you go. Of course, I thought to myself "oh, she'll be right" and began separating the eggs over one big bowl.

You can see what's coming, can't you?

All went well until the third egg, at which point I got a small amount of the yolk into the white. Muttering at my own stupidity, I very carefully scooped out the yolk and any surrounding white. When I was satisfied there was no trace of yolk in the white, I grabbed the next egg.

You'd think I would have learnt my lesson from that third egg, and got out a smaller bowl. But no, I went on cracking over the large bowl, and immediately slopped a huge amount of yolk in with the white. There was no chance of scooping it out.

So... omelet (p96) for dinner, then!

I didn't have enough eggs to start the cake over, so I had to go for another walk. I turned off the pot under the chocolate (which still hadn't come anywhere near boiling) and went down to the local fruit and vege shop to grab some eggs.

He'd run out, of course. I did get some mushrooms and parsley for my omelet, but I had to head across to SuperValue for the eggs (yep, that's 3 supermarkets in one day, plus a Bin Inn and a fruit and vege shop.. I should be more organised).

When I got home, I was surprised to see that the leftover heat in my turned off pot of water had melted the chocolate down perfectly. Wow: that's not what usually happens when you turn your back on melting chocolate!

I made another start on the eggs, this time separating them over a separate bowl before adding them to the main one. Naturally, I managed to separate these ones perfectly, without any hint of a split yolk. Always the way, isn't it?

After all this, I finally managed to make a start on the actual cake. I started by creaming the butter with vanilla essence and brown sugar - or, since I didn't have nearly as much brown sugar as I'd thought, it ended up being mostly brown sugar, topped up with a little caster sugar. Well, I wasn't about to go back to the supermarket again, was I?

I then beat in the egg yolks, making a very bright yellow batter, into which the ground almonds and melted chocolate were folded. The next step was to beat up the egg whites and fold them in too, which I was a bit dubious about: the mix was so heavy I was convinced it would be impossible to successfully fold it through the egg whites, but they combined surprisingly easily.

Finally, I was able to get the cake into the oven. It went in at 190 for the first 20 minutes, then baked for another 35 at 150. Plenty of time to throw together an omelet:

Since I had 4 eggs to use up, and the recipe called for only 2, I actually ended up making a double recipe. It was quite odd to me, since I'm far more used to halving recipes than doubling them. And the omlet it made was massive!

If you've never made an omelet, you just whisk up some eggs with milk and seasoning, then pour them into a hot greased pan. As the omelet cooks, you lift up the edges so the uncooked egg can run underneath. There's a bit of a knack to that part, and I'm not very good at it - at times my omelet-making method comes close to scrambling - but I usually manage to produce something edible that roughly resembles an omelet.

In another pan, I'd been cooking up some mushrooms, along with some parsley and a chopped-up rasher of bacon I'd liberated from the freezer.  When the omelet was cooked, I added the mushroom mixture to half the omelet, topped it with a little grated cheese, and folded it over. Slid onto a plate and garnished with parsley, the omelet made a pretty good dinner. It certainly filled me up!

When the cake came out of the oven, I let it cool down in the tin. In fact, I left it in the tin overnight, until about an hour before I left to go to the baby shower.

The recipe said to dust the cake with icing sugar. I wanted to make it look a little fancy, so I tried something I'd seen on TV: I laid some strips of baking paper across the cake in a crisscross pattern, before shaking a good coating of icing sugar over the top. On removing the strips of paper, the cake had a nice crisscross pattern across the top. Easy and effective!

Of course, I was cutting the cake into pieces to take to the shower, and the decoration wasn't nearly as effective on the individual pieces. Never mind. I arranged the slices neatly on my trusty long white platter, and headed off to the shower.

We spent an enjoyable afternoon sitting around playing silly baby shower games and giggling. Our hostess, Renai's sister-in-law Helen, had supplied plenty of food, but still received my offering very cordially, and it seemed to go down alright with the assembled ladies. Coincidentally, one of the girls there had a gluten intolerance, so I was glad that I'd made something gluten-free.

Rich chocolate cake does live up to its name: it's very rich and chocolatey, with the moist, dense texture of many gluten free cakes. You wouldn't want to be making it every day, but it's a good one to keep in mind for a special occasion, especially if you're feeding someone with gluten issues. You couldn't eat much of it at once - in fact, I even wondered if the modest slices I cut for the baby shower were too big.

That being so, I suppose the only way to get rid of the rest of the cake (only half went to the baby shower, and that was plenty) is to take it into work tomorrow. I'll be accused of making people fat if I keep this up!

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