The problem with holiday potlucks is the travel factor.
The season tends to inspire us to make fancy - or maybe just fanciful - foods. But what works at home doesn't always transport well. Some people address this by bringing the components of the dish and finishing the assembly on location. But nothing says "troublesome guest" quite like arriving at your host's home and needing to take over the kitchen to finish preparing your dish.
Which leaves you struggling to find a something holiday worthy that also transports well. For that, I generally turn to a simple, yet sensational flourless chocolate cake. Basic to make, but the results are anything but. And since this dense, squat cake has no fussy decorations - nor does it need any - it's a dream to transport.
I also like that the core recipe is so versatile. You start with a few essentials - melted chocolate, eggs and cream. From there, you can take it in so many directions. For example, spike it with balsamic vinegar glaze for a sweet-tart cake. Or add dried cherries. Or top it with crumbled chocolate cookies. Or do pretty much whatever inspires you.
For this recipe, I was aiming for a dense and fudgy cake. To get it, I used pureed pitted dates. And since chocolate and peanut butter play so nicely together, I added peanut flour. But if you can't find that, just leave it out; the recipe will still be delicious.
FLOURLESS PEANUT BUTTER-CHOCOLATE CAKE
This cake is seriously rich, so a little bit goes a long way. Consider pairing it with coffee and espresso (perhaps topped with vanilla bean-spike whipped cream).
Start to finish: 50 minutes
1 cup heavy cream
12-ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8-ounce bag pitted dates
1/4 cup powdered peanut butter
Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray.
In a small saucepan over medium-high, heat the cream until just simmering. Remove than pan from the heat and add the chocolate chips. Stir until melted and smooth.
In a blender, combine the chocolate-cream mixture, vanilla and dates. Puree until smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs and powdered peanut butter, then puree again until completely blended. Pour into the prepared pan. Tap the pan gently on the counter to level.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until completely set at the center. Cool completely, then remove the sides of the pan.
Nutrition information per serving: 370 calories; 190 calories from fat (51 percent of total calories); 21 g fat (12 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 125 mg cholesterol; 42 g carbohydrate; 5 g fiber; 36 g sugar; 8 g protein; 65 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM-Hirsch . Email him at jhirsch(at)ap.org