Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chocolate Beet Cake

It sounds like an unlikely pairing – dark red, earthy beets and chocolate. But trust me, it works. As part of my day job I work in the therapeutic area of oncology. Recently, I was lucky enough to visit Wellspring, a support service for cancer patients that operates in affiliation with Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto ( These people are amazing, offering services ranging from financial planning (cancer is expensive), exercise, therapy, to nutrition (among other things). The morning we were there we started with a tour of the facilities (beautiful) and then sat down for a breakfast meeting. They served chocolate cake for breakfast. My kind of people.

I asked for the recipe, because it was moist, rich, a beautiful colour, and delicious. That’s when I found out the cake contained beets!

Here’s the recipe.

Puree until smooth:
2 cups cooked beets, peeled and chopped (I roasted my beets – refer to my beet and kale recipe for details on how to roast and peel beets)
½ cup applesauce (I use unsweetened)

Set aside once pureed.

Combine and mix until smooth:
1 ½ cups sugar (I cut this back to a little less than 1 cup)
½ cup vegetable oil (I used grapeseed)
½ cup yogurt (I use 0% fat Greek yogurt)
3 eggs

Add to beet mixture:
½ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract (use real vanilla)

Puree for about 90 seconds.

Sift together:
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

Gradually sift the dry ingredients into the sugar, egg, yogurt mixture  and stir only until blended. 

Then add:
½ cup chocolate chips (semi sweet) (optional)
½ cup nuts (optional – I don’t put nuts in because my kids don’t like nuts)

Stir in. Pour batter into a square 9.5” x 9.5” x 2” pan that has been sprayed generously with cooking spray. If you don’t have a square pan this size, you can use a different sized pan as long as it holds the same volume (Google equivalent pan sizes).

Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes. If you bake in a convection oven, reduce the heat by 25 degrees and start checking the cake for doneness at about 35 to 40 minutes.

Rhubarb Custard Pie

It was Canadian Thanksgiving a few weeks ago and I had originally intended to post Thanksgiving recipes pre-Thanksgiving. Unfortunately that turned out to be a little bit impossible since The King of Soup (my husband) was away most of that weekend and I was busy refereeing my two boys and puppy most of the time.
On Sunday I did as all good parents do – put the electronic babysitter (TV) on duty for a while so I could get the dinner made in time for The King of Soup’s arrival home. He was bringing with him our friends Saro and Anne, and I wanted to ensure I had some meat and non-meat options to make all parties thankful.
Along with a varied menu, dessert also had to be provided. A few months earlier we had visited my husband’s Aunt who lives outside of Toronto. She had prepared a delicious meal (for about 22 people), as usual, and when dessert came it was a Rhubarb Custard Pie that was completely bananas. The recipe came from her friend Linda, who baked it for our dessert that night.
I asked Linda for permission to use her recipe on this blog and she agreed. I did make some changes to the recipe but not because it wasn’t completely delicious – more out of necessity. First, I used a springform pan instead of a pie plate because I loathe rolling out pastry. Instead, I like to simply press it into the pan with my fingertips. This seems to work better in a springform for some reason. The other change I made was to use other fruits along with the rhubarb and this was because I could not find rhubarb in the stores because it is out of season. Yes, I was forced to buy canned rhubarb (not something I am proud of). 
I am providing the original recipe below, with my changes in brackets so you can decide which one you want to make.
The pie that Linda made was superb. The tartness of the rhubarb, in season in the summer, was a perfect contrast to the creamy sweetness of the custard. The rich, buttery topping crisped up in the oven when the pie was re-heated. With a dollop of vanilla ice cream dropped on top, and beginning to melt into the warm pie, perfection was achieved.
Linda did not provide me with a recipe for pastry so here I am sharing with you the standard pastry recipe I use for most pies, taken from one of my bibles, The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker.
Linda’s Rhubarb Custard Pie
For the crust (adapted from The Joy of Cooking):
Sift together: 1 cup all purpose flour and ½ tsp salt. Add 10 tbsp chilled butter.
Cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender, or use a food processor and pulse until mixture resembles pea-sized grains. You can also use your fingers to do this.
Then add 2 tbsp cold water and process until ingredients hold together. You may add 1 tsp more water if needed.
Press the dough into the bottom of a springform pan – try to build up the sides of the pie crust so it looks like a deep-dish crust. Pierce the bottom of the crust numerous times with a fork and blind bake the crust for 10 minutes at 450 degrees F. Blind baking means to bake it without filling. Some people like to use pie weights or lentils or beans in the bottom of the crust to prevent it from puffing up too much as it bakes, but I find piercing it with a fork works just as well.
If you prefer to roll out your pastry and use a regular pie plate, roll it out on a floured surface.  Trim edge of pie plate leaving 1/3 inch overhang.  Fold overhang under fluted edge. 

For the filling

4 cups of chopped rhubarb (raw) [I used 1 cup blueberries, 1 cup raspberries, 1 cup canned rhubarb, and 1 cup peeled and sliced apples]
1 egg
1 ½ cups white sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup all purpose flour

Arrange chopped rhubarb (or fruit combo) evenly in pie crust.

Whisk together egg, sugar, sour cream and flour until smooth.  Pour over rhubarb (or fruit combo).

For the topping:

½ cup all purpose flour
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup of butter, melted

Mix flour and sugar and drizzle in melted butter and mix with fork until crumbly.  Sprinkle on top of filling.

Bake in bottom third of 450 degree F oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 and bake about 50 - 60 minutes.  Let cool before cutting.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream if desired.