Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Many years ago I read my first flourless chocolate cake recipe in Esquire magazine. As created by Jean Banchet, the celebrated French chef, the basics were straight forward. A good quality dark chocolate is melted together with sweet (unsalted) butter. In a separate bowl egg yolks are sweetened with sugar. Egg whites are whipped into peaks. Then, the three are mixed into one bowl.
Like a souffle, a flourless chocolate cake is a delicate confection. Jostled or treated carelessly, the egg whites so carefully aerated will collapse.
My contribution to this classic was a few flavorful ingredients. Instead of a liqueur which is often used to enliven the density of the chocolate, I like to add orange zest and a handful of finely chopped roasted almonds.
The recipe will make 1-2 large cakes or 8-10 smaller ones.
This is purely a matter of taste, but I prefer thin cakes, 1"-2" tall. The taller the cake, the longer the bake. The times listed below are estimates. Ultimately the test of whether the cake is done is to insert a pairing knife into the middle. When withdrawn, the knife should have a small amount of chocolate on the blade. Be careful not to dry out the cake.
After a dusting of confectionary sugar, the cake must always be served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
A few special kitchen tools are essential. Non-stick parchment paper. Springform pans. And a power mixer.
The cake is best served warm, heated for ten minutes in a 250F oven.
Flourless Chocolate Cake with Orange Zest and Roasted Almonds
Only use good quality chocolate without additives. The same is true of the heavy cream used to make whipped cream for the topping. In Los Angeles where I live, Trader Joe's has two products which I always use. The One Pound chocolate bars (56-70% cacao) and the heavy cream are both made without additives. I highly recommend them for this and other desserts.
When filling the springform pans, leave room 1" at the top because the batter will rise.
Makes (1-2) 6"-9" cakes or (8-10) 3" cakes
Time to prepare: 20 minutes
Time to bake: 30 minutes - 3 hours depending on diameter and height of cake
1 1/2 sticks + 2 tablespoons sweet butter
1 tablespoon white flour
14 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into quarter sized pieces
1 1/2 cups sugar
10 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup raw almonds, roasted in 250F oven 5 minutes, finely chopped
1 teaspoon orange zest, finely chopped
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
2 cups heavy cream or 1 pint good quality vanilla or vanilla bean ice cream
1. Preheat oven to 250F.
2. Remove the bottom(s) of the springform pan(s) and place on parchment paper on a flat surface. Use a pencil to trace the outline of the bottom(s) onto the paper. Use sharp scissors to cut out the paper round(s). Lay the parchment paper round(s) inside the springform pan(s). Set aside.
3. Use a double boiler or place a sauce pan on top of another pan. Add water in the lower pot to fill halfway. Place on stove top on a medium flame so the water simmers.
4. Melt butter in double boiler. Use pastry brush to paint the top of the parchment paper and inside the springform pan(s) with melted butter. Dust with flour. Set aside.
5. Add chocolate to melted butter. Stir and melt but do not boil. Once chocolate and butter are combined, stir in roasted chopped almonds, set aside for five minutes.
6. Place egg yolks, sugar minus 2 tablespoons, vanilla extract and orange zest into a mixing bowl. Mix well. Set aside.
7. In the bowl of an electric mixing, place the egg whites and lemon juice. Using the wire whisk attachment, beat two minutes and sprinkle in 2 tablespoons sugar. Continue mixing until peaked but no more. Set aside.
8. Using a rubber spatula, carefully combine the egg yolk and chocolate mixtures. Set aside.
9. Transfer the chocolate mixture into egg whites being careful to incorporate all the egg whites.
10. Place the springform pan(s) on a flat baking sheet. Using the spatula, transfer the batter into the pan(s), leaving room 1" at the top.
11. Place springform pan(s) into the oven. Check every 30 minutes and rotate baking sheet to prevent the cake(s) being uneven because your stove is not level.
12. To make whipped cream, place heavy cream in electric mixer with wire whisk. With machine on high, sprinkle in confectioner's sugar. Continue whisking until the cream is fluffy. Be careful not to over whisk. The result will be butter milk. Refrigerate whipped cream in an airtight container until needed, as much a day before.
13. Insert pairing knife into center of cake(s). When blade has a small amount of chocolate, remove cake(s) from oven and allow to rest on cake rack 15 minutes. Cake(s) will contract making removal from the springform pan easy. Lift cake(s) off the bottom and parchment paper. Place on a decorative plate.
14. Serve cake(s) warm with a sharp knife and a large bowl of freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Last year I created mini-bars that riffed on classic American candy bars. This year I combined the lessons from Switzerland with my desire to reach back into my memory for flavors and textures I loved as a child.
For Valentine's Day, I would love to make you my handmade chocolates.
$18.00 a dozen in a gift box, available in one and two dozen sizes. They can be sent anywhere in the United States for an additional charge.
