Simple Chocolate Mousse with Pink Peppercorn Sea Salt and Cocoa Nibs + Cherry Blossoms in Seoul

chocolate mousse with pink peppercorns and cocoa nibs 

Spring in Seoul has brought along a reemergence of cherry blossoms and (for me) chocolate (not that my relationship with chocolate ever actually went into hibernation… but … whatever).

Here’s what it looks like right now.

 cherry blossoms 1cherry blossoms 2cherry blossoms 3magnolia blossoms

yellow blossomspink cherry blossoms

 

One of my elementary classes recently read a book called “The Story of Chocolate” by Usborne books, which is a fun little thing full of interesting facts. Most of the books I am forced to read with my students cause uncontrollable eye rolling and confusion on my part. They often include bizarre Korean publications of classics like Pinocchio where our protagonist has a nose made from a sausage and is born from a talking log (a few slight liberties where taken from the original). You can imagine my excitement when I began reading The Story of Chocolate with my students and found I was actually interested and (gasp) learning something.

 

Apparently, the first chocolate eaters were monkeys. The clever little guys ate the luscious white pulp from the cocoa pods and spat out the bitter beans found within. Mayan farmers saw the monkeys doing this and copied them. They continued to discard the beans until they discovered the pleasant aroma coming from the beans that were left to roast in the hot sun. They tried the beans and realized they weren’t so bad after all. The beans were ground into a paste and turned into a drink. Cocoa beans became the drug of choice and were soon worth more than gold. It was even used as a currency. The Mayans eventually shared their secret with Aztec traders, who were conquered by some Spanish guy who stole a bunch of beans and brought them back to Europe and so on. We’ll call this the abridged version.

whipped cream peaks 

So anyone who hasn’t been living in cave all their life has tried chocolate at some point and probably loved it. Humans have had a major love affair with chocolate and we will do just about anything to get our grubby little paws on some. Understandably so. It turns out that chocolate is an aphrodisiac and has the ability to make us happy in more ways than one. Heyyy!

 bittersweet chocolate chips

Pink peppercorns (baie rose) pair rather well chocolate and are also an aphrodisiac. Heyyy! Thought to be part of the piper family tree, pink peppercorns aren’t actually related to pepper. In fact, they are the dried berries of the shrub Schinus molle, commonly known as the Peruvian peppertree and have been confused due to their similarities in size, shape and pungent flavour.

 

Where pepper has an intense, sharp and biting taste, pink peppercorn has a softer and more delicate flavour that adds sophistication to any dish. And just look at the stuff. They are elegance incarnate.

chocolate mousse with pink peppercorns and cocoa nibs bite

Simple Chocolate Mousse with Pink Peppercorn Sea Salt and Cocoa Nibs

Ingredients

    • 1 quart of heavy cream
    • 12 oz of bittersweet chocolate
    • 2 tsp of vanilla extract
    • ½ tsp sea salt
    • 1 ½ tbsp of coarsely crushed cocoa nibs
    • 1 tsp of crushed pink peppercorns

Directions

Whip heavy cream until it forms stiff peaks. TIP: Perform stiffness test by dipping whisk into the cream and lifting up. If the peaks keep their form, it’s done.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. When melted, add salt and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, take 1/3  of the whipped cream and gently fold in the chocolate. Once fully incorporated, add another third and continue to fold. Repeat with the rest of the cream and fold until the mousse is uniform in colour. Then, fold in the cocoa nibs.

Sprinkle pink peppercorn bits on top when serving.

Heyyy!

Magpie!
Magpie!

