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Double-Chocolate Marble Cake
Dorie Greenspan -- who, enviably, lives part-time in Paris -- has collected recipes from her French friends for her stunning new book, “Baking Chez Moi.” No stranger to French baking, she worked with Julia Child on “Baking with Julia,” and she’s also an expert on French home cooking; another of her books is “Around My French Table.”
Some of the recipes are from chefs, but mostly they come from good home cooks, who kept telling her, “This one’s not for you, it’s too simple.” She persisted and found that once she got the recipe, it was “always extremely simple, but was also perfect.” These are the baked goods French people make at home, not the elaborate creations you find at a patisserie. They’re all gorgeous.
Some recipes are comforting and rustic, such as Granola Energy Bars and Desert Roses (basically an unbaked confection of melted chocolate, dried fruit and cornflakes). However, you’ll also find more complicated recipes that take careful attention. While it’s not a book for absolute baking beginners, her directions are clear and concise to insure success.
It was difficult to choose just one recipe to make, but the marble cake spoke to me as a perfect Hanukkah dessert, or as a present for someone special. Rich and perfectly moist, it’s made with both white and dark chocolate. The French call these weekend cakes, their term for casual loaf cakes like this. Other recipes I can’t wait to try include Hazelnut, Ginger and Olive Oil Cake; Fall Market Galette (with black grapes, plums and figs); Limoncello Cupcakes; and Vanilla Bean Sables. To name only a few.
And as it turns out, you don’t have to be Jewish to love marble cake. The author notes: “As all-American as marble cakes seem, that’s how all-French they seem as well. No matter where you go in France, no matter if the pastry shop is ritzy or rustic, you’re bound to find a marble cake.”
She also cautions not to be over-zealous when marbling the cake. “Running a knife through the dark and light batters, producing arcs, curves and swirls, can make anyone feel like Picasso. In fact, the temptation to keep swirling is so strong that the risk of ending up with a cake that goes from marbled to monochromatic is high. Resist!”
This cake really needs to sit for a day to develop the best flavor and texture. Storing directions are at the bottom of the recipe. When I made it, I melted the chocolates in separate glass bowls on medium in the microwave. My white chocolate hardened after I added it to the batter, but it melted in the baking process so it that happens to you, don’t fret.
-- Miriam Rubin: email@example.com and on Twitter @mmmrubin
2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into cups and leveled off
1¼ teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1½ sticks (12 tablespoons or 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
4 ounces best-quality white chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 teaspoon orange or peppermint oil (optional, I didn’t use)
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Pull out an insulated baking sheet or stack two regular baking sheets one on top of the other. Line the (top) baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, dust with flour and tap out the excess; set it on the baking sheet(s).
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.
Working in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, or a large bowl with a hand mixer, beat butter on medium speed for 3 minutes, or until smooth. Add sugar and beat for another 2 to 3 minutes, scrape sides. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for a minute after each one goes in. The batter may curdle, but you needn’t worry.
Reduce mixer speed to low and mix in the vanilla. Still on low speed, add the flour mixture in 3 additions and the milk in 2, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing only until each addition is incorporated.
Scrape half of the batter into another bowl. Using a flexible spatula, gently stir the white chocolate into half of the batter. If you’re using the orange or peppermint oil, stir it in as well. Stir the dark chocolate into the other half of the batter.
Using a spoon or scoop, drop dollops of the light and dark batters randomly into the prepared pan — don’t think too much about the pattern — and then plunge a table knife deep into the batter and zigzag it across the pan. It’s best to move forward and not to backtrack. Don’t overdo it — 6 to 8 zigzags should suffice.
Bake the cake for 80 to 90 minutes, or until a tester inserted deep into the center comes out clean. (My cake was done in 70 minutes, and I might have taken it out 5 minutes sooner.) Check the cake at the halfway mark, turn it around and, if it’s getting too brown, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack and let it rest for 10 minutes, then unmold it, turn right side up on the rack and let come to room temperature.
Storing: Wrapped well, the cake will keep at room temperature for up to 4 days. It can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost it in its wrapper.
Makes 8 servings.
-- Adapted from “Baking Chez Moi: Recipes from My Paris Home to Your Home Anywhere” by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, $40)