Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Sweet Farewell

In the 18 months, Guillermo and I have been living in Buenos Aires we keep meeting others who have also just moved to this South American city. Some of them have moved here to stay and others are here for work which means they would eventually leave.

Yesterday, I was sad to say goodbye to a sweet and extremely able couple, Matt and Lorena. I wish them all the best in their exciting new ventures in beautiful Valparaiso, Chile. From the photos they showed me, it is a seaside town with loads of character and Old World charm.

Matt told me that the Chilean government is pouring funds into shaping up the already attractive town; part of the public funds is in the form of subsidy to be paid to residents for beautifying the exterior of their own houses. In reply, I half-jokingly said Chile sounds like an E.U. country misplaced in Latin America!

I have already scored an invitation to stay at their stunning home which they will turn into a charming bed & breakfast with soothing sea view. How did I do it? I credit my Gâteau Bellevue...

This butter-less yet rich chocolate cake is an invention of famed French pâtissier Christophe Felder and the recipe is included in his book, Le Chocolat de Christophe Felder. Without easy access to international online shopping in this city, I found the recipe through a number of French food bloggers.

It seems while foodies blogging in English are all charmed by madeleines or challenged by macarons, the French bloggers are busy perfecting their own version of Gâteau Bellevue.

Although there is no butter in the cake, it is by no means fat-less; the secret ingredient is cream, thankfully not a lot. I made my version with hazelnuts instead of almonds which gave it almost a hint of Ferrero Roche. Since it is for Matt's birthday, I also made a chocolate ganáche to cover the cake.

When I first started cooking with chocolate, I often heard the warning of not letting chocolate touch water or it would "seize up" and become a hard, gritty, unusable mess. It wasn't until I read the book, Real Chocolate, penned by Chantal Coady of Rococo Chocolates in Chelsea, London that I realised water and chocolate can go together, at the right temperature. So instead of a heavy cream or butter ganáche, I made a water one following her advice.

As the cake is meringue based, unless I bake it very thin, it would sink in the middle upon cooling. Being currently a little obsessed with minimalist presentation, I baked mine in a rectangular loaf tin instead.

The loaf still managed to concave a little. To get a flat surface to ice on, I waited until it was cooled and turned it over, bottom facing up. It was left overnight under a loose cover for the cake to develop some moistness and mellowed flavours. The dent, at the bottom after it was turned, had disappeared by the following morning.

I left the icing until last minute. The end result actually resembled an angular bûche de Noël; the cake was both rich in taste and surprisingly light and moist in texture. It would indeed make a great finale to an indulgent Christmas feast.

Gâteau Bellevue

4 eggs
125g dark chocolate, with at least 60% cocoa
100ml pouring cream
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp plain flour
50g finely ground almond (or hazelnut)
8 tbsp sugar

Preheat oven to 180C. Line the bottom of a 24cm cake tin or a large loaf tin.

Separate the eggs. Melt chocolate with cream and milk. Add egg yolks to the chocolate mixture and then add flour, and almond meal.

Separately whisk egg whites with sugar until firm. Lightly cut the chocolate mixture into the egg white mixture.

Bake for 30-35min.

To make water ganáche, simple let 225ml of boiling water melt 225g of chocolate. Once the chocolate has melted, stir well to fully combine.

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