Homemade Graham Crackers with White Chocolate Frosting + Finding Balance

homemade graham crackers with white chocolate frosting 2

 

I knew vaguely for some reason that graham crackers were meant to be a “healthy” food. I’m not sure if it’s something I was told from my childhood or a belief held by society or what. This has always confused me because the modern graham cracker of today certainly doesn’t look, feel or taste healthy. They’re loaded with sugar, use uber refined ingredients and are mass produced by the bajillion. Considering that most people eat (or at least associate) them as S’mores, cheesecake crusts and piecrusts, the health label seems like another lie people tell themselves. Another delicious lie.

graham crackers with white chocolate frosting

Well, apparently graham crackers are meant to be healthy. MEANT to. A health nut minister named Sylvester Graham invented graham crackers in 1829. He was an advocate of vegetarianism and believed that an unhealthy diet would lead to uncontrollable, carnal urges and sexual excess. He swore that physical lust was harmful for the body (as any good minister should) and caused consequences as dire as pulmonary consumption, spinal diseases, epilepsy and insanity. So, to Graham a high fiber, vegetarian diet was the key to purity and chastity, while meat and refined foods meant debauchery, destruction and non-stop sex. Hmm… tough choice. 

No. Not really.

 graham cracker bite

Like most North Americans, I have yo-yo’d with my weight and my ideas of (read: dedication to) a healthy lifestyle. From a heavy set youth to starving myself to eating everything in my path to severely restricting my food intake, I’ve gone through the self-hate-through-food thing for a good portion of my life. So many of us have. Eating disorders are a fairly new phenomenon in the history of human kind. Born out of excess (something that didn’t exist for anyone other than royalty until the middle class appeared) we binge, we purge, we starve and we judge our food.

homemade graham crackers with white chocolate frosting 

The puritanical reactions to unhealthy lifestyles aren’t really any healthier. As an ex-raw foodist, I remember convincing myself (many years ago) that certain foods were evil and that my pure insides would surely burn and melt if I consumed a piece of white bread or grain of refined sugar. I didn’t realize until much later that these were thoughts of someone who hates food.

 cinnamon bark for grinding

The whole thing is such an old, tired story full of clichés and I’m sick of it. I LOVE food. I LOVE cooking and I LOVE eating. I took a stand against the horrid cycle and found something that feels balanced and real. Here are my guidelines:

Eat in moderation.
Try anything I want.
Always choose fresh, real ingredients.
Don’t deny myself (denial responds with feelings of rebellion, resentment and guilt)
Exercise regularly.

This has worked for me for several years. I’m in the best shape I’ve been in ages and I feel more balanced and happy with my relationship to food. Hail Mary.

 

These graham crackers were made using a somewhat similar recipe to Minister Graham’s original recipe. But as I’m not one to deny myself of a tasty idea, they also contain chocolate. A bit of balance goes a long way.

Homemade Graham Crackers with White Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients

  • 2 ½  cups graham flour
  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1/8 cup molasses
  • 1/3 honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • 1 ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp anise powder
  • 5 oz of white chocolate (optional)
  • licorice candy powder (optional)

graham cracker ingredients

Directions

Melt butter. Add honey and molasses to the butter and mix.

Add eggs and water to the mixture and mix.

In a different bowl, combine salt, baking soda, flours and spices. Stir.

Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until well incorporated and smooth.

Wrap in plastic and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

graham cracker dough

Preheat oven at 350ºF/180ºC/Gas mark 4.

Find a clean surface to roll your crackers and spread flour over it to prevent sticking. Make fist sized balls of dough and roll evenly to a 1/8 inch thickness.

graham cracker dough 2

Cut your crackers into small squares or rectangles, about 2×2 inches.

graham crackers 1

Use a fork to mark those satisfying graham cracker dots.

graham crackers 2

Bake for about 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

graham crackers 3

If you wish to add white chocolate, melt some in a double boiler and spread a thin coat on the back of your crackers. Refrigerate to harden.

white chocolate melting in double boiler

If you wish to add licorice powder, sprinkle some to the layer of chocolate before cooled.

Makes 20-24 crackers.

Eat with love.

graham crackers 4

Gluten Free Carrot Cake With Maple Cream Cheese Icing for 50 People (and fewer)

Night sky long exposure

On a completely unrelated note, here are a few photos my friend Dilwara and I took not too long ago. The moon was full and we were drawn out into the frigid night air to gawk at the blanket of night she covered the land with. With long exposures and fast moving clouds, the results were, as you can see, orgasmicly gorgeous.

