Long week. Hard work. Guests for dinner. Needed chocolate-based dessert
That much was clear on Friday night, and the need was enough to make me cut to the chase. For once I didn't look through a million recipes and change my mind six times. Instead I searched for 'chocolate' in my geek-tastic document entitled 'Baking', where I paste all the delicious looking recipes I find on blogs and websites, and stopped when I got to Dan Lepard's Chocolate custard muffins. I don't mind admitting that it was the word 'custard' that got me in particular. Such a comforting word - the stuff of childhood and blissful ignorance of the world of deadlines and grant proposals (don't get me started). No matter that I don't remember eating custard even once as a child (angel delight was our dessert of choice); it has still entered my cultural memory and occupies a hallowed place there.
The recipe was unlike any other muffin I've made. I had imagined that it would be a chocolate cake with custard in the middle, but in fact the whole batter is a custard - starting with a cornflour/water/cocoa/sugar combo in a saucepan, and adding butter, flour, oil, eggs, etc, once it's melted and thick. I used arrowroot powder instead of cornflour, because I hadn't been able to find cornflour last time I was in the supermarket, and it was fine. Cornflour is, of course, NOT cornmeal, but a thickener. I did all the stirring and melting as I prepared dinner, and had the mixture waiting in its pan so that I could add the final ingredients, put it in the cupcake liners and in the oven as The Scientist came back from picking up our weekend guests (Eco Sis and Eco Bro, here to attend the Warwick Folk Festival with us and Munchkin Gramps et al). Dinner was a somewhat eclectic - one could even say random - stir fry with tofu on rice noodles, with shop-bought spring rolls - and potato croquettes, which had apparently leaped into The Scientist's basket with no sense of decorum or grace. They are part of his set of childhood foodie memories; to me they represent Rag Week at croquette-eating competitions at college, which does still show how popular they are amongst children and students alike. Luckily the Ecos are very open to the mix-and-match approach to cookery. We initially deferred the dessert but then got seduced by the baking smell, and tried them straight away. They were very chocolatey, so the main aim was achieved, and while we got distracted by artfully arranging them for their photo and so didn't discuss their custardyness, we did agree that they were nice and moist. I would definitely make them again, and would perhaps save some of the chocolate chips to stir in at the end so that they stayed whole. In fact I had meant to stir in some raspberries, but forgot (naturally). They could probably take all sorts of additions - banana would be very nice, I should think.
Chocolate custard muffins, from Dan Lepard's Guardian column
50g cornflour [or arrowroot powder]
3 level Tbsp cocoa powder
100g dark soft brown sugar
225ml cold water
75g unsalted butter, broken small [I used vegan margarine]
75ml sunflower oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
125g caster sugar
125g plain flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
First make the custard: put the cornflour, brown sugar and water into a saucepan and whisk together over a medium heat until boiling, very thick and smooth [this takes several minutes but you'll know when it happens - it suddenly goes *very* thick]. Remove from the heat, beat in the butter and chocolate until melted and absorbed, then add the oil, vanilla and one of the eggs and beat again until combined. Add the remaining egg and caster sugar, and beat again until smooth and thick.
Measure the flour and baking powder into a bowl, stir together, then sift directly on to the custard and beat through until combined. Spoon into a dozen paper muffin cases sitting in the pockets of a muffin tray [I got 14], and bake in a preheated oven to 180C [that's 250F if you're making these, Norse Goddess!]/Gas 4, and bake for 25 minutes. Briefly try to resist chocolatey baking smell, and then eat, happily.