I have become one of those people. One whose eyes glaze over at the mention of the dark matter, unable to focus on anything until I get my next fix. I’m talking most specifically about chocolate. If you are in the same predicament and have an urgent hankering for a chocolate loaf cake that’s refined sugar free, gluten free, nut free etc etc, but also so densely indulgent that you feel you must hide in the pantry and eat three slices before you face the world again, then skip straight to the recipe at the bottom. I think I can help.
I have never been a chocolate person. I will always choose the berry/ rhubarb/stone fruit /yoghurt/hazelnut themed items from a dessert menu or frosted gelato case. I’d be just as happy at Easter with a dozen organic chicken eggs to scramble as confectionery swaddled in gilded paper. I understand its merits in savoury dishes- my black bean chilli would be nothing without a few sneaky squares of 85% chocolate. I’ve toyed with grating it over roasted beets as a novel side dish for roasted duck or game birds. But I have never understood the undertow chocolate can wield on the senses of those who are deep within its thrall (The Hungry One, I’m looking at you).
That was, until now. We are now half way through the process of growing this baby girl. She is officially half cooked. We got another glimpse at her on Saturday and she is a little swoon worthy . She is sweet and considerately small and spent most of the scan hiding her head away from the light and clutching her fists to her temples, as if vexed by a great injustice she wasn’t quite sure how to right.
This week she has advanced to the length of a banana. But as much as I toyed with the concept of white bean banana cakes and pecan meal muffins, coconut cream pies and passionfruit custards, I could not escape the calling of chocolate. A week ago we purchased a tub of dark chocolate ice cream to share for pudding with berries with a house guest while watching a film on Saturday night. We made it through 1/3 of the tub that night. By Monday morning I was the only adult left in the house. The week that followed was not my favourite. It involved a potty training boot camp for Will and pissing rain. By Thursday I was scraping the bottom of the tub (literally and metaphorically) and had started stealing the dark chocolate chips I was using as bribes for Will to use the facilities.
Morale was low. Adult interaction was skinny. My in house barista/spouse was overseas once again, working hard, but also enjoying the perks of a 5 star hotel with his own dedicated butler (!). Meanwhile potty training is the pits. When The Hungry One jokingly lamented that he didn’t have anything to ask to the butler to do for him, I may have suggested he could send him home and help me mop up yet another accident from the floor. Once upon a time the solution would have been campari on ice, or a long cold gin and tonic (or three), but thanks to my wriggling stowaway, hard liquor is largely off the menu. Hence, I turned to chocolate and I haven’t looked back.
This is a delightfully simple chocolate loaf cake, which is just as good in small slices or fingers, as it is warmed up and served with ice cream for a casual pudding. There’s a caramel sweetness that comes from the mashed banana, honey and oat flour. You could of course substitute the oat flour for ground almonds or plain flour and get a similar result. The only real tricks are using a very forlorn over ripe banana for the batter (though if you only have prideful yellow ones, you can always bake it in its skin while the oven preheats until it is black and pulpy). The second is the sour cream. You could substitute it for Greek yoghurt, but you will get a tangier flavour and won’t get quite the lush richness in the crumb that you’ll get from the sour cream.
Meanwhile here’s what else is going on.
Listening: Thanks to my sister I just discovered the podcast series Invisibilia. For anyone who misses their undergraduate sociology classes like the big geek that they are, this one’s for you.
Reading: The Hotline questions on ‘Food52’. The most eclectic series of cooking questions gathered in one place. A great place for a procrastination skip. Everytime I go I feel like I’m sipping from the well of knowledge of hundreds of well seasoned cooks.
Watching: Season 1 of Masters of Sex. I will watch Alison Janney fold her laundry and Michael Sheen is something of an enigma to me. I also worked for a good few years at Family Planning and shared a breakroom with sexual health nurses, so it’s hard to shock me. It reminds me so much of Kinsey – a fantastic film that also deserves a revisit (I would also happily watch Laura Linney fold her washing- meanwhile, whatever happened to Chris O’Donnell?)
Eating: Kale/quinoa bowls – my default way of eating when flying solo. I buy a bunch of Tuscan kale at the beginning of the week and make a batch of quinoa in the microwave. Then each night for dinner it’s a quick sautee of chopped kale with quinoa and whatever small pieces of protein are languishing in the freezer – a piece of salmon with a tahini yoghurt dressing and some courgette, a tin of tuna in oil with some cherry tomatoes and basil, a pork sausage taken out of its skin, rumpled into small pebbles with some slices of fennel and sage. Most times dinner is on the table in 7 minutes, with only one pan to wash up.
Ogling: Diana Henry’s new book ‘Simple‘. I love the way Diana writes and the way she brings unexpected flavours together. If you’re ever at a loss of what cookbook to buy someone who loves food, it’s hard to go wrong with one of Diana’s ten.
Banana Chocolate Sour Cream Cake
110 g butter/ coconut oil melted
1 over ripe banana, mashed
1 ripe banana, sliced horizontally for garnish
3 tbsp honey/rice malt syrup
250 g sour cream
1 egg, beaten
175 g oat flour/ gluten free flour/ plain flour/ ground almonds
60 g cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt flakes
Here’s how we roll
1 Preheat the oven to 180C and grease and line a 20×12.5cm/8x5inch loaf pan
2 Mash and muddle together the over ripe banana, melted butter (or coconut oil) and honey/rice malt syrup.
Previously in Poppyseed to Pumpkin
Each week mad websites and baby books will tell you how big your baby now is in comparison to a seed, fruit or vegetable. It starts as a poppy seed and goes from there. To make this process a little more palatable, join me as I bake my way through. Here’s the journey so far. (Nb, you can also see the poppy seed to pumpkin process in the app, or ebook from my first pregnancy with Will, or read about it on the blog here.)