iscribblings

Charting life's circuitous path


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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. 🙂

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Flourless Chocolate Cake

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Directions

  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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New Year Wins

Every year seems to go faster and faster and become more of a blur. I stopped making a list for new year resolutions last year.  This might seem odd since lists are what I do – I make daily lists, financial lists, and even quote lists.  In a way, I see life as a series of steps.

But goal lists are meant to be broken.  Like saying “Never!” and then promptly doing.

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An admirable yet very negative lists of resolutions I found on Pinterest. Wanting change indicates a dissatisfaction with the way you are.

Instead, I want to think of my wins this last year.  I dwell too much on what I’m doing wrong that I don’t need to sit down at the start of a new, fresh year thinking negatively about my current state.  What I’d rather do is celebrate all of the little and big wins that went toward making 2013 a fantastic year!

  • I’ve become more comfortable with the right portion size, so I’m learning to eat more naturally. Not like a bird and not like it’s my last meal before execution.  This might mean never hitting my “goal” weight, but I realized this year that my “goal” weight left me hungry 24/7.  So I came to terms with my body: I’m still right where I should be with weight and I’m happier for it.
  •  We went to our first party as a couple and had a blast!  The geek club has been a great source of potential friends and I’m so glad we’re taking the time and effort to go to events.  It’s not always easy to leave the comforts of home for a night out with strangers, but it definitely makes you feel more like part of a group when you do.
  • I learned to just “taste” food rather than “eat” food at potlucks.  Not only can I now face a potluck without the fear of losing control and wiping it clean, but I can satisfy my “tastebuds” with just a taste.  (I’ll let you in on a secret: I pretend I’m an editor of Saveur or somesuch and do an evaluation of the food before moving on.  Don’t tell anyone.  Even I think that’s a bit too geeky. 😳 )  It’s wonderful to finally not fear the (frequent) work potluck.
  • I was able to stop reading at least 3 books this year! 😀 This might sound silly, but I typically finish a book regardless of whether I like it or not.  It’s like an obligation or a hope that it must surely get better. The resulting gnashing of teeth are now gone with the small steps I’ve taken in breaking that habit.  If the book is really bad, I stop and move on.  Admittedly, I still find that I’m sitting through a lot of mediocre books, but I’m saving my teeth for the big smiles when I hit the good ones. 🙂
  •  My repertoire for homemade staples increased to sandwich buns and tortilla wrappers. I love the taste of a homemade whole wheat bun vs the store bought buns, and tortilla wrappers are so easy to make, it’s crazy not to!  I now regularly make the following staples from scratch:  chili/taco seasoning, granola bars, buns, tortilla wrappers, and soup.

 What wins did you have this year?  🙂

Here’s to another year of happiness in 2014!cb28ba73e3badcbec5a481f36a840201


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2013 – a bundle of reads

Being already Christmas Eve, I always wonder who exactly believes, I mean really believes that this is the “most wonderful time of the year”. 😐 Between all of the cookie baking, blitz cleaning and gift wrapping I remember why I don’t really like Christmas.  Of course, once the BIG day arrives it’s like giving birth to your first born. There’s excitement and happiness as you eat all of that yummy food you spent the last week prepping, and all of the pain and suffering of the previous 30 days are magically wiped clean away.

Until the next December when you wonder why it was that you thought you could take on multiple parties and organize too many gift exchanges. 😯

Ah, Christmas! Thanksgiving doesn’t even compare.

Once the new year arrives all fresh and sparkling with promise, hopefully we can all kick back and relax a bit.  I know I plan to indulge in a bit of me time.  Like go through my old school work boxes and finally toss the lot in the recycling bin (so I like to organize a bit for fun!). Or play some computer games that I’ve been woefully ignoring (Playstation, here’s looking at you).  I may even just sit back on the couch with a blanket tucked around my feet and a good book in hand.  Quiet coziness with a touch of adventure sounds heavenly right about now!

Not that I haven’t been reading.  In fact, according to Shelfari, I’ve read nearly 100 books!  (96, in fact – so close yet so far!)

Admittedly I’m lucky that I work in a place that lets me listen to audiobooks so I get through books like they were cookies.  If I had to rely on actually sitting down with a real paper and glue book, well, let’s just say that the ghost of English degrees past would come and haunt me.

With Christmas tomorrow and New Year peeking out from beneath the tree skirt, my present to you is a list of my top reads from this year.  These are books that surprised me with their lovability and made me want to give out copies to all of my friends.  They’re series that just keep getting better and they’re classics that made me remember why it was that I fell in love with books in the first place. 🙂

So, with little ado, here are my top reads for 2013! A brief summary and opinion is presented for you so as to avoid spoilers but whet the appetite.  You can always follow my reads on Goodreads (see the widget in my right sidebar).

Best in Series: The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher.

StormFront_Hardcover_1-120 (I just finished book 7, Dead Beat.)

