Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Queen of Flourless Chocolate Cakes- Queen Mother's Cake from Maida Heatter

Maida Heatter is one of America's great bakers.  She's now is her eighties and her recipes are as popular as ever.  I love reading her cookbooks- she tells a great tale about all of her recipes and her directions are clear, complete and guarantee great results every time.

My sister often asks for gluten free desserts. Sis, this one's for you!  It's made with ground almonds, the texture is light, but rich and moist as well.  Not like the usual heavier cakes we are used to being served.

When I make this cake, I skip the dry bread crumbs and the icing.  I serve the cake with whipped cream and fresh fruit.  When I made it the first time, I worried about not having enough to serve my five guests.  Well, it served everyone and I still had half a cake left!  So, really, 12 great portions of deliciousness.

This recipe serves 12.

6     oz whole almonds
6     oz unsalted butter, plus extra for pan
Fine dry bread crumbs
6     oz semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces
3/4  cup granulated sugar, separated
6     eggs, separated
1/8  tsp salt
1     tsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Toast the almonds in a single layer in a shallow pan for 12 to 15 minutes, shaking the pan a few times, until the almonds are lightly coloured.  Set aside to cool.

Raise the temperature to 375 degrees.  Adjust the rack 1/3 up in the oven.  Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 x 3-inch springform pan.  Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper, cut to fit.  Butter the paper.  Dust the pan all over with fine bread crumbs, invert over paper and tap lightly to shake out the excess.  Set the pan aside.

Place the chocolate in the top of a small double boiler over warm water on moderate heat.  Cover until partially melted, then uncover and stir until just melted and smooth.  Remove from the double boiler and set aside until the chocolate is room temperature.

Place the almonds and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal chopping blade.  Process very well until the nuts are fine and powdery.  Stop the machine once or twice, scrape down the sides and continue to process.  Process for at least one full minute.  Set aside the ground nuts.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft.  Add 1/4 cup of the sugar and beat to mix.  Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating and scrapping the side of the bowl as necessary, until smooth.  On low speed, add the chocolate and beat until mixed.  Then, add the processed almonds and beat, scraping the bowl, until incorporated.

Transfer the chocolate mixture to another bowl, and wash the bowl and beaters.  In this bowl, beat the egg whites with the salt and lemon juice, starting at low speed and increasing it gradually.  When the whites barely hold a soft shape, reduce the speed and gradually add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar.  On high speed, continue to beat until the whites hold a straight point when the beaters are slowly raised.  Do not overbeat.

Stir a large spoonful of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, to soften it a bit.  In three additions, fold in the remaining whites.  Do not fold thoroughly until the last addition and do not handle any more than necessary.  Turn the mixture into the prepared pan.  Rotate the pan briskly from left to right in order to level the batter.

Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for an additional 50 minutes.  Do not overbake, the cake should remain soft and moist in the center.  It's ok for the top to crack a bit.

Place the pan on a wet, slightly wrung out folded towel.  Let stand until tepid, about 50 to 60 minutes.

Release and remove the sides of the pan - do not cut around the sides with a knife.  Let the cake stand until it is completely cool.  The cake will sink a little in the middle and the sides will be a little higher.  Use a long, thin, sharp knife and cut the top to make level.  Brush away loose crumbs.

Place a rack or a small board over the cake and carefully invert.  Remove the bottom of the pan and the paper liner.  The cake is now upside down and ready to be iced.  

Place the cake on a cake plate lined with four strip of baking paper to keep the icing off the plate when you ice the cake.

Stir the icing to mix it and pour it slowly over the top of the cake, pouring it into the middle.  Use a long, narrow metal spatula to smooth the top and spread the icing so that a little of it runs down the sides.  With a small, narrow spatula, smooth the sides.  Remove the strips of paper from under the cake.

1/2  cup whipping cream
2     tsp powdered instant espresso
8     oz semisweet chocolate, cut into small pieces

Scald the cream in a 6 cup saucepan over moderate heat until it begins to form small bubbles around the edges or a thin skin on top.  Add the dry espresso and whisk to dissolve.  Add the chocolate and stir occasionally over heat for one minute.  Remove the pan from the heat and whisk until the chocolate is all melted and the mixture is smooth.  Let the icing stand at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or a little longer, until the icing barely begins to thicken.

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