Charting life's circuitous path


Flourless chocolate cake

flourless chocolate cake

Happy Valentine’s Day to all and sundry!

It’s morning, my Valentine is still asleep and I have to go to work today, but we’ve been celebrating being together all week long.  A romantic dinner at our local Italian restaurant one day, a movie night another (I’m lucky to be with someone who thinks that Hitchcock’s North By Northwest makes for good date night material) and this flourless chocolate cake the next.  After I was denied a day off today, we decided to just make the most of the entire week!  How do I love my hubby?  I can’t even begin to count the ways. 🙂

He’s been a real support for me since I’ve been emotionally unraveling and he’s helping me along this journey through all of my past experiences so that I can face the future more strongly.  Sure, he’s a bit forgetful and sure he’s easily distracted, but he’s completely wonderful, caring and compassionate, and I wouldn’t trade him for anyone or anything else.

I had never baked a flourless chocolate cake, but I knew I wanted to gift him this cake for Valentine’s day because he not only loves chocolate but really decadent chocolate cake.  With 8 eggs, nearly a pound of chocolate and very little else, I didn’t know what else could be more decadent and simple.

If you’ve never made a flourless chocolate cake before, it’s almost like a souffle.  There’s a lot of egg, a lot of jiggle in the middle as it cooks and while it won’t sink completely on you, it can be a bit undercooked in the middle if you aren’t too careful.  If when the cooking time is up and it still jiggles like jello, then my advice is to turn off the oven, and let it sit in there an additional 5 – 10 minutes until it firms up to the smallest of jiggle in the middle.

Here’s the recipe I used for this truly wonderful chocolate cake for my even more fantastic Valentine.  I hope you can share your love and your love of food with someone today, too. 🙂


Flourless Chocolate Cake

(Note: Recipe comes from the Williams Sonoma Essential Baking cookbook with my adaptations noted.)


  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 5 oz semisweet chocolate
  • 5 oz bittersweet chocolate (I used dark chocolate)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 8 large eggs, separated and at room temperature


  1. Mix almond meal and powdered sugar in a bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt the chocolate and the butter in a double broiler (or very slowly in a pan, like I did), or in the microwave until melted and blended.  Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 300F. Butter the sides of a 9 inch springform pan (the cake will rise to the top) and line the bottom with parchment (or you won’t be able to remove it).  Set aside.
  4. Using a whisk, whip egg whites in a clean bowl until soft peaks form. Don’t overwhip.
  5. Whisk the egg yolks into the melted and cooled chocolate until blended.  Pour mixture into a large bowl.  Using a rubber spatular, gently stir in 1/4 of the egg white into the chocolate.
  6. Gently fold in the almond meal mixture.  Add the remaining egg whites and fold in gently to mix (I use my spatula to “cut” down the middle of the bowl and scooping it over at the end to fold the mixture before I turn the bowl a quarter turn to repeat the process).
  7. Pour batter into the pan and bake for 30 – 35 minutes.  If still jiggly in the middle, turn off oven and let cake sit for an additional 5 – 10 minutes.  Do not cook until completely firm, but a bit of jiggle in the middle is what you’re aiming for (it’ll set up a bit more once you remove it from the oven to cool).
  8. Remove from oven and let sit on wire rack for 3 minutes before removing the sides of the pan.  Cool completely and sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve.

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Dark and Handsome Cookie seeking Tummy

Smooth, dense with a hint of brownie.  Not afraid to delve into the dark side.  Sophisticated yet able to have fun on the go.

One smart cookie looking for someone who will appreciate depth and savor life.

See photo below.


I had been craving chocolate cookies and this recipe for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies from my Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking cookbook had been teasing me with its good looks forever.  Every time I went to bake something, they’d be there tantalizing me with their promise of the divine.  I finally fell for their pure powdered sugar exterior with the hint of dark chocolate interior and made them last week.  And you know what?  I was swept off my feet!

Even though I knew they were going to do me wrong.

Like the fact that they contained 4 eggs.  😯

And I only had 2 in my carton. Talk about high maintenance!

Or that they also wanted 2 cups of sugar. I was starting to have my doubts.  😕  Were these really the dream cookies I thought they were?  Was that pure white goodness deceiving me?  The sugar alone almost had me dropping them like the pending sugar crash they promised to be.