 Moon star

Night sky 2

I was asked to make a gluten free cake for an event I was cooking for at The Abode this past Fall. I was given a choice between making carrot cake or frosted banana bread. I completely despise everything about bananas, so it was sort of a non-choice, really. My distain for bananas goes so deep; it’s practically become part of my identity. Habiba: The Girl Who Hates Bananas. My young Korean students were always so confused that anyone would not like bananas, it became one of the class jokes. My mum told me that as a child, I cried if someone offered them to me. Sometimes I tear up in horror a little bit still.

Gluten Free Carrot Cake With Maple Cream Cheese Icing 2

 

Banana lovers are very sneaky with their yellow torture devices and more than once I’ve been traumatized by the ill placement of said fruit. Banana haters can expect to have to double-check the ingredients of a smoothie, cookie or sweet cake, and even though it’s disappointing, it’s not horrifyingly shocking. But, when eating a vegetable stir-fry, pizza or chicken enchilada, one shouldn’t have to be on guard for bananas! I have had the misfortune of experiencing each of these normally fine dishes with the addition of bananas, rendering them useless. I am exceptionally good at detecting even the smallest amount of banana, which promptly ruins whatever food I am eating. If I could pass a ban, I would.

I digress.

 Gluten Free Carrot Cake

I made a carrot cake (banana free!) with maple cream cheese icing. It was a gorgeous texture, not too dense, and full of flavour.

 Gluten Free Carrot Cake With Maple Cream Cheese Icing 3

I’m very skeptical with gluten free foods (probably because of the early attempts of gluten free enthusiasts to recreate comfort foods and ending up with a mouthful of something chalky, hard and tasteless) but I was very pleased with the flour I used. Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Flour uses garbanzo bean flour as its base. Sounds like you’ll end up with a cake that tastes like falafel, but I didn’t detect a thing.

Gluten Free Carrot Cake With Maple Cream Cheese Icing

Gluten Free Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Cheese Icing

Ingredients for 50 servings

For the cake:

  • 12 cups gluten free flour
  • 3 tbsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 3 tbsp cinnamon powder
  • 3 tsp nutmeg powder
  • 3 tbsp ginger powder
  • 3 ½ cups canola oil
  • 8 cups sugar
  • 24 large eggs
  • 10 cups grated carrots
  • 3 cups chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 2 cups raisins (optional)

For the icing:

  • 3 cups of softened cream cheese
  • 2 cups of softened butter
  • 4 cups icing sugar
  • 2 cups maple syrup

Ingredients for 8-10 servings

For the cake:

  • 2 cups gluten free flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • ½ tsp nutmeg powder
  • 1 tsp ginger powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 ¼ canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups grated carrots
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • ½ cup raisins (optional)

For the icing:

  • 1 cup softened cream cheese
  • ½ cup softened butter
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup

Directions

Preheat oven at 350ºF/180ºC/Gas mark 4.

In a bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger together.

In a separate bowl, whisk sugar and oil until smooth. Then, whisk in eggs one at a time.

Slowly stir the dry mixture into the egg mixture. Stir until smooth.

Stir in carrots, nuts and raisins.

Pour the batter into a greased pan and bake for about 30-40 minutes. To check if the cake is fully cooked, poke it in the center with a fork or skewer. If it comes out clean, it is finished.

Let the cake cool. To remove the cake from the pan, use a knife to scrape the edges and ensure it is not attached. Put a plate or tray on top of the cake and flip them together. Ice that bad boy.

Devour.

