In general it can be said of cookery that as the number of ingredients in a recipe decreases, the importance of technique increases. Flourless chocolate cake is an elegant illustration of this principle, demanding a delicate touch in the mixing stage, and more than that, expert command of temperature in the baking stage.
That said I’m utterly bewildered by Emeril’s baking instructions. He directs us to bake the cake in a water bath for 45 minutes at 325, which is more than double the time the original recipe calls for. No 9-inch flourless chocolate cake known to man can withstand that kind of sustained heat without curdling. It’s a sure-fire Emeril recipe for disaster.
Curdling you say? Flourless chocolate cake is a near solid mass of chocolate, how can a thing like that curdle? Because regardless of its consisteny, a flourless chocolate cake is a custard, and as such must be treated with all the deference one would give the most delicate crème anglaise. That means being extremely careful not to overcook the mother.
I’ve finished one of these cakes in as little as 14 minutes in a 325 oven. How do I know? Because I relied on a thermometer instead of a clock. A flourless chocolate cake is finished when the center reaches 140 degrees, at which point it won’t look at all done. It’ll still be very jiggly in the center, almost liquid, yet it will have absorbed enough heat to set up perfectly as it sits on the counter.
So…head out to Target and pick yourself up a digital instant-read thermometer. Once an expensive luxury tool, they can now be had for fifteen bucks. If there was ever an excuse to buy one, this is it. You can’t create the perfect flourless chocolate cake without one.