I had waited impatiently for the Friday-Saturday agricultural fair that takes place in the general area of Robles, Costa Rica. I went last year and it was amazingly cheap; the food was also delicious. I set off with our hotel manager and his wife, and soon we parked the car opposite one of the entrances. And there I was, a year later, none the worse for wear but back in Costa Rica.
I bought staples: bananas, avocados, garlic, platanos, limes and onions, spending about five dollars all told. And when I say "bananas," I refer to an entire "head" of 24 organic bananas, for which I paid 800 colones, or just over two dollars. Everything is comparable to that price but there is a whole lot more variety of produce, including items that I don't recognize, like a large, round squash that is dark green in color, and cocote, a little hard fruit that I wouldn't know how to prepare.
I also prepared a double batch of Bernice's French Dressing, for which the manager's family is waiting impatiently. I am sure their twin boys will stop by today asking if I have made it yet, and they will be happy to take their jar of it home. According to their mother, they put it over just about everything except dessert.
Once I had their blender in hand, it couldn't be easier to mix it up, of you saw the recipe in my column the other day. Another thing that is a weakness in Latin America, if you ask me, is pastry. I wish that the French influence had spread over the countries south of the border, but it seems that didn't happen. So all I have to do is make a single-layer cake and frost it, and I get raves that anyone could get even if they were to use a cake mix. But in any case, I wouldn't do that. I would recommend this simple chocolate cake--I haven't met anyone who doesn't like chocolate yet.
2 cups organic all-purpose flour
2 cups organic granulated sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened organic cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons espresso powder
1 cup organic milk
1/2 cup organic vegetable oil
2 large organic eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare two 9-inch cake pans with baking spray or butter and flour them lightly.
Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder together in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add the milk, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla to the flour mixture and mix together on low speed until well combined, one element at a time. Reduce the speed to its lowest setting (if it isn't there already) and carefully add the boiling water to the batter. Beat for about 1 minute to aerate the batter.
Distribute the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the top is dry and springs back when touched lightly with your fingertip.
Remove the layers from the oven and allow them to cool for about 10 minutes before you remove them from the pan to cool completely on wire racks.
Frost the two-layer cake with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting or serve them separately, topped with Chocolate Ganache.
Adding espresso powder to a chocolate recipe is not a new thing, but if you do not have any on hand, you can use a cup of hot brewed coffee to achieve the same flavor. Add it in place of the boiling water.