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Divine Dark Chocolate Soufflé Cake

19 Feb

Wow. It has really been awhile, hasn’t it? I’ve been so busy with my new job as a writing instructor, coupled with blogging about naps, in addition to the general mania of family life…well…I’ve been cooking, but I haven’t had time to talk about it.

Until the Kahlua conversation on Facebook.

Some friends of ours invited us (all four of us – they are such saints) over for dinner and our contribution was to be a dessert. Since we had a little time yesterday, I decided we should bake something instead of just buying it at Wegmans. Not feeling like stretching myself too much, however, I pulled out a tried-and-true favorite that I first ripped from a Cooking Light magazine in 1997: Dark Chocolate Soufflé Cake.

Let me clarify that nothing about the taste of this cake says “Cooking Light.” The reason it has become such a favorite for us is that it reminds us of one of those desserts you split at a fancy restaurant – the kind that makes you slump after your first bite, roll your eyes, and go “omagawd.” With only 6g of fat (unbelievable) and 205 calories per slice, it has a chocolate taste that will satisfy even the most dedicated chocolate whore.

“But a soufflé?!” you might moan. Isn’t that hard? Don’t I have to tiptoe around the house for fear of making it collapse? Well, I don’t know about real soufflés, but the answer regarding this divine dessert is “no.” It’s really as simple as any other scratch cake.

But I digress. I was telling you about the Kahlua.

So the way this cake gets so fabulously chocolatey and rich without fat is that it is made with Dutch process cocoa (especially dark), instant espresso, and two tablespoons of Kahlua. I guess, when I was 21, everyone had that bottle of Kahlua sitting with the Rumplemintz and the Boones Farm Strawberry Hill and the Southern Comfort. We, however, had no such bottle kicking around. This resulted in the following Facebook status:

“Nothing says classy like buying a 50mL bottle of Kahlua.”

Well, you can imagine that the trash talking started right then and there. And so it is that my abusive Facebook friends have pushed me to break my silence and blog a new-old-favorite-fabulous recipe for you. You can thank me later.

Dark Chocolate Soufflé Cake

9-inch springform pan

Cooking spray

1/2 C granulated sugar

1/2 C packed dark brown sugar

3/4 C water

1 Tb. instant espresso or 2 Tb. instant coffee granules

2/3 C Dutch process or unsweetened cocoa

1/4 tsp salt

2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped

2 Tb. Kahlua (IT’S FOR A CAKE, PEOPLE!)

3 large egg yolks

1/3 C sifted cake flour (like Swan’s Down – it comes in a box, usually)

6 large egg whites at room temperature

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (it’s not just for playdoh, folks!)

1/3 C granulated sugar (yes, again – this is in addition to the first)

1 Tb. powdered sugar

Raspberries or chocolate shavings for garnish (if desired – and why not?)

This is a long list, but don’t be intimidated. Just get all your ingredients ready and read through the recipe before you start, and everything should go smoothly!

So the first thing you want to do is separate those eggs! Why? Because the egg whites will beat up better at room temperature, and you’re going to want them to sit. Don’t let any yolk get into the egg whites or it will mess up your fluffy concoction. One way to avoid accidents is to separate each egg into a separate bowl to start, and then dump it in with the others when the coast is clear (no yolk leakage). In any event, you want these six egg whites warming up. Set aside three of the yolks for the chocolate sauce and then store the other three for another use (like making pasta dough).

You gotta keep ’em separated…

Preheat your oven to 300.

Coat the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. “WAIT!” you might say. What the hell is a springform pan?

Springform pan – just get one

A springform pan is one of those useful items that will expand your baking repertoire. Basically, it’s this cool device that allows the bottom of the pan to separate from the sides. The latch opens to pull the sides of the pan off without you having to dump the cake out. Springform pans come in all kinds of sizes, though. I realized I had FOUR of them and had to measure the bottom to figure out which one was 9 inches, so be forewarned when you go to buy one.

“Forsooth, oh Sweet of Tooth! Thy pan must be the correct size!”

Just in case you’re curious, this is a “ruler ruler,” which has all the kings and queens of England on the back. Very useful. Anyhoo…

So you spray the bottom of this pan and set it aside.  Get your sugar.

