Sunday, December 12, 2010

House of Mirth and Flourless Chocolate Cake

I was pleasantly surprised by Edith Wharton. When I read the synopsis on the back of my library loaned copy of House of Mirth, I groaned thinking how closely it resembled the story of Portrait of a Lady; however within the first few pages Warton's heroine Lily Bart becomes a more relatable and tangible person than James' Isabel in all of her 700+ pages ever was. This is due to Wharton's writing style being so appealing and fresh a century after the words were given their pages.

One thing that I enjoyed thoroughly was how Wharton would describe a character's room as a method of telling you more about that person. For instance, Selden has a worn leather armchair while Mrs. Peniston has a black satin chair tufted with yellow buttons (which Lily detests). Amanda mentioned this to us at book club and failed to put it in her post below: Wharton was the taste maker when it came to interior decorating among high society. She even wrote a book strictly about interior design.

On an entirely different note, I must share this recipe for the most divine flourless chocolate cake. (note: this recipe has been adapted from Bon Appetit Jan. 1999)

Amy's Flourless Chocolate Cake
  • 11.5 ounces Ghirardhelli's bittersweet (not unsweetened) chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 12 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Oven preheated to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Wrap outside of pan with foil. Stir chocolate and butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Cool to lukewarm, stirring often.

Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 6 tablespoons sugar in large bowl until mixture is very thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Fold lukewarm chocolate mixture into yolk mixture, then fold in vanilla extract. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 6 tablespoons sugar, beating until medium-firm peaks form. Fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until top is puffed and cracked and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack (cake will fall).