Monday, January 31, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flourless Chocolate Cake with pansies from JR Organics at the Little Italy Mercato (Farmers' Market)
There are a mere 3 ingredients in this "cake":
  • 1 lb chocolate chopped into small chunks
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted ROOM TEMPERATURE butter
  • 6 large very fresh eggs
This absurdly short ingredient list has 2 implications:

1) Start with the best ingredients to set yourself up for success- if your butter smells fridgey or your chocolate is not something you'd want to eat by itself or your eggs are old, you can do everything correctly and still blow this recipe.

2) How do you turn 3 liquid ingredients into something that's cakelike in appearance? It's all about technique. Screw any of that up and you're doomed. So now the recipe sounds hard- it isn't. It's what I make when I'm pressed for time because it comes together very quickly without too much fussing. Just follow the directions and you can't go wrong.

Preheat oven to 425 and set a kettle of water on to boil.

Prepare a 8" springform pan by locking in the bottom, spraying with nonstick cooking spray, and lining the bottom with a circle of parchment paper (not wax paper, or your cake will taste like crayons, and that's gross). Then cover the bottom with foil to prevent water from seeping in from the water bath you'll bake the cake in. Don't skip that step, you'll be really disappointed if you do. Put the prepared springform in a larger pan that will act as a water bath- make sure there's enough room for you to comfortably pour the boiling water without worrying you'll get any in the cake.

Melt the chocolate in a big bowl in the microwave by zapping for 30 seconds the first time and stirring, and then 15 seconds and stirring, repeating the 15 seconds and stirring procedure until some lumps of chocolate remain but it's mostly melted.

Add the butter and stir to combine until no lumps of butter or chocolate remain. You may need to zap the butter chocolate mixture for 15 seconds one more time. The goal here is to not f*ck up your chocolate- there's two ways of doing that- getting it too hot (which is not really very hot, chocolate scorches at a temp you'd consider warm) or getting a drop or two of liquid in it. So don't rush and zap for longer because it doesn't seem "hot" to you. Trust me.

You can also do that whole procedure in a bowl over a simmering pot of water, but now you're asking for trouble with the drop or two of liquid thing and you have to stand over it and stir...and this is supposed to be easy. I prefer the microwave.

Once your chocolate and butter are velvety smooth, move on to the eggs. Crack them into the bowl of your standing mixer (cake robot) and set it over a pot of barely simmering water. Whisk by hand until the eggs are warm to the touch, which takes about 6 minutes. Don't leave them alone for a second, you have to whisk constantly or your eggs will have little lumps of scrambled egg in them. Ick.

When the eggs are warm, hook the bowl up to the mixer with the whisk attachment and whip on high for about 5 minutes. The eggs will have tripled in volume and will reach the soft peak stage.

Fold 1/3 of the egg into the chocolate until almost uniform in texture. Then fold in 1/2 of the remaining mixture very gently until almost uniform in texture. Fold in the remaining egg very gently just until no streaks remain. Your goal here is to not lose any loft or volume from the air in the eggs but not to have a cake with streaks of egg or gooey chocolate.

Pour batter into the prepared springform pan and smooth with a spatula. Put the water bath pan/springform combo onto the middle oven rack and pour hot/boiling water into the water bath so that it comes up about 1 inch on the side of the springform, being careful not to get any on the cake.

Bake 5 minutes. Cover loosely with foil and bake an additional 11 minutes.

When it comes out of the oven it will look undercooked and wiggly. It's fine. Cool on a rack for 30 minutes then transfer to fridge for at least 3 hours before trying to remove it from the pan. Run a spatula/knife around the edge before releasing the spring or you'll crack the cake.
Serve at room temperature with fresh vanilla whipped cream.

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