Saturday, June 29, 2019

Out Of The Oven

Father's Day seems like a long time ago. Since then I've had a couple of weeks of very low energy and have taken some medication to help with an infection that was part of the cause. Feeling much more like my usual self the last few days, enough so that I baked a cake...and enjoyed doing it. Prior to that, for a while, I'd do some stuff, but it was a struggle to get my brain working on whatever it was and, truly, all I wanted to do was sleep. Scary feeling. Glad that it seems to be in the past now. Sweetie is glad, too...he was pretty worried.

The cake, out of the oven just long enough to cool before being iced with ganache, was a 6-inch version of the Queen Mother flourless chocolate cake that Maida Heatter made famous quite a few years ago. If you know how to fold beaten egg whites into a thicker batter and still retain most of the air in the egg whites, this cake will become a favorite! If you don't know how, just be patient and give it a try. Even if you knock some of the air out the first try, you will still have an awesome, delicious chocolate cake that will impress your family and friends.

The chocolate is a really big part of this cake and icing, so be sure to use chocolate that you would enjoy eating by itself. Save your small change if necessary until you have enough to purchase good chocolate. I used Scharffenberger for the cake and a combination of Scharffenberger and Lindt for the ganache. The sprinkles on the birthday cake are just for fun...and color. I also substituted 6 oz. of Bob's Red Mill almond flour for the whole almonds, using the 1/4 cup sugar for the butter mixture (along with the 1/4 cup called for) instead of using it to grind up the almonds. Otherwise I followed the recipe for the cake. I used butter for the cake and soy creamer instead of whipping cream for the ganache...I never have whipping cream in the house these days. Here is a good tip: Separate your eggs while cold, then allow them to come to room temperature.

This is most easily made in a 9-inch springform pan. I used two 6-inch springform pans (one with tall sides) because I was making a small cake, by request, for our friend AM. The second one was for Sweetie, but he ended up taking 3/4 of it to our friends and sharing it with them...and they still had the birthday cake to enjoy the next day. They claimed it would be breakfast, and why not? There are plenty of eggs in it!

Queen Mother's Cake - serves 12
From Maida Heatter's Cakes

6 oz. (scant 1 1/2 cups) blanched or unblanched almonds
6 oz. Semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
6 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Toast the almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan in a 350 degree F oven for 12-15 minutes, shaking the pan a few times, until the almonds are lightly colored and smell deliciously of toasted almonds. Set aside to cool.

Adjust a rack on-third up in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 3-inch springform pan and line the bottom with a round of baking-pan liner paper cut to fit (I used parchment). Butter the paper. Dust the pan all over with fine, dry plain bread crumbs, inver over paper, tap lightly to shake out excess. Set prepared pan aside.

Place the chocolate in the top of a small double boiler over warm water on moderate heat. Cover until partially melted, then uncover and stir until just melted and smooth. (I find that using a silicone spatula works well for stirring the melting chocolate.) Remove the top of the double boiler and set aside until tepid or room temperature.

Place the cooled almonds and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade. Process very well until the nuts are fine and powdery. Scrape down the sides at least twice. Process for at least a full minute. The finer the nuts are, the better the cake will be. (Or use almond flour that is finely ground already.) Set aside the ground nuts.

If at all possible, have two clean large stand mixer bowls and a stand mixer, plus a regular beater and a whisk beater ready.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer eat the butter until soft. Add 1/4 cup of the sugar (or 1/2 cup if using pre-ground nuts), reserving the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar. Beat to mix. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating and scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary until smooth. On low speed add the chocolate and beat until mixed. Then add the processed almonds (almond flour) and beat, scraping the bowl, until incorporated. You will have a thick batter.

Now beat the whites in the large bowl of a mixer. If you only have one bowl, transfer the chocolate batter to any other large bowl. Wash the bowl and beaters carefully.

In a large bowl of the mixer, with clean beaters (preferably a whisk beater), beat the egg whites with the salt and lemon  juice, starting on low speed and increasing it gradually. When the whites barely hold a soft shape, reduce the speed a bit and gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Then, on HIGH speed, continue to beat until the whites hold a straight point when the beaters are slowly raised. Don't overbeat.

Stir a large spoonful of the beaten whites into the chocolate mixture to soften the batter a bit.

Then, in three (3) additions, fold in the remaining whites. Do not fold thoroughly until the last addition & don't handle the batter any more than necessary. (Streaks are fine until the very end...the goal is to keep as much air as possible in the egg whites).

Turn the batter into the prepared pan. Rotate the pan briskly from left to right in order to level the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees F, then REDUCE the temperature to 350 degrees F and continue to bake for an additional 50 minutes (total baking time is 1 hour and 10 minutes). Don't overbake...cake will remain soft and moist in the center...and the top might crack a bit...that's OK.

Let cake rest on a wire rack for 50 - 60 minutes, then undo the spring catch to release the sides. Let the cake stand until completely cool, or longer if you wish. The cake will sink a little in the middle with slightly higher sides...that is OK. You can trim the top level if you like (I left mind as is), and brush away loose crumbs.

Invert the cake onto a board or cake plate and remove the bottom and baking paper. Place strips of waxed paper or parchment paper under the edges of the cake. Ice with the ganache icing.

1/2 cup whipping cream (I used Silk soy creamer)
2 teaspoons powdered espresso coffee (Medaglia D'Oro instant espresso powder works well)
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces (I used part Scharfenberger semi-sweet and part Lindt salted bittersweet dark)

Heat the cream and espresso powder in a small saucepan over moderate heat until small bubbles form around the edges. Add the chocolate and stir occasionally over heat for 1 minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir until the chocolate is all melted and the mixture is smooth.

Let the icing stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes, until the icing starts to thicken.

Stir then pour slowly over the top of the cake, pouring over the middle. Use a long, narrow metal spatula to smooth the top and spread so that a little of the icing runs down the sides. With a small narrow metal spatula, smooth the sides.

Let the icing set for 10 minutes. Remove the papers by pulling each one out toward a narrow end. Decorate as you see fit...or not at all.

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