Monday, February 16, 2009

Death-by-Chocolate Torte, HTCE, p. 726; Dark Chocolate Glaze, HTCE, p. 727

When I first started cooking, disasters would happen my kitchen rather often. For example, one time, while trying to make a custard, I didn't temper my eggs before adding them to the hot milk/cream and ended up with scrambled eggs. Another time, I overmixed muffin batter and ended up with pumpkin-spice flavored lead. But disasters very rarely happen in my kitchen these days. (Although I did make a batch of cayenne ice cream that traumatized my friends this past xmas. Sorry guys!)

In any event, Bittman's Death-by-Chocolate Torte was a complete disaster!!!!!! I am extremely disappointed with Mr. Bittman for leading me down a very wrong path. To be fair, the actual cake part of the recipe turned out well. It was very dense and chocolatey. But the butter-cream and the chocolate glaze turned out to be awful. It was so bad, I almost cried.

I should know by now to trust my own instincts in the kitchen (except for when I’m using cayenne). The first red flag went up when Mr. Bittman had me making the buttercream frosting in a blender. His recipe clearly states in step 3: “To make the butter cream, place 2 egg yolks in the container of a blender.” When I read that, I thought to myself, this doesn’t sound right, but ok, if Bittman says to do it, I’ll do it. So I followed his instructions and at one point about 1/3 of the way into adding all of the butter, my blender stopped blending the ingredients. The egg yolks were pooling at the bottom of the blender and the butter, sugar, and chocolate were sticking to the sides of the blender. At this point, I should have taken everything out of the blender and used my hand mixer, but stupid me trusted Bittman, so I continued adding the rest of the butter with absolutely no success. I ended throwing away the entire thing because there was no way to salvage it. I decided to forego the butter cream filling and just do the dark chocolate glaze on top.

The Dark Chocolate Glaze recipe (HTCE, p. 727) has you mix all of the ingredients (cocoa powder, heavy cream, butter, powdered sugar, and salt) together in a small saucepan and cook it over low heat until it’s combined and thickened. When I read this recipe, a second red flag went up as I thought to myself that I should heat the butter and the heavy cream together first and then slowly whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar. But Bittman’s method was much easier since all I had to do was dump everything into one pan and cook it over low heat. Well, that turned out to be a disaster as well. The butter, although cut into small pieces, did not melt quickly enough. So the entire mixture seized up and I was left with a disgusting clump of greasy, lumpy chocolate goop. I ended up having to throw that out as well. And at that point, I almost cried.

Instead of crying though, I started over, using the method I originally wanted to use, which was to slowly heat the butter and heavy cream together, mix together the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt, and then slowly whisk that mixture into the butter and heavy cream. This method turned out well, but I thought the mixture was too thick to be a glaze, so I used a bit more heavy cream and everything turned out ok in the end. I don’t think I will ever make this recipe again, and if I’m craving something dark chocolate, I’ll follow my instinct and use a recipe from Chris Kimball’s “The Dessert Bible”.


  1. I can relate, I've had disastrous chocolate seizures in the past. I was once so reluctant to throw out Callebaut chocolate that had seized with butter and cream that I purposely left it out of the fridge for 4 days to let it actually go bad so I wouldn't feel bad for chucking it.

  2. This is too sad. Chocolate is never ever ever supposed to make anyone cry. It's the go to food when you feel like crying! What are you supposed to eat for comfort when chocolate upsets you????

    For what it's worth, the cake looks delicious. I would have had quite a few pieces.

  3. Many years ago, I had a chocolate disaster that made me so upset that it ended with the cookbook in the garbage can.
    The cake above was tasty, though a little dry and would have benefited from being sliced and layered with glaze or filling.

  4. Your cake looked delicious. I was going to try that recipe but decided to try something else after your experiences.
    It's so hard to know where to invest your chocolate these days!!

  5. i guess i'm using a newer version of HTCE, but it says to heat the cream & butter then add it to the other ingredients in a bowl. (it turned out deliciously!) the chocolate-butter was a huge mess in the blender, but after taking forever to scrape it into a prep bowl & put it in the refrigerator, it turned out right.

    i was cursing MB earlier in the process, when i couldn't figure out how long to beat the eggs & sugar to make it "very thick." it took at least 8 minutes to become thick, but i didn't know what "very thick" was so i kept beating it, & it turned into something like meringue. it was VERY fluffy, & didn't fit in my cake pan. i couldn't figure out why, until i measured & figured out that my cake pan was 8" instead of 9"; i guess that explains it. but it's SO fragile, it fell apart around the wire rack.

    the components are all delicious & the torte is pretty now that the missing pieces are covered by glaze. i ate so much of the extra 1" that i haven't been able to try the completed cake yet though!