White Bean Dip and Flourless Raspberry Chocolate Cakes

Cooking class week 5Sometimes things go wrong. As in frying my laptop keyboard with hot tea, or jinxing the copy machine ten minutes before class. As in promising our guest the ingredients for her raspberry chocolate cakes but leaving the raspberry part on my kitchen counter. As in buying the wrong kind of chocolate (semi instead of bittersweet) and mispronouncing her name, and then encountering a cranky oven, and having three students not show.

Oy. Vey.
But among friends, everything gets worked out. My son loaned me his computer to prepare for class. A kind sub unjinxed the copier. Phyllis cut celery and steamed broccoli for the snack while I rushed home (three blocks away) for the jar of homemade raspberry preserves. Our guest, my dear friend Nina Laden (it’s Layden not Lahden!) dismissed my chocolate error as unimportant, and we conquered Cranky Oven by constant vigilance and the switching of racks.
The absent students meant we had more cakes to share. There were enough for the kids and volunteers, plus our program coordinator Mr. Berndt, plus the awesome Mr. Clark (who lets us screen movies in his classroom). The aroma of baking chocolate drew several curious hall-dwellers, and I found myself wishing we had made 50 cakes, instead of 18.

Nina, Cooker of Books and Other Treats 

So first a word about Nina. She is a best-selling, award-winning children’s book illustrator and author (among her books are Private I. Guana, When Pigasso Met Mootisse, and my favorite, The Night I Followed the Dog). She brought a preview copy of her newest book, Once Upon a Memory, which is stunning (my daughter says it will be an instant classic, and I think she’s right). Nina is also a prolific food gardener in Ballard and on Lummi Island. She grows, forages, cooks, bakes, and preserves food of all kinds, and has a particular interest in gluten-free dishes, as her husband has celiac.

It seemed like a good idea to start off with a gluten-free snack: crudités with a dip of puréed Navy beans, lemon, garlic, and parsley. I explained the difference between starting with raw beans or canned. Many prefer the taste and texture of the former, which you can buy cheaply in bulk. If you buy canned, buy Eden, as it’s currently the only brand that is BPA-free. We discussed different kinds of legumes–a new word for the kids–and how they can be “quick cooked,” with instructions for doing so on the back of their recipe handouts (also below).

Nina showed the kids an elegant scarlet runner pod with its shiny, speckled beans. She harvests hers for cooking in chili.

Hungry Kids or Tasty Snacks? 

As the kids snacked and sipped hot tea (this time, apricot), we reviewed our recipes and discussed the ingredients. Parents, you will be pleased to know that by the end of this task the veggies were devoured, and most of the bean dip, as well. I can’t figure out if these are unusual children, really hungry children, or we are striking gold with these snacks.
Among the new terms this week: vegan, gluten-free, cannelini, Navy bean, legume, zest, drizzle, ramekin, preserves, jam, heavy cream, whipping cream.
Nina is a natural with kids. She kept up a running dialogue as she and Prep lead Sophie supervised the buttering of ramekins, melting of chocolate, and tempering of eggs. I’m pretty sure the kids will remember the word “temper,” as we’ve used it several times now with eggs. In a future class, I hope we have the opportunity to show them chocolate tempering, which is heating and cooling so the results will be firm and glossy at room temperature.Everyone took turns whisking the batter (in my mind’s eye, I could see Maurice Sendak’s chubby cooks shouting “and nothing’s the matter!”). They scooped the batter into the ramekins with a half-cup measure, dripping here and there.”Everything fun is messy,” said Nina. Spoken like the artist she is.Then into the oven went the cakes, with cell phones employed as timers, since Cranky Oven can’t be trusted with keeping time or temperature.

Not Just Any Old Chocolate 

After a short break, we welcomed our second guest, my friend Lauren Adler, the genius behind Chocolopolis. I remember when the store opened in 2008. With its jewel box interior, orange and chocolate colored accents, pretty lights, and exotic packages, it looked like a Parisian parfumerie, and for someone like me, who likes her aromas to be edible, a slice of heaven. Although it seemed either optimistic or silly to sell high-end chocolates as the economy was tanking, when I got to know Lauren, I realized it was just smart. She knew that small pleasures become even more necessary in an economic recession, and her store is unique, offering a wide variety of brands as well as made-in-house truffles. (Like Johnny Depp in the movie Chocolat, my favorite chocolate is drinkable, especially in the middle of a winter walk around the neighborhood. Just writing that, I’m salivating.)
Our students being kids, when asked what their favorite chocolate was, responded “milk” and “white” and “Snickers” and other such blasphemies. Lauren just smiled. She has heard it all. (Earlier, a student asked “will there be something for those who don’t care for chocolate?” Nonetheless, I saw her enjoying Lauren’s 70% samples, and later, devouring a semisweet cake. Perhaps her tastebuds just needed recalibrating after Halloween.)

Lauren walked us through the story of cacao: growing, harvesting, fermenting, etc. She included a primer on the commodities market and fair trade that swirled above my head but fortunately, she wrote it all down here, and I can learn more through the classes she offers at the shop. The bottom line is that “fair trade” is complex.

The children got to touch a cacao pod, taste different varietals, nibble on roasted nibs, and learn about cacao “mucilage” (a word I associate with elementary school glue, in a little bottle with a red rubbery lid that was fun to pick at).

Suddenly three cell phones trilled: the oven timers going off in concert. It was time to whip the heavy cream (using Alice Merdrich’s tips, below) and serve up dessert, with Plate lead Chloe festooning each cake with a dollop of cream and a fresh raspberry.

