Flourless Chocolate Cake

Can emailing yourself links to recipes be considered a hobby? If so then I am an enthusiast. There is something magical about making a recipe for the first time. My heart beats a little faster and my mind narrows to a point of intense focus.  When I saw an online cookbook club, I knew it would be the perfect fit. A new cookbook every month? New recipe challenges? Count me in. The cookbook club is hosted by Deborah Balint (@rainydaybites) and this month’s cookbook is Diana Henry’s new book “Simple“. The recipe we were to make is the Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream. Being that February is basically the month of chocolate, I was excited to give it a try. Like the cookbook’s name, this cake is simple. Melt, whip, whisk and bake.

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The original recipe calls for an 8 inch springform cake pan, but since I don’t own one of those, I used an 8×3 pan and lined it with parchment on the bottom and sides. I was surprised when the recipe said to bake for 35 minutes. Usually recipes give a 5-10 minute range with some indication of what to look for when done. Nonetheless, the timing seemed perfect and I did appreciate the simplicity of the instructions. The result is a silky, smooth and deeply flavored cake.

img_1610This cake was perfect for Valentine’s Day : simple, classic and perfectly decadent.  I hope you give it a try!

Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream

Take your time with the details of this cake. Buy the best chocolate and cream you can afford. Let your egg whites come to room temperature and stop mixing when your egg whites look like this. I have changed the wording a bit but the recipe is from “Simple” by Diana Henry.

Cake

  • 13 oz unsalted butter, cubed
  • 11 1/2 oz dark chocolate, 70% is the best (I used Theo’s)
  • 3/4 cup superfine sugar (I whirled granulated in my food processor instead of buying)
  • 5 large eggs, separated and brought to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup almond flour

Cream

  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream (I use non homogenized because I think it tastes better)
  • 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Optional add-ins: I was kind enough to share this cake with the kiddos, so I only used half of this amount and kept the other half plain.

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso dissolved in equal amounts boiling water (you could also use part of a shot of espresso if so desired. I would just let it cool slightly before using)
  • 2 tablespoons whiskey

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Fill a small pan with water and bring it to a simmer. Prepare your cake pan by covering with parchment on the bottom, as well as the sides (or use a springform pan). Here is a link if you need a visual guide. Put butter, sugar and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set on top of pan with simmering water. I like to use my Kitchenaid metal mixing bowl for this since the sides are high, I don’t have to worry about water accidentally getting into the pan. Melt the mixture together and stir with a heatproof spatula. Once melted, let mixture cool for a few minutes (original recipe states 4 minutes) and then add the egg yolks one at a time. Incorporating each before adding the next.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to form medium firm peaks. Stir almond flour into chocolate mixture and add half of the egg white mixture as well. Once this is incorporated, fold in the rest of the egg whites. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 35 minutes. Cool completely. If using the regular cake pan, place a cutting board on top of the pan and hold tightly in place and then flip it over so that the cake comes out. Repeat so that the cake is face up. If using the springform pan, release the sides by unsnapping them and remove.

To make the cream use a hand mixer to whip the heavy cream. Add the powdered sugar and continue to mix until the cream is airy and holds a bit of shape. Incorporate bourbon and espresso and serve on top of the cake.

This cake is best at room temp and can be made ahead. It holds up well for a few days. Refrigerate any leftovers.

New York Cheesecake

My husband and I had our 14th wedding anniversary in October and I found myself a bit surprised by it. Not because I still feel (or look!) like I’m in my 20s or that the years have whirled past so quickly, but because of the love we still share. I’m surprised that after all he’s seen of me – the meltdowns, the post baby body, the way I leave hair ties everywhere – that I am still loved. I really can’t explain it. Shouldn’t I have been traded in for a newer model? Yet, I find myself so thankful for all the little ways that love manifests itself in our daily lives. Love that pulls me in and comforts, protects, listens, and cares.

Still, fear lurks around the corner. Fear that the love will dwindle. Fear that who I am and who he is someday won’t fit together as snugly as it does today. This fear can hinder me and make me more closed off, to communicate less clearly and honestly. Every time I give in to the fear, I feel distant, almost like a self fulfilling prophecy. Then, I realize that this is a battle of the mind and heart. Love takes courage and honesty. I think this is when I truly feel the deep, soul fulfilling love in our marriage, when I am accepted and loved through the hard conversations. So, I thought it was time to face another fear: cheesecake. Water baths, jiggly filling, cracks, and funny springform pans. It all made me want to run and hide.

Now, most people I’m sure can just ignore cheesecake and move on to something a bit more comfortable, but my husband is not a huge dessert fan (gasp!) but the one cake that he does love is cheesecake. He requests it for every birthday. He’s a bit of a purist, and believes such add ins as pumpkin or chocolate over power cheesecakes delicate flavor, and I tend to agree. We stick to New York Cheesecake with its creamy and delicate texture and bit of crunch from the graham cracker crust. One year I decided to go for it and guess what? It was a disaster! Burnt and eggy, and just all wrong, we ate what we could and then decided to always buy one forever and always.