33 1/3rd Birthday + Grapefruit Cheesecake with Lemon Licorice and Vodka Cream

Last week, I celebrated my 33 and a third birthday. 33.33. I know it isn’t commonplace to celebrate a fraction of one’s birthday, but turning exactly one third of a century was too good to pass up without festivities. An old roommate and friend of mine from Montreal invited me to her 33 1/3rd birthday some years ago. It really struck me as a perfect event to celebrate; after all, three is a magic number.

cheesecake with licorice cream 2 Three. Past, present and future. Spirit, mind and body. Mother, father and child. Beginning, middle and end. The Three Furies, the rule of three, triangles, etc. 3 or 33 has appeared as important numbers in history, science, astronomy, sports, spirituality, nature, math and even geography. It symbolizes balance, clarity and wholeness. Threeness had overwhelmingly sold itself to me as something awesome. I was determined to do something great when I hit the big 33.33 and since my actual 33rd birthday was kind of a non-event, it was even more reason to party.

cheesecake bite So, I did. My real birthday is on July 12th. I added a third of a year (4 months) to find that the precise date of my 33 1/3rd birthday was November 12th, 2012. In lieu of all the threeness, I decided that the theme of the party would be: (surprise!) 3’s! Here’s what I did:

Invite: I thought a party with a 3 theme could possibly be confusing and overwhelming for some of my guests, so I outlined the requests of the evening very simply in the hopes that my guests would interpret the theme in their own way. I asked everyone to dress up and bring food with 3 in mind. I told them that this was a very loose idea and could be interpreted in any way they like. It could be as simple as wearing three colours and bringing a 3-bean salad. I encouraged their creative ideas and humour to lead them more than what they thought I was expecting. It was all about fun.

Note: I wanted to celebrate on the exact date, which landed on a Monday. I asked my guests if they could manage coming on Monday or if they preferred Sunday. I tallied the votes before making the decision. Luckily, it worked out to be Monday. The official start time was 3:33pm, but I told everyone to come later.

Ideas: I encouraged my guests with a few ideas to pique their interest. Actually, I really just googled “things in threes” or “common threes” and loads of lists came up such as:

3 minute egg
3 Stooges
3 Cheers
3 Musketeers
3 piece suit
3 dimensional
3 ring notebook
Small, medium and large
On your mark, get set, go
Hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil
Etc…

The list was pretty long. But effective!

Our Trio costume: Ready, Aim, Fire!
Our Trio costume: Ready, Aim, Fire!

Another clever costume: Third eyeAnother clever costume: Third eye

Some of the dishes we ended up with were Shepard’s pie (3 layers), dip (also 3 layers), 3 different snacks, tri coloured soup, multi layered cocktails (details on those to come) and multi alcohol cocktails.

Food: My guests were most confused about food. I guided them with a few ideas like:
3 ingredients
3 layers
3 containers
3 colours
3 dishes

grapefruit cheesecake with licorice vodka cream

My main contribution to the food selection was the grapefruit cheesecake with lemon licorice and vodka cream (with the crust it qualifies as 3 layers).  Gorgeously balanced in flavour and decadently rich.

Grapefruit Cheesecake with Lemon Licorice and Vodka Cream

Ingredients

Crust

  • 2 cups crushed graham crackers
  • 2 tsp grated grapefruit zest
  • ½ cup melted butter
  • 1 ½ tsp cinnamon

Filling

  • 2 grapefruits
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp agar agar (powdered)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 pound (16 oz) of softened cream cheese
  • 1 ¼ tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp grated grapefruit zest
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2/3 cup whipping cream

Cream

  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp licorice powder (NOTE: I used hard candies I had brought back from Iceland and powdered them in the food processor. You could experiment with various different licorice candies to see which ones crush and/or melt well).
  • 2/3 cups vodka
  • ½ tsp lemon extract
  • 3 cups heavy cream

Directions

Cheesecake

Mix crust ingredients until evenly combined. Press the crust to the bottom of the pan you will be keeping your cheesecake in (about 9 inches).

cheesecake crustcheesecake crust 2Peel the grapefruits and separate segments into small pieces. Drain the juice for the filling.

grapefruit sections Combine agar agar and water in a pot and heat on high. Stirring constantly, allow the mixture to boil and remove from heat. Separate 2 eggs. Combine the yolks and remaining whole egg, sugar, salt and 1 tbsp of the juice in a double boiler. Stir regularly. Remove from heat when thickened. Combine this mixture with the agar agar in a bowl.

cheesecake stuff Beat the cream cheese with the remaining grapefruit juice (½ cup) and lemon juice/rinds. Combine with the egg mixture. Lightly whip heavy cream. Beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gently fold the cream and egg whites into the cheese mixture.

cheesecake mix Pour this on top of the crust and chill for several hours.

grapefruit cheesecake spreading

Cream

Mix licorice powder, sugar, lemon extract and vodka in a bowl. Stir until well combined and smooth.

