I've always hated needles - and by extension doctors, dentists and even sewing - but it was only when I tried acupuncture for the first time last week that I realised my aversion to them was based on something real.
"This won't hurt at all," promised the acupuncturist as he inserted a needle into the top of my head last Friday. "Very few people have many nerve endings here."
"Ouch", said Sharon, wincing.
"Oh," said the acupuncturist. "You are exceptional."
There we have it. Proof positive of just how extraordinary I am.
After two acupuncture sessions (which left me with actual bruises but also resulted in my arm ,which has been experiencing unexplained muscle spasms for the past six weeks, feeling dramatically better), I felt as though I needed some consolation, as well as a celebration.
So, I baked this:
This was one of those rich and aromatic flourless types of chocolate cakes that you can almost hear melting in your mouth. (I found it in Nigella Lawson's Nigella Bites cookbook.)
250g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids) 125g unsalted butter (softened)
6 eggs (2 whole, 4 separated)
175g caster sugar
2 tbsp Cointreau (optional but how could you resist?)
Grated zest of 1 orange (optional and ditto)
250ml double cream (Nigella recommends 500ml but this is too much for me)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Cointreau (optional)
1/2 tbsp cocoa powder for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4.
- Line the bottom of a 23cm springform baking tin with baking parchment.
- Melt the chocolate (I usually do this in the microwave or you can use a double boiler*).
- Add the butter and let it melt in the warm chocolate.
- Beat the two whole eggs and four egg yolks with 75g of the caster sugar.
- Add the chocolate mixture, Cointreau and orange zest.
- In another bowl, whisk the four egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the remaining 100g of caster sugar and whisk until the whites are holding their shape but are not too stiff.
- Lighten the chocolate mixture with a dollop of the whites and then fold in the rest.
- Pour into the tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the cake is risen and cracked and its centre is no longer wobbly.
- Cool the cake in its tin on a wire rack. And don't panic when the middle begins to sink. This is supposed to happen!
- When the cake has cooled, place the tin on a plate or cake stand and carefully remove it. Don't worry about cracks or rough edges. If anything, they will convince sceptics you've made the cake yourself!
- Whip the cream until it is soft and add the vanilla and Cointreau (if using).
- Fill the crater of the cake with the cream and dust the top with cocoa powder.
- Dig in.