18 November 2010

Let's Talk Cake

It's been a while since I've posted anything and I think it's time to bring one of the greatest combinations to the blog: chocolate and pears.

Now, this is a combination that you don't see everywhere, so I was incredibly excited to see it on Justine's menu, here in Austin.  While I adore Justine's, their desserts could use some help.  That said, I'm a jerk with desserts if you hadn't guessed that based on my past (albeit few) posts.

So here is a cake that isn't too tough to make and will make people lose their minds.  Trust me.

I make a Jacques Torres chocolate/almond cake for this particular recipe, but in reality, a basic chocolate genoise or any other chocolate cake that you make would work.  The trick is that you don't want a dense cake because once assembled, this thing is going to be like a massive truffle.

Start with almost a full tube of almond paste and a little sugar.  Beat those together until they are well combined.  Slowly add egg yolks (save the whites - they are also used) plus an egg and blend well after each addition (you don't want hunks of almond paste in your cake) and beat until light, fluffy and pale in color.  Set aside.

Then you make a French meringue with the whites and a little sugar.  Once you have stiff peaks you fold the whites into the yolks.  Be very careful to not deflate this!  I find that you are less likely to deflate the batter if you mix with your hands.  Though you will get messy.  

Once all of that is done, fold in sifted chocolate and flour.  Finish by adding a little melted butter.  Because, let's be honest, butter makes everything better.  Then bake it in a buttered and floured pan (I put parchment on the bottom too).  

While that's baking make four pounds of ganache (one quart heavy whipping cream and two pounds chocolate).  Use bittersweet chocolate!  No semi-sweet nonsense.  Semi-sweet chocolate shouldn't exist.

Next, we assemble.  Once everything has sufficiently cooled down (if the ganache is still hot, you will have a hot mess to deal with) cut the cake in half so you have two equally sized layers.  Set the first layer inside a cake ring (no bottom!).  This is when having cardboard circles comes in handy - since you will need the cake to be sitting on something...  Pour a little simple syrup over the cake (with pear juice or any variety of liquor added if you are so inclined).  Pour a ton of ganache on the cake.  Make sure it gets down the side of the cake too.  There should be enough ganache in there to push the pears into.

So, pears!  Squeeze in halved, peeled, cored pears.  They should be very ripe.  If they aren't, poach 'em in white wine.  But that's not necessary if you are using some good ol' ripe and tasty pears.  Once you have those good and squeezed in, pour even more ganache over them and spread around to make sure there are no air bubbles.  Throw on the second cake layer.  Soak with syrup and top with ganache.  Tada!

This will need to sit in the fridge for a good long while (a few hours) until the chocolate fully sets up.  To get the cake out of the ring, you will need to run your torch around the edge to heat the metal up a little.  Don't torch/melt the chocolate.  Voila!  The ring will lift off like a dream.

And one more little tip.  Take the last bit of almond paste and roll it out (using powdered sugar to keep it from sticking to your pin), torch it when you have a shape you like to harden it up and use it as a plaque to write your "Happy Birthday" or "Joyeux Anniversaire!" or "Eat Me!" in chocolate.