A couple of weeks ago my boyfriend & I ventured into the tourist town of Bourton-on-the-water situated within the Cotswold’s. I have fond memories of visiting Bourton-on-the-water as a child on family days out. Bourton-on-the-water is the place to go for chunky knitwear, sheepskin rugs, antiques, perfume & sweets. There are plenty of cute cottages, traditional tearooms & cozy pubs.
Once we’d selected a suitable spot on the grassy banks, my dad would lay down our picnic blanket which was a selvedge groundsheet from an old tent. We would then settle down for salmon pate sandwiches, pre quartered apples, chocolate swiss rolls, a thermos flask of instant coffee & orange squash. To keep us entertained, my parents place us in the river to ‘treasure hunt’ whilst they trundled off to look at antiques. This might sound like irresponsible parenting, but I assure you that the ‘river’ is man made with very little current, and the water level isn’t high enough to enter a child’s Wellington boot. We would wade through the river looking for coins & other shiny objects. Hours would pass looking down at the pebbled river bed and blessed with youth, back pain wasn’t an issue. A visit to one of many sweet shops, notably Sweets Galore, would keep us content with novelty shaped fizzy jellies, bonbons & liquorices.
However, on my recent visit to Bourton-on-the-water, everything was a lot smaller and less exciting than I’d remembered it to be, but there were plenty of food related things to keep me happy. Looking around one of the sweet shops I was excited to find packets of Sparx popping-candy. Not knowing whether to go for orange, strawberry or tuti fruiti, I opted for a packet of each. I also bought some super sour gob stoppers.
Back home, searching the internet for things I can do with popping-candy, I came across a recipe by Heston Blumenthal for Popping-Candy Chocolate Cake. Intrigued & relieved by it’s simplicity, I thought I’d give it a go. The cake consists of a hazelnut praline popping-candy base under a chocolate mousse, and a coffee chocolate glaze to top off the masterpiece.
Concerned about the huge amounts of chocolate involved, I decided to halve the recipe. This was enough to make a 15cm diameter x 5cm round cake, and it’s very rich so enough to serve 12. Being money tight I bought a couple of Sainsbury’s value dark chocolate bars (52%) for 28p each, but I added 4 heaped teaspoons of organic cocoa powder. I didn’t have 50g of popping-candy but 3x5g packets provided a sufficient popping sensation. I decided to make a matcha white chocolate glaze but I made it too watery & it ended up looking like mould, but provided a nice bitterness to the cake.
The verdict came after a hearty meal of tofu-in-the-hole (my veggie version of the toad classic). My twin sister & boyfriend were present; all conversation was replaced by the sound of popping & mmm-ing. Adding the extra cocoa turned the mousse into a velvety truffle that melted in the mouth and was extremely delicious. I received many glowing testimonies from hard-core chocolate lovers in my household. Blumenthal brings food into a completely different dimension; eating this cake has been a truly unique experience.
(The full recipe can be found here)
Here’s my version of Blumenthal’s recipe:
For the popping-candy base
45g whole hazelnuts
30g dark chocolate
1 tsp ground ginger
3x 5g sachets of popping candy (although up to 50g may be used)
- To make the base, preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F/Gas Mark 4 and roast the hazelnuts for about 10 minutes until lightly coloured. Blend to a paste in a food processor, then set aside.
- Melt the chocolate gently in the microwave and stir in the ground ginger and popping candy. Next, fold in the hazelnut purée.
- Place the ring mould on a serving dish and gently press in the base mixture to a depth of about 1cm. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until hard.
Hazelnut praline popping-candy base
For the chocolate mousse
160g dark chocolate
200ml double cream
Pinch of salt
4 heaped teaspoons of cocoa powder (omit if using 70% dark chocolate)
- To make the mousse, chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a metal bowl.
- Bring 75ml of the cream to the boil in a small saucepan.
- Pour it over the chopped chocolate and stir extremely gently until all the chocolate has melted. Stir in the cocoa powder and salt.
- Once the chocolate cream has cooled to room temperature, lightly whip the remaining 125ml cream to soft peaks, careful not to overwhip.
- Fold into the chocolate mix. Pour over the base in the ring mould and place in the fridge to set for two hours.
- To serve, run a hot knife around the inside of the ring before removing the cake. When slicing it, again make sure the blade of the knife is nice and hot.
Rich chocolate mousse