Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Maybe it's that whole irritating Valentine's Day thing, but February cooking magazines always seem to feature an abundance of chocolate recipes. Despite my aversion to all the Valentine hoopla, I do like the yearly chocolate recipe round up because I am always on the lookout for that one perfect chocolate dessert. I remember reading somewhere that having a perfect chocolate cake recipe was like having that perfect "little black dress" in your closet and I must say I agree. Let's face it. Chocolate makes people happy. And, although I'm truly an all-things-savory lover, I'll be the first to tell you that nothing winds up a meal better than a bite or two of something chocolatey.
So, within the span of a couple weeks this past month I had myself a little ChocolateFest.
One of the fun items in a Christmas gift basket this year from my brother-in-law and soon-to-be sister-in-law was a fun-looking, large, round tin of ultra-fancy chocolate cake mix from Williams-Sonoma. (My basket also included the previously mentioned Sprinkles cupcakes mix in, of course, Red Velvet flavor. I'll make them soon and report back.) But I was mainly dying to try this chocolate cake mix because it was created by Thomas Keller's famed Napa Valley restaurant, Bouchon. Modeled after their popular chocolate, 'cork'-shaped little cakes the tin of mix was fairly shouting "Try Me! Try Me!" So, I did.
The tin provided powdered mix, chocolate chips and sugar.
The directions required my contributions to include eggs, and Euro-style butter (like Plugra). Ok, I can do that. And, silicone 'bouchon' baking molds. Hmmm... to be perfectly honest...that was not going to happen. I've said this before, and I'll say it again. There is no room for wacky extraneous kitchen gadgets and appliances in The Urban Kitchen. At least not in MY small, urban kitchen. (Hence the ongoing battle between my husband and I over whether we should get a rice cooker. I say no. One can cook perfectly decent rice in a pot. On a stove. Yet the man keeps pushing his case for one of those large, countertop electric rice cookers. Where will we find the counter real estate for that, people?! The battle continues...)
So, with regards to the little Bouchon chocolate cakes, I did not let the lack of a silicone bouchon baking mold stop me! I improvised. The muffin tin was pressed into service.
Carefully following the intricate steps on the back of the tin, I mixed and added my fancy butter and finally baked up a muffin tin pan full of these pretty little cakes.
Sprinkled with some confectioner's sugar, they looked quite presentable.
As they baked, a wonderful chocolate aroma wafted through the house, making for a very pleasant Sunday afternoon. Taste-wise, I was unimpressed. The little cakes were not necessarily any easier to make and yet were about as tasty as a simple chocolate cake made from scratch.
If we're talking about The Little Black Dress reference, I'd say they were more like a black shirt, from Banana Republic.
Chocolate Fest continued and a week later, I made my current favorite chocolate dessert. Now, this is to say IF you were to expend a little extra effort, you would be rewarded with the Dolce & Gabbana of black dress chocolate desserts. Voluptuous and luxurious and for that occasion when you'd like to knock off someone's socks...I present:
Chocolate Truffle Tart.
This is a 2007 Gourmet magazine recipe -- February, natch -- and it is everything the little cakes are not. Sumptuous, rich and elegant. A crumbly, cookie-ish crust, made with Nabisco Famous wafers (shocking somehow!) encases a silken chocolate ganache that could make you cry it's so good. A sprinkle of cocoa powder when serving, ups the elegance-factor. The amusing part is that this tart requires a quirky, not-found-everywhere 8" small, springform pan. I know. And after all that blather about no special kitchen equipment. In fact, my neighbor in Chicago had an entire set of springform pans and I used to borrow this one small pan a couple times a year, thinking I was so clever not to have to buy one of my own. Then, last week, I realized I now live in a city thousands of miles away (d'oh!) and know not a single soul with an 8-inch springform. Easily solved though with a visit to the quirkiest of San Francisco used cookware stores, Cookin'. Ta-daaah...half an hour and $4.00 later I was the proud owner of one more bit of extraneous bakeware. The main thing is not to be tempted to make this in a larger tart pan or springform...trust me on this. For the perfect height, it needs the smaller diameter pan.
So, get the pan, make this tart and then sit back and watch people fumble for words after just one bite. It is my "little black dress" chocolate dessert...and I'm going to stick with it for a while...or, at least until next February.
Chocolate Truffle Tart
adapted from Gourmet
28 chocolate wafers such as Nabisco Famous, finely ground in a food processor (1 1/2 cups)
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled completely
1/2 lb. fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked, coarsely chopped)
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 -inch cubes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Special Equipment: an 8-inch round springform pan
Garnish: unsweetened cocoa powder for sprinkling
MAKE CRUST: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. wrap a sheet of foil over bottom of springform pan, in case of leaks. Lightly butter side of pan.
Stir together ground wafers and butter in a bowl until combined, then pat mixture evenly onto bottom of pan and 1 1/2 inches up side. Bake until crust is slightly puffed, about 10 minutes, then cool completely in a pan on a rack, about 15 minutes. Leave oven on.
MAKE FILLING WHILE CRUST COOLS: Melt chocolate and butter in a 2-quart heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth, then remove from heat and cool 5 minutes.
Whisk together eggs, cream sugar, salt, and vanilla in a bowl. Whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture until combined well.
ASSEMBLE AND BAKE TART: Pour filling into cooled crust and rap pan once on counter to eliminate any air bubbles. Bake until filling 1 inch from the edge is set and slightly puffed but center trembles slightly when pan is gently shaken, 20 to 25 minutes. (Center will continue to set as it cools.)
Cool tart completely in a pan on a rack, about 2 hours. Chill, uncovered, until center is firm, about 4 hours. Remove side of pan and sprinkle with cocoa to serve.
NOTES: The tart can be chilled up to 3 days. Cover loosely after tart is completely chilled (covering before may cause condensation). Crust, without filling, can be made 1 day ahead and kept, covered, at room temperature.