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I have a nephew who's about 20 months old. It's my first time as an aunt (though a niece is on the way) and he's generally the first baby I've spent any time in close quarters with. It's an old adage but a true one that when you're with someone that er, new, you see the world with fresh eyes. You realize that walking isn't as obvious as it looks, that pants are a drag, that toes are pretty hilarious, and that Sesame Street is one giant pearl of wisdom. Oh, and that those humble purple bobbles, grapes, are actually small globes of perfect sweetness.
You know what else grapes are? Available year-round in basically every supermarket, large or small, in America. And yet they're pathetically underused when it comes to baking. This is in large part due to their high water content—like melons and even strawberries, when baked, they tend to leak and cause a mushy cake crumb. But we bake with grapes in their dehydrated form (a.k.a raisins, another baby favorite) so I thought, what about making grapes that land somewhere in the middle of the juicy spectrum?
That's how I ended up tossing some seedless purple grapes with olive oil and slow roasting them in a 325°F oven until they shriveled, losing juice but gaining sweetness.
Olive oil pairs with olive oil, naturally, so I folded the grapes into an orange-scented olive oil cake. I used half all purpose flour and half stone ground cornmeal in order to give the cake some texture but keep it fluffy. Then, to make it into something elegant and a true dessert, I enrobed the whole thing in a thin layer of bittersweet chocolate ganache.
Did you know that making chocolate ganache is as easy as bringing cream to a boil, adding some chopped chocolate, then stirring it until it melts? Probably not (they don't teach that on Sesame Street; I guess I've finally found a hole) but now that you know, you shouldn't shy away from this last step.
The resulting cake is tender yet texturally interesting and lightly scented with orange as well as the grassy notes of olive oil. The grapes add sweetness and a port-like flavor that marries perfectly with the rich, smooth, dark chocolate coating.
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