Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Chocolate Cake.

Clearly, I was in a rush when I took these photos. That's because there was two tablespoons of flour in this cake (it was also Valentines Day). A flourless chocolate cake is not a new concept--it's called fudge. And I certainly don't mean that in any kind of disparaging or condescending way--I love this cake.

I also have to say, that while the cake was clearly the star of the evening, the ice cream was pretty excellent, too. This is Bassett's (yes, the one in Reading Terminal), who have very reasonably priced pints at Whole Foods.

But seriously, if you like chocolate, you should probably preheat the oven now.

Baked Fudge Cake
From Short and Sweet by Melanie Barnard

1 lb. (2 2/3 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
10 Tb unsalted butter
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 Tb flour
1 t instant espresso or coffee powder

1. Preheat the oven. Butter a 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with a round of wax or parchment paper.
2. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate together, stirring until the chocolate is about half melted. Remove pan from heat and continue stirring until the mixture is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
3. Beat the eggs with an electric mixer on medium low in a large mixing bowl until frothy. Raise the speed to high and beat until the eggs are light in color, thick, fluffy, and almost triple in volume (about 5 minutes). Beat in the flour and espresso or coffee powder.
4. Stir about one fourth of the egg mixture into the chocolate to lighten it, then fold the chocolate mixture into the eggs.
5. Pour the batter in to the pan. Bake for 17 minutes. Cool for 10, then refrigerate for 30.
6. Add ice cream. Prepare yourself.

Polenta Cake.

I use cornmeal to dust the bottom of my bread loaves. I don't have much use for it otherwise--I'm not a huge polenta fan. It's a pity, too, because cornmeal is so darn cheap.

So imagine my excitement when I read about this cake, which promised a buttery denseness with just enough texture to keep me entertained. I was in. I made it one Wednesday night while everyone was fully engrossed in "LOST".

The cake calls for some kind of sauce to be poured over top, and not fresh fruit, which makes it a great winter alternative to a pie or chocolate-based dessert. I thought the jam Alex made this summer would be a perfect compliment. I can't remember what combination of fruit the jam is--raspberry plum, maybe? I heated up the glass jar (with the metal lid removed) in the microwave for just a few seconds to make it pourable.

The cake was also great the next morning for breakfast. Then again, my favorite thing to eat at breakfast-time is a brownie. Feel free to test that theory though.

I didn't have a tart pan with a removable bottom, so I just used a trusty cake pan covered in parchment I cut in a circle (and that trick, my friends, is for another day).

Polenta Cake

Serves 8
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature (save the wrapper!)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons fine to medium grind cornmeal plus 2 teaspoons for dusting pan
1/2 cup brown sugar, not packed
2 eggs, room temperature
3 egg yolks, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons granulated sugar for dusting

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Use the wrapper to grease a 9-inch removable bottom tart pan; dust with 2 teaspoons cornmeal.
2. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until light in color and fluffy, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Scrape the bowl and add the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract.
3. Sift the flour, remaining corn meal, baking powder and salt together and fold into the mixture.
4. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan (it might be hard to spread--don't worry about getting it all the way to the edges). Sprinkle the sugar evenly on top. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool. Serve with jam.

Friday, March 20, 2009

On trusting God:

Sojourner Truth was in the audience at Faneuil Hall in Boston in 1847 when Frederick Douglass , despairing that slavery could be abolished peaceably, began to advocate insurrection. Indicting his lack of faith in God's goodness, Truth stood up and asked, “Frederick, is God dead?”

I think the answer is in the question.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

I'm not Italian.

Considering how difficult it was for Matt to pick a birthday dessert, I'm sure you can imagine the difficulty of picking a main dish. He didn't say much, but I remember spaghetti being part of our conversation one day. I don't ever make spaghetti, and certainly not with my own homemade red sauce.

This is because I live with the ultimate critic: Marc Piscitello is Italian. I call his dad "Don Vito". He fries Italian breadcrumbs like his grandma to put on top of pasta.

But here I was, about to feed ten people. As countless church suppers have proven, if you're trying to feed a lot of people easily, make spaghetti. I decided to risk Marc's judgement.

A bottled sauce, of course, would not do. Molly over at Orangette (who just released a book) posted this recipe, which sounded easy enough, ages ago. And how could I not love something with "onions" and "butter" in the title?

And honestly, the sauce was great. But the real winner here are the onions that Molly "discards" at the end of the recipe (I edited that part out...no one should make that mistake). These onions have been simmering in tomatoes for about an hour, getting sweet and melty. They were great with a sprinkling of salt and some Parmesan.

I suppose I should have asked Marc what he thought before I wrote this entry. I know he didn't have anything negative to say that night, so one can infer that didn't not like it. Oh, and Matt did, which I suppose was the important part. It was his birthday after all.

Tomato sauce with Onions and Butter
from Orangette
2 cups whole, peeled, canned plum tomatoes, chopped, with their juices (about one 28-oz. can)
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and cut in quarters
Salt, to taste

Combine the tomatoes, their juices, the butter, and the onion quarters in a medium saucepan. Add a pinch or two of salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, at a very slow but steady simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary, for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free from the tomato. Stir occasionally, mashing any large pieces of tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and salt as needed.

St. Patrick's Day.

This is probably one of the least Irish meals I could make, but yesterday I committed myself to Karen Hunter's Chicken Dijon. And I am so glad I did. I wish I could share the recipe with you, but I can't, because I am bound to secrecy. I was told that (1) I cannot share the recipe and (2) cannot start my own catering business. As long as I get to enjoy Karen Hunter's Chicken Dijon at home, that is fine with me.

I served it alongside some leftover spinach noodle nests and sauteed carrots. I hadn't intended to plate the meal like the Irish flag, but considering the holiday, I thought it would be appropriate.

Monday, March 9, 2009


When I asked Matt what kind of dessert he wanted for his birthday, I think he just said, "Creampuffs!" so I would get off his back about it. He probably didn't expect me to actually make them.

Technically, I didn't, because heavy cream totally slipped my mind while at the store. I also didn't think about putting the chocolate ganache inside the puffs--I was cooking for 10 and had a lot on my mind. So I served pastry puffs drizzled with chocolate.

I have to say, I really surprised myself (not to mention Matt). Making choux pastry is so, so easy. I used Julia Child's recipe from Mastering the Art of French Cooking-- which is an absolutely fabulous, easy to read and follow cookbook. It is simply a cooked pastry with eggs whisked in at the end. The puffs were then piped directly onto parchment. I don't have a pastry bag and tip (even though they're relatively cheap), so I just cut the tip off a plastic baggie.

I was almost glad I didn't fill them--someone brought M&Ms and stuffed them inside.