Sugar, sugar…you are so yummy

Combine the 1/2 C granulated sugar, 1/2 C brown sugar, water, and espresso in a large saucepan. If your brown sugar is lumpy, smash the lumps before adding the water.

Mix it up…

No, seriously, it’s a light recipe!

Bring the concoction to a boil and remove it right away from the heat. Then add the cocoa, salt, and chopped chocolates.  Stir thoroughly with a whisk until they are all melted and smooth.

So rich and velvety. Gorgeous.

Now stir in the Kahlua. YES! IT IS TIME! Look at it – so innocent in the baking pantry. No Rumplemintz in sight.

It’s for a CAKE, folks…

Also stir in the three egg yolks at this time. Then, even though this sounds weird, you stir in the cake flour until it disappears. You should have a gorgeous,thick chocolate sauce. Set it aside to cool to room temperature while you work on the egg whites.

Now you put your egg whites in the mixer. You can do this with a hand mixer, but it will be a bit tiring! You need to start by beating the egg whites and the cream of tartar at high speed until they are foamy. This happens quickly.

Have your last 1/3C of granulated sugar handy and start spooning it in one Tb. at a time. When it’s all gone, you want the egg whites to come to stiff peaks.

Let me stop here and say that I have always lacked confidence when it comes to determining what soft peaks are and what stiff peaks are. On occasion, I have beaten my eggs to a pulp trying to achieve the right stiffness. Basically, you should see that the eggs do not slide in the bowl when it is tipped, and they should stand up with some integrity on the whisk. Like this:

This works.

So now you will want to go back to that chocolate and make sure it’s in a big bowl, because you are going to proceed to gently fold in the egg whites about 1/4 at a time. In other words, wipe about 1/4 of the eggs into the chocolate and gently combine, turning the chocolate over with a rubber spatula. Continue until all of the eggs are mixed nearly completely into the chocolate. If you have a few white streaks, that’s okay – it will just be visible in the final cake. What you don’t want to do, though, is beat the life out of those nicely whipped eggs. Use your judgment.

Before you pour the batter into your pan, make sure that sucker is LATCHED. I made the enormously careless mistake of not latching the pan this weekend, and I picked it up and had some of the batter ooze out the bottom. What a mess! Stupid.

The recipe says to bake at 300 for 60 minutes. I’ve found that it’s best to check the cake no later than 55 minutes. When you insert a toothpick, it should come out nearly clean. When it’s done set it aside in the pan and let it cool on a wire rack.

When the cake is cool, lightly run a sharp knife around the inside edge, just to free any sticky parts. Then unbuckle your little pan and lift. Voila!

Ain’t she sweet?

Add a few raspberries and chocolate shavings for garnish if you wish, and definitely sift powdered sugar over it! Naturally, this “light” cake can be made much more decadent with whipped cream or ice cream if you so choose. That’s on your conscience.

And that, my friends, is why I bought the Kahlua.

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Stupidly Simple Pork Chops and Spicy Black Beans

16 May

I’m back!  And you thought you were rid of me.

Actually, I decided weeks ago that I wanted to blog this recipe because (although it is not fancy) it is low in fat, easy, and really tasty.  As an added bonus, it’s one of those things you can keep on hand for busy nights, as long as you have a little freezer space and some canned/jarred staples.

When we’re managing our weight (oh…so like ALWAYS?) Dan and I depend on the whole protein-and-a-side strategy for weekday nights.  We find that by freezing some chicken breasts and boneless pork chops, for example, and then making sure we get in the right vegetables, we can quickly throw together a meal that makes us feel well-fed without exhausting us.  Spicy pork chops and black beans is just such a recipe.

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A Chili January Day (Resolutions Edition)

10 Jan

‘Tis the season for the eternal weight loss resolution.  For me (as I’m sure is the case for many of you) this doesn’t mean a new diet as much as it means a continuation of the old diet.  Deprivation!  The ever-present companion of the Rubenesque among us.

I post a lot of recipes that couldn’t be categorized as “diet food.”  In fact, I prefer to think that I avoid any recipe that classifies as “diet food” because it’s a pretty depressing idea.  You know…like this.  Anyone who has eaten bad diet recipes will tell you that the reason they work is because you’d rather go hungry than consume them.  Of course, none of us can live like that for long.

