Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Super Fudgy Flourless Chocolate-Jam-Meringue Cake


Spring is here! Not that we had much of a winter, but my cherry tomato plant has just started to blossom, so spring is officially here. 

The beginning of spring is a sign that Passover is soon to come. Which in turn means all those Matzas I am definitely NOT going to eat, so I have to stock up on bread (my freezer is full). And flour! Yes, flour, what if I suddenly have an urge to bake 10 loafs of bread?! and some buns maybe? or croissants?? so I bought 4kg of flour just in case the 3kg I already have at home won't due.

Judging from last Passover, by the end of this holiday I'm still going to have 7kg of flour in my kitchen. But hey, what if, right?

But sometimes, I too like to give in to holiday spirit and bake a politicaly-correct (Passovery-correct?) cake, one that has no matza flour in it (GOD!) and is darn right delicious! If you're still not sure what to make for dessert for Leil Haseder, and even if you are, you should definitely try it! If only for the dreamy crispy meringue.

This chocolate-pecan-meringue combination is so good that a failed previous attempt to make an edible version of this cake with strawberries in the base, did not stop my husband from scraping of the meringue bit and enjoying it with a cup of coffee.

Super Fudgy Flourless Chocolate-Jam-Meringue Cake

makes one 22cm diameter cake
This recipe was adapted from Helene's wonderful blog

Ingredients for the cake:
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature*
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 eggs (L), separated
160g bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tbsp rum
1/4 tsp salt
70g almond flour**
300g apricot jam

Ingredients for the meringue:
80g bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
80g pecans, roughly chopped
1 tbsp cornstarch
3 egg whites (L)
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Line the bottom of a 22cm diameter springform cake pan with parchment paper.

Cake: Using the mixer's paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar till soft and smooth. Add the egg yolks, one or two at a time. Finally add the melted chocolate, rum, salt and almond flour and beat until combined. Now transfer the mixture to a different bowl and clean the mixer bowl till it shines. Using the whisk attachment, whisk 4 egg whites in your shiny mixer bowl until soft peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, pour into the cake pan and bake for 35 minutes untill the top looks stable and even a bit dry.

The jam should have a consistency that makes it easy to pour it over the cake. If the jam you are using is quite thick, heat it up a bit before the cake is ready, so you can spread it easily and quickly, since the cake is to go back into the oven afterwards. I also like to liven the jam up a little bit by adding a squeeze of lemon juice.

Meringue: Combine the chopped chocolate and pecans with the cornstarch and set aside. Whisk the remaining 3 egg whites in a clean mixer bowl. When the foam begins to turn white, start to gradually add the sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form and the meringue is smooth and shiny. Fold in the chocolate-pecan mixture.

Finish: When it's time, remove the cake from the oven, pour the jam over it and smooth the surface a little. Now quickly spread the meringue over it, taking care not to over stroke it, and put back into the oven. Bake until the meringue is nice and crisp, about 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan to detach it from the cake and then remove the sides of the pan. Let it cool completely before taking a bite.

*If you are forgetful like me, you probably won't remember to take the butter out of the fridge beforehand. Instead, you can cut the butter into thin little pages and beat it in the mixer till it's soft.
**It's basically just finely ground almonds.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

SNOW! Strawberries n White Chocolate Fancy Cake

Last weekend we celebrated my mother's 50th birthday !

We found this beautiful place you can rent with a pastoral view, a pool and a hot tub - perfect for a surprise birthday weekend. My father told her he was taking her for a romantic weekend alone, little did she know that we would be waiting for her. We hung up a lot of balloons, I made loads of food and sweets and the minute she walked through the door we jumped at her with the traditional "SURPRISE!!". She couldn't stop hugging us.

However, this wasn't what made the weekend so wonderful !  A little after we got there SNOW started falling. Never before in my life have I seen snow falling. It was so exciting !! So we did what you should do when snow is falling - you go outside!

Trying to catch snow flakes

A sweet and excited dog we came across. Here I realize in terror that she is about to make holes in my scarf!

This is the kind of occasion that calls for a fancy cake. I wanted something white with strawberries (because they're everywhere now and I love them). So I came up with this white chocolate cream and strawberries cake. Aside from white chocolate, the cream also has a little bit of instant pudding, just to keep the pretty decorations standing nicely (No buttercream, thank you).

