Monday, February 16, 2009

The all-chocolate dinner party

A few days ago, I posted about my new chocolate addiction, courtesy of our trip to France. I was curious about an all-chocolate dinner party and decided to attempt one for my birthday dinner this week.

The idea began with this recipe for molé, from David Lebovitz. A few weeks later, he posted a recipe for this chocolate cake, and the decision was made. I had the main and the dessert, now I just had to round out the menu with some sides and an appetizer.

Browsing at Powell’s, I found this book from Scharffenberger, which is filled with amazing recipes and information for the chocolate-obsessed. I decided on a goat-cheese and cacao nib spread, with homemade lavash from the previously mentioned Artisan Bread in 5-minutes a Day (a second plug for that book: the more I use it the more I love it.) I added an aged gouda and some quince paste to the plate to round it out. I also had little chocolate disks (74% cacao, Dominican Republic), some salted almonds, and some nibs by themselves. I hadn’t eaten nibs before, but apparently they are quite good for you (no sugar, high in antioxidants and fiber).

Following the apps, which were served with Prosecco, we moved on the the molé, which I served with roasted butternut squash (from our garden) dressed with an olive oil/balsamic/shallot/cacao nib dressing (all these recipes are from the Scharffenberger book). Both the molé and the squash were amazing! We paired these with a Russian Hill syrah, which held up really well to the spices of the molé. This course was followed by a salad of baby spinach, pears, toasted walnuts, and more cacao nibs. More syrah, hilarious conversation, and a brief pause to recover before moving on to the dessert followed.

For dessert, I served the chocolate cake (which is almost like a dense mousse) with fresh raspberries, a little whipped cream, and a tawny port. Yum.

I have to say, the menu was exactly what I wanted it to be. I was able to incorporate chocolate into every single dish, but without anything being overly sweet or rich. Portions are definitely a part of that (we kept them reasonable) as was the use of good, dark chocolate. Even the cake has only a couple tablespoons of added sugar. So, as my gift to you, I present the cake recipe, in English, and with step-by-step directions (which you don’t get when reading David Lebovitz’s scrawled note off the bathroom wall at Racines, although it makes for a great story!) Enjoy!

Gateau Zoë
  • 8oz salted butter (although I unintentionally used half that-8 tablespoons-and it turned out fine)
  • 1/4 c strong espresso
  • 2-3T superfine sugar
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 8-11 oz good, dark chocolate (we used 11, bien sur!)
  1. beat yolks with sugar
  2. beat whites until stiff
  3. melt chocolate and butter, add espresso
  4. mix in yolks
  5. fold in whites
Put the mixture in a buttered, floured, 9-inch cake pan (we used cocoa powder instead of flour). Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. The center will be molten, but the sides should be firm.

Note: we had a hell of a time getting it out of the pan, and basically it just fell apart. I suggest a spring-form pan if you’ve got one. If not, embrace the mess and pretend it’s mousse!

One last note: for my birthday present, David bought me a fancy crepe pan to further my francophile tendencies. I can only assume that a crepe post will follow soon!


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for hosting the dinner. It was a fab time and I enjoyed every bit of it. My only regret is not calling you up today to wish you a happy birthday for real!

Dana said...

All you were missing was a chocolate-colored guest... Like myself!

Leslie said...

(sigh) yet another reason I wish we lived closer to each other ;-)


Strongrrl said...

Dana: At first I read your comment as chocolate-covered guest, and I thought you were volunteering! Baby!

Leslie: (sigh) indeed! Try the cake recipe! You won't regret it. Forgot to mention in the post, but the whole thing comes together in less than 30 minutes.

Anonymous said...

Spotted your write – ups, it’s cool. Very beneficial and interesting there are some ideas I haven’t heard before. Thanks for sharing.