A taste of France – Moelleux au Chocolat

Valentine’s capital!

It’s 10p.m. on February 13th. Is there anybody in the UK who doesn’t know its Valentine’s Day tomorrow? In my own personal efforts to avoid the truckload of guilt placed at my doorstep for not making an overblown romantic gesture to my loved one, I find myself at the front doors of one of the leading supermarkets.

I take my place in the middle of this last minute pilgrimage, surrounded by other like-minded souls. A number of glances are exchanged. Knowing looks, all of them, before the communal stampede to the chocolates and cards.

As it happens I’m in Valentine credit. My girlfriend forgot last year so by my own estimations I can either (a) make slightly less effort than I might normally do, or (b) make a bit more effort to increase the credit in the bank for any potential future absent mindedness.

My guilt at even having had the aforementioned consideration leads me onwards to the home baking section, as I have now consequently decided to have a go at making a chocolate cake. Or as it’s known in a considerably more fancy fashion, ‘Moelleux au chocolat’, or rather more literally ‘Marrowy with chocolate’. Maybe its better placed in our alternative menu?

Melting the chocolate

The recipe is courtesy of a book I bought during my time living in France (I wanted to learn some basics but I also thought it might make my book shelf seem a bit more sophisticated sat next to a couple of Viz annuals), Les Meilleures Recettes Illustrees de Maite.

A quick bit of web research shows that most recipes for this tend to be of the chocolate fondant pudding type – a single serving about the size of a tennis ball with a gooey centre. I’ve watched enough episodes of Masterchef to know that this is a tricky thing to get right, but the version in the book I’m attempting seems to be more of a light chocolate cake. And in terms of size it’s at least enough for the two of us!

The ingredients from the recipe are as follows, but in hindsight this was enough to fill two round cake tins, 18cm in diameter and 5cm deep. I would be inclined to halve the measures and reduce the cooking time slightly;

  • 400g of dark chocolate (this is not a cheap recipe! I would none the less buy some of the good stuff with over 70% cocoa solids)
  • 200g of unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and allowed to soften a little
  • 6 eggs
  • 150g of granulated sugar
  • 150g of ground almonds
  • 60g of plain flour

Folding the egg whites into the mix

The Method

  1. Before making the cake mix, it’s on with the usual prep of buttering the cake tin and pre-heating the oven at 180C Gas 6.
  2. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in a large mixing bowl and keeping the yolks to one side. Try to do this without coating the kitchen in an egg film before realising you probably can’t.
  3. Make a bain marie by putting a Pyrex bowl in a pan of simmering water, but making sure the water doesn’t touch the bowl. Crack the chocolate into pieces and allow it to melt gently. (You can also do this in a microwave if preferred).
  4. Take the melted chocolate off the heat before adding in the butter, egg yolks, sugar, flour and ground almonds. Mix well until a consistent paste forms. Resist the temptation to eat most of it.
  5. In the mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites (I used an electric one) until hard peaks are formed. The recipe book mentions adding a small bit of icing sugar if you encounter any difficulty but I didn’t and managed to do it regardless. One test of whether you’ve done it enough is to hold the bowl above your head – if the egg whites stay where they are then you’re OK to proceed. If they don’t, well…
  6. Fold the egg whites carefully into the chocolate mix. I used a spatula as it allows you to cut carefully through the mixture; the idea here as far as I can see is to ensure you don’t lose the air. Once the mixture seems consistent, pour into the cake tins and put in the oven for 25-30 mins.

Ready to bake

The final result isn’t too dissimilar to a brownie, but lighter and less chewy. Ideally I think it should be served warm with some vanilla ice cream. So, that’s it, panic over, and I’m off the hook for another year…

Of course, the best way to sample classic French patisserie is on holiday! Canvas Holidays provides an extensive range of holidays on the best handpicked campsites in France. Check out our selection here

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