Everything Tastes Better With Gratitude 

Seated, spoons poised over their ramekins, the kids waited until all the dollops were dolloped and raspberries planted, and the green light given to our Gratitude lead, Matthew, to say a few words. A few noses were bent close to cakes, inhaling the sweet perfume. Matthew asked those with hovering spoons to please put them down so he could continue. They did. Satisfied, he thanked the cacao farmers and the entire supply chain that brought us the cakes.
For a few moments, there was only the scraping of spoons and sighs of satisfaction. The hot, pudding-like cake was sweet (but not overly, to my surprise). The unsweetened whipped cream was a perfect foil. A few kids wondered if they had run into eggshells.

Eggshells? No, raspberry seeds!

I didn’t notice them, myself, but for the sensitive (some people can’t stand seeds), a strained jam or jelly  could be used.

Glory be, we finished eating in time for dishes. Our KP lead Eliot managed to get a large number of dishwashers, but I was surprised to see they were all female like herself. That will never do, I thought.

With a gentle–I hope–tone, I told the boys (already on their cell phones): a man must never be idle while a woman works. They protested that they had been turned away at the sink.

Well, that will never do, either.

Girls,” I pleaded. “Always welcome help.”

I’m not sure they heard me, or understood. This sharing of the chores bit is going to take some practice.

At 4:30 pm, I lowered the lights to bring everyone to the door. The kids joined me in an impromptu song of “thank you very much” for our guests, and then sped down the hall with their backpacks, several of them texting in transit.

It pleased me to see Nina and Lauren chatting as Mary and I finished up.

The next best thing to having wonderful friends is introducing them to each other.



Printer-friendly version


This simple vegan dip recipe is adapted from Treehugger.com. Serve with crudite or crackers for a tasty after-school snack.


  • 2 (15 ounce) cans Cannellini or Navy beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 clove garlic, smashed

  • ¼ cup roughly chopped parsley, plus 1 teaspoon finely chopped, divided use

  • 2½ teaspoon lemon juice

  • ¼ teaspoon lemon zest

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper

  • ½ cup olive oil, plus a drizzle, divided use


  1. Place the beans, the garlic, the ¼ cup roughly chopped parsley, the lemon juice and zest, the salt, pepper (and, if using as per the original recipe, chopped crispy bacon) into the bowl of a food processor and process until well combined and mostly smooth; with the processor running, begin drizzling in the ½ cup of olive oil, and process until the dip is completely smooth.

  2. Spoon the dip out into a bowl, and finish by sprinkling the top with the remaining 1 teaspoon of finely chopped parsley and a drizzle of the olive oil.



Follow this fast and easy method for cooking dry beans without soaking overnight. Makes 4 cups.

  1. Put 2 cups beans in a large pot.

  2. Cover with 8 cups of cold water.

  3. Cook over high heat to rolling boil. Boil 2 minutes. Take off heat and cover. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.

  4. Drain beans and rinse in cold water. Your beans are now ready to use in any recipe calling for “soaked beans.”

  5. To fully cook beans for puree or other recipes which call for canned beans, add cold water to drained bean to cover by 1 inch. (Do not add any salt yet, because that can prevent beans from softening. Return to stove and heat until they are simmering. Cook for 2 or more hours, until soft.



Recipe from children’s book author and illustrator Nina Laden, adapted from Food & Wine.


  • 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips

  • 14 tablespoons butter (1 stick plus 6 tablespoons)

  • 2 tablespoons raspberry preserves (or about 1/3 cup fresh raspberries mashed with 1 tablespoon sugar)

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • heavy cream for whipping

  • fresh raspberries for topping


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

  2. Butter 6 3/4-cup Pyrex souffle cups. Arrange cups on a baking sheet.

  3. In a medium-sized saucepan, mix chocolate chips, butter and preserves over low heat until all has melted. Remove from heat, cool to lukewarm, stirring often- for about 10 minutes.

  4. Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl to blend well. Gradually whisk in the chocolate mixture.

  5. Divide batter among the buttered Pyrex dishes. (I use a 1/2 cup stainless measuring cup to pour the batter–it works well.) Bake the cakes until a toothpick comes out with some moist batter on it–about 20 minutes. Let cool 30 minutes (centers will fall) –and serve warm or room temp topped with fresh whipped cream and raspberries. Enjoy!



By Alice Medrich

1. Use heavy whipping cream. The best and freshest tasting cream is not ultra-pasteurized or sterilized, or stabilized with carrageenan. If possible, find the brand that has only one ingredient: cream.

2. Cream must be very cold to whip properly. If you’ve just brought it home from an extended trip to the store, refrigerate the cream for a while again before you whip it. Cream that isn’t cold enough may not whip at all, or it may curdle when you whip it. For extra insurance: chill the bowl and beaters before whipping the cream.

3. You can sweeten the cream with plain granulated or powdered sugar. I prefer granulated sugar because I don’t like the feel and flavor of the starch that’s in the powdered sugar, but this is up to you. Taste and adjust the sugar towards the end of beating because cream tastes less sweet when it’s fluffy than when it’s fluid.

4. Whipped cream can be thick and stiff or soft and flowing, or anywhere in between: this is up to you! However, cream that is too stiff feels grainy from the specks of butter — so don’t go too far.

5.  If you plan to pipe whipped cream with a pastry bag or spread it over a cake for filling or frosting, or fold it into another mixture, always whip it less stiff than you want it to be. Cream continues to stiffen as you pipe it, spread it, or fold it: if you begin with stiff cream, you will end with granular over-whipped cream by the time you are finished.


Categories: Dessert, Gluten-Free, Kid Favorite, Snack, Vegetarian


Subscribe to our RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: