ZUCCHINI LEMON & WALNUT CAKE + COOKBOOK REVIEW

A while ago I was browsing cookbook suggestions in amazon.com and spotted one called “French Desserts“, by Hillary Davis. I simply had to investigate it further. C’mon, French Desserts, how could I possibly let that slide? The book was published just last month,  so not very many readers posted reviews yet. However, whereas all gave it 5 stars, one person ranked it with 2 stars only. Her criticism was the use of store-bought items like puff pastry to make some of the recipes. Hillary herself replied to that reviewer and she did so with such class and gentleness, it really impressed me. I browsed through the index, and ordered the Kindle version, which always makes me feel a bit less guilty. Very glad I did not let that review mess with me. The book is a delight, great photography, just the right amount of prose with the recipes. I bookmarked many to try, but the first one I made to share with you today was part of her chapter called Homey Cakes.

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ZUCCHINI, LEMON & WALNUT CAKE
(ever so slightly modified from French Desserts)
printed with permission from Hillary Davis

for cake:
1-1/ 2 cups (192 g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/ 4 teaspoon baking soda
1/ 4 teaspoon salt
1-1/ 2 cups (220 g) coarsely grated zucchini, squeezed very dry
(about 170 g after squeezing dry)
1 cup (135 g) chopped walnuts
1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
1/ 2 cup (110 g) olive oil
3 large eggs
1/ 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons lemon extract (I omitted)
1/ 4 cup (60 g) lemon juice

for icing:
1 + 1/2 cup  (188 g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
a little over 3 tablespoons lemon juice

Heat oven to 325 degrees F.

Butter and flour a 9 x 5 inches loaf pan. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the zucchini and walnuts and stir to coat. In another bowl, whisk together the sugar, olive oil, eggs, vanilla, lemon extract, lemon juice, and lemon zest.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients just until combined. Do not overwork the batter. Scoop batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a serving plate. If desired, make an icing with the powdered sugar and lemon juice, drizzle all over the cake. Cut in slices and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was one delicious cake! The picture doesn’t do it justice, not even slightly. There is no obvious zucchini taste, it simply gives it moisture and a lovely texture even after sitting at room temperature overnight. It is very lemony and the flavor and crunch of the walnuts a perfect match for the citric tone. I did not have enough walnuts, so I added just a little bit of diced pecans to reach the required amount. I think the combination of nuts worked well too.  I made the loaf on a Sunday afternoon and took to our department next morning. I had tried a very small piece when the cake cooled (quality control), and hoped to get a slice mid-morning. That did not work, because around 10am, I found the platter clean. Oh, well. The best laid plans…

So lemony!
Not too sweet, just right!
Love the walnuts!
It made my Monday so much better! 
(some comments from our colleagues that made this baker very happy)

 

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Now, let’s have a little tour of Hillary’s book. I will go straight to the recipes, although she does include a comprehensive section on Essentials of Baking. You can look at the full index in amazon.com, I will simply list the recipes from each chapter that made my heart miss a beat. Or two…

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Homey Cakes: Great collection of cakes that are simple to prepare in a loaf type pan or as a single layer round cake. The one I featured comes from this chapter, but I was tempted by many others, like Plenty of Pears Salted Caramel Loaf Cake, described as invisible cake. Invisible cakes indicate that very little batter is used to hold the fruit together. I love this type of cake, very much like Doris Greenspan’s Apple Cake which happens to be the most popular recipe in my blog.  From this chapter I quickly bookmarked her Whole Wheat Nutella Loaf Cake (need I say anything more?), a Hazelnut Cake with Nutella Drizzle (O.M.G.), a Walnut Cake with Warm Honey Glaze, and a Fabulous Butter Cake from Brittany.

Cookies: Perfect for the season are Pumpkin Seed Tuiles, I must save some pumpkin seeds to try them, because tuiles have been on my list of culinary projects forever!  Sablés au Chocolat are her take on a classic, buttery cookie from Normandy. Another very tempting choice for me would be Orange Madeleines with Orange Glaze. Together with tuiles, madeleines are part of my list of projects (I even own a madeleine pan, feel guilty every time I look at it).

