Monday, April 13, 2009

passover + birthday = chocolate flourless cake

growing up,
my mom always made matzoh
i remember peanut butter
and jelly on matzoh
(which was really just
a minor switch from the 
peanut butter and jelly 
on cinnamon bread
i ate everyday),
matzoh spread with butter
and sprinkled with salt
and matzoh brei, or fried,
matzoh, which my mom
would cook scrambled
like eggs, or let set
into a round and cut into
wedges - we would then
sprinkle with salt and pepper
or cinnamon and sugar.

(i'll have to give you 
the very simple recipe
for matzoh brei soon.)

i was lucky.
i never really thought of
matzoh as a bad thing,
a punishment, something
you just tolerate. i actually -
and i think my sisters could 
attest to this for themselves, too -
was kind of excited to
see the box.

and, like, matzoh,
passover desserts never
really were a threat,
something that we had
to get through, or forget
what other sweets tasted
like to enjoy.

so, when
it came to light that
larry's mom, barbara's, birthday
coincided with the first
night of passover,
it seemed more like a
i wanted a cake
that would feel like an
indulgence, as birthdays
should be,
not tolerable torture.
luckily after a small 
amount of searching, 
i knew that all i had
to do, was call my mom
for her foolproof, 
never been disputed
chocolate flourless cake.

like most flourless
chocolate cake recipes,
this one was not hard to
put together,
all you need is a
springform pan,
and of course,

but, this one was my mom's
and it came with notes,
transcribed to me over the phone,
like, 10.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate -
i have a note here to take 30 chips
out of the ghirardelli bag. 
this helped
tremendously because otherwise, 
i would have 
a) gotten to work chopping 
bulk chocolate, which is not hard 
but leaves you
with tiny melting shards everywhere
b) conceded to buy morsels, but 
then i would have pulled out 
the scale for careful weighing.

she assured me that
i would be fine.
when i asked questions,
she said,
brooke, you will not 
mess this up and they
will love it.

(that was a challenge 
and reassurance all 
rolled into one.)

but she was right.
even after using probably
a smaller bowl than i should
have to melt the butter, chocolate
and sugar together.
and even after not learning
my lesson and using probably
a smaller bowl than i should
have to beat the eggs,
i still didn't mess it up.

once blended and poured
into an almond-crumb lined
pan, neither of those things mattered.
the cake-to-be
went into the oven
looking thick and glossy
and in less
than 10 minutes,
made our house smell like
a chocolate factory.

it sat overnight -
can you beat that? -
and the next day,
after the seder,
i pulled out the springform
pan, expecting 10 seconds of 
remove sides,
remove bottom,
place on cake plate,
top with confectioners' sugar.

it didn't quite go as planned -
i struggled a bit removing the
sides - as you can see. and it
took three spatulas, both of 
larry's hands
and both of mine,
to remove the bottom of the pan
and transfer to the cake plate.
and i was tired and worried,
and kind of panicky 
about the whole thing.
by the time it was sprinkled
with sugar, and served
with one candle in the center.
thoughts like, 
i've ruined barbara's birthday
i should know my limits,
swirled around in my head
as everyone sang and
larry's dad, bob, busied
himself picking 
all the crumbs, a casualty
of the transfering troubles,
off the floor.

(and here's the thing:
i know i'm crazy
because i mean it
when i say that my style
is rustic, that it's not about
being beautiful or sleek,
but about being delicious
and homey. but still, when it's 
for someone, do you really want
it to look like you threw shlop on
a plate and said: 
here, happy birthday?)

but then larry,
started cutting wedges,
and i distracted myself
from the humility by
taking pictures.
when i looked up,
everyone was eating,
no scratch that. 
everyone was licking
their forks and finishing
their plates and saying
how delicious it was, and
some, even asking for
seconds of the incredibly
rich dessert.

so in the end,
barbara had a good birthday cake,
thank goodness.
it was a great celebration
cake and, now i know,
a good one when you're 
interested in impressing
someone or a whole group
of someones -
any time of year.
and my mom was right,
even if my version is
not winning any
beauty pagent awards,
i couldn't mess it up
and they did love it.

my mom's flourless chocolate cake
i'm usually a big fan of chopping my own chocolate, but after following my mom's recipe exactly and using morsels - i say save yourself the time and pick up a bag. also, when buying chips, i, like my mom, love ghiradelli's bittersweet. where we differ, however, is in our ovens: my mom has a nice new one that cooked the cake in the 45 minutes called for in the recipe, mine, old and ornery, had it puffed and cracked in 35 minutes, so keep an eye on it. one last thing, i've since figured out my mistake and why it was so hard to remove from the pan and i feel pretty dumb because it's one of the tips i gave back in february. correct instructions are in the recipe, below.

1 small handful blanched and slivered almonds
10.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate morsels
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
10 tablespoons butter (1 1/4 sticks)
5 large eggs
confectioners' sugar

heat oven to 350˚f. in food processor, pulse almonds just until ground, making sure not to grind into a paste; remove and reserve 1 tablespoon ground almonds. lightly spray bottom and sides of 8- or 9-inch springform pan (mine is 9 inches) with cooking spray; dust pan with remaing ground almonds. gently pat out excess almonds.

in double boiler or large heatproof bowl set over simmering water on low heat, melt together chocolate, butter and sugar, stirring until mixture is melted and sugar is dissolved; take off heat and set aside.

in medium bowl, whisk eggs and reserved 1 tablespoon ground almonds 30 seconds, or until well combined. transfer 1/2 cup chocolate mixture to small bowl; working quickly, beat in 1/2 cup egg mixture. once well combined, pour chocolate-egg mixture back into chocolate mixture; working quickly, fold remaining egg mixture into remaining chocolate mixture to combine. smooth top.

place springform pan on baking sheet. bake 35-45 minutes or until top is set and beginning to crack. remove from oven; using a sharp knife, carefully separate cake from pan. place on wire rack and let cool completely.

when it is time to serve: remove cake from pan; place on cake plate or serving platter; place confectioners' sugar in sieve and pat sieve to dust cake.


Lisa said...

Looks delicious--and not sloppy at all! A little powdered sugar on top always makes things look pretty.

brooke said...

thank you! i needed that.