Friday, January 22, 2010

Chocolate Bonbon Cake

My feeling is that, if you’re going to eat things that are bad for you, those things should taste really, really good. This cake tastes that good, and it’s fancy, too. Some restaurants call it a chocolate mousse cake because its lack of flour makes it seem more like a baked mousse thank a cake. My daughter, Abigail, calls it a chocolate bonbon cake because when she was just learning to read, she confuses bourbon with bonbon, and the name stuck.

12 oz high-quality semisweet chocolate
12 Tbs unsalted butter
6 eggs, separated
¾ c brown sugar
¼ c flour
4 Tbs bourbon
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp kosher salt
confectioner’s sugar

1. Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. Unlock a nine-inch springform pan so that the bottom separates from the ring (the sides). Cover the bottom with extra-wide, heavy-duty aluminum foil so that there is an outside margin of several inches. Press the foil down to reveal the rim of the bottom but don’t wrap the foil under the bottom. Return the bottom to the ring and relock the pan. Place the pan on a second large piece of foil and fold both foil layers up so that they cover at least half the height of the ring. (This application of foil prevents seepage from the water bath in which the cake is baked.)

3. Butter the inside of the springform pan. Add a parchment-paper liner to the bottom and butter this as well. Set the prepared pan inside a larger roasting pan.

4. Melt the chocolate and the butter (see tip below). Stir to combine.

5. Using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment (or a hand mixer), beat the egg yolks and brown sugar on medium until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

6. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the melted chocolate and butter and mix until just combined. Add the flour, and mix until just combined. Add the bourbon and vanilla extract and mix until just combined.

7. Transfer the batter to a mixing bowl. Clean and dry the stand mixer, then beat the egg whites and salt on high until the whites form soft peaks, about a minute.

8. After carefully folding the whipped egg whites into the batter, transfer the batter to the springform pan and place the springform pan/roasting pan assembly in the middle of the oven. Before closing the oven door, add enough hot tap water to the roasting pan so that the water covers half the thickness of the cake, about 1½ inches.

9. Bake until the center of the cake is set, about 50-55 minutes. Remove the springform pan from the water bath and let it cool on a rack. When the cake has cooled completely, unlock the ring and, using a suitably flat platter, invert the cake so that the top becomes the bottom. Peel off the parchment paper, and dust the top of the cake with confectioner’s sugar. Serve at room temperature.

• The “proper” way to melt the chocolate and butter is in a double-boiler (which can be as simple as a metal bowl set inside a pot of simmering water). But I usually use the microwave, which works fine as long as you’re careful. If you leave the microwave on too long, either you’ll scorch the chocolate, ruining its taste, or the butter will “pop,” sending it all over the inside of your oven. I guard against these unpleasant outcomes by remove the mixtures and stirring it every 15-20 seconds. Whichever method you use, remember that you needn’t heat the chocolate until every last morsel is melted. Residual heat will take care of any graininess.

• For this cake, I like to use Maker’s Mark bourbon, but you can substitute another whiskey (Jack Daniels) or a liqueur (Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Fra Angelico).

• An easy way to cut this cake neatly is to use a long strand of dental floss. Cut wedges by pulling the floss down from the top. Remove it by pulling the floss through the cake horizontally.

• Because chocolate loses flavor as it gets colder, be sure to serve this cake at room temperature. (Think of the difference in taste between a cold chocolate bar and a piece of chocolate melting in your mouth.)

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