Tag Archives: flourless chocolate cake

The Uncle Josh Haggadah Project 2012

Chocolate-Basil Passover Cake

I’m just Jewish enough that every April, I remember Passover’s coming. I remember matzo ball soup and brisket and that we should all feel very lucky, but I never quite remember the Passover story. I know there was something about Moses and a basket, but who’s son was he again? And what’s this about parting the Red Sea? Or was it the Black Sea? Forget remembering all four questions.

Luckily, I have a brother who remembers everything, and can write. Every year, Uncle Josh’s Haggadah Project (PDF) frames the Passover story in modern times, pairing a practical Seder guide (which I desperately need) with political commentary.

Take the story of Moses:

Although a child of extreme privilege, as Moses grew he became aware of the slaves who worked for and were laid off by his adoptive father at his corporate offices around the world. When Moses saw that his new father figure made millions of dollars and paid an effective 15% tax rate while the other 99% of the population paid more while trying to make ends meet on measly salaries, he joined the “Occupy Giza” Movement and wound up killing a distracted CEO who wandered into the camp while making deals on his Blackberry.

Or the tale of why the Jews made matzah:

Fearful that that the sometimes progressive but often backward magic underwear Pharaoh would change his mind, our people fled in a hurry. Instead of packing fresh bagels and lox and a nice baguette with organic brie like they imagined normal Jews would, you know, if they ever went camping, our people had to slap together some flour and water and bake it pronto. Only later did they realize the stuff had the texture of saltines and the flavor of cardboard. We called it Matzah, and we eat it as a mitzvah eight days a year instead of bread, which always seems like a good idea on the first night but gets old after half a box.

On the first night of Passover, I’ll make a chametz-filled cake in the shape of a train for my kid’s third birthday, and forget Passover exists. On the second night, I’ll do brisket or chicken or whatever seems most Passover to me at the time, and I’ll read Uncle Josh’s Haggadah, which is themed “for the Great Recovery” this year. (That seems so appropriate for me.) We’ll eat flourless chocolate cake spiked with basil. On the third night, I’ll celebrate Easter with my husband’s family, and we’ll eat leftover cake and I’ll feel guilty we’re not doing Seder twice, like some people do.

And then I’ll take another bite of cake.

Uncle Josh’s Haggadah Project 2012 (PDF of full Haggadah, by Joshua Howe)

Chocolate-Basil Passover Cake (PDF)
A true torte typically replaces a cake’s flour with nuts or breadcrumbs, so I won’t call it that, but this deeply chocolaty, dense confection, rimmed with dark ganache, just almost too decadent for the word cake. It’s a take-off on a chocolate-basil truffle I tasted Seattle’s Theo Chocolate a few years back.

Note: If you have a double boiler, use that to melt the chocolate.

TIME: 40 minutes active time
MAKES: 8 to 10 servings

For the cake:
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces, plus extra for greasing the pan
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (65% to 75% cacao)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 packed cup fresh basil (leaves only)
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

For the ganache:
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (65% to 75% cacao)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and center a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter an 8-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of wax paper or parchment paper, and butter the paper.

Place the butter and the chocolate in a small saucepan and melt over very low heat, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as the mixture is smooth, transfer to a large mixing bowl, stir in the vanilla and salt, and set aside.

Next, make a basil sugar: pulse the sugar and the basil together in a food processor until the basil is very finely chopped and uniformly green in color. The sugar will look slightly wet.

Add the basil sugar to the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, blending completely between additions. Sift the cocoa powder over the batter and fold it in until no dry spots remain. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.

Bake the cake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top of the cake barely begins to crack. Let cool for about 5 minutes, then invert the cake onto a round serving plate.

While the cake cools, make the ganache: place the chocolate and the cream in a small saucepan, and stir constantly over very low heat until melted and smooth. Using a flat spatula or knife, spread the ganache over the top of the cake, letting it drip down the sides, if desired. (Hint: Using the ganache immediately will mean a thin coating that drips easily down the sides of the cake; in this case, it’s best to frost the cake over a cooling rack, then transfer it to a serving plate. You can also let the ganache cool a bit, then spread it just on the top, more like a thin frosting.)

Serve warm or at room temperature. To store, let cool completely, then cover and keep at room temperature up to 3 days.

