Sunday, July 6, 2014

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Remember that episode on Friends where Ross calls Monica "uncooked batter eater!". I can entirely relate to that.

This cake rightfully should be taller since I ate about one-sixth of the batter. It tastes like ice cream and I have no self control....

This cake comes at the request of my mamacita (aka. mom) and her friend who are looking for a good recipe for pound cake. Apparently Martha Stewart's recipe is no good.

Pound cake was named after the fact that the original recipe used 1 pound each of butter, sugar, eggs and flour. This makes one heck of a lot of batter! So if you can ignore the literalness, it really refers to a recipe with an equal weight (or 1:1:1:1 ratio) of all four ingredients. The texture is firm, dense and not as moist as your typical buttercake despite all that butter because there is little liquid. As the batter bakes, starch in the flour absorbs what liquid there is from the eggs leaving the finished baked cake with not much free moisture. This is how it was intended.

As simple as it sounds, it is actually tricky to make a good pound cake. Over time the traditional recipe has evolved to include baking powder, flavour extracts, vegetable oil and milk or other liquid, which really just turns it into a regular buttercake.

Now, I know you don't just come around here for pretty pictures and a recipe. You come here for answers, and I've got them!

A true pound cake doesn't use any liquid other than what is provided by eggs. This makes the batter very heavy and dense. A batter like this (with high fat, low liquid) is prone to developing an unappealing gel-like layer along the bottom. Here are some DOs and DON'Ts to promise good results:

DO use soft, room temperature butter.

DO cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes.

DO use salt and vanilla extract to add flavour.

DON'T use cake flour in place of all-purpose flour because it lacks the protein strength to support the structure of the heavy batter. The exception is High Ratio Cake Flour (or chlorinated cake flour) which is treated in such a way that makes it set faster and firmer than both cake and all-purpose flours.

DO weigh your flour accurately. If you don't have a scale, then remember to use the spoon & level method - spoon the flour into the cup and level it off with a straight edge.

DO use baking powder to help aerate and produce a more even crumb.

DO sift the dry ingredients. It helps them incorporate into the batter quickly.

DON'T over-mix the flour into the batter. Too much mixing will promote elastic gluten formation which is great for bread but bad for cake. It will also cause tunneling, which is the term to describe the appearance of large holes or channels throughout the cake and takes away from a nice fine crumb structure.

DON'T under-bake, equally as important as DON'T over-bake. Of course over-baking will leave the cake dry, but under-baking will mean that your cake will collapse or shrink surprisingly during cooling.

My recipe uses equal proportions of butter, sugar and eggs, but a bit more flour. So, it's more like 1:1:1:1.4. The extra flour is there to provide a bit more structure in the presence of so much fat and sugar, but not enough to dry it out.

Chocolate chipped is the only way to enjoy pound cake on Scientifically Sweet.

Here I've used dark, but you can use semi-sweet, milk or even white chocolate here.

I like to smother it with salted caramel sauce. Shocking!

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake with Chocolate Ganache
makes one 9x5-inch loaf

For the cake:
1 ½ cups (215g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2/3 cup (150 g) butter, room temperature
¾ cup (150 g) sugar
3 large eggs (170 g), room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
85 g finely chopped dark chocolate

For the ganache:
1 cup (237 ml) 35% whipping cream
1 tsp corn syrup
170 g chopped dark chocolate, 60-64% cocoa

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a 9x5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, letting it hang over the long sides and lightly grease the short ends.

Sift flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.

Cream the butter and sugar in a separate large bowl until very light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes, using an electric mixer. Scrape the sides, and add the eggs one at at time. Beat for 1 minute in between each egg on medium speed. Add the vanilla.

Slowly add the flour mixture in three parts and mix until just incorporated. It is best to fold in the last bit of flour by hand. Fold in chopped dark chocolate.

Scrape the batter evenly into the prepared pan and smooth out the surface. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes. Check on it after 30 minutes and loosely tent some foil over top if it is browning too quickly. The cake is done when a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool in the pan before turning out.

To make the ganache, place cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil over medium heat. Once it just comes to a boil, remove from heat and add chopped chocolate. Let stand for 2 minutes and then stir until smooth and glossy. Pour ganache into a clean bowl and let cool at room temperature until thick enough to spread. You can speed this up in the refrigerator, but check on it every 5 or 10 minutes and give it a gentle stir, otherwise it will set completely and be difficult to spread.

Spread ganache over cake and serve! Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

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