The editors at Hyperion Books sent me three cookbooks and asked me if I might blog about them. The cookbook that grabbed my attention immediately was The Essence of Chocolate by the founders of Scharffen Berger Cocolates, Robert Steinberg, a physician, and John Scharffenberger, an award-winning vintner.
The book isn’t simply a collection of recipes, as I had expected. Instead, it literally tracks chocolate from the plantations to your table. A good third of the book is devoted to explaining the history, development and the modern production of chocolate. There are also discussions on the economics of the industry. And, not surprisingly, a physician and artful marketer, Steinberg includes a section about the health benefits of eating chocolate.
The recipes, of course, are the highlights of the cookbook. What I appreciate the most is that they showcase the versatility of chocolate as an ingredient. From nibs to powder, chocolate is featured and used in every form. And, chocolate isn’t featured as the star ingredient in every recipe. The recipes include cakes and pastries, salads, roasted vegetables, sauces and meat courses, like chile-marinated flank steak.
Some of the more interesting recipes are roasted squash with nib vinaigrette, tortilla soup with 70% chocolate, baked beans with 99% chocolate, and an absolutely gorgeous-looking pull-apart kuchen that is definitely in line at my kitchen waiting to be baked.
The recipe was straightforward and worked like a *charm.* My guests were pleased.
Per Stoll’s suggestion, I baked the cakes on a cookie sheet on the bottom rack instead of the floor of the oven. Also, I pre-made the cakes and refrigerated them early in the day. I made sure they came to room temperature before baking. I served the cakes with home-made banana-rum raisin ice cream (recipe to come in a following post).
Here is the recipe from the The Essence of Chocolate, unedited:
Unsalted butter or nonstick cooking spray for the ramekins
6 ounces 70% bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Custard sauce or ice cream
It is best to bake these on the floor of the oven. If that is not possible, position a rack on the lowest level of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Generously butter or spray the sides of four 5- to 6-ounce ramekins or six 4-ounce ramekins. Line the bottom of each ramekin with parchment and lightly butter or spray the parchment. Arrange the ramekins on a baking sheet.
Place the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl and set it over a pot of gently simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from heat.
In a bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the eggs, yolks, sugar and salt and beat on high speed for 4-5 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and pale. When the whisk is lifted and the batter is run back and forth over itself, it will hold a slowly dissolving ribbon.
With the mixer on low speed, sprinkle the flour over the batter, and mix until combined.
Fold the egg mixture one-third at a time into the chocolate mixture.
Fill the ramekin swith batter to within 1/4 inch of the top. (At this point, the ramekins can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before baking.)
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the sides of the cakes are firm. The centers will be soft to the touch but set.
Let stand for 1 minute, then unmold each cake onto a serving plate. Serve immediately topped with custard sauce or ice cream.