First off, I've got a giveaway for you! This one is particularly good, because the prize is a $60 gift certificate to CSN stores, where you can find any number of fabulous kitchen goodies. Yes, that means if you win, you can buy whatever your hungry little heart desires. The sales rep appealed to my vanity by telling me I was a preferred blogger based on the success of my previous giveaway. So here I am, plugging their website, mostly for you but a little for me.
More about the giveaway in a moment. I also want to talk about a book, and a cake.
I recently read Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life. I'm sure this book needs no introduction to most of you; she's every blogger's envy. Who doesn't want their humble blog to take off like wildfire and lead to a book, a column in Bon Appetit, and her very own restaurant?
I enjoyed the book, although I've never gotten hooked on Wizenberg's blog, Orangette. I know I'm in the minority here. It's probably more a reflection of my idiotic need to resist what has been deemed great by the masses than anything else. But I was hesitant about the book for other reasons: I'm still young enough to be skeptical of someone younger than me writing a memoir. But she pulls it off neatly enough. I can't say I liked the book as much as some other food-related books I've read, like Heat or The Sweet Life in Paris, but I finished it. That means something, because I'm not afraid of putting a book down and walking away forever. You might think this is terrible, but I see it as cutting my losses. I already have to work for a living; shouldn't the rest of my time be spent doing things that are fun?
Beyond the writing, a sensible test for a book like this is: do the recipes work? Wizenberg doesn't plug A Homemade Life as a cookbook, but sprinkled throughout are lots of recipes, some of them unusual, and many of them delicious-sounding. I decided to give her chocolate cake a try.
The cake only calls for five ingredients, which wooed me right away. And it didn't require anything being at room temperature, which made it possible for me to throw it together on a whim the other night as I was heating up leftovers for dinner. Nothing gets you through a plate of reheated roast chicken like the promise of warm chocolate cake for dessert.
The cake turned out very nicely indeed, although I underbaked it by a sliver. For my taste (and the husband's) it was a little too gooey. Next time I'd let it go another 2-3 minutes. But it was delicious nonetheless and pushed over the edge of decency with a scoop of coffee ice cream. I shall certainly be making this simple, rich cake again.
Now, for the giveaway. Tell me what your favorite food-related book is and why. Don't forget to be clever, because I will be judging you, fiercely. Winner gets a $60 gift certificate to CSN. Ready? Go.
Molly Wizenberg's chocolate cake
From A Homemade Life
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used a combination of bittersweet and semisweet)
1 3/4 sticks (7 oz) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 c. plus 2 T. granulated sugar
5 large eggs
1 T. flour
Lightly sweetened whipped cream, for serving (or ice cream)
Preheat the oven to 375 and butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper and butter the paper, too.
Put the chocolate and butter in a medium microwavable bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds at a time, stirring often, until just smooth. Alternatively (this is what did), melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over, but not touching, barely simmering water. When the mixture is smooth, add the sugar, stirring well to incorporate. Set the batter aside to cool for 5 minutes. Then add the eggs one by one, stirring well after each addition. Add the flour and stir to mix well. The batter should be dark and silky.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top is lightly crackled, the edges are puffed, and the center of the cake looks set. Molly recommends setting the timer for 20 minutes to start with and then checking the cake every two minutes after until it's done. She says: "At 20 minutes, the center of the cake is usually still quite jiggly; you'll know it's done when the center only jiggles slightly, if at all. " I took mine out after 25 and wished I'd left it a bit longer; it will depend on your oven and how gooey you like your cake.
Remove the cake from the oven to a cooling rack and let it cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Carefully turn it out using the following method: Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the pan and place a large, flat plate (not the serving plate) on top of the foil, facing down. Hold the cake pan and plate firmly together and quickly flip them. The pan should now be on top of the cake with the foil between them. Remove the pan, revealing the upside-down cake. Peel off the parchment paper. Place the serving plate atop the cake, flip and remove the foil. Cool completely before serving (or don't.)