Postpartum Baking

(I took this picture one-handed, while trying to calm down the flailing, crying baby in my other arm at the same time. Happy Mother’s Day!)

As you may have noticed, I wasn’t able to participate in the Daring Bakers challenge for April. (I fully intend to bake May’s challenge, by the way, and have already purchased the ingredients. Now to formulate a plan of attack for breaking it down time-wise… I’m thinking it would be a good Mother’s Day project for me.) I can count on one hand the baked goods I had time to make in April: peanut butter-chocolate chip cookies, no-bake cookies, some rather blah cinnamon muffins from the King Arthur cookbook, a batch of buttermilk biscuits, and some chocolate chip cookies. Not exactly exciting, but we take what we can get these days. (I thought I had already written up my no-bake cookies, but maybe not. They aren’t anything special, but we like them… I’ll snap a shot and write them up next time I make some.)

I was dying to try out something new but still relatively easy, and I hit on the Light Chocolate Pound recipe in Alice Medrich’s book, Bittersweet. It was low fat, not overly complicated, and didn’t even require me to dirty a board chopping chocolate—right up my alley! I don’t have a tube pan of the appropriate size, so I substituted in the “bundt” ring in my 9″ springform, which turned out to hold just the right amount of batter. Releasing the finished cake from its clutches turned out to be an ordeal though, despite the pan’s non-stick coating and my preventative spray of oil. Good thing I wasn’t serving it to company, but a drizzle of ganache will cover a multitude of sins in any case. 🙂 I cheated with a jar of Scharffenberger ganache we were given at Christmas, but this cake would be delicious with a little icing glaze or even just a puff of powdered sugar. I should also note that this is one of those cakes that improves overnight: I found it a little dry right out of the oven and thought I had overcooked it, but it was much more moist the next day (when we ate wedges of it with our fingers like snack cakes!).

A Light Chocolate Pound

1 C plus 2 T sugar
1 C AP flour
1/2 C unsweetened natural cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
3/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
4 T unsalted butter, softened
1 cold large egg
2 cold large egg whites
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 C cold low-fat (1%) milk

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350F. Spray a 6-cup tube pan with vegetable oil.

In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa, soda, and salt. Add the butter, egg and whites. Set a timer for 2 minutes and begin beating with an electric mixer on medium speed. When the dry ingredients are moistened but not wet, increase the speed to high and beat until the 2 minutes are up.

Combine the vanilla and cold milk, and add to the batter. Start at low speed, then slowly increase to high speed and beat for exactly 2 minutes more total. Scrape the batter into the pan and spread it evenly. Bake just until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 35-40 minutes; do not overbake. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then unmold onto the rack to cool completely. Serve dusted with powdered sugar or drizzled with icing or ganache.

Note: The original recipe called for a teaspoon of espresso powder, but I left it out, because I don’t have any and I am not a coffee fan anyway (and yes, I know all about coffee’s affinity for chocolate.) Add it if you like! Also, I misread the instructions and added 3/4 tsp of baking soda instead of 3/8 tsp; then I attempted to scoop some of it back out when I realized my mistake, but I’m sure there was more soda in my cake than intended. It made absolutely no difference that I could tell, and we were happy with the texture of the cake.

Source: Bittersweet, by Alice Medrich

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