Marlon Delno’s Chocolate Date Cake, Southwest Style

Several years ago, the Epicurious.com site was a thriving hub for foodies curated by Condé Nast, not only culling the best recipes from Gourmet and Bon Appetit, but also managing a forum for discussion and submission of personal recipes.  They even published a cookbook of member recipes a few years ago, and I’m proud to say that one of mine was requested for inclusion (Sesame Noodles Jordan).

While many of us who met in that Epicurious Forum have regrouped and perpetuated a much livelier and enjoyable forum via Facebook, one of our favorite contributors, an older gentleman from Texas, has not participated.  But still,  Marlon’s Korean Bulgogi recipe inspires one of my favorite ways of grilling pork or beef kabobs – Korean Pork Kabobs – and his Chocolate Date Cake, Southwestern Style is an easy dessert I turn to often for its moist and unique combination of dark chocolate with a bit of a kick.

I made this again last night – and the photo shows that we enjoyed a bit for dessert before posting this recipe for

M. DELNO’S CHOCOLATE DATE CAKE, SOUTHWEST STYLE

 

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INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup whole pitted dates, coarsely chopped (Bob’s Red Mill chopped date pieces work perfectly for this)
  • 1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1½ cups flour (I use BRM whole Wheat Pastry Flour, but any AP flour will work)
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground red chili (such as New Mexican), or ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 ounces coarsely chopped bittersweet chocolate or same amount dark chocolate chips
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350º.

Generously butter bottom and sides of 9-inch springform pan.

In a medium saucepan bring dates and 1 cup water to a boil over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add butter and sugar and stir until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted. Stir in baking soda until dissolved. Pour into a medium bowl and blend in egg and vanilla.

In separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, salt, ground red chili or cayenne, and cinnamon. Stir into date mixture. Then stir in ½ cup chocolate bits and chopped nuts. Pour into prepared springform pan and sprinkle remaining ½ cup chocolate bits over top. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until a tester comes out dry.  Cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, then remove sides and bottom of pan. Can be served warm or cooled completely.  Excellent on its own, but also especially nice with a scoop of coffee ice cream.

 

 

Lemony Yogurt Pound Cake with Pistachios

Flour.  Yogurt.  Lemon zest.  Sugar. Eggs. Vegetable oil.  Unsalted pistachios.  Put them all together in the right combination with a bit of salt, some baking powder, a smidgen of increasingly costly vanilla extract, and a 1/4 cup of your favorite marmalade and you’ll have one of the most delightful cakes to ever come out of your oven.  No mixer, blender, or food processor involved.  Just two bowls – one for the dry ingredients, one for the wet, and an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2″ loaf pan.

Most pound cakes are heavily laden with butter.  Not this one.  The only butter involved is the small pat you use to generously butter your loaf pan. Instead, it derives its moist and distinctive texture from a cup of full-fat yogurt and 1/2 cup of vegetable oil.

I use a Williams-Sonoma “gold” loaf pan for this – the perfect size and weight for this cake, but any good metal loaf pan will suffice.  This fits nicely into my Breville countertop convection oven, so if you have one or a similar oversized toaster-oven, by all means use it instead of your full-sized oven.

The pistachios are optional.  I sometimes make this with almonds, but you can leave out the nuts and still have a lovely accompaniment to your afternoon tea.

LEMONY YOGURT POUND CAKE WITH PISTACHIOS

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(photo taken after enjoying two slices from the middle for our dessert last night)

INGREDIENTS:

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted pistachio nut meats or blanched slivered almonds (optional if you dislike nuts, but really a nice addition)

3 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 cup whole milk yogurt, preferably goat milk yogurt which is naturally lighter in fat

grated zest of one lemon

1/4 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup lemon, orange, grapefruit marmalade heated with 1 tsp water until it melts

(I used a lovely lemon-pear marmalade from Stonewall Kitchen this time, thus the little chunks shown in the photo)

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 350º and generously butter your loaf pan.  Combine flour, baking powder, salt and nuts in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar, yogurt, lemon zest and vanilla.  Gradually whisk in the flour mixture, and then fold in the vegetable oil with a spatula until completely incorporated into the batter.  Pour into prepared pan, place pan on a baking sheet (like the one that comes with your countertop oven) and bake about 50 minutes until that proverbial tester comes out clean.  Cake will have risen nicely and be a deep golden brown.

