Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Maple Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake Recipe - Truly Canadian and Certainly Delicious

This cake is so Canadian that I can almost hear it say 'eh?' every time I take a bite. It is true northern decadence.

Flourless chocolate cake is my favourite kind of cake. Why? One reason: it is like a large chocolate truffle that is just pretending to be a slice of cake. So I make a lot of these decadent cakes for my Ultimately Chocolate clients, here on Manitoulin Island. And in a recent effort to localize some of my products, I have been experimenting with Canadian maple sugar and Canadian sea salt. So I thought I would share one of my most chocolaty recipes here on the blog.  Read on to achieve decadent dark chocolate bliss!

Recipe: Maple Dark Chocolate Truffle Cake with Maple Sugar, Sea Salt & Maple Ganache
(As a bonus: this is a flour-free and gluten-free cake with no refined cane sugar)


For the cake:
  • 8 ounces 70% dark chocolate (you can use any kind, but I used Camino, the Canadian brand of Organic and Fair Trade chocolate to be both local and environmentally and socially responsible, you need just under 3 100 gram bars)
  • 1 cup of unsalted butter (1/2 pound), chopped into cubes
  • 1 cup maple sugar crystals (In Canada, Costco sells the Quebec Decacer brand)
  • 4 eggs (best at room temperature)
  • 1 tsp Sea Salt (I used Vancouver Island Salt Company's 'Canadian Sea Salt')

For the ganache:
  • 4 ounces 70% dark chocolate (you can go as low as 50%, but it will taste very sweet)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup

For the finishing touches:
  • a pinch of chunky sea salt
  • two tablespoons of maple syrup

Prep Time: Not much! 20 minutes at first, but only 10 minutes once you do it a few times. 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Prepare a 9" round baking pan, preferable springform, with parchment paper. 


1. Melt the butter and 8 ounces of chocolate together in a medium sized stainless steel or glass bowl over a double boiler (if you don't like this method, you can melt on HALF power in the microwave for 1 minute in a glass or plastic bowl, take out, stir, then add 10 seconds at a time until fully melted and smooth, but I find the double boiler method easier).

2. Add the sugar, stir well and let the mixture rest for five minutes.

3. If you do not have a hand mixer, pour the mixer into a stand mixer bowl.  If you do have a hand mixer or immersion blender/mixer, keep your mixture in the same bowl and use the hand mixer to minimize the number of dirty dishes!

4. Add in four eggs, one at a time and mix between each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again.  Mix just until it is completely blended. 

5. Add the teaspoon of sea salt.  Mix again for 30 seconds. Stir with spatula.

6.  Pour into a prepared 9" springform baking pan (you can use any baking pan, but reduce cooking time by five minutes if you are using a dark-coloured non-stick baking pan of any kind because the edges may burn).

7. Bake for 30 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F.  When done, turn off oven and leave for 5 minutes (set timer) with door closed.  Take out and carefully rest on counter until the cake cools.  Once cooled, place in fridge until fully chilled (about 2 hours).

8. Once chilled, slice the edges off of the cake with a hot knife (run under hot water and dry it off before slicing) so that the cake has an even top.

9. Place your serving plate upside down on the cake, centre it, and invert the cake onto the pan. Remove the parchment paper and chill in the fridge while your prepare the ganache.

Prepare the Ganache and Top the Cake:

1. Melt together the 4 ounces of chocolate and maple syrup in the microwave for 1 minute and 20 seconds on HALF power (or melt over a double boiler). Stir until completely smooth. Add five second intervals in the microwave if not completely melted, stirring between each interval. Alternately you can melt this together in a bowl over a double boiler. Stir until melted and smooth.

2. Pour ganache over cake.  Using an offset spatula, you can just push the ganache to the edges so you have an even circle of ganache on the cake, or you can push it slightly over the edges so it drips down the side.  If you have a cake turntable for decorating, you can push it over the edges and use an offset spatula to smooth out the sides to get a full coverage (like I have done in the pictures).  You can also create a circular swirling pattern on top by placing your offset spatula in the centre of the cake and working it outwards while slowly turning the cake until you have a smooth circular swirl o top of the cake. Clean the edges of your serving plate with a dampened paper towel to get a clean-looking plate, if need be.

3. Let cool for a few minutes on the counter. Then sprinkle some chunky sea salt on top.

To Serve: slice and drizzle a tsp of maple syrup on top of each slice and on the plate.

