Friday, May 3, 2013

Can I have another piece of chocolate cake?

Not a day goes by when one or both of my children don't have chocolate smeared on their faces. And I embrace it - this daily eating of chocolate - as long as it's quality chocolate. I don't like them to eat Cheetos or Twinkies or sugary cereals, but chocolate.....yes.

When there's chocolate cake in the house, I have a piece every day, at least one. For me, chocolate cake is satisfying like the carcass of a gazelle would be satisfying to a lion. Thoroughly, devotedly, an all-consuming kill, and at the end, I would lay down and my eyes would roll back in my head. Chocolate cake.

I don't need frosting. I especially don't need bad frosting. But I could always go for a perfect whipped ganache. I made it once in cooking school, and I've never had anything better. Ganache is heavy cream and chocolate, melted to a glossy glaze, but when you whip it, it becomes fluffy, like the lightest chocolate air, but with its deep, dark chocolatey edge miraculously in tact. The problem was, even with the recipe copied word for word, I never could duplicate it. It would turn out grainy, or dense, and a disappointing whipped ganache is a sad affair, indeed.

But really, it's the cake part that I love. And so when I found the following recipe in Alice Medrich's "Chocolate and the Art of Lowfat Desserts," I almost died. I normally hate low fat desserts - the most egregious oxymoron ever. But this recipe has nothing insulting - no non-fat cream cheese product, no applesauce to replace the fat. It's all butter, baby.

Alice Medrich is a plump woman who used to own a pastry shop somewhere in northern California. She's written a few books and become somewhat of an expert on all things chocolate. I make this cake recipe probably once a month, and we eat it over the course of three or four days, with ice cream or just plain, in the middle of the day, standing over the counter, gazing out the window, realizing that life is pretty fucking great.

Alice Medrich's Chocolate Pound Cake

Spray a tube or bundt pan with cooking spray
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. unsweetened dutch process cocoa (Valrhona, if you can find it)
3/8 tsp baking soda
3/8 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
4 egg whites
2 Tbs instant espresso dissolved in 3 Tbs hot water
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
12 Tbs unsalted butter, room temp
2 2/3 cups sugar

Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, and salt together and set aside. Whisk the eggs with the whites in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the dissolved espresso powder with the vanilla and buttermilk and set aside.

Using a stand up mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until softened, about a minute. Slowly add the sugar, and scrape down the sides as needed. Beat for about 3 minutes, until well incorporated. Gradually dribble in the eggs and beat until well incorporated. Scrape the sides down as necessary with a rubber spatula.

Now you're going to alternately add the dry ingredients with the wet ones, starting with the flour. Turn off the mixer, add 1/3 of the flour and turn the machine on low, so it doesn't spray flour everywhere. Beat until just mixed, then slowly dribble in half the buttermilk mixture. Mix until incorporated. Turn off the machine, add 1/3 of the flour, and continue in the same manner until all ingredients are incorporated. You can do the last bit of mixing by hand with the spatula, to make sure all the dry bits are worked in.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Place the pan on a sheet pan or cookie sheet and place in the middle of your preheated oven. Bake for about 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The cake will feel relatively firm to the touch, and have a bit of a bounce.

Cool in the pan, then invert on to a plate. Once it's completely cool, I keep it wrapped in foil. It will stay devastatingly moist for a good three days, if it lasts that long.

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