Friday, February 27, 2009

Daring Baker's Challenge for February: Flourless Chocolate "Valentino" Cake

When I saw that this month's challenge was a flourless chocolate cake, I danced a jig in my soul...these are easy cakes to make, they come out great and the challenge allowed us to make an ice cream of our choice. I haven't made ice cream in ages so that was an added "bonus".

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. They chose a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge. I did mint ice cream instead.

The first thing that hit me about the recipe was its minimalist ingredients...I have made flourless chocolate cakes, and my favorite one has 1/2 cup of sugar in it. I assume this is to cut the "bitter" from the bittersweet / semisweet chocolate. And so, not wanting to mess with the recipe, I made it exactly as printed.

The cake was very easy to make (melt chocolate and butter, beat egg whites, voila) and it puffed up really nice. As it was baking, I made mint ice cream from Pierre Herme's Chocolate Desserts cookbook, which was easy to make and delicious but incorporated waaaaaay too many mint leaves. I don't like to chew my ice cream! But at least my dessert had fiber.

So the judgment hour was upon me as I brought my cakes and my ice cream to a friend's house for dinner. The first bite was definitely an 'oh wow this is good' bite for all of us. But I noticed that after about 3 bites, all the forks kind of went down and coffee drinking and chatting continued. Why were we not devouring this dessert? It was chocolate, it was cake, it was VALRHONA and cost me a bundle to make! Eat, dammit!! EAT! I know at that moment I wasn't even involved in the conversation, I was just waiting for someone to eat. But they seemed done. Why?

I think, in all honesty, that the chocolate (56% cacao) was too bittersweet, and that the recipe needed that 1/2 cup of sugar. This clarifies why the other flourless chocolate cakes I've made included a bit of sugar and tasted better in the end. I do think that this cake was good, but that the sugar would have made it much more "devourable".

In all, this is a good recipe but not the one I will use for flourless chocolate cake in the future. Or maybe I'll try it again, but add some sugar and see how it turns out! As for the ice cream, it was delicious...but Pierre calls for one heck of a lot of chopped mint!

Bon appetit!

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.

3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.

4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).

5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.

6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.

8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C

9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Pierre Hermé's "Classic Hot Chocolate"

I feel like I've been a prisoner in my own home for the last week. Snow, snow, snow. You can only have so many snow days before you start to lose it a little. So I search for something to life my spirits. And nothing goes with snow quite like a good hot chocolate....which becomes the highlight of my snow days. Typically I serve my small children Swiss Miss. They love it, me..not so much. But it's warm and tastes somewhat like chocolate, so I just do it. But I had my last cup two days ago, there's no going back after Pierre's hot chocolate....

So yesterday while the snow was literally piling up outside, the kids were in bed, my husband was on the road trying to get home, I decided to make myself some real European hot chocolate. Anyone who's been to a café in Paris and ordered a "chocolat viennois" knows what I'm talking about...their hot chocolate is so rich, so decadent, you feel it from your head to your toes. The tastes almost come in layers, with a great punch of chocolate at the end. So I pulled out Pierre Hermé's "Chocolate Desserts" book and made his very simple "Classic Hot Chocolate".
One sip made me want to break out one of those Madeleines I made a few weeks ago. This sip took me right back to a little café on the Ile St. Louis in Paris, where they make the best and richest hot chocolate you'd ever drink. I never knew their secret, but it's one of those "must visits" when I'm in Paris, summer or winter. Turns out, their secret is just good, real chocolate. Not powder, but real dark chocolate. I never's as easy as that. Pierre's recipe proves it.

I might make another tonight...It's full of anti-oxidants, so they say!

Classic Hot Chocolate

(serves 2...I made 1/2 the recipe for one serving)

2 cups whole milk (I used skim, but I know whole would have been soooo much more sinful)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar (I found it a bit too sweet. Next time I will omit the sugar and add it at the end if necessary)
4 ounces melted bittersweet chocolate (NOT CHIPS)....a good chocolate like Valrhona would be best ( I didn't pre-melt mine, I just chopped it and let it melt in the milk)

Bring the milk, water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the chocolate and stir with a whisk until it combines. Pull the saucepan from the heat and whip for about one minute with an immersion blender or in a regular blender. Serve immediately in large cups, or you can refrigerate it for two days, covered tightly.