Flourless chocolate almond cake with coffee and cinnamon

IMG_0364.jpgLast Saturday was a blizzarding day. The sky was white and bewildering, the time passed quickly and not-at-all, and the snow lay in deep, perfect drifts all around. A week later, the snow is still in giant gravelly piles where it was pushed away from all the places people walk and drive and park. The time is still passing strangely. The hours pass in the usual way, some flying some crawling, but at the end of the day it’s all a blur and I haven’t done half the things I’ve persuaded myself that I need to do. It’s days like this that make you want to turn into Malcolm’s latest superhero creation: Slothman. Slothman’s super power is that he goes slowly, he takes time to enjoy things. And he enjoys everything. Malcolm believes that people, and himself in particular, move too fast. He is a speedy fellow. So if he could turn into slothman he would slow down, everything would slow down. He could be happy just sitting up in a tree doing nothing but just sitting up in a tree. That in itself would become something to enjoy. The funny thing is that I think Malcolm already has this quality in spades. Not the slowness part, he is fairly full-speed-ahead in all endeavors. But the enjoying part. When you’re doing something with Malcolm–cooking or playing cards or going for a walk–he’ll announce, “This is fun.” And because he says it, you stop and think, “this is fun,” and then, strangely, it becomes more fun, just because he said it. And on the day that Malcolm told me about Slothman, we were on a walk. He’d been jumping puddles rimmed with black mud, and I was worried about his shoes, because it’s my job to worry about his shoes. Malcolm stopped walking and I yelled, “No jumping puddles!” But guess what–he wasn’t jumping puddles, he wasn’t moving at all. He was standing perfectly still, with a beaming face, and he said, “It’s so pretty! The light through the trees! And the shadows!” I looked ahead on the path and it was pretty, it was beautiful. The pale hopeful January light through brambled leafless trees. I thought about taking a picture, but it would never work, I couldn’t capture it. So we just stood for a moment and watched the shifting slanting light, until Clio woke us and we moved on.

 

Snowy weather is always good baking weather, so we’ve been making lots of cookies and cakes and bread. One day I ran out of flour, so I made this cake. It’s very tasty! Soft and flavorful, but with an almost crispy layer on the top. The flavors–cinnamon, chocolate, coffee, almond–they’re perfect together! This wasn’t at all hard to  make, and it was even easier to eat.

 

Here’s Groovin in Style by Ken Parker

 

Continue reading

Advertisements

Flourless chocolate cake with salted almond praline

Flourless chocolate cake with salted almond praline

Flourless chocolate cake with salted almond praline

Would you rather have super strength or super speed? This is a question I encounter frequently, in my travels. Usually it’s Isaac doing the asking. But there’s a trick to the question, because Isaac already has super speed! He makes his hands rigid, like knives, and they slice through the air, propelling him forward at a remarkable rate. Malcolm’s new favorite sartorial accoutrement is a button down shirt, usually flannel, always plaid, worn open over a t-shirt. Not because he looks cool, or it keeps him warm, but because if he holds the corners and pulls it up behind him over his head, when a slight breeze blows it feels as though he could fly. We invented a super hero called “Whatever Boy.” His power is that he’s as impervious to discomfort as a ten-year-old boy. Sub zero temperatures? He’s fine in a t-shirt. Sand in his swimsuit? Pour some more in there, he won’t mind. Soaking wet jeans? Bring them on. This was my little joke, and I left it at that, but Malcolm didn’t. He’s expanded the universe of Whatever Boy to include arch enemies, additional powers and side-kicks. All he needs now is a uniform and a theme song. I love this about my boys! I love that they see the potential in themselves and in everybody around them to have super powers. If you think about it enough, your shirt might become a cape, and you might take off into the sky. If you see things in the world around you that are upsetting, invent a superpower to battle it, and it just might work. Of course they’re not always typically heroic powers intended for commbat with evil-doers. Sometimes they’re quite practical. Malcolm invented a scenario in which super heroes live together in a sort of dormitory, and they all have powers that come in handy around the house. There’s vacuum man and hose man and fan man and fire-starting man. Yes, they can save the world, but they can also keep a tidy house, cool you on a hot day and fill your swimming pool. Whilst walking through the woods, Malcolm and I saw a rusty oil drum. He told me that in World Tenn, a universe in which Malcolm and Isaac have different names, powers, sisters and flying dogs, the whole point is to stop things like that from happening. He told me that when they finish writing their book I’ll know a lot more about it. I can’t wait! If you were to ask me what superpowers I’d really like to have, I’d tell you I’d like to be as glowing and funny and singing as my Isaac. I’d like to be as bright and brave and vivid as Malcolm. I’d like to have their super creativity, and their super energy, and their super generosity in seeing everyone around them as capable of marvelous powers and heroic deeds, in seeing a world where you could have any power you want, just by wanting it.

salted almond praline

salted almond praline

This cake was gooooood! First I made a praline of salted almonds, skin and all. I keep buying salted almonds because, of course, they make a healthy snack for hungry boys. But nobody else notices they’re there, and I can’t resist them! So I decided to keep myself safe from them, and use up a few of them in a not-at-all healthy cake! Unassailable logic. So, first I made a praline of salted almonds. And then I pulverized that praline into a crumbly mess. Some big pieces, some quite small and powdery pieces. And I stirred this into a batter of ground almonds, melted chocolate, butter, strong coffee and eggs. And the result was a dense, delicious cake that I couldn’t resist! Damn. Very very good with fresh strawberries or raspberries or sliced pears and a dollop of whipped cream.

Here’s Old School by Danger Doom and Talib Kweli. I love it! And they talk about cartoon super heroes.
Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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.
Continue reading