The past couple of weeks have been rough — cold, windy, sloppy, dirty and slushy. People have been generally grumpy, walking slump-shouldered against the wind, muttering beneath there scarves. There are no more signs of holiday cheer, the decorations are down. It’s just a dull and dreary February.
So, no wonder local merchants like me love Valentine’s Day. Noodle Pudding up in the Heights (a great restaurant, despite the name!) is always stirring a scrumptious risotto. The folks over at Cobble Hill Cinema are showing the best movies right now, each one playing is on my list of “must sees” (although “The Wrestler” will be most definitely be first).
At Sweet Melissa’s, we make the most of it, too.
We crank up the heat and put Etta James on the iPod, hang paper hearts all around, make some French Onion soup, and think of new ways to eat chocolate.
Here’s one of my favorites, a simple recipe that really highlights the use of exceptional ingredients. Be sure to use the highest quality bittersweet chocolate available, and raspberries that are fresh and plump. It doesn’t bake for long, and the resulting luxurious texture will remind you of truffles.
from “The Sweet Melissa Baking Book” (Viking, 2008)
Makes one 8-inch torte
8 ounces best-quality bittersweet (64– to 68-percent) chocolate
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons rum
3 large eggs
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, for sprinkling
Position a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Turn an eight-inch springform pan upside down and cover the bottom and sides with aluminum foil. The foil should come up at least two inches on all sides, so the water from the water bath will not leak through. Lightly butter the inside bottom and sides of the springform pan. Line the bottom with an eight-inch round of parchment paper.
In the top of a double boiler set over simmering, not boiling, water, gently melt the chocolate with the butter, stirring until smooth. Heat until it is just melted; not too hot. When the chocolate is fully melted, stir in the rum.
In an electric mixer bowl over a pot of simmering, not boiling, water, heat the eggs while stirring until just warm to the touch. Remove from the heat.
In the electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment beat the eggs until tripled in volume, or when they reach soft peaks.
Fold half of the eggs into the chocolate mixture until almost incorporated. Fold in the remaining eggs until just blended but with no streaks remaining.
Pour half of the batter into the prepared springform pan. Scatter the fresh raspberries evenly over the batter, and then pour the remaining batter. Smooth with a spatula.
Place the springform pan in a roasting pan large enough to hold it. Fill the roasting pan with boiling hot water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the springform pan.
Bake uncovered for five minutes. Cover the pan with aluminum foil or an upside-down cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes more. Remove to a wire rack, uncover the pan, and cool in the water bath for one hour.
Remove the pan from the water bath. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very firm, about 3-1/2 hours.
Using a sharp knife, carefully loosen the cake from the edges of the pan. Release the springform ring to unmold the cake. To release the bottom, invert the cake onto a flat plate lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil and remove the bottom and the parchment round. Turn the cake right side up onto a serving plate and dust with sifted cocoa powder. Keep refrigerated before serving.
Melissa Murphy is the chef/owner of Sweet Melissa Patisserie [175 Seventh Ave., between First and Second streets in Park Slope, (718) 502-9153; 276 Court St., between Butler and Douglass streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 855-3410]. All major credit cards accepted. Full menu at www.sweetmelissapatisserie.com.