Monday, April 15, 2013

Chocolate Cake Study -- One Recipe, Two Quite Different Cakes

I have been studying, tasting and experimenting a lot with chocolate and chocolate-containing confections for many years. I enjoy learning about this very popular ingredient, but I must confess that I have never been mad about chocolate (I know... what’s wrong with me?).

Since I was a young child, I have loved chocolate éclairs, pan au chocolat and chocolate ice cream, but never have been obsessed with these things. I normally prefer custard confections such as crème caramel, mille-feuille or baba au rhum with whipped cream. However, I have been making/baking chocolate confections quite often these days, because of increased demand for higher quality chocolate at work, and because every woman I know can’t get enough of it.

The following recipe is straight forward and simple, but the result is very rich and irresistible. I tried two different methods of baking this cake using exactly the same recipe (one using a hot water bath at a lower temperature and the other using just dry baking with a shorter baking time). It results in two very different looks and textures, and even the taste seems different. It was a very interesting experiment.

dry baking

hot water bath baking

This cake used an 8 inch springform pan.

Grandmother’s Creamy Chocolate Cake / Gâteau au Chocolat Grand-Mère
Recipe adapted from Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan

For one 8-inch square pan, loaf pan or round (I used an 8 inch springform pan)

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used Callebaut's 60% cacao)

¾ cup (150 grams) sugar

4 large eggs, at room temperature

¼ cup (35 grams) all-purpose flour (or rice flour for gluten-free version)

Fresh berries, whipped cream, crème frâiche, or vanilla ice cream for serving

1.       Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 300° F. Butter the pan and line it with aluminum foil. Have ready a large pan that can hold the cake pan and water (to make a bain-marie).
2.       Put the butter in a heavy, medium saucepan, then add the chocolate and sugar.  Place the pan over medium-low heat and, stirring almost constantly, heat until the butter, chocolate and sugar are melted and well blended. Remove the pan from the heat and let it rest for 3 minutes.
3.       One by one, stir eggs into the chocolate mixture using a whisk. Sift the flour over the mixture and stir it in as well. Rap the batter on the counter to deflate any air bubbles, then pour into the prepared pan.
4.       Put the cake pan into the larger pan, fill the large pan with enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan, and slip the combo into the oven. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is set on top and a knife inserted in the center comes out streaky but not wet. Lift the cake pan out of the water bath and place it on a rack to cool to room temperature. Chill the cake at least 1 hour before unmolding.
5.       When cake is cold, gently turn it over onto a serving platter, lift off the pan, and carefully remove the foil. The cake is meant to be served upside down, with its sleeker side showing. It can be served cold or at room temperature with a scoop of whipped cream, crème fraiche, or ice cream, or topped with fresh berries.

Storing: The cake can be kept tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Wrapped airtight, it can be frozen for a month.

Nutrition per serving (1/12 of cake), not including berries or cream toppings:
310 calories, 24 g fat (15 saturated), 100 mg cholesterol, 26 g sodium, 25 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 4 g protein, 10% Daily Value for iron ("good source"). Nutrition data by Palate Works.

I personally prefer both the texture and taste using the dry-baking method (350 F for about 25 minutes), as used for the above-pictured heart-shaped cake. But many tasters (my lucky friends and neighbors) say, "There is no question the steam-baked one is much more tasty and far superior." As a matter of fact, this cake using the hot water bath cooking method is like eating chocolate butter. Let me know what you think!

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