Friday, May 9, 2008

Chocolate "Not"-lage

There are very few things in my life that are absolute certainties. I prefer to deal in hypotheticals, dreams, ideas, and gray areas rather than concretes. However, there is one fact that I face daily now that the hell that was Spring 2008 is over. If I do not write a dissertation proposal this summer, I will not graduate in May. Even if I write a proposal, there is still no guarantee that I will graduate then. But, failure to write down what I plan to study over the next year certifies that I will under no circumstances walk in May.

You'd think that understanding the implications of not writing a proposal would be enough motivation to push me in the right direction. And it is, as I had full intentions of writing something, anything, down yesterday, on my first full day of summer vacation. Instead, I went to the grocery store, planted an herb garden, got paint samples for the guest bathroom, made cupcakes from scratch, roasted pork tenderloin for dinner, and laid out by the pool. I did read the first two chapters in "Tune In/Log On" by Nancy Baym while I was laying out. So I guess that counts for something; regardless, I woke up today determined to do more work. So far, I have run 3 miles, did yoga for 45 minutes, made lunch, baked a new dessert for tomorrow's lunch with Dave's mom, and decided to blog about it. I call this my creative writing exercise for the day.

So there's a restaurant in Birmingham, Cobb Lane. It is difficult to find, and I've only really eaten there once for Allison's bridal tea. At night, it turns into a martini bar - Blue Monkey - where I have sipped on many an inspirational chocolate martini (it was the first place I ever tried one, actually). Cobb Lane is a charming little Southern restaurant, and I fell in love with one of their desserts - chocolate roulage. It's like a grown-up version of a swiss cake roll. I loved it so much I bought the cookbook on the way out the door that day, and resolved to make it for myself at some point. Unfortunately, I'm not as talented of a chef as I wish I was, so I had to modify it. Here is, then:

Chocolate Not-lage
5 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar, divided
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% cocoa squares), melted over a double boiler with 3 tablespoons water
coco powder
1 cup whipping cream
2 tsp vanilla extract

To begin, melt the chocolate with water, set aside to cool slightly. Preheat oven to 325. Generously butter a cookie sheet, cover with one piece of wax paper, and then generously butter the wax paper. In medium-sized bowl, whip egg whites until stiff peaks form, set aside. In another large bowl, beat egg yolks well. Add 3/4 cup sugar, and beat until thick. Stir in the cooled, melted chocolate. Gently fold in the egg whites. Spread over the wax paper, bake for 10 minutes, and reduce heat (I reduced it to 300, the cookbook did not say exactly what temperature I should reduce the oven to) and bake for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven, and cover with a cool, wet towel until cooled completely. While cake is cooling, whip cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff.

Here is where the recipes diverge and things got tricky for me. The original recipe calls for you to dust the cake with cocoa, and turn it over on a clean sheet of wax paper, then gently remove the old wax paper. Then, you are to spread the whipped cream all over the cake, and roll it up like a jelly roll.

This results in a beautiful presentation and makes you look like a kitchen rock star. However, my cake came out a little cracked. I was too scared to attempt to jelly-roll it. So, I took out a clear, small casserole dish, and made a "not-lage." I cut out a section of cake, and laid it down in the bottom of the dish. Then, I covered it with 1/3 of the whipped cream. I layered the dessert until I had used up all the whipped cream and topped it with the last section of cake, which I dusted with cocoa. I put the lid on the dish and stuck it in the fridge, where it will stay until I'm ready to go tomorrow. I haven't tried it yet, but I did eat some of the whipped cream with a piece of the cake, and boy howdy, it is amazing. I plan on cutting little squares to serve, and maybe even garnishing it with some fresh raspberries.

And, I plan on getting right to work on the proposal, right now.

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