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Archive for September 15th, 2009

bistro chocolate cake

Bistro Chocolate Cake

As a tried and true kosher carnivore (well, I guess, officially an omnivore), I am always seeking out good parve (non-dairy) desserts. I often substitute margarine for butter, soy milk for regular, but am always excited when I find desserts that are naturally parve, like those that use oil as their shortening As a fan of all things French and searching for a chocolate cake to make for the housewarming of my “sister mother” Judy, the self proclaimed cupcake queen and sweets fan, and her foodie but savory-only baker husband, Bruce,  I was thrilled to find this gateau au chocolat in my bistro cookbook.

Sharon O’Connor’s Bistro: Favorite Parisian Bistro Recipes, chooses a bistro in each arrondissement and shares some of the chef’s signature dishes. I made the cake because I loved the recipe. You might recall I have a little love affair with proper bistros. Proper bistros. And this delightful book chats a bit about each bistro and the environs in which it was raised in the “neighborhood walk” section preceding the recipes:

“The streets of Au Pied de Fouet’s seventh-arrondissement neighborhood are lined with foreign embassies and French ministries…. The Musée d’Orsay is a very pleasant fifteen-or twenty-minute walk from au Pied de Fouet. The art museum was originally a train station, built in the late 1800s to serve southwestern France. Orsay houses a major collection of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century art, including many famous Impressionist works. The museum which still retains the open, airy feel of the belle-epoque train stations, is extremely popular with Parisians, as well as art lovers from all over the world.”

My affinity for grandiose train stations probably started as early as my teens when I used to travel from DC to Philadelphia to visit my grandmother. I loved the large open-ness of 30th Street Station where Bubbie would always meet me by the statue on the East side of the station. Years later, I toured Western Europe with a Eurail pass and an over-stuffed backpack on wobbly wheels. In my entryway, I have a print of a photo on exhibit at the Musée d’Orsay, especially à propos at this train station-turned-museum.

L. Mercier - Accident gare de l'Ouest le 22 octobre 1895

Luckily this cake is fairly simple, and pardon the cliché, but no matter how many mistakes I made along the way, my gâteau was no train wreck. Yes, yes, groan all you want. That was really bad!

Bistro Chocolate Cake (Gâteau au Chocolat)

Adapted from Sharon O’Connor’s Bistro: Favorite Parisian Bistro Recipes. This is a pretty forgiving recipe (just my kind) for a nearly flour-less chocolate cake. 

The book says this serves 8, but I can’t believe 8 Frenchies would gobble this cake up It’s not overly sweet but is quite rich. I believe it serves closer to 10-12.

- 7 oz bittersweet chocolate (chopped) – I didn’t have bittersweet, so I used a mix of unsweetened and semisweet

- 6 eggs, separated

- 1/3 C sugar

- 1/3 C unbleached all-purpose flour

- 1 C ground blanched almonds

- 1/4 t salt

- 1/3 C vegetable oil

- 2 t baking powder

- 1 t baking soda

- 8 oz sweet chocolate, chopped (optional)

Preheat oven to 300˚F. Grease the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

Prepare the chocolate. In a double boiler (I use a small metal bowl) over barely simmering water (making sure not to let the bottom of the bowl hit the water nor any steam escape or the chocolate will seize), melt the bittersweet chocolate; remove from heat and set aside, allowing to cool to room temperature (don’t put in fridge).

Beat the egg whites. Using an electric mixer, beat the 6 egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks form. I cheated a little bit and added a pinch of cream of tartar to aid in the process when my eggs weren’t beating so nicely. If you are dependent on your mixer for everything, carefully transfer the whites to another bowl so you can use your mixer again to cream the remaining ingredients.

Prepare the almonds. Since I didn’t have any almond meal or pre-ground almonds, I made my own. Place a little over a cup of blanched almond slices into a food processor (I used my mini one) and pulse until you form a fine powder. You will probably need to add some of the ½ C sugar to prevent the almonds from forming almond butter.

Mix everything else together. In a medium bowl, beat the remaining sugar and egg yolks together until thick and pale (by hand, or in your mixer…). Stir in the flour, ground almonds, salt, oil, baking powder, and baking soda, and beat until thoroughly blended. Pour in the warm melted chocolate and stir until mixed. Stir on one-fourth of the egg whites. Gently fold in the remaining whites until thoroughly blended.

Bake. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes (I found 40 minutes to be perfect), or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

The original recipe calls for enrobing the cake in sweet chocolate. I thought this would be too rich. I served it plain and with a fruit salad, but I think it would be perfect with a dallop of spiked whipped cream (or some sort of whipped parve substitute).

Judy loved the cake so much that she took a quarter of the cake for herself and came to my apartment and made a copy of the recipe before I had a chance to post it.

The cakes freezes pretty nicely.

Half the cake, thawing

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