Saturday 8 March 2008
Recipe: Flourless Chocolate & Almond Cake
A version of this can be found in the pages of Elizabeth David's 'French Provincial Cooking', I discovered when I googled it for provenance - although her version adds coffee and rum, and omits the almond essence and slivered almonds, the crunch and flavour hits from which I rather like. In her version she also says that one of the traditional names for the cake is 'The Queen of Sheba', which is rather charming. Immediately, it conjures up the image of some nineteenth century pastry chef on a flight-of-fancy, probably one rainy afternoon in the back-kitchen of a small bakery, in some provincial town in Brittany, circa 1864!
I've also seen a version of it in a book by Linda Collister (she who occasionally gets hauled into Woman's Hour on Radio 4, to demonstrate how to make pancakes and suchlike). She also ascribes its origins to somewhere in small-town France.
Dietarily sound, this has the additional benefit of being phenomenally quick and simple to make. Needing respite from the computer screen yesterday afternoon, I took temporary refuge in making this cake, which took ten minutes out of my afternoon, and half an hour later was out of the oven and cooling down, ready to be consumed with a cup of tea - all in less than an hour after the idea of making it had first occurred. The finished cake is richly flavoured, but at the same time moist and very, very light.
Ingredients: 4 oz Butter, at room temperature; 3 oz Sugar; 4 oz Ground Almonds; 4 Eggs, separated; half a teaspoon of Almond Essence; 4 oz Dark Chocolate (Felchlin, by preference, but if not, something like Valhrona or better-quality Lindt) ; 1/4 cup of Slivered Almonds.
1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees C.
2. Melt the Chocolate in a double boiler or zimmertopf. Once it has melted, allow it to cool slightly, as you get on with the next stage in the recipe.
3. In the food processor, cream the Butter and Sugar together, then add the Egg Yolks, one by one, processing them into the creamed mixture after each one has been added.
4. Add the Ground Almonds, and process in, then add the melted Chocolate and the Almond Essence and again run the processor for ten seconds or so thoroughly to amalgamate everything. Scrape this mixture out of the food processor into a large bowl.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk the Egg Whites until quite stiff. Then take a quarter of this Egg-White mixture and stir it into the Chocolate mixture, to lighten it, before folding in the remainder of the beaten Egg White - much like making a chocolate mousse.
6. Grease a 20 cm spring-form cake tine (or spray with Trennwax), and pour the cake mixture into it, levelling it off inside the tin. Sprinkle Slivered Almonds over the top.
7. Bake for fifteen minutes at 200 degrees C, then reduce the temperature to 180 degrees C for a further ten minutes. If the Almonds show any sign of getting too dark, then cover the cake loosely with a piece of foil. Check for done-ness with a skewer, and by pressing the surface of the cake (if the skewer comes out clean, and the surface springs back under the light touch of a finger, then it's done).
8. Run a knife round the cake inside the tin, but don't turn it out immediately - leave it to cool down in the tin for ten minutes or so, before removing the spring-form bit of the tin.
In theory, I believe the cake is then supposed to rest for a day before being eaten. In practice, five minutes or so is about par for the course in this house!