Since the creation of molecular gastronomy, I feel that there has been two types of foods being served in restaurants: food that you eat as an experience, and food that you eat because it taste good. Not to say that food that you eat as an experience is not great food, and chefs like Grant Achatz and Ferran Adria are masters at thinking outside the box and making your entire experience a cerebral amusement ride. But most people don’t want to do amusement rides everyday, and for me at least, food brings comfort, but comfort food are not the cerebral ones. April Bloomfield is one of those chefs who uses simple ingredients and basic cooking techniques to produce food that taste like home.

This is my first April Bloomfield dessert since getting her book A Girl and Her Pig, and I think it’s a really great representation of her style. She doesn’t use fancy tools, and her recipes aren’t long and winded with many steps, but her combination of a few flavors really gets to the point. There is no hemming and hawing of tobacco flavored gel with huckleberry and scotch blah blah… (I’m looking at you Uchiko), her chocolate cake tastes exactly like it’s name: dark chocolate with orange and whiskey.

On a rainy day, I would not want to be left alone with a plate of something called “Tobacco Cream”, but this chocolate cake? It would definitely make me feel warm and safe at home.

The recipe is composed of 6 ingredients, butter, sugar, eggs, whiskey, orange zest, and dark chocolate. April Bloomfield is adamant about using 70% cocao dark chocolate, and I found these at Sprouts, the local organic food store that is a lot cheaper than Central Market or Whole Foods.

The chocolates are chopped into 1 inch pieces and placed into a heat proof bowl, preferably metal. A medium pot or pan filled with a few inches of water is brought to a simmer over medium heat, and the heat proof bowl with the chocolate is placed into the pan. Make sure that while the bowl is in the simmering water, it does not touch the bottom or the sides of the pan. Butter is added to the bowl and melted with the chocolate, whisking from time to time, until the mixer is completed melted and combined.

The bowl can be taken off the heat and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, the eggs and the sugar is added to the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, and beaten on medium high until the mixture has tripled in volume and is pale and fluffy.

The egg and sugar mixture can be left in the mixer until you are ready to use it.

The original recipe called for bourbon, but I only had Sazerac brand Rye Whiskey, which I substituted. The next step may seem intimidating to some but it’s not as bad as it sounds. Basically you are going to set the whiskey on fire to burn off the alcohol so only the flavor of the whiskey is left. It took me about 5 minutes to burn the alcohol from 1 cup of whiskey, and I would highly recommend using an uncoated metal pan, since some pans may have non-stick coating, and I’m not sure how the coating would interact with being set on fire for 5 or more minutes. The fire will burn some what high, so if you have a low exhaust fan, make sure you move the pan to a place where the flames have enough height to burn. I would also recommend doing this out side in a concrete area with no flammables around if you are uncomfortable with it, and keep a bucket of water near by in case something goes wrong. It’s also not a bad idea to have someone else around you to help you out if you are really uncomfortable.

The whiskey is warmed on low heat in a bare metal pan for about 1 minute, then the heat is turned off. I set aflame with a kitchen match, by lighting the kitchen match, then gently toss it into the pan. The match can be removed after the alcohol has burnt off.

If you move the pan while the alcohol is burning, be careful if the handle is bare metal also, because it can get hot during the burning process. Also be patient and don’t be afraid, because in the beginning the flames may seem like they will never die down, but slowly they will become smaller and eventually extinguish on it’s own.

What you will be left with at the end, is a slightly thicker liquid, and if you don’t burn off the alcohol, the cake will have a noticeably unpleasant and bitter taste to it.

Simple syrup and orange zests are added to the burnt off whiskey.

The whiskey mixture is then poured into the melted chocolate and butter and whisked together.

Start the stand mixer with the fluffy egg and sugar mixture in it, and let it run a few seconds to regain any lost volume. Pour the chocolate mixture into the mixer with it running on medium speed until the chocolate and eggs are well combined.

The cake batter is poured into a buttered and lined cake pan. Then, using both hands on the pan, carefully slam the bottom of the pan against the counter about 20 – 30 times, until most large air bubbles have been forced out of the batter.

Line a large roasting pan with a small hand towel, and place the cake pan in the middle of the towel.

Pour hot tap water into the roaster, around the cake pan until it comes to just below the lip of the cake pan, then place the roaster into the oven at 375 degrees. Make sure you don’t pour too much water so it over flows into the cake pan. This step is very important because it keeps the cake achieve an even firm and velvety consistency without over cooking the cake. It’s very much like when you make Creme Brulee, you add the water to the pan do the same thing.

The cake is baked for 35 minutes, until it looks slightly puffed and set. I did not try to pull the edge of the cake away from the sides of the pan, but it did do that on its own when it was properly cooled.

Let the cake cool completely in the roasting pan and water bath. The cake can be served at room temperature, or chilled and served with some extra orange zest and whipping cream. The cake will be good for several days in the fridge.

Advertisements