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Filed under Cakes, commentary, gluten-free

Passover for procrastinators

Flourless Chocolate-Banana-Almond Cake 2

It’s a shame that my brother’s an environmental historian, because he’d make a damned fine food writer. He’d be one of those issues writers, verbose (in a good way) about Things That Need To Be Discussed. He’d be a good raw milk advocate, and he’d detail the best way to cure venison sausage, and he’d write about how a stranger fries trout in Tennessee, if there are really good trout in Tennessee. (I’m not one to know.) And every April, his Haggadah (PDF) – the religious guide to the Jewish Passover service that’s traditionally done the same way every year – would be anticipated like the New Yorker’s cartoon issue.

That’s how I see it. It’s not that I look forward to The Uncle Josh Haggadah Project – that’s what we’ve all come to call it, my family and the separate group of friends he shares Passover with each year in San Francisco – because I’m so into religion. On the contrary, I only really like the tradition of Passover because it instigates a familial bond we might not otherwise get every year when April rolls around. I don’t really observe, if by observe you mean cutting out everything but matzo. (I do add matzo to my diet, though, and as my sister points out, it makes fine fodder for a prosciutto and cream cheese sandwich, which is obviously Kosher.) I stink at remembering the story, and frankly, I don’t find it all that interesting, which means that reliably, on the day Passover starts, I’m frisking the internet for a dummy’s guide to the Seder plate when I get a nice long email from Josh. I know that makes me the world’s worst Jew, but seriously, doesn’t the whole schmegegge about Moses floating down the Nile in a wicker basket get more interesting when you learn that it was found on Craigslist, listed as a two-bedroom with on-site laundry?

Here, celebrating means channelling Josh’s voice, and a proper feast, and not much on the religious front.

This year, I’ll be celebrating with my husband and Graham, who might be actually old enough to find the matzo. My mom will be here, as will my sister, and whichever soul walks past the door when we open it. We’ll start with artichokes with homemade garlic aioli, then we’ll have matzo ball soup, fragrant with lemon peel and peppered with parsley. There will be brisket with carrots and parsnips, and sautéed spring greens, and roasted potatoes. And then, when we can’t possibly eat a bite more, we’ll have cake.

Flourless Chocolate-Banana-Almond Cake 1

Flourless cake is the Kate Moss of the pastry world. It always seems like it should be too anemic to stand up, but there it is, beautiful, even if you wish you didn’t think so. This version, structured with almond meal and eggs and flavored with bananas and cocoa, isn’t exactly congruent with the whole doing without concept that surrounds Passover. But you know what? Once you take a bite, I’m not sure you’ll be all that concerned.

Flourless Chocolate-Banana-Almond Cake (PDF)
Flourless cakes have been a Passover staple for ages. Although this simple, satisfying cake is made without chametz, you may find yourself making it all year long, because it carries the flavor of a chocolate-infused banana bread but only takes half the time to bake. The cream cheese ganache that tops it is like a cross between whipped cream and cream cheese frosting—serve it dolloped on top of the cake, with extra sliced bananas.

Time: 20 minutes active time
Makes: 8 servings

For the cake
Vegetable oil spray
2 large ripe bananas
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 tablespoons canola oil

For the cream cheese ganache
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup regular cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar

Note: If you can’t find almond meal, make your own: Toast slivered almonds on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for about 8 minutes, or until they begin to brown. Let cool completely, then grind cooled nuts in a food processor or coffee grinder.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8-inch cake pan with the vegetable oil spray. Line the pan with a round of parchment paper, and spray the parchment. Set aside.

Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl with a large fork, then stir in the sugar, honey, salt, and vanilla. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs for about 1 minute on medium speed, or until foamy. Add the sweetened banana mixture, and mix again on medium-high speed until very smooth, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the almond meal and cocoa powder, and mix on low speed until well blended. Add the canola oil, and pour the batter into the prepared pan. (It will be thin.)

Bake the cake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake is slightly domed and firm in the center. Cool cake 5 minutes in the pan. Invert onto cooling rack (run a small knife around the edges if necessary), then invert again onto a plate.

While the cake cools, make the cream cheese ganache: Beat the butter and cream cheese in the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth. Add the cold cream and sugar, and whip again on high speed, scraping the bowl occasionally, for a minute or two, until light and fluffy.

Serve the cake with the cream cheese ganache, topped with extra banana slices.

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Filed under Cakes, dessert, gluten-free, jewish