Boca Negra: An Intensely Fudgy Cake

Late one evening I found myself craving dessert, which actually doesn't happen that often. Usually I'm happy with just a bite of candy or a cookie, but this was the kind of craving where I had to make something or I was going to die (I mean that too!). Most weeknights, I'm too tired to cook anything past dinner and I prefer to allow myself an evening of as much laziness as possible, simply so I can feel I've relaxed at least somewhat. So, making dessert wasn't something I wanted to put any time or effort into. It's pretty difficult to find a fast and easy recipe, though! I suppose it's a good thing I have ten or more dessert cookbooks because there would have to be something in at least one of them, right? I'm lucky because I happened to find the perfect recipe, a Boca Negra, in the first book I grabbed, Dorie Greenspan's Baking with Julia. (Julie who? Julia CHILD, of course, haha).

I can't say enough good things about this book. I suppose I'd feel the same way about any Julia Child based cookbook, but this one contains so many recipes that you never see, which really sets it apart. I've found that many, many baking cookbooks showcase all the same sweets: the same cookies, cakes, cupcakes, pies, icebox desserts...same flavors, same ingredients. They're all very similar! But this book has things like "Sweet Berry Fougasse," "Fruit Foccaccia," "Sage Upside-Down Baby Cake," "Poppy Seed Torte," even a wedding cake with marzipan fruits, and, of course, the "Boca Negra." Now, Julia can't be credited with all of these desserts; it's based on her PBS series and, so, the recipes come from many contributing bakers. Perhaps that's why the range of baked goods is so vast and interesting!

I've only tried out a few recipes, but I can already tell the Boca Negra is one of the best. The author describes it as "moist, dense, and dark," but it's so much more than that. First, while it's best classified as a "cake," the texture is so far from what anyone would consider as such. There's almost no flour, so it's more aligned with a flourless chocolate cake, but the texture and flavor is so intensely better. The best way I can think to describe it is to say that it's like eating the inside of a molten lava cake, but denser. It's smooth, rich, and-- served warm--incredibly comforting. Normally, I can't eat too much of a rich dessert, especially something too chocolatey; I literally get one or two bites and I'm done. I think something about the texture and warmth played against the richness, though, allowing the true addictive quality to come through.

I should add, as the author has, that this "cake" becomes something completely different once chilled; suddenly, when you take a piece out of the fridge and bite into it, you have a mouth full of fudge! What's nice is you then have a choice of what sensation you'd like to get out of this dessert. You can eat it cold and feel as if you're biting into a piece of Mackinac Island fudge or you can heat it back up to revisit the almost gooey, hot chocolate-like flavor that it exuded coming straight out of the oven; you can even allow it simply to come to room temperature and find yourself eating the perfect in-between. I love when the choice is yours :)


Balsamic BBQ Chicken with Oven Frites

I think this meal is going to be a new staple in my dinner repertoire, especially once it's warm enough outside to grill. I've always wanted to make my own barbecue sauce because I'd like to be able to tweak it perfectly to my liking and this one blew me away a bit! Normally, I avoid vinegary tasting barbecue sauces; they're completely unappealing to me. I can't tell you what it is about this sauce (by Giada DeLaurentiis, by the way) that's different from the others, perhaps the specific use of balsamic vinegar (which I adore), but the vinegary bite is almost addictive.

The fries were made with an "Oven Frites" recipe by Martha Stewart (go figure, two of my three favorite cooks!). She slices them thin and bakes them at a high temperature so that they're crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. I swear they're better than the traditional fried version. I'll admit I've grown tired of fast food fries, but I don't doubt anybody else would devour these like an order of McDonald's, especially with the addition of some Italian herbs and cheese. They're so super crunchy on the outside and light inside, just as a good fry should be! Dipped in the vinegary barbecue sauce...oh...my...goodness. I wish I had a plate right now!!

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