Beets- gnarly, lumpy and earthy-either you love them or hate them. As a child, my mother canned jars and jars of pickled beets and I refused to eat them as I refused her pickled okra and pickled peaches. It was only recently that I began cooking beets and have learned to love the taste, whether pickled, roasted or pureed as in the chocolate espresso beet cake that I baked today.
Beets are delicious seasoned with dill, onion, sour cream, vinegar, especially balsamic; as well as cumin, apples, walnuts, and a hearty mustard. Shredded raw beets are very tasty in a salad, and are an integral part of very hearty soup called Borscht. In my kitchen, I bake the scrubbed beets in foil drizzled with a good olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Once baked, I strip them of their skins, slice them and roast them again in the oven with more olive oil, salt and pepper, then drizzle either balsamic vinegar or agro di mosto over them to finish.
The recipe for the beet-chocolate cake comes from Nigel Slater’s book, Tender, an urban gardening book, fabulous in the fact Slater grows all his produce in a small back garden plot located in London. From this small plot, Slater harvests an amazing assortment of vegetables and herbs. In my travels to England, I have seen the fortitude and brilliance of the British gardener, growing not only some of the most beautiful produce, but flowers and trees as well, in very small spaces and with panache.
Chocolate Espresso Beet Cake
8 ounces cooked beets
7 ounces fine dark chocolate (70%), broken into small pieces
4 tablespoons hot espresso
3/4 cup, plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons good quality cocoa powder
5 eggs, separated
1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
Creme fraiche or ice cream, to serve
Preheat oven to 350° F.. Lightly butter an 8-inch springform pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Peel the cooked beets and process in a food processor until a coarse puree. Set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a small bowl set over simmering water. When the chocolate looks almost melted, pour the hot espresso over it and stir. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the melted chocolate, pushing down into the chocolate to soften
Sift together the flour, baking powder and cocoa. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large mixing bowl. Stir the yolks together.
Remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and quickly stir in the egg yolks. Blend well, then fold in the beets. Whisk the egg whites until stiff and fold in the sugar. Gently fold the beaten egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mixtures. Lastly, fold in the flour and cocoa.
Transfer quickly to the prepared pan an put into the oven, decreasing the heat to 325°F. Bake for forty minutes. The rim of the cake should feel spongy, the inner part should still wobble some when the pan is gently shaken.
Set the cake aside to cool, loosening it around the edges after a half an hour or so. Remove the cake after it has cooled completely. Serve in thick slices with ice cream or creme fraiche. Serves about 8.
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