Saturday, February 28, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Daring Bakers February 2009 Challenge: Flourless Chocolate Cake
Recipe from: Sweet Treats by Chef Wan

I was really excited about this month's challenge. I love simple, elegant recipes that are all about the intricacies of each ingredient. Making flourless chocolate cake is a lot like baking bread. You add very little, but every time you do so much as think about one of the ingredients the outcome is slightly different. It is sort of like painting a still life. It is really the time to appreciate the assets and limitations of your supplies, and hone basic skills. I don't know how much honing I did this month, but I certainly had fun.

The recipes starts with melting chocolate and butter in a double boiler. I chose Scharffen Berger chocolate, partially because it was readily available, partially because it did not break the bank, and mostly because once I was served it while wine tasting in Napa. (I find that I have a fond memory of just about everything I do while wine tasting.)

Next it was time to whip the egg whites into "stiff peaks." I can never remember exactly what entails a "stiff" peak, so I have no idea if I did this correctly. But this is what I ended up with:

You will note there is a flashlight on the bottom left of the last photo. This is a good time to mention that if you have trouble finding things in the back of your kitchen drawers or cabinets, you MUST try a flashlight. Using one has revolutionized my baking experience and made me not want to tear my hair out at the beginning of every baking project. Anyway, my next task was to combine the two bowls, as gently as possible to try to avoid deflating the whipped egg whites:

The following step is where I made my one (known) mistake of the recipe. I wasn't really paying attention to the exact requirements for the pan the cake was to be baked in. Apparently I was supposed to use one with an area of 50". I used a circle with a radius of 5" (A = 78.5"). I realized this afterwards, when I wondered why my cake came out so thin.

Having a cake that was 50% thinner than it should have been had a couple repercussions: (1) it seemed more like a brownie than a cake and (2) instead of reaching the optimal 140 degrees in the suggested baking time it had soared to 148 degrees, slightly drying out the flesh of the cake. This cake was very, very rich. I inadvertently created a real life Got Milk? commercial in my apartment by inviting 5 testers over, giving them each an enormous slice, and then realizing I was out of milk. But that aside, the tasting went well and everyone seemed to enjoy the cake. I think I prefer a lighter dessert, but this recipe was nonetheless a good overall baking experience.

Daring Bakers Tag: The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen 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.

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