Monday, March 7, 2011

Chocolate, Cherry and Brown Butter – oh my!

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Those who know me know that I live in dread fear of cake. I can make souffle without batting an eye, smoke my own bacon, you name it. But cake… call me Ishmael. It’s my nemesis.

Of course, that doesn’t stop me from trying. About a year ago, I came across a recipe in Smitten Kitchen for a Pear and bittersweet chocolate cake. It sounded really good – and it sounded like there was more pear and chocolate than cake. Maybe I had a chance.

Meh. I am sure it was me, not the recipe, but still. For all the work, I expect more than Meh. Work in this case being defined as a) going to the store since we usually don’t have chocolate on hand and b) psyching myself up to do battle with c-a-k-e again.

Flash forward a year and we’re planning dinner for friends. Dinner, of course, must include dessert. And we’d determined that dessert would use either the blueberries or the Montmorency cherries that we’d put up in the freezer last summer. In the end I decided to try again at this recipe, substituting the sour cherries for pears. Bingo!

Maybe the best way to describe the result is that there is only one tiny slice left today although there were only four of us at the dinner table.

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Chocolate, Cherry and Brown Butter Cake

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen which was in turn adapted from

Al Di La’s Torta di Pere
Courtesy of Al Di La Restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs, at room-temperature
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar 
2 1/2 cups sour cherries, pitted (I thawed frozen cherries, canned would be OK, but not the canned gloppy pie filling kind)
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with flour, set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (because it will foam a lot) and cook it until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Remove from the flame but keep in a warm spot.

Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick – expect this to take about 8-9 minutes.

Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a one minute more.

Moving quickly, add the flour mixture and brown butter: Add one third of the flour mixture, then half of the butter, a third of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour. Whisk until just barely combined — no more than a minute from when the flour is first added. With a spatula, gently fold the batter until the ingredients are combined.

Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the cherries and chocolate chunks over the top, and bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 30-40 minutes, or a tester comes out clean.

Remove from the pan and cool thoroughly. We served it with gently whipped cream.

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