I love to read. Mystery books are a favorite. I prefer classic whodunits or "cozy" mysteries, as some call it. In general, I shy away from anything too serious because real life is dramatic enough as it is. I enjoy mystery books with a food theme and I figure I'm not alone because there are actually a ton of them!
Lately though, I've been reading a slew of food-related memoirs and biographies. As I was walking down the cookbook aisles at the library one day, I thought to myself: "why don't libraries put all the foodie books/chef memoirs and the like in one place near the cookbooks?" Well, what do you know, but the library had already thought of that and I discovered a collection of those exact books.
|Ruth Reichl's Last-Minute Chocolate Cake, made simply, with unsweetened chocolate and flavored with Grand Marnier|
As an added bonus, I got a chocolate cake recipe out of it too! This is Ruth Reichl's "Last-Minute Chocolate Cake" - a title bound to capture my attention and a recipe I found within her book, Garlic and Sapphires. Chocolate cake and what promises to be a fast and easy one, at that? I was sold, and I made it a little over a week ago.
I am a big fan of everyday, no-frosting, cakes like this one. Below a crackly top, this cake has a moist tenderness to it and good chocolate flavor thanks to unsweetened chocolate and coffee. A couple tablespoons of orange liqueur in the form of Grand Marnier (which you could omit if need be but I really like it here) adds interest and gives it an almost addicting, come-back-for-more, quality. As an after dinner dessert, I like it slightly warm, with vanilla ice cream on the side. Whipped cream, a dollop of crème fraîche, and even a bit of Greek yogurt also make good accompaniments to this simple chocolate cake.
If you want to, you could certainly dress or change up this loaf cake. I'm thinking you can use another type of liqueur or swap it for an extract, add some chocolate chips or citrus zest into the batter, or maybe sprinkle some almond slices over the top. I think the combination here is pretty good just the way it is though.
Putting this cake batter together is a lot like making brownies - a matter of melting and stirring.
Melt 4 ounces of unsweetened chocolate together with 3/4 cup of coffee and 6 tablespoons of butter in a double boiler. The smell of unsweetened chocolate melting with butter is intoxicating.
I find that unsweetened chocolate is a little reluctant to melt and I can never get it absolutely smooth. After the mixture cools down a bit, add the sugar, Grand Marnier, an egg, and vanilla extract. Lastly, stir in the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, and salt). The batter will look lumpy. I always get a little nervous when that happens but all's well.
Scrape the batter into a prepared loaf pan and bake in a 300 degree oven. The cake is done when a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. The recipe says 30-40 minutes and if that sounds short to you given the oven temperature, it did to me too! My loaf took closer to 50 minutes or so to be done.
Ruth Reichl's Last-Minute Chocolate Cake
From Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl
- Makes one 9" x 5" (or 8 1/2" x 4 1/2") loaf -
4 ounces high-quality unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup brewed strong black coffee
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Spray a standard size loaf pan with baking spray (or grease and flour the pan).
Place chocolate, butter, and coffee together into a heatproof bowl set on top of a pan of just simmering water. Stir constantly until chocolate and butter are melted. Remove the bowl from the heat and let mixture cool for about 15 minutes. Add sugar, Grand Marnier, egg, and vanilla. Stir well to combine.
Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together and add the dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture. Stir until combined. The batter will look a bit lumpy. Scrape the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing out the top.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, approximately 40 to 50 minutes (the original recipe says 30 to 40 minutes but mine took roughly 50 minutes so check for doneness). Remove cake from the oven and let cool in the pan, on a wire rack, for about 30 minutes before turning out. Serve at room temperature or, better yet, warm, with vanilla ice cream.