Curious Appetite

cake

Chocolate BEET Nutella-Inspired Ganache CAKE.

Eat your vegetables—-for dessert! Yes, for real. Carrot cake, zucchini bread, now chocolate beet cake! Beets are one of my favorite root vegetables and here in the Puget Sound we are lucky to have them almost year round. Although in the fall & winter-like months, their bulbs tend to be bulkier which makes them easier to prepare into casseroles, roasts and soups. The beet has a looooong history, some believe it’s cultivation dates back to the 2nd millennium B.C.! Nowadays they are commercially produced for table sugar and there is even a hot controversy involving the little beet and the unstoppable GMO. Since about 1/2 of all our sugar in America comes from beets, (un)naturally the powers involved with mutating American Farmland have figured out how to capitalize on this rich sugar bulb now with a Roundup Ready GE Sugar Beet. Although the USDA has approved of this uncertain science experiment, you don’t have to. You can make this delicious moist buttery nutty chocolate cake with local organic beets found at Puget Sound Farmer’s Markets (or any local natural grocer/co-op) grown with love by Rents Due Ranch or Ralph’s Greenhouse and save yourself the mystery genes. This cake can be made even more local with Stone Buhr’s Washington White Flour (locally produced and small batch milled by Shepard’s Grain), farmstead eggs and fresh butter from the farmer’s market (or local co-op or natural grocer).

The Nutella-inspired ganache is easier than cake. Not only are beets in season and local, but so are hazelnuts! I just roasted these in the oven with a little bit of sugar until the skins popped off then beet them to a pulp in a coffee grinder then added to the chocolate ganache pot. So simple yet luscious! See for yourself!

Here is what you will need:

Dry ingredients in one bowl:

1 cup of flour (I used Shepherd’s Grain WA flour, its local and affordable!)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp cocoa or cacao

Wet ingredients:

5 eggs, separated

variation: 2 whole eggs and 3 egg whites (or 3/4 cup liquid egg whites)

1 cup of sugar

Chocolate cake base:

1 cup of beet puree’ (made with 2 medium bulk beets or 1 large bulk beet)

8 tbsp butter, or one short stick

1/4 cup espresso, instant (for ease) or 1/4 hot water

1 cup 62% semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used the Sunspire Fairtrade chips from PCC Natural Markets, less than $5 a bag!)

Chocolate-“Nutella” Ganache

1/2 cup skinned ground hazelnuts, dry roasted in the oven with a sprinkle of sugar

1/2 cup 62% semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 heavy whipping cream

1 tbsp sweet Marsala or whatever sweet wine you have around

This cake has a lot of little tasks so here is how I suggest you break it down: Beets—>Ganache—> Hazelnut roasting—-> Cake batter prep—->Oven @ 325* for 40 minutes = voila’!

Beets: scrub your beet(s) and start boiling them skin on. It will take about 1/2 hour for the beets to full boil to softness and make the skin just slip off under cool water. When beets are boiled and skinned, cut into chunks and puree them in a food processor or blender.

Roasted hazelnuts, for ganache and cake topping:

Put the hazelnuts in a thin oven-safe pan and sprinkle some sugar on. Set temperature to 350* in a toaster oven or oven making sure to give them a shake and roll around every few minutes. Roast time total should be about 15 minutes. They will be ready when you see skins starting to pop off and brown. Let these cool wrapped in the middle of a clean towel.  In the towel, try to rub off all the skins. Reserve half  for the actual cake topping. The other half once skinned and cooled, pulverized in a coffee grinder. Pour into ganache when ready. Turn over down to 325* for cake baking temperature.

How to make the ganache:  add chocolate chips and heavy cream to a small saucepan on medium-low heat. Add in the Marsala or sweet wine. Whisk till this gets a bit thick then take off the heat and allow to cool. You may now mix in the pulverized hazelnut “meal”.

After ganache is made and beets are still boiling…

Chocolate cake base (the wet ingredients): melt 1/2 cup of chocolate in a small saucepan on very low heat and make sure to stir and scrap. Add espresso or hot water once chocolate is mostly melted. Cut butter into chunks and let it melt in careful not to stir too much. Fold in egg yolks and mix until uniform. And lastly, fold in beet puree’.

Now with an electric mixer, whip egg whites until stiff and frothy. Add in the sugar slowly and stir in with a spatula. Now you can fold in the egg white mixture with the chocolate mixture and have your self a chocolate base.

Dry Cake mix: In a dry bowl, sift flour with baking powder and cocoa powder.

Take the dry mix and now add it to the wet chocolate beet and electric mix until a batter forms. Don’t be alarmed, this batter will seem pretty runny but it will bake very dense and moist, you’ll see…:)

Take 2 9in cake pans and butter it up or as I did, coat pans with a coconut oil spray. Fill each pan about 3/4 full or even a little more, just be careful not to fill it to the rim. Bake for 40 minutes at 325* (no peeking and no over baking!)

After 40 minutes, take out and allow to cool. Once cool, remove from cake pan and spread ganache on top. Take the reserve hazelnuts, cut them in half and top away!

This cake will be a hit for the holiday festivities this year. Its deep, its rich and best of all it utilizes what’s in season and local. The thick chocolaty flavor exploding hazelnut puts the panache in this ganache!  If you really want to splurge, I recommend pairing this cake with a dessert wine like Banyuls or a Tawny Port. Cheers!

Oysterfest 2011 in Samish, WA

Lately, I have been epicuriously dining at potlucks, backyards, farmsteads and as of most recent: at the seashore. Sometimes, the best food is that consumed in and by good company. I was lucky enough to be invited to Oysterfest 2011  in Samish, WA . And may I say, it was quite an exhibit of the Pacific Northwest BOUNTY! Not only with seafood, but also the yummy delicious sides just about everyone brought! Oysterfest was nestled this year in Samish, WA at the Acme Seafood Company along a beautiful strip of beach and mountains in view paired perfectly with breezy Bluegrass by the Shed Boys. As if donating extra joy to our lives wasn’t reason enough, the event was intended to raise money for TeenFeed, a Seattle-Based non-profit that provides resources, outreach and rehabilitation to teens living on the streets. Talk about win-win, the day came dressed with a sweet dose of SUN. The irony of it all, is that we missed the boat on the oysters, but believe me, I didn’t even notice until I put the subject line in for this post.

I can’t imagine how I got so lucky, but we were surrounded by bottomless fresh perfectly cooked crab with TEQUILA BUTTER for dipping, Mediterranean Chorizo style Mussels, CLAM FRITTERS with a buttermilky batter (paired with a divine tartar sauce), and creative potluck sides like Harissa style garlicky Carrot Salad, a creamy yet kicky Potato Salad, Fresh shucked corn and tomato salad topped with perfectly ripe avocado, several quinoa salad variations, Tuscan Panzanella  salad (a delicious olive oiled bread, tomato and fresh mozzarella salad), and a killer dessert of Blueberry Batter Cake. O.M.GOOD!  Enjoy the slideshow of the shots I managed to pull myself away from my fork and crabby fingers from to take!

This was the mouthwatering mussels and clams cooked in a Mediterranean spicy full bodied chunky tomato sauce, please mind the glaring sun:)

cracking away to fresh caught tequila butter dipped crab

my plate stock piled with amazing sides, such as this sweet citusy corn salad with fresh avocado, cilantro and tomato

The nutty smooth olive oil silkened Panzanella salad

CLAM FRITTERS in the frydaddy making!

these little clam hush puppies lasted for about 3 minutes out of the fryer and popped happily into a few lucky bellies

and how did I forget to mention the king SALMON!! This was the ultimate CANDY of the sea! So sweet, tangy, moist, peppery, melty, not to mention fresh! Please, try not to drool!

#pureheaven

Last but not least, the Blueberry Batter cake. No need to describe this buttery cakey blueberry mound of goodness!

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