Wednesday, September 22, 2010

'Top Chef Just Desserts' Inspires Baking Instead of Just The Usual Snacking...

File this under: This is Why I'm Fat.

They say baking is an exact science. And by they, I mean Gail Simmons, who I got to chat with a few weeks ago for the Top Chef Just Desserts premiere. During that conference call, she talked about all of the "magical" creations the cheftestants worked on over the course of the season, and she explained that they often had to come up with the ideas on the fly, as they weren't allowed to have recipes with them, and each episode would see a different curveball thrown. And that, in itself, got me thinking: how exact could baking have to be if they were able to work on a cake that requires forty-five minutes to bake only to have to switch it up in the middle and still create something servable?

Not gonna lie; I was intrigued.

Out of laziness, I have often approximated amounts while baking, and I always "round up" when adding in chocolate because my sweet tooth knows no bounds. I call it taking "artistic license" as a pastry chef, and where others see uncooked batter in the middle of a loaf cake, I see a new version of a molten lava cake (and let me tell you, it was delicious!). So tonight, as I began salivating simply at the promos of Top Chef Just Desserts, I decided I was going to take the hour to make something along with them.

A quick trip into my kitchen showed that I was severely limited with ingredients, but a friend who knows I can live without fruit, meat, and bread for weeks but always have a bag of chocolate on hand, suggested a flourless chocolate cake. Because what were the odds I'd have flour in my house? Not good. She was right, and I have had some flourless chocolate cakes richer than chunks of regular fudge in the past, so that sounded perfect. After scouring the internet for recipes, I managed to find two that I thought
would work...if I combined elements of them together.

See, the thing is: I didn't have any cocoa powder in the house, though I did have Godiva hot chocolate powder (basic difference is that cocoa powder is unsweetened). I also didn't want to have to create a double boiler or cook anything in a water bath. Too much effort! So dug through my cabinets to find a saucepan and began dumping everything in.

Okay, that's not how you're supposed to do it, either, but since the mixtures all end up in the same place in the end anyway, I cut some corners. Everything except the eggs went in the saucepan right away, and I stirred over a medium heat until I had a nice, if somewhat foamy, soup forming. I only added the eggs in after I took the pan off the heat, and I whisked them in one at a time, as recommended, until the contents of the pan looked fuller, thicker, and darker.

I poured that into a greased round pan, sprinkled some extra hot chocolate powder on top for good measure, said a silent prayer that even if it came out gooey and lopsided, the eggs would be fully cooked so I could still eat it. At this point, I had a chocolate craving that only this very specific fix could cure.

Since I had combined two recipes-- and both said to cook at different temperatures-- I split the difference. I can feel Tom Colicchio shaking his head at me as I type this.

But as I type this, I can smell the cake wafting into the living room from where it is cooling on top of the oven, and it certainly smells like it has cooked properly. I have also already cut a slice, and though it is much flatter than it should be (guess I used the wrong size pan?), and it totally fell apart when I cut into it (but then again, I'm notoriously bad at cutting cakes), it is pure bliss. I thought about drizzling some Pop Rocks on top to go for the wacky, "outside of the box" style of the Top Chef Just Desserts challenges, but this didn't need any frills or gimmicks. It is decadent all on its own. So whoever wrote the rule that baking is an exact science can suck it!

Even Madison is entranced!

Tomorrow I think I'll tackle banana bread. It's actually something I made often as a kid but haven't in a long while. That is, as long as I don't die in the middle of the night from salmonella. But honestly? I'm not sure I can think of a better death than one by chocolate anyway!

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