The month of January. No offense to the countless friends I seem to have with birthdays during the month — but in my world the first month of the year can bite me.
It’s not the snow, not the perpetually-freezing temps. It’s not the gray sky or lack of green veggies at the farmer’s market. It’s the sickness — for multiple years going, January has proven to be our sickest month of the year. My children are never sick at one time — instead they tend to individually succumb, then at the end of their personal battle pass the microbes on to a sibling, who then holds onto it for about 5 days until the circle of love continues. Repeat.
From just before Christmas, until this weekend — minus a couple breaks of a few days — I had at least one sick child. I know that it’s uncool to complain about anything at all when you’re a mother, since we’re supposed to just be thankful at all moments of every day that we are blessed with children — but seriously, the weeks nearly landed me in a padded room. I am an introvert to my very core — if I don’t occasionally get something that at least resembles “alone time” on a weekly basis then my inner barometer starts to spin out of control. I can’t think straight, I get depressed, I become a shining example to my children of how not to mother (lots of apologies were in order).
And I don’t want to cook. Nothing but the bare minimum, and lots of chicken soup.
But the sun rose on Friday morning, and my two oldest children went to school. Both of them. At the same time. I saw a glimpse of sanity on my horizon; and like a single drop of water to a parched soul, that glimpse only left me wanting more. I was all jittery, seized by the prospect of an afternoon alone — and since Tim would be at a workshop all day Saturday, he’d offered to give me something like that on Friday. But I misunderstood what he meant — and when I brought my 4-year old home from school, my dream of an afternoon spent wandering the halls of the Indianapolis Museum of Art was extinguished like a gas burner underneath an over-boiled pot. My icy, silent tantrum would last the rest of the day.
But with the next morning came resolve. I was internally reminded: my children are adorable, lovely creatures — and really, quite easy to be around (most of the time). On Saturday, I satisfied their need for a fun activity by hitting up our rarely visited Chick-fil-A for lunch. They played some games together, and by mid-afternoon I let them watch a movie while I sat in my kitchen, alone. I was looking up recipes for lamb stew when I saw a tweet about flourless chocolate cake.
I had not made one in years, though it used to be one of my favorite go-to desserts. And before I knew it, I was foregoing my search for stew and flipping through old magazines, looking for the dog-eared, egg-splattered page. Cracking open eggs, melting chocolate in a double-boiler. And it was sometime in those moments that I felt normal again — or maybe more appropriately, sane. My kids came downstairs when the movie was over, just in time to watch me fold in egg whites and have the tiniest taste of the batter. They were fascinated by how the cake rose so high in the oven, only to collapse beautifully as it cooled. They asked, is it someone’s birthday? Is someone coming for dinner? And as I answered that no, I just wanted to bake a cake, I realized how much of me I had been withholding as I tended to all those sick-house duties.
This cake is simple, and worthy of that moment. It has a lovely dark-chocolate flavor (I prefer bittersweet chocolate, which renders it not too rich or sweet) and a light, soft texture. Dusted with powdered sugar, it is a rustic beauty atop a round white cake stand — and in my experience it’s a dessert that impresses without fail.
Recipe: Flourless Chocolate Cake
: adapted closely from this recipe at Everyday Food
If you’ve never folded egg whites, you need a large bowl and a rubber spatula, and should watch this video — it’s easy once you see how it’s done.
- 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 6 eggs, separated
- 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for pan (could sub coconut oil for dairy-free)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- pinch sea salt
- powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
- whipped cream, for topping (optional)
- Preheat oven to 275°, and have rack in center of oven. Butter or oil a 9-inch springform pan.
- Combine butter and chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl. Set bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth. Let cool slightly, then whisk in the egg yolks.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar & pinch salt, and beat until stiff and glossy.
- Whisk about 1/4 of egg whites into chocolate. Then gently fold the chocolate back into the rest of the whites.
- Pour into greased pan and smooth the top. Bake until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and is just set in the center, about 45-50 minutes (cake will puff up, but will collapse flat as it cools). Serve dusted w/ powdered sugar, topped with fresh whipped cream.
Copyright © Katy Carter, 2011.
As if a flourless chocolate cake wasn’t enough to punctuate our household’s return to health, I was utterly delighted on Sunday morning when I awoke to an email from Loralee Choate of Where Women Cook — a quarterly print magazine “all about the women … some famous, some not; some entrepreneurs, some not; some vegetarian, some not; some in beautiful kitchens, some not; and some who create their own recipes, and some who do not … but all who are passionate about all things food.”
Loralee had selected my blog to feature in the Sunday Brunch portion of Amuse-Bouch, the online presence of the magazine. If you follow me on twitter, you might have seen a few tweets that included words like “panic attack” — I of course meant that in the best sense of the word. I was beaming all day at having been featured, and am allowing the fun of it all to carry me (and my chocolate cake leftovers) straight through this week.
This week that has graciously started with healthy children.