The word fondant has multiple uses in the French cooking vernacular. In no particular order it could be a white icing, a gooey chocolate pudding or a way of cooking potatoes.
The icing version is what you often find atop fancy French vanilla slices: a mixture of icing sugar, glycerine, glucose syrup, gelatine and vanilla. Even listing the ingredients makes my teeth start to ache.
Fondant potatoes are another matter altogether. They are cut into a barrel shape, so they are flat at each end. Then the potatoes are put into a hot pan with plenty of melted butter and herbs and cooked until the ends are golden. Next, a little stock is added to the pan, the lid goes on and the potatoes are cooked for 30-odd minutes until tender. Unlike the icing fondant that sets my teeth on edge, the potato version makes me salivate. If you add a whole parsnip and a couple of leeks to the pan, it can become a meal on its own with a crisp green salad on the side.
Then there are chocolate fondants, gooey-centred chocolate desserts. I must confess that in my early years as a cook I just thought they were a type of chocolate pudding you took out of the oven before all the mixture had set. But no, the correct way to make this dessert is with a separate centre that melts as the cake mixture cooks around it. This makes the pudding a little more technical than making a simple self-saucing pudding with cocoa and self-raising flour, but the result is a richer, more restaurant-style dessert.
– 250g dark chocolate
– 250g butter
– 200g castor sugar
– 5 eggs
– 150g plain flour
– 50g cornflour
– 30g cocoa
– 7.5g baking powder
– 180g sugar
– 140g cocoa
– 100g dark chocolate
– icing sugar
– 2 punnets raspberries
– pure cream
Make the fondant caramel first.
Place the sugar and 50 millilitres of water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to the boil, making sure the sugar has dissolved, and then boil until it turns a light caramel colour.
Remove from the heat and carefully “break” the toffee by pouring in another 100 millilitres of water. Whisk in the cocoa, followed by the chocolate.
Allow this to set (I do this in the freezer). When the mixture is solid enough, roll eight one-centimetre balls. There will be more of this caramel than you need, but making a smaller amount can be fraught with danger and failure. You can keep the leftovers in an airtight container in the freezer to use later for another batch of fondants.
Preheat your oven to 180ºC.
Place the chocolate, butter and sugar in a large bowl over a double boiler and melt to combine. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs until they have doubled in size. I find it best to use a stand mixer for this.
Sift the remaining dry ingredients together.
When the chocolate mixture is melted, fold in the whisked eggs, and then fold in the dry ingredients.
Grease eight 150-millilitre dariole moulds, then three-quarter fill them, pushing the cake mixture to the sides to make a space for the toffee ball. Place the toffee ball approximately in the middle of the mould and cover it with the fondant mix that was pushed aside. Cook in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes or until the top feels firm.
Unmould carefully and dust with icing sugar. Serve with fresh raspberries and pure cream.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 29, 2020 as "Fondant memories".
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