by Hilary Cacchio

Our own P-O version of the sunken chocolate cake, describing this dessert cake as rich would be an understatement but nowadays the practise of aiming high and consuming less seems very appropriate. I shamelessly believe cooking cake mixture is somewhat over rated, being outrageously good directly from the mixing bowl. This chocolate cake/dessert successfully finds middle ground.

Choc and Fig Ganache Cake

A small, but serious dessert, only 15/16cm diameter, it is incredibly rich and satisfying, including 4 of the required fruits of the day – cacao, cherries, grape and figs, and  with very little added sugar; it is positively a healthy choice….!
It may be small but will feed 8-10 people, a dessert that is about less being more.

A cake/dessert for all seasons – in spring pile the cake with pitted cherries; in summer pile high with fragrant strawberries; for late autumn tuck some poached sliced pears into the centre and in the winter serve just as it is with oranges in caramel on the side.


One of the joys of life in the P-O is its amazing produce, elevating a recipe that is just ordinary to something of value that connects us with our time and place.
I recently discovered Le Mas Py, an organic farm that sits high on the hill above the village of Ceret near Oms. Their delicious, plump, luscious dried cherries are, surprisingly, the only ones I am aware of that are produced in the area giving us access to local cherries all through the year. If you can’t find any replace with raisins.

Choc and Fig Ganache Cake

I have a passion for some of the P-O’s and Emporda region’s less known wines for both my glass and in my kitchen. Many a golden raisin is soaked for days in a Rancio Sec on its way into a celebration Panetonne.

Maury, often said to produce the only wine that truly goes with chocolate, is closely followed by some of the wines from Banyuls. The sweet, rich Garnatxa d’Emporda from Garriguella is great for soaking prunes as well as raisins. The big plump dried cherries in this cake I usually soak in a Rancio sec, more recently and rather decadently, the remains of a bottle of Coume del Mas ‘Quintessence’ – wow!

Florence Losa’s Chocolat shop is 5 minutes’ walk from my front door and often we can be found discussing her amazing seasonal flavour combinations as well as chocolate, our joint obsession with, in her case, using no refined sugar and in mine using as little as possible. Whilst sugar, like salt,  can highlight great flavour, too much will mask the taste; all too often used to disguise appalling quality, cheap ingredients and sloppy workmanship. For special occasions I buy bars or nuggets of her Ecuadorian, 97% organic chocolate transforming my desserts to the sublime.

Choc and Fig Ganache Cake

Very few of us in the PO are ever very far from a fig tree and summer and early autumn markets abound with the fruit. So, with these local ingredients, eggs from my friend Jacqui’s chickens and the last of my beautiful flour from the bakery and mill in Cucugnan, this special cake tasted very much of our terroir.

Of course, my friend Pol would throw her hands up in despair and promptly source all ingredients from the local supermarket! – Enjoy!

At least the day before:
50g Organic Dried Cherries or Raisins
90g Rancio (sweet or dry) or any ‘intense’ wine of the area
Soak the cherries or raisins in the wine, this can be done days in advance

Choc and Fig Ganache Cake

Ganache Ingredients:
– Dark Roast ground Coffee
– Water, just off the boil
– Dark, Bitter Chocolate, chopped
– Unsalted Butter, cut into smallish cubes and room temp
– Salt

– Organic Eggs, separate yolks into a little bowl, whites into a medium bowl
– Plain Flour
– Golden Caster Sugar
– Plump Figs, cut into small bite size pieces
– 60g Dark, Bitter Chocolate, chopped
– 60g Milk Chocolate, chopped
– 75g Crème Fraiche
– 1tbs Freshly, brewed coffee (from the above brew)

 15cm/6”spring-form cake tin, lined with a single sheet of baking parchment – the ‘folds’ created by just shoving a single sheet into the tin is quicker, adds ripple to the sides of the final cake, giving it a bit of character and more surface area for the ganache to slide down.

 Pre heat oven: 190C and set shelf in the lower centre of the oven

 Drain the cherries/raisins over a small bowl retaining the wine.

 Brew some strong coffee: put the coffee grounds in a small bowl on a set of digital scales and pour over the water leave it for 10 minutes, stir and then strain through a sieve lined with a sheet of kitchen roll. You should end up with at least 2tbs (30g) of strong coffee liquor.

 Put the chocolate, 1tbs (15g) of the coffee liquor, the drained fortified wine (should be 70g if not make up to 70g with water), 50g water and pinch of salt in a largish bowl over a pan of hot water, which should not touch the base of the bowl. Stir occasionally until chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the pan and stir in the butter until incorporated, it will melt in the residual heat.

 Mix the yolks into the chocolate mixture one at a time.

 It is very rarely necessary to sift flour these days but this is one occasion where I would recommend sifting it directly into the mixture and fold in, followed by two thirds of the drained cherries/raisins.

Whisk egg whites to soft peaks, sprinkle over the sugar and continue to whisk until stiff. Carefully fold them, a third at a time, into the chocolate mixture. Pour the batter into the cake tin, sprinkle over the remaining cherries/raisins.

 Bake for 17-20 minutes (it is very important that the centre of the cake remains all but uncooked and the whole cake is moist and truffle-like; sinking in the centre is not an issue – more room for the fruit!). Leave in the tin to completely cool.

 Release the tin and lift away from the cake. Gently peel off the baking parchment from the sides of the cake, slide the base of the tin from base leaving the paper still attached. Lay the tin base over the top of the cake flip the cake over using the base of the tin to support the top and peel away the base paper, then carefully lay the serving platter over the bottom of the cake and flip it over, returning the cake to ‘right way up’, lift the base of the tin from the top of the cake.

Ganache: melt the chocolate, crème fraiche and 1tbs/15g of the remaining brewed coffee and 2tbs/30g water in a pan over a very low heat until the mixture is smooth and shiny – stir a couple of times, don’t over heat it, better to remove from the heat occasionally and let it melt from the residual heat of the pan, returning to heat briefly if necessary.

Cut the figs into quarters and pile in the centre of the cake, generously drizzle warm ganache across the figs and cake encouraging it to tumble over the sides of the cake; serve the remainder on the side.

It is actually very delicious served on its own with a glass of Maury or cup of steaming hot black coffee.

This recipe is taken from Hilary’s book, ‘Sourdough Suppers’, available from Amazon.fr, ebay.fr or by email at hilaryjj@btinternet.com

Visit Hilary’s blog for a slightly more modern take on Catalan and regional recipes.

 

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