To Slice:  For 12 or 16 slices, simply slice your cake in half, then in half again (turn your knife in the opposite direction), so you have four quarters.  For 12 slices, cut each quarter into three slices.  For 16 small-but-decadent slices, cut each quarter in half, then in half again to achieve 16 slices for the entire cake.
For 14 slices, cut the entire cake in half.  Then, starting at one end, carefully cut 7 slices per half of the cake.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Fine Chocolate in Ottawa: Canada's Capital is becoming a capital place for chocolate!

A few weeks ago, I visited Ottawa and toured its chocolate hot spots. The capital city has seen many improvements to its chocolate culture since I moved away five years ago. For instance, as the craft chocolate movement continues to grow in North America, local bean-to-bar chocolate can be found in stores and cafés throughout the city. And fine chocolate is being brought in from all over the world and filling the shelves of cheese shops, fruit markets and a variety of other artisan stores. Ottawa is becoming a great place to be for chocolate connoisseurs!

Below is my `Ottawa Chocolate Tour`, which I have separated into two categories: fine chocolate bars and filled chocolates and chocolate desserts and treats.  So whether you live in Ottawa or are just visiting, this list will help you find chocolate that suits your needs. Enjoy!

Fine Chocolate Bars and Filled Chocolates

JoJo CoCo (Hazeldean Rd., Ottawa's West End)
Ottawa's newest best kept secret for chocolate is JoJo CoCo with a fantastic selection of single origin and blended flavour fine chocolate bars, as well as filled chocolates, caramels, truffles and more. If you need a gift for a chocolate connoisseur or any kind of chocolate lover, this is the place to go.

I picked up some of Canada's newest artisan bean-to-bar brands, including the local Hummingbird Chocolate origin bars, and Wild Sweets, the British Columbia brand of science-based bean-to-bar chocolate, including their limited edition origin bars and a fantastic dark chocolate with caramel, sea salt and hazelnuts.  The esteemed Soma Chocolatemaker from Toronto was also included in the list of bean-to-bar chocolates that I found at JoJo CoCo.  Raw chocolate bars and chocolate truffles also filled the shelves, making it truly a one-stop shop for fine chocolate.

International Cheese store (Byward Market)

I know, I know.  Chocolate in a cheese store?!  But seriously, chocolate and cheese go together and the International Cheese shop has a LOT of chocolate. I picked up chocolate bars from all over the world, including the one of the world's most renowned brands, Valrhona, where I took home one of their Dulcey 'Chocolat Blond' bars (this chocolate has launched a whole new category, different from our standard milk, white and dark). I also picked up a Rochef Dark Chocolate with Salted Caramel 'Tablette', made by a local chocolatier from Quebec and an imported organic 75% Chocolat Stella bar, which was excellent.

La Bottega - Nicastro Fine Food Shop (Byward Market)
They have an interesting selection of chocolaty treats and if you can ever make it to the front of the long line-ups in this store, I saw Venchi chocolate bars and Olivia Chocolat bars near the cash register.

Bridgehead Coffee Houses (The Byward Market, Elgin Street, The Glebe, New Edinburgh, Sparks Street, Westboro, Preston Street and more!)
I remember when Bridgehead only had four or five coffee houses under its name, and now their online list includes 15 locations in Ottawa, including one big roastery on Anderson @ Preston and a café in every great little downtown neighbourhood in Ottawa.  This place rivals Starbucks in so many ways, but has a wonderful Fair Trade and Organic philosophy that makes you feel good about drinking their coffee.  If you are a visitor to Ottawa, you definitely have to check out the local brew of coffee, and while there, you can purchase Camino Organic and Fair Trade Chocolate bars and Olivia Chocolat, a local artisan bean-to-bar chocolate brand from Quebec. You can also buy these chocolates on the Bridgehead website.

The French Baker (Byward Market and The Glebe)
I used to stop by both the Glebe bakery and the Byward market location for a chocolatine (chocolate croissant) because it reminded me of the kind you can find in France.  While there, I'd also pick up some Michel Cluizel chocolate bars, one of the finest brands of chocolate in the world.

Truffle Treasures (Westboro and The Glebe)
One of Ottawa's best spot for buying chocolaty gifts for special occasions, Truffle Treasures has a nice flavour assortment of chocolate truffles. But you can also get bulk Belgian chocolate for baking, dipped fruit, chocolate bars and even raw or solar-roasted cacao. When I worked near the Glebe, I used to stop by on my lunch breaks in winter time for their Aztec Hot Chocolate.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (Byward Market)
If you want something standardized and known for its confections, this place has been in the market for awhile. They have chocolate clusters, bombs, barks, chocolate liquers and even some single origin solid dark chocolates.

