Friday, October 12, 2012

Channelling My Inner Baking Goddess

I started baking as a girl. It was like magic to me. I could mix a few cupboard ingredients together and transform them into a warm-from-the-oven delicacy with minimal effort. If I am honest, I know that my love of baking has been rooted in my love of eating really good bakery. When I first discovered that I had developed a problem with digesting gluten (hmmm.......which maybe isn't so surprising considering my love-affair with flour), I went on a baking spree. For a month I baked like crazy, experimenting with different flours and trying to recreate all of my bakery favorites without the gluten. Some things came out great, even better than their gluten-ous counterparts. Other things, not so much... I think I just needed to reassure myself that I would still be able to bake and to enjoy bakery even without gluten in my life. 

At one point I went to a gluten-free workshop here in town. An uber-healthy woman in attendance made the comment that, "You know, you don't HAVE to try to replace all of that bakery stuff just because it's what you grew up with." Oh. Yeah. I think she is right. You don't have to. A move away from gluten can be a move towards a healthier diet if you don't. I've noticed that many of the gluten-free cookbooks out there focus on recreating those flour-based treats of our childhood. Many of them have cupcakes on the cover.  

I seem to have retained a love of baking that extends beyond wanting to indulge in bakery. When my dear friend requested that I bake her a cake for her birthday recently, I immediately replied, "Yes! And can it have gluten in it?" Gluten-containing wheat flour really is wonderful to work with. Gluten is great stuff as long as you can digest it uneventfully. She asked for chocolate.

High quality, fair trade, dark, rich, real, chocolate is good. I try to eat a little bit every day for my health. ;-) But other than that, I don't consider myself a chocolate person. For instance, I would always choose vanilla over chocolate ice cream and oatmeal raisin cookies over chocolate chip ones. I'm usually not a chocolate cake fan but once or twice in my life I've had a chocolate cake that was so moist and rich and delicious that I loved it. So when asked to bake a chocolate cake, I began a search for a death-by-chocolate kind of a cake that might possibly rival those I've enjoyed in the past.
Guess what? The most promising recipe I found in my collection of cookbooks did not contain any flour!! Yippee! I would be able to bake my cake and eat it too!! 

I had a wonderful time baking it and decorating it and tasting it and presenting it to the birthday "girl". This is really a yummy chocolate cake. Even if you don't like chocolate cake, you might like this cake. There aren't many ingredients but I'm not saying it is super simple to make. Excellent paired with port.

Chocolate Cake (Gluten-free!)
from Vineyard Seasons by Susan Branch

16 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips (I like Guittard and Ghirardelli)
1 cup unsalted butter (you can try a vegan alternative here such as Earth Balance)
9 eggs separated
1 cup of sugar
cocoa powder for dusting

Pre-heat oven to 350ยบ. 
Butter a 9" springform pan; line the bottom with buttered wax or parchment paper; dust pan with cocoa powder. Slowly melt chocolate and butter together in a heavy saucepan over low heat; cool. Meanwhile separated eggs into two large bowls. Beat the yolks for about a minute; slowly add sugar and continue beating till thick and lemon-colored. Beat egg whites until they just begin to peak. Add cooled chocolate mixture to egg yolks and blend thoroughly. Pour the chocolate and yolk mixture into egg whites and fold gently until completely blended. Remove 1/3 of the batter to refrigerator and cover. Pour rest of batter into prepared pan and bake 40-45 minutes. Cool 1/2 hour before turning out onto serving plate. Remove paper and frost with remaining batter. Decorate as you see fit.



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