Festival pits palates against gamut of chocolate

For the first time in several years, I’m not running the gauntlet of chocolatiers at the Oregon Chocolate Festival.

It’s been my pleasure to serve as a judge for past festivals, chronicled in previous posts. But an entire weekend of chocolate tasting represents something of an overindulgence for me. Chocolate never has and never will rank among my most favorite flavors.

To be fair, there are lots of ways to enjoy chocolate, from lectures to spa treatments, at this weekend’s festival, relocated in its 12th year to Ashland Hills Hotel. The chocolate product competition, though, is the highlight for most festival-goers, who can taste the creations of 30 chocolatiers and another dozen specialty-foods vendors.

New this year is a chocolate dessert competition that solicits silent-auction bids to benefit the local emergency food bank. You could find me vying for Public House’s Chocolate Ganache with Eucalyptus, Burnt Honey and Olives, or Liquid Assets’ Black Truffle Dark Chocolate Molten Lava Cake with Cream Cheese Buttercream and Meyer Lemon Gastrique.

Or if I really need an overindulgence, for old time’s sake, I could try my hand at this “almost perfect” cake created by Chicago Tribune writer Leah Eskin. After losing a favorite recipe, the food writer pushed the envelope on her idea of perfection by adding a praline crumble.

Tribune News Service photo

Revised Chocolate Cake

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60-percent cacao)

2 ounces milk chocolate

11 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 cup sugar, divided

5 eggs, separated

Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean

1/2 cup sifted flour

Chocolate glaze (recipe follows)

Praline crumble, (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a pan on the stovetop, or in a microwave, melt both types of the chocolate with the butter and 1/2 cup of the sugar.

Whisk the egg yolks and vanilla seeds into chocolate mixture. Whisk in the flour.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with remaining 1/4 cup sugar to glossy peaks.

Fold one-third of egg whites into chocolate batter. Gently and thoroughly fold in remaining whites.

Pour batter into a 9-inch springform pan. Slide into preheated oven and bake until cake is springy, for about 32 minutes. Cool completely. Release cake and invert onto a 9-inch cardboard or cake-pan round.

Set cake (on its round) on a wire rack. Set rack over a rimmed baking sheet, to catch drips. Pour all the warm glaze into a big puddle on top. With an offset spatula, nudge glaze toward edges and let it drip down sides. Sprinkle with the praline. Let set at least 20 minutes.

Makes 12 servings.

CHOCOLATE GLAZE: Chop 4 ounces semisweet chocolate and tumble into a medium bowl. Heat 1/2 cup heavy cream to boiling; pour cream over chocolate. Let rest for 5 minutes. Gently stir smooth. Stir in 1 tablespoon pecan bourbon (optional).

PRALINE CRUMBLE: In a medium saucepan, combine 6 tablespoons sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons water. Bring to a boil. Let bubble without stirring until syrup starts to color, for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium; stir to a light brown, for 1 minute. Stir in 1 cup toasted pecans. Scrape nuts onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Let cool. Slide candied nuts into food processor; pulse to a rubble.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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