Herb and Spice Shop (Bank Street, Downtown Ottawa)
I used to pick up a nice variety of chocolate bars at the Herb and Spice store on Bank Street in Ottawa's downtown, and also at the Westboro location.

The House of Cheese (Byward Market)
Another unlikely way to shop for chocolate, but cheese and chocolate are a great combination to pair with wine, so why not pick up both when planning that wine tasting party that you have always wanted to have? Truffles and imported chocolate make up the selection in this little shop.

Byward Fruit Market
Like the cheese stores, this also seems to be an unlikely location for chocolate. But right in the middle of the beautiful and sometimes exotic fruits and vegetables, you can find a selection of Olivia Chocolat, made in Gatineau by a local bean-to-bar chocolate maker.

Chocolate Desserts and Treats

Play (Byward Market) This 'small plate' restaurant has a Chocolate Paté (with Lemon Chantilly and Almond Cookie), which is the best chocolate pate that I have ever tasted and possibly the best chocolate dessert that I have eaten in a long time. Seriously. The chocolate used to make it was quality and full of flavour.  It was dark and delicious and the texture was like no other dessert that I have tried - like a thick mousse and flourless chocolate cake in one. Hands down, best ever.  If you are a chocolate lover and live in or are visiting Ottawa, you MUST try the chocolate paté at Play (1 York Street in the Byward Market).

Thyme and Again on Wellington (Westboro) serves up two delicious chocolate cakes that I have never forgotten. The Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Cake has small amounts of `cake`, which is moist and delicious, and an abundance of chocolate hazelnut mousse. Any hazelnut or chocolate fanatic would go crazy for it. The Chocolate Paradise Cake has been a long-time favourite of mine.  It is rich dark chocolate, and is really only for those who can handle some serious amounts of chocolate.  In fact, it is so rich that if you want to get through an entire slice, skip dinner that night!

Oh So Good! I did not have time to visit on this trip, but Oh So Good in the Byward Market has been a long-time favourite of mine for rich, chocolaty desserts, great atmosphere and fantastic beverages.  Check out their facebook page for more information: https://www.facebook.com/OhSoGoodDesserts

The Flour Shoppe is a quaint new cupcake shop that has added some spunk to a corner of the Glebe that always seemed a little quiet to me. I spent many hours walking, roller blading and biking up and down that very section of Bank Street, and had this shop been there several years ago it may have become a daily stop for me! They make a mean Double Chocolate Cupcake; a simple moist cupcake piled high with chocolate buttercream. 

Le Moulin de Provence (The Byward Market)
So much an Ottawa Landmark that even President Obama visited this place on a trip to Canada.  They have a large selection of pastries and desserts that are remarkably similar to the best pastries in France. Although I did not go on this visit, I have been there many, many times.

Ice Cream/Gelato (Elgin and Byward Market)
Pure Gelato on Elgin has some excellent chocolaty flavours that you will not taste anywhere else. For instance, Chocolate Masala has been a flavour favourite of mine for years - you can't go wrong with the flavour of red wine and dark chocolate in one gelato.  Also, chocolate-chocolate chip is good with big chunks of chocolate and they have a few other intense chocolate flavours.  The gelato selection is huge so you can bring your non-chocolate loving friends and they will find something they like.

Other Ottawa Chocolate Shopping Tips:

If you are local to Ottawa and want to support Ottawa businesses, The Camino brand of chocolate was created in Ottawa and its head office, under the name La Siembra Co-Operative, is still located in Ottawa.  Their chocolate bars, hot chocolate and other Fair Trade / Organic chocolate can be found in Bridgehead, Loblaws, Superstore and many health food stores around the capital city and all across Canada.

Hummingbird Chocolate Maker is a local bean-to-bar chocolate maker, with their production facility being located in Carp. In addition to JoJo CoCo, their chocolate bars can be found in many locations throughout Ottawa (see list here), including Brewer Park Farmer's Market on Sundays (Bronson Avenue, near Carleton University). I picked up their mild Venezuelan Patanemo 70% and their bitter and earthy Venezuelan Amazonas 70% bar while in Ottawa and loved them both!

Did I miss anyone?  If you know of a great place to buy chocolate in Ottawa that is not on my list above, feel free to add a Comment below!  I'd love to learn about other places I should try on my next visit to Ottawa.