Friday, April 20, 2012

Chocolate Orange Almond Cake (Flourless)

When it comes to baking, there are some recipes that are just plain easy.

You find yourself using only one bowl, or two at the most. There is no stand mixer involved or even an electric mixer. You get to the end of the recipe and haven't even broken a sweat, it is that easy.

This chocolate cake is not one of those recipes.

You may be thinking to yourself that it is just a chocolate cake, is it really that difficult to make?

And the answer is, this cake is no 'piece of cake'. (Pun intended!)

It required no less than a food processor, an electric mixer, a grater, 3 mixing bowls, and the other usual measuring cups and spoons.  

Sure, reading this list makes it feel like I am complaining for nothing. However, in my defense, I do not have a food processor or an electric mixer so I had to be creative.

And for me, being creative usually leads to making a big mess.

Now, talking about the cake. Once it was done and the kitchen was clean, I was tired.  The cake however, did make me feel better!

It was moist, light, and fluffy. I felt like I was eating a brownie, only less dense, with a hint of citrus, and definitely more guilt-free. The cake does have texture from the nuts, but I think that could have been solved with a food processor and a lot of processing.

In the end, despite its success, I decided that this is cake will be a special occasion only cake. It looks good, taste delicious, and would be sure to impress guests. But as someone who is not a big chocolate person, I could get through about half of the cake in a week.  And I hate not being able to finish something I made while it is still fresh!

Happy weekend everyone!

Chocolate Orange Almond Cake
Adapted from

Melted butter for the pan
1 1/4 cups whole almonds (6 to 7 ounces)
1 cup sugar, divided
6 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
6 large eggs, separated
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush bottom of 10-inch-diameter springform pan generously with butter. 

2. Blend almonds and 1/4 cup sugar in processor until almonds are finely ground. Add chocolate; blend until chocolate is finely ground, scraping sides and bottom of bowl occasionally.

3. In a small bowl, whisk cocoa, orange juice, and orange peel in until smooth. Set aside.

4. In a large bowl, combine egg yolks and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean. Then, using electric mixer, beat until yolk mixture is very thick, about 4 minutes. Beat in cocoa and orange mixture. 

5. Fold in the ground almond and chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture and set aside.

6. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites and salt in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar, beating until whites are stiff but not dry. 

7. Fold whites into chocolate batter in 3 additions. Transfer to prepared pan.

8. Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cake completely in pan on rack. 



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Creamy Cheddar Potato Soup

This past weekend was one of those weekends?  You know, the type where you kind of look at yourself and did I just do that?

Everyone has their forgetful moments but for the most part, I am the type of person who remembers to turn things off, to take my keys, phone, and wallet with me every time I leave the house, and to turn off the lights and lock the doors.  Or so I thought.

The weekend started with me realizing that I had left my hair straightener on overnight.  Not a big deal but I usually remember to both turn it off and to unplug it after use.  

And leaving it on overnight is much better than that one time in college when I curled my hair (rare enough as it is) and one week later picked the curling iron up off the floor to put it away, only to burn my fingers because it was still on! Leaving a hair tool on for a week is a record that I hope I do not break!

For most people, the hair straightener incident would give the hint to pay closer attention to turning things off... but not for me. My brain must have been in a thick fog.

Soon after that I proceeded to leave the house while leaving the tea pot on.

Now wait, stop, don't panic yet!

It was an electric stove that was on, the heat was at the lowest setting. I left a Turkish tea pot on, which is consists of two pieces: a top with brewed tea and a bottom with water. There was plenty of water and the heat was not strong enough to boil the water.

After leaving the house and proceeding with my day, my mind finally came to realize the error I had made! It only took about 2 hours. And a running home we went.  

We arrived home to a working stove top, warm water, and no fires or other major disasters.  Just that feeling of did I really just do that?

The answer is yes! Yes, I just did that. (Hanging my head in shame).
Some emotional traumas can only be cured with really good comfort food.  In this case, a bowl cheddar potato soup did the trick. I made this soup last week because I had a huge block of cheddar cheese that I needed to finish and I am so happy that I did. The soup is smooth and creamy and delicious.  I was eating two bowls at a time.

If you love potatoes and cheese then what is not to love about this soup? It is so easy to make that I am getting hungry from looking at these pictures and I am tempted to go make another pot.

