Monday, 30 April 2007

Two Desserts

Wow, the Oregonian has had some real winners in the food section recently! Here are two yummy desserts I've made from recipes found there.

Versatile and Delicious Flourless Chocolate Cake
(yeah, that's the name the Oregonian gave it)

Makes one 10-inch cake (8 to 12 servings)
7 ounces semisweet or
bittersweet chocolate, broken into chunks
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
4 eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar (divided)
1/2 cup
unsweetened cocoa (such as Hershey's)
1/8 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to
350 degrees. Grease the sides and bottom of a 10-inch springform pan. Use the
pan to trace a circle of parchment or wax paper, cut it out and line the bottom
of the pan; grease the paper.

Put the chocolate and butter together in the top of a double boiler and
melt over simmering water. (You can make a double boiler by setting a
stainless-steel bowl over a saucepan; the two should fit snugly and the bottom
of the bowl should not touch the water in the saucepan.) Stir to blend and let
cool slightly.

Put the egg yolks into a medium bowl, add about half the sugar and,
with an electric mixer, beat until the mixture is light and thick and it forms a
ribbon when you lift the beater, 3 to 4 minutes.

Fold the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture, then sprinkle the
cocoa powder and salt over the mixture and fold gently until well-blended.

In a separate -- and grease-free -- bowl, beat the egg whites until
they form soft peaks; gradually add the remaining sugar, beating until firm,
glossy peaks form.

Add about a quarter of the beaten egg whites to the chocolate-yolk
mixture and gently fold until blended; carefully fold in the remaining whites,
trying to preserve as much volume as possible.
Gently slide the batter into
the prepared cake pan. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out
almost clean (you will still see a few moist crumbs), approximately 40 minutes.
Let the cake cool, in the pan, on a rack for about 10 minutes. Then, run a thin
knife around the inside of the pan to release the cake, and unlatch and remove
the side of the pan. Let the cake cool completely before cutting; it will be
fragile while still warm. As the cake cools, it will collapse like a fallen
souffle -- that's fine.

Serve wedges of the cake plain, or garnish with the topping of your
choice. I like whipped cream, creme frache or even very good sour cream, such as
Nancy's brand. You could also try custard sauce (creme anglaise), either plain
vanilla or flavored with fresh mint; a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, coffee
ice cream, fiore di latte gelato or passion fruit sorbet. I'm not a huge
fruit-and-chocolate person, but if you are, raspberries or raspberry sauce would
be just fine, too. We enjoyed this with freshly whipped cream, with a bit of sugar added.

Here's the second. I have not eaten rhubarb in my adult life before tonight. I think I had rhubarb pie one time as a kid and decided from that that I didn't like rhubarb. I can't believe I let one incident keep me from such a delicious thing! This was almost like having fresh peach pie, but much earlier than you'll see good peaches.

I made two changes to this recipe: first, I didn't add the butter you're supposed to dot on the top of the filling before you put the top crust on, and it was plenty rich. And the second thing is that I didn't do the lattice-top, just a utilitarian plain pie crust. And it worked fine. And is delicious!

Rhubarb Custard Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie
Midwesterners love their rhubarb pie straight up (strawberries are better left for shortcake), and if you try this recipe, we think you'll agree. The secret is eggs, which make a delicate custard that's the perfect counterpoint to the sweet-tart rhubarb. For an 8-inch pie plate, use less rhubarb, about 4 to 5 cups.
1 to 11/2 cups granulated sugar (depending on tartness desired)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Dash of ground cinnamon
Dash of ground nutmeg
Pinch salt (optional)
3 eggs, slightly beaten
6 to 8 cups chopped rhubarb, about 2 to 3 pounds untrimmed (6 cups for 9-inch pie plate, 8 cups for 91/2-inch deep-dish pie plate)
Pastry for 1 double-crust pie (see accompanying recipe)
1 to 2 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt, if desired. Add beaten eggs and rhubarb, tossing to coat. Pour into pastry-lined pie plate. Dot with butter and top with lattice crust. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until filling bubbles and crust is golden brown.

Flaky All-Butter Pastry

Makes two 9-inch crusts, enough for 1 double-crust pie
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut into cubes (2 sticks)
6 tablespoons ice water

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process to blend. Add the butter and process until well-blended, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water and process until the mixture just begins to form a ball, about 10 seconds.

Transfer the dough to a clean work surface and, with the palm of your hand, smear it 2 or 3 times across the work surface until it is smooth and the flour and butter are well-blended. (Do not overhandle it or it will become tough.) Cut the dough in half and form into 2 round disks about 5 inches across. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours before rolling out for use. Use half to line the pie plate, the other for the lattice.

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