Monday, January 2, 2012

boca negra

slice of boca negra
2011 was a trying year for my family.
we flitted - or dashed - from family
emergency to family emergency and
spent our time in rest, figuring out
how to handle the situations that kept
smacking us in the face, contemplating
our next moves and crossing our fingers
that the worst was behind us.

needless to say, 2012 is a welcome change.
this is a year we have hung our hats on -
and as i write that, i realize,
my goodness, that's a lot of pressure on
a new year.

but, i think it can handle it -
after all, we have a wedding in july, not
to mention a family bond that's thickened
over the past 12 months and seeds of proof
that things are starting to turn around.

to kick it off with every ounce of
this-year-damn-well-better-be-good we
could muster, we had dinner and watched
the ball drop together, at our house.

larry and i cooked all day on
new year's eve, making appetizers,
prepping eight dungeness crabs for
orange sauce, getting ready for
new year's day breakfast (which i
can't wait to tell you about) and,
making this cake.

even though i had, for months,
thought that this new year's was
important to spend together, i hadn't
given the menu much thought. i had
channeled back to this new year's eve
and my mom's birthday and remembered
that crabs are always good for celebrations
and for a crowd. but, i wasn't really sure
if i would be able to get 8 of them, so somewhere
inside, i was thinking lasagna. but i found the crabs
and kind of, sorta, not really figured out the appetizers
as i shopped and saw what was in store.
but, the dessert. i hadn't really thought about that at all.

the day we went grocery shopping,
i quickly searched a few blogs.
then, i thought that i was tired, we had
to leave, we didn't have time for endless hours
of searching. so, i went to dorie greenspan's
web site and scanned the desserts for something
decadent, something celebratory, something...without
a million steps or layers of frosting or 20 bowls.

and, then i found boca negra,
with which a quick read and a glance at the reviews,
i was pretty sure was my dessert.
i asked larry if we owned bourbon -
he countered with maker's mark.
and then, i looked more closely.
things jumped out at me:
six ingredients
made in the food processor
30 minutes exactly.
i added 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate to
our shopping list (and 12 more white chocolate
for the accompanying cream), and didn't look back.

that night - the night before new year's eve -
i made the white chocolate bourbon cream,
in about 5 minutes. boiling heavy cream whirled
together in the blender with the chocolate,
bourbon was added and the whole thing,
thick and fluid and pretty dreamy in flavor,
went into the fridge.

the next day, i was a little more nervous.
after a more careful perusal of the reviews,
i realized that some people had wound up
with a molten cake (instead of the rich,
fudgy texture they were expecting) and that
the cake had to be baked in a water bath.
there was flipping.
of a hot, precious, delicate cake.
folded parchment
ready to cut
ready for batter
oh whatever.
it was for a new year.
so, when i woke up,
before even sipping my first sip of coffee,
i lined the bottom of my sheet pan
with parchment paper and then realized,
as i often do, that the eggs and butter
needed to be at room temperature.

so, i set them all aside, asked larry to chop
the chocolate and busied myself
making other appetizers.
45 minutes later, i came back to it all.
chopped chocolate
the chocolate was in the food processor.
the butter was cut into 10 pieces.
the eggs were cracked into a measuring
cup. the flour was measured.

i brought bourbon and sugar to a boil,
added it to the chocolate and processed
for about 15 seconds, until the chocolate
inside was no longer bouncing inside
and making noise. as the processor ran,
i added the butter, one piece at a time,
then poured in eggs, again one by one.
after the flour was in, we ran it a few
seconds more and had a very dark batter.
bourbon, sugar
chocolate, bourbon, sugar
butter, cubed
measuring flour, the lazy way
i transferred the batter to the cake plan
and placed it in the roasting pan. then,
i foolishly forgot the trick for adding water
to a roasting pan (but, didn't forget to tell
you, below), and instead, added it using the sink.
in water
it went in the oven and i begged the cake
to please show me a thin, crackly top layer
when the 30 minutes were up, so that i didn't
have to use my own judgement to decide
if the cake was finished or not.
and, it did!
crackly crust
ready to flip
but, then, the unmolding.
and the hot flipping.
i gently placed a layer of plastic wrap on
top of the cake, as instructed. i topped the
whole thing with a large plate. i held my
breath and flipped. so far so good.
i shimmied the cake plate off and smiled.
i was staring at an empty pan, a whole cake.
and then, i flipped once more, onto the
serving plate. the cake landed slightly askew,
but it was on the plate.
it was safe.
baked and safely on a cake plate
the recipe said the cake could be served
warm or at room temperature, but there was a note
that it could also be served cold, if you're
a fan of fudge. i liked that idea.
but, by that point, our fridge was filled with
bottles of prosecco, sparkling cider, 8 dungeness crabs,
a bowl of proofed dough and many, many
other things. this cake, on its pedestal cake
stand, was destined to be served room temp.