Icelandic licorice candy

licorice vodka cream Whip heavy cream with a whisk or an electric mixer until stiff and forms soft peaks.

licorice vodka cream mix 2 Gently fold licorice mixture into the cream until well mixed.

licorice vodka cream mix Chill for at least an hour.

licorice vodka cream in jar Serves 8-10 lucky people.

cheesecake with licorice cream 3

Molecular Gastronomy: Honey Wrap and My Dada

honey wrap: you are too sexy

Today is my father’s birthday. He would be 68. Were he alive, we’d probably celebrate by preparing him breakfast in bed, going to see a movie and taking him out to dinner. If he had it his way, we’d all go sailing (the rest of the family would probably protest the temperature, being November and all). In the spring of 2010, my parents moved back to the Abode after nearly 30 years away. They had plans to build a house on the land they had bought, but after a few days, it was clear that dream wouldn’t be possible.

Sid the Sailor. On a boat, dad was at his best.
Sid the Sailor. On a boat, dad was at his best.

 

My father, Sid Smallen; handyman extraordinaire, Sufi mystic, master woodworker and all around awesome guy, was struck on his back by a falling tree and paralyzed from the chest down. He sustained many other internal injuries, and after being helicoptered to the ER, we weren’t sure he would make it. For 10 months, he lived through one crisis after another; heart attack, appendicitis he couldn’t feel, not being able to eat, having to relearn how to breathe without aid, kidney failure, bedsores and at times not being able to talk due to the placement of his tracheotomy. He was moved to a rehabilitation hospital, and over those 10 months, he was never strong enough to leave it. Sometimes he was so filled with drive and energy that he was rockin’ his rehab exercises, sometimes infection and fatigue made it too difficult for him to lift his head. Finally, after being in a septic coma for 2 weeks, my father passed away peacefully, surrounded by loved ones and so much love on April 24th, 2011.

 226578_10150226778774155_5663681_n

Before the accident and as far back as I can remember, my dad was always doing something. He was an excellent tinkerer and could pretty much make whatever he put his mind to. He made most of the furniture in my mum’s home and built a house-sized, 3-story addition to a previous house we lived in. I don’t think he was capable of going a single day without thinking about power tools. He had a good mind for math and science and was also able to apply his creativity in design to his work. I have so much admiration for my father for his strength. He fought so hard when the going was really tough.

 

Dad opening presents: X-mas 2011
Dad opening presents: X-mas 2011

I wish to dedicate this post to my dad. Being my first post on molecular gastronomy, which is the science of cooking (started and cultivated by food tinkerers worldwide) I felt the scientific exploration behind MG accurately captures just the sort of tinkering he’d really appreciate.

 Bird's eye honey wrap

 

Since buying my molecular gastronomy kits, I’ve responded by either sitting around for hours watching the neat instructional videos and springing into molecular gastronomical action in my kitchen or glaring at the kits in overwhelmed disbelief of the possibilities they possess. In the beginning, I needed to take it slow, so I started with a honey wrap or sheet.

 honey wrap

Many of the gelification techniques in molecular gastronomy use agar agar, which is a gelatinous substance derived from algae and activated when boiled. It has been popular in the vegan/vegetarian movements as a gelatin substitute. It is tasteless, odorless, colourless and very easy to use. It can be ordered online and found at most health food stores.

Here is an instructional video demonstrating how to make a similar sort of sheet out of rum.

Honey Wrap

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup water
  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ tsp powdered agar agar

 

honey wrap: you are too sexy

Directions

Place all ingredients in a small pot.

