Monday, April 6, 2009

"cake will crack," doesn't even begin to describe it

Everyone knows Passover desserts bite. You can argue with me, but if it's not a chocolate-covered strawberry or matzah toffee, I flat out don't believe it. (Speaking of which, where was matzah toffee the first 27 years of my life? I only discovered it a decade ago.) Good desserts are just supposed to have flour. For our family seder, I am usually in charge of dessert, and I usually make a flourless chocolate cake, which escapes by the skin of its teeth because its nature is to be flourless... that is, it's not some everyday recipe I tried to tweak with matzah cake meal or potato starch. This year, my mom and I are doing dessert for a cast of dozens, and we wanted to try some new things: some chocolate, some not; some light to combat the innate heaviness of seder fare; and not all containing nuts or weird fruits so as to appeal to the under-10 crowd.

I'm making a chocolate/whipped cream roll and Pesadicah brownies, and if I have time, I may sneak in some chocolate-dipped macaroons that 1) my husband will claim he's allergic to and 2) the good people at King Arthur Flour worked hard to learn the rules of Pesach and kashrut (keeping kosher) well enough to create the recipe. First seder is Wednesday night, and I figured I could make the chocolate roll tonight (and freeze it), then make the brownies (and macaroons) tomorrow night.

I had just enough information to be dangerous. Let's start by saying that I was working from two similar recipes with different proportions plus "tips and tricks" from at least two or three sources. My downfall may have come in trying to adopt the most likely of those tips, where maybe I should have just stuck with one recipe and methodology. However, I couldn't ignore my aunt's advice. I provided her the recipe, and she and six friends baked 14 of these last week, working with a pastry chef, so I know she has serious firsthand knowledge.

The basic recipe I followed is from Smitten Kitchen. I'll copy the recipe here with my notes. Problem is, I will have no idea how it turned out until Wednesday night. To say it cracked is putting it mildly. It essentially completely separated into three strips of cake. I coaxed them together with love and whipped cream (thinkin' of you, Carla!) and hoped that in the process of freezing it, serving it chilled, and just before serving, sprinkling heavily with shaved chocolate, it would mask the fissures. I'll let you know.

Passover Chocolate Cake Roll
For cake layer:
6 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
3 tablespoons water
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder

For filling:
1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners sugar, sifted*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For garnish:
unsweetened cocoa powder and powdered sugar*
shaved chocolate

*Immediate notes: powdered sugar is not kosher for Passover, owing to the small amount of cornstarch it contains. I used a little granulated sugar in the whipped cream - maybe 2 tablespoons - and I'll garnish with shaved chocolate, which I think I stole from another version of this recipe.

Make cake layer:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 15x10x1-inch jelly roll pan. Line with parchment paper, letting paper hang over ends by 2 inches. Grease parchment paper. (My aunt's advice, which I followed, said to sprinkle this with cocoa powder.)

Melt chocolate with water in a small heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring. Cool to lukewarm. (It feels so weird melting chocolate with water, since water is usually the enemy of melting chocolate, making it seize. Apparently not in this quantity.)

Beat yolks, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer until thick and pale, about 5 minutes in a standing mixer or about 8 minutes with a hand-held mixer. Fold in melted chocolate until blended. If you are worried at all whether your chocolate is cool enough, fold in about 1/3 of it to temper it (so you don't get scrambled eggs), and then fold in the rest.

Beat whites with cleaned beaters until they just hold soft peaks. Gradually add remaining 1/3 cup sugar and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks. Fold one third of whites into melted-chocolate mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Spread batter evenly in baking pan and bake in middle of oven until puffed and top is dry to the touch, 15 to 18 mi
nutes. Transfer pan to a rack. Cover top with 2 layers of damp paper towels and let stand 5 minutes, then remove towels and cool completely. (Here's where I borrowed from my aunt again. Other recipes support this, though it may have been my downfall. After the initial 5 minutes, I sprinkled a tea towel with cocoa and inverted it over the cake. I placed a large cutting board over the towel and inverted the cake onto it, gently peeling off the parchment paper. Smitten Kitchen swears you shouldn't worry if the cake layer breaks; it will hold together when rolled. I then rolled up the cake in the towel and let it sit, seam side down, until it was cool, about 30-45 minutes.)

Make filling:
Beat whipping cream with (powdered) sugar and a little vanilla until it just holds stiff peaks.

Fill and roll cake:
Unroll the cake. Hope like hell it didn't break apart; try not to panic if it did. Spread whipped cream evenly over cake. Put a long platter next to a long side of cake and cover it with heavy duty plastic wrap. Using the towel as an aid, roll up cake jelly roll-style, beginning with a long side (so the cake is longer, rather than wider - you could do it either way, but I thought this might feed more people). I then slipped some parchment around the cake carefully, so it wouldn't stick/fall apart, and then carefully transferred it, seam side down, to a platter or even a narrow cookie sheet - whatever fits in your freezer - and wrapped it in heavy plastic wrap. I suppose whatever cracks there are will repair themselves in the freezer.

To serve:
Dust cake generously with shaved chocolate (or cocoa powder and powdered sugar, when it's not Passover). My other recipe says you can serve it either frozen, or slightly defrosted/chilled. Good luck, and let me know if yours turns out 1) pretty and 2) tasty!

1 comment:

Hilary said...

Did you take a picture? Glad it ended up working out in the end!