Monday, March 31, 2014

Dark Chocolate Almond Cake

Chocolate must be one of the most versatile foods in the world.

Why else would having just one chocolate cake recipe never be enough?

I must know over 40 recipes for chocolate cake.

Some with cocoa, and some with chocolate - white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, bitter chocolate...

Chocolate cakes with sour cream, yogurt, buttermilk, brown sugar, white sugar, butter, olive oil...

       ...the flourless kind, the molten ones, mint-infused, fruit-filled and full of nuts...

They can be dense, moist, gooey and oozing or light, soft and super fluffy. Anything goes.

Let's not forget muffins, brownies, cookiesloaves, hot fudge and truffles. Chocolate is the gift that keeps on giving.

This recipe combines a few of these characteristics - dark chocolaty, rich, but light and full of nuts!

Chocolate and almond is a great flavour pairing for many reasons. They actually share many flavour compounds which makes them a great match. This is food chemistry and it's the real deal. These two ingredients complement each other, just like lamb and rosemary, or tomato and basil. Basil belongs with tomato forever and always. Amen!

This cake is alllllllmost gluten-free. You could probably replace the wheat flour with rice flour and call it a day.

The thing with baking with almond meal is knowing when it is fresh! I've been a victim of rancid-almond-meal-purchasing when I don't have the time to grind my own. It's not a great feeling, especially if you already baked a lovely cake with it and now it has ruined the whole thing. Then I have to explain to my poor innocent supermarket customer service rep how this all led to a big waist of chocolate. She doesn't really care. I care.

So, don't just rely on the expiration date of your package - taste it. If it has a metallic, cardboard or soapy taste, then it's no good.

Why do nuts go rancid so quickly? Because they have a high fat content - the good kind - unsaturated fats which are very susceptible to oxidation.

TIP: Store fresh whole or ground nuts in the fridge or freezer to get the most out of them.

A bit of baking powder and soda provide extra lift to sustain the air we've whipped into the eggs. An extra bit of insurance is never a bad thing (especially when we don't have to pay for it monthly!).

Put this cake in your notes and file it under "soft and light-textured, yet rich and super chocolaty". You have a tab for that in your chocolate cake recipe files, right?

Dark Chocolate Almond Cake
Makes 8-10 servings

125 g (4.5 oz) dark chocolate (minimum 60% cocoa solids)
7 tbsp (100 g) unsalted butter
3 large eggs, separated
½ cup plus 3 tbsp (105 g) icing sugar, divided
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
1 cup (100 g) almond meal
¼ cup (35 g) all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ cup flaked almonds for topping

Chocolate icing:
100 g bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped
2 tbsp (28 g) butter

Preheat your oven to 375°F/190°C. Line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper and lightly grease the sides.

Melt chocolate and butter in the microwave and stir until smooth; set aside to cool.

Combine egg yolks, ½ cup of icing sugar, vanilla extract and salt in a large bowl and whisk until pale and thick. Stir through cooled melted chocolate mixture and almond meal.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of icing sugar and beat until they form stiff peaks.

Sift flour, baking powder and baking soda over chocolate mixture and fold it in gently. Fold in whipped egg whites in 3 parts until combined.

Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the chocolate glaze, combine chocolate and butter in a small saucepan and stir over very low heat until melted and smooth. Pour warm glaze over cooled cake and then sprinkle flaked almonds over top.

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