Day Two (or, worshipping at the altar of butter)

Let’s not get started into all the reasons to buy butter over its many pretenders – not today anyway. Suffice for now to say that, in a country that produces the best butter in the world, I feel it’d be rude not to.

But here’s another good reason to lace your diet with this golden national bounty: The very foil it comes in is a versatile tool for the resourceful cook.

The lovely Catherine Fulvio of Ballyknocken Cookery School saves her butter wrappers for sweating onions – laying the foil directly onto the onion speeds up the cooking by part-steaming, keeping them nice and moist while you’re at it.

And today I discovered another reason to respect the butter wrapper.

It was Day Two of the Cooking for Life course and John Wyer (ex-head chef at l’Ecrivain, and currently one of the lead tutors at Dublin Cookery School) was hand-holding our novice attempts at chocolate fondants.

Now anyone who’s had the pleasure of cracking into one of these oozing cases of luxury will understand that a fondant is a delicate if powerful thing. It’s imperative to keep all that gooey goodness inside the sponge walls until the moment of spoon-tapping truth. The very last thing you want is for the little baby to cling to the heat of the baking pan, and break asunder in your efforts to coax it away.

The answer? A little perch of ready-buttered foil cut from wrappers you’ll have cleverly squirrelled in your fridge. This silver square is just the pedestal your awesome fondant needs to allow you shift it pan to plate where you can ease it out of the parchment-lined mould.

It won’t stop the sponge from over-cooking sadly; that’s down to your own subtle sense of timing. My clever cooking partner did suggest making a spare one or two to test-run before serving at the dining table: err on the side of under-cooking, and if the test fondant collapses you can return the booty to the oven, or even let them continue cooking in their own heat for another minute or so. Just make sure that you’ve allowed an equal amount of fondant mix in each mould to ensure even cooking.

We served the fondants with home-made ice-cream based on a classic crème anglaise flecked with vanilla seeds. If you don’t have an ice-cream maker and wanna try the manual method (in a regular freezer, and whisking out the crystals every couple of hours), John recommends folding in a little whisked egg white and a splash of Sauternes or brandy to halt the crystallisation.

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