I’m always on the lookout for new dessert recipes that meet certain criteria. They must be decadent-sounding, though not actually dangerous (I continue to hope that I’ll manage to follow Weight Watchers a little more faithfully). They must be different enough from the thousands of recipes I already have, in cookbooks and clipping files. If there’s a picture, it must make me want to lick the page. What all this translates into is a paltry haul of late. Seriously—we’re talking one recipe, for a flourless chocolate cake, which I tore out of the June issue Fitness. It calls for polenta—specifically NOT instant, which it says will produce a lumpy cake—and that turned out to be fairly difficult to find. Everybody and their mother sells quick-cooking polenta these days, even the little shops in the Italian section of Williamsburg. I’d just about given up when it occurred to me to stop looking for something marked polenta, and start looking for coarse-ground corn meal. Once I had that mini-epiphany, I found it in the very next store—Goya brand, of all things, in the Latin foods section.
The picture in the magazine is of a slice that’s very clearly from a round cake, but the instructions call for an 8 x 8 baking dish. I prefer the elegance of a slice rather than a chunk when it comes to cake, so I used my 9” springform pan. The capacity’s a little larger, which yielded a thinner cake than the picture (though with the same cooking time, surprisingly), but I didn’t mind. It’s wickedly delicious with a downright lusty texture—the polenta gives it a light, toothy heft—and much more chocolaty than I expected. Paired with my tart-sweet, brilliantly colored strawberry-rhubarb compote, it’s sophisticated enough to serve at a dinner party. Nobody would ever guess that it’s diet-licious.
Weight Watchers readers: 1/8 of the cake (a sizable portion) with a couple of tablespoons of compote is only 3 points!
Chocolate Polenta Cake
1 cup plus 2 T skim milk [I used 1%]
2 ½ T polenta (coarsely ground corn meal—not instant)
2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips (about 4 oz)
1 T unsweetened applesauce
3 T sugar
4 egg whites
½ t baking powder
Heat oven to 350. Spray a 9″ springform pan with cooking oil spray and set aside.
In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring milk to a boil, then whisk in polenta. Reduce heat and cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat and add chocolate chips, stirring well until they’re completely melted. Stir in applesauce and set aside.
In a bowl set over simmering water, whisk together sugar, eggs, and egg whites until warm. Remove from heat and beat on high until mixture is 6 to 8 times the original volume [mine never got that huge—it was more like 4 or 5 times].
Gently fold one-fifth of the egg mixture into the polenta-chocolate mixture. Sprinkle baking powder into the lightened polenta-chocolate mixture and gently combine. Slowly fold in remaining egg mixture, one-third at a time. Pour batter into the prepared springform pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean [mine took 27 minutes]. Let cool on a wire rack.
[The instructions don’t specify, but I assume this must be refrigerated if you’re not serving it immediately. I wrapped mine in plastic first.]
7 cups rhubarb, in 1” chunks
½ cup Splenda
¼ cup water
Zest and juice of ½ lemon
4 cups strawberries, quartered
In a large saucepan, combine rhubarb, Splenda, water, and lemon over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer five minutes, then add strawberries. Simmer another five minutes. Done! How easy was that?