Please email me so we can talk about what you want to order. Looking forward to hearing from you.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
What's most fun about making chocolates is I can customize them. A friend tried my milk and dark chocolate mini-bar with caramelized almonds and said, "I'd like to try them with just dark chocolate," so that's what he ordered.
Monday, December 12, 2011
If you want to try your hand at being a chocolatier, I wrote an article for Zesterdaily with easy-to-follow directions.
Friday, September 5, 2008
I don't knit, nor am I a wood-worker, I'm a cook, so my gifts are far less permanent, but I still think that a handmade gift is more personal and evocative, albeit in my case, fleeting. When Michelle's parents in New Jersey have a birthday or anniversary or I want to connect with my friend-in-food Valerie in New York, I'll make a dessert and send it Express Mail. Double-wrapped in Ziploc bags and cushioned to protect against the transit, the gifts always arrive as a happy surprise. (Only once did a food-gift not survive the vagaries of the Postal Service. When a package of homemade pickles reached Valerie's apartment, the doorman called her to say that a very drippy parcel was waiting for her downstairs.)
For our cousin Claire, we wish we were in San Francisco today to celebrate her birthday. I had wanted to send her a Banana Chocolate Chip Walnut Cake, a dessert that my wife, Michelle, calls my "signature dish." Unfortunately I was laid low by a cold all week and didn't get the cake in the mail. Luckily her dad Ron is a chef-extraordinaire and hopefully he'll use the recipe to make Claire the cake so she and Marii, her mom, can enjoy our gift nonetheless.
Claire understands intuitively the power of a homemade gift. When we visited San Francisco in July, we stayed with them. I happily joined Ron and Michelle in cooking a dinner of farmers' market produce. In appreciation, Claire gave me 2 drawings, a whimsical rabbit and a colorful collage. Like her grandmother, Joanie, and Michelle's dad, Warren, she's a talented artist. I cherish those drawings because what she gave me was a gift of herself and that's a treasure.
Banana Cake with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts
Yield 8 to 10 servings
Time 90 minutes
- 4 ripe bananas
- 1 1/2 tablespoons baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sweet butter, room temperature
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 2/3 cup half and half
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- Pinch of sea salt
- Pinch of cayenne
- 1/2 cup raw walnuts
- 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 1. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and paint the inside of a 9 x 3 round cake pan, then put the pan in the freezer for 30 minutes. (The frozen butter prevents the batter from sticking to the pan.) On a cookie sheet bake the walnuts in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so; let cool, roughly chop, and set aside.
- 2. In a bowl mash the bananas with a fork, add the baking soda and vanilla. Stir well and set aside. In a mixer use the whisk to cream together the softened butter and both sugars. Add the eggs, mashed bananas, half and half and whisk until blended. Mix in the flour half a cup at a time, being careful not to over-beat. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Use a rubber spatula to blend in the walnuts and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the buttered cake pan; it will only fill the pan half-way.
- 3. Bake the cake in a 350 oven for 60-70 minutes, turning the pan every 20 minutes so the cake cooks evenly. Test to see if the cake is done by inserting a wooden skewer. If the top is browning too quickly, lightly lay a sheet of aluminum foil over the top. When the skewer comes out clean, take the cake out of the oven and place it on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan, putting it back on the wire rack to finish cooling.
- 4. Just before serving dust the top with powdered sugar and shaved chocolate. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or freshly whipped cream.
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Our teenaged son has a very healthy diet. He eats whole wheat pasta, nuts, grains, lean cuts of meat, fresh fruit, and a lot of bananas. There always seem to be a few that get over-ripe before he's ready to eat them.
He also likes egg white scrambles, so there are usually extra egg yolks for me to use. I hate wasting food, so the bananas and egg yolks become Banana Cake.
Banana Cake with Nuts and Chocolate Chips
Time: 90 minutes
2 ½ cups flour
1 ½ tablespoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ¼ cup white sugar
2 eggs + 2 yolks
5 ripe, mashed bananas
¼ teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup cream or ½ and ½
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of cayenne
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup chopped roasted almonds or walnuts
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Melt a tablespoon of butter and brush the inside of (2) 9”x4” baking pans. Put them in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.
In a mixer combine the sugar and eggs and wisk until creamy. Add the softened butter and mix well. Then the mashed bananas, baking soda, vanilla, sea salt, cayenne, and cream .
.Slowly add the flour and stir until well-combined. Blend in the chopped nuts and chocolate chips.
Pour the batter into the baking pans, stopping 1 ½” from the top, so the cake has room to rise while it’s cooking. Bake for 60-70 minutes.
Remove from the oven and leave in the pan for 10 minutes, because the cakes could fall apart if you take them out of the pan when they’re still very hot.
Carefully turn them out of the pans and let cool on a wire rack, about 30 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.