I never cook any of Joke's recipes, even though I've heard it said that Joke is a good cook. I mean, he tells me this all the time. But--for one thing--his recipes are always for sort of grill-happy, extra-virgin-olive-oil laden foods that seem, somehow, out of season most of the time. Could this be because he lives in Miami, home of the South Beach diet, and I live in Chicago, home of the Vienna hot dog, the pierogi, and the Tootsie Roll?
And yet, even in this god-awful, fatty meats-guzzling spot, I entertain from time to time. And once in a great while, I get asked for a recipe.
The thing is, the recipes people want? Are always for those "doctor-up-the-cake-mix" desserts. Never anything I can actually brag about. In fact, I'm always embarrassed to confess the dreadful truth, fearing that I will lose face among the Martha Stewart wannabes of Newtopia, the lovely suburb in which I entertain.
Question: has anyone else has ever thought of coming up with a real, whole-foods, from-scratch version of a popular, yet embarrassing favorite recipe? A version that comes up with pretty much the same dish, but doesn't involve opening a single boxes of instant pudding, let alone cake mix?
Because I have discovered the answer in Dom DeLuise's Eat This, You'll Feel Better. I don't actually own this cookbook--with one exception, that being James Beard, I tend to avoid buying cookbooks by grossly overweight individuals. Call me superstitious, but I'd like to give my metabolism at least a fighting chance. And call me prejudiced, but it does strike me that if the author weighs 400 pounds, there is a pretty good chance that his idea of a serving size and mine might differ--you should excuse the term--substantially.
But. I remembered that long ago, when I took Dom's cookbook out of the library, I was struck that one of his recipes, Death by Chocolate II, was identical to one I had been using for years. I'll call mine "Alexander's Favorite Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cake," because that's what Linda Sunshine called in Plain Jane's Thrill of Very Fattening Food. If you do a search on Dom's version, you'll find it all over the internet. To wit:
Death by Chocolate II
1 box chocolate cake mix
1 box instant chocolate pudding (4 serving size (1/2 cup
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup water (I sometimes substitute Grand Marnier here)
1/2 cup sour cream
12 oz chocolate, semi-sweet chips
Mix ingredients in order listed. Pour into greased Bundt pan. Cook at
350 for 55 minutes. Cool 15 minutes and remove from pan. Believe me,
frosting is not necessary with this cake.
I found zillions of versions on the internet. But when I searched for Dom's by-scratch version, Death by Chocolate I, I found only one version, to wit:
Death by Chocolate I
2 c. flour
1 tbsp. double-acting baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature, quartered
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. water 2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. plus 2 tbsp. cocoa
1 12-oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips
Sift flour, baking powder, and baking soda twice. Place in a small bowl. Beat the sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl until sugar is dissolved. Add butter and mix into egg mixture thoroughly. Add sour cream, water, vanilla extract, and beat. Add flour mixture and cocoa and beat slowly just until flour is absorbed. Do not over-beat. Fold in chocolate chips and pour into buttered Bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour. When cool, sift powdered sugar on top. Variation: Replace 1/4 c. of the water with Grand Marnier.
Clearly, the internet is far more interested in quick-and-dirty cakes than more laborious scratch versions of the same thing. Because like me, the internet is a big sleazebag.
But I can outfox the internet now, and so can you. Go ahead and bake the easy version--I've done it myself more times than I can count. Every time I get asked to bring a dessert to a function, this is what I bring. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked for a recipe. And now, when the person who asks is someone I don't like very much, if at at all, I can give her the recipe for Death by Chocolate I. I might even have her separating the eggs, sifting flour four times, and tempering the chocolate, just to be really evil.