Friday, December 9, 2011

The Winter's First Bread, and other Nibbles

I did something unprecedented this morning and stayed home, finally giving in to the third trimester fatigue (and threatening emotional meltdown) building since working the bookstore on Black Friday. I think I'm just too pregnant for retail. All the running around, bending and squatting and ferrying books places, and responding courteously to all the strangers commenting on my bulk: Is this your first? Your life will never be the same! (That comment is always accompanied by a slightly crazed, sinister glitter of camaraderie.) Boy or girl? When's she due?

And then there are the people who are disappointed in my size, as if I should go listing around clumsily like a cargo ship. Which I do feel like sometimes (though I love the cargo), but I look more like someone who's taken to wearing a basketball under her shirt than a ship. I put on a red sweater and beanie the other day, and as I left for work T turned to me and smirked, "You look like a hoodlum tomato." He swears it was said with love and complete acknowledgement of my eternal attractiveness. Hmm.

But today. Today I gave in and called in and am resting. Which for me means doing a lot of laundry, cleaning the bathroom, finishing watching Midnight in Paris, reading on the couch, and doing my favorite thing: baking bread.

Little projects like last weekend's cinnamon rolls aside (do make them!), it's been a long time since I've seriously pursued baking bread. Life just got in the way (as it does). But then my friend lent me 52 Loaves, and while in some ways it's a very silly memoir, William Alexander's passionate pursuit of the perfect pain au levain reawakened my need to open the fridge and see a yeasty tub of dough fermenting until dinnertime. Besides, the teaching term is about to end and aside from working the bookstore, my evenings and weekends will be freer. And then I'll have maternity leave. Which really makes this winter the best time to start a sourdough culture and reinvest myself in my bread-baking self-education.

So today I pulled down the standing mixer and made a batch of mostly white (a little rye) dough, which I've shaped into a boule and am about to pop in the oven. I didn't have great expectations--it's been a long time since I baked artisan-type bread and my shaping and slashing skills were never that great--but it's exciting to get started. I couldn't wait to see the dark brown crust (in actuality, a lovely golden) or to hear it crackle and sing when it met the cooler air of my kitchen. It turned out so much prettier than I had anticipated!

Plus, I get to share it tonight with my book club, for whom I've also made French Onion soup and a flourless chocolate cake (yes, I'm bad at resting). Though...that cake might need to be taste-tested before I serve it. You know, just your basic quality control slice two hours before the gathering.

Flourless Chocolate Cake (courtesy of the Whole Foods website)

I think this cake must be delicious (though to be fair I haven't tried it yet, which I know is a recipe-posting heresy), because as I was checking out at the Whole Foods near my apartment the clerk said, "Baking today?" When I answered yes, a flourless chocolate cake, she brightened and said, "Have you tried ours? It's amazing!" I was thrilled to report to her that I was planning on making the same one.

For the cake:
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips or pieces
2 sticks unsalted butter, in chunks (I used salted butter, as the recipe calls for no salt, which seemed odd--a little bit of salt really enhances chocolate)
1 C sifted cocoa
1 1/4 C sugar
6 eggs

For the ganache:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
3 T unsalted butter, in chunks
1 T milk
1 T honey
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Grease a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and grease this as well. Set aside.
3. Melt the chocolate and butter together over low heat on the stove (or microwave).
4. When melted, remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, and then add the cocoa until just blended.

5. Pour batter into the pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, until the cake has risen and thin crust forms at the top. The center of the cake should be just firm to the touch.

6. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes. Then, invert the cake onto a plate, removing the side of the springform pan first, and then the bottom of the pan. Finally, peel off the parchment paper. Put a second plate on top of the cake and flip the cake over. Let cool.


Meanwhile, make the ganache.

1. Melt the chocolate and butter together as in step 1 (above).

2. Remove from heat and stir in honey, milk and vanilla extract.

3. When the cake is cool enough, pour the ganache onto the center of the cake and use a spatula to gently spread it over the top and sides of the cake.

4. Place cake in the fridge for 30-60 minutes before serving to set the ganache and make slicing easier.

No comments:

Post a Comment