Stirring constantly, bring ingredients to a boil.

Pour contents on plates or in bowls so they make a thin layer. Spread the liquid around on the surface but make sure they’re not too thin as their strength could be compromised. I’d suggest varying the thickness on each surface so you can understand what works best.

Place honey wraps in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. If they aren’t perfectly solid, give your wraps more time to cool.

Cut out a circle shape about the size of your hand from the middle of your wrap. Carefully pull the circle off the surface.

Place yogurt and/or fruit inside your wrap and enjoy.

To dad, from your little girl. Rest in peace.

 

 223570_10150589644200099_3762516_n

DIY Halloween: Spiced Rum Sea Salt Tootsie Rolls and Oriole Costume

Like most North Americans, I love Halloween. The history, the nostalgia and the excitement all jump-start us into Do-It-Yourself action to where we can’t help ourselves but to dress-up and party. It’s a very special annual event and I try to pay my respects by putting effort into costumes, candies and parties.

Having spent my previous three Halloweens in the massive metropolis of Seoul, this year’s quaint Berkshire retreat center Halloween just didn’t get my heart pounding. Though Korea doesn’t traditionally celebrate Halloween, the large ex-pat community (composed mostly of English teachers) and a general love of partying have made certain areas of Seoul a fountain of pure Halloween joy. A few Seoul neighborhoods, such as Itaewon and Hongdae, have become foreigner hot spots, so there is an endless stream of bars, people watching, parties and costume contests.

My Halloween this year was very, uh, … quiet. Many of the people I was surrounded by didn’t dress up or acknowledge that a special occasion was occurring. I, on the other hand, was possessed by the idea of a homemade DIY Halloween and fully allowed the spirit to blow through me like a hurricane (speaking of Sandy, we were extremely lucky in the NY Berkshires. We had very few power outages and little damage. A few weak trees were loosened and are threatening to fall, but haven’t yet. Hopefully, they will be removed soon. Other than that, it was just a very windy storm).  

My costume this year was of an Oriole. I was inspired to make this for two main reasons:

1) I’ve had a ridiculous bright red-orange gown for years and have always wanted to alter it into something I’d actually wear.

2) I found this fun, easy and fabulous DIY wing tutorial that made me want to be a bird of some kind. A quick Google search of what birds fit my colour criteria told me that an oriole made perfect sense. Voila!

 

And, for obvious reasons of delciousness and awesomeness, I had to make some spiced rum tootsie rolls, too. They’re very easy and extremely satisfying.

Homemade Spiced Rum Sea Salt Tootsie Rolls

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ½ cup molasses
  • 1 cup icing or confectioners sugar
  • 2 cups nonfat milk powder
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tbsp spiced rum
  • A pinch of sea salt (coarse is preferable)

tootsie ingredients

Directions

In a bowl, mix the cocoa, honey, molasses and vanilla together. Once smooth, add the butter, powdered sugar, salt and rum.

tootsie mix

Using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix the milk powder into the mixture. Knead the tootsie mix with your hands, if you prefer. It should form a smooth looking lump when finished.

tootsie lump

Let it rest and further merge into tootsie-ness for 20 minutes.

tootsie lump cut

Using a knife or pizza-cutter cut the giant tootsie into strips. Then into one inch chunks. The chunks should be malleable and not sticky.

tootsie chunk

Cut some wax paper into pieces large enough to wrap your tootsie chunks in.  Wrap them.

tootsie wraps

Bring them to a party and watch your friends devour them.

tootsie rolls

Makes 40-45 pieces.

tootsie costume tray

Flavour Pairing: Chocolate Beetroot & Black Tea Cake with Sweet Cream Cheese Icing

Yes: chocolate. And since you ask, yes: beets.

Dusted with cocoa powder and basking in glory

It was in Niki Segnit’s The Flavour Thesaurus (one of my food bibles) where I first heard of chocolate and beetroot being paired. I think my head exploded a tiny bit when I saw the two foods listed side by side. Once I’d gotten over my initial shock of the idea, I found it made perfect sense to combine these two flavours (and textures, I might add). To my surprise, Segnit’s critique of the pair was rather negative. She wrote that it tasted like “a cheap chocolate cake that’s been dropped in a flowerbed”. No matter. Nothing could deter me from trying it. I was hooked.

