I was standing in my kitchen basking in a wonderful mood. Sadly for those around me (the plants) I was singing off key and trilling as if I didn't have a care in the world.
"It's the most wonderful time of the year..." I sang. And then a packet of dried red lentils, without any visible prompt or nudge, fell off the counter in protest, probably of my singing.
"Ahh Hallowe'en ghouls, I do adore you" I said. I picked up the dried lentils and continued making my Hallowe'en snacks-chocolate rats made from double chocolate brownie mixture. I had originally intended to put them on pop sticks but my order of sticks hadn't arrived in time and then I realised the best way for me to style these would be gnawing on an arm. I still remember visiting Kryal Castle's "Wax of Torture" museum when I was younger and seeing all sorts of gruesome things there. The one exhibit that sticks in my mind was the one where a man was being tortured with a box of rats on his stomach and they had set the box on fire so the rats had to eat through him. That sort of thing tends to stick in your memory...
Oh where was I? Oh that's right,the happiest time of the year! Hallowe'en is coming up soon and every year I have to physically restrain myself until the beginning of October to start planning it. If I don't I will start planning it as soon as the previous year's is over. And this years is going to feature all new and ghoulish ideas so stay tuned! ;)
I do realise that these are more mouse shaped than rat shaped. In truth the only time I have seen a rat in real life was when my imaginatively monikered cat "Kitty" brought me one for my 16th birthday and deposited it on the the doormat. Rats are larger than mice but I didn't want to make these brownie bites too big - more snack sized if you will.
Whilst this isn't strictly one of those gooey crackly topped brownies I didn't want to make it that as we need the cake itself to be soft and pliable and therefore easy to be shaped. But I wanted to do a brownie as I didn't want to bother making up some chocolate icing to help combine the cake mixture together and brownies are naturally more moist than regular cake.
The rats are actually quite easy to make and if you wanted, you could make them into pops (keep them on the small size so that the stick can hold it-just use the instructions for these vampire pops). However you serve them, these are for the hardened chocaholic. There was a decadent richness of the brownie plus the coating of dark chocolate on top and I felt that the red eyes made the rats look a little more sinister-which is why I positioned them gobbling up a severed arm. As you do.
So tell me Dear Reader, will you be celebrating Halloween? And what is your favourite holiday of the year?
Rat Plague Brownie Bites
Makes loads of rats, about 30 or so depending on the size...which is quite fitting because rats seem to multiply easily. Feel free to halve recipe for a more manageable rat population ;)
350g good-quality dark chocolate, chopped finely
120g butter, chopped
1/3 cup caster sugar
2 eggs, beaten lightly
1 cup plain flour
100g additional good-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped into chunks
500g/1 pound dark chocolate
Flaked almonds for ears
Silver cachous or red sprinkles for eyes and nose
Vermicelli noodles or egg noodles for tails and whiskers
Step 1 - Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Grease a 19cm square cake pan and line base and 2 opposite sides with non-stick baking paper.
Step 2 - Combine chopped chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan. Stir over low heat until melted. Add sugar and cook, stirring for a further 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add eggs and flour and stir until well combined. Then stir chocolate chunks through. Spoon into prepared pan and smooth surface. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into centre comes out almost clean (the centre of brownie will still be fudgy). Set aside to cool for 1 hour.
3. Line a baking tray with parchment. To shape rats roll the cake batter into balls and shape into a teardrop shape. Place on the tray and use up all of the brownie cake batter. I allowed these to sit overnight covered with cling film to firm up or you could put these in the fridge or freezer to firm up.
Step 4 - In a double boiler (a bowl fitted on top of a pot of simmering water but make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water) melt the chocolate for decoration. Or you can do this in a microwave on 60 second bursts on 50% power stirring between bursts and stir until completely smooth.
Step 5 - Place a sheet of cling wrap until a cake cooling tray (so that any excess chocolate can drip off and then be used again). Using two teaspoons dip a "rat" into the chocolate and working quickly allow the excess chocolate to drip off. Now if your rats have been in the fridge or freezer the chocolate will set quicker. The first things that you want to get to "stick" to the chocolate are the silver cachous for the nose and the red sprinkles for the eyes. The rest (the ears, tails and whiskers) can be firmly pushed into half set chocolate.
Dipping the vermicelli tail
Step 6 - I dipped three rats at a time and reheated the chocolate so that it was nicely liquid between the second and third lot of rats. Place the silver cachou on the pointy end of the rat's body to make the nose and then add the red sprinkles for eyes. Then add two flaked almond "ears" and the whiskers-you can usually poke these through the chocolate. Then find a piece of curly vermicelli and then dip this into the chocolate and affix this to the back of the rat for the tail. Allow to set completely.