Well I’ve been MIA for almost 2 months. That’s really lousy of me- but things have been busy. Plus I’m keeping up with my food blog, as well as all the other daily acitivities and responsibilities I have to do. But nonetheless, I finished Garlic & Sapphires a while back and I have to say I LOVED it. Totally different style from Giulia’s book that we “cooked” previously, but definitely a page turner. Like Jeanine said, I loved how Ruth made even the most unusual (and in my mind, admittedly gross) foods sound fantastic and mouth-watering. I also very much enjoyed reading about the restaurants and foodie-world of NYC in a pre-9/11 world. I recognize so many of the restaurants names from a part of my memory… and sadly many of them are no more. Since the book chronicles her life as the New York Times food critic circa 1993, you can well imagine how NY restaurants have changed since then, due to the economy and also food trends.
As Gina mentioned, Ruth dresses up in various disguises to eat at the restaurants so she isn’t recognized. In each of her disguises, she finds out something about herself. I like that. I think that’s why I like changing my appearance so much (hair colors/cuts/styles, etc). Every time you change your looks drastically like that, you find something out you didn’t realize before. For example, if you think you’re a wallflower, and then dye your hair bright red… you might be surprised at how you really aren’t a wallflower. Or maybe it’s the hair that changes you? In Ruth’s case, it was wigs and makeup, in addition to a few smartly chosen wardrobe choices.
There are tons of wonderful food/meal recipes in this book, and I want to make many of them, but I haven’t had the opportunity to make them yet, I was planning on the risotto but Brianne did it. So I figured I’d go with a dessert. I had originally planned on making her New York cheesecake, but Jeanine beat me to it, and Gina took Nicky’s vanilla cake. *shakes fist* That’s what happens when you wait too long I guess. So what’s a baker to do?
I picked the Last-Minute chocolate cake. It sounded amazing, and I decided to make it for Valentine’s Day. I made some strawberry-vanilla cupcakes too, but I wanted to make something chocolate. This was the perfect recipe. I made it into cupcakes (of course) and frosted it with vanilla buttercream and topped it with chocolate hearts & Red Hot candies.
Last-Minute Chocolate Cake
- 4 ounces fine quality unsweetened chocolate
- ¾ stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
- ¾ cup brewed strong black coffee
- 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 300° F.
Butter and flour a 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan (I used a muffin tin, duhhh).
Combine the chocolate, butter and coffee in the top of a double boiler or in a very heavy pot. Stir constantly over low heat until melted. Let the mixture cool for 15 minutes. Then add the Grand Marnier, sugar, egg and vanilla. Stir well.
Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together, and add this to the chocolate mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan (fill muffin tins anywhere from ½-¾ full) and bake for 30- 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (I ended up getting 18 cupcakes, and they baked at 350° F for about 25-30 minutes).
I omitted the Grand Marnier, only because I didn’t have it. So I added an extra tablespoon of coffee and 1 teaspoon orange extract. It came out awesome, and surprisingly went very well with the Red Hots! I used Baker’s brand unsweetened 1 oz. chocolate squares for the chocolate in the recipe. This is a really great dark, rich, chocolate-y cake with a great “extra” flavor. Some people who tasted it couldn’t quite put their finger on what it was exactly… but they all agreed it is super yum. All in all it was a really good chocolate cake recipe. I’ll definitely make it again. Maybe next time I’ll make it as a cake, and top it with vanilla ice cream as Ruth suggests in the book. Mmm. But also this would make an awesome layer cake if you double it.
I know, chocolate cake around Valentine’s Day is a kind of cliched thing to do, and boring, but have some pity on me. I promise I’ll be back soon with another recipe, less boring too. I won’t let you down, Cooking the Books… I won’t let you down!
Psst.. the cupcakes in the background? They’re made of cloth, handmade and hand-painted, and were a gift from my mother. If you’d like to know where to buy similar creations, shoot me an e·mail or ask me on Twitter!