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For a decadent Valentine’s Day dessert, try this chocolate loaf cake

Go with a more intense cocoa powder for this one.
Dark chocolate yogurt cake [LORRAINE FINA STEVENSKI | Special to the Times]

Craving a deep, dark chocolate cake that is moist and fudgy? This one’s for you — and your Valentine.

The thing that makes this recipe work is Dutch-processed cocoa. Why? Here’s the science: Some recipes call for unsweetened regular cocoa powder, while others call for unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa. The two cocoas are not interchangeable.

Both are roasted cacao beans that have been ultrapulverized for baking purposes, but there is a basic difference between Dutch-processed and natural cocoa powder: acid. Who knew cocoa powder was acidic?

The leavening agents in recipes, things such as baking powder and baking soda, are typically balanced against the specific PH of the cocoa you are using. PH levels measure how much acid or alkaline a substance contains. Baking soda, which is less acidic, is generally paired with natural cocoa to neutralize its acidity. Baking powder is paired with Dutch-processed cocoa because both ingredients are essentially neutral already.

Look at the label to know what you are buying at your market. The PH of the cocoa also affects its dissolvability. Dutched cocoa dissolves more readily in liquid compared with natural cocoa.

Natural cocoa is intense and full flavored. Essentially, it’s cocoa that has not had its acid stripped and is usually lighter in color and more bitter tasting. Natural cocoa powder is what is typically found in American grocery stores. We’re talking Hershey’s Cocoa powder or Ghirardelli cocoa powder.

Dutch-processed cocoa, also called Dutched or European-style, is treated with an alkali (potassium solution) to neutralize its acidity. The treatment process, invented by a Dutchman in 1828, smooths and mellows the cocoa’s flavor and darkens its color. Hershey’s dark cocoa and Guittard Cocoa Rouge Cocoa Powder are Dutch-process cocoa.

The higher the quality of cocoa powder, the better your cake will taste.

This cake tastes fabulous served cold from the refrigerator with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Since this is the peak of strawberry season, it’s a great time to serve chocolate-dipped strawberries with this cake. You can add more mini chocolate chips to the batter if you want a triple chocolate treat.

I like Guittard Cocoa Rouge Dutched cocoa powder and Guittard semisweet chocolate chips. I use my leftover morning coffee, a medium breakfast blend, for this cake. You will get a deeper flavor if you use a darker blend of coffee. My favorite plain Greek yogurt is Fage’s 5 percent.

Lorraine Fina Stevenski is a self-taught baker and award-winning recipe contest addict. This column features recipes that have been entered in contests across America and updated for readers who love to bake. Contact her at lorrainestevenski@gmail.com.

Dark Chocolate Yogurt Loaf Cake

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup brewed coffee, at room temperature

1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder

3 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup whole milk plain Greek yogurt

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (regular bake, not convection). Arrange an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Spray a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray. Cut a piece of parchment paper to line the bottom and sides of the pan, then spray again with cooking spray. The overhanging parchment ends will be your handle to easily remove the cake from the pan. Set the loaf pan on a quarter sheet pan.

In a medium microwave-safe mixing bowl, add the butter pieces, chocolate chips and brewed coffee. Melt the mixture in the microwave for 60 seconds or until the chocolate is melted; stir after 30 seconds. Whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth.

In a large mixing bowl, vigorously whisk the eggs, granulated sugar and vanilla until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is lightened in color, about 2 minutes.

Whisk in the yogurt and chocolate mixture; mix just until smooth and blended.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Sprinkle over the batter and gently whisk in just until no visible flour remains, about 1 minute. The batter will be thin.

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes or until a tester comes out with just a few moist crumbs. Do not open the oven door to test the cake until after 1 hour. If crumbs still remain, continue baking for another 10 minutes and then test again. The top of the cake will be cracked and nicely risen. Cool in the pan to room temperature. Run a knife along the sides of the pan and lift the loaf out with the extended parchment flaps. Store covered at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

Serves about 8.

Source: Lorraine Fina Stevenski

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