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I am having a somewhat frantic December. As it’s the festive season, it’s crammed full of more enjoyable events than the usual rota of meetings and chores – Christmas gatherings and choir rehearsals, in the main – but still. I’m not keen to make anything more complicated than it has to be, at the minute, even in the kitchen.
So when I had to bring dessert to our church Christmas social, I chose the easiest and least time-consuming thing I know: Nigella’s rocky road recipe. The only thing you need is time enough to cool it properly; thankfully our hall is now cold enough to freeze the personal parts off a polar bear, so that wasn’t a problem.
The ingredients list is just melted chocolate (whatever kind you prefer: I use about half dark and half milk, as it tastes more chocolatey that way), chopped brazil nuts and mini marshmallows. The recipe gives 75g brazil nuts and 100g marshmallows, but think Nigella may have forgotten that one marshmallow doesn’t weigh very much. 100g is a really big pile, and you’ll have a job cramming it all into the chocolate. I just chop the nuts first, then make a marshmallow pile of roughly equivalent size, which seems to work quite well.
I’ve never in my life tried to melt chocolate using the ominous-sounding double boiler method – it sounds fiddly, messy and with a much higher risk of third-degree burns, and why would you, when it’s the easiest thing in the world to melt it in the microwave? You just have to remember to take it out every minute or so to stir: once you’ve burned it, there’s no salvaging it (I speak from experience, of course). Once you’ve melted the chocolate, mix in the nuts and the marshmallows, and there endeth the actual cooking, in ten minutes or less.
Nigella drops little blobs of the lumpy mixture onto a baking sheet and lets them cool in bite-sized rounds, and I much prefer this way of doing them, but you don’t get as many pieces from it. So when it needs to go further, spread it out in a baking tray and cut it up into little squares once it’s cooled. Apparently cooling it in the fridge rather than on a cold windowsill makes the chocolate less shiny, though I can’t say I’ve noticed much difference between the two.
It’s addictive, this stuff: intensely chocolatey without being too sugary. As there’s no flour, eggs or sugar, you’re really only making yourself a differently shaped chocolate bar with nice things added. This makes the rocky road prone to melting, like any chocolate. But as with the mighty M&M, if you cram it in quickly it should only melt in your mouth, not in your hands.
Deliciousness: You’ll have to keep going back to the fridge for more. It’s far too easy to make an impromptu batch and then eat it all over the course of an evening (I…er…speak from experience).
Complexity: When keeping your marshmallows from going everywhere is the hardest bit, you know you’re onto a winner.
Washing-up pile: Chocolate bowl and baking tray. Yesssss.
Casualties: None at all, as I stayed well away from the double boiler method.
Here’s a conundrum: what do you make for dessert when your Flu Bug of Pure and Baseless Evil hasn’t let you eat a square meal in five days? Something extra tempting, I thought. Get the old stomach juices going again. This is the only way I can account for the somewhat misguided decision to make my mother-in-law’s incredible microwave chocolate fudge pudding this afternoon. Not only did I mix, weigh, chop and beat on the sofa from beneath a (white) duvet, a dangerous method if ever I tried one, but every time I’ve attempted this pudding at home, I’ve over-cooked it to a gravelly crisp. The Sahara lives and blooms on your tongue with every mouthful. Skimmed milk must be simultaneously ingested to make the thing swallowable. An excess of Beechams powders makes one a little delirious, I’ve discovered: this surely was not the moment to make a pudding that might not work.
I was optimistic, though. When I’ve had this at my mother-in-law’s house, including all of the times I’ve made it myself, it has been a thing of moist, chocolatey glory. Applause rings out as you bring it to the table. And with only six minutes in the microwave, it requires almost no forethought if you want to make it for guests. It’s worth the conquering.
In short, I made it. And in summary, it didn’t work again. It’s an easy enough recipe to follow: you make a syrupy chocolate sauce on the hob, pour half into the bottom of a medium-sized glass bowl (ours is 17 cm across) then spoon the cake mixture, chock-full of white and dark chocolate lumps, on top. Strap a covering of baking paper over the bowl with elastic bands – a couple, or it’ll pop off – then microwave.
When it’s done, upturn it over a plate and let it steam and dribble like a chocolatey volcano. The rest of the chocolate sauce is for pouring at the table.
That’s the theory, anyway. And one of these days I’ll perfect the practice, too. I suspect I need to reduce the cooking time, or else increase the liquidity of the mixture. If anyone would like the recipe for this, to see if it works, let me know. For now, the Other Half will have to consume the crispy little thing we made, with plenty of milk on standby. And I, dear reader, will be paying a visit to my friendly neighbourhood painkillers box and then going back to bed.
Deliciousness: It has, in the past, been fabulously yummy. But not for a long, long while.
Complexity: Quite easy, if you’re not trying to direct operations from the sofa.
Washing-up pile: A moderate nine, but all covered in thick, sticky chocolate. At least one change of water required.
Casualties: Anyone unfortunate enough to be hit on the head by my Pudding of Stone.