Thursday, 15 November 2012
Do you like having a set of rules to follow?
This week someone reintroduced me to an excellent set of blogging tips by Joy the Baker. A few days later The Times ran a list of blogging rules. This evening I watched the Blog, Inc. Virtual Chat. All three things made me think about my own rules.
After three and a half years of blogging I have a lot of habits and systems. There's a big framework behind the blog - a rabbit warren full of tunnels hiding under the surface. Even the things that are obvious if you look for them (the top photo is always of the finished dish then they're in chronological order) hopefully slip under the radar while you read. Over time it's rebuilt but the main frame stays the same. I'm attached to that frame - I like patterns and rules.
I get quite a few emails asking for blogging advice. I've never posted about it before as I thought it was better to reply individually without bothering the rest of you. Today I changed my mind as I realised that my main tip - individuality - is as universally applicable as advice can get. It has all been said many times before by people greater than me, but here goes anyway:
Work out what your rules are. The only real way to do that is to practice, experiment and observe. What do you like about your favourite blogs? Does it annoy you when somebody does x? Which posts do you like and which turn you off? What is important to you as a reader or follower? What are your strengths?
Never stop thinking about what you're doing. Keep editing, keep polishing and pushing forwards. Try not to spend your time and energy worrying about numbers and success - concentrate on what you do and doing it well. It is hard work, though not everyone will acknowledge that. But if you love it? It's worth every single moment.
They say rules are made to be broken. The first thing you do in this recipe - melt chocolate with water - feels wrong. Water usually makes chocolate seize. So how can you make mousse out of just chocolate and water? It sounds impossible but it works. The technique was pioneered by Hervé This, a French chemist. There's a video of Heston Blumenthal making it (without his glasses, which is quite disconcerting) and James made it in the BBC Great British Bake Off semifinal.
It's not quite like a normal mousse. It's more creamy, akin to ganache, and very rich. Use a chocolate that you love the taste of - it's the only flavour so it needs to be good. I left it at a thick pudding stage but I think you can go a little further before it becomes grainy.
I added a bitter cocoa nib crunch and soft, just-whipped cream, but this really is a blank canvas. Perhaps you could add flavours into the water (fruit puree? alcohol?) or scrape it into a blind baked pastry case.
If you're struggling to get cocoa nibs (lots of people seem to miss them out of the Salted Caramel & Cocoa Nib Brownies), I recently bought some online from Sous Chef as I haven't found them in Oxford yet. I've bought a few things from that site and they've always been good quality. I've also found the nibs in health food shops elsewhere.
(A final note on one of my rules that I hope is visible: I never accept products for review or work for companies on this blog - so no need to ever wonder if something I say is sponsored.)
Hervé's Chocolate Mousse
(Adapted from Hervé This' Molecular Gastronomy, via Food 52)
100g high quality dark chocolate (roughly 70%)
80ml (or g) water
a few handfuls of ice cubes
good glug of double cream (optional garnish)
cocoa nibs (optional garnish)
Chop the chocolate up into chunks. Put the ice into a bowl then fit a metal bowl (if possible, it will let the mixture cool faster, meaning less whisking) into it. Add some water to the ice to make sure the bottom of the top bowl is submerged and cooled. Get a whisk and serving bowls ready.
Place the chocolate into a saucepan with the water. Warm over low-medium heat until the chocolate has dissolved and you have a smooth liquid. Pour into the cold bowl and start whisking immediately. As you whisk, the mixture should start to slowly thicken. Keep going until it holds thick ribbons. Quickly transfer to your serving bowls before it starts to set.
Remove the chocolate bowl from the ice and replace with a clean one. Pour in some double cream and whip until it holds soft peaks. Spoon over the mousse and sprinkle some cocoa nibs over the top. Serve immediately if possible. If not, place in the fridge then bring up to room temperature before serving.
A few related posts:
Coconut Milk Chocolate Cake