Sunday, September 7, 2008

Chocolate Cake unlike the 13x9" variety

Every week I volunteer at a wonderful used book store in SoHo, Housing Works Bookstore Cafe. I spend my evening shelving books, talking with customers, and socializing with the other volunteers, who have become good friends. For a bibliophile like me, I find myself in a state of utter bliss, being surrounded by books: obscure titles from decades past, new releases, covers for which to judge. I believe that all of us volunteers who are there, not only because we want to support the Housing Works cause, but also because we find a certain comfort in books.

And of course, since another form of enlivenment for me is baking, I tend to scan the cooking section of the bookstore on a weekly basis, checking for any appealing titles. This week did not disappoint. I really should have no shame in saying that I've been waiting for Nigella Lawson's “How to be a Domestic Goddess” cookbook to appear in the store; even though I would not simply go to a bookstore and buy the book full price, I've been fetishizing it for some time. Part of this is due to the title: I do want to be a goddess of this variety, one who has an artillery of recipes for every occasion, all mouth-watering and luscious. Another part is due to the fact that I think Nigella is an extraordinary woman and baker (I suppose in order to support her, I should have just bought the book retail. Oh, well). Though she has not been trained as a chef, she brings her personal style of enjoyment to her cooking shows and her cookbooks: for her, food is a pleasure and it is meant to be savored, not endured. She cares about the method and the final product, all with a relaxed attitude that many uptight chefs would benefit from. Also, she initially worked in publishing, which is why I relate to her beyond the love of cupcakes and the therapeutic nature of cooking.

Needless to say, I'm thrilled to have her cookbook, and I was quite pleased with the dessert I made this weekend. It's a chocolate loaf cake, and it has the simplicity of a quick bread recipe. However, one would never mistake one for the other; this cake is dense and rich. I think that pairing it with vanilla ice cream would make it even better, but it still is an incredibly satisfying dessert on its own.

Chocolate Loaf Cake

1 cup soft unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. boiling water

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, grease and line a 9x5 inch loaf pan. Be sure to line the pan with parchnent or wax paper.
2. Cream the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs and the vanilla, beating well. Fold in the now-cooled chocolate, blending but not overmixing. Gently add the flour, which should have been mixed with the baking soda, and then slowly mix in the boiling water. The batter will be quite liquid.
3. Pour into the lined pan and bake for 30 minutes. Turn down the oven to 325 degrees F and continue to cook for another 15 minutes. The cake will not be entirely firm, so no need to worry if you insert a toothpick and it comes out unclean.
4. Cool the loaf pan on a rack and let it completely cool before turning it out.

No comments: