Chocolate oatmeal crisp cake

Chocolate oatmeal crisp cake

Chocolate oatmeal crisp cake

Yesterday I wrote a story that involved a sailor. He was partly inspired by this guy.

And I’ve been reading the boys’ cross section book of ships, which I love. This isn’t from that book, but it’s fascinating.
17th-century-merchantman cross section
And there’s this epigram by Anyte of Tegea, which I also love, and which takes place by the hoary grey coast…

    I Hermes stand here at the crossroads by the wind beaten orchard, near the hoary grey coast; and I keep a resting place for weary men. And the cool stainless spring gushes out.

So today’s Sunday interactive playlist is about oceans, seas, shores, sailors, ships, wrecks…Add the song to the playlist yourself, or leave a song in the comments and I’ll try to remember to add it.

Chocolate cake with coconut oatmeal crisp topping

Chocolate cake with coconut oatmeal crisp topping

When I started out, this was just going to be a french-style chocolate cake. Then Malcolm suggested that I add an oatmeal crisp topping, and it became something very special! Almost like brownies, but way better. Very good with coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon and wine after dinner!

Here’s a link to the interactive playlist.

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French cake a week – Gateau chipolata

Gateau chipolata

In which Claire, who doesn’t speak french, bakes her way through the cake section of a 1962 French cookbook.
“L’intérieur du gateau doit rester moelleux.” Says my cook book. Oh yes, say I, the interior of the cake should stay soft! Moelleux is a nice word, isn’t it? A soft word. A melty word. I love melty things! I love when the snow melts in the springtime, ice dripping from branch tips and releasing the buds from their frosty casing. I love ice cream mostly because it melts. It’s such a pleasant anxiety to eat it before it’s a puddle – to savor each spoonful or lick of the cone when it’s just the right creamy softness, before it’s just cream. It’s about time passing! Add hot fudge and you have the frisson of warm and cold, you have the changing of seasons. I like butter melting on toast, cheese melting into warm bread, secret melted cheese or chocolate hidden inside of things, a chocolate-covered cookie melting in tea. I love the melty feeling you get inside when you’re happy, when you feel love for something. I like the scene in Amelie when she melts – she turns into water and melts away into a puddle. Amelie, of course, is french and very sweet, and so is this cake! It is delicious! It’s crispy on the outside, soft in the middle (as it should be), chocolatey, a little crunchy because of the almonds. It’s somewhat similar to the cake I made last week, in that it’s flourless and chocolate, but it’s denser, and last week’s cake had quite a lot of cornstarch in it, and this has much less. The recipe didn’t specify an amount of butter – I think it must be a misprint. This being a french cake, I decided to add a whole stick (1/2 cup)! And I decided to add salted butter, because the recipe doesn’t call for salt, and I like a pinch of salt in my baked goods.

Here’s Nouvelle Vague with I’ll Melt with You.

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French cake a week – Gateau au chocolat

Gateau au chocolat

In which Claire, who doesn’t speak French, bakes her way through the cake section of a 1962 french cookbook. Well! Today was the first day of school. You know I could talk about the ache of time passing, and how fast summers go, and days and months and years go. You know I could talk about regret for every wasted moment this summer, regret that I did anything but play with my boys, or take them places you can only go in the summer – creeks and rivers and wild wooded trails. I could talk about my trip to the doctor with Isaac yesterday, when they did a simple ultrasound of his belly and neck, but the technician let him see his heart beating, and it nearly did me in, with its strength and fragility, nestled in his beautiful rib cage, in his beautiful pale growing body. I could talk about how last night he was up a lot in the middle of the night, worrying about the first day of school and spiders crawling through the hole in his screen, and how I cuddled with him for a few minutes, and liked the feeling of his little hands holding my ears for comfort. But then I needed sleep, so I kissed him and left him whimpering in his bed. And then I had nightmares about leaving the boys to sleep in the basement of a horrible apartment building, while David and I slept upstairs, scared of our neighbors. I could talk about the rich, hot summer passing, and how we long for sharp smoky autumn. But, oddly, I didn’t have any time today, despite the fact that I had seven hours all to myself for the first time in months. So I made a playlist of Antoine Forqueray and Marin Marais, and I’ll let them tell you about it all. This is what I grew up calling Late French Viol Music. It’s from the 18th century. It’s ridiculously beautiful. Wistful, hopeful, like late summer, like autumn. They know about time passing.

This music has always felt like red wine and dark chocolate, to me. Which brings us to our French-cake-a-week. I’ve been trying to do all the simple ones, so this week I did the simple Gateau au chocolat. It’s a lovely flourless chocolate cake. But it does have quite a bit of corn starch, which I found surprising. The cake is extremely simple – and like the last few cakes, it has no leavening, but it got tall and puffy anyway. David said it’s crispy on top, then moist, then cakey. It’s like every good kind of brownie mixed in one cake. I don’t have a bundt pan, so I invented one with a quart-sized souffle dish with a little souffle cup, open-side up, buttered into the bottom. I made a strange looking cake! But lovely and tasty. We ate it with vanilla-flavored whipped cream, but it’s a cake that would be perfect for any of your simple cake needs. With berries, with creme anglaise, in a trifle…

Gateau au chocolat

Marin Marais and Antoine Forqueray, as played by Jordi Savall, the genius.
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Le gateau au chocolat de Nancy with blackberry-cassis sauce

Le gateau au chocolat Nancy

We went blackberry picking yesterday. We get a boxed share of vegetables from our CSA, but part of the deal is that we can go to the farm and pick certain crops. This week it’s blackberries. Of course I got lost on the way there, following a detour it turned out I didn’t need to make. Picture me, if you will, driving in circles on beautiful but bewildering country roads, with two little boys in the back seat, and me up front, cursing my head off. The boys meekly suggested that we just go home, and I yelled, “we’ve been driving for hours so we could get one **$*#$ pint of blackberries, we are not going home without our pint of *$#*&$** blackberries!” Yeah, they’ll have glowing memories of lazy summer days with mom. So, almost by accident, we found the farm. We walked across dry and blistering fields to the long rows of blackberry bushes. And then it was really nice. The bushes made a bit of shade, there was a warm, blackberry-smelling wind blowing all along the hedges. The boys ate berries right from the vine, the bees and butterflies danced dizzily all around us, but weren’t interested in us at all. The thing about picking blackberries on a farm is that many many people have picked before you, so it can be hard to find the ripe fruit. You could, in theory, find yourself having a cross and panicky moment in which you think about how long it took you to get there, and how you’ll go home with a pint of sour red berries, which you tugged, unripe from the bush in grudging anger. And then bright little Isaac said, “Mom, look down here! There are millions.” And truly, when I crouched down and looked up at the world from Isaac’s point of view, the bushes were teeming with ripe fruit. I reached my hand into the fragrant green spaces the leaves made, and the berries literally fell, with gentle little thuds, to the ground. We had our pint in no time, but we kept walking to the end of the row, where it was lovely and shady by the wooded edge of the farm, and we stopped to rest there a moment before the hot march back. And I thought about how everything in life is probably better if you look at it from Isaac’s point of view.

Blackberry picking

For some reason I felt determined to bake yesterday, and I felt determined to bake with chocolate. I’d been reading my French cookbook from the 60s. I don’t really like to follow recipes, but this cookbook is different, because I don’t really speak French, and because it doesn’t really spell out how to make the recipe in a step by step way. So it’s like solving a puzzle. I’m not sure I made this cake correctly, but it turned out delicious! It has lots of butter, chocolate and eggs, and 1 tablespoon of flour and a smicker of ground almonds. It’s dense, but light, soft, flavorful. We ate half the blackberries fresh, and we turned the rest into a sauce with cassis and sugar. The blackberries and the sauce were quite tart, but I thought they went well with the sweet chocolatey cake.

Blackberry sauce

Here’s Jeanne Moreau singing Le Tourbillon, which always sounds like summer passing too fast, to me.
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