Flourless Chocolate Cake

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I regularly have ambitious plans to make an elaborate dessert for a dinner party, and often it just does not happen.  Life gets in the way, the guests are arriving in one hour, and I haven't showered, set the table, etc.  Any of this sound familiar?

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For the last few years, this Flourless Chocolate Cake has been my go-to dessert.  I always have the ingredients on hand and it takes no more than 15 minutes to get this into the oven.   While it bakes, you can clean up, do any last minute prep work, and pour yourself a drink.  About 35 minutes later, your home will smell like chocolate and your dessert is ready!  This is a rich, intense cake and it is best-served with something - I like whipped cream and a few raspberries or sliced strawberries.

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Flourless Chocolate Cake

Adapted very slightly from Alexandra Cooks

Yield = 1 9-inch cake (I find this serves 8 generous slices or 12 slightly smaller slices)

Notes -  This cake is meant to be moist inside so be sure not to overcook it.  As soon as it feels only slightly wobbly but mostly firm, remove it from the oven.  Give the cake time to cool before you dust it with powdered sugar, too, or it will soak right into the cake.  This cake calls for almond flour, so it's not for those who need to be nut-free, but it is gluten free!  

Ingredients

8 oz semisweet chocolate

8 tablespoons margarine or butter 

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon almond extract

4 large eggs, separated

2 large eggs, whole

1/3 cup plus ½ cup sugar

½ cup almond flour

Fresh raspberries or sliced strawberries (if you'd like)

Whipped cream (you could also serve it with ice cream, but I prefer whipped cream)

Powdered sugar (If you serve this for Passover, see Alexandra Cooks for a different option for dusting the cake)

Preparation

1.  Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Place chocolate and margarine or butter in bowl and microwave on high for one minute (or until melted), stirring once after 30 seconds.  If you don't have a microwave, you can use the oven or a double-boiler (if you use the oven, watch it carefully!).

2.  Coat a 9-inch springform pan with non-stick spray.  Line bottom with round of parchment paper, then spray the parchment as well.

3.  Whisk chocolate mixture until smooth, then add salt and almond extract and stir until blended.

4.  Crack 4 of the eggs, separating the whites from the yolks.  Whisk the four yolks and two additional whole eggs (whites and yolks) with the 1/3 cup of sugar just until blended.  Add yolk mixture to chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Stir in almond flour.

5.  In the bowl of an electric mixture, whip the four egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add the ½ cup sugar and beat until egg whites become shiny and hold their peaks, but are not too stiff. 

6.  Stir one third of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten.  Then, in two additions, gently fold in the remaining egg whites.  Pour batter into pan and place in oven.  Bake for 35 – 40 minutes.  Cake will rise and have cracks running across it. It should feel only slightly wobbly when gently pressed. Remove from oven and let cool in pan 10 minutes before removing sides and transferring to cooling rack. 

7.  Use a fine mesh colander or sifter to dust the cake with powdered sugar.  Serve the cake with whipped cream and fresh berries if you have them.  I'm sure it will also pair well with ice cream.

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Double-Chocolate Fudge Brownies

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Last weekend, I returned to New Haven for my tenth college reunion.  I missed my five-year reunion and I hadn't spent more than a few hours on campus since I graduated. 

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Yale is as lovely as I remember.  There are memories on every corner, behind every gate... some that I wish to forget (but know that I shouldn't because I learned from the experience) and others that I hope to hold onto forever.  I was able to take Rob on my favorite run up Prospect Street and he listened patiently as I said "that is where I took X class" and there is [insert something Rob isn't really interested in here]".  There are early morning runs that I remember so vividly... the sunlight shining through the changing September leaves... a few minutes to myself to process the craziness that is college.

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I have no recollection of this, but apparently my senior society did an exercise just prior to graduation where we all answered five questions about what our life would be like in ten years.  Miraculously, one of us held onto everyone's answers and the eight of us who were at the reunion were able to read what our 21-year-old self expected of us.  I read my responses with great trepidation - how could I possibly live up to what I thought I'd become?

Oddly, I felt sort of disappointed to find that I have become essentially what my 21-year-old self thought I'd be... I am a lawyer who is married who loves travel and is close with her family and still dreams of going to Asia (yes, even then I wasn't too specific)... I did say I'd live in Washington, D.C. and have a daughter but otherwise I was spot on.  It was eerie... and, like I said, a little disappointing.  Didn't my 21-year-old self have higher expectations for me?  Does this mean I didn't take enough risks in my 20s?  Should I have challenged myself to do "bigger" and "better" things?

I'm not going anywhere specific with this but just reflecting as one is likely to do when they return to the place where adulthood started and where it seemed every door was open.  In the end, I am so thankful for where I am today and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

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Oh, did you read this post hoping to find a great brownie recipe?  Sorry about that!  The Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe Cookbook is one of those cookbooks whose origins I can't trace.  Obviously it didn't just appear in my kitchen, but I can't remember what prompted me to purchase it - probably some fabulous-looking dessert I found on Pinterest.  Before we left on our trip, we had a relaxing, fun evening with some dear friends and their adorable daughter.  I needed something quick and my go-to brownies are a bit fussy - they require mixing and a double boiler and I just couldn't do it.  Enter these incredibly simple, one-bowl wonders from The Loveless Cafe in Nashville, Tennessee.  Has anyone been to The Loveless Cafe?  Do tell!  Any other desserts I must make that you've had at the actual cafe?

Back to the brownies.  You need a microwave, a large bowl, a sifter and a whisk.  You'll have these in the oven in minutes.  They will be eaten quickly and people will love the richness, the slightly fudgy texture, and the surprise chunks of chocolate.  The next time you need an easy dessert for a BBQ or picnic, look no further. 

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Double-Chocolate Fudge Brownies

Yield = 25 small brownies

Desserts from the Famous Loveless Cafe Cookbook

Ingredients

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

2½ ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

3 eggs

1¼ cups sugar

1 teaspoon finely ground coffee beans

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preparation

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch square cake pan, or baking dish and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Grease the parchment paper.

2.  Place the butter and unsweetened chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl.  Using the lowest heat setting or the defrost setting, melt the butter and chocolate in 30-second intervals, stirring until melted and smooth.  If you don't have a microwave, this can be accomplished by using a double-boiler.

3.  In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar, ground coffee, and vanilla.  Whisk in the melted chocolate mixture.  Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder over the batter in the bowl.  Fold a few times, add ¼ cup of the chocolate chips, and fold until well mixed.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and scatter the remaining ¼ cup of chocolate chips evenly over the top.

4.  Bake for 30 minutes, until the top feels slightly firm but not at all stiff or hard.  Do not wait for the brownies to pull away from the sides of the pan; they will be over baked at that point.  Let the brownies cool completely in the pan.  Lift the brownies from the pan using the parchment paper and cut on a cutting board.  Feel free to make the brownies larger, but they are dense and rich and I thought small, bite-size brownies were perfectly sized.

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