Enough with the summer peach pies and juicy plum crumble, the fresh cherry cobbler and the sweet/tart apricot jam! I am glad fall is finally here. I do love apple, pear, persimmon and fig season, but it is time for a short break from fruit — I am really just trying to rationalize my chocolate craving. Perhaps you are, too.
When it comes to desserts, chocolate in any form is usually most people’s favorite, which I discovered when I put a 2-pound box of See’s candies on the Thanksgiving dessert table a few years ago. The caramel apple pie, the toasted pecan and pumpkin cheesecake, and the lime and cranberry curd tart were hardly touched but that box of chocolates? It was soon empty. What makes chocolate so irresistible above other desserts?
Well, we know through archeological findings that humans have been consuming chocolate for centuries. Before the discovery of the awesome combination of chocolate and sugar, cocoa beans were ground and fermented into a bitter drink. It was believed to be an aphrodisiac and energy booster by the Mesoamericans. In parts of Mexico, it was used as currency. Many years later when it reached Europe sugar was added making a popular sweet drink available only to the aristocracy. Chocolate was even consumed in Europe before coffee became the popular morning beverage. Finally, in the mid 1800s, the first candy bar was sold in England.
Still, why do we crave it?
Some say like our first food, breast milk, chocolate has the same percentage of sugar and fat. Another theory is that it contains stimulants such as caffeine and endorphins. But in my opinion, we love chocolate because of its smell, taste and smooth texture as it melts on our tongue.
This recipe comes from Aleksandra Crapanzano’s cookbook “Gâteau: The Surprising Simplicity of French Cakes.” A couple of things drew me to this recipe. Separating the egg whites and yolks makes for a light and airy cake. Though it is light on the first day, the addition of fresh juicy raspberries makes for a moist cake that gets denser and fudgier, which makes it great with a cup of coffee.
It’s perfect as is but if you serve it with a dollop of crème fraiche, well, let’s just say no one will be disappointed.
Claudia Alexander, a resident of Marin County, has been happily cooking for family and friends for more than three decades. She has a weekly food blog, sweetbynurture.com. You can contact her at [email protected].
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Chocolate Raspberry Cake
7 ounces dark chocolate, at least 66% cacao
4 eggs separated at room temperature
14 ounces unsalted butter softened
1-2 cups of fresh raspberries
¾ cup pastry flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons Chambord (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Wash the raspberries gently and place bottom down on a kitchen towel to dry.
Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and dust the sides with cocoa.
Combine the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a smaller pot with simmering water. Stir until the ingredients have melted into a creamy texture. Pull off the heat to cool slightly. You want it to still be pourable.
Beat the sugar and the yolks and a large bowl until mixture is light yellow and the consistency of mayonnaise, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the cooled chocolate and the Chambord if using, beat until just combined.
In another bowl beat the whites with the salt until they hold a soft peak.Stir a third of the whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it and using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Add the flour and lightly combine.
Line the bottom of the springform pan with a single layer of raspberries, pour the batter over the top and bake for 28 to 30 minutes. The top should be slightly cracked and just starting to pull away from the edges. Cool for 5 minutes on a rack and then gently unmold.
Leftovers can be stored covered in the fridge, but I think it is better to send your guests home with the any remaining slices. Better if they find themselves standing in front of the fridge at 3 a.m. eating cake.
— Adapted from “Gâteau: The Surprising Simplicity of French Cakes”