It starts as a desire to make something - sweet, savory, simple, or a bit more complex. You jot down a preliminary list of ingredients, consult the Bible for some new flavor pairings, and research a few similar recipes. For recipe development, one might look to recipes of the past - either ones that were tried and true or ones handed down from family members, peruse the many online resources now available, browse through vast home libraries of accumulated cookbooks, or it might be as simple as trying something completely new and different. Regardless of the method, a recipe has to start somewhere. Notes are taken, ingredients prepared, and the experiment begins. A recipe is born. But it does not stop there. Refinements are made along the way and this is where my newest feature comes about.
In this first installment of my feature Kitchen Notes: Recipe Development, I start with a simple flourless chocolate cake. I wanted a flourless cake that was light and airy instead of dense and truffle-like.
I've made many cakes in my lifetime - the first one I recall was a boxed chocolate cake with the chocolate Better Crocker frosting when I was either 9 or 10 years old. Along the way, I've experimented with countless recipes, accumulated many cookbooks, clipped recipes from a variety of sources, and have amassed a great collection of cooking and baking magazines over the past two decades or more that now sit in plastic boxes in my garage. My latest cooking journal is a nice shade of aqua blue and has been recently brought back to life with my newest recipes and notes along the way. Many times over the past few years, I would simply make something and then forget exactly what I did or made. Now, I plan to change that with my Kitchen Notes. It's a place where I and my children (as they grow older and take more part in the kitchen) can refer to when we want to see how we made something and what we thought of it. I already have a few things jotted down about this recipe that I'd like to change, such as adding more rum.
The recipe, as written, was not bad (as can be witnessed by the few crumbs left over from finishing off the cake tonight). It's the quest for perfection that keeps one going. It's the constant wondering of "what if" - "what if I added more of this", "removed this ingredient", "used a larger/smaller pan", and so on that recipes constantly develop into new recipes with experimentation.
Without further adeiu...my Flourless Chocolate Torte, the first version.
Flourless Chocolate Torte - version #1
makes one 9-inch torte
8 ounces (226 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into half-inch pieces (I used El Rey Apamate 73.5% chocolate)
228g (2 sticks) unsalted cold butter, cut into 16 pieces
1 tablespoon white rum (I used Oronoco)
2 teaspoons Madagascar vanilla extract
1 Madagascar vanilla bean, seeds removed and combined with the extract
1 tablespoon Black Onyx cocoa powder
6 large eggs, separated and brought to room temperature
1/3 cup Dark Muscavado sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup caster sugar
hazelnut meal, for dusting springform pan
heavy whipping cream
sliced almonds, toasted
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9" springform pan and dust with hazelnut meal.
Slowly melt the chopped chocolate with butter using a double boiler or pan set over simmering water, making sure that the pan containing the chocolate and butter is not touching the water below it. Remove from heat and cool down to room temperature. When the mixture has cooled, add the rum, vanilla extract with vanilla beans, and the cocoa powder.
While the chocolate and butter mixture is cooling, cream the egg yolks with the dark muscavado sugar until light in color and creamy in texture.
Transfer to a large bowl (NOTE: this is where I should have used a much larger/wider bowl), and pour in the cooled chocolate mixture. Mix well and set aside.
Beat egg whites at high speed for one minute to break them up. Add cream of tartar and beat for another minute. Add caster sugar and beat whites until stiff peaks form, making sure not to overbeat them. Add about a third of the whites to the chocolate mixture and gently fold until incorporated. Add rest of whites in two more additions, taking care not to deflate the mixture.
Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until skewer inserted in middle of cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool. Meanwhile, place bowl and whisk in freezer to chill for about 30 minutes before use. Right before serving cake, pour cream into chilled bowl and add sugar. Lightly whip the cream and fold in the toasted almonds (that have been cooled to room temperature). Slice cake and spoon a small amount of the cream. Serve.
THE NOTES (as jotted down in my blue journal):
The texture was exactly as I had set out to make - light and fluffy, even on the following day. My daughter described it as a brownie and my husband agreed, adding "but it's lighter".
* Keep the 9" springform pan. The cake rose to about an inch over the height of the pan and sank as it cooled. I considered using a different size pan, but I'll keep this recipe at the 9" pan with 3" high sides. I wouldn't recommend using a regular cake pan as it might be too difficult to remove and the batter will overflow.
* Reduce, omit, or combine Black Onyx cocoa powder with Dutch process cocoa powder. The taste was intensely chocolatey. Next time, I will either leave out the Black Onyx cocoa powder completely, reduce the amount, or combine it with a Dutch process cocoa powder.
* Add more rum. Increase by 1 tablespoon, thus the recipe would now read 2 tablespoons white rum.
* Add more vanilla extract. Increase by 1 teaspoon, making the new amount 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.
* Add 1 egg yolk.
* Use cocoa powder to dust springform pan. Hazelnut meal might not be readily available at most stores, so I will use cocoa powder next time.
The next time I make this will most likely be this Memorial Day Weekend for guests - my husband's friend from Germany is visiting us with his family. So, in addition to my observations, I will have four new opinions and suggestions.