Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Baking with the Queen of Sheba

We’re getting ready for the April 14 start of Pastry Techniques, the 100-hour intensive class that puts amateur bakers into The FCI’s kitchens. The class covers the essential French pastry doughs that form the basis of so many desserts, plus tarts, custards, mousse, cakes, cookies, sauces, and soufflés (and more). In short, it’s the perfect class for anyone who wants to develop a thorough foundation of pastry techniques and to get hands-on guidance from experienced instructors.

One of our favorite recipes from Pastry Techniques is the Reine de Saba or Queen of Sheba. It’s a decadent cake with an evocative name, first brought to America's culinary consciousness with the publication of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

The Reine de Saba contains good quality chocolate, almonds, and only a little bit of flour, giving it that rich, creamy consistency that makes a chocolate addict’s heart flutter. The FCI’s version is made more decadent and complex with the addition of brandy and amaretto and a simple chocolate glaze.

Please enjoy the following recipe, courtesy of The FCI’s Pastry Arts Department. Visit our web site to learn more about Pastry Techniques.


Ingredients (for two 6-inch cakes)
170 grams bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
170 grams butter
4 egg yolks
150 grams granulated sugar
45 milliliters brandy
15 milliliters amaretto
50 grams almond flour
4 egg whites
30 grams cake flour

225 grams semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
165 grams butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Procedure for the Cake:
Butter and flour two 6-inch cake pans and set aside. Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Melt the chocolate and butter in a clean, dry bowl over simmering water. When the chocolate is half-melted, turn off the heat and stir to finish the melting. This prevents the chocolate mixture from being too hot.

Whip the egg yolks and 75 grams of sugar until light and pale (blanchir). Add the liquors slowly, whisking until the mixture to become homogeneous before adding more. Stir in the almond flour.

Prepare a French meringue with the egg whites and the remaining sugar.Fold the chocolate and butter into the egg yolk mixture. Fold the meringue into the chocolate mixture leaving the meringue slightly streaky and start adding the cake flour to prevent overworking the batter.

Fold the batter into a buttered and floured cake pan and bake at 325F for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean but moist—a few small crumbs may stick to the skewer but it should not be covered with batter.

When the cake comes out of the oven, it is too fragile to be unmolded and should be allowed to cool completely in the refrigerator before removing from the pan. Unmold the cooled cake. If it does not come out of the pan easily, warm it slightly over an open burner and then turn it out onto a cardboard disc.

Procedure for the Glaze:
Combine ingredients for the glaze in a bowl over a bain-marie. Melt and use at body temperature.

Place the cake on a cooling rack and pour the glaze on, starting with the sides and finishing in the middle. The cake should be tilted to let the excess run off quickly—one pass can be made with an offset spatula.

This cake should always be served at room temperature, but stored in the refrigerator or frozen.

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