Cool in pan on a rack about 5 minutes, then turn it out onto the rack to cool until just warm.  Brush the hot marmalade over the cake and let it set and cool before slicing.

 

Low-Fat Jumbo Maple-Walnut Muffins

Combing through my 4″ thick loose-leaf  binder of recipe favorites, I happened on these muffins I last made before the new millenium.  But even so, their chewy texture and rich maple flavor still resonated, and they became the perfect excuse to whip out my oversized muffin tin and the oversized parchment liners I found on sale last week.

I do have normal-sized muffin tins, but have used them recently simply for the individual portions of newish Jewish gefilte fish for Passover.  (Don’t cringe.  Those little babies are made with a combination of fresh salmon and cod and smoked trout, and they deserve a better name, like quenelles.)  When I bake muffins, I prefer to make them bodaciously big, and split one with my husband, as we do with the cobblestone cakes from Panera, or my knock-offs thereof.

These muffins are low fat, with only 1/4 cup vegetable oil… the rest of the moistness coming from unsweetened applesauce and chopped prunes (ok, dried plums if you must).

Of course they can be made to normal scale with adjusted baking temp and time – probably 25º cooler and 5 minutes shorter.  But go big if you can and share one with your sweetie.  As I write this I just realized I left out the ground cinnamon – not as disastrous as leaving out either of the leavening agents or the salt, but damn…I wonder how much I’ll miss that flavor note.

Jumbo Low-Fat Maple Walnut Muffins with Prunes

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INGREDIENTS:

2 cups Bob’s Red Mill whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup Bob’s Red Mill rolled oats

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup pitted prunes coarsely chopped

1/2 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup buttermilk (Bob’s Red Milk buttermilk powder – use 2 tbsp and then add water to make 1 cup

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/2 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B, now known as Dark Robust)

1/2 cup light brown sugar (or 1/4 cup each dark brown and white sugar)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla extract, or 1 tsp each vanilla and maple extract

PREPARATION:

Preheat oven to 375º.  Line 6 oversized muffin tins with parchment paper liners.  In large bowl combine first 8 ingredients.  Whisk remaining ingredients together in 4-cup Pyrex cup or medium mixing bowl.  Stir wet ingredients into dry until just combined.  Divide batter equally among muffin cups, all the way to the top.  I use a 1.3 cup measuring cup filled to overflowing and fill each muffin cup twice…keeps spills to a minimum.

Bake until tops are golden brown and tester comes out clean, about 33 minutes.  Ease the muffins out of their tins with a table knife – just enough to nudge them, as nothing is going to stick to the pan.  Let cool on a rack.

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Milk Street’s Tahini Swirl Brownies

This superb brownie is from the March/April issue of Milk Street Magazine, which I chose to subscribe to not only for its wisdom on the science behind each recipe, but also for its blessed lack of advertising.  Along with the NYT Cooking Site and Leite’s Culinaria, these are the primary published sources I rely on to enlarge my kitchen repertoire, and I highly recommend all three.

I have a love affair with almost anything containing sesame – sesame semolina bread and bagels, sesame shrimp, sesame candy, halvah; and that extends to tahini, a versatile pantry item for both savory and sweet outcomes.

After my happy experience with the NYT’s Salted Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies last year, I stocked up on Reese’s Tahini in one-pound jars, and have been happily incorporating that into Middle Eastern sauces and baked goods whenever the mood strikes.

When this current issue of Milk Street arrived I wasted no time pulling out my staples to make these halvah-like brownies, which turned out beautifully marbled, moist, chewy, and   with just the right balance of chocolate-to-sesame flavor.

For chocolate, I almost always turn to Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bar of 72% dark chocolate – perfect for any recipe calling for chocolate, and a satisfying little treat when you break off just one square to enjoy with coffee.

These come together easily in just 40 minutes.  The hardest part is waiting for them to cool, because all brownies should be cooled completely before cutting.  I used an 8″ square Emile Henry baking dish lined with foil, as directed, and held the family back from enjoyment for at least three hours before we all partook.  They were gone quickly.

MILK STREET’S TAHINI SWIRL BROWNIES

(reposted from their March/April issue)

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