Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chocolate Walnut Espresso Loaf

Happy Valentines Day! What are you doing to celebrate this year?  I hope it's something wonderful. I love the idea of a holiday celebrating love. Plus, it's the only day of the year where excessive consumption of chocolate and wine is deemed perfectly acceptable for everyone.


And speaking of chocolate and wine...our two favorite Valentines Day indulgences revert back to their natural roots in this Chocolate Walnut Espresso Loaf, utilizing cocoa powder and grapeseed oil for a health(ier) chocolate treat that's just as rich and decadent as the name suggests. (Obviously, to fit the occasion!) The cocoa and expresso powder are bitter and raw, but thickened by the creamy yogurt. Sugar is not overpowering here, a seriously welcomed relief if you've spent the day stuffing your face on drugstore candy (guilty as charged.) Best of all, since the chocolate loaf is lightened in fat but packs a caffeine punch, it makes a great breakfast option in addition to an afternoon pick-me-up or post-dinner sweet treat.

The outside crumb is firm and crunchy, thanks to a generous smattering of toasted walnuts, giving way to an impossibly dense, moist center. The bitterness is almost startling—begging to slice off another piece to make sure—but as I mentioned before, the absence of saccharine overmuch pleasant and comforting. It's kind of like a sophisticated mocha brownie bread. Oh Chocolate Walnut Espresso Loaf...will you be my valentine?

I've already delved into cocoa powder's fruitful flavanoids in my other chocolate recipes, but grapeseed oil is new to both this blog, and to me.  When grapes are pressed to make wine, the grape seeds become separated from the grapes. Upon grinding, the seeds release an oil that contain fatty compounds, proteins, vitamin E and our friends the flavonoids. One kind, OCPs (oligomeric proanthocyanidin complexes, say that 5 times fast) is an especially health-touting antioxidant.

Grapeseed oil is often found in recipes that require a high cooking temperature thanks to its high "smoke point", meaning it resists releasing free radicals (a known cancer risk) during cooking at extremely high heat levels. While grapeseed oil does contain both heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, don't throw out that olive and canola oil just yet. It's omega-6 content is almost double its omega-3 (the healthier of the two), plus it's high polysaturated fat content means that while it lowers LDL (bad cholesterol), it may lower good cholesterol too.

Chocolate Walnut Espresso Loaf (from Serious Eats)
Yield: 1 loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (7.5 ounces) all purpose flour (I used 1/3 whole wheat; 2/3 white)
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup plus 4 tablespoons chopped walnuts
Directions:
1. Grease an 8- by 4-inch loaf pan with oil and lightly dust with flour, knocking out any excess. Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar until smooth. Add grapeseed oil, yogurt, and vanilla extract and whisk until combined. Add dry ingredients to bowl and whisk until just combined. Stir in 1/2 cup walnuts.
3. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top. Sprinkle remaining walnuts over top of cake. Bake until top is dry and a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Sources:
"Grape Seed." University of Maryland Medical Center. University of Maryland Medical Center, n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.
Marie, Joanne. "Grape Seed Oil Health Benefits." SF Gate. San Francisco Chronicle, n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.
Sacks, Frank, Dr. "Ask the Expert: Omega-3 Fatty Acids." The Nutrition Source. Harvard School of Public Health, n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.


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