Holy red and brown goodness

In fact, Segnit’s comments only fascinated me more. I wanted to start a chocolate and beetroot movement. Somehow I felt I had a duty to get the word out, because certainly no one else had the thought of making this sort of thing before…right? A quick web search proved me wrong and revealed that chocolate and beetroot cakes are everywhere. And in all sorts of forms: molten lava cakes, sweet breads, brownies and cupcakes. They looked good and the bakers/reviewers/eaters couldn’t stop raving about how gorgeously the two complemented each other. I felt the need to catch up with these baked goods. The challenge was on. ON!

 

Based on their individual flavour merits, beets and chocolate are meant for each other in cake form (or a gorgeous liquid nitrogen ice cream. Anyone?).  Here are a few reasons why:

beets for beet cake

Beetroot: Beets are unique for their sweet and earthy character. These qualities together have a tendency to turn people off. As a beet advocate, I find it tragic when people decide they don’t like beets based on one or two poor experiences. Like the time they tried plain boiled beets (or worse… canned beets!) or were the victim of someone’s boring, mushy cooking. The genius in the complexity and tones of beets is how they accent and respond to other flavours; sour, salty, herby and in the case of this recipe, sweet. The beetroot not only compliments the chocolate in flavour, it also makes the cake incredibly moist and light while still providing that rich chocolaty experience we all want when eating cake. Yum, yes and yeah. 

Chocolate: Chocolate has a wide variety of flavour due to the multitude of processing it undergoes. Cocoa beans, fresh off the tree, are bitter, astringent and pretty much horrible. Once processed, chocolate falls into the roasted flavour category. Left unsweetened, chocolate is still quite bitter, but the roasting process introduces a rich nuttiness that responds incredibly well to sweeter flavours. I like to think of cocoa powder as a black canvas ready for lightening, and since it’s sort of a black hole of roasted goodness, it is very forgiving and accepting. Chocolate regularly opens its loving arms to coffee, mint, fruit, nuts and chilies. I found no reason that beets shouldn’t also be a part of that following.

More? Yes, please!

Did chocolate beetroot cake disappoint? No, it’s only surged my expectations higher. There were no flowerbeds in my kitchen that day.

Chocolate Beetroot & Black Tea Cake with Sweet Cream Cheese Icing

Ingredients

For the cake:

    • 1 ½ cup beets, boiled and mostly blended (about 2 or 3)
    • 1 cup cocoa powder (or melted bittersweet chocolate)
    • 1 cup sugar
    • ¼ cup black tea (or water)
    • 1 cup butter (melted)
    • 1 cup flour
    • 1 ¼ tsp baking powder
    • 5 eggs (separated)
    • ¼ tsp salt

For the icing:

    • 1 cup icing sugar
    • 1 cup plain yogurt
    • 3 tbsp cream cheese
    • ½ tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Peel and quarter the beets. Boil for about 30 minutes. Blend the beets in a food processor (I left a few small chunks unblended for a pleasingly colourful effect).

Preheat oven at 350ºF/180ºC/Gas mark 4.

In a large bowl mix cocoa, tea and butter together until smooth. When it mixed well, add egg yolks and the blended beets.

In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt.

In yet a third large bowl whip the egg whites until stiff. Gently fold in sugar until it combines with the egg whites. Then fold in the chocolate/beet mixture. Once combined, fold in the dry mixture until smooth.

Pour into a greased pan and bake for 30-40 minutes. Test your cake by poking it with a fork. If it comes out clean, your cake is done.

While the cake is baking, combine your icing ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add more cream cheese to achieve a thicker consistency. Add more yogurt to achieve a runnier icing. Let your icing set in the fridge.

Let your cake cool. Then ice it. Then drool over what you just made.

Join the chocolate beetroot movement.