Baked: I cannot stop thinking of her Roasted Peaches in a Pool of Crème Anglaise… I will give you a moment to think about it. Wonderful, right? But how about Individual Berry Gratin with Yogurt Whipped Cream? Or maybe you would rather have Puffs with Warm Chocolate Sauce? I must also include a very exotic concoction (unknown to me) called Far Breton Prune Custard Cake, a specialty from Brittany. Made me think of the many things I could have tried while I lived in France, but had no idea existed. Such is life.

Verrines: I simply adore verrines. Stunning presentation, in small portions. Perfect. I can tell you one thing, there are 10 recipes in this chapter and I would love to make and enjoy each and every one of them.  Just to give you some examples, the first one is called quite simply A Cloud of Lemon Vermouth Mousse. I am officially in love. Chocolate Ginger Pots de Crème..  Grand Marnier Mousse…  Lemon Rice Pudding with Blackberry Caramel Sauce…  One tempting sweet after another….

Frozen or Refrigerated Desserts: Very interesting recipes in this chapter, starting with a child-friendly Vin Chaud Sorbet with Frosted Grapes. You cook the alcohol out, but the idea is to have the flavors of vin chaud, often served in Alsace during cold months. And in a nice parallel, back home in Brazil we have “vinho quente” traditionally served in the month of June, welcoming the first chill of the year. I would love to make her Strawberry Frozen Yogurt, with a touch of balsamic vinegar. Or her Peach Melba with Muddled Vanilla Ice Cream.  She closes the chapter with a stunning retro dessert: Vanilla, Raspberry and Chocolate Ice Cream Bombe. Imagine that to awe your guests at the end of a dinner party?

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Vin Chaud Sorbet with Frosted Grapes

Waffles, Crêpes and Pancakes: Tempting chapter. The recipe that impressed me the most: Farz Buen Broken Crêpes. The name indicates exactly what it is. You start with a traditional crepe batter, then break them as they cook, as if making scrambled eggs. Her description of this delicacy from Brittany made my mouth water. Must. Make. It. Crêpes Suzette is in there too, how could it not be?  Such a classic!

Puff Pastry: Her recipes call for store-bought pastry. Now, I realize she was criticized for it, and I find it very unfair. I’ve lived in France several years and have never ever met a French woman who made her own puff pastry. Maybe they are out there, but in a very rare minority. Why would they make them when you can find excellent products at the store, many brands of pure butter puff pastry waiting for you? Sure, if you’d like to make it, go for it, but don’t twist your nose at the boxed product. I use it all the time, puff pastry and phyllo dough, thank you very much. Anyway, my favorite recipes in this group are Niflettes, a specialty from Provins, not only because they are impossibly cute but for the story behind them. Folklore says they were created to console orphans crying over the loss of their parents. Nowadays they are served in All Saints Day in that region of France. Alsatian Marzipan Apple Strudel would be amazing to try too. as well as – ready for this? – Sweet Vol-au-Vent with a Strawberry Tarragon Coulis. Just wow.

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Niflettes

Tarts: I rarely make them but find them quite fascinating. Many options tempted me, starting with her Rustic Plum Tart in a Sweet Fennel Crust. She follows with a very interesting Medieval Custard Tart in a Clove-Scented Crust. I adore spices and find their addition to pie crusts a strike of genius. I also have my heart set on her Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese Cheesecake Tart.

Candies and Mignardises: Mignardise might be one of the cutest words in the French language. Fun to say, fun to enjoy… I would make every one of these recipes, starting with White Chocolate White Truffles with Dried Cherries, moving to Mini Pain d’Épices (I was basically addicted to those while living in Paris), and Nonnettes, a concoction made by nuns in the Middle Ages, little cakes with orange marmalade in the center. From the Middle Ages, can you wrap your mind around it?  Too cool!

Special Occasion Desserts: Chocolate Soufflé, a must-make!  White Chocolate Crème Brûlées with Salty PistachiosA Precious Pear Charlotte, Baba au Rhum closes the chapter.

