Can I say, it has been such a hoot cooking out of ‘Gjelina, Cooking from Venice, California’ by Travis Lett this month! I learned so many new techniques (to me) and some brilliantly unusual combinations that have resulted in tasty meal after tasty meal.
For a book that highlights the prep work that a restaurant maintains in order to get fabulous dishes out to a hungry clientele, and so many amazing savoury mains and salad recipes, it’s the dessert portion of the book that I’ve especially loved. There were the decadent Butterscotch Pots de Creme with Salted Caramel, a glorious Strawberry Rhubarb Polenta Crisp, the Ginger Gelato that I’m still savouring, and this cake. The Kabocha Olive Oil Bittersweet Chocolate Cake.
I had kind of put this recipe on the back burner, since I figured the chances of finding a kabocha squash at the market at this time of year would be slim to none. But low and behold, one day I was walking through St Lawrence Market, and one of the vendors had some beautiful squash just waiting to be loved. And there was one lone kabocha in amongst the acorn and butternut squash. I grabbed him (it looked like a ‘him’) knowing exactly what recipe I could now try.
If a cake can be a cozy hug on a cool day, it is this one. It is super moist, chocolatey in the most dangerous way, and that lovely background of the squash makes you just want every bite to last a little bit longer on your tongue. The glaze is made with olive oil as well, but you would never know. It is the perfect contrast to the cake, both in colour, and in flavour. And the sprinkling of pepitas and cocoa nibs are just the perfect bow on a present of a cake. Don’t leave this step out. Their crunch, and the slight bitterness to the cocoa nibs is fantastic.
I would love to include all the dessert recipes I made, for this month’s CookBook Club page, but to me, this one sums them all up: a cake that evokes Autumn but tastes so wonderful in April that it transcends the seasons, is the dessert recipe worth representing a fantastic cookbook. Make it in July, trust me you’ll love it as much as if you baked it in November. You will want to bake this cake once a month- it goes fast. And freezes fabulously.
I’m including the recipe for the Ginger Gelato as well. It is amazing!!! IF, and only IF, you like ginger. The piercing sweet heat of ginger does not get lost in this gelato. But I adore this recipe. There is just enough honey in the recipe to temper the ginger. And it’s actually a very easy recipe, as far as ice cream recipes go. We’ve used it in Root Beer floats, over Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp, and I admit, I’m just sticking my spoon in and eating it right out of the tub.
KABOCHA OLIVE OIL BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH GINGER GELATO
- 2 lb piece of kabocha squash , seeded
- 1 cup plus 1 tbsp (255 ml olive oil) + more for drizzling
- 1½ cups (180g) all-purpose flour
- 1½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- ¾ tsp kosher salt
- 1⅓ cups (265 g) granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 8 oz (230 g) bittersweet chocolate (finely chopped)
OLIVE OIL GLAZE
- 1 1/4 cup (150 g) icing sugar, sifted
- 2 tbsp hot water
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp cocoa nibs
- 2 tbsp pepitas
- ¼ vanilla bean , halved lengthwise
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- One 4½-ounces piece fresh ginger , peeled and sliced ¼ in [6 mm] thick
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1 egg , plus 1 egg yolk
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup Buttermilk Crème Fraîche (I used homemade kefir to make mine)
- 2 Tablespoons honey
ROASTING THE SQUASH
To make squash puree, heat oven to 425F, cut a 2 lb piece of kobacha squash into a few large pieces, place on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast 30-45 minutes, until squash is tender enough to be easily pierced with a fork.
Once roasted, allow to cool, before remove the skin of the squash, and pureeing with a food processor. Transfer puree to a fine mesh strainer, or into some cheese cloth, and allow to drain for at least 4 hours or overnight.
You will need 1 cup of the drained squash puree for the cake.
MAKING THE CAKE
Preheat oven to 325F.
Butter and line with parchment, a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
In a large bowl, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, mix with a whisk until combined.
In a medium bowl, add sugar, olive oil, squash puree, and eggs. Whisk until combined.
Pour the squash mixture into the dry flour mixture, and whisk until just combined.
Mix the chocolate into the batter.
Pour the batter into the loaf pan, and bake 75 to 90 minutes, until browned on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean (their will likely be some chocolate streaks, but there should be no batter on the toothpick).
Once baked, remove from oven, and let cool in pan for 20 minutes. Then run a knife along the ends of the cake and use the parchment to remove the cake to cool on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before icing.
While the cake is cooling, in a dry pan on medium heat, roast the pepitas about 3-5 minutes until lightly toasted and fragrant.
To make the icing, whisk together icing sugar and hot water, adding a small amount of additional water as necessary, until it has reached the consistency of honey. Add the olive oil, whisking constantly. Pour the glaze over the cooled cake, allowing it to drip over the sides.
Sprinkle cocoa nibs and the roasted pepitas on top of the glazed cake.
Allow the glaze to set 60 minutes before serving.
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into a small saucepan. Add the bean pod, milk, cream, ginger, and salt. Stir over medium-high heat until steaming and bubbles begin to form around the edges. Turn off the heat and let steep for at least 20 minutes, or up to 2 hours.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yolk, and sugar until the mixture is pale yellow and falls in smooth ribbons when lifted with a spoon.
Place a fine mesh sieve over a pitcher, and set aside.
Discard the bean pod. Pour the warm milk-ginger mixture into a blender and purée on high speed until smooth, about 10 seconds. Pour the mixture through the fine-mesh sieve into the liquid measuring cup. Gradually pour the strained milk-ginger mixture into the egg base, whisking constantly. Whisk in the crème fraîche and honey.
Refrigerate the mixture for at least 4 hours, or up to overnight. Churn according to your ice-cream maker’s directions until frozen.
Store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 weeks.
Read this recipe well: the squash needs to be prepared well in advance. Having said this, I could actually see this working well with a mix of pumpkin and sweet potato puree as well, in case you can't seem to find a kabocha squash.
By Travis Lett