21 February 2009

Spiced Flourless Chocolate Cakes with Dulce de Leche Sauce

It's funny how spot-on Shakespeare was when he wrote, "Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet?" Names for things, especially in the culinary world, convey the essence of what a thing. Truffle, mousse, souffle, all convey a specific type of food that plays on what we know. You don't expect to get Hershey's bar when you ask for a truffle or an ice pop when ordering chocolate mousse. In the same way, a souffle conjours up a light, almost ethereal dish, rising out of its ramekin in stately fashion yet ready to fall at the slightest wrong move. I say all this by way of introduction to a flourless chocolate cake I made despite its recipe's claim to end in a souffle.

The day before Valentine's day, a recipe for a Mexican Chocolate Souffle made its way into my inbox. I was imediatley intrigued, as I hadn't even begun to consider what to make Zach and myself for dinner the next night.  We really don't go big into these kinds of things, but I thought it would be nice if I actually made an effort on dinner, as school and work have kept me out the kitchen lately. The souffle recipe seemed easy enough and I had everything on hand it make it.

After a dinner with a Southwest theme, I set out to make the souffles. The recipe had been scaled back to serve 2 and as I read through the ingredients, the proportions just seemed off. 60g of chocolate to only 1 egg white? I didn't seem like enough egg white base to me, but as it was 9pm on Valentine's Day, I couldn't quite go off on a recipe search so I soldiered on. Everything for the souffle came together quickly. I used an improvised double boiler to melt the chocolate mixture, managed to use another half teaspoon on the instant coffee powder that Zach hates but I have on hand from recipes like this one and used my handy new immersion blender with wisk attachment to beat the egg white. I carefully folded the mixture together, much more calmly than the last time, spooned the souffle into the prepared ramekins and set them in the oven.

Ten minutes later I peeped in the window expecting to see my little souffles popping over the top of their molds. Instead they had barely risen half an inch. 'Maybe they are late risers', I thought and decided to wait. By the time the appointed cooking period was over, the hadn't even risen to the top of the ramekins. I still hoped they would taste like souffles, and took them out to the table to serve. I went to take a bite. My spoon encountered some resistance, not easily sliding through as it would with a souffle. I took a taste.  Chocolately, a little dense, with hints of cinnamon, coffee and maybe a tiny taste of coconut. Good. Really good. But not a souffle. I had made a flourless chocolate cake. 

Shakespeare was right in that a name for anything, imbued as it is with all of one's past experiences, influences how satisfied we are with it. I had made a terrible souffle, but a great chocolate cake. By changing the name of the recipe, and calling it was it is, and not what it wants to be, it tastes even sweeter.

Spiced Flourless Chocolate Cakes with Dulce de Leche Sauce
Adapted from Cuisine at Home
Serves 2

Unsalted butter and sugar
60 g. bittersweet chocolate (about 1/3C. chocolate chips)
2 T milk
1 t Malibu or coconut rum
1/2 t instant coffee powder
1/2 t cornstarch
1 t sugar
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground cayenne pepper
1 egg, separated
Splash vanilla extract
Dulce de leche sauce (recipe follows)
Cocoa powder for dusting (optional)

- Preheat oven to 400F.

- Butter and sugar 2, 6oz (180ml) ramekins.

- Melt chocolate, milk, rum, coffee powder, cornstarch, sugar and spices in a double boiler until chocolate is completely melted.  Stir to combine. Remove from heat but leave the double boiler on.

- Wisk together the egg yolk and vanilla then temper in to the chocolate mixture. Return the chocolate mix to the double boiler and cook for 3 minutes, wisking constantly. Remove from heat, cool to a warm room temperature.

- Whip the egg whites (in a metal or glass bowl- no plastic please, it will inhibit the whipping) until stiff peaks form. Stir one quarter of the whites into the chocolate mix to lighten it. Gently fold in the rest of the whites- its ok to leave the mixture a little bit streaky.

- Bake for 20 minutes or until the top looks dry but the sides have not pulled away from the ramekins. Remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Dust with cocoa and drizzle with dulce de leche sauce and serve.

Dulce de leche sauce

1 T. dulce de leche (check out Vera's easy recipe if you'd like to make it yourself)
1 T. half and half or milk

- Microwave ingredients for about 20-30 seconds until they are hot and easily combine into a sauce


kat said...

Oh it looks perfect as a flourless cake

Sue said...

Yummy. I like that you decided to call a spade a spade or in this case a souffle a cake. That looks soooo good!

Vera said...

Jen, your little cakes look delicious! And the sauce is a perfect accompaniment!

Jen said...

Thanks for your comments. Once I got over the fact that this wasn't actually I souffle, I really liked it.