Friday, February 23, 2007

Chocolate Intensity

choc intensity

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.

Chocolate Intensity
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.

choc intensity beforechoc intensity after
small cakes before and after glazing

Chocolate Glaze

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.

choc intensity creme anglaise
unglazed with crème anglaise

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.


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Mary you inspire me. I wanted so much to make little cakes and just couldn't figure out how to do it! And how really fun you listed all of us! You are impressive and so's the cake.

Peabody said...

Oh I love that you made minis too! Yours look wonderful and I love the idea of the crème anglaise.

Anonymous said...
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Lis said...

hehehe great post, Mary! I love how you went mini AND two different varieties of serving it.. fabulous =)

I also agree with how wonderful the coffee is in this cake.. I really do think it made the cake. Yum!

Cheryl said...

I love where you cut the cake out in rounds. Fantastic, I'm drooling.

Anonymous said...


As always you have outdone yourself! I love the addition of creme anglaise. Well done!

Anonymous said...

It is 7 a.m. and I am still drooling:) Your cakes turned out beautifully!

Brilynn said...

The minis are cute and creme anglaise it genius! My only problem would have been not eating all the leftover bits from the circle cut outs... It would have been death by chocolate for sure...

Anonymous said...

The mini cakes look divine, I especially like the unglazed ones with the creme anglaise, I can almost taste it now!

Patricia Scarpin said...

You girls are mean. Just mean. ;)

Rachel said...

I love the mini cake...and the holes left are too cute!

Helene said...

Gorgeous cakes! I prepared a creme anglaise for the second cake I paln on having tonight...heheh!

Anonymous said...

Hi Mary - Wow! Gorgeous pictures, and your descripion of the additional coffee flavour sounds delightful. I love the addition of the crème anglaise. Well done!

clarice said...

Hello Mary, I love the add of coffee to the recipe. I have never thought to cut the cake into small rounds but what a wonderful idea. Clarice

Abby said...

Mary! Those are restaurant-worthy! Beautiful.

Jenny said...

I've been inspired again! Next time I will make the cut outs so I CAN eat the left over's! With the left over creme anglaise too!
Great job!

Anonymous said...

I love that you did it in miniatures...I have a weakness for this. Cute and Yummy!

Anonymous said...

What a brilliant idea and an amazing presentation! And both finishes sound wonderful. It is also just a little scary that I just happened to post my wife Marion's [almost] flourless chocolate cake just as all of you were conspiring together.

L Vanel said...

That's it. I have to try this cake. Diet be damned.

Anonymous said...

Stunning! I would like a dozen sent to me please! :) I agree with the other foodies - the minis are a great variation. Love it!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Aaaahhhhh! I can't take it anymore! I must have some chocolate cake! And I've got three more of your group's entries to view.

Could I have one of your scrumptious mini cakes to get me through? Please? :)

Elle said...

Those mini cakes look so something from Paris. It would be hard to choose between the creme anglaise and dark chocolate glaze. Maybe one of each?

Freya said...

I love the fact that you cut them into small rounds! You get a whole cake each then!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely adorable - that was such a great idea to cut out little mini rounds - and proves that you can do anything with just a little imagination!

Anonymous said...

Here's how to make delicious chocolate covered strawberries. First of all ensure that the strawberries you are intending to use are dry, then allow them to be room temperature warm prior to making them. After the strawberries have been covered in chocolate, put them in your refrigerator to cool, but do not store them in the fridge. Consume within 1-2 days.

Erin said...

I am the same way about cookbooks and magazines. I've too many to keep up with, and yet not enough time, ingredients, money, equipment to try a lot of them. I also think that my working with pastries all day does fill some sort of need for baking anyway.

I love your photos and the cake looks lovely.

Linda said...

what a beautiful idea. this is fantastic. the photos are very intriguing and my mouth is already watering!

Altaf said...

WoW...i have the book, can't wait to make it.

Eva said...

Whenever I stop by at your blog, I find something awfully nice! Especially the first pic looks like a truly intense chocolate experience. What I really like about your blog is that you have a good mix of more elaborate and more homecook-like cakes (don't know what to call it) like those almond apple bars. That's stuff I could really eat every day!

Storybook Woods said...

Mary I wanted to thank you again for posting this recipe. I made a version of it with morello cherries and eveyone loved it. Thank you Clarice

Cookie said...

wow, beautiful cake!

Baker Betty said...

I made this over the weekend and it is the best cake I've ever tasted. I still have people calling me about it asking for the recipe.

Thank you for posting this.

Alpineberry Mary said...

Baker Betty - Thanks so much!

Amalee said...

This looks SO fantastic! and mini ones? and two different ways to serve? they look so beautiful and delectable. I really need to find time to make these. You take such time to make things perfect! it's inspiring.

Maria Guy said...

The cake was good even without the glaze or the creme anglaise. It came out really moist and sank a little toward the middle, but otherwise was rich and creamy. Tasted better the next day after sitting out during the night.