Saturday, April 3, 2010

Passover/Easter: Flourless Chocolate Torte II

This is a belated post, for which I apologize. Who knew that April was a busy month for those who work at accounting firms? Anyway, I have three or four flourless chocolate cake recipes that are taking up space in my dessert binders. (Yes, binders.) This, however, is the one I should have made last year. (a) It has a ganache glaze, (b) it's from Bon Appétit, (c) it has a French name :), and (d) it translates to "The Black Beast." Well, hello there.

You'll want to use bittersweet, not semisweet, chocolate because of the addition of a simple syrup. Semisweet + sugar = too sweet for this sophisticated dessert. This is not your typical fallen flourless chocolate cake; in fact, it's somewhat similar to the chocolate pavé, which would have also been suitable for Passover.

La Bête Noire
1 c. water
3/4 c. sugar
9 T. unsalted butter, diced
18 oz. bittersweet chocolate (approx. 3 c. bittersweet Ghirardelli chips for me)
6 eggs, fork beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment round (you can trace the bottom part that pops out); butter parchment as well. Wrap heavy-duty aluminum foil around outside of pan, bringing foil to top of rim (this is to protect the torte from the water so nothing seeps in).

Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Fill a large tea kettle with water and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth and glossy. Whisk the sugar syrup into the chocolate; cool slightly (to prevent scrambled eggs!). Add eggs to chocolate mixture and whisk until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place cake pan in large roasting pan. Place in the oven and add enough hot water from the tea kettle to the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. (You might need to refill the tea kettle a few times depending on the size of your roasting pan. As long as the water is hot, you'll be fine.)

Bake cake until center no longer moves when pan is gently shaken, about 50 minutes. Remove from water bath; transfer to cooling rack. Cool completely in pan.

For the ganache:
1 c. heavy whipping cream
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Bring whipping cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Pour over top of cake still in pan. Gently shake pan to distribute ganache evenly over top of cake. Refrigerate cake in pan until ganache is set, about 2 hours. (Can be assembled two days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)

Run knife around pan to loosen cake; release sides. Cut cake into wedges and serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream.


Easter: Cold Oven Lemon Pound Cake

It should be no surprise by now that I'm all about the chocolate. In elementary school, I won two successive cakewalks by being on the number 18 (yes I remember what number) when the music stopped. If you won early enough in the evening, you had your choice of alllll the cakes on the table and I'd spend a good 10 minutes inspecting every one, searching for the fudgiest of the bunch. (I'm embarrassed to say that one of those years, I came home with the one my mom made, because really, it doesn't get much more delicious than this and why risk it with some stranger's cake? Mom only made it for my birthday and for the cakewalk. It was special, ok?)

Two summers ago, I made this and this for a bake sale at my office to raise money for a charity we support. You'd be quite surprised to learn that I became absolutely obsessed with a lemon pound cake at the bake sale. After inspecting everything, much like I used to do at the annual cakewalk, it kept calling me back. It was insanely moist and dense and because it seemed to be a treasured family secret, I hesitated to ask the woman for the recipe. But she did tell me that it's a cold oven pound cake.

A what?

It seems to be a Southern thing, but rather than preheating the oven, the cake starts in a cold oven. The gradual increase in temperature does some magic on the batter and affects the crumb, moisture, and density. However, the only cold oven loaf pound cakes I could find online were plain and I desperately wanted lemon for Easter. So this is an Ina recipe that I tweaked to accommodate a cold oven... I intended to make one loaf at Ina's temperature and one with a cold oven, but Safeway only had four lemons left! I'll report back later. :) Ina also makes a glaze, but I didn't—but I did have some issues with the lemon syrup she adds at the end. It just wouldn't absorb, and next time, I might let it absorb in the more porous bottom of the cake then flip it over to finish cooling. Funny, I'm not the only one with this problem. Note that it's important that certain ingredients (as indicated) be at room temperature. Leave the butter out for about an hour so it will cream easily.

This was deliciously tart but not quite as moist as my coworker's cake (which was so moist you could hardly pick up a piece without the weight of it causing it to crumble in half). More butter next time? (pound cake = pound of butter) Still a delicious recipe, perfect for spring. Can easily be halved (I did). For last year's Easter lemon cake, click.

Cold Oven Lemon Pound Cake
Adapted from Ina Garten
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature (save the wrappers!)
2 1/2 c. granulated sugar, divided
4 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 c. grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
3/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 c. buttermilk, at room temperature
1 t. vanilla extract

Grease and flour two 8.5x4.25x2.5-inch loaf pans with leftover butter wrappers or nonstick spray.

Cream the butter and 2 c. of sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium, add the eggs one at a time, then the lemon zest.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another small bowl, combine 1/4 c. lemon juice, buttermilk, and vanilla extract. With the mixer running, add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. (Why? Because I trust Ina with my life, that's why.) Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and place in a COLD OVEN. (If you don't want to do this, check the Ina link above for her preheating and temperature instructions.) Close the door and turn the oven to 325 degrees. Cook for 60–70 minutes (mine took 70) until light brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out mostly clean.

Combine 1/2 c. sugar with 1/2 c. lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook on low until sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow them to cool for 10 minutes before sliding a knife around them and releasing them from their pans. Set them on a rack over a cookie sheet and spoon/brush the lemon syrup over them (see my note above; you may want to do this on the porous bottom of the cake rather than the crusty top). Allow the cakes to cool completely before slicing.

Happy Spring!

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