A Pairing to Love

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Valentine’s day is Friday. For us it’s a night to stay in, cook up something rich and decadent and indulge in a chocolaty dessert, say, in the shape of a heart. (When else can I use all my heart-shaped bakeware?)


This year I made a flourless chocolate cake with ganache and hazelnuts and then went in search of a wine to match. This particular cake is made with dark chocolate, which keeps it from being overly sweet, and whipped egg whites so it has a surprisingly light texture. It calls for something that matches its delicacy but needs to be slightly sweeter. Port is a classic pairing, but I also love the port-like wines of Banyuls and Maury in the Roussillon region of southern France. This 1998 La Coume du Roy Maury worked perfectly.

Maury is a tiny appellation within Roussillon that sits just inland from the Mediterranean and gets its name from the picturesque village of 900 people tucked in amongst the garrigue (wild scrub) and schist-covered foothills of the Pyrenees. It’s one of the hottest, driest regions in France (325 sunny days per year) but perfect for producing lusciously ripe grapes. While dry red and white wines are made here, the region is known for its long tradition of making sweet, fortified vin doux naturel.

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The process of making these wines is said to date back to 1299 when the king of Mallorca granted a patent to the Catalan alchemist Arnaldus de villanova who had perfected the method of using grape spirit to halt fermentation. At that time Roussillon was under Spanish rule and eventually became a center of production for this type of wine. One of the marked differences between these wines and Port, is that in Maury and Banyuls the wines are often aged in open oak barrels or glass demijohns, which exposes the wines to oxygen and heat and results in rancio flavors of dark fruit jam, fruit cake and walnuts. They also often have less alcohol than Port (around 16% compared to Port’s 20%).

Founded in 1850, La Coume du Roy is one of the oldest wineries in Maury and is currently being run by the sixth generation of winemakers, Agnes and Jean-François Bachelet. They make a variety of wines styles including dry red, white and rosé, sweet Muscat and both oxidized and maderized (heated) vin doux naturels. The 1998 La Coume du Roy Maury is made using 100%, late-harvested Grenache grapes. Yields are kept low at 20 hl/ha, ensuring each grape is concentrated with loads of flavor and sugar. The must then spends 10 months in fermentation tanks before being pressed and aged in oak barrels for 10 years. These wines can age for a century or more, so a mere 14 years in bottle is young. The wine still retains its dark red color, with only some of its garnet-tinged age appearing in the rim. This is delicious on its own with flavors of black cherry, plum, cocoa, and cedar, but an ideal match with this dark chocolate cake.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Toasted Hazelnuts
10 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, diced
10 large egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 6 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 large egg whites

8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted, coarsely chopped

Whipped cream

For cake:
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper round. Place chocolate and 1 1/4 cups butter in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water; stir until mixture is melted and smooth. Remove bowl from over water; cool to lukewarm, about 10 minutes.

Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl until very thick and pale yellow in color, about 5 minutes. Beat in vanilla and salt. Gently fold chocolate mixture into yolk mixture. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites and remaining 6 tablespoons sugar in another large bowl until peaks form. Fold 1/3 of beaten whites into chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining whites in 2 additions. Transfer batter to prepared pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 45 minutes (cake will be puffed and soufflé-like while baking). Cool cake in pan on rack 15 minutes (cake will fall in center). Run knife around cake sides to loosen; press edge of cake down to make level with center. Remove pan sides and cool cake completely. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.

For ganache:
Combine chocolate and cream in medium metal bowl. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Remove bowl from over water; let stand until ganache cools slightly but is still pourable, about 5 minutes.

Place cooled cake on rack set over rimmed baking sheet. Pour 1/2 cup ganache over top of cake. Using offset spatula, quickly spread ganache over top and sides of cake. Freeze cake 3 minutes. Pour remaining ganache over top of cake. Working quickly but gently and grasping pan bottom and rack together, slightly tilt rack with cake from side to side, allowing ganache to flow evenly over top and down sides of cake; smooth sides with offset spatula. Press hazelnuts onto sides of cake to adhere. Chill cake until ganache is set, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and keep refrigerated. Let stand at room temperature 45 minutes before serving. Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Flourless-Chocolate-Cake-with-Toasted-Hazelnuts-and-Brandied-Cherries-237344#ixzz2tG1ONtnK


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