This week, Dan and I have been following Weight Watchers which, for me, means pulling out my materials from ten years ago and counting points the way I did back in 1999.  I continue, in fact, to diet like it’s 1999 and don’t see why I should adapt to any new system.  For one, I’d have to actually go to a meeting, and I have always found Weight Watchers meetings to be most suitable as a torturous punishment for not losing weight that week.  Inspirational and informative, not so much.  As a result, I just stay home and use what worked for me back then and, not shockingly, it still works.

On this cold weekend, I introduced Dan to a chili recipe that I long ago dug up from some old Weight Watchers cookbook that went out of print ages ago and has now been lost, even to me.  Luckily, I typed this recipe up way back when to give to someone else, so it was on my hard drive.  I’m telling you, this one is a keeper.  You will not feel deprived.  Also, it has the winter benefit of clearing your sinuses.  Spicy!

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Sassy Stuffed Shells

12 Nov

The time in my life that I most closely associate with the quintessential American childhood is the nearly four years my family spent based at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, NE.  I’m not going to say that Omaha was the coolest place I’ve ever lived.  However, freshly returned from two years in Europe, where we had no Saturday morning cartoons and no trick-or-treating, our tract home in Bellevue, NE was pretty much Norman Rockwellesque to my brother and me.  There were school buses, lots of other kids, girl scouts, and games of Ghost in the Graveyard at twilight.  It was good.

During that time in my life, roughly ages eight to twelve, I had a couple of really close “best” friends with whom I don’t recall ever having any serious disagreements.  Their names were Kristine and Kim, and they lived in the same cul-de-sac a few streets away from me.  We biked, played outside, did crafts, and sold girl scout cookies together.  You know – pretty squeaky clean fun.

 

Kristine, Kim, and me with our girl scout counselor at winter camp in Council Bluffs, Iowa

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Flex Your Mussels

7 Oct

When my husband and I first met, we lived in Boston and Manhattan, respectively.  So our first real “date” had to be one of those volatile weekend visits that destroy so many fledgling relationships.  He was coming to visit me.  I was racking my brain to think of the best places to take him and the most not-awkward things to do.  First date on steroids.

Of course we talked on the phone a lot, because we were not able to see each other in person.  One night a few days before that first weekend visit, I was listening with only one ear as he told me about his evening.  What I was really thinking about what if I shouldn’t take him to my favorite Belgian restaurant for dinner.  But did he like shellfish?  Polarizing. Continue reading

Got Garlic? Proceed!

1 Sep

Okay, well, you’re going to need a few other things, but I am positively reeking of garlic this morning.  Luckily, Dan is also reeking of garlic and is working from home (a fortunate coincidence – not a reaction to over-consumption of garlic).  I’m not sure the electrician will be thrilled when he arrives, though.

Last night I improvised a meal that turned out great.  It was cheap, healthy, and fairly simple, so I thought I would share it.

My neighbors graciously told me to go pick all their ripe veggies while they were away this week, so I came home with a basket of mystery peppers and a bunch of tomatoes.  While talking to them online, however, they warned me to “be careful with those long green peppers…we don’t know how hot they are.”  Well…one tentative taste told me that their reckless use was liable to burn our eyebrows off.  With so many of these little buggers to eat, I wondered what I should do with all of them?  I also happened to have some fresh cilantro left over from a weekend meal, plus a half a vidalia onion.  Is it any surprise I thought of salsa? Continue reading

Becoming a Saucy Wench

31 Aug

Yesterday I made pasta from scratch with William — and then I tried to blog about it.  Frankly, the post was boring to read.  I shelved it.  What can I say about making pasta from scratch?

1) Everyone seems to get a pasta maker for their wedding, yet nobody else I know uses theirs.  That’s a shame.

2) Fresh pasta is one of those things that is cheap to make and so superior to the dried kind that you hardly need any sauce at all.  The pasta is delectable and tender.

3) It’s a mess.  Even messier if you decide your preschooler is the next Lidia Bastianich and let him help.   Continue reading