Feb.
28

The end of another month which means it’s time to reveal the Daring Bakers Challenge! It is no wonder that February, the month for honoring love on St. Valentine’s Day, is best represented first by the heart and then by chocolate or… better yet… a chocolate heart. This month’s inspiration was Malaysia’s “most flamboyant food ambassador”, Chef Wan and the chosen recipe comes from his book Sweet Treats by Chef Wan. 

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.  

To be honest that’s a pretty funny statement there since really the actual requirement was to use Chef Wan’s flourless chocolate cake recipe and make our own ice cream using any recipe we wished (not required to use either Dharm or Wendy’s ice cream recipe which I was happy about since I’ve made ice cream many times and have my own favorites!!).  The recipe for Chef Wan’s fourless chocolate cake contains only three very simple ingredients… chocolate… butter… and eggs.  As a baker, it’s how you interpret these ingredients that is the challenge.  

I chose to make both a 4″ heart shaped cake and a 6″ square cake… along with both vanilla whipped cream and vanilla-bean mint chocolate-chip ice cream.  The combination of mint and chocolate really appeals to me. Having never in my life made (or even eaten!) a flourless chocolate cake I had absolutely no idea of what to expect. I can truthfully say this was one of my favorite Daring Bakers challenges and I’m crossing my fingers that you read on as I tell you why and show you more pictures of this decadent goodness!  {continue}

When I told my lemon-loving colleague about the concept of a flourless chocolate cake, a strange look came over his face.  One might call the look “puzzled” or “confused” as he just couldn’t wrap his mind around a cake that contained no flour.  Being unsure myself of how this would actually turn out I could say little more than “if it works, I’ll bring you a slice”.  

Part of the role that flour plays in baking cakes is to work with other ingredients and produce tiny air bubbles that give rise or lift.  Many people use all-purpose flour which pretty much contains an intermediate amount of gluten.  There’s nothing wrong with that and I consider all-purpose flour to be a “compromise flour” since it works well is most things. Keep in mind though that too little gluten in a flour and things don’t hold their shape (yuck!)… but… too much gluten makes things tough and uber-chewy (ugh!).  Bread flour has a high gluten content making it great for bagels and breads!  Cake flour has a lower gluten content, is typically softer and more finely milled, and is great for giving cakes a finer texture.  But wait… if we’re making a chocolate cake with no flour, how in the world is it going to hold together and not result in a puddle of steaming chocolate goo? In this recipe, the answer lies in the incorporation of stiffly whipped egg whites! Oh sure, I could show you a picture of them but believe me they’re not very interesting. You can trust me on that :)

This recipe for flourless chocolate cake calls for 16 oz of chocolate, a little more than 1/2cup of butter and 5 eggs.  That’s it.  Be sure to use the best quality chocolate you can keeping in mind how the chocolate tastes is exactly what your cake will taste like.  Maybe you love a deep dark bittersweet chocolate with a high cacao percentage… or think there’s nothing better than a sweet milk chocolate… or believe the absolute best is a chocolate that falls somewhere in between such as semi-sweet.  My personal favorite is dark bittersweet chocolate and the kids of course love milk chocolate and DH just loves chocolate, period, so as a sort of compromise what I did was use 11 ounces of bittersweet (60%) and 5 ounces of semi-sweet :)  This recipe is flexible so use the kind of chocolate or the combination of different chocolates that makes you happy.  

A word of caution however against using white chocolate.  Technically white chocolate contains no cacao, just cocoa butter, so it is definitely not suitable for this recipe.  Having made that bold statement I am supremely confident that some Daring Bakers probably figured out a way to successfully use white chocolate here so check out the blogroll to find out.

The baking instructions for this recipe call for 25 minutes at 375° but a lot of early birds reported their cakes to be underdone in the middle.  I checked my cakes at 20 minutes, 25 minutes and 30 minutes and felt they were not fully baked.  While I didn’t want dry, crumbly edges, I didn’t want a soggy pudding center!!  Finally at about 45 minutes I chanced it and removed them from the oven.  10 minutes on the cooling rack and then I removed them from the pan pleased with how they came out :)

For plating, I dusted the heart cake with powdered sugar and added three dollops of freshly made whipped cream from scratch and dusted them with cocoa powder.  For the vanilla-bean mint chocolate-chip ice cream, the recipe can be found here on my blog from when I first made it last May.  The only modification I made was using a whole scraped vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract.

The cake was tremendous success as DH and the kids scarfed it down quickly, making lots of nom-nom-nom noises along the way!  Of course they loved the vanilla-bean mint chocolate-chip ice cream… almost as much as I love making ice cream.  I have the KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker attachment and it was worth every single penny.  So easy to use and it takes up no additional precious real estate on my counter!  I simply store the bowl in the deep freezer out in the garage and it’s ready to go anytime I want.  If you have a KitchenAid stand mixer, I highly recommend this attachment!!  Once you learn to make a basic vanilla ice cream or frozen custard (my favorite recipe was posted here on my blog) you can have loads of fun branching out and experimenting with other flavors. 

Thank you Dharm and Wendy for choosing a great flourless chocolate cake recipe for this month’s challenge. I really loved that it came together quickly, easily and I could do the whole thing (including home made ice cream) in a single day.  As a busy working woman, I thoroughly appreciate that!

Have a delicious day!

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