Hillary, thank you for allowing me to publish the recipe from your beautiful cookbook!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Paleo Energy Bars

TWO YEARS AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Honey Mustard Dressing

THREE YEARS AGO: Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Burgers

FOUR YEARS AGO:  Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

FIVE YEARS AGO: Clay-pot Pork Roast

SIX YEARS AGO: Panmarino

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A Classic Roast Chicken

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SLOW-COOKED WHOLE CHICKEN

I’ve been tweaking this recipe for a while, and now I feel it’s ready to be shared with my beloved readers. The problem with many recipes designed for the crock pot is that they take the lazy approach. First they tell you to “dump” ingredients inside, then turn it on low and leave it there for 8 hours or more. The “dump” part always gives me a chuckle. I guess to make it sound easy you need to be very quick, no “carefully placing.” Let’s not even consider taking the additional step of browning or sauteing ingredients before slow cooking them. For some types of meat that will work fine, but for poultry? No bueno. I usually make a recipe the first time following it very closely, and this was not an exception. I cooked the chicken for 8 hours. The texture was simply wrong. Stringy, kind of dried up, with the exact mouth feel that gives crock pots in general a bad reputation. So, I turned to America’s Test Kitchen to learn their take on it. Voilà! They recommend cooking the chicken breast side down, and limit the time to 5 hours. Of course, if you work and would like to have the chicken ready for dinner, it could be a problem, but you can always make it after work and enjoy it next evening.  For us, it is not a big deal, we go home for lunch, so all I have to do is get it ready, place it in the slow cooker (sorry, no dumping, just not my style) and have a very easy meal later.

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SLOW-COOKED WHOLE CHICKEN
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from several sources)

1 whole chicken
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 lemon, quartered
a few carrots, cut in sticks

Spray the inside of your slow-cooker with a little olive oil (not a mandatory step, but helps avoid stuff to stick).

Mix all the dried ingredients in a small bowl.  Sprinkle all over the chicken skin, try to get a little bit inside the bird too.

Stick the lemon quarters inside the chicken.

Scatter the carrot pieces in the bottom of your slow cooker. If you have a small rack to elevate the chicken, use it, if not, simply place the chicken breast side down in the crock pot.

Cook on low for 5 hours.

Remove the chicken, discard lemon quarters, cut chicken into serving pieces and place in a baking dish. De-grease the liquid that formed in the slow cooker, add some of it on top of the chicken pieces. Run under the broiler to crisp up the skin, and serve with the super soft and tasty carrots.  Adjust seasoning with salt if needed.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

cooked

Comments: This is a very basic method that you can vary in all sorts of directions by changing the spice mixture, adding potatoes, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips to make it a complete meal. If  you have no issues with butter, a little smear of butter right before the broiling step will give it very nice flavor and a darker skin.  There is no need to add any liquid, you will be surprised by how much liquid will accumulate in the crock pot. That stuff is tasty, with a lemony tang, and subtle heat from the cayenne.  I know some people serve the chicken straight from the slow-cooker, but I find the additional step of crisping up the skin worth every second of additional work.  I tried reducing the cooking time to 4 hours, but the meat was not as tender as I like. You might have to play around with the timing, depending on the power of your slow-cooker, the size and quality of the chicken you find in your grocery store.

served

Dinner is served!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Chocolate Zucchini Cake with Chocolate Frosting

TWO YEARS AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Honey-Mustard Dressing

THREE YEARS AGO: Bewitching Kitchen on Fire!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

FIVE YEARS AGO: Chiarello’s Chicken Cacciatore

SIX YEARS AGO: Donna Hay’s Thai-Inspired Dinner

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Panettone

IMPOSSIBLY CUTE BACON & EGG CUPS

Should I be embarrassed to blog about a “recipe” that is essentially two ingredients plus seasoning? Potentially, yes. But in reality I am not, because this non-recipe has a nice little unexpected twist to it: the bacon was pre-cooked sous-vide. WAIT!  Don’t run away, you can make it if you don’t have the Anova gadget sitting in your kitchen drawer. But I must say bacon cooked sous-vide and stored in the fridge waiting to shine in any recipe is a very nice item for the busy cook. Or any cook, actually, because this method gets quite a bit of the greasy “feel” of bacon out of the equation, and the texture will be superb.

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BACON AND EGG CUPS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

several slices of bacon, preferably cooked sous-vide
large eggs
salt
Aleppo pepper (or pepper of your choice)

If cooking the bacon sous-vide, place the slices in a bag and submerge in the water-bath set to 147 F (64 C) overnight. I left mine 12 hours, but you can do it longer if more convenient.  At the end of the cooking time, a lot of fat will have accumulated inside the bag. You can save it if you like to cook with it, or discard it.  Place the cooked slices of bacon over paper towels to dry them well. Store them in the fridge until ready to use. If not using sous-vide, cook the bacon on a skillet, but do not allow it to get too brown or crispy.  Drain them well in paper towels before assembling the cups.

