Mom’s Birthday Cake

The good camera has been seized and put to work elsewhere. iPhone to the rescue. Sort of.

…Which turned out to be a buttermilk-orange panna cotta over a flourless chocolate cake. Yeah. “Mom’s Birthday Cake” seemed a little more practical for a title.

You know, sometimes, simple things are good. Not having to jump through hoops (although potentially amusing to watch in a kitchen) by complying with fancy chef techniques that get you results that are, in the long run, not so much different than results from much easier methodologies (I just slapped Charles Dickens in the face with my dueling glove), is a prized attribute among the lay home cook. However, not being a lay home cook-that is, being exposed to those fancy-pants techniques-and drilled, beaten, verbally abused and later tortured-has elicited within me a visceral inclination to push the extent of my training and try something not so easy.

I’d like to point out that I just made a paragraph with only three sentences.

I refer to baking only. As far as presentation, I do not pretend to have absorbed that particular skill. The hoity-toity restaurants I’ve interned at, after having thrown a couple of adulterated plates in the dishwasher, relegated me to the making, baking, prepping arena. Which is fine with me. I’m not hurt. I didn’t take it personally. I didn’t key their cars after my shift….

Besides, actually being able to make a successful product is where the satisfaction lies. Artful displays of food, though important, are transient. They don’t last through the fist bite, whereas the taste and texture do. And last they do, all the way to the last bite and beyond. It may end on the way out…but we aren’t talking about that right now. Or ever.

Panna cotta, incidentally, is now my new favorite dessert. It goes on and in anything: cakes, pies, cups, cheesecakes, cookies, muffins….mmm. It never ends. Just keeps on going. Similarly, you can make it any flavor, and top it with anything. For those who get anxious when presented with loads of choices: get help.

Ingredients

Flourless Chocolate Cake

16 oz. Bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or chips)

5 Eggs

1 1/2 cups Sugar, divided

1 cup Butter, cubed

1/2 cup Water

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and prepare a bain-marie with an 8-inch springform pan

2. Cook one cup of the sugar with the water for about five minutes, for until the syrup has thickened slightly and bubbles start to come up slower. (this little bit of the instruction, with intentional maliciousness I’m sure, conveniently farted from my brain, and I ended up having to re-boil more water and sugar. I’m convinced my brain is independently vindictive.)

3. In a mixer with a whisk attachment, whisk eggs with the remaining sugar until thick, pale, and ribbony (that is, when the whisk is lifted, the eggs falling from it form a ribbon and hold its shape when it hits the rest of the mixture)

4. While the eggs are a-whiskin’ remove the syrup from the heat and add the butter and chocolate. Stir until smooth.

5. With the eggs still whisking (on a lower speed…unless you fancy wearing raw eggs and hot chocolate) gradually add the chocolate mixture to the eggs.

6. Transfer to your bain-marie, and then to the oven where it will stay for 45-55 minutes. Note! This is how long my cake took to bake, however, the actual recipe calls for a full 60 minutes. The moral of this story is not to go tanning while your cake is in the oven.

7. When done, and while cooling, make the panna cotta.

Orange Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Ingredients

1 1/2 teaspoons Unflavored gelatin

1 1/4 cups Heavy cream

7 tablespoons Sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1 orange-worth of Zest

1 3/4 cups Buttermilk

1. Bloom the gelatin in 1 tablespoon of cold water

2. Dissolve the sugar in the heavy cream in a saucepan on medium heat.

3. Add the orange zest, and bring the cream to a quick boil (called “scalding”…ain’t it fancy?) and immediately remove from heat.

4. Allow the zest to steep for a few minutes. Do it. I don’t care if you’re impatient. Here, have a cookie.

5. Poor the still hot (and if it’s not, heat it back up.) in a large bowl over the gelatin to dissolve.

6. Add the vanilla and cold buttermilk, and stir to incorporate.

7. You can either remove the flourless chocolate cake from the springform pan and move it to another, tall 8″ pan (meh.), or you can just put the springform pan on a plate, and poor the panna cotta right

on top. (Plate is to catch any oozes)

8. Chill for 2-3 hours. Wannanother cookie?

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