Michigan cookbook covers the basics and the decadent
Not long ago, Dan and I traveled to Grand Rapids to celebrate our four-year anniversary. Lately we’ve been staying through airbnb instead of booking a hotel room and have very much enjoyed a more unique experience. We stayed with an artist and cat lover through my birthday weekend and rented out a cute, red-accented basement apartment for a week in Asheville, NC. In Grand Rapids we selected a cozy cottage near downtown with trees touching over the street creating a happy canopy.
We knew our host was a pastry chef based on her bio on the website, so after she showed us around the house, I asked her about her work. She explained that she went to school to be a pastry chef, used to sell baked goods at the farmers market, and even self-published a lovely cookbook in 2011, which sat right there on the coffee table. I flipped through the pages of Michigan’s Guide to Local Cooking by Susan Clemente and decided I should review it here.
I took the copy home and have since cooked three absolutely wonderful recipes, marked about 12 recipes to try in the future and read through the first 29 pages that provide a wonderful, concise beginner’s course on the why and how of local eating. She answers questions like Is organic food more nutritious than conventional food? and gives a basic overview of what’s in our food and how to make wise buying decisions. She also provides some stunning statistics:
“Even though broccoli and carrots are likely grown within 20 miles of the average American’s home, these vegetables have traveled an average of 1,800 miles to reach your local grocer.”
“… eggs from pastured flocks contained an amazing one-third less cholesterol than commercial eggs, one-fourth less saturated fat, two-thirds more vitamin A, two times more omega-3 fatty acids and seven times more beta carotene.”
“Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in the country; California is first. Michigan’s unique micro-climates allow farmers to grow over 200 different types of food products.”
I definitely recommend this cookbook to those interested in learning more about local, sustainable eating and love to cook simple, yet delicious recipes at home. I made the Creamy Squash Soup (page 57) several weeks ago and it was perfect with a tart honeycrisp apple and autumn spices. About a week after, I made the Tomato Tart (page 75) with homegrown tomatoes and a most excellent savory cheese crust. Instead of the recommended cheeses I used some fancy Comte cheese from our local cheese shop, Oh Mamma’s on the Avenue. I also baked the whole tart for about 15 minutes to melt the cheese and kiss the tomatoes with a bit of heat. I didn’t have a tart pan, so I used a piece of tin foil to make a lipped cookie sheet into a make-shift tart pan.
And the recipe you’ve all been waiting for is the Flourless Chocolate Cake (page 105) that I baked Sunday and covered in rich dark chocolate ganache Monday after work. It also packs a punch of expresso, basically making the dish a balanced breakfast. At least that’s how I treated it Tuesday and Wednesday – glass of raw milk and a decadent slice of homemade glory!
Flourless Chocolate Cake
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate
- 6 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate
- 1 pound unsalted butter, diced
- 1 cup freshly brewed espresso
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 8 large eggs, beaten
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
- ½ cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 pints of fresh ripe raspberries (summer)
- 2 cups of heavy cream (winter)
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a round 9-inch cake pan (2 inches deep) with parchment. Place the chocolate in a large bowl. Bring the butter, espresso and sugar to boil in a medium saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the hot mixture to the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the eggs and pour the batter into the pan.
- Next, make a hot water bath by placing the cake pan into a roasting pan. Place in the oven. Pour hot water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of cake pan, about 1 inch. Bake until cake is set, and the center is firm, about 1 hour. Remove the pan from oven. Chill cake.
- To loosen cake, cut around sides of pan and place flat dish over pan, hold pan and platter together tightly and invert. Remove cake pan and peel off parchment.
- Place the chopped chocolate in a medium-sized stainless steel bowl and set aside. Heat the cream and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow it to melt for a few minutes, then stir with a whisk to incorporate.
- Place the cake on a wire rack on top of a sheet pan. This way, if the ganache drips it will end up on the sheet pan. Using a cake spatula, cover the sides and top of the cake with about 4 tablespoons of ganache. This crumb coat seals in any loose crumbs so your cake will have a smooth finish. Refrigerate cake for 5 minutes for crumb coat to set.
- Add another layer of ganache. Pour the remaining ganache onto the center of the cake. Using the spatula, make big strokes to smooth ganache over the top and then the sides of the cake.
- Serve with raspberry sauce and fresh berries, or freshly whipped cream.
- Raspberry Sauce: Working in batches, puree half of raspberries in a blender. To remove the seeds, strain the puree, pour into a container and chill. This can be made a day in advance.
- Whipped Cream: Pour the cream and sugar into a bowl, stirring to dissolve sugar. Whip the cream by hand or with a mixer on high speed until peaks form. Don’t over mix.