Heat the oven to 375 F (175 C).

Cover the bottom of a muffin baking tin with bacon, making sure to come up all the way to the top. Gently break an egg and place it inside. Season with salt and pepper.  Bake according to your preference. I like the egg yolks to be runny, so 10 to 15 minutes maximum will be enough.  If you like your eggs fully cooked, go for 20 minutes, but pay close attention, you don’t want to over-dry the egg.

Remove to a serving dish, and dig in!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I made this recipe for the first time in July, and since then we’ve been cooking bacon sous-vide on a regular basis. To me, it takes bacon to a whole new level, cutting some of the harshness I find overpowering. If you get your pan screaming hot, you can get by simply searing one side of the bacon slice, as the whole thing is already perfectly cooked to start with. But, even if you crisp up both sides, the texture will be perfect.

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These little cups are perfect for breakfast, or a light lunch.  Having the bacon waiting in the fridge makes this preparation a breeze. All you need to do is warm up your oven (we use the Breville that heats up super fast), grab the muffin tin, and you are less than 20 minutes away from a nice meal.   I also made those using prosciutto and ham.  Both work very well, but the sous-vide bacon is my favorite. Keep also in mind that if you’d like a vegetarian version, cooked spaghetti squash strands can be a nice receptacle for the egg. I intend to blog about that sometime. The secret is to  be assertive in the seasoning, otherwise it can be a bit bland.

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For those interested, this is low-carb, Paleo-friendly, Whole30-friendly, but above all, it’s very very tasty!

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ONE YEAR AGO: Pulling Under Pressure

TWO YEARS AGO: Cooking Sous-vide: Two takes on Chicken Thighs

THREE YEARS AGO: Miso Soup: A Japanese Classic

FOUR YEARS AGO: On my desk

FIVE YEARS AGO: A must-make veggie puree

SIX YEARS AGO: Vegetarian Lasagna

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Brazilian Pão de Queijo

SPICY COTIJA & BLACK OLIVE SOURDOUGH

OCTOBER 16th IS WORLD BREAD DAY!

Sometimes I like a pure sourdough bread, one that allows just the flavor of the flour (a little rye is mandatory) to come through. Other times I get into a daring mode and try to come up with unusual or at least new to me combinations.  I’ve made a sourdough before with some Sriracha in the dough, and loved the outcome.  I decided to repeat it in this formula, but also included Mexican cheese (Cotija, a favorite of mine), and some special black olives that were on sale at our grocery store. To take the bread into a deeper Mexican path, I included some cornmeal in the formula too.  I love to see the olives peeking through the crust. Like Pavlov’s pup, I start to salivate…

cotija-sourdough
SPICY COTIJA AND BLACK OLIVE SOURDOUGH
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, adapted from several sources)

for the levain:
15 g starter at 100% hydration
23 g water
23 g flour

for the soaker:
23g cornmeal (coarse)
75g boiling water
(mix and cool to room temperature before incorporating in the dough)

for the dough:
60 g levain
140 g water
1/4 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
all the soaker made as above
33 g spelt flour
208 g bread flour
6 g salt
80 g Cotija cheese in chunks
50 g black olives, pitted, diced fine.

Add starter to water and Sriracha, mix well. Add all flours, but leave salt behind. Incorporate the mixture into a shaggy mass, and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Add salt and mix well, it should get a little smoother.

Bulk rise the dough for a total of 5 hours, with folds every 45 minutes (4 times). Shape, retard in the fridge overnight. Bake at 450 F with initial steam. I removed shaped loaf from the fridge one hour before baking time.  Cool completely on a rack before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: I kept the cheese and the olives in reasonably large pieces. When you do that, the crumb structure won’t be particularly open, but I like the way the cheese gets very assertive in flavor once you bite into a piece. If you are a beginner at bread baking, cut into smaller pieces to make it easier to handle the dough. As you become more comfortable with the folding method, you can be more daring.  Particularly when adding nuts, it can be a bit of a challenge to fold the dough. But, once you shape and allow it to go for te final proof, all the goodies inside will find their perfect spot to be.

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Phil made a full meal for himself the following evening resting a very tasty pan-fried red snapper on it, then crowning the whole thing with avocado slices. A sprinkle of black pepper and a squirt of lime juice on top, he was a very happy camper. I even got to try a bite…

meal

I am submitting this post to Bread Box Round Up,
hosted by Karen, the Bread Baking Goddess.

