Sorry for the lack of posts lately but I have a good excuse: I’m in the UK for a year! We packed up our Austin house into storage – including most of my baking tools and supplies – and have rented a house in Cambridge. It’s a small mid-1800s row house with a wonky oven and a monkey toilet that has inspired a whole separate blog I’m about to start (which will not necessarily be family-friendly and is likely to contain copious quantities of swearing, so parents are advised to restrict their children’s access).
But since it’s kind of unfair to announce I have a monkey toilet and then tell the children they shouldn’t go look, here at least is the banner image I’m using for that other blog:
As for the wonky oven, it has no handles (the landlord says the previous tenant broke the handle off), so you have to wedge your fingertips into the sides and pull it open. Oh and the handle is what holds the oven door glass in place, so that’s threatening to slip out when you open it. Oh, and the grill (broiler) doesn’t work. Oh, and it’s fan-forced/convection but remarkably uneven, which is disturbing given that one of the benefits of that is supposed to be more even cooking.
And because I didn’t realize it was fan-forced when I tried to whip up a fast batch of my favourite go-to potluck recipe – Brown Eyed Baker’s Snickerdoodle Blondies – the outside burned while the inside was still raw, so I threw it out and went up to bed for a good 2-hour-long cry. Because by that point, we’d been without internet for nearly two weeks (even on my phone), the power had gone out to half the house (including the monkey loo, where it still isn’t back on), and nothing was going right. The inability to bake what an easy, fast recipe was the final straw.
Luckily since then I’ve gotten a bit more used to how to use the fan-forced oven, though it is still unreliable and dangerous because of the lack of handle. I googled around for chocolate recipes one night and ended up finding this BBC recipe for a chocolate torte with Earl Grey tea in it. I don’t drink tea or coffee and had been sleeping poorly, so I was kind of hoping for a choco-caffeine boost. Corran and I agreed we didn’t want the ground almonds and upon further googling I found that gluten-free folks use a one-to-one substitution of ground almonds for flour, so I substituted it back since nobody in this house has a gluten issue. I also dropped the temperature way, way lower to compensate for the fan-forced oven (you’re supposed to drop by 20 degrees C but I’ve found with this oven it works better going 30 C lower).
It turned out quite nicely with a pleasant head-smell of the Earl Grey without actually tasting of the Earl Grey. There’s no bitter tea taste, and it’s a moist, chocolatey torte. If there’s a caffeine boost, however, we’re not noticing it, and neither did friends when I served this to them.
Another thing I quickly learned in the UK: butter comes in blocks, not sticks, so it’s weighed here. There are also different types of sugar and other ingredients. Any recipes I post from here will have as many conversions as I can reasonably list as I myself learn to work with a completely different system.
- 2 Earl Grey tea bags
- 100ml (just under half a cup) milk
- 250g/8.8 oz dark chocolate (I used very nice 72% swiss bars from Tesco, if I was in the US I'd use 70% Ghiradelli bars)
- 200g/14 tbsp/1 stick plus 2 tbsp butter, diced
- pinch of salt
- 140g/1 cup flour
- 6 eggs, separated
- 200g/7 oz caster sugar (aka superfine sugar, which in the US is granulated sugar you put through a food processor, but you should be fine with regular US granulated unless the crystals are huge)
- a few tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder and powdered sugar/icing sugar to dust, optional
- Preheat oven to 350 F/180C/160C fan/gas 4. Spray a 23 cm/9 inch springform pan with flour spray if you have it, and if you don't, coat with butter/oil and dust with flour. Set aside.
- Put the milk in a microwave-safe container and heat on high until it is steaming but not boiling.
- Cut open the Earl Grey tea bags and pour the leaves into the milk. Set aside.
- In a nonstick pot on low temperature, melt the butter. Mix in a pinch of salt.
- Chop/break up your chocolate into small pieces and add to the melted butter. Stir thoroughly with a silicone spatula until the chunks of chocolate are almost gone. Turn off the heat, then continue to stir until the chocolate is completely melted.
- Add flour to chocolate mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the egg yolks and tea-milk mixture, mix thoroughly again.
- In a grease-free bowl using a stand mixer, hand mixer, or electric whisk, beat the egg whites until they are stiff. Add the caster sugar and beat again until incorporated and the eggs are stiff once more.
- Fold the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture, taking care not to deflate the egg whites.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. It should still wobble slightly on the top when done; do not overbake! Allow to cool completely for at least a couple of hours in the pan.
- Remove the torte from the pan and place on a serving dish, then dust first with some cocoa powder and then with powdered sugar, if desired.