Valentine's Day always seems to be about chocolate. I'm actually not a big chocolate freak, and as a result I don't have much experience cooking with chocolate. But I do know that since I really don't eat it very much, I think it's worth it to eat truly great chocolate when I do. Hence, Scarffen Berger, considered one of the best baking chocolates in the world.
It's clear as soon as you look at this chocolate that it is great quality. The shine, the color, the aroma are all really gorgeous. Any old chocolate doesn't do much for me, but when I have some great chocolate in my hands, I start to understand the passion.
Dessert last night were these Mini Orange Chocolate Chunk Cakes, from a recipe by Ina Garten that I saw on her show ages ago. These are simply chocolate chip buttermilk cakes infused with an orange syrup and topped with chocolate ganache. I did make a couple of key adjustments. First, though I used semisweet chips for the actual cake, I decided to make the ganache with 70% bittersweet chocolate. I had made these once before and found the sweetness overwhelming, so this was my compromise. I also split the cakes in half. The main reason for this was because I couldn't get them out of the pan whole. But the happy accident was that I was able to pour the orange syrup onto both halves and it infused the cakes much more than they would have otherwise.
I reassembled the cakes before topping them with the ganache, but when we were eating them realized that it would have been smarter to stick the two halves back together with the ganache. I also didn't do a great job melting the chocolate for the ganache; there was just a bit of crystallization, it probably could have used a bit more cream, and I think I was a little impatient. The end result was still pretty delicious and decadent, and it was a fitting chocolatey end to our Valentine's dinner. Recipe after the jump:
Mini Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake
Adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten
1/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1/8 cup grated orange zest (2 large oranges)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus 1 tablespoon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3 ounces buttermilk at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup good semisweet chocolate chips
For the syrup:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
For the ganache:
4 ounces good bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 6 individual serving baking molds, such as the flexible non stick 100 percent silicone molds. (I only had cupcake tins, so I adjusted the cooking time accordingly)
Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for about 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, then the orange zest.
Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine the orange juice, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately in thirds to the creamed butter, beginning and ending with the flour. Toss the chocolate chunks with 1 tablespoon flour and add to the batter. Pour into the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the molds on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the syrup. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, cook the sugar with the orange juice until the sugar dissolves. Remove the cake from the pans, put them on a rack over a tray, and spoon the orange syrup over the cakes. Allow the cakes to cool completely.
For the ganache, melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over the top of the cakes.