Photos by Greg Nesbit Photography
I have what I like to refer to as my “pastry gurus. ” These are the recipe-writers who not only care enough to only publish recipes for things that are yummy, but also to write their recipes and edit them so that they WORK. Many people tell me that they don’t like to bake, that it’s hard. It’s true that there are a few tricks and things that are helpful to know when you go to bake, and it’s also true that if you forget something, you usually can’t correct it later (not like throwing the carrots in once the stew’s boiling). But generally, my theory is that people think that baking is hard because so many recipes are badly written, or badly edited, and will NEVER work, no matter who you are and how good you are at baking. Wrong proportions, left out steps, never mind just recipes that I believe no one’s even tested (seriously, sorry folks).
Certain magazines are wonderful, and they have test kitchens who make sure that none of us has to go through a melt-down of our own, or throw expensive ingredients in the garbage, or look silly in front of guests when our hard efforts in the kitchen look like crud or taste like it. And certain bakers are gifted at writing up beautiful, delicious recipes reliably and consistently. These are my gurus. Dorie Greenspan and David Lebovitz are two of these special and wonderful people. Since Franck and I are on our own here for the most part, working in the kitchen and developing menus and ideas, we really need these gurus to keep us inspired, give us fresh new recipes, and not waste our time with things that won’t be good. Check out any books by these two that you can get your hands on, they are all fabulous. And my latest favorite dessert, the Chocolate-Espresso Mousse Torte, is actually a marriage between two recipes, one from each of them.
After making approximately 2,000 Flourless Chocolate Devastation Cakes, I was beginning to get a little bored. Never mind that I could continue to make & sell Flourless Chocolate Devastation Cake into eternity and no one would complain, I just wanted something different, more interesting, and equally wonderful to bake. Since my goal these days is to keep everything gluten-free, that had to figure into my search. Dorie and David, I believe, travel in similar circles and both spend all or much of their time in France, so I wasn’t surprised to find a couple of great-looking flourless chocolate desserts that had quite a few similarities between them on their websites. It only took a couple of tries to work together the two recipes into what I believe is the ultimate Chocolate Espresso Mousse Torte. Served with a squeeze of Salty Caramel Sauce, all of the flavors explode in your mouth, but the dessert itself has a lightness to it, it literally disappears on your tongue. It’s remarkable that something so richly flavored can have such a lovely, light texture. The Flourless Devastation will remain beloved by many, but for me, this cake’s depth of flavor and unique texture make it something special. I hope you agree!
Chocolate Espresso Mousse Torte
The only other thing that this beautiful dessert needed was some crunch. I looked around for something in my repertoire that was crunchy and gluten-free and came up empty-handed. The crunch in the photo, and what we serve at the restaurant, is a simple and delicious mix of our wonderful 65% bittersweet chocolate, and a gluten-free cereal that we buy at the supermarket. Spread thin on a piece of parchment paper and let set in the fridge and voila! crunch!
-makes 1 8” cake
10 oz dark chocolate, chopped finely
1/3 c heavy cream
1 large espresso/1 T espresso powder
5 eggs, separated
1/2 t vanilla
1/3 c sugar
1 stick soft butter
Line an 8″ cake pan with parchment. Heat oven to 325F. Bring cream to a boil and pour over to melt the chocolate with the salt, vanilla & espresso in a large mixing bowl. In the bowl of a mixer with a whip attachment, whip whites to meringue, adding the sugar gradually as the whites develop volume. Stop whipping when the meringue holds soft peaks. Stir the yolks in to the chocolate mixture, followed by the soft butter and mix until smooth, then fold in the egg whites very gently. Pour into prepared cake pan and place pan in a larger pan with warm water coming up about half way to make a bain marie. Bake about 20 minutes until the edges look dry and the middle is still a bit shiny, but set. Cool thoroughly then chill overnight before running a knife around the edge to release the cake.