Monday, October 8, 2012

What I Baked On My Summer Vacation

Often, the fist back-to-school assignment in grade school was an essay titled, "What I Did On My Summer Vacation." That was a stumper for me. My friends would busily start writing because they did cool things like travel around the country, spend a month on a houseboat on Lake Powell, or laze around at their lake cabin.

I wasn't that cool. My essays would have to risk falling into the realm of fiction or else be stunningly dull. My family didn't do cool things. We either went on death marches hikes, or stayed at home to do exciting things like mowing the lawn and harvesting tomatoes and beans from the garden.  My birthday was in the summer, but that doesn't mean it was the highlight of the summer. Remember the part about my friends off doing cool things? No one was ever around to come to my birthday parties. I'd plan a huge roller-skating party and get two people to show up, so my mother would kindly offer to take us to a movie.

Perhaps that's the reason I put so much importance on birthday cakes. You may have a lousy no-show birthday party, but if you've got a few presents and a  fabulous cake, it's still a good birthday.

You might think that giving up grains and sugar might mean giving up birthday cakes. Not as long as there is breath in my body! I'm also not willing to settle for some dense, dry, nasty brick pretending to be a cake. No, a birthday cake has to look special and taste amazing. That's the rule.

I made this cake for my son's birthday and we loved it so much I made it again for my birthday. We served it at the same time as a lovely triple-layer lemon cake (which was a birthday cake for someone else) and I even had one person comment that they liked the chocolate grain-free one better! (I'm giving you the recipe as I made it the second time, but the pictures are from the first time. It's just a matter of how it's garnished.)

I found this recipe on The Moveable Feasts and did a bit of modifying. I love it and wouldn't change a thing, but I give you permission to play with the recipe and do what you want to it in order for it to make your heart sing.

Can You Believe It's Grain-Free? Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
1 tsp baking soda
14 pitted medjool dates
1/4 cup honey
1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, very soft
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup boiling water
1/4 tsp expresso powder
   (OR, you can substitute 1/4 cup drip coffee for the water and espresso powder)
Coconut milk
Chopped dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao), about 4 oz.
Whipped cream or coconut cream
Sliced strawberries

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.  Butter and 8-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

2- In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3- In a food processor, puree the dates until completely smooth, about 20-30 seconds. This should be about 3/4 cup of puree. Add the honey and applesauce and continue to puree until it creates a thoroughly combined and smooth mixture, about another 20-30 seconds.

4- Transfer the date-applesauce mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the softened butter and mix on low speed until combined. Continuing on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla and coffee. Mix until smooth and well combined. If the mixture looks a little curdled, don't freak out. It'll smooth out.

5- On low speed, sprinkle the dry ingredients into the wet mixture. Mix, scraping down the sides, until the batter is smooth. The texture will be stiff, like a brownie batter.

6- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. The cake may look moist and maybe even unfinished, but if the toothpick is clean, it's done. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack.

7- When the cake is cooled, make the ganache. You'll need to be a bit free-form about this as I eyeballed my ingredients, rather than carefully measuring.  Warm about 1/2 cup of coconut milk in a saucepan over low heat. When the milk is very warm, but before it boils, pour it over the chopped chocolate. Pour only enough milk to barely cover the chocolate. Let it sit for 2 minutes, then stir till it's smooth.

8- Pour the chocolate ganache over the cake, smoothing it to the edges of the cake. It can be refrigerated at this point and pulled out at serving time.

9- To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan. Slice into 12 slices. Serve with a heaping blop of whipped cream or whipped coconut cream and sliced strawberries.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Help Others, Help Yourself

Sometimes you hear a sad story and say, "Oh, that's tragic." Then you shrug and move on because there's nothing you can do. Today is not that day. Today is a day you can make a difference.

Jenny is a homeschooling mother of 5 children. Almost a month ago she called 911 because her husband had become disoriented and incoherent. He was immediately taken to ICU with a brain infection and fell into a coma-like state. Over the 10 days that followed, there was continuous prayer for his healing, with family and friends by his side. It was a bit of a roller coaster ride as the doctors would become hopeful that they had a diagnosis or treatment and then things would worsen once again. Two weeks ago, he passed away, leaving behind his wife and five children between the ages of 9 months and 11 years old. 

Jenny's husband was a bit better prepared than my friend, Grace's husband was. There was some life insurance. But a 2 week ICU stay is expensive and the finances are a huge burden for Jenny. 

Here's the part where you can do more than shrug and move on.

A small group of bloggers have put together a pretty amazing benefit sale, which includes the 9 ebooks listed below plus the complete set of Life Your Way printables. The set is worth more than $50, but will be available for just $5 for two days only, Wednesday, 10/3 and Thursday, 10/4.

I do not make any money from this sale. 100% of the profits go to Jenny's family. 

You can get a great deal and and do something good for a hurting family at the same time. Do it now because the deal ends on Thursday!

I promise I'll be back with food next time. Right now I need to go order my ebooks.