For this TBT entry I want to introduce you to Wayne Harley Brachman. In the mid-1980s in Northampton, MA there was a NY style deli that for me, being a transplanted Manhattan-ite, was a breathe of fresh, lower east side air. It was through this venue that I first met Wayne. His career has taken him from being a middle-school orchestra teacher to a performance artist. Luckily for us he decided years ago to concentrate his performance skills in the pastry kitchen. He came up the ranks at The Odeon and Arizona 206 in the city in their heyday and settled for a while at Mesa Grill and Bolo with Bobby Flay. He subsequently worked at more iconic NY properties and is now at Porter House New York working alongside chef Michael Lomonaco. This all makes so much sense to me. I know Lomonaco’s work as well and both of these talented men share a philosophy grounded in tradition but with a nod to innovation and forward thinking.
Wayne’s first book, Cakes and Cowpokes, New Desserts from the Old Southwest, came out of his days with Bobby Flay and showcases desserts with a western flair. Who but Wayne would have come up with Rio Grande Mud Pie featuring Tia Maria coffee liqueur, mangoes and cactus pears? Or Pecan Fritters with Dried Fruit Stew, Cinnamon Ancho Ice or the Mexican Gold Nugget Brownie Torte we are bringing you here complete with edible gold dust?
This almost flourless cake gets most of its bulk from ground walnuts, which combine beautifully with the dark chocolate. Although author Wayne Harley Brachman suggests using Ibarra chocolate, we have had great success also using Taza, which is a stone-ground chocolate that is carried at many Whole Foods Markets. The gold dust is a favorite of ours around here and can be ordered from a well-stocked cake decorating supply store such as Beryl’s.
- Wayne doesn’t specify the depth of the 9-inch pan but we have had the greatest success in a 9 x 3-inch springform pan. A shallow 2-inch cake pan will not be deep enough.
- Note that you will use the sugar in a few separate places in the recipe, so don’t dump it in all at once!
- Baking time for use ended up being 40 to 45 minutes.
The following recipe is excerpted and adapted from Cakes & Cowpokes, by Wayne Harley Brachman. Published by William Morrow, 1995.
Here is Wayne’s introduction:
Gold is actually edible. I am not advocating that you make a soup out of your grandfather’s pocket watch, but a tiny sprinkling of twenty-two-karat gold dust, although flavorless, can be quite dramatic looking. This brownie, leavened with egg whites, is, in reality, a very elegant chocolate walnut torte.
- Melted butter or nonstick vegetable spray for greasing the pan
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup strong black coffee
- ¾ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 6 large eggs, separated
- 1 ½ cups coarsely chopped walnuts
- 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
- Pinch of salt
- 1 disk Ibarra chocolate, coarsely chopped
- ½ gram 22-karat gold dust
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- For the Cake: Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan. Line it with a disk of parchment paper or buttered waxed paper.
- Place the bittersweet chocolate in a medium bowl. Combine the coffee and ½ cup of the sugar in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour the hot sugar syrup over the chocolate, and stir until melted and smooth.
- Put the butter and ¼ cup of the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at high speed for 2 minutes, or until well combined and smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until each is incorporated. Continue beating, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary, until light and fluffy, about 5 more minutes. With the mixer on its lowest setting, or using a rubber spatula, gradually beat in or fold in the chocolate syrup. Beat or fold in the nuts and breadcrumbs.
- In an immaculately clean, dry bowl, combine egg whites and salt and whisk until soft peaks form. Sprinkle on the remaining teaspoon sugar and whisk until the peaks stiffen to the consistency of shaving cream. Fold one third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture, and then gently but thoroughly fold in the rest of the whites.
- Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake for about 50 minutes, or until springy to the touch and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
- Turn the cake out onto a wire rack.
- Prepare Ganache: Put the chocolate in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a scald over medium heat. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Working from the center out, gently stir to melt and blend until smooth. Let the ganache sit until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes; it should be spreadable but still pourable.
- Pour the ganache over the cake and, using as few strokes as possible, frost the cake.
- Scatter the Ibarra chocolate over the top of the cake, then use a fine strainer to sprinkle gold dust over it. Store for up to 3 days, at room temperature.
Used primarily to make hot chocolate, Ibarra, a blend of cocoa, almonds and cinnamon, is sold in Latin American groceries.
Images: Dédé Wilson