the white chocolate cream!
i almost forgot about it,
that night, and just now, too.
i remembered to check on it,
late afternoon. it was still stunning in
flavor, and satiny in texture, but also,
hard, like the ganache filling on a truffle,
that had spent a day in the fridge.
i would still serve it,
but i can't say that i understood it.

that night,
when the ridiculous amount of appetizers
that we all made had been eaten,
and the crabs cracked,
toasts to a better year, made,
and all of us full,
we sat around our coffee table in the living room,
set the television to dick clark
and pulled out a freshly bought box of apples to apples.
i looked at the clock. it was 11:30 and frankly,
none of us needed cake. or prosecco.
we left the bubbly in the fridge.
but at 11:50,
i pulled the cake from the counter,
sat it in the living room and we ate,
teeny, tiny slivers, of seriously fudgy,
room temperature cake, dotted with
thick white chocolate-bourbon cream.

we toasted in spirit and kissed
each other happy near year, while
giggling over the most recent
apples to apples play.

and that was it.
it was 2012.
we had made the decision to
make '11 end much better
than it had lived.
we laughed.
we ate a messy dinner.
some of us swore we
remembered all the words
to certain 90's rap songs and
some us used pandora to make
them prove it.
we ate cake.
and, for all of that,
we were thankful.
boca negra
boca negra
adapted from lora brody via dorie greenspan via
this is a serious cake for serious chocolate lovers. (interestingly enough, that's not me - but, still, i can appreciate it.) it's fudgy, fudgy, fudgy and while the recipe says that it serves 12, we managed to get eight wedges out of just over a quarter of the cake. yes, they were tiny (it was 11:50 at night. we were full.), but it was enough. it is worth noting, however, that even though this cake is rich and dense, it cuts beautifully.

i'm including the recipe for the white chocolate cream, below. it's definitely an interesting addition and, the bourbon nicely unites the two, but i think you could whip some whipped cream with a few drops of bourbon and still be happy.

below, are the directions for making the cake using the food processor. if you prefer to make it by hand (good for you!), or you do not own a food processor, the directions are here.

and, one last thing. we can now tell you that at room temperature, this cake is soft, supple and chocolate almost like a warmed chocolate bar. when chilled, it really is like a piece of fudge, which is how larry preferred it. i think that i've liked this cake the best when removed from the fridge and given 20 minutes to sit before serving.

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup bourbon
2 sticks (8 ounces each) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

place rack in center of oven. heat oven to 350˚f. lightly butter a 9-inch round baking pan. line bottom of pan with parchment paper. lightly butter parchment paper; set aside.

(here's how i do it, as shown in pictures, above: i fold a piece of parchment in half, twice. then, i fold the paper, corner to corner to form a triangle. i do that a second time, too. then i place the point in the center of the pan, and mark the spot that the paper hits the inside edge of the pan. cut the remaining paper off, at that mark, in a slightly rounded fashion. when you unfold the triangle, you should have a round that fits in the pan. see how mine was a little too big and went up the sides? sometimes that doesn't matter. this time, it did and resulted in creases in the cake. i would try to avoid that.)

place chopped chocolate in bowl of food processor. in saucepot over medium heat, bring sugar and bourbon to a boil, stirring occasionally. add to chocolate; run processor 15 seconds, or until mixture is smooth. it may look cool and harder than you think it should at this point - don't worry.

with processor running, add butter, one piece at a time, making sure it mixes into the mixture before adding the next piece. add eggs, one at a time, again making sure that the egg is absorbed into the batter before continuing. (i like to crack all eggs into a liquid measuring cup and then pour them, one at a time into the mixture.)

add flour and process 10 seconds.

transfer batter to prepared pan. place cake pan inside roasting pan. place in oven and, using a pitcher, carefully fill roasting pan with water. (you want the water to come up 1" on the cake pan.) bake exactly 30 minutes (the cake should have a thin, crackly-looking top crust).

remove the roasting pan from the oven. carefully remove the cake pan from the roasting pan. i used larry, a spatula and a silicone, waterproof oven mitt - i'm sure there's an easier, more graceful way. wipe cake pan dry. carefully and gently, cover cake surface with plastic wrap. place large flat plate over cake pan; flip over and place plate on work surface. carefully remove cake pan from cake; peel off parchment. place cake plate over cake; carefully flip cake and remove top cake.

serve warm, at room temperature, or cold.

white chocolate bourbon cream
as i said, this mixture is more of a scoopable ball of chocolate than an accompanying cream, but it is interesting and i think it would be fun to use for other desserts. it does need to be made one day ahead of time.

12 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup bourbon

place white chocolate in blender. in small saucepot, bring heavy cream to a simmer (small bubbles should form around the sides of the saucepot). pour cream into blender. run blender 1 minutes, or until mixture is smooth. add bourbon; blend to combine. transfer to container. chill 1 day before serving.

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