Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Flourless Orange-Chocolate Cake

Flourless Orange-Chocolate Cake

Based on a recipe of Alice Medrich's. The cake can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight (up to 4 days). It must be at room temperature for serving and decorating. Favorite chocolates include Scharffen Berger, Ghirardelli, and Callebaut.

8 eggs, chilled
16 oz (1 pound) semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped coarsely
1/2 pound unsalted butter (2 sticks)
pinch fine sea salt
1/4 cup triple sec
zest of one navel orange

1. Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line bottom of 8-inch springform pan with parchment and grease pan sides. Cover pan underneath and along sides with sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and set in large roasting pan. Bring kettle of water to boil.

2. Beat eggs until tripled in volume, about 2 quarts. If using hand-held mixer, mix on high speed for about 20 minutes. If using a standing electric mixer, use wire whip attachment at medium speed to achieve same result.

3. Meanwhile, melt chocolate and butter with salt, liqueur, and orange zest in large heatproof bowl set over pan of almost simmering water, stirring until smooth and very warm (115 degrees). (For microwave, melt chocolate and butter at 50% power until smooth and warm, about 6 minutes.) Pour melted chocolate mixture through fine meshed sieve into large mixing bowl. Fold 1/3 egg foam into chocolate mixture using large rubber spatula until only a few streaks of egg are visible; fold in half of remaining foam, then last of remaining foam, until mixture is totally homogeneous.

4. Scrape batter into prepared springform pan and smooth surface with spatula. Set roasting pan on oven rack and pour enough boiling water to come about halfway up side of springform pan. Bake until cake has risen slightly, edges are just beginning to set, a thin glazed crust (like a brownie) has formed on surface, and an instant read thermometer inserted halfway through center of cake registers 140 degrees, 22 to 25 minutes (it will continue to cook when removed from oven). Remove cake pan from water bath and set on wire rack; cool to room temperature. Optionally, cover and chill.

5. About 30 minutes before serving, remove springform pan sides, invert cake on sheet of waxed paper, peel off parchment pan liner, and turn cake right side up on serving platter. When cake is at room temperature, sieve light sprinkling of Confectioner's sugar or unsweetened cocoa powder over cake to decorate, perhaps through a paper doily.

This cake does well with a sauce. Try a raspberry sauce (frozen raspberries, thawed and sieved, with a few drops of lemon juice and sugar to taste), an orange sauce (follow instructions for lemon curd substituting orange ingredients), or, daringly, a warm orange-caramel sauce.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Researching Chocolate Companies

From whom can I buy chocolate that meets these criteria?
  • tastes good, looks good, and performs well
  • fairly compensates the grower and other laborers
  • is not dependent on the labor of children
  • is agriculturally sustainable and environmentally agreeable
  • includes additives, such as sugar, that have similar properties
  • is free of fruit, milk, nuts, soy
  • sells for about $1 per ounce
These companies have come to my attention. What chocolate do you use?

Cocoa Camino

Divine Chocolate
Of Ghanian origin

Ithaca Fine Chocolates

Of Ghanian origin

Sweet Earth Organic Chocolates

Theo Chocolate

Ones to watch***********************

Chocolate Co-op

Organic, but not fair-trade. Many awards for quality. Single-origin products.

Dagoba (now owned by Hershey's)

Equal Exchange

A distributor, not a manufacturer.

Scharffen Berger (now owned by Hershey's)


Pending fair trade certification

Yachana Chocolate

Chocolates mixed with tropical fruits and nuts only, no pure chocolate

Friday, November 23, 2007

Orange Chocolate Pots de Creme

I have a high standard for chocolate. Initially, I liked Scharffen Berger for several reasons. It was a small company that seemed to care about the quality of its product. It was made in a setting free from nuts. It performed well if shaved or melted. And, it tasted good.

Now that Scharffen Berger is owned by Hershey's, its quality has degraded somewhat and the labels do not indicate it is nut-free. The quality of the chocolate is still excellent, but its manufacturing conditions have changed.

As a result, I am now looking for a replacement and have added global awareness to my expectations. I want several things of my chocolate:
  • Is free from nuts and dairy
  • Performs well in the kitchen (melting point, shaving)
  • Made by people whose intention is finest quality chocolate
  • Made using fair-trade practices
I haven't found a chocolate that meets these criteria. If you know of one, please be in touch!

Orange Chocolate Pots de Creme

A key to success
is the temperature of the cream mixture when it is removed from the heat. Remove too soon -- when the mixture runs off the back of a wooden spoon -- and the pots de creme will not congeal and will be too thin. Remove it too late -- when the mixture shows lumps of coagulating egg yolk -- and the pots de creme will taste grainy and not be able to fully incorporate the chocolate.

Yields 8 servings.

10 oz bittersweet chocolate
5 yolks from large eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup water
zest of one large orange (about 3 tsp)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon vanilla

1. Using box grater, grate chocolate. Place in heatproof bowl and set aside at room temperature with fine-mesh sieve.

2. In heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk yolks, cream, water, zest, and salt until smooth. Heat gradually over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon. When cream mixture reaches 175 degrees Fahrenheit and coats the back of the spoon, about 12 minutes, immediately remove from heat and pour through sieve into chocolate.

3. Wait 2 minutes for chocolate to melt and whisk gently until thoroughly blended. Do not whip. Pour into ramekins or individual serving bowls. Cool to room temperature, then chill for at least 4 hours.

4. To serve, remove ramekins from refrigerator 20 minutes before serving. Can be served with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and gratings of chocolate or sprinkles of cocoa.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Roasting Salmon

Fresh, wild salmon is a wonderful thing and is unlike most other vegetarian fish. Mine is from Alaska, caught, dressed, and frozen by the man who sells it to me, a privilege I share with few others and for which I am thankful. Here's how I prepared the most recent one.

Sockeye salmon, dressed and ready for preparation.

Slicing the skin on the top side enables expansion of the cooking meat in an attractive way.

Meat is lightly scented with parsley and lemon and seasoned with flor de sal (white bag).

Dinner is served.

Roasted Whole Salmon

3.5 pound whole salmon, dressed
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch parsley
2 fresh lemons

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line shallow roasting pan with a layer of parchment or foil. Lightly oil perforated top and assemble. Place several thick lemon slices where fish will rest on pan. Measure thickness of fish by placing ruler alongside resting fish. Calculate 10 minutes of roasting time for each inch the fish is thick.

2. Ensuring the fish is completely thawed, rinse under cold, running water. Dry with paper towels. Lightly oil all skin. Using scissors or very sharp knife, carefully cut top-side skin in several places, trying not to cut meat. Lightly salt the inside and add a half-bunch of whole parsley stalks and several slices of lemon.

3. Place prepared fish atop thick lemon slices and roast. Ten minutes before calculated completion time, check fish for doneness. Fully roasted fish, flesh and bone should be opaque. Flesh will flake easily all the way to the bone. The skin will be well browned in most places. Let fish rest 15 minutes, then remove to serving platter. Present with fresh parsley and more lemon slices. Pass lemon wedges, salt, and pepper to taste.

This dinner, hosted by John Calvi and me, honored the visit of our friend, John Meyer,
Saturday, October 27, 2007.