The humble chocolate fondant has gained itself something of a reputation. This culinary sword of a pud has sliced through the dreams of more Masterchef hopefuls than you can shake a spatula at, meaning only the brave now attempt them at home. But, I’m here to tell you to forget all images of Gregg Wallace slapping his shiny pate in disappointment, or John Torode smugly berating the death of another gooey middle, because it’s time to put your pinny on and man up for Chocolate Week.
Rich, melting and indulgent, these modest beauties will render your guests speechless in gratitude. You can adorn their tops with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a dollop of clotted cream, but I prefer to eat them au naturel. If you find dark chocolate a little too intense for your palate, you can substitute half for milk for a creamier result. Or, for the little ones in your life, why not try using all milk chocolate for a nursery sweet version of this pudding. Another delicious variation is to freeze salted caramel in an ice cube tray and push one into the centre of each pudding for an even saucier centre.
Breaking the outer shell to reveal the molten middle is a truly seductive pleasure. In fact, chocolate has long been revered for its apparent aphrodisiac qualities. Perhaps it’s down to the way it melts, gently, on your tongue or perhaps it’s down to the chemical anandamide, a cannabinoid neurotransmitter, which unleashes feelings of bliss similar to the effects of cannabis (ooh, I say!). Luckily for us, the high we get from chocolate fondants is entirely legal, so we can tuck in without fear of recrimination from anyone. Except, perhaps, the bathroom scales, if you indulge too often.
Fondants contain a very minimal amount of flour anyway and, as far as I’m concerned, taste exactly the same if you use wheat flour or gluten-free. I’ve used rice flour in this recipe, as it is a personal favourite for baking thanks to its fine texture and slightly sweet taste, but you can use any gluten-free blend you prefer, or even just sifted cocoa, if you want to crank up the anandamide effects further. But however you decide to make them, make them you certainly should.
Chocolate fondants, or FONDONTS if you’re Gregg Wallace, really are a doddle to make. As long as you preheat your oven and get the timing right, there’s very little that can go wrong. Strangely, despite the graveyard of overcooked fondants on Masterchef, as far as fondant mistakes go, I think it’s easier to under-bake them than over-. If that happens, you can simply pop them back in for a minute or two, but, as long as the goo is hot, I don’t think a little extra lava in your middle will offend anyone. If you’re not brave enough to turn them out, then simply serve them straight from the ramekin for a more homely, rustic result.
Gluten-free Chocolate Fondants
Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan)/390°F/Gas Mark 6. Grease 6 ramekins with butter and generously dust with cocoa, tapping out any excess. Pop your prepared ramekins in the fridge until needed.
125g dark chocolate
125g unsalted butter
2 medium eggs, plus 2 medium egg yolks
100g caster sugar
40g rice flour
½ tsp. salt
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a heatproof bowl suspended over a pan of barely simmering water. Once completely melted, set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks and sugar until pale and thick and the drips from the lifted beaters leave a slowly disappearing ribbon trail in the bowl. Sift over the rice flour and use a large metal spoon to fold it into the egg mixture. Next, pour in the cooled chocolate and butter and fold in with the salt using a large metal spoon. Be careful not to knock all the air out of the mixture.
Take the ramekins out of the fridge and divide the mixture between them (they should be filled to just shy of the top). Pop them on a baking tray and bake for 12 minutes. Turn out onto plates or serve straight from the ramekins. Happy Chocolate Week!