Saturday, November 28, 2009

La Bête Noire or the "Black Beast"

How awesome are the French? Not only are they great at making insanely decadent, completely excessive desserts, they give them The. Best. Names. Ever. The cake pictured above? It's called "The Black Beast." Dark, Satan-evoking cakes? Yes, please!

The "Black Beast" made an appearance at my family's Thanksgiving dinner, where it outshined the apple pie, brownies, and all other manner of sweet things. This is a flourless chocolate cake; a special occasion dessert that will make you look like a culinary badass, despite the relative ease of preparation. It does result in a lot of dishes though, something to which my wonderful husband can attest. Oops.

This cake is intense--a glass-of-water-between-every-bite intense. You eat this cake and it's like you've been slapped in the face by a good way.

A recipe like this is all about the chocolate. When you're using a pound and a half, it better be some of the good stuff. I used 60% Callebaut from Whole Foods for a mere $4.99/lb; affordable, delicious and absolutely necessary for a top-notch final product. I've heard rumors that the Belgian chocolate bars at Trader Joe's are actually just re-stamped Callebaut and are very, very cheap. There's no excuse for Hersheying it up! While I am a super-dark chocolate girl myself, you don't want to go for a cocoa percentage higher than 60-70% or your ganache will get a bit chalky. Trust me, it will still be plenty rich.

While I added Chambord to my batter for a hint of raspberry, feel free to experiment. Espresso, Grand Marnier, and Kirsch are just a few of the things I can think of off the top of my head that would work in this cake. Chocolate is awesome.

La Bête Noire
Adapted from Bon Appétit - September 2006

For the cake:
1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Chambord (black raspberry liquor - optional)

9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, diced
18 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely cut
6 large eggs

For the ganache:
3/4 cup heavy crean
2 teaspoons instant espresso (optional)
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely cut
1 tablespoon corn syrup

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment round; butter parchment. Wrap 3 layers of heavy-duty foil around outside of pan, bringing foil to top of rim. Note: this step is very, very important. If your foil is not entirely watertight, you'll find yourself with a soggy cake. I'd recommend some heavy duty, extra wide foil if you can find it. Not that I know this from experience...

Combine 1 cup water, Chambourd, salt, and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk sugar syrup into chocolate; cool slightly. Add lightly beaten eggs to chocolate mixture and whisk until well blended (pre-beating the eggs makes it less likely that you end up with scrambled eggs in your cake). Pour batter into prepared pan. Place cake pan in large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cake pan.

Bake cake until center no longer moves when pan is gently shaken, about 50 minutes. Remove from water bath; transfer to rack. Cool completely in pan.

For ganache:
Scald cream until bubbly around the edges. Add coffee and stir. Add chocolate and corn syrup and stir over heat for one minute. Remove from heat and whisk until chocolate is melted. Let stand for 15 minutes, stirring (not beating) occasionally. It will thicken slightly.

Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake; release sides. A neat trick for this next step is to put the cake on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet--it saves you a lot of clean up. Pour ganache over cake and smooth sides with spatula (the extra ganache will just fall through the cooling rack onto the waiting cookie sheet).Wait for ganache to cool and decorate as you see fit. This cake looks gorgeous as is, but is wonderful with some freshly whipped cream. I piped some whipped cream, added some fresh raspberries, and coated the sides with finely chopped pistachios for a bit of color.

Note: It's best if you don't refrigerate the completed cake as this would cause the ganache to lose its shine, so make it or at least complete it the same day as serving.

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