And I have to do the cliche thing and say...well, the book was better than the movie. Not that it doesn't have its moments--most of them, for me, memorable visually: a perfect lemon meringue pie, montages featuring baking. Le nom.
But the film did remind me of something important: I've been wanting to try the chocolate beet cake recipe from Slater's even bigger book, Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch. As you might imagine, there aren't many dessert recipes in this book, but there are a few. And this description was very alluring to me:
"It is true I am rarely happier than when making chocolate cake. I especially like baking those that manage to be cakelike on the outside and almost molten within. Keeping a cake's heart on the verge of oozing is down partly to timing and partly to the ingredients--ground almonds and very good-quality chocolate will help enormously. But there are other ways to moisten a cake, such as introducing grated carrots or, in this case, crushed beets."
of course, he continues, "...this is a seductive cake, deeply moist and tempting. the serving suggesting of creme fraiche is not just a nod to the sour cream so close to beets' Eastern european heart, it is an important part of the cake."
This is a compelling cake, chocolate with a something-something, and I loved the tartness of the "frosting" -- it made it seem perfectly appropriate for a healthy snack, but it didn't smack of dessert.
Chocolate Beet Cake
- 8 ounces beets
- 7 ounces fine dark chocolate
- 4 tablespoons hot espresso
- 3/4 plus 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
- a heaping teaspoon of baking powder
- 3 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
- 5 eggs
- scant 1 cup superfine sugar
- creme fraiche and poppyseeds, to serve
- Lightly butter an 8-inch springform cake pan (I used a small bundt pan, greased and sprinkled with flour); line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Cook the beets, whole and unpeeled, in boiling unsalted water. Depending on their size, they will be tender when pierced with the tip of a knife within thirty to forty minutes. Young ones may take slightly less. Drain them, let them cool under running water, then peel them, slice off their stem and root, and process in a blender or food processor until a coarse puree is formed.
- Melt the chocolate, broken into small pieces, in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Don't stir.
- When the chocolate looks almost melted, pour the hot espresso over it and stir just once. Cut the butter into small pieces--the smaller the better--and add to the melted chocolate. Push the melted butter down under the surface of the chocolate with a spoon as best you can, and let soften.
- Sift together the dry ingredients. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large mixing bowl. Sir the yolks together.
- Now, working quickly but gently, remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter has melted into the chocolate. Let sit for a few minutes, then add the egg yolks. Do this quickly, mixing firmly and evenly so the eggs blend into the mixture. Fold in the beet mixture. Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold in the sugar. Firmly but gently, fold the beaten egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mixture. A large metal spoon is what you want here; work in a deep, figure-eight movement but take care not to overmix. Lastly, fold in the flour and cocoa mixture.
- Transfer to the prepared cake pan and put in the oven, decreasing the heat immediately to 325 F. Bake for 40 minutes. The rim of the cake will feel spongy; the inner part should still wobble a little when the pan is gently shaken.
- Set the cake aside to cool. It will sink a little in the center. Loosen it around the edges with a thin icing spatula after half an hour or so. It is not a good idea to remove the cake from the pan until it is completely cooled. Serve in thick slices, with creme fraiche and poppyseeds.