28 February 2009

Chef Wan's Flourless Chocolate Valentino

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.*

My first thought when I saw this monthly challenge was relief. Relief that I wasn't going to have to go to three grocery stores trying to find ingredients and spend two days in the kitchen dirtying every bowl and utensil we have. Not that I don't love the challenges that really test my skill in the kitchen- I would have never known how much I love a Swiss Meringue buttercream without the Praline Cake or that cracker can be made at home without the Lavash, but with my comprehensive exam rapidly approaching, I didn't think I could handle such an intense challenge so I was pleased to see a (fairly) simple flourless chocolate cake on the list for this month.

The recipe comes from Chef Wan, a Malaysian super-star chef, but it very unfussy. Wendy and Dharm warned us that with so few ingredients (chocolate, butter and eggs), the flavor of the chocolate really matters, so I immediately though of buying the chunks of Ghiradelli chocolate that Trader Joe's sells in the baskets near the register. We made a trip out only to find out that TJ's no longer sells them since Ghiradelli doesn't sell them the huge chocolate bars anymore. I really didn't want to go to another store to look for chocolate (and wasn't sure I could even find anything better for a reasonable price) so I got two TJ's pound plus chocolate bars, one semi-sweet and one 72% and came home to bake.

The cake comes together remarkably quickly. Melt chocolate and butter, whip egg whites, mix yolks into the chocolate, stir it all and bake. That's it. I let the simplicity guest the best of me and attempted to do a little kitchen multitasking while I was whipping the egg whites and when I came back to them, they were just, just on the far side of stiff peaks. I didn't want to use a whole extra 5 eggs though, decided it would be fine and kept going. I baked the cake, let it cool and then, at the appointment time attempted to release it from the springform pan.

I should mention that almost all of my baking supplies were my grandmothers and are from the 1960s, so my springform has been around a while. Its age means that the pin sticks, sometimes a lot. As I was yanking on the pin while trying to keep the whole cake from falling on the floor, the pin suddenly shot free and my thumb, which had been on the rim of the pan to keep it steady, slipped loose and plunged down into the cake, making a huge crater along one side of the cake. I attempted some emergency repairs but the nature of the cake (while warm it's very light and almost foamy) prevented it.

The next day, I took a few pictures, trying to keep the crater out of the shot, then cut the cake to take it to a party. I expected the cake to cut like a big block of fudge, but it sort of crumbled all of the place and kept braking apart. I sampled one of the broken pieces and while it had a very deep, rich chocolate flavor, it was a bit dry and had an almost mealy texture. I'm pretty sure this was due to my over-beating the egg whites but am really curious to see what other bakers thought of the cake.

*You'll notice I don't talk about making ice-cream in this post because I didn't. As much as I would love to make it, I don't have an ice-cream machine and without it, I was pretty sure I'd end up with a frozen block of sweetened cream, which just doesn't appeal to me.

Chocolate Valentino

Recipe from Chef Wan
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

1lb. (454 g.) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
10T (1 stick plus 2T or 146g. ) unsalted butter
5 large eggs, separated

- Preheat oven to 375F/190C

- Melt the chocolate and butter in a small bowl in the microwave, stirring often. Set aside to cool.

- While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan (8in. springform please) and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.

- Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.

- Whip the egg whites in a medium/large metal or glass bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).

- With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.

- Stir the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

- Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Then carefully fold in the remaining egg whites until no white remains. You want to do this as gently as possible so you don't deflate the batter.

- Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.

- Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold and cool completely. Serve plain or with berry sauce, whipped cream or ice cream.


Vera said...

Jen, I'm sorry you didn't like the cake much. It could have been overbaked if it crumbles. I prefer to bake flourless cakes in a water bath. I haven't sliced mine yet :)

kat said...

I was breathing a sigh of relief with you when I saw this recipe. Sorry yours didn't turn out quite right

Audax Artifex said...

You learn more from your 'errors' than your successes as they say and the whole point of the DBers is to challenge us. My baking skills have improved a whole lot because of DBers. Yes it was a little disappointment but it the long run you have become a "Daring Baker" with a whole repository of skills and recipes. The photo look great. Yours from Australia Audax

Jen said...

Hi Vera- I was a bit surprised that the recipe didn't call for baking the cake in a water bath but I did use a digital probe thermometer and cooked it to the stated temp (at least I think I did- it's been a few weeks since I made the cake)...

Audax- you are so right about the Daring Bakers and now that I've seen everyone else's posts about the cake I can't wait to get back in the kitchen and try this one out again.

Amy said...

Jen - so sorry to hear about the problems you had. I have come to learn that there is no such thing as a "simple" challenge. When everything is pared down to the basics is when I learn the most. Next time things will be smoother, I am sure of it! Thanks for sharing your journey.

Camille said...

You said it! I was so glad this recipe had 3 ingredients. Your cake looks rich and delicious! Good luck with your exam!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I know, I loved this one too! So simple, yet something I had wanted to try for a long time and such great flavor and texture!

Anonymous said...

Sorry your cake didn't turn out quite right, looks lovely though.

Hannah said...

Still looks like you did a great job, even if it wasn't perfect- nice work! :)