Friday, March 15, 2013

Time Out

Leslie in the fog at Torrey Pines State Reserve, California
Finally, after weeks of relentless work, my wife Leslie and I are on vacation!

This is a short one - two days before a gluten-free expo at which I'm a vendor - and two days after. We "did" the San Diego Zoo  and the Thursday Farmer's Market yesterday and Torrey Pines State Reserve today. Both are wonderful places, but I found the latter a bit more visually interesting:

Torrey Pines the species are one of the most endangered in the Pinus genus, and I particularly enjoyed speculating about their tiny ecological niche, of which there are only two - one of them on the Pacific coast not far from our hotel. Their survival is often described as both miraculous and tenuous, and I had to wonder what sorts of mycological help they might be getting. There should be mychozorrheal partners. However, none of the State Park literature mentioned any. 

It's fun to march around on a foggy coast, relaxing and taking photographs, thinking about fungi and wondering what kind of crowd the Celiac Awareness Tour will have tomorrow. The day was gorgeous so I even stopped thinking about my constant obsession: food. However, that obsession has returned, for it is now dinner time.

On the topic of food, here is the latest recipe from my members-only newsletter: 

This treat is black chocolate-quinoa cake, a dessert I've been making about once a month for at least five years. The original version is on the back of Bob's Red Mill quinoa flour packages. You can see it HERE.

If you follow Bob's recipe  - it's still on the flour package - you'll make great-tasting cupcakes. But to turn out truly luscious cakes you'll need some substitutions - primarily black cocoa, which is available from King Arthur Flour - and you'll want to frost the end product, ideally with the chocolate-mocha recipe found in Joy of Cooking.

Last week my wife Leslie and I were invited to a friend's house for dinner. I always bring dessert when we're invited out, but our friend Rebecca can't eat dairy, so I decided to modify this recipe, making it dairy-free. The changes were few, and the results, excellent.

The version described below is the dairy-free one. It's an upside-down cake, topped with chopped pecans that have been laced with honey and molasses. Obviously, those with nut allergies can't eat this, but the topping can be removed without changes to baking time or preparation. I think the frosted version remains superior, so if dairy isn't a problem, skip the upside-down technique and whip up some frosting instead. (Frosting recipe follows cake recipe). Or you can be totally decadent and use both nuts AND frosting. In that case I'd suggest slicing the cake in half and re-arranging the layers so that the nuts are in the middle. Which is what I'm doing from now on. Thank you Rebecca!

Black Chocolate Layer Cake

Makes one 8" circular cake, 6 - 12 servings


1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup King Arthur Flour Black cocoa
1 1/4 cup quinoa flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup silken tofu

For the topping:

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
2 TBLS virgin coconut oil, melted
2 TBLS honey
1 TBLS molasses

For the frosting:

1 2/3 cup 10X confectioner's sugar
3/4 stick butter, barely softened (about 60 F)
2 TBLS red cocoa
3 TBLS decaf espresso, cooled to room temperature
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt


Place the water and the 1/4 cup coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until the coconut oil melts. Remove from heat, whisk in cocoa until mixture is very smooth, then set aside to cool.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line the bottom of an 8" diameter circular cake pan with baker's parchment. Grease sides of pan. Sprinkle pecans evenly over parchment. Drizzle honey and molasses over pecans. Scatter dabs of coconut oil over this.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir until well blended.
Separate eggs, discarding one yolk. In a medium bowl, whip whites until stiff but not dry. In a separate, small bowl, stir yolks with vanilla and silken tofu until well blended.
Add water/cocoa mixture to flour. Stir until well incorporated. Add yolk/tofu mixture and stir until well incorporated. Fold in egg whites. Pour batter into pan. Bake for 40 - 50 minutes, turning pan 180 degrees once after 20 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Remove and cool on a rack at least 15 minutes. Place a plate on top of cake, invert cake, then remove pan. Peel away parchment. Allow to cool thoroughly before frosting.


In a medium bowl, mix sugar and cocoa.  In a separate medium bowl, cream butter until fluffy, using a mixer set to medium-high speed, about 3 minutes. With the mixer running, slowly add sugar-cocoa mix. Beat until soft. Add espresso and whip until smooth. Add vanilla and salt and whip about 1 minute. Let stand 5 minutes then whip well. Spread over cake.

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