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Thu Oct 31, 2019, 03:57 PM

The Chocolate Cake That Saved My Vacation

(OH GOLLY, thought I was hungry BEFORE!!!)

'I donít see how itís possible to rack up frequent-flier points without racking up mishaps too. There will inevitably be delayed flights, bad meals, drivers who take the long way around town, lost scarves or hours spent wandering in a jet-lagged daze because your roomís not ready. Despite these annoyances ó all of which I know well (I still miss the hand-knit gloves I bought in Copenhagen and left on the flight to Stockholm) ó Iíd always thought of myself as a lucky traveler. Until Lisbon. Thatís where, earlier this year, I was felled by hubris, the tragic flaw of Macbeth and many of us who were raised in New York City.

I paid no heed to the concierge when she implored my husband, Michael, and me to take the sleek black tour bus across the street and steer clear of the No. 28 tram, a trolley that goes through the center of the city, passes a clutch of monuments, curves around, so that the shoreline comes into view periodically and majestically, and then stops on a hill with a vista. Mentioned in many guides as the ideal way to get a quick lay of the land as well as to be pickpocketed, I thought I could beat the odds. Iím sure it was the good-looking guy in the porkpie hat, the one turned toward me when everyone else on the tram was facing front, who got all my credit cards and my spunk too. I sat on a bench at the end of the line and cried.

Michael says that the first full sentence I uttered after I discovered the theft was: ďDonít tell the concierge!Ē I really didnít want to hear her say, ďI told you so.Ē . .

It wasnít until our last morning in Lisbon, when we visited the LX Factory, an abandoned cluster of buildings turned into spaces for artists, designers, craftspeople and cooks, that I knew Iíd come to. It was the cake at Landeau Chocolate that brought me to my senses.

An airy cafe in the center of the clamorous complex, Landeau Chocolate is decorated with a mix of industrial lighting, flea-market finds and gorgeously photographed indie magazines, but the center of anyoneís attention is that chocolate cake, the only offering on Landeauís menu. It sits on the counter, a model of elegance and restraint; it looks beautiful, but not uncommon. Itís only after a bite or two that its brilliance is revealed.

The cake part of the dessert is dark and dense, and has, as wine people often say, a long finish: The flavor holds on, playing bass to the cakeís softer and lighter notes. Itís topped with a chocolate cream ó a mousse, perhaps, or a ganache, or something a magician conjures. And itís covered with cocoa, so much cocoa that it canít be thought of as decoration; itís really a third component. Each forkful is a complete composition: The textures go from firm to feathery, the flavors building in intensity.

I bought a slice to have on the return flight to Paris, and a day later I tried to recreate it at home. What I finally made was a flourless chocolate cake with body, a whipped ganache with a texture like velour and a dessert that was, as all my favorites are, beautiful in its simplicity. Best of all, it achieved what the original had, that almost miraculous feat of being rich and bold, but not heavy. Itís true that every time I make it I think of the 28 tram, but the unpleasantness is momentary ó chocolate heals.

Recipe: Lisbon Chocolate Cake

INGREDIENTS
FOR THE CAKE:
Ĺ cup/115 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), cut into chunks, plus more for greasing the pan
⅓ cup/30 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Ĺ tablespoons cornstarch
ľ teaspoon baking powder
ľ teaspoon fine sea salt
5 ounces/140 grams dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
Ĺ cup/100 grams granulated sugar
3 large eggs, chilled
FOR THE GANACHE:
1 ĺ cups/420 milliliters heavy cream
6 ounces/170 grams semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
FOR THE TOPPING:
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

PREPARATION
Make the cake: Center a rack in the oven, and heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch cake pan, line with parchment paper and butter the paper.
Sift together the cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to blend.
Put the 1/2 cup butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. Scatter dark chocolate on top, and heat, stirring often, until the mixture is smooth and glossy. Remove the bowl from the pan, and stir in the sugar. One by one, energetically stir in the eggs, beating for 1 minute after the last egg is added. The mixture will look like pudding. Stir in the dry ingredients. Scrape the mixture into the cake pan, and give the pan a couple of good raps against the counter to settle the batter.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean (or with only a tiny streak of chocolate). Transfer to a rack, cool for 5 minutes, then unmold the cake. Peel off the paper, invert the cake and cool to room temperature. Wash and dry the cake pan.
Make the ganache: Pour 1 1/4 cups cream into a small saucepan; refrigerate the rest. Scald the cream over medium heat, turn off the heat and stir in the semisweet or bittersweet chocolate until fully incorporated. Transfer to a heatproof bowl. Refrigerate the ganache for 10 minutes, whisk it, then refrigerate again for 10 minutes. Repeat chilling and whisking steps until the ganache is thick enough to make tracks when you stir, 50 to 60 minutes.
Cut two 3-by-16-inch pieces of parchment or foil, and crisscross them in the cake pan. Carefully return the cake to the pan.
Whip the remaining 1/2 cup cream until it holds medium peaks.
Using a whisk, gently beat the ganache until itís soft and spreadable. With a spatula, fold in the whipped cream. Spread over the cake, and refrigerate for 2 hours (or cover and keep for up to 2 days). The cake is best served cool or at room temperature, so take it out of the fridge about 20 minutes before serving.
To finish, put the cocoa powder in a fine-mesh strainer, and shake it over the top of the cake. Run a table knife along the sides of the pan. Using the parchment or foil handles, carefully lift the cake out of the pan and onto a serving plate. Discard the strips. Cut the cake using a long knife that has been run under hot water and wiped dry between each cut.


https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/30/magazine/chocolate-cake-lisbon-recipe.html?

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