Liberation Day in Italy: “Bella Ciao” and chocolate cake

chocolate cake

It’s April 25th, Liberation Day in Italy. At 3PM people were out on their balconies singing “Bella Ciao”  – the link below is from the Palladium building here in Garbatella.

I think people were singing all over Italy. Lots of flags and cheering.

E le genti che passeranno
O bella ciao, bella ciao, bella ciao ciao ciao
E le genti che passeranno
Mi diranno: “Che bel fior”

From a friend: the Italian Air Force was also out today.

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I made a cake today, as some yoghurt needed to be used up. Quite light and fluffy, not too sweet.

Chocolate cake with cocoa and yoghurt
125 gr butter, melted and a little cooled
300 gr white sugar
3 medium eggs
450 ml dl plain yoghurt   (I had three small 150 ml containers to use up)
50 ml milk   (as it looked a little stiff)
350g white wheat flour (I used 00)
4 heaping tbs cocoa powder (dark unsweetened kind, rather old)
2 sachets instant coffee (4 gr) (if you have some)
2 tbs baking soda
1.5 tsp baking powder
generous pinch salt

Melt butter. Whisk eggs and sugar until fluffy, then stir in everything else and mix. Bake in parchment-lined tray (I used 20×30 cm) at 200 for 30-40 minutes until cake is done (is risen, stops wobbling when touched and a wooden chopstick inserted comes out dry.) Cool cake.

Frosting
125 gr butter
3 heaping tbs cocoa powder
90 g dark chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 sachets instant coffee (4 gr), or generous splash of strong coffee
275 gr icing sugar
1 tbs sugar syrup (I was making some, otherwise just use a little more icing sugar)
a couple splashes of milk to make it spreadable

Melt butter with chocolate. Whisk rest in until it is shiny and smooth. Spread on cake when cake is cool. You might want it sweeter, this is quite dark. Top with sugar sprinkles.

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I failed to wait: friends were out for a walk in the sunny afternoon, with their police declarations ready, and were walking by our house. I hastily spread the frosting on the hot cake, and sliced off a third of the cake for them. We had a socially distanced hello and handover. Wrapped in tinfoil the cake was still quite hot, and collapsed a bit, but great to have a chance to share! After seven weeks (?) of lockdown it will be so nice to see friends again next month, we hope.

Ants, and After Eight brownies

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Trendy Accra: we have had the wax print festival, the Chale Wote street art festival, there are so many art events and concerts. Now I see fashion week is approaching. There are some very cool designers here, though I tend to wear more fair trade batik on sale. We spotted this at Accra Mall last weekend: rather fabulous.

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Back at home there is less glamour: an ant invasion, with flatmate discussions ensuing about using ant spray in the kitchen vs using practicing basic kitchen hygiene with ant powder as backup (my preferred option). If you feed the ants, they will come: there are always some ants around, but leaving food scraps out or not rinsing the rubbish bin after emptying when needed are just invitations for a teeming trail of happy ants making a beeline for the food source. You spray, they simply reroute.  So now we still had hundred of ants enjoying themselves, plus pesticide resides on the clean dishes………  I am certainly not an easygoing person to share a kitchen with at the best of times, but we did have a prior general discussion about not using ant spray near food or dishes. There are interesting cultural differences sometimes when you share a living space.  Oh well. We talked, the bin was rinsed out, an ant powder intervention followed, the dishes rewashed, and the ants retreated. Nothing today. There are always ants around in Accra, but the odd ant scouting is very different from a street party, it is perfectly manageable if they are not encouraged (and fed).

Enough complaining. Another joy in Accra is protecting your food not just from ants, but from heat and humidity. Salt clumps, spices go solid, while nuts and seeds go rancid. We’d been given a box of After Eight, which proceeded to melt through the tin and leak through, as it was not in the fridge (THAT was a fun sugary ant party, I tell you.)  Time for a rescue operation: After Eight brownies, just in time for a pizza and Netflix night (“The Set Up”). I do have one precious packet of Toro brownie mix just brought from Norway, but I am saving that so this time it was baking from scratch.

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Peeling them out, one by one………  This was like a Swedish kladdkaka, amalgamated from several recipes based on what I had. Good chance to use up some old dark chocolate as well, mainly Ghanaian (Ghana is a major cocoa producer).

After Eight brownies

275 grammes dark chocolate, broken into pieces
275 grammes salted butter
200 grammes soft brown sugar  (I had golden brown sugar)
pinch of salt
4 medium eggs
150 grammes plain white wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
25g cocoa powder
1 box of 200 rather decrepit After Eight mints
some pinches of salt to sprinkle on batter

Melt butter and chocolate on gentle heat. Cool slightly. Whisk in sugar, salt, flour, baking powder, eggs and cocoa powder: it will look like a delightfully buttery dark sludge. Heat oven to 180C. Line a baking dish of 20×30 cm with baking parchment. Pour half the batter into baking dish, then add a layer of tiles of After Eight, right across the tin. Then add rest of batter. Sprinkle some pinches of salt on top of batter. Bake at 180C for about 25 minutes, depending on your oven and how fudgy you like your brownies. It’s very buttery, and with the middle layer it can be hard to know the right time.  I use a chopstick at present,  took it out at 25 min when it did not jiggle when moved, and the top looked crinkly and done. Very dense, and lots of leftovers in fridge, mmmmm……

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PS this is actually rather funny: I looked up Toro brownie mix (it is a classic), and their website says “……TORO Brownies serveres ofte i kakestykker med et melisdryss over.”  Which means: These are often served in pieces [of cake] with a dusting of powdered sugar over. However, this Norwegian food webshop for expats says  “TORO Brownies are often served in pieces of cake with a melancholy over.”  Not quite sure what to make of that, it seems terrible even for machine translation (and a little poetic, if you were a homesick Norwegian).

Banana bread with yogurt and chocolate chips

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Right before Eid I made two banana breads for the office: one with butter, lemon and yogurt, and this one with yogurt and chocolate chips. Both were assembled based on the bananas and yogurt I had to use up, and both were very nice! The chocolate chips were courtesy of my American flatmate, and much appreciated: otherwise coconut chips or nuts would have been nice too.  Though I am not a banana fan, they come my way (canteen desserts, office coffees) and are good and plentiful here, and they do freeze well unpeeled. As our next chest freezer is already full (mainly due to ant invasions), I thought banana breads were a better destination for these.

Banana bread with yogurt and chocolate chips

2-3 small very ripe bananas, mashed (I used about 145 gr peeled)
150 grammes plain yogurt (here there is only full-fat local yogurt, but very good)
2 medium eggs
50 ml vegetable oil
250 grammes all-purpose flour  (until I thought the batter had right consistency)
125 grammes sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
a restrained handful of chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a medium loaf pan with parchment paper (mine is maybe 20x5cm). Whisk together eggs, bananas and oil. Whisk in the rest, and stir in a handful of dark chocolate chips or chopped baking chocolate. Bake at 180C for 50-55 minutes or so. I test with a wooden chopstick, this one took a bit longer than the lemon cake. This would probably be faster if not baking two cakes at same time. Cool on a rack for a bit before serving (easier to slice next day).

Here are the two banana breads, lemon and chocolate chip, freshly baked. Watched with an episode of Alias season 1, which is still enjoyable!  We have not paid for DSTV here, but not having actual TV is fine as long as you have hard drives and DVDs. I am really really forward to seeing Jennifer Garner in Peppermint. Most movies I watch on planes these days, though we did go see Deadpool 2 recently at Accra Mall, which has a very good cinema. DP2 was gory but very funny.

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