PHOTO: We're all longing for chocolate this week.
Who would think that a simple chocolate cake could reveal the many layered differences between the Anglo vs the French way of eating?
What comes to mind when you think of chocolate cake? Well, for the Americans, if you’re like me you picture an enormous slice of devil’s food cake, two or three layers, with lots of gooey chocolate frosting, between layers and all around. Of course with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. Over-the-top Yum.
Here in France, the most typical chocolate cake would be a slender slice of moelleux au chocolat (moelleux, meaning moist or tender, is a completely unpronounceable word, requiring complex contortions of the lips. Try mwa leu). This is a one layer affair, rich yet light and airy, made with high quality chocolate and served with just a dusting of icing sugar on top, a small dollop of whipped cream on the side, and a berry or two as a garni. Understated. Simply sublime. (Then there is moelleux au chocolat au coeur fondant, round with a warm center, but that’s a recipe for another day).
I never met a chocolate cake I didn’t like, and I love the American version. Yet, when I encountered a moelleux done really well, it was un coup de foudre--love at first bite. This happened when a friend of Nicole’s brought one to a potluck, and I was over the moon. When I asked her for the recipe, she looked at me, puzzled. “Why it’s just a simple moelleux au chocolat,” she said, as if everyone could whip one up in their sleep.
Photo: Let them eat chocolate cake-- all gussied up at a Paris pâtisserie.
By the way, Olivier Magny of O Château notes that in Paris, a restaurant with no moelleux on the menu is considered avant-garde. And there's more: “If a Parisian woman opts for a moelleux, sexual misery will ensue. Parisian women are not known to indulge twice the same night.”
So the other day, when the chef at our tiny local bistro served one that was hands down the best I’d ever had, I wasn’t going to let that recipe get away a second time, even if it interfered with my sex life. I was nearly on my knees and at his mercy. Before the meal was over, a photocopy of the recipe arrived at our table, signed ‘with love from the St. Martin Cafe team’.
The recipe was titled “Moelleux au chocolat de Catherine”. I haven’t discovered the identity of the mysterious Catherine, but that woman sure can cook.
Here it is, and as a bonus it’s simple and fast. And with no frosting, I think we can easily call it diet food.
serves 10 French people
pre-heat oven: 375F (180C). Butter a 9" (22 or 24 cm) cake pan.
- 7 oz (200 grams) of semi-sweet dessert (baking) chocolate (70%)
- 7 oz (200 gram)s of unsalted butter
- 3 Tablespoons rum, or your favorite spirit
- 1 cup (200 grams) of sugar
- 5 eggs
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon flour (70 grams)
- Whipped cream, and/or vanilla ice cream
- berries to garnish
Separate the whites and yolks of the eggs, set aside
Melt the butter and chocolate in a bain-marie (double boiler) with the rum, over barely simmering water. Cool slightly. Meanwhile, with a mixer beat the egg yolks with the sugar until the mixture lightens.
Mix the flour into the egg mixture, then the chocolate.
Whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold it delicately into the chocolate mixture until combined. Turn into the pan (pan will be quite full) and cook 25 minutes. Check doneness by inserting a sharp knife in the center. The point of the knife should remain moist at the point.
Cool, cut into slices and dust with contectioner’s sugar. Serve with a bit of whipped cream and berries, and ice cream if you’re feeling sinful.
If you can't pick just one--better whip up an old fashioned American chocolate cake too. There's a great recipe over at the fun blog, www.foodess.com.
Favorite Reads: In my cookbook library, I have some old favorites for cakes. In the The Cake Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum not only tells you how to do things, she tells you why. Julia child has some yummy French cakes, including easy ice cream cakes, in her classic, The Way to Cook. How to Bake : Complete Guide to Perfect Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Tarts, Breads, Pizzas, Muffins, is for desserts, and beyond. And my current favorite summer novel, which is set near Charleston? I'm reading Sue Monk Kidd's The Mermaid Chair and it's super.
Thanks for the many nice Comments this week. And if you missed it, go back a week for Linda's Tour Eiffel trivia additions. And EVERYONE is recommending Midnight in Paris, so I've got to go see it, even though I think Woody Allen is creepy.
Our reader's blogs: Speaking of perfect summer desserts, try Melanie's Texas Hill Country Peach Pie this week at www.bravethekitchen.com.
Unless otherwise attributed, all POSTS, PHOTOS and RECIPES on this blog copyright ©2011 Lynn McBride. All Rights Reserved.