In this recipe I used a 20 cm diameter and 10 cm high cake mold. If you don't own a similar mold you can use a 24 cm diameter cake mold and only make one layer of strawberries (you will need to adjust strawberries and cream quantities as well). Make sure you read the entire recipe before making it for the first time.

Strawberries n White Chocolate Cake

5 eggs (L), separated
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1 bag of baking powder (10g)
1 tbsp canola oil

500 g fresh strawberries + a few gorgeous ones for decoration
2 tbsp granulated sugar
600 g heavy cream
450 g white chocolate
45 g vanilla flavored instant pudding powder

Prepare the base for the cream a few hours, or even a day before you want to bake the cake. It has to be very cold for it to be successfully whipped into a delicious cream. Chop the white chocolate into very small pieces and place in a large bowl. Heat the heavy cream over medium heat, taking care to stir once in a while to prevent a skin from forming, until it is slightly boiling. Pour the cream over the chocolate and let it stand for 5 minutes. Stir thoroughly so that all the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated in the cream. Let it cool a little before placing it in the fridge to cool completely.

For the cake, Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Break the egg yolks a little with a fork and stir in the oil. In a separate bowl, sift the flour and mix in the baking powder. Whip the egg whites while slowly incorporating 2/3 of a cup of sugar inside, till firm peaks form (when you turn the whisk upside down, the peaks hold firmly but the very tips fold back on themselves).
Gently fold the egg yolks and flour into the egg white foam, until the mixture is fairly uniform. Transfer to a 20 cm diameter and 10 cm high cake mold. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let it cool completely.

Clean 200g of strawberries and cut them into small pieces. Cook them in a pan with 2 tbsp of sugar on medium heat. Cook them for about 10-15 minutes, meshing the fruit as you go alone. You need it to thicken a little, but not too much, so the texture is that of a thin jam. Cover the pan and let it cool. Clean the rest of the strawberries and cut into small pieces. Cut the cooled cake into 3 layers, I used a bread knife to do this.

Now you need to work efficiently as the chocolate cream sets quite fast because of the pudding.  The cream mixture should be very cold by now. Incorporate 30g of instant pudding powder into 2/3 of the mixture (keep the rest in the fridge) and whip together to a firm, yet soft, cream. Divide the cream in two portions.

Assemble the cake: moisten the bottom layer of cake with half of the strawberry "jam", on top of this arrange half of the cut strawberries in a thin, uniform layer (see pictures above). Take one portion of the cream and divide it again in two, spreading one of the halves on top of the strawberries. Place the second layer of cake on the cream. Repeat the "jam", strawberries and cream layers and finally, lay the upper layer of cake on top. Use the second portion of cream to completely cover the cake.

Decorate: Now mix the remaining 1/3 of cream mixture (you have kept in the fridge) with 15g of instant pudding and whip to a firm cream. Use a closed star decorating tip to make large roses on the sides of the cake (this tutorial really helped me), and tiny stars on its top edge.
(Why not whip this with the rest of the cream before? Because, if you're a perfectionist like me, the cream will have set by the time you get to decorate, especially in cold weather).

It is good right after you finish making it but even better the day after, when it has absorbed some moisture.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Greens are good for you!

Over the past few weeks, I've been obsessing over an absolutely delicious SALAD !
My obsession stems not so much from the general healthiness of the leafy greens but rather from the oh so yummy additions...

Now, photogenic as it may be, I don't like feeling like a bunny rabbit when I eat, so I usually cut my greens a bit smaller than what you would normally see around the web and restaurants. There is nothing more annoying than trying to fit a leaf the size of your fist into your mouth.

The punch line of this salad is the cranberries! Their mild sweetness is the perfect supplement to this salad's sour-salty vinaigrette. We've enjoyed this salad many times over the past few weeks.

Green Salad with Cranberries

5 large lettuce leaves
80 g spinach leaves
a handful of sunflower sprouts
3 tbsp dried cranberries (I use the ones with added sugar)

2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 1/2 tbsp peanut oil
1/4 tsp salt

Wash both sets of leaves thoroughly, we do not want any proteins in the salad. Cut them up to a large yet comfortable bite size. Place the leaves in a salad bowl, along side the (washed) sprouts and cranberries.

Mix the rest of the ingredients together and pour over the salad. Stir well so that everything is covered with vinaigrette. Bon appetit!