Sunday, June 10, 2012

Eat your vegetables and have your cake too

  There are tons of books on the market right now on how to fool your kids into eating vegetables. When did this happen? Gone are the days of finishing your plate and now we have hidden vegetables in cookies, cakes, pasta sauces and fruit juice. Why do we need to hide produce? I love freshly picked vegetables; maybe that's the problem. All those sad wilted veg's at the mega market leaking they're flavor and nutritional goodness by the second.
   That's partly why I grow my own (well, as much as the constraints of my backyard and the wildlife let me) and this year is (fingers crossed) going to be good. The eggplant are nibble free, I spy some blossoms on my squash (I think I over planted, anyone know some good summer squash recipes?), there's a tiny green tomato on one of the 4 varieties I have, the radishes are almost ready to be picked, the carrots leafy tops are slowly poking out and my peas are starting to curly-cu their way around the pots I planted them in. What I don't have in the garden I try and buy from the farmer's market and this past week it was a lovely bushel of beets.
   Now, I know beets aren't everyone's cup of tea (some people think they tasty to "earthy" or "like dirt") but I couldn't resist. Most beet recipes require an initial roasting and then the transformation into whatever salad (the beet world is overrun with beet and goat cheese salad recipes), veggie mash, etc. I felt like something different and I've had Nigel Slater's "Chocolate-Beet Cake" recipe ever since I read his book, "Tender, A Cook and His Vegetable Patch". I did a review some time ago, if you feel like looking through the archives here.
   Adding veggies into the baking world is nothing new, zucchini makes great breads and cookies and who could forget the good stand by of carrot cake and cream cheese frosting? I have tried many a chocolate beet cake recipe, always searching for the perfect balance of chocolate to beet (some cakes just taste like spongy beets...ewww....) and Nigel's recipe has it. His recipe lists ingredients by weight and measurement, but I stuck with weight when I could just in case something went wrong with the editor's metric conversions. The cake is delicious, spongy on the outside, gooey molten in the center. If you make it and then put it in the fridge, I recommend taking the cake out an hour before serving it so the center can warm up and become gooey again. Nigel suggests serving with creme fraiche and poppy seeds for a, "nod to the sour cream so close to the beet's Eastern European heart", but I think most Americans would prefer a scoop of vanilla ice cream. The cake does need some form of cream to cut through the chocolate.
  Another word of warning, this dish (like most I make) makes a TON of dishes and uses a lot of kitchen equipment, its sooo worth it though!

So, without further waiting.....

An extremely moist chocolate-beet cake with creme fraiche and poppy seeds

enough for 8 as a dessert (if you had giant pieces of cake...)

beets-8 ounces (250g)
fine dark chocolate (70 percent cocoa solids) (I used Valhalla 72%)- 7 ounces (200g)
hot espresso (I used instant)- 4 tablespoons
butter ( I used salted)- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (200g)
all purpose flout (King Arthur is the best)- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (135 g)
baking powder- a heaping teaspoon
good quality cocoa powder (I used Penzey's brand with a high butterfat)- 3 tablespoons
eggs- 5
superfine sugar- scant cup (190 g)
creme fraiche and poppy seeds to serve

 Cook the beets, whole and unpeeled in boiling unsalted water. Depending on their size, they will be tender when pierced with the tip of a knife within 30 to 40 minutes. Drain them, let them cool under running water, then peel them, slice of the roots and stems. This can be done a day or two ahead of time and the beets can be cooled in the fridge.
  Lightly butter an 8 inch (20cm) springform cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).
   In a food processor (I used a ninja slicer) blend the beets until the form a coarse puree. Set aside.
   Break the chocolate up into small pieces and place them in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Do not stir!
I love these "vintage" Pyrex bowls!

When the chocolate looks almost melted, pour the hot espresso over and stir once. Cut the butter into small pieces- the smaller the better-and add them to the melted chocolate. Push the butter under the surface of the chocolate with a wooden spoon (as best you can) and let soften.
  Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa (I did this step after I processed the beets). Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large mixing bowl. Stir the yolks together.
   Now working quickly, yet gently, remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter has melted into the chocolate. Let is sit for a few minutes (during the waiting work on the whites), then stir in the egg yolks. Do this quickly, mixing firmly and evenly so the eggs blend into the mixture. Fold in the beets. Whisk the eggs whites until stiff, then fold in the sugar. Firmly, but gently, fold the beaten egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mixture. the key to folding in is to make figure 8 movements. Do not over fold though....Lastly, fold in the cocoa and flour. *whew* see why I don't have a lot of pictures? This is some quick working...
   Transfer quickly to the prepared pan, put in the oven and decrease the temp. to 325 F (160 C). Bake for 40 minutes. The rim of the cake should feel spongy and solid white the inner part should still wobble a little if the pan is gently shaken.
   Set the cake aside to cool. After an hour, loosen the sides with a thin icing spatula. Once the cake is completely cooled off, then remove it from the springform pan.
  Slice, serve with creme fraiche and poppy seeds (blue preferably).

The cake cooling off
Delicious, fudgey and maybe helped by some walnuts next time....

Happy Baking!

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