July 6, 2012

Chocolate "Quatre-Quarts"

This is a chocolate version of the French "quatre-quarts" cake - think of it as something like our American pound cake.  Apparently (I don't want to mislead you into thinking I actually know what these things are before learning about them in a cookbook), it means "four-quarters", referring to the (relatively) equal proportions of the four main ingredients - eggs, sugar, flour, butter.
And here is the reason I made that crème fraîche.  A third of a cup of that velvety cream gets stirred into the batter, producing a lovely moist yet light texture to the cake. 

When you first taste this cake, your initial reaction may be that there's not enough chocolate flavor to it.  Taste it further and you notice the complexity and that moist texture.  It's light, not the heavy kind of pound cake you might expect, and somewhat similar to the  chocolate yogurt cakes my family and I enjoy a lot.  It's not a rich dessert experience but a great breakfast or snacking cake to have around, particularly since it keeps well at room temperature for a few days and can be frozen and stowed away for later.
I love that this recipe produces 4 mini loaves, really carrying that "quatre" theme.  Not only do I love small or miniature versions of desserts, I think it promotes moderation as well as sharing/gifting.

This recipe comes from Paris Sweets and it's adapted from Boulangerie Pâtisserie Poujauran.  After sampling some amazing treats in Paris during a recent trip, I've been inspired to try some of these French recipes.

To make the batter, start by melting 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and whisking 1 1/4 cups of flour and a teaspoon of baking powder together. 

The cake batter is very much about thoroughly mixing, incorporating the ingredients together.  In a standmixer, beat 1 1/4 sticks of room temperature butter until smooth.  Add 1 cup of light brown sugar and beat for 2 minutes.  Then add 4 eggs and 1 egg yolk, one at a time, making sure it is incorporated after each addition before adding the next.  After the first couple of eggs, your mixture may curdle like mine did but like the recipe says, that's normal and it will come back together when the dry ingredients are added. 
Now here comes the crème fraîche.  I took 1/3 of a cup of my homemade cream and stirred it together before adding it to the mixer on low speed.  Instead of crème fraîche, you can use heavy cream though I imagine the effect will not be exactly the same.
After the crème fraîche has been mixed in, follow with the melted chocolate. 
Finally, add the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated.  Overmixing toughens everything up and we don't want that.
The quatre-quarts gets baked in four 5 3/4 x 3 x 2 1/2 inch disposable aluminum foil loaf pans.  I spray them with a cooking spray made for baking and set them on two baking sheets, as directed by the recipe.  Divide the batter among the 4 loaf pans.  This recipes makes 4 small loaves; they do rise a little in the oven but not too much.
They take about 35 to 40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  Once done (toothpick comes out clean), let the loaves cool a few minutes before flipping them out and letting them cool completely on a wire rack.  I wrapped a couple of them up for my son's first grade teacher, along with a loaf of banana bread, as a little "thank-you" gift for a great school year.  Good teachers do amazing work, don't they!


Quatre-Quarts au Chocolat
Adapted from Boulangerie Pâtisserie Poujaura by Dorie Greenspan in her book, Paris Sweets 

- Makes 4 mini loaf cakes -

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
1/3 cup crème fraîche, homemade or store-bought, or heavy cream

Prep four 5 3/4 x 3 x 2 1/2 inch disposable mini aluminum foil loaf pans by buttering and dusting the inside with flour and tapping out the excess.  Alternatively, spray the insides of the pans with cooking spray made for baking.  Place the pans on top of two staked regular baking sheets.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt chocolate over a bowl set on top of just simmering water or in the microwave.  Set aside to cool slightly.  Whisk the flour and baking soda together in another bowl.

Using the standmixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and light.  Add the sugar and beat together until thoroughly incorporated, about 2 minutes.  Add eggs and egg yolk, one by one, mixing well between each addition.  The mixture will likely curdle but that is normal and will come back together once the dry ingredients are added.  Scrap the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl as needed.

Reduce mixer to low and mix in the crème fraîche or heavy cream.  Next, mix in the melted chocolate.  Add the dry ingredients and mix only until just incorporated.

Divide the batter among the 4 mini loaf pans.  Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the cakes to a cooling rack to cool for about 5 minutes.  Then, flip the cakes out of the pans and allow them to cool completely on the cooling rack.

The cakes can be stored at room temperature, tightly wrapped, for about 4 days.  You can also freeze the cakes for about a month.

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