Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Chocolate Beet Cake with Creme Fraiche

When selecting recipes to feature on this blog and to recommend to you all, I try to confine myself to recipes that I've made myself or that come recommended from other cooks that I know and trust.  This cake falls into the latter category.  Some months ago, our colleague and friend Lorry Perry gave a party.  If you know Lorry, and her cooking, you know that she doesn't mess around, and that she is fearless when it comes to unusual combinations.  This cake intrigued her, and she used Big Red Farm beets and eggs to make it.  We were fortunate enough to be invited to the party where it was served, and it was delicious!  I urge you to try it out for your next cake-requiring occasion, even if you're not a beet person; it really works.

From Nigel Slater's introduction to this recipe: "The beets are subtle here, some might say elusive, but... they blend perfectly with dark chocolate.  This is a seductive cake, deeply moist and tempting.  The serving suggestion of creme fraiche is not just a nod to the sour cream so close to beets' Eastern European heart, it is an important part of the cake."  Many thanks to Lorry for trying out this recipe!

from Tender by Nigel Slater

enough for 8 as a dessert

beets - 8 oz.
fine dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids) - 7 oz.
hot espresso - 4 Tablespoons
butter - 3/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons
all-purpose flour - 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons
baking powder - a heaping teaspoon
good-quality cocoa powder - 3 Tablespoons
eggs - 5
superfine sugar* - scant 1 cup
creme fraiche and poppy seeds, to serve

Lightly butter an 8-inch springform cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cook the beets, whole and unpeeled, in boiling unsalted water.  Depending on their size, they will be tender when pierced with the tip of a knife within thirty to forty minutes.  Young ones may take slightly less.  Drain them, let them cool under running water, then peel them, slice off their stem and root, and process in a blender or food processor until a coarse puree.

Melt the chocolate, broken into small pieces, in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Don't stir.

When the chocolate looks almost melted, pour the hot espresso over it and stir once.  Cut the butter into small pieces -- the smaller the better -- and add to the melted chocolate.  Push the butter down under the surface of the chocolate with a spoon (as best you can) and let soften.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and cocoa.  Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large mixing bowl.  Stir the yolks together.

Now, working quickly but gently, remove the bowl of chocolate from the heat and stir until the butter has melted into the chocolate.  Let sit for a few minutes, then stir in the egg yolks.  Do this quickly, mixing firmly and evenly so the eggs blend into the mixture.  Fold in the beets.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold in the sugar.  Firmly but gently, fold the beaten egg whites and sugar into the chocolate mixture.  A large metal spoon is what you want here; work in a deep, figure-eight movement but take care not to overmix.  Lastly, fold in the flour and cocoa.

Transfer quickly to the prepared cake pan and put in the oven, decreasing the heat immediately to 325 degrees.  Bake for 40 minutes.  The rim of the cake will feel spongy, the inner part should still wobble a little when the pan is gently shaken.

Set the cake aside to cool (it will sink a tad in the center), loosening it around the edges with a thin icing spatula after half an hour or so.  It is not a good idea to remove the cake from its pan until it is completely cold.  Serve in thick slices, with creme fraiche and poppy seeds.

*Note: superfine sugar can be approximated by taking regular granulated sugar and running it through the food processor for a bit.  Here are some instructions.

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