Wednesday, March 24, 2010


I didn't make anything new for you today. I know that all you nice people will forgive me. It's been an interesting month to say the least, what with our never-ending roof leak, caved in ceiling, a mold problem that necessitated a week of removal and haz-mat like conditions in the house, and other things cooking that I would love to tell you about now (but can't... you'll have to wait and see!). I hope that my mom is not reading this, because these days, our dinners have consisted of roasted chicken, mac and cheese or "whatever is left in the fridge." Like I said, it's been an interesting month.

But yesterday (when I had two oranges and a yogurt for dinner), I decided that life was too beautiful to worry about roof leaks and all the other stuff. I mean, look outside, people, it's SPRING! It's March! And you know what this means in California? It means blue skies, tank tops and STRAWBERRIES. Oh good lord, California strawberries, they just take my breath away. Especially the ones sold at the Farmer's Market by this guy in the picture above. I think he's pretty dreamy when he talks about growing strawberries. So, in celebration of spring (I like to think of it as "spring!"), I dug into the archives for my favorite strawberry recipes. Trust me when I tell you that these are the bee's knees, the cat's meow and the like. These make me happy. And spring, it's here, and that makes me happy too.

Strawberry scones
Chocolate-dipped strawberries
Strawberry Bavarian cake (yum, btw)
Strawberry cream cake
Strawberry Frangelico tart
Fresh strawberry tart

Continued after the jump...

Monday, March 1, 2010

Chocolate Pear Cake

Chocolate Pear Cake

I know you were waiting for me to bring you Hamantashen... and I wanted to, I really did. I even bought all the ingredients for the cookies and then... I made chocolate pear cake instead. I don't know what happened to me, but somewhere between the store and my kitchen, cookies morphed into cake and let me tell you, I am so not sorry. Because this chocolate cake? It's the bomb. It's moist and intensely chocolaty, and at the same time so soft and light and faintly sweet, like a flourless chocolate cake that's been given an airlift and taken to places it's never dreamt of going. In fact, I feel so strongly about it that I'm telling you right now - whatever dessert you were planning to make next, scrap it for this cake. Eat it warm with some softly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Sprinkle a few raspberries on top. You will thank me later, I swear.

Chocolate Pear Cake

Chocolate Pear Cake
Elra's Baking

[Dairy-Free Note: I made this cake twice, once substituting a dairy-free Earth's Balance spread for the butter. This did not change the texture or the taste, but I did find that I had to bake it a bit longer, maybe an extra 10 min, with the substitution. So, if you need to make this dairy free, know that you can]

4 oz unsalted butter, softened (or unsalted non-dairy substitute)
1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
4 oz dark chocolate, chopped (melted and cooled slightly)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond meal (finely ground almonds), or hazelnut meal, or combination of both
4 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, or Dutch process cocoa powder
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
4 Bosc pears, poached (sometimes, I use poached pears from a jar to save time)

Poach the pears: peel, cut in half and core the pears. Combine 2-3 cups of water and half a cup of sugar in a sauce pan on medium-high heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add the pears (add more water if needed to cover the pears), bring to a low boil and cook for 20-25 min or until fork tender. Drain and set aside.

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350⁰F. Butter or spray a 9 or 10 inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate and set aside. [This can be done one of two ways: (1) In the microwave, on 20 second intervals or (2) in a bain marie - set a saucepan with about an inch of water over high heat; bring to a boil and turn down the heat; put the chopped chocolate in a shallow-ish, heatproof bowl; set the bowl over the saucepan, making sure the bottom does not touch the water; watch the cocolate melt.]

Sift together the flour, almond meal, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugar on a medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the melted chocolate, beat on a low speed until combined. Still on low speed, add the sifted flour mixture and beat for 1 minute, or until just combined.

Pour the batter into prepared cake pan. Arrange the sliced pears in a circle. Bake the cake for 30 to 40 minutes. Do not overbake. When a tester is inserted into the center of the cake, it should come out with a few moist crumbs attached. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I think caramel would be pretty awesome here too.

Continued after the jump...