I have a small, somewhat manageable collection of about 100 cookbooks and subscribe to no fewer than 10 food related magazines. I love flipping through the books and magazines, looking at the pretty photos and reading the recipes. I even keep a stack of post-it sticky notes in my nightstand drawer so I can flag the recipes I like while I read in bed. As much as I like owning cookbooks and getting magazines, I don't cook from them as much as I should. Yet I keep buying new cookbooks and renewing my subscriptions year after year.
That's where the Daring Bakers (or whatever we're going to officially call ourselves) come in. After seeing their amazing feat of croissant making last month, and having participated in something like this once before, I knew joining them was the small push I needed to actually use recipes from and justify all those books.
Peabody suggested that we bake flourless chocolate cakes this month and Tish Boyle's "chocolate intensity" from The Cake Book was the chosen recipe. On my own I would've never flagged this recipe with a sticky note or if I did, I may have never gotten around to baking it. But the fun of "group baking" was incentive enough. And an actual deadline didn't hurt either.
The name definitely said it all. The chocolate intensity was the opposite of a fluffy, light and airy cake. It was deep, rich, fudgy, and most definitely intense. And that's before glazing it with a chocolate ganache. Actually, to say this cake was intense is an understatement. Tish described this as death-by-chocolate but a sweet way to go. Almost a pound of chocolate and 3 sticks of butter went into this creation. It tasted like a chocolate truffle cheesecake without that sour tang from the cream cheese. And even though the chocolate was supposed to be the headliner, the coffee really stole the show, and my heart too since I'm a coffee addict. There was no doubt that the coffee did its job of adding depth and complexity to the chocolate, but I really liked that the coffee flavor stood out. But in retrospect, maybe it stood out as much as it did because I brew my coffee strong and use dark roast beans.
Instead of glazing the cake whole and slicing wedges, I cut out rounds to make a bunch of small cakes. And then I served it two ways. One was unglazed on a pool of crème anglaise and a sprinkle of powdered sugar. I liked the contrast between the dark bittersweet chocolate and the creamy vanilla sauce. The other was as Tish meant death-by-chocolate to be served, covered with an equally decadent bittersweet chocolate glaze.
I'm really looking forward to seeing the cakes the other gals baked. There was a bleeping funny reaction, a passionate team spirit, a plea for a life sponsor, a silent voice, a girls night coffee, a traveling blogger, an inspired budding chef, cute and probably well photographed miniatures and a maiden voyage in a brand new oven.
from Tish Boyle's The Cake Book
(makes one 9-inch cake)
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 62% cocoa), finely chopped
12 ounces (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brewed coffee
6 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with a parchment round and butter the parchment. (If you're using a pan with a removable bottom like a springform, make sure to wrap the pan with 2 or 3 layers of foil.)
Place chopped chocolate in a large bowl.
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, stir butter, sugar and coffee until the butter is melted and mixture is boiling. Pour the hot mixture over your chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute then gently stir until chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs vigorously until blended. Whisk in the vanilla and salt. Slowly add about 3/4 cup hot chocolate mixture to the eggs, whisking constantly. (Tempering the eggs with a little bit of the hot chocolate mixture will prevent "scrambled eggs" when combining the two mixtures.) Add the egg mixture to the hot chocolate mixture and whisk to combine well.
Strain the batter through a sieve (to catch any cooked egg bits) and then pour batter into prepared pan. Set cake pan in a large roasting pan and fill the pan with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the center is shiny and set but still a bit jiggly. Transfer cake pan to a cooling rack and cool for 20 minutes.
Run a thin knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a cardboard round on top of the pan and invert the cake onto it. Remove pan and carefully remove the parchment paper. Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours before glazing with chocolate glaze or before serving unglazed with crème anglaise.
small cakes before and after glazing
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
Place chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.
In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Remove pan from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute then gently stir until chocolate is melted and the glaze is smooth. Gently stir in the vanilla. Transfer glaze to a small bowl and cover the surface of the glaze with plastic wrap and let cool for 5 minutes at room temperature before using.
To glaze the cake:
Place the chilled cake, still on the cake round, on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Slowly pour the hot glaze onto the center of the cake. Smooth the glaze over the top and sides, letting the excess drip onto the baking sheet.
Scrape the extra glaze from the baking sheet and put it in a small ziploc bag. Seal the bag and cut a tiny hole in one of the bottom corners. Gently squeeze the bag over the top of the cake to drizzle the glaze in a decorative pattern. Refrigerate the cake at least one hour before serving.
unglazed with crème anglaise
(makes about 2 1/4 cups)
2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split
6 tbsp granulated sugar
pinch of salt
6 egg yolks
Pour milk into a heavy saucepan. Scrape vanilla bean seeds into milk and add the pod, sugar and salt. Heat the milk mixture until warm but not simmering.
Prepare an ice bath (a bowl nested in a larger bowl filled with ice water).
In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks lightly. Slowly add about 3/4 cup of the warm milk to the egg yolks, whisking constantly. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Strain custard into the bowl set in the ice water. Stir the crème anglaise to cool it down. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.