Comfort eating, French style
Do the French comfort eat? They certainly make some of the most delicious and beautiful sweet morsels in the culinary world, and are the masters of chocolate. I suppose in so far as their motto when it comes to food is ‘everything in moderation’, perhaps they have mastered the art of drawing comfort and inspiration from food without binging. I admire their ability as a nation to enjoy food and respect their bodies; the two things should naturally go together, of course, but so often get unbalanced.
I recently realised that my mother’s tried and tested old chocolate cake recipe (the one that, to me, just is the taste of birthdays and celebrations) is pretty similar to the ‘moelleux au chocolat’, the simple, dense French chocolate cake that you’ll find at patisseries, cafés, and even motorway stops all over France. It’s not too rich or heavy, it’s quick and easy to make, and while it’s rugged cracked top might not appeal to aesthetic purists, to me it is the most beautiful and most comforting of all cakes. I find myself making it almost once a week, these days – it’s just a lovely thing to have to hand at tea time.
– 5 oz (140g) dark cooking chocolate
– 4 oz (110g) butter
– 4 eggs
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– 10 oz (280g) caster sugar
– 4 oz (110g) plain flour
Melt the chocolate with the butter in a heatproof dish over boiling water. Set this aside to cool. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4.
Beat the eggs with the salt, vanilla, and then the caster sugar. Add the cooled chocolate mixture to the eggs, and mix well. Now add the flour, and mix in gently.
Pour into a large lined/greased cake tin and bake for 30 minutes. The top should have a fine shiny crust that will have bubbled and cracked slightly. If you like, you can whip up some buttercream icing for this cake, or you can just dust it lightly with some icing sugar and serve with vanilla ice cream.