Liz Prueitt’s Healthy Flax Muffins (gluten free)

Liz Prueitt's Healthy Muffins

One of the best Instagram accounts I have come across belongs to Liz Prueitt of Tartine Bakery fame. Via her Instagram feed you can follow along with her as she tests and develops recipes which is pretty cool if you’re interested in how that process happens and getting inside the mind of a chef. Most recently she’s turned much of her attention to gluten free baking where she’s been exploring GF twists on classics as well as new, creative inventions, comparing different substitutions and combinations. (She’s got savory cooking projects going on as well). Some posts share the refined, end result of many cycles of testing, other times you get to see the trials and errors along the way. The very best part is that she often throws shorthand recipes onto her posts so you can cook along at home. And since she’s sharing in real-time, her posts always reflect what’s in season right now.

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New Year’s Eve Cake: Tartine’s Devil’s Food Cake with Caramel and Ganache

Happy 2011!

A little serendipity brought us a last minute dinner invitation and a babysitter for New Year’s Eve, so off we went for a grown-up dinner complete with fine china, wine and champagne. What a treat! No better excuse to make this Devil’s Food Cake from the Tartine cookbook (Tartine is a fabulous bakery here in San Francisco’s Mission District). If you haven’t haven’t seen it, this cookbook is absolutely drool-worthy. It’s got everything from pastry and dessert basics to breakfast recipes, tarts, cakes, creamy desserts and cookies. Some of the recipes may seem a bit involved at first glance, but they are well-written and surprisingly easy to follow. I can personally vouch for the quiche recipe — it’s outstanding. Best of all, Elizabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson share many techniques throughout the book that will improve your baking even beyond this set of recipes.

I’ve had my eye on the Devil’s Food Cake recipe for about a year, but no occasion to make it. The batter is velvety and the cake is filled with caramel sauce and a touch of bittersweet chocolate ganache. The whole thing is frosted with more ganache and then covered with cake crumbs that you make with your cake trimmings. As a special touch, I added a little edible gold (it was New Year’s Eve afterall!). I think the cake would be equally as good, and a touch less rich, with a just a simple sprinkling of powdered sugar and a dallop of vanilla whipped cream or ice cream.

You can make the caramel sauce and ganache while the cake bakes, so it comes together reasonably quickly, but you’ll want to set aside the better part of an afternoon to make it from start to finish. It’s best served at room temperature and covered with ganache, will hold for several days which makes it a good choice for a fancy party.

I used a technique to cut the layers which I remember seeing on Alton Brown’s show. He actually used a saw blade and some trim molding from the hardware store as a cutting guide. I used a long carving knife and one of my son’s blocks which happened to be the perfect size. It worked like a charm for getting nice even layers. I kept the knife flat on the block to keep it level and just kept cutting from the edge to the center until I had worked my way all around the cake. Easy peasy.

The dinner was lovely, the company great and the cake was the perfect end to the evening. Anyone who loves to dessert, definitely needs to check out this cookbook and better yet, visit the bakery next time you’re in San Francisco. The lines can be long (and the calorie count high!) but you’re sure to savor something memorable.

Here’s to a healthy, happy…. and yummy 2011 for us all!

But first, I think I’ll sneak a piece of  cake for my New Year’s Day breakfast. 🙂

[Photo of Tartine by tablehooper.net, Flickr Commons]