Meet Harry Dresden – a wizard trying to make a living in modern-day Chicago with a batch of quirky friends and a whole lot of evil enemies.  Mainstream Chicago doesn’t know about the magical underbelly of the city and it’s only the gruesome side that they see.  This is paranormal without the glitz.  There’s real pain and real nastiness in this series that doesn’t waffle in the romantic side like a lot of other paranormal books. I like how wise-cracking Dresden can be and it’s that lightness mixed with grit that keeps me reading this series.  It’s also one of those rare series that keeps getting better and not weaker (like some other series *Evanovich*) and Butcher actually develops the lives of his characters (*Evanovich*).  The sheer number of books is a bit daunting, but I don’t let it get to me.  I savor each book and I let a bit of time pass before I indulge again.  These are books with weight, and I find a bit of time in-between can make each read that much better.

Best in Fiction: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozekiozeki

This novel plays with time and distance that can make your head hurt a bit if you think too hard.  If you just accept it and focus more on the teenage girl trying to live in modern day Japan after living in the US, the 30-something writer who is trying to exist in the way-beyond on the West coast, and the diary that connects the two and their existences, then you’re good to go.  It’s a complicated and sometimes brutal novel that I found difficult to put down.  I connected with both characters and their dual ethnicities and with a lot of the day-to-day identity issues they face.  It’s a wonderfully told tale that carries you along like the wave that carries the girl’s diary to the woman across the world and the pasts that bind them together.

Best in Comedy: Where’d you go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

booksI laughed out loud more with this novel than with any other this year (and that included Sedaris’ very funny Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls)  It’s crazy and snappy and just spot on in its ridiculousness to draw light to the reality of the characters’ situations.  Bernadette is a mother whose architectural career has been put on hold after the birth of her daughter, Bee.  Her marriage, her relationship with her daughter and the people of Seattle are all tested when her daughter announces that she wants to go to the Antarctic if she gets all As.  It’s told from Bee’s perspective for the majority of the book but it becomes more of a “portfolio” once Bernadette goes missing and Bee sets out to discover everything that might have led to her mother’s disappearance.  I loved the freshness of this book and how it tells a typical story of a woman who’s lost her way in a completely different and hilarious way.

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Best in YA: Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

Skulduggery isn’t your normal PI –he’s a skeleton for one and a wizard to boot.  And he’s just acquired a new partner in sleuthing, twelve year old Stephanie Edgley.  Except something wants Stephanie dead and it’s up to the two of them to stop the evil from manifesting.  This is a paranormal world that feels more Dresden for kids and the interplay between the two characters had me smiling.  I liked how quick and witty it was and how it was a kid’s book that felt intelligent and fun.  Skulduggery’s life is still mysterious by the end, but what we do learn left me wanting the next book in the series.  This is the sort of novel I’d have devoured as a child and I loved it more for giving me the chance to feel 12 again.

10600242Best in Non-Fiction: How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Not really a how-to guide at all but more of a “this is what I learned” kind of book.  Moran is part crude, part intense but all woman as she lays out what it means to her to be a woman.  I agree on most of her points (and not quite agree on others) and while I can’t say we share any life stories, the essence of the experiences are definitely relatable.  I found her bluntness refreshing in a way because it burst the topic out of its confines.  True, sometimes she seems to do it for the sake of shock and awe, but the very fact that it didn’t bother me after a bit means that our own hang-ups are just that – they aren’t intrinsic to the words themselves but to the ideas wrapped up in the surrounding mess.  I only wish I had this book to read as a young feminist growing up in an anti-feminist culture.

Best cookbook: Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas

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There were so many good cookbooks this year that it was hard to narrow it down.  I picked this one, though, because it has a bit of everything and it’s all veg.  I’m not a vegan since I eat a bit of dairy, but I appreciated the vegan recipes in this book because Atlas takes the time to break it down by holidays and each is packed with flavor.  I am always tasked with bringing a vegan dish to potlucks (my grandmother can’t have cheese so most casseroles are out) and this book gives me so many different ideas and all of them are do-able (no uber-gourmet dishes here).  The color photographs are beautiful and the recipes are easy to read and follow – double win!

 Best classic: The Double by Fyodor Dostoevsky

http://www.amazon.com/Double-Dover-Thrift-Editions/dp/0486295729/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1387903821&sr=1-4&keywords=the+doubleYakov Golyadkin doesn’t know what’s happening to him and by the end, you won’t either.  It’s a brilliant telling of psychological collapse as Golyadkin meets his “double” who steals his life away bit by bit until ultimately you’re left with only one.  Dostoevsky weaves the story so intricately around the collapse that the reader can only hope to understand it by joining Golyadkin in his downfall.  I have a soft spot for all of Dostoevsky’s work, but this one truly made my mind melt by the end – but in a good way!  It’s a story that doesn’t give it to you straight and because of that, it’s hated by many.  If you’re open to a bit of mind-play then I definitely recommend this book with a strong cup of coffee.

Happy Holidays and may all of your reads be bright!