But you know how sometimes as much as you fear another failure, you just have to give it another whirl? Well, that’s how I felt about cheesecake. I just couldn’t let it go.

I bought all the ingredients, read articles, found a new recipe and even borrowed a pan from a friend. I was all set to go. Yet, I sat. For weeks. I really didn’t want to fail. Fear had me again. Finally, I decided it was now or never, so I jumped in.  You know what? It was the best cheesecake we had ever eaten! Not a failure! Success! I was stunned. Not a crack or a chalky custard. Smooth, creamy, and flavored just right. Fear did not prevail and that birthday cake will now come from my kitchen.

Ready to try your hand at it? Cheesecake success is just around the corner.

New York Cheesecake

I love a mile-high graham cracker crust for cheesecake and I think you will too. I followed Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for Creamy Cheesecake and slightly adapted it by adding citrus zest.

Graham Cracker Crust

  • 3 cups graham crackers (about 1 box), ground fine in a food processor
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick or 4 ounces or 113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

Cheesecake Filling:

  • 32 oz Original Philadelphia Cream Cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup full fat sour cream
  • 1/4 + 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp citrus zest (I used orange and lemon)

Directions:

Put a large pot of water on the stove to simmer. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Using heavy aluminum foil, tear two long pieces of foil and set in an X shape. Set a 9 inch springform pan in the center. Starting with one piece of foil, fold the foil up and press against the sides. Repeat with second piece of foil. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt. Pour the melted butter over the dry ingredients and stir together until ingredients are well combined. The crumbs with hold their shape for a second when pressed together and will crumble slightly. It will look like wet sand. Press the graham crust around the edges and up to the top of the pan and continue on bottom of the pan. Use a measuring cup to gently press the crust until it is packed enough not to move when touched. Do your best to make the crust even in thickness. Bake for 10-12 minutes. The crust will be slightly golden around the edges when finished. Cool on a cooling rack while making the filling.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. In the bowl of the mixer with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese until light and creamy, about 4 minutes on level 4 on a KitchenAid mixer. Keep the mixer running and add the sugar, salt, and vanilla and mix for another 4 minutes on medium speed. Lower the speed and mix the eggs in one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Scrape after each additional egg. Once all the eggs have been added, increase the speed to medium and beat for another 30 seconds. Reduce the speed again and mix in sour cream and whipping cream until fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Mix in citrus zest and scrape to make sure the batter is uniform in consistency. Pour batter into springform pan and level out with a spatula.

Place the springform pan inside a large roasting pan fitted with a rack. Place in oven. Carefully dip a liquid measuring cup into the simmering pot of water and slowly pour into the roasting pan, being careful to not get any water inside the springform pan. The water should reach about 1/3 way up the sides of the pan. Take a deep breath and congratulate yourself!

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until the cheesecake has a bit of a jiggle to it. Check it after an hour. Turn down the oven to 300 degrees if the cheesecake starts to puff or get brown spots. Now turn off the oven and prop open the door and let the cheesecake rest for another hour.

Take the roasting pan out of the oven and gently lift out the springform pan and remove the foil. There may be so water inside the foil so don’t be surprised. Set cheesecake on a cooling rack and let cool for 4 hours. Once cool, wrap in saran wrap and foil and chill in the refrigerator.

The next day, run a small spatula around the sides of the pan to make sure the crust is not attached to the pan and gently remove the sides of the springform pan. Using a warm chef’s knife, slice the cake into pieces and serve. Refrigerate any leftovers covered in plastic wrap or foil (or both!) for 3-4 days or freeze wrapped in saran wrap and foil and sealed in a ziplock bag.

Buttercream Conundrum

Hey there, how’s your week going? I have had cake on the brain and am on the hunt for the most perfect classic celebration cake. With this blog being called “Sifted” I feel like its ok to focus mainly on cakes for a couple posts, right? Cake to me is the dessert that beats all desserts. A layer cake is what we call for whenever there is a big event to celebrate. A Birthday, wedding, graduation, or a new baby and a thick slice of cake will announce to the world that this day is special. But alas, my perfect cake alludes me.

I have been working on making Italian Meringue Buttercream. This is the type of buttercream that many pastry chefs make. It is a bit like making candy, you heat sugar and water to a soft ball stage and pour it into perfectly whipped egg whites to create a sweet and silky meringue. Then the meringue is added to butter and whipped.  With so many moving parts, its hard to identify exactly what I have done wrong. So far, my buttercream is more like sweetened whipped butter and not pillowy light melt in your mouth buttercream.

So yesterday, I decided to head to a local bakery and order their biggest piece of chocolate cake topped with Chocolate Italian Buttercream. It was absolutely divine! I’ve posted a picture (of part!) of the cake for you to drool over.

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Chocolate cake from Coyle’s Bakeshop

I talked to the pastry chef and she said to try whipping the buttercream longer and see if that helps. I felt so encouraged afterward to keep at it and give it another try. I’ll keep you posted!

Hope  you all have a great weekend and let me know what you’ve been working on. It’s fun to hear about everyone’s projects, baking or otherwise.

xoxo,

Rachel