Thursday, December 4, 2008

chocolate cake: one that's good for you and one that's very very bad.

I used to work at a women's magazine that purposely ran giant photos of multi-layered chocolate cakes adorned with chocolate-covered strawberries, whipped cream poufs, and cut-up twinkies (I kid you not). The more dripping with sugar the better, because calories didn't really count. My editor believed that simply gazing at chocolate cake would produce the same serotonin boost in the brain as actually eating a slice.

So take a good, hard look, readers. Nice, but I'd rather eat it--wouldn't you?

Chocolate's not the worst thing you can consume in moderation. I just tried a chocolate cake made with a surprisingly healthy secret ingredient. At a recent dinner party, my lovely friend Jennifer asked what she could bring. I didn't have a game plan for dinner yet, so I suggested a dessert. I'm not quite on the gluten-free bandwagon yet, so it's an easy thing for someone else to take off my hands. And that way everyone else can enjoy something other than ice cream or gluten-free fruit crisps, two things I can serve with confidence. She wrote back, "We’ll bring a gluten-free dessert on the 22nd–what time?" Imagining her spending hours in the supermarket squinting over labels, or concocting some flop of a cake with three different types of rice-based flour, I told her not to worry, that anything would be fine, gluten-free or not. Really, don't go to any trouble for little old me! Undeterred, she showed up with a decadent-looking gluten-free chocolate cake and hot fudge sauce. Wow. Lesson learned: never underestimate Jennifer.

Gluten-free chickpea chocolate cake
This is not a cake of the Duncan Hines variety. It's more like the whole wheat bread equivalent of chocolate cake: wholesome and dense with a thin, brownie-like crispness on top. When Jennifer told me it was made with chickpeas, I assumed she meant chickpea flour, but it's actually made with canned beans! Don't be scared. If she hadn't said anything, I don't think anyone would have thought this cake was gluten-free. Or made with chickpeas. The original recipe, which is highly ranked on AllRecipes, can be found here.

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 (19 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
4 eggs
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. confectioners' sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan. Place the chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl. Cook in the microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring every 20 seconds after the first minute, until chocolate is melted and smooth. If you have a powerful microwave, reduce the power to 50 percent. (You can also melt them in a small pan on low heat on the stove, or over a double boiler) Combine the beans and eggs in a food processor and process until smooth. Add the sugar and the baking powder, and pulse to blend. Pour in the melted chocolate and blend until smooth, scraping down the corners to make sure chocolate is completely mixed. Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate.

Hot fudge sauce
A cake like this calls for a nice, thick sauce. Jennifer wisely opted for homemade hot fudge from AllRecipes. Even more wisely, she left the jar in our fridge, and I have been slowly draining it ever since.

4 (1 oz.) squares unsweetened chocolate (Or cut the sugar down to 1/2 cup and use 1 oz. semisweet chocolate)
1 cup white sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. butter
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and cook on high 1 to 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until mostly melted. Transfer to a heavy-bottomed saucepan over low heat and stir in sugar, salt, and butter. Stir in cream, a little at a time until smooth. Heat through, without boiling, then remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Store in refrigerator.

And now for the very, very bad. For Thanksgiving, I wanted to make a dessert other than pumpkin pie. I considered pears baked in wine, and my trusty fruit crisp, and then I thought about doing a flourless chocolate cake. Even though everyone always goes for the pumpkin pie anyway, I thought what the heck. After finding the cake almost three-quarters gone, post-Thanksgiving dinner, I think I made the right choice.

Flourless chocolate cake with caramel sauce
There's nary a chickpea in sight in this recipe, another winner from BA. Just chocolate, butter, eggs, sugar, and more butter. Slice this cake thinly, it's like a fudgy, extra moist brownie.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into pieces
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
6 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch springform pan. Stir butter and chocolate in heavy large saucepan over low heat until melted. Mix sugar and cocoa in large bowl. Add eggs; whisk until well blended. Whisk in chocolate-butter mixture. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on rack. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides.

Caramel sauce
This buttery, slightly salty sauce pairs well with this cake. Or ice cream...

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 tsps. fresh lemon juice
1 cup whipping cream
2 Tbsp. (1/4 stick) unsalted butter

Stir sugar, water, and lemon juice in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until syrup is deep amber color, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Add in cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Return to low heat; stir until any bits of caramel dissolve. Add butter; whisk until smooth. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.


Anonymous said...

Amazing what delicious desserts you can make without flour. Google chocolate souffle cookies. Those are the ones I made while you were visiting. I just learnt they're also kosher for Passover. No butter either.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I felt moved to comment as I recently spent ages trawling the internet for gluten-free desserts as a gluten-free friend was coming to dinner (yes, there are some very good ones). Then I had a brainwave: good, old-fashioned chocolate mousse is just chocolate, eggs, butter and cream! Result!

Lisa said...

Judy: Thanks for saying that, I was just going to ask you for that recipe!

Anonymous: Mousse is an excellent idea. I always forget about it for some reason--probably because I love chocolate pudding, but it's a great idea for a dinner party.

Daniel said...

I think it's important to note here that Jennifer has scientific expertise in the use of the chick pea. In a sense, her cake for us could be seen as an extension of her thesis. And I have no qualms in saying it tasted way better than most theses. In fact, it tasted way better than a lot of cakes.

Jenn said...

HI there! I used your choco-chickpea recipe and just added a little bit of cocoa powder to the recipe--- TOTALLY DELICIOUS!! thank you!! xoxo

Lisa said...

J: Yay! Thanks so much for reporting back. So glad it worked out for you.

corporate catering said...

I love chocolates and the idea of making chocolate cake as a dessert is definitely great. The Gluten-free chickpea chocolate cake sounds delicious. I'd love to try baking my own version of this cake. Anyway, thanks for providing the recipe of the cake and the recipe of the sauce.

rice krispie treats said...

Hey Thanks for the great chickpea chocolate cake recipe. I've been looking for something a little bit different.


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