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ONE YEAR AGO: Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Sourdough Rye Bread with Flaxseeds and Oats

THREE YEARS AGO: PCR and a Dance in the Mind Field

FOUR YEARS AGO: October 16: World Bread Day

FIVE YEARS AGO: The US Listeria Outbreak 2011

SIX YEARS AGO: 36 Hour Sourdough Baguettes

SEVEN YEARS AGO: October 16 is World Bread Day

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IF I HAD ONE HOUR

(texto em português ao final)

This is a post I will write without going back to edit  a single word or  typo. Bear with me

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My Dad had a huge influence on me.  He’s been gone for a long, long, time. More than a decade.

If I had one hour with him, just one more hour. This is what I would ask him.

Dad, how did you get into playinhg chess? Who taught you the game? WHy did you start playing and how did you get so good at it?

Dad, can you tell me one thing about you..  one thing you would like to have changed? ONe flaw you regret having? One handicap you wish you had a  better grip on?

Dad, I don’t think you had any idea of the impact you had on my life, or how much you influenced me, every single day. If I had one more hour with you, I would tell you. I cannot say I think about you every hour of my life, but that’s because when I think of you it hurts a little. But I think about you a lot. And I miss you . MOre than words can say.

(comments are shutdown for this post)

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SE EU TIVESSE UMA HORA

Meu pai teve uma influencia fantástica na minha vida. Ele se foi ha’ muito, muito tempo. Mais de uma década. 

Se eu tivesse apenas uma hora a mais com ele, eu perguntaria  – Papai, como e’ que voce começou a jogar xadrez? Quem te ensinou a jogar? Por que voce começou a jogar e como se tornou tão bom no jogo? 

Me conte uma coisa sobre você.  Uma coisa que gostaria de ter mudado. Um defeito, talvez. Algo na sua personalidade que gostaria que tivesse sido diferente, que gostaria de ter de alguma forma modificado. 

Eu não sei se você fazia idéia do quanto me influenciou em cada passo da minha vida, a cada dia. Se eu tivesse uma horinha a mais com você, te diria.  Eu não posso dizer que penso em você a cada hora da minha vida, porque pensar em você traz um pouco de dor, uma saudade dolorida. Mas o pensamento existe, e’ constante e sinto uma falta que palavras não conseguem definir. 

(comentários estão fechados para esse artigo)

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TWO IDEAS FOR HALLOWEEN

I made these treats for our Halloween party last year, and waited to blog now, so there’s plenty of time for you to make them in case you are hosting a party, or just feel like sharing something with friends on Halloween week. Very easy and fun. First, Screamingly Cute Chocolate-Covered Pretzels.

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They were fun to make, even if slightly messy. But that could very well be operator-error.  I am not that skilled when it comes to melted chocolate. You will need a bag of pretzels, melting chocolate (the best kind is this one, according to many sources), and eyeball candy. Sounds scary, right? Well, it’s for Halloween, it must be scary!

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Second, even simpler to put together: Witch Brooms. Peanut Butter Cups with a strategically placed Pretzel stick. The flavors all work well together too. Hardest part of making them, is unwrapping the peanut butter cups. Be Zen. And enjoy the moment.

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If you make the Screaming Pretzels, handle the eye-ball candy with impeccably clean hands. Any chocolate that gets to the white candy will be hard to clean once you place them on the pretzel. Tweezers help. It will be easier to glue them while the chocolate is not fully set, but then it’s best not to try to re-adjust their position. Work slowly and you’ll get the hang of it. I am sure it will surprise you that I had never had the combo of pretzel with chocolate. It works! It is really a delicious combination, a little crunch, a little salt, a lot of chocolate.

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A call from the past… one of our favorite Halloween costumes, back in 2002.  John and Olivia…
Hey, who said scientists cannot be a little silly? 

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ONE YEAR AGO: Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Sourdough Rye Bread with Flaxseeds and Oats 

THREE YEARS AGO: Apricot-Raspberry Sorbet: A Farewell to Summer

FOUR YEARS AGO: Marcela’s Salpicon

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pork Kebabs

SIX YEARS AGO: Fondant au Chocolat

SEVEN YEARS AGOGot Spinach? Have a salad!

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