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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.

Quiche Is No Quandary

18 May

When I was little, one of my absolute favorite meals was my mom’s quiche.  Delicate, yet simultaneously and sinfully rich, it seemed like a cloud made of cheese and egg and flecked with sought-after pieces of yummy bacon.  I rejoiced when I heard, after school, that it was on the menu. The whole time I was growing up, I’d hear people asking her for the recipe.  I took it to a potluck once and a guy told me it was one of the best quiches he’d ever tasted.  It was like this magical and complicated dish that my mother produced with her highest order homemaking skills.

Me. Pondering the mysteries of quiche.

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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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Festively Frazzled – Cookie FAIL

24 Dec

When you are a cook or a baker, one of the aspects of the holiday that lives, cherished, in your imagination is the delightful memories you will make while cooking with your children.  The only evidence I have from my childhood of the making of Christmas cookies is this photo of me baking with my Grammy Ruth in Colorado – probably about 1977.

Festive outfit, too.

As you can see, I am a model of good behavior and artistic integrity, placing my sprinkles JUST SO.

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A Different Pot of Beans

16 Oct

I have to start by apologizing because, when I hear Puerto Vallarta, I think of the Love Boat.  I feel bad about that, because I’m sure that Puerto Vallarta has a lot of great things for which it is better known, and I’m hoping someone visiting my blog can tell me about those things.  For now, however, I am going to confirm my reservation for that special-room-in-hell-for-backward-people by telling you all about my family recipe for chili…which is called Chili Puerto Vallarta.

STOP!  I hear the primal screams of chili aficionados around the country rising in my ears.  As any chili cook well knows, the mere mention of this dish immediately invites a throw-down in just about any part of the nation.  Entire feature articles have been written about the various types of chili that are made (with great success) across the U.S.A.  I’m going to come out right now and say that I have no wish to participate in a throw-down.  In fact, I don’t think I really could.  The fact is, based on my observation, Chili Puerto Vallarta is not even really a chili. Calm yourselves, settle your beans, and read on.

Okay, so here’s the scoop.  As long as I can remember, my Mom has been making this meal, and we never, ever get tired of it.  But it turns out that she actually got it from my Aunt Jane, who lives in Madison, Wisconsin and has been teaching art history at the university there since 1963.

Aunt Jane…prior to Chili Puerto Vallarta

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Don’t Be Chicken

3 Oct

People.  I want to talk about a delightful European breakfast tradition that appears to horrify Americans — and, no, it’s not blood sausage.

When I was very little, my Mom used to make us soft-boiled eggs, scoop them into custard dishes, and serve them with a spoon.  We loved it.  When I got a little older (about the time we were living in Hamburg, Germany) I had my own special egg cup that was painted like a little viking, and it had a felt cozy with blonde braids for a hat.  I understand it was hard to wash, but very cute.  I’m fairly certain we got it in Denmark.

I was surprised, as an adult, to discover that many Americans appear to have never even heard of a soft-boiled egg, much less tasted one.  And when you explain it to them, their reactions range from suspicious to disgusted.

Here’s what a soft-boiled egg is.   Continue reading

Breakfast for Lazy Misers

19 Sep

For many years, my mom made egg casseroles for special occasions like Christmas brunch.  Now, I have to admit that this dish needs a PR makeover, because who wants to eat something that sounds as unappetizing as an egg casserole?  I really urge you, however, to give this poor, unappreciated dish a good look, because it is awesome in so many ways. Continue reading

Chicken Sherry (No Extinguisher Req’d.)

30 Aug

For those of you who are fans of the book Julie & Julia or the movie adaptation by the same name, you will no doubt be familiar with Julia’s dish featuring chicken in a mushroom cream sauce.  “Don’t crowd the mushrooms!” Amy Adams exclaims as she gently stirs the bubbling pan on the stove top.

Well, I don’t know from crowding mushrooms on the stove top, because a very similar (looking) dish from my mom’s recipe box called for the mushrooms to be simply tossed into a pyrex dish, drowned in sauce, and baked for about 40 minutes.  If they were crowded, the mushrooms never told me.   Continue reading

Dirty Little Secrets

29 Aug

Inspired by Fran’s comment, I’m going to start by revealing what I learned from my mom.

First, let me say that my mom is my hero in many ways.  Although her own mother did have some delectable Pennsylvania dishes like homemade sauerkraut and apple pie, Mom didn’t inherit any kind of comprehensive culinary tradition from my grandmother, and then she spent her early adult years as a hip single girl working at the Pentagon and in Germany.  I understand she had to wash her dishes in the bathtub at the Amelia Earhart hotel in Wiesbaden for years, so it’s not surprising she didn’t become Julia Child during this swingin’ time in her life. Continue reading