Friday, April 20, 2012

Here we come

Today is absolutely gorgeous. The sky is blue and shining. There is a delicious little breeze, just enough to take the edge off the eighty! degree! weather! we're having. And of course, it is spring, so all the little birdies are doing their chirpy birdie thing and the bees are buzzing about all the roses, orange blossoms, and lavender. It is ridiculous. Oh, and did I mention the scent of it--how the air smells like it looks--all things green, growing, and bursting with bloom?

Then why have I have been in such a wretchedly bad mood? Good Lord. Maybe it is because Cedar and I have been off lately. Or maybe it is that I just spent two hours putting him down for a nap? Or maybe, the real clincher in all this is that I am one of those Americans who is controlled by their kid, who takes a million "breaks" in the midst of said nap attempt only to end up making the poor badly-parented child cry from my response after all. Good Lord indeed. Sometimes all I can do is pray this little bundle of joy won't be completely scarred by my awfulness. My sister says he could go through a "I hate mom stage" regardless of what I do, so she suggests I not lose sleep over it. But it is the scarring I worry about--the part of him that has to meet the world. Who gives a lizard's lip about mom?

Because I am trying to overcome, because Cedar is finally asleep, and because today is really a beautiful day, a magical day, with all the prettiness of the season and (let me not forget) a large jar of limoncello brewing in the cupboard, I give you two recipes. Both recipes are so easy (and well known) I hesitate to share them for fear of boring you. But that is the kind of day it is.

I give you the shandy (literally, as I just spilled it in your direction, all over my desk). It is a pleasant, fizzy number I tried last summer that combines a beer (light or dark but usually a lager) and something sweet and spunky, like ginger ale, ginger beer, cider, lemonade, citrus soda, or, in this case, sparkling lemonade. I tried Heidi Swanson's version from Super Natural Every Day last summer with a bad beer and the result was awful. It was the beer, of course, not the recipe. But I mention it because even though some might say you can't not love a shandy, I proved them all wrong. I don't think I even finished it.  Take note: ingredients matter.

But just before I sat down here I was rummaging through the fridge, trying to keep myself from the cake I made for Kevin (the one I'll tell you about in a minute), and found some Lagunitas Pils (Czech Style Pilsner) I bought accidentally instead of their IPA. Magic. (See, magic!) This was obviously the gods pointing me towards happiness and good parenting.

I just happened to have some sparkling lemonade in the cupboard, so I tried it again and here I am--convinced I must remind you about it. And because the shandy is hardly copyrighted (or shouldn't), and because I have been grumpy today and didn't have ice and didn't feel like cutting up one of a million lemons still hanging on my tree, I am going to say I've changed the recipe enough to share it here. Thanks, Heidi, for pointing me in the right direction.

The other recipe I have is from Molly. (Am I predictable or what? She gave me my other favorite chocolate cake.) This is one of those more or less flourless chocolate tortes that are always good, no matter what the measurements. I made it for my brother's birthday gathering the other night. Just a tip, even if you add coconut milk to the whipped cream, and sprinkle more coconut on top, this cake still does not finish a Thai dinner well. But I'm sure you already knew that.

This torte is easier than others I have tried. The chocolate content, just so you know, is a standard two bars--7 ounces for the chocolate impaired, which I liked more for the sheer convenience of it. Kevin and I liked the cake so much I baked up another one yesterday. Not because I wanted it, but because I have this obnoxious habit of eating the last slice of whatever is lying around, and I couldn't bear the sight (again) of Kevin, having looked forward to a wee afternoon sweet, and finding only an empty plate with crumbs. This is why I was avoiding of the cake on the table today--so there would be plenty left for him.

There now. I've done it. I feel better. My child sleeps (and waking from a nap is like waking to a new day), a cake awaits my beloved's arrival, I still have a few good sips of shandy, and now you too have a shandy and a fabulous cake, just waiting to be made. Good day, good weekend, good life, and good parenting, here we come.


Even though a lager is usual for the lighter shandy, Heidi suggests Pilsner or Hefeweizen--not too hoppy, not too bitter. I agree. Whatever you choose, make it one you like without the lemonade, this is no time to mask a really bad beer with a really good idea.

a lighter beer
sparkling lemonade

In a tall glass or mason jar mix half beer and half sparkling lemonade (or whatever potency of either you prefer), with or without ice, but hopefully chilled at least. And maybe, if you feel like it, a wedge and squeeze of lemon. Take a deep breath and enjoy!

Almost Flourless Chocolate Torte (adapted from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life)

As with the shandy, the ingredients really make a difference here. Molly suggests on her blog European-style butter. That would be nice. I only had run-of-the-mill organic butter. It worked well. And the chocolate? Stay in the 60-70% range. I used Lindt 70% bittersweet on the first run and Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet chips on the second--both were great but the first was decidedly better. Not to be repetitive, but just make sure you like the flavor of it in the bar, because that is what the cake will taste like.

7 ounces bittersweet chocolate
7 ounces (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut up into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cups sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler or heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. When the mixture is more or less smooth, take off the heat and stir in the sugar. Set aside to cool for about five minutes while you butter and line your pan.

Butter the sides and bottom of an eight inch cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter that too.

After the five minutes, add the eggs one at a time to the chocolate mixture, stirring well after each addition. Sprinkle over the flour and stir until thoroughly combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and  bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the center is just set and the sides are puffed and maybe cracked a bit. Let cool completely in the pan. When it is time to unmould, run a thin knife or small metal spatula around the sides, hold the cake with one hand on the bottom and one hand spread on top. Flip gently out onto your hand, then cover the bottom (where your hand and the pan once were) with the serving plate and reverse flip. Voila! A shrunken, unassuming, fabulous cake. Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream (spiked with the thick cream-at-the-top of coconut milk perhaps) and maybe some crushed raspberries (fresh or frozen and thawed, dash of sugar stirred in). Or, eat it like I did yesterday, unadorned and out of hand, like a piece of pizza. However you serve it, enjoy!


  1. Shandy! My grandfather taught me about fact, he taught me how to drink, but let's start with shandy. And even though the drink hasn't gained much grounds with me, I have the memory to cherish.

    Isn't that cake a classic?!

    1. Such a classic, the cake went entirely unnoticed by me for years. So glad I'm catching up!

  2. So happy to have found your blog! The German name for the shandy in southern Germany is Radler- which means a peddler... and in Hamburg it is Alsterwasser referring to the water of the river Alster that runs through or near Hamburg.... just saying... love it on a hot day!
    And that chocolate cake looks like I have to try it very soon... would that work with Almond Flour? case I want to make it gluten free.....

    1. Gabriele, so happy you popped by too! I'll have to look up the German versions...

      And yes, I think the cake would be just fine with almond flour. I make a flourless chocolate cake too, and it is very close to this. I wouldn't make the flour myself though--pre-ground almond flour is so much finer in texture. Too large of nut bits could disturb the consistency of the cake. Good luck, and do let me know how it turns out!