Every Fall my office hosts a fundraising bake sale for Centraide. However, unlike every other Fall, this year they suggested employees show off their culinary talents with a bake sale and sharing of recipes between the bakers and the eaters. Although baking is not one of my talents (every time it is more of a struggle than anything else), a couple of weeks ago I decided to step up to the challenge and showcase the only dessert that for me is fool-proof – me being the fool in this scenario. Since meringues are one of my favorite sweet treats, years ago I taught myself how to make them and they are always a hit. However, this time around the baking spirit jinxed me as you can see from the picture below. Something happened during the cooking process and the meringues resulted in a sticky caramel mess, as opposed to the light crunchy sweet bites they were supposed to be. This happened on Tuesday night, the bake sale was schedule for Thursday and with a dozen wasted eggs I was completely discouraged. The rest of that evening was spent frantically flipping through my many cookbooks trying to find another baking recipe I could replicate without too much difficulty.
At that point I remembered a dessert I had made a few times this summer which was a real hit and easy to make since it did not involve any baking per se. Chocolate pistachio cake – a refrigerator cake they call it since all you need to do is stick it in the fridge overnight to let it set. The recipe is inspired from Picnics, a recipe book published by Ryland Peters & Small. Here is my interpretation of it.
No Bake Chocolate Pistachio Cake
- 2 ½ cups dark chocolate, chopped
- 1 stick unsalted butter or ½ cup margarine
- 2 cups crushed graham crackers
- 1 cup pistachio nuts, chopped
- ¼ cup crystallized ginger, chopped
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cardamom
Put the chocolate and butter (or margarine) in the top of a double boiler set over simmer but not boiling water, and melt gently. Stir in all the remaining ingredients, then spoon into a 9 inch tin pan (or springform pan) lined with plastic wrap. Press the mixture well into the bottom and sides of the pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. Cover with foil and refrigerate over night before unmolding. Serve in bite-size pieces or slices.
Worried that I wasn’t going to have enough bites to sell at the bake sale, I remembered that I had a large bag of fresh cranberries I had just picked from the market that weekend. I decided to do a Canadian twist to a classic French dessert that my mother made for me growing up. Clafouti is typically made with cherries but since I had cranberries I decided to give that a try. It turned out nicely for a first try, probably the only this to go well for me with this bake sale prep!
- 1 cup of fresh cranberries
- 4 eggs
- 125g of granulated sugar
- 80g all purpose flour
- 80g butter
- 1 cup of milk
- 1 pinch of salt
Preheat the oven at 375°F and grease a round glass or porcelain pan, 25 to 30 cm in diameter.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs like you would for an omelet. Add the salt and sugar and mix until well incorporated. Sift the flour over the egg and sugar mixture. Melt the butter and allow it to cool a bit before adding it to the batter along with the milk.
Spread the cranberries in the dish and pour the batter over them. Place on the middle rack in the oven and cook for about 45 minutes or until the top puffs up and begins to brown. Using the tip of a knife, cut through the Clafouti to make sure it has cooked through evenly.
My baking mishaps did not end at the meringues. The morning of the bake sale, I woke up earlier than usual because I had to make individual portions and packages of my desserts. I cut my Clafouti into quarters and packaged them up in plastic wrap. I took out my chocolate pistachio cake from the refrigerator and tried to release it from its glass rectangular mold. Usually I use a metal cake pan for this recipe but since I was making a larger batch for the bake sale, I decided to spread the batter into one of my larger glass rectangular molds. The thing about glass is that, unlike the tin molds, they do not allow for any sort of bending of the pan to release its contents, and that is precisely what happened to me that morning. My chocolate pistachio cake was stuck in its mold and there was nothing I could do about it then. I figured I’d just take it to work as is and hopefully as its tempers it will be easier to release from its pan. A few hours later, it was still stuck. The bake sale was to start shortly and I still hadn’t prepared my individual portions. Eventually I decided to sacrifice part of the cake and cut out a side layer. After this ordeal, my chocolate pistachio cake was finally cut up into individual squares, presented on the Centraide table alongside my Clafouti quarters. Other than my two desserts there must have been about a dozen varieties of desserts for sale. The table was emptied under an hour… I guess you can say the event was a success!