Creamy Cheddar Potato Soup
Makes 8-10 portions

1/3 cup chopped onions
2 tablespoons butter
3 large potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika

1. In a large pot, saute the onions in butter until they become tender.

2. Add in the potatoes and broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes become soft.

3. Using a hand blender, puree the soup until smooth.

4. Add in milk, cheese, pepper, and paprika.  Stir over low heat until the cheese is completely melted.  (I used my hand blender and pureed the soup one more time to break up the cheese and to get a creamy texture).



Thursday, April 12, 2012

Honey Nut Cake in Syrup

As a kid, I remember thinking that the 8 days of Passover were never-ending. We usually had the majority of the holiday off from school and I have memories of sitting around with Alyssa and other friends in the kitchen searching for something to eat and fighting our cravings for pizza and tacos. 

My parents cooked a lot but they were never big bakers so our Passover sweets were usually store bought and not very satisfying. Just chocolate covered matzah, coconut macaroons, and raspberry rolls.  

But with time, not eating bread products or legumes has gotten much easier. This year, I was looking forward to having a forced adjustment to my diet. I find my diet to be too bread heavy. Partly because restaurants in Turkey usually serve food with a basket of bread. And if there is bread in front of me it is often hard to avoid taking a slice. But also, much of the snacks and street food are made of bread and when running around during a busy day that is what I end up eating.

For this Passover, I had several main courses in mind that I planned to make. Desserts, on the other hand, I was unsure about.  I have not done a lot of successful Passover baking in the past.  So I started with this cake.  It is a simple cake, that is incredibly easy to make and the batter requires little time to prepare.  It has a flavor of nuts, without being overpowering. With the honey syrup, you end up with a cake that is a little bit of a citrus flavor that balances out the sweetness. Considering how easy it was to prepare and how quickly it was eaten, this cake is a winner, Passover or not.

Honey Nut Cake in syrup
adapted from

Makes 1 cake

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
3 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon finely minced orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup matzoh cake meal
1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts or almonds
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Soaking Syrup

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup orange juice
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Generously grease a 7-inch round layer cake pan.

2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat the granulated and brown sugars with the oil and eggs until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Stir in the remaining batter ingredients. 

3.  Pour the batter into the greased cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is light brown and set. Cool for at least 20 minutes. 

While the cake is baking you can prepare the soaking syrup.

4. In a medium saucepan, combine the ingredients. Heat to dissolve the sugar and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes syrupy. Cool well.

5.  Pour the cooled syrup over the cooled cake, poking holes in the cake with a fork, to permit the syrup to penetrate. Let the cake rest for 1 to 2 hours to soak the syrup and get moist and then serve.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Passover!

Happy Passover to all who celebrate, and for those who don't, there's nothing to say you can't enjoy some Jewish comfort food as well! Because really, that's what matzo ball soup is--good ole heart-warming, feeling down, comfort food. And you don't have to just wait until Passover either for an occasion to make it. Matzo ball soup is like chicken soup, good for any and all of life's problems. Am I right?

If you have never made matzo ball soup before, don't fret. It's really pretty simple and fool-proof. The only challenge can be getting each matzo ball to the desired fluffiness level, but to me that's all just a game of luck.

So for some amazing fluffy balls (giggle), follow along:

 Ingredients (makes about 8 matzo balls)
1 cup matzo meal
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 stick margarine, melted
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons chicken broth
Fresh dill, shredded (optional)
Fresh parsley, shredded (optional)

1) Mix together the egg, margarine, and chicken broth in a large bowl. Add the matzo meal, shredded herbs, salt and pepper and mix well until you have an even consistency.

2) Cover the bowl and refrigerate for approximately 30 minutes.

3) Fill a large pot with chicken broth (homemade is always preferred) and bring to a boil. If you do not have broth, you can also make the matzo balls in salted water.

4) After 30 minutes, take the mixture out of the refrigerator and gently roll 1-1 1/2 inch balls in your hand. It's helpful to wet your hands slightly before rolling the balls so the mixture does not stick to your hands.

5) Add the newly formed balls into the boiling broth and cook for 30 minutes, covered.

6) Serve with chicken broth, and garnish with dill.

And the last step--enjoy before it's all gone.

Thanks for reading!