Thursday, 1 March 2012

French Chocolate Cake

Am back home after spending two lovely weeks with my elder sister and her family. In my very first post where I mentioned her being an accomplished home cook, I wasn't exaggerating facts. She is pretty much the 'Masterchef' of our family, not just because she cooks exceedingly well but because of the way she wholeheartedly embraces the entire process of cooking. Cooking, for her, is not merely about putting food on the table. It is about engaging all your senses while cooking the food and then entrancing those senses while you savour the final product. Her food is definitely a testament to that philosophy and it all begins with the magic of her hands!!

One enchanting aspect of her multi-faceted life is the heritage home stay - 'Fort Rampura' that she runs along with her husband. You can read more about it here and here. But, I will say this much, Fort Rampura is a 700-year old fort with a ruggedly, handsome facade that has defied the ravages of time. And then as you walk through it's doors, the interiors exude a modern sensibility that will captivate you and leave you completely charmed... Have yet to meet anyone who wasn't!!

Photos courtesy: Fort Rampura, Cecile Mallie, Siddheshwar Wahi
While browsing through her eclectic cookery book collection, I came across a French cookbook that was given to her by one of her French guests, Patricia, with the words, " the best hosts in India.."!! It is a delightful book with easy, simple, French recipes for the home cook accompanied with enticing photographs.

And that's where I came across this gorgeous, chocolate cake described as a "typical French home-made cake - dense, dark and delicious". With a description like that, I didn't need much convincing. And a good choice it was!! The final product, a rustic, homey, chocolate cake was perfect for the rugged and romantic setting of Fort Rampura!!

The recipe was simple with all ingredients readily available in the pantry. The recipe does require five eggs and that did seem a bit excessive for me but the book did state that eggs are an integral part of french cooking and frankly, who am I to dispute the French when it comes to their own cakes!!

There was nothing complicated with the recipe directions but do keep in mind that it is important that you beat the egg whites until completely stiff as that will give the cake a lift in the absence of baking powder.

The end result was all that the recipe promised - 'dense, dark and delicious'!! This is not a sponge cake so do not expect a light, airy texture. The texture was that of a brownie-cum-cake.The top of the cake will fall a bit as the cake cools so don't panic when you see the cracks on the top, it's all part of the plan! If it bothers you too much, then dust some icing sugar on it.

The book suggests a fruit coulis to go with the cake and knowing me, I fell back on a trusted strawberry coulis and I am glad that I did. The fruit coulis imparts a freshness and lightness that perfectly complements this dense, chocolate cake. I strongly recommend the coulis with a slice of this gorgeous cake and you may then join me in acknowledging that when it comes to cakes, the French know their stuff!!

French Chocolate Cake

From the book French: The secrets of classic cooking made easy by Carole Clements and Elizabeth Wolf-Cohen

Cook time: 35-45 mins
serves 10-12 people

  • 275 gms cooking chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar (I took regular sugar and whizzed it)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • pinch of salt
Cooking Directions
  • Pre-heat the oven to 170 deg c. Generously butter a 23cm/9 inch round, spring form pan and sprinkle some sugar.
  • Set aside 3 tbsp of the sugar. Place the chocolate, butter and remaining sugar in a heavy pan and cook over low heat until the chocolate and butter have melted and the sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla essence and leave the mixture to cool slightly.
  • Beat the egg yolks into the chocolate mixture, beating each in well, then stir in the flour.
  • In a clean, grease-free bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they are frothy. Increase the speed, add the salt and continue beating until soft peaks form. Sprinkle over the reserved sugar and beat until the whites are stiff and glossy. To be completely sure I upturned the bowl and counted till ten and if the whites don't move, you are good to go!!
  • Beat one third of the whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the remaining whites.
  • Carefully pour the mixture into the tin and tap the tin gently to release any air bubbles.
  • Bake the cake for about 35-45 minutes until well risen, and the top springs back when touched lightly with a fingertip.
  • Transfer the cake to a wire rack. When it cools a bit, remove the sides of the tin and leave to cool completely.
* Serving suggestion by book: Serve with cream or fruit coulis.

Strawberry Coulis

  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 3/4 cup strawberry puree
  • a squirt of lemon juice

Cooking Directions
  • Blend all the ingredients and chill     

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