Wednesday, August 30, 2006

RCE: Garlic & Sapphires: Chocolate Cake!

Wow! This is great response guys! I can't wait to see what you come up with for our September books! Here's kT's review of the Garlic & Sapphires Chocolate Cake!

Sorry, Eric, no picture. Honestly, it's not that impressive looking -- just a loaf of chocolate -- but it tasted great.

I tend to avoid any recipe that requires me to rig a double-boiler. I supposed I *could* just buy one, but I've nowhere to store it and so I live without. This means that I tend to avoid any recipe that requires melting chocolate (no, I don't own a microwave, either). But this was supposed to be a challenge, right?

Despite the fearsome chocolate melting, Reichel's cake truly is a last-minute wonder, a picture of simplicity with an impressive flavor. Oh, and about that chocolate melting? I cheated with a *Barefoot Contessa* trick. I finely chopped the chocolate and used the hot liquids to melt it (half into the hot coffee, half into the hot butter. It only took another 30 seconds or so on the stove for complete melt (in my omelet pan -- the best for melting butter).

Cakes are my specialty -- I am in no way an aspiring pastry chef, but when asked to bring food to a gathering, I bring cake and have for the past 20 years. In the past two years, I've been exploring Bundt cakes. I love the simple beauty of the shape, but most of all, I like that these cakes are generally designed to stand alone -- no frosting. Sometimes I glaze, but not often. Not that I have anything against frosting, but preparing it tends to be tedious and my results are hit and miss. Plus it's messier.

Reichel's cake is baked in a loaf pan, but comes from the same cake philosophy. The cake can be served plain (maybe a good coffee break snack?), with ice cream as Reichel suggests (classic, of course), but I'd suggest a few spoonsful of fresh whipped cream. I would stick with plain vanilla in any case, so as not to detract from the rich, multi-layered flavors of the cake.

The cake is dense with a texture similar to a cake-like brownie -- moist and a little crumbly. The butter is key in a frosting-less cake; it adds richness of texture and moisture. The coffee adds depth to the chocolate, but doesn't stand out on its own, taste-wise. The orange liqueur (I used curacao, as I had that, and not the Grand Marnier Reichel calls for) *is*there in the flavor profile, though everyone I fed it to noticed it more than I did. Somehow, the fruit flavor balances the chocolate.

The only note I have on the recipe is on baking time. I haven't tested my oven recently, but it was on target about a year ago. The recipe states 30-40 minutes and my cake took 55.

All in all, I think this is a keeper. The cake is simple but impressive. My guinea pig coworkers gave it two thumbs up overall.

As for your food questions:

I don't know that I have real "foodie" moments. I sometimes feel a little outclassed here. I live in the middle of nowhere and we do not have five-star restaurants. We do have decent local food places, but they all serve solid Midwestern food. Then again, this is what I grew up eating.

I can think of two significant moments, though. When I was 11 or 12, on a family vacation to Florida, I found a recipe in a USA Today paper -- Heaven and Hell Cake. The chef who created the recipe said he grew up in his parents' diner and hated choosing between angel food cake and devils food cake. This cake combined them (8 layers total, alternating the two flavors) with a peanut butter mousse and a chocolate ganache over the whole. The cake took me an entire Saturday to make. The success? A cake that only leaned very slightly and tasted amazing. The failures? A ganache that never set and an overly rich cake that our family of 6 plus guests couldn't finish it before it went stale. At over 1000 calories a slice, can you
blame them? After that, though, I worked my way through nearly all the cakes in my mother's Southern Living cookbook.

The other moment was my introduction to Persian food through my high school boyfriend's Iranian father. The man was an absolutely amazing cook. Persian rice is so different from Uncle Ben's that to compare the two seems erroneous, at best. Beyond that, the creation of pilaf dishes is an unparallelled and delicious art form. I wish I had paid more attention to how the dishes were made, but the flavors were so much different than anything I'd tasted before that it was like new worlds had opened up.

I honestly don't know much about the star-rating system, so can't choose a four-star place. I like small restaurants that have an intimate, quiet atmosphere, a unique but not fussy menu, and usually an ethnic flair. Were I ever to consider opening or investing in a restaurant, I would keep that all in mind.

Brussel sprouts? Coming up only if I can find the damn little mini-cabbages. I've only seen them in one store and they were pitifully wilted.

So, kT, sounds like you've got a bit of a challenge in your area to find the same variety of produce that we take for granted - but you're absolutely ingenious in the substitution department! Why don't you send us a few of your favourite tips for cooks in a pinch?

Try and find frozen Brussel Sprouts if you can't find them fresh, kT, they will hopefully be fresher and FAR more tasty! No need to feel outclassed - there is nothing wrong with good, hearty mid-western cooking. I once had the best sandwich I'd ever eaten (and still holds true to this day) at a diner in the middle of nowhere in Utah (I think... It could have been South Dakota now that I think about it...) - great bread, freshly roasted turkey breast, cream cheese, alfalfa sprouts, cranberry sauce, mayo and a special something that gave it an extra kick - PASSION.

Thanks again for participating kT!


At 2:59 p.m., Blogger kT said...

Hey! Frozen! I never thought of that (maybe because I've never seen them?). I'll check it out this weekend (which is late, I know) but my car is imprisoned by my evil broken garage door and the good grocery stores are out of my limited, lazy, out-of-shape bike range.

Thanks for having me. This was even more fun than I thought it would be.

At 4:09 p.m., Blogger Cooth said...

As one of the co-worker guinea pigs, I will attest to the cake being extremely delicious!

At 9:03 p.m., Blogger C(h)ristine said...

excellent! but how about posting the thing in entirety up at muffin top? i've been noticing you only post pointers over there, but given that many of the reviews are by muffin top bloggers, i wonder if you could post the ones by muffin top bloggers on muffin top, going forward?

At 9:54 p.m., Blogger Eric said...

That's TOTALLY cool by me Christine! I just didn't want to take over Muffin Top with the book club but I will totally post the entire review by MuffinToppers! :-)

Looking forward to the September cooking!


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