Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Chocolate Nemesis

The challenge for September between my friend at Create Cakes and I is flourless chocolate cakes. The first recipe we decided to try was a popular one from the River Cafe in London called the Chocolate Nemesis.

If you have read my other blog, you may know that I do not usually make cakes. I prefer cookies & brownies, which I almost always succeed at. It's not that I can't make cakes, but until recently, I couldn't frost them at all.

Then there is the extravagance of the ingredients in this cake. I probably would have attempted it sooner, but the amount of chocolate alone is staggering! Luckily in a taste test at Cooks illustrated, Hershey's Special dark came out in the top three and is the cheapest, so I decided to go with that from a cost perspective. It was given high marks in cake by them too.

Here is the recipe adjusted for American measuring, with the directions re-ordered a bit.

Chocolate Nemesis
Serves 10-12

24 oz bitter-sweet chocolate, broken into small pieces
10 whole eggs
2 3/4 C + 2 Tbs sugar
2 C unsalted butter, softened
1 C water

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Pick your pan sizes and line the bottom with parchment paper and the sides with pam. You can use a 12 inch, or 2 8 inch pans.

2. Heat 2 cups of the sugar in a small pan with the water until the sugar has completely dissolved to a syrup.

3. Place the chocolate and butter in the hot syrup and stir to combine until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

4. Beat the eggs with the rest of the sugar until the volume quadruples-this will take at least 10 minutes in an electric mixer.

5. Add warm chocolate mixture to the eggs and continue to beat, more gently, until completely combined- about 20 seconds.

6. Pour into the cake tin and place in a water bath. It is vital for even baking. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until set. Let it cool in the tin before turning out.

There is a lot of detail missing in these directions. Questions that came to mind while I was baking: How long do you let the sugar syrup boil when it becomes clear? How do you best add the chocolate & butter to the sugar syrup to prevent separation of the chocolate (or worse - burning)? Can you over cook this mixture in trying to get it smooth? How do you best mix the chocolate mixture and egg mixture without causing the egg to curdle? How do you know if the cake is set? Because the top is set, or by toothpick or what? How long do you let them cool before trying to invert them? How do you keep from spilling the water bath all over the place? Why did I try to do this while my kids were awake?

I chose to keep the mixer running on low and slowly add the chocolate mixture to it to try and help prevent curdling and cause better incorporation. Unfortunately my pan didn't want to cooperate and I spilled chocolate mixture on my counter. I tried a funnel but it didn't help much. Putting the lip of the pan on the mixer and pouring carefully was the best I could do and then salvage the rest off of my (thankfully) clean countertop. (This is part of what I consider a major design flaw on kitchen aid mixers that is only remedied by buying a pouring shield to help add mixtures that I do not own.)

I was warned that it would take more than 30 minutes for the cakes to set, and I'm grateful for those warnings because the top was set at 30 minutes, even though under the top it was totally liquid. At 45 minutes the tops had risen up higher but it was still a bit jiggly, so 10 more minutes. At 55 minutes they were ready to come out. (The smaller square one came out at 40 minutes.)

Oh, I had way more batter than would fit in my 2 8-inch pans. So I quickly pammed an 8 in square pyrex pan and started it with the rest. I didn't take the time to cut a parchment square, figuring I'd just claw it out like brownies if it wouldn't come out easily.

My lack of cake baking also translates into a lack of cake pans. The two tiny 8 inch pans, the 8" square and 9x13 rectangle pyrex pans are all I've got. If I'm going to be making many more cakes in the future, I think new pans are going to be necessary. :) Yay, a shopping excuse!

The photos: First is a slice of the finished cake and then the sliced cake. Next is the sugar syrup boiling and my prepared work surface. Following is the egg/sugar mixing up, and then the chocolate butter mixture. Next is the pans going into the oven, followed by how they rose coming out of the oven. Then a slice from the thin 8" square pan and finally the finished cake before being sliced.

Taste: Amazing. Smooth and creamy. Like a firm pudding or a chocolate custard. Rich chocolate flavor, but not bitter or intense. Tastes similar to the chocolate bar. I'm happy that I used the Hershey's Special Dark because it will appeal to more people flavor wise. A Lindt 70% cacao bar flavor might be enjoyed by my DH & I, but not many others like intense chocolate bite. Maybe something to try one day.


Ashlee and Bill said...

Yeah, delish!!!! Luckily I can go get a slice of mine right now, otherwise I'd have to go make more! It looks fabulous. I only have a few slices left though...

Ashlee and Bill said...

Your right, the slice looks great, better than the brownie pan, both look FABULOUS though. I thawed out my frozen one and will let you know if it's just as good.


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