March 26, 2011

Flourless Chocolate Cake

The idea of making flourless chocolate cake always interested me. I'm not sure why. About a year ago I found a recipe that I absolutely fell in love with and I learned that you don't have to be gluten intolerant to enjoy this wonderful confection.

Cracked Chocolate Earth (Flourless Chocolate Cake)
Courtesy of Tyler Florence

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 stick unsalted butter
9 eggs, separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.

Put the chocolate and butter into the top of a double boiler (or in a heatproof bowl) and heat over (but not touching) about 1 inch of simmering water until melted. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a mixing bowl until light yellow in color. Whisk a little of the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture to temper the eggs - this will keep the eggs from scrambling from the heat of the chocolate; then whisk in the rest of the chocolate mixture.

Beat the egg whites in a mixing bowl until stiff peaks form and fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the prepared pan (spray the bottom with nonstick spray) and bake until the cake is set, the top starts to crack, and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes, then unmold.

This recipe is really simple. Just keep in mind that it's all about the eggs. If you mess that up then you're going to end up with chocolatey scrambled eggs. If you've never tempered eggs before then my advice is to go slowly. Don't add more than 1/3 cup of chocolate at a time. Once you've tempered eggs once or twice and have gained confidence then you can add a little more chocolate at a time. Just be careful.

The body of the cake comes from the egg whites. When I've made this cake for people they find it hard to believe it doesn't have any flour because it's so fluffy. Well friends, it's all in the wrist. Folding eggs can be a little tricky, but again it takes a little practice. Once you've beaten the eggs until they form stiff peaks, add about 1/3 to the chocolate. Using only a rubber spatula cut through the mixture and roll your wrist in a clockwise direction (if you are right-handed), folding the chocolate and egg whites together. Keep going and turn the bowl a quarter of a turn every time you fold. Fold only until the chocolate and egg whites are barely mixed and then add another third. Never, ever use a whisk to mix the chocolate and egg whites together and never use the spatula to mix rigorously. If you have trouble picturing what folding is, then be sure to check out some videos on YouTube. You could even go to the Food Network website and find a video there.

A quick note about the pan. You want to use a good spring-form pan that doesn't leak. I got mine from Wal-mart and it had a viking on it so I bought it and it's great. For this cake, instead of spraying it with anything (you should know by now that I don't like using the spray stuff) I grease the pan using butter and a paper towel. Once I spread a thin layer of butter all over, I use granulated sugar to coat the inside of the pan. To do this, just throw some sugar inside, shake it all about, and then discard any leftover sugar. Once the cake is baked you'll get a nice crunchy outside.

If you use a toothpick to check for doneness please be warned: the center of the cake should be a little raw. If you stick a toothpick in the center then the batter should stick to it. If you stick the toothpick about an inch to two inches away from the center, then you should have crumbs sticking to it. Once, I made the cake and made sure the toothpick came out clean but the cake ended up super dry. If you bake the cake to the point where it's still a little sticky in the middle then once it cools you will have a perfectly baked cake. If you're worried it's too raw then don't panic; once the cake is cooled down to room temperature you can throw it in the fridge and you'll have a cake that has the texture of cheesecake. How awesome is that?

I have one last note on this recipe. Due to the fact that it only has four ingredients make sure to get high quality products. Your eggs should be really fresh. The butter should be quality, un-salted, sweet cream. The chocolate is the most important thing. I always use Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate. It's a little expensive but definately worth it. If you can't find chocolate that specifically says "bittersweet" then look for something that has a 65% or higher cocoa content.

This cake is definately worth the effort. It's rich without being heavy. The bittersweet chocolate allows you to enjoy the taste of chocolate without the sweetness. Even my dad, who is not normally a fan of chocolate, likes this cake. My serving suggestion is to make it as close to serving time as possible. It's wonderful when it's warm with a dollop of whipped cream on top or high quality vanilla ice cream on the side.

Don't be intimidated by the need for intermediate skills. You can do it. Just take your time until you gain confidence.

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