Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Call me a Timbuktu'er, I never had flourless chocolate cake. I have heard a hundred times that people went ohh-ahh over it. I read the recipe a while ago. The fact that eggs are main ingredient ....er...this doesn't impress me very much. I was visioning eggy taste with some kind of dry sponge, nothing fancy.

Until one day I met with a diner/food guru who writes food-related articles in a magazine. She said that she looooooove flourless chocolate cake. Okay , that's it. I will bake this myself. I 've got to trust her taste buds. Why not, she is a guru.
The recipe I tried was of Martha's web site. There are several great recipes available but I chose this one because less butter is required. Reason? I know you can guess. And of course, there are many others who prefer butter-rich recipes, but ....let me tried this one , the photo on Martha's looks really nice.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter or nondairy margarine, plus more for pan
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan, and line with parchment cut to fit. I also lined parchment paper on the side so that it's 2-inch higher from the pan as the batter tends to double in the oven (then deflates when cold). See below is my first batch, without extra parchment wall. The batter almost overflew.

Melt butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Or, for me, I microwaved them in low heat, just half melted.

With a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg yolks with 1/2 cup sugar until thick and pale and creamy. Add espresso and salt, and beat for 1 minute, just to combine. Add vanilla and chocolate mixture, and beat for 1 minute.

In a clean bowl , whisk egg whites until foamy. Slowly add remaining 1/2 cup sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions. The first addition, I used whisk, to make chocolate mixture thinner. It's okay if the batter deflates a little, whisk in gently just until blend. Do not overwork, white streaks left in the bowl are so okay. Now switch to spatula, add the more whites, fold in gently but quickly, turn the bowl while folding.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until set, 40 to 45 minutes. When it was baking half way through, I could see the batter almost double in volume and that my extra walls of parchment paper came in to play. 10 minutes later, my kitchen smelled like chocolaty heaven. Once done, the side will slightly shrink from edge. To check the doneness you can insert too pick and see if it comes out clean.

Let cool completely in pan on a rack. The cake will defalte in the center, that is how it is suppose to be. Remove parchment. Be gentle as the cake is fragile.

I skipped The Glaze as mentioned in Martha's website. But it would be nice for decorating. Here is glaze recipe.

Make the glaze: Place chocolate, butter, and vanilla in a bowl, set aside. Bring remaining ingredients [cream, sugar, espresso,salt] to a boil, stirring, remove from heat, and pour the boiled ingredients over chocolate mixture in the bowl. Whisk until smooth. Serve glaze warm with cake.

Verdict: Anyone see me tasting my first-bite would have called an ambulance. My pupil overwhelmingly dilated with surprise. The bite was tiny but the tasted was packed. It's chocolaty and very very and very light. I drifted away.

I baked this goodie on March 18th. It was not weekend but it indeed was a special occasion. It was my mom's birthday. Her favorite cake is always something associated with fruits i.e. fruitcake, orange-curd cake, blackforest (of course with cherry filling). She also like chocolate cakes especially the fluffy one. I am so sure she and her gangster would love this.

This is my mom, my sister, and me, 9-month old.

Some facts about my mom vs. her culinary world

- She collects baking wares. (repeat.... "collects").

- She bought a then-state-of-art oven in 1980s, but she never used it. I found this treasure "x" years later when I was 18, And that was my starting point of baking addiction. Note that it is not common in Asian household to have an oven. Free-standing style could be bought in store, with limited choices. Built-in oven was considered luxurious. So imagine 20 years ago (!) As if she knew, I would use it more frequent than my MP3. And I have to tell her, the oven is worth every penny she spent.

- Not long after I discovered the oven, I digged out for more, I found a hand mixer and some other rusty items, and a swirling copper whisk ! I tried to find a photo of that wierd-looking whisk which is non-existent nowadays.

One week later, I found a bag of expired pancake flour. OMG, since when did she became a amateur baker. As far as I recall, she was a busy entrepreneur who had two little monsters running around.

- Don't scream if I tell you I am still using "that" oven and "that" hand mixer I digged out from store room. And yes, everything you see on this blog was baked /made/whisked out of almost-20-year-old oven hand mixer. So far, they serve me very well. They are Moulinex's.

- I recalled that, the one and only cake my mom baked was made out of instant cake flour (I think when I was in pre-elementary school and my sister was a third grader?) It was dense and burnt. Well, the oven was good for reheating pizzas but not baking (which is why it burnt). My mom gave a piece to my sister to taste. My sister vanished quickly without a trace. I tasted and I told my mom that it tasted really nice and yummy. What happened next? my mom told me that I was lucky and that I could have to whole tray of (burnt) cake. I stood there trying to figure out what to do....I cried (come on, I was six!)

- She is really good at making ba-jang or Zong zi 粽子, steamed sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves with marinated pork and mushroom. I am certain she could made her fortune out of this if she turned this hobby into business.

- A few years ago, I told her I needed to lose weight. She prepared such healthy and unbelivably delicious breakfasts for me and my sister every day. I lost 4 pound in 2 months without being bitterly skipped meals.

- My mom complained whenever I baked at midnight. She feared of short-circuit as the oven was old. Ya, she has made her point. Unfortunately, I got inspired by nice-looking photos in my cooking book at 10 pm and...I do what I have to do....sorry.

- My old habit persists. Whenever I have free time on weekend, I digged out in store room with the hope to discover interesting (unused) baking equipment.

- I never could have found out what I love to do until that "oven-discovery" day. Thanks mom.

I wish I had a few candle on the cake. The piece below contains zero calories, if you consume it by eyes only.

Mmm..should I sing a birthday song a bit?

(me singing) Happy Birthday to you...Happy birthday to you....Happy birthday...happy birthday..y...y.

Happy birthday to Mami..i..i.