Rationalizations of a Chocoholic

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Note to self.

Reasons to eat chocolate:

Chocolate…
is one of the most delicious things ever invented.
is good for my heart.
has antioxidants to help keep me looking spry and youthful.
has been used since Aztec times as an (ahem) aphrodisiac.
can help combat high blood pressure and diabetes.
is the subject of a prodigious amount of literature.
can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.
causes production of serotonin and dopamine in the brain, which are nature’s antidepressants.
is grown in sunny tropical places, which is where I’d be right now if I had my choice.
is nature’s way of making up for all the bad things we have to endure in life.
is one of the four basic food groups. (yes, that’s right, we’re talking about my world here…)

Reasons to not eat chocolate:

Chocolate…
is addictive. Hey, I can quit whenever I want!

Who am I kidding? I’d eat the stuff even if it caused me to grow foot-long pustules from my neck.

(Almost) Instant-‘fix’ Chocolate Heroin Cake

This is a slightly tarted-up version of your basic flourless chocolate gâteau, and can be ready within an hour if you have all the ingredients on hand (note to self: always have ingredients on hand). To fully appreciate this cake, underbake it just a little, so that the center is still slightly gooey. This cake has an interesting characteristic: if you leave it at room temperature, it will be soft and tender with a moist ‘crumb’, however once you chill it, it gains a completely different texture, kind of like a firm ganache truffle-center. Either way, it’s sinfully good.

300g (10 oz) bittersweet chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
200g (1 cup) sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
125g (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder, or high quality instant coffee
1/4 teaspoon salt
100g (3.5 oz) nuts (such as walnuts, hazelnuts, or almonds), lightly toasted & finely ground (optional – don’t let a lack of nuts hold you back…)
a couple glugs of your favorite booze (such as whiskey, brandy, rum or liqueur – also optional)

for topping:
1 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla OR
2-3 tablespoons liqueur (the same as you used in the cake or Marsala, Cointreau, Kahlua…)
sugar to sweeten

Butter and flour a 9-inch (23cm) springform pan. Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Melt chocolate, instant coffee and butter together in microwave. Stir in the vanilla. Beat half the sugar and the egg yolks together until pale and thick. Beat in warm chocolate mixture, ground toasted nuts and booze, if using. (This mixture often separates on me, but all will be well again once you start folding in the egg whites.) Beat egg whites and salt and the remaining sugar with clean beaters until stiff but not dry (soft peak stage). Stir one-quarter into the chocolate to lighten it, then gently fold in the remainder just until no white streaks remain. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until slightly puffed in the center and no longer jiggly. I start checking after 25 minutes, and take it out when there is just a bit of batter clinging to the toothpick in the center. Remove from oven, cool completely in the pan, and serve chilled or at room temperature with the cream, which you should softly whip with the sugar and your choice of flavors.

Another thing I love to serve with this cake (which I like even better than whipped cream), is slightly sweetened Greek yogurt. The slight tartness and freshness of the yogurt is a perfect complement to the dark, intense chocolate.

Keep in mind that chocolate, unlike people, improves as it ages, so let this cake sit for several hours or even a full day before you dig in (if you can!).

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