But, like all chocolate starved people, I gave them one more chance – only this time we were going to do things my way. 😈
I used 2 eggs and replaced the other two with 2 tbsp flax seed meal plus 6 tbsp water.  I also only used 1/2 cup of sugar plus 1 cup splenda.  There’s only so much riskiness I was going to take from my cookie.

My tall, dark and handsomes were so sinfully delicious you would never have guessed they would actually do you good!
Seriously, they do! They make me feel like I’m cheating without actually doing so and that, to me, makes for the start of a beautiful relationship!  😉


Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

(Note: Original recipe adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking cookbook. Makes about 24 big cookies.  My changes are in red.)


  • 4 oz semisweet chocolate (or unsweetened per recipe)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs  (or use 4 large eggs and skip the flax seed meal)
  • 2 tbsp flax seed meal + 6 tbsp water (stir and let sit 3 minutes)
  • 1/2 cup sugar + 1 cup Splenda (or use 2 cups of sugar)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or 1 1/2 cups miniature semisweet chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (or more if needed)


  1. Place chocolate chips and butter into a small pan and heat on low until melted.  Stir and keep a careful watch so that it doesn’t burn.  Remove from heat once melted and set aside.
  2. In a bowl, mix flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat on medium speed the eggs, flax seed meal mixture (if using), sugar and vanilla.  Beat for 3 minutes until thick.  Beat in the melted chocolate until blended.  Stir in by hand the dry ingredients until incorporated.  Add chocolate chips and mix.
  4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in your refrigerator at least 2 hours.  This is important since it lets the dough stiffen a bit so that you can roll the balls.
  5. Preheat oven 325 F and line a cookie sheet.  Place powdered sugar into a small bowl.
  6. To form dough balls, scoop about 2 tbsp dough and roll into a ball between your palms.  Gently coat the ball in the powdered sugar and place on cookie sheet 3 inches apart.  No need to flatten.
  7. Bake until tops are puffed and crinkled. My oven took about 15 minutes, but it might be anywhere between 13 – 17 minutes.  Let cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
  8. These cookies freeze beautifully once cooked!  Just pop them into the microwave a few minutes to heat them back up.

Tip: Place your dough back into the fridge between each round of baking.  I found that it helped keep the dough solid and easier to roll.  Plus it gave your cookie sheet time to cool down as you rolled your balls, if you’re using only one sheet like me.

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Keep on “Rolo”-ing

Sometimes, it’s the smallest people that help us bigger folks grow up.

roloMy little nephew, only 10 months old, has spent more time in the hospital than I’ve ever had to my entire life.  He was born with a rare vocal cord condition that has resulted in multiple invasive surgeries, long hospital stays and the saddest, pleading eyes that grab your heart and make you want to smuggle him home under your coat.

We went to see him in hospital this past weekend after another, and hopefully last, surgery.  The tall glass-plated building housed gigantic wooden animals wearing bright scarves and Beatrix Potter-esque murals.  The halls were quiet, even though people milled around the sunny waiting areas.  After signing in, we raided the small gift shop and shared our fluffy bounty – a round, blue bear for the little one and an equally round Pooh for his older brother.  The couple of times I stayed in hospital when I was little had always resulted in gifts – it was something that made being ill just a bit easier to handle.  Seeing his tiny hands clasp his blue bear, even for the brief second before he jilted it for the glitzier purple poodle, made me very glad that I had made the 3 ½ hour drive to see him.

His room was rather large for such a little guy, but it was clean, bright and cute – insofar as a hospital room can be.  We burst into the small space with all the noise and enthusiasm that our family could muster.  When we do noise, we do it well.

His big, round eyes brightened when he saw us and a huge grin followed as we crowded around his metal crib.  We cooed and waggled his arms as he kept his foot propped up in his baby way to hold the humidifier tube in place.

Lately, I’ve been feeling a bit dissatisfied and wallowing in my self-imposed stagnation.  My job was making me feel unfulfilled and frustrated, days were filled with chores and to-dos, and I seemed to have a complaint list a mile long.  Just a few wrongs would make me feel like my life was spinning out of control.

