Saturday, September 10, 2011

Easing in with Chocolate

It's back to the grind. It's officially fall. Oh, I know it's still mid twenties out there, and there's still humidity. I'm well aware that I just bought another watermelon and 2 pounds of peaches. I know that today was a lovely biking day and we totally got our sweat on riding to the park and back. And yes, I know the official turn of the season is not for another few weeks. There will be lots of berries, iced teas and patio evenings left this summer. I know. And I love it.

But ... school started. And for me, that marks the end of summer fun and the beginning of another academic year. It's back to the grind. I love my job; in fact, after a day back in school, I felt like I never left. But I do already miss the long lazy afternoons of coffee drinking, novel reading and slow-food baking. Oh the baking. I still bake a lot during the school year, but it's not like in the summer when I have time to mull about, let dough rise or spend forever pitting cherries and listening to music. Baking is often quick. It's often something I throw together to make Thursday night a little more special. It's more than often big batches of treats to sell at fundraiser bake sales. It's sometimes done in the very early morning on Saturday and given to my parents as a little treat later in the day. It's most often a healthy batch of something tasty quickly made on Sunday evening so I'll have something to look forward to during the work week.

This year, I celebrated the end of my first work week with a little bit of chocolate. Nothing too fancy or too oooey gooey, but a nice, sensible chocolate loaf cake to help ease me back to work. This cake is humble. It looks plain jane and rather sensible; kind of like outfits that you have wear to work. Comfortable, sensible, but not too stylish, nothing that will draw too much attention, but something that will make you look good. This cake is exactly that. To be specific, it's a chocolate tahini cake, and it's the perfect pick-me-up after a day at work, or in the middle when you can't keep your eyes open long enough to last through the last hour. It's got an amazingly tender crumb and a deep dark chocolate taste that pairs so nicely with the richness of the tahini, which shines through all the way. It's the kind of snack that you pack and forget about, but when you remember it, your day becomes so much brighter. And when you're at work, a little chocolate always helps you work that much better.

I got the recipe for this cake from a beautiful vegan blog called "have cake, will travel." However, I kind of de-veganized it by using yogurt in place of the apple sauce that the original recipe called for. I haven't tried it yet with apple sauce, but I think it's actually the yogurt that makes the texture of this cake so tender and delicious. Vegan yogurt would probably work (although I've had bad experiences with that ..), or you could always increase the amount of soy milk and add a squeeze of lemon juice or a teaspoon of cider vinegar. I think the acid is the key. Just for kicks, I'll try it with apple sauce and let you know. For now, I'm digging into another slice and getting ready for another work week.

Chocolate Tahini Loaf
adapted from have cake, will travel **I halved the original recipe, so I'm sure the one below doubles nicely

1/4 cup of tahini
1/4 cup of honey or agave
6 tablespoons of soy or almond milk
1/4 cup of yogurt (or juice of half a lemon topped up with soy, or soygurt)
splash of almond extract
3/4 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 cup of natural cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of sesame seeds (I used a mixture of both white and black)

1. In a large bowl, mix together the whisk together the wet ingredients. Sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa powder. Mix until just combined.

2. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and sprinkle over the sesame seeds. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until a cake-tester inserted comes out clean. Happy work week!

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