FRENCH CHOCOLATE CAKE (GUEST POST BY: DIVINA PE)

After you indulge in Divina's yummy French chocolate cake recipe please go visit her fantastic food blog Sense & Serendipity. Thanks for writing Divina!

Secret Password: Chocolate. That's the only word that would catch the attention of my nephew Joshua. He's not alone, chocolate is almost everyone's pure indulgent, out of this world, first class comfort food at the tip of your hands. Chocolate is good for you as I've mentioned on my post When Dark is Beautiful. The darker (more cocoa solids) the chocolate, the higher the nutrient value because it has less sugar and oil. Sugar and oil raises the sweetness level yet diminish the quality of the chocolate. And the quality of the chocolate is one of the characteristics of this French chocolate cake.

For my Christmas post for Nancy of Food Tastes Yummy, I would like to share a French chocolate cake that I've made when I volunteered at Dubrulle Culinary Institute (now known as The Arts Institute of Vancouver) for their amateur classes. While Nancy takes care of sharing food recipes on her site, her husband Matt is in charge of the beverage side (Matt's Wine Not! and Matt's Beer We Go). This cake was love at first bite. This is truly a decadent chocolate cake perfect with a dessert wine. So, while Nancy is busy making this cake, Matt will pair this with a great wine for the coming occasion.

This dessert is perfect to end a nice meal. It is not too heavy and not too light. I remembered an advice from my former chef instructor Tony Minichiello (my culinary instructor at Northwest Culinary Institute of Vancouver and Rouxbe Online Cooking School) while doing desserts for an Italian in school. He says that you want your guests feeling absolutely satisfied that if they ask for more it would ruin their whole appetite. Besides, this cake is best served just enough to satisfy your sweet tooth.

There are valuable lessons you can learn from this French chocolate cake:
  • First, melting of the chocolate is as important as the quality of the chocolate. A small amount of liquid can seize the chocolate into a hard solid mass. But the opposite is also true; adding more liquid to the chocolate will melt smoothly and evenly. The usual measurement is 1 tbsp of liquid (in this case coffee) to every two ounces of chocolate. If the chocolate has already seized, you can cool them and chop into pieces and melt with the coffee to use.
  • Second, chocolate needs to be melted in a constant even temperature over a double boiler to preven the texture from becoming granular. Once the chocolate is melted, they are usually combined with cream, butter or egg yolk which keeps the chocolate from solidifying.
  • Third, the use of soft peak egg whites as a leavening agent will produce a moist cake. As with a classic soufflé, the cake puffs during baking and collapses as it cools. You will notice when testing the cake for doneness, the centre should leave some chocolate fudge on the skewer. This produces a dense rich cake.
  • Forth, this cake is made with almond flour, replacing some or all of the flour which allows the dessert to be frozen without separating or weeping. I did use about three tablespoons of flour and you'll notice from the photo the cake layer on the top. But in my opinion, they are best without the addition of the flour.

Patience is a virtue that every baker should have. If you don't allow the cake to cool down and invert them right away, most likely they will break off. It happens to me all the time. :D

This cake is best made a day ahead to allow the flavors to mature for better flavor. This is great for those who want to concentrate on other dishes without worrying about the dessert.

French Chocolate Cake (the recipe)

Makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup currants
  • 1/4 cup cognac, whisky or Bourbon
  • 8 oz. fine quality bittersweet chocolate (at least 60-70% cocoa solids)
  • 1/3 cup strong brewed coffee or espresso
  • 4 oz. cold unsalted butter (about 115 grams)
  • 3/4 cup ground almonds
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup unrefined cane sugar (please see note)

To serve:

  • cocoa powder or confectioner's sugar (for dusting)
  • vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt (to serve)

To prepare the pan, line the bottom of an 8" round cake pan with parchment paper. Grease the sides and the bottom of the pan with butter.

In a small saucepan, gently heat the cognac and currants together. Take off the heat and set aside to cool. This is a quick step method but you can also steep the currants overnight. Chop the chocolate into pieces, prepare the coffee, cut the butter into 1-inch piece cubes, measure the flour and the almonds. Then separate the yolks from the whites.

To melt the chocolate mixture, heat a pot of water filled halfway (even less) to a simmer. Combine the chopped chocolate and the coffee in a large bowl. Then, place the bowl over the pot of water and melt the mixture, stirring to keep the chocolate glossy.

Remove the bowl from the heat when the chocolate has melted, making sure to avoid contact with the steam from the pot. Begin to stir in the pieces of butter, one or two at a time, until all are incorporated.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar with a whisk until light lemon in color. Whisk some of the warm chocolate into the eggs and sugar to temper the eggs. Add the rest of the chocolate. Stir in the cognac and the currants. The larger bowl now contains the heavier base of the cake which allows the beaten egg whites to be folded in successfully. Fold the almond flour into the chocolate mixture. Make sure all is blended.

In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt. Whisk until the whites form soft peaks. They should be able to hold their shape but would fall gently after several seconds when you lift them with a whisk. They should form a soft curved end, hence, soft peaks. Then, using a large rubber spatula; fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold with as few strokes as possible but incorporate all the whites.

Turn into a prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. Test the edges with a toothpick. The edges will leave the toothpick clean but at the center it should be moist with batter. Allow the cake to cool for thirty minutes before reversing out. Peel off the paper.

To serve the cake, dust the cake with cocoa powder or confectioner's sugar through a sieve. Then cut into 8-10 slices. Serve with vanilla ice cream or yogurt.

Notes:

Gluten-Free

Serving Suggestions:

To serve them cold, you can make a glaze while the cake is baking. Melt together 3 oz. of bittersweet chocolate, 3 tbsps of honey and melted butter. When the cake is completely cooled, spread the glaze over the surface. If the cake is being served slightly warm, spoon the sauce over the cut pieces.

This cake is also great with a pistachio Créme Anglaise.

Sugar: The amount of sugar will depend on the amount of cocoa solids on your chocolate.

This French Chocolate Cake can also be found at Rouxbe Online Cooking School Test Kitchen. Dive in and enjoy.

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