But as I tucked my nephew’s IV under his pillow, I was faced with my own selfishness imagesand was reminded of a quote from a book I was reading by Howard Behar, the past President of Starbucks, titled It’s Not About the Coffee.   Behar’s book about leadership and lessons learned had more to it than that simple description implies.  It’s filled with a lot of really good points about relationships, not only with your company, family and co-workers, but with yourself.  In it, he discusses the idea of not hiding who we are.  By keeping “different hats” for different situations, we aren’t true to ourselves and just wear out (amongst other more negative results).  He asks:

“If someone came into your home and listened to the walls talk, what would they say?”

rolo1And that, folks, brought a stain to my cheeks that even my hardest run could not rival.  While I wasn’t saying most of my frustrations out loud, they were seeping into my dreams and into my approach to everyday tasks.  I let my emotions feed on themselves and it wasn’t the green, leafy variety of food, either.  The only way my nephew could eat was through this tiny, clear IV tube.  Here I was, totally vocal, healthy, happily married, munching on decadent desserts (like the one below), but moaning about my “bad” life.  My little guy couldn’t even moan if he wanted to, and by the look in his eyes (we ranked him a 4 out of 10 on his “how am I feeling” chart), he really needed a good moan.

I could, at any moment, “feed” my life with those nutrients that I thought were missing – the art classes I was going to take at the new year?  I’m going to look into our options this week.  The frustrations at work?  I need to address them with my manager.  There were actual steps I could take to alleviate this sense of whirlpool, but I was letting myself drown.

For my brave little nephew, his path seems clear – to get out of that hospital room, to get home and, for the first time in his life, to howl up a storm.

Here’s to more howling in all our lives.  🙂

rolo cheesecake bars 005

And here’s a recipe for Rolo Cheesecake Bars from Bakers Royale that will make everyone sing your praises.  I made them for work this week and they are filled with mini-rolos, cream cheese, caramel and chocolate – what’s not to love?  The entire batch was gone before some even knew I had brought any dessert.  Oh, yes, and they’re a cinch to make.  It’s a wonderful addition to my rolo repertoire, and a new one for many of my co-workers after I fulfill all of the recipe requests that came pouring in.

 Rolo Cheesecake Bars

(Note:  The original recipe is by Naomi from Bakers Royale and I didn’t tweak it too much.  The next time I make it, I might tweak the sugar quantities – it’s delicious, but I feel like a drop in sugar wouldn’t harm it, especially in the crust.  I did up some of the quantities slightly to make a 9×13 pan’s worth rather than the original 8×8.  I also decreased the chocolate layer since I didn’t want quite as thick a layer as the original’s.  It was a good decision since the chocolate balanced well with the cheesecake layer rather than dominating it.  All of my tweaks are in red.)


Crust layer

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (I used 2 whole sleeves of Trader Joe’s Graham Crackers)
  • 10 tbsp melted, unsalted butter
  • ½ cup sugar

Cheesecake layer

  • 8 oz + 4 oz reduced fat cream cheese (or 1 ½ blocks), softened
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • A heaping 1/3 cup of caramel sauce (I used Trader Joe’s Caramel Sauce instead of making my own)
  • One 8 oz bag of mini rolos

Chocolate layer

  • 10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup

4-5 tbsp caramel sauce for drizzling


Line a 9×13 pan with foil so that it overhangs the sides and heat oven to 350.

Mix crumbs, melted butter and sugar until well mixed and press into the bottom of the pan.  Bake at 350 for 7 min.  Remove and let cool.

In a large mixing bowl, place cream cheese, egg, vanilla, caramel sauce and sugar.  Mix on medium until smooth.  Stir in rolos and spread the mixture evenly on top of the crust.  (I tried to line up the rolos on top of the crust, but ended up mixing them in anyways. Save yourself the effort of even spacing and just mix the rolos into the cream cheese before you pour.)

Bake at 350 for 35 -40 minutes. Begin checking for doneness using a toothpick at the 30 min mark, depending on your oven.  Mine took a bit longer than 35 minutes before my toothpick came out clean.

Remove, allow to cool, and make your chocolate topping.

Place chocolate, butter and corn syrup into a pan and heat on low until melted stir frequently (you can also do this in the microwave, but be sure to use small time intervals so as to not scorch the chocolate). Spread evenly over bars and allow to cool completely.  You can fridge the bars now or cut them.

Cut bars using a clean, warm knife (clean the blade between each cut).  Heat caramel sauce in microwave until warm (about 20 sec depending on your microwave).  Using a spoon, drizzle sauce over cut bars.  Place back into fridge until ready to serve.

They’re good cold, but we preferred them when they were allowed to sit at room temperature for a few minutes.  The chocolate softens and the caramel becomes less solid.

rolo cheesecake bars 011