Microwave Chocolate Orange Raisin Cakes

The sheer simplicity of this recipe piqued my curiosity. The fact that it actually worked won me over! The promise of a chocolate treat (from scratch) in under 20 minutes? Surely, you jest! But I am happy to report that it works! and even better, that it works well.

Heres what I did:
1. Original recipe from Gourmet via
2. Substituted whole wheat pastry flour for all purpose flour.
3. Tried various combinations of rum/Grand Marnier and raisins, dates, cranberries.
4. No glaze.

The verdict:
I got four servings out of the recipe. I didn't miss the glaze at all. Once cooled, the cakes were gooey, sweet and chocolatey. The cakes are best made in small portions as they don't hold up when frozen or refrigerated. Its a good recipe when you're strapped for time or just need a quick, comforting warm chocolate dessert thats not a sugar bomb. To cut to the chase, gentle reader, if I were stranded on a dessert island (ha ha) with a microwave, this is the recipe, I'd take with me.

I am quite enamored with this recipe - and could not resist sharing it. It goes to:
1. Since its so low on electric tools and requires under 5 minutes of total microwave time, its going to: Black Salt for Lights Out, Knives Out April 2. Srivalli at Cooking for All Seasons who is hosting Microwave Cooking: Cakes.
3. Lets nix the Grand Marnier and pinch some pennies. Substitute with orange juice and share it with Ginny at Just Get Floury for the Dollar Dish Duel!

Chocolate Hazelnut Teacakes

Shield your eyes, gentle reader, I've started another pottery class! As always, its with a fun group of people. In addition to my new-found infatuation with clay, I'm continuing my experiments with olive oil. As Beans and Caviar pointed out, choosing the right olive oil is critical.

I came across a recipe for Chocolate, Hazelnut, Banana and Olive Oil Teacakes at La Tartine Gourmand. She had me at "Chocolate"!! Her post was titled "A Healthy Sunday in March". sigh. I was whisking eggs by the time I reached "and Olive Oil Teacakes"!

Heres what I did:
1. The original recipe is featured here.
2. I substituted about a quarter cup dates, soaked in a little Grand Marnier for the banana. Since the dates were sweet, I reduced the sugar by a tablespoon.
3. Used walnuts instead of pecans.
4. Baked in a loaf pan instead of muffin cups.

The verdict:
The teacake is full of gentle sweetness and all kinds of goodness. Perfect for a late afternoon pick-me up with tea (ha), milk or hot chocolate. I ground the quinoa at home (as against buying quinoa flour) and so the texture of my teacake was a little grainy but otherwise I loved the end product. The cake gets its fluffiness from eggs. My favorite part about this cake is that its sweet but not a sugar-bomb. Plus its gluten-free. Nice change from my usual suspects!

Update: Made a modified version with 4 oz chocolate and no banana or dates. Used barley flour instead of quinoa flour and the results are still very good. Yum!

More Gluten Free alternatives at Gluten A Go Go! See you all at "Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten Free". The theme for April is Finger Food!


Barley Salad

I don't want to jinx myself, but I must admit that it feels like my baking disorder has passed. I no longer feel the urge to dice every fruit in sight, whisk in a little sugar / butter / egg and combine with flour and turn it into some sort of sweet baked treat. Thats the good news. Ahem. Invariably, one set of symptoms is replaced by another set of symptoms. Who is to say which set is normal - ha. Normal is a sine wave, if you ask me. However, I digress. The baking disorder has turned into whole grain madness. You probably saw this coming. I am so incredibly transparent.

Even as the baking disorder loosened its tentacles round my brain, a new stream of ideas started to take over. At the tail end of my infatutation with baked fruit, I found myself lingering over whole grains. Spelt, quinoa, millet, brown rice, you get the picture. I have traded smiling, summery sweetness of rustic fruit breads for hearty, robust whole grains.

The Real Food Daily Cookbook jumped into my hands - such a treasure trove of ideas! Some delightfully innovative flavor combinations lurk between those pages. The barley salad caught my eye.

Heres what I did:
1. Soaked and cooked a cup of pearled barley.
2. Chopped up half a cup of grape tomatoes, three green onions, a handful of kalamata olives and added it to the cooked barley. Tossed with lemon juice, parsley and cilantro. The original recipe called for dill. Topped with a little sprinkle of feta cheese.

The verdict:
Delicious! In a light, summery way. This one worked nicely as a salad for lunch and even as a side dish.

Don't miss the other lunchbox delights at Coffee and Vanilla!


Chocolate walnut cakes with passionfruit-star anise syrup

I find myself intrigued by cakes made with olive oil. I tried a few recipes, and the Walnut Orange Cake from Epicurious really opened me up to the possibilities. Sure, the rest were healthy but nothing to write home about.

Cakes using oil usually eliminate the need for butter. So some change in texture is to be expected. The orignal walnut orange cake turned out very well, perfectly flavored, subtle and sophisticated. Perfect to gift heart-health-conscious friends or folks who eschew butter for whatever reason.

(confession) I couldn't wait to try a version with chocolate in it! So I substituted a quarter cup unsweetened cocoa for flour in the original recipe. Also, I halved the recipe and made my version with whole wheat pastry flour. I was afraid that the changes I made would result in a dry cake and so I served cakes warm, with a passionfruit-star anise syrup.

Heres what I did:
1. Made the cakes in a silicone mini-muffin pan using this recipe.
2. Made the syrup by simmering passionfruit pulp and sugar to taste and star anise for 5 minutes.

The verdict
The cakes turned out light, fluffy and chocolatey. Not too sweet. The syrup was tart and sweet, quite delicious! The star anise lent an interesting spiciness - nice change from my usual suspects, cinnamon, cardamom and all.

The cakes are a lovely afternoon snack and would also work as a light dessert. They don't age well - I tried stashing them in the freezer and they did alright but they were best fresh.

Where to find passionfruit:
1. Wegmans carries fresh passionfruit but they are terribly expensive and looks like they may have flown a long way. I know what I look like after travelling for a few hours so I can't bring myself to buy (ahem) well-travelled, "fresh" passion fruit.
2. I've often found pulp in Asian stores in the frozen section

These will go to Abby at Eat the Right Stuff, who us hosting "Monthly Mingle - Spring Fruit Sensations". Hopefully Spring has arrived in your neck of the woods! Michelle at Greedy Gourmet is hosting Snackshots 3 with a Muffin theme . Don't miss the round-up!