catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 21 :: 2006.11.17 — 2006.12.01


Considering just desserts

As Peg Deames mentions in her article
for this issue, a local group of "foodies" has been meeting in Three
Rivers, Michigan for about a year and a half now to discuss the social,
spiritual and communal aspects of our food habits, as well as share a
fantastic potluck meal featuring local ingredients.  The
experience has encouraged all of us to think more deeply about the
values that inform our food choices and to move toward becoming more
intentional about the consistency between what we say and what we do.

of this experience and many others have come several principles that
I've been attempting to practice as a way of living the belief that all
aspects of life are meaningful within the context of faith.  I've
come to realize that, yes, even that celebratory blast of calories and
sugar at the end of a balanced meal can be part of a joyful Kingdom

  1. Trade fairly.  Coffee
    and chocolate recipes are especially conducive to incorporating fair
    trade ingredients.  Use baking cocoa from a fair trade source like
    Equal Exchange
    Three tablespoons of baking cocoa plus one tablespoon of butter, oil or
    shortening can substitute for one ounce of unsweetened baking
    chocolate.  Even your pudding may benefit from some Alter Eco rice
    or sugar.
  2. Buy local.  Buying locally supports a healthy local
    economy, encourage diverse local agriculture and cuts down on the
    fossil fuels used to transport food over great distances.  Explore
    the agricultural offerings within your neighborhood, county and
    state.  Of course the possibilities will vary with geography, but
    I know within 45 minutes of St. Joseph County, Michigan, we've found
    walnuts, honey, apples, melons, strawberries, blueberries, peaches,
    pears, maple syrup, stone-ground flour, dried berries, cherries,
    sorghum, popcorn…  And consider investing in locally grown
    souvenirs when you travel—pecans from Georgia, citrus from Florida and
    Arizona, and so on.  You may be able to find some things through Local Harvest or another resource, but you'll probably just have to ask around to find some of the smaller producers.
  3. Forego "low fat".  If dessert is a disciplined
    indulgence, the added calories and fat should not matter as much as the
    artistry of the food.  Watch labels and opt for ingredients you
    can recognize over a low calorie count.  Choose real over
    processed (butter over margarine, for example).  If weight is a
    concern, pair desserts with exercise—follow up crème brulee with an
    evening stroll, even if you have guests over, and consider both to be a
    part of experiencing some after dinner delight.
  4. Indulge simply.  When I'm pressed for time, the hours
    it will take me to craft an elaborate dessert detracts from the
    enjoyment of the process, while presenting a simple dessert won't
    necessarily detract from enjoyment.  Break up a fair trade
    chocolate bar and present it in a little dish.  Cut up some
    seasonal fruit.  Set out a bowl of fair trade or locally grown
    nuts or pumpkin seeds.  For a tasty conversation piece, serve some
    Yachana Jungle Chocolate or linger over handcrafted floral tea.
  5. Seek out traditions.  Explore the recipes of family
    and friends to extend the community that your desserts represent. 
    Beyond being fair to farmers and to the earth, your desserts can
    represent your connectedness to those who surround you, literally or
    figuratively.  Crème Brulee and Oreos with milk will forever
    connect me to my dad.  Chocolate pudding after chili is my mom's
    legacy, along with chocolate chip cookies and banana bread (with
    cheddar cheese, if you please).  Fresh peach pie is my grandma's
    specialty, while apple slices belong to Rob's grandma.  And it all
    makes me ponder what gifts of memory I would like to pass on to my
  6. Experiment.  Try baking with yeast.  Test out a
    vegan substitute for homemade pumpkin pie.  Craft or purchase an
    authentic dessert to go with an ethnic meal.  Dessert is never
    just for sustenance; it's a form of play.  And so, while certain
    comfort foods nurture our sense of nostalgia, desserts ought to be
    approached with whimsy and delight.

Now what list of dessert principles would be complete without a
recipe?  The following is a quick recipe that yields a delicious
vegan chocolate cake—easy to make with on-hand ingredients and offers
the opportunity to use fair trade coffee and cocoa, locally grown or
fair trade sugar, and locally milled flour.  If you're
vegan-phobic, this is a good recipe to try if you're open to being
convinced that some things can be worthwhile without animal products.
An additional plus for me is that this recipe has served me well for
many potlucks and late night cravings with our former housemates—add
Grandma D's homemade butter cream frosting and it loses its vegan-ness,
but I think it has the potential to let me cover all six principles in
one sweet swoop.

It's the nature of baking and the global economy
that it will be difficult if not impossible to discover the source of
all of our ingredients—I can count at least four below—and so there's
always a detectable hint of grace.  But life is always sweeter
with an added ounce of care.  Now, lest I dish out another bad
baking metaphor…

Moosewood Six-Minute Vegan Chocolate Cake

  • 1 ½ c. unbleached white flour
  • 1/3 c. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 c. sugar
  • ½ c. vegetable oil
  • 1 c. cold water or coffee
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Sift together the flour,
cocoa, soda, salt and sugar.  In a separate bowl, mix together the
oil, water or coffee and vanilla.  Combined the liquid and dry
ingredients, stirring until the batter is smooth.  Add the vinegar
and stir quickly.  There will be pale swirls in the batter as the
baking soda and the vinegar react.  Stir just until the vinegar is
evenly distributed throughout the batter.  Pour into a greased
8-inch square cake pan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes and set aside to cool.  Top with a frosting or glaze, or sliced fresh fruit.

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