keito potato

“Queen of Sheba” Chocolate Torte
July 28, 2012, 4:36 pm
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A sophisticated, dark, complex, and almost-flourless chocolate cake.  It only has two tablespoons of flour!  This has become one of my favorite cakes, and I have requested it on several birthdays.  I’m moving to China in a few weeks, and since I won’t have an oven in my kitchen there, I’m reveling in the pleasures of baking right now (quiches, cakes, pizzas, roasted vegetables, etc).

The recipe comes from Alice Medrich’s cookbook called Bittersweet.  She is one of the foremost experts on chocolate, and this is a serious and foolproof cake.  This is a recipe that she has been honing and improving for about thirty years.  Over the years, her recipe has evolved to include darker chocolate, and a little less butter and flour.  There are a few extra steps  in the process, compared to a regular chocolate cake — like separating your eggs, and grinding some almonds in a food processor — but it is totally worth it.  Use whole almonds with the skins still on — when you grind them they will have more flavor than plain blanched almonds.  You’ll need an 8-inch spring-form pan.


6 ounces bittersweet 66% to 70% chocolate, preferable coarsely chopped

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

3 tablespoons brandy

1/8 teaspoon pure almond extract (optional)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (2  1/2 ounces) unblanched whole almonds

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

powdered sugar for dusting (optional)


Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 375F.  Unless you are planning to serve the cake on the pan bottom, line the bottom of the springform pan with parchment paper.

Place the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl, sitting in a wide skillet of barely simmering water.  Stir occasionally until nearly melted.  Remove from the heat and stir until melted and smooth.  Stir in the brandy and almond extract (if using), and the salt.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, pulse the nuts and flour in a food processor until the mixture has the texture of cornmeal.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar until well blended.  Stir in the chocolate mixture.  Set aside.

In a clean dry bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar at medium speed until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted.  Gradually sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat at high speed (or medium-high speed in a heavy-duty mixer) until the peaks are stiff but not dry.

Scoop one-quarter of the egg whites, and all of the nut mixture, on top of the chocolate batter, and, using a large rubber spatula, fold them in.  Scrape the remaining egg whites onto the batter and fold together.  Turn the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it level if necessary.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted about 1  1/2 inches from the edge emerges almost clean, but a toothpick inserted in the center is still moist and gooey.  Set the pan on a rack to cool.  (The cooled torte can be covered tightly with plastic wrap, or removed from the pan and wrapped well, and stored at room temperature up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.

To serve, slide a thin knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake.  Remove the pan sides and transfer the cake, on the pan bottom, to a platter, or invert the cake onto a rack or tray, remove the paper liner, and invert it back onto a platter.  Using a fine-mesh sieve, sift a little powdered sugar over the top of the cake before serving, if desired.

Chocolate and Rosemary Sorbet
August 3, 2011, 9:54 pm
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This is my very favorite sorbet!  The combination of rosemary with chocolate is haunting and earthy.  Because it’s a sorbet, it’s clean and icy (instead of creamy), making it perfect for summer evening.   This has been my “go-to” dessert for casual dinner parties for the past several summers, and I’ve so glad to finally share it here. 

The recipe comes from the fabulous cookbook Crazy Water Pickled Lemons by Diana Henry.  My cousin Phyllis turned me onto this cookbook 4 summers ago when I was visiting her in France.  This cookbook is a treasure for those who are looking for fragrant, spice-laden, and sensual versions Mediterranean-style dishes.  Some other favorite recipes are lavender-orange-almond cake, lemon-basil ice cream, and roasted sweet potatoes with marinated feta and olives.  The cookbook is organized in chapters according to the flavor profile (for instance lavender, rosemary, olives, honey, oranges, etc), which is a refreshing way to categorize dishes, rather than their course assignment.

This sorbet is dead-easy to make, especially if you have rosemary bushes growing around the house or neighborhood.  It simply consists of cocoa power, sugar, water, and rosemary.  If the idea of a chocolate sorbet sounds intriguing, but you don’t care for rosemary, I imagine you could experiment with infusing the chocolate syrup with other herbs and aromatics like spearmint, lavender, orange zest, cinnamon sticks, or ginger. 


2-4 sprigs rosemary (Diana suggests 2, but I usually use 4)

7 oz. superfine or granulated sugar

2  1/4 oz. cocoa powder

2  1/4 cups (18 fl oz) water


Bruise the rosemary — just bash it with the back of a wooden spoon — and put it into a saucepan with the sugar, cocoa powder, and water.  Heat gently, stirring a little to help the cocoa and sugar to melt.  Bring the liquid up to the boil, and boil for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. 

Take the pan off the heat and leave to cool with the rosemary still in the chocolate syrup.  Once it has cooled off to room temperature, chill it in the fridge for about an hour.

Remove the rosemary sprigs, and churn the liquid in an ice cream machine.  If you don’t have an ice cream maker, still-freeze the mixture in a container in the freezer, and beat the mixture a few times during the freezing process.  That will break up the ice crystals sufficiently.

Serve the sorbet in pretty little bowls or goblets.  You might want to garnish it with a dollop of sweetened Greek yogurt and a handful of raspberries.

Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies
November 28, 2010, 12:35 pm
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An excellent version of a classic, and completely whole-wheat.

I discovered this chocolate chip cookie recipe in my favorite baking book, Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce.  Because she’s a top pastry chef, she uses whole-grain flours to show off the distinctive flavors and textures of the grains (rather than using whole grains in a stodgy way out of guilt).  Every recipe I’ve made from the book has created something exquisite, surprising and delighting guests with complex flavors and perfect texture.  This is one of the top cookbooks I recommend to friends.

The whole-wheat flour in these cookies creates a rich, nutty taste (almost fooling you into thinking you added nuts to the dough).  The combination of dark brown sugar and the right amount of salt creates a hint of that sensual salty-caramel taste in the dough.  None of my friends or family have ever guessed that these were whole wheat.  They taste too good to seem healthy, which means we need to work on erasing the culture’s myth that health and good flavor are enemies.  This is the perfect cookbook for reminding us, one recipe at a time, that the most healthful foods are usually the most delicious.

A single batch of cookies calls for 8 ounces of bittersweet chocolate.  Make sure you use  high-quality chocolate because the distinctive flavor will pair better with the other quality ingredients.  This week I made a double-batch using 16 ounces of chocolate, which means I used most of a gigantic 17.6-ounce chocolate bar from Trader Joe’s.  I was thrilled to use the majority of that surrealistically-enormous bar.




parchment paper for the baking sheets

Dry Mix:

3 Cups Whole-wheat flour (I sometimes use whole-wheat pastry flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Wet Mix:

8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 Cup dark brown sugar
1 Cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped into 1/4-and 1/2-inch pieces


1. Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment.

2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.  Set aside.

3. In another large bowl, or a bowl of a standing mixer, add the butter pieces and both sugars.  Mix on low speed until they are blended, about 2 minutes.  Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined.  Mix in the vanilla.  Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 30 seconds.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

4. Add the chocolate all at once to the batter.  Mix on low speed until the chocolate is evenly combined.  Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

5. Scoop the dough into mounds and arrange on the parchment-lined baking sheets.  Ms. Boyce makes large cookies out of 3-tablespoon scoops (fitting 6 cookies per baking sheet).  I tried that once, but found the enormous cookies to be daunting.  Smaller cookies seem more inviting to me, so my scoops are roughly 1.5 – 2 tablespoons each (fitting 9 cookies per baking sheet).

6. Bake the cookies, 2 pans at a time, in the oven for 11-12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through.  Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool.  Repeat with the remaining dough.