Wow, three weeks down and only one to go! I am feeling very impressed with myself for withstanding this challenge. Last week, I wondered why I picked a whole month in the first place, but now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm excited. I'm also hungry. Not for just any old crappy candy though, I deserve only the finest treats to delight my palate when this is done. I've been daydreaming about dessert, and it's taking me back to the vision quest I went on as a senior in high school.
I should preface this story by saying that I went to a very progressive, small, private liberal arts high school in the Bay Area. We called our teachers by their first names, went on annual week long trips to restore California wildlife, snowboard, or attend numerous Shakespeare plays, and a third of the student body rarely wore shoes. This was not your typical high school experience, but my classmates and I adored it. One opportunity that we were given as seniors was to go on a vision quest - we would spent three days and three nights fasting alone in the
dessert desert. Sound like an insane thing to sign your kid up for? Well hundreds of parents were game to see what happened, and many of my classmates and I went willingly on these soul searching missions. The fasting was well rehearsed - we started a month before our trip and removed things from our diet little by little. First went caffeine, then red meat, then grains, until all we were eating on the drive to Death Valley was a handful of dried fruit.
I could tell a much longer story about how my vision quest shaped me as a young adult (read: scared me senseless - what 17 year old has ever been alone in a desert without food or entertainment before?), how I found myself, etc. It was an incredible experience and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have the time and space to reflect and look forward. But really, aside from missing my friends, boyfriend, and parents, and being a little afraid of coyotes, I was hungry. In the journal that I filled, I wrote lists of all the foods that I would eat when we got home. I wanted my dad's steak and mashed potatoes, a sandwich from Whole Foods, a burrito from Los Hermanos, my mom's spaghetti. I had a very detailed and specific menu of demands, and I spent the better part of my adventure salivating at the thought of them. As you might imagine, after 30 days if eating very little and then three days of experiencing starvation, my stomach had strunk. They took us to a sandwich place after we all reunited at the main camp and we each ate about two bites before we felt ill. Over the next few weeks, I regained my appetite and made good on my list of favorite meals. Thank goodness, right?
Today, I'm feeling a little like I did on my vision quest - hungry for a few special things and very close to making a list to help with my cravings. To truly torture myself, I'll share with you my last dessert - this amazing flourless chocolate cake that is easy enough for the most novice bakers among us. Try it out and I'll live vicariously through you!
Flourless Chocolate Cake, adapted from What2Cook:
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, plus more for pan
*I didn't make the glaze that the recipe includes, but I topped the cake with whipped cream and strawberries. It was delicious!
Heat the oven to 300 degrees and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Lightly butter the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan and line it with a round of parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment and the sides of the pan and dust with cocoa powder. Tap out any excess.
Put chocolate and butter in a medium microwaveable bowl and melt in the microwave, stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand whisk, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of water. Beat until the mixture is very foamy, pale in color, and doubled in volume. Reduce mixing speed to low and gradually pour in the chocolate and butter mixture. Increase the speed to medium and continue beating until well blended, about 30 seconds. Add the cocoa powder and mix until blended, about 30 seconds.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a pick inserted in the center comes out looking wet with small gooey clumps, 40 to 45 minutes.
Let cool in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Cover the cake pan with a wire rack and invert. Remove the pan and parchment and let the cake cool completely. Transfer to a plate. Cover and refrigerate the cake for at least 6 hours or overnight.