This glorious Gluten-Free Chocolate Confection is easy to bake…
This decadent chocolate and almond confection is gussied up with Whipped Cream, Almonds, and Raspberries, and baked in honor of a guest with a gluten allergy. It’s one of a chorus of wonderful French Cakes or “Gateau” that Andrew found in Aleksandra Crapanzano’s “Gateau” (Simon and Schuster Scribner Books 2022).* The rest of the title backs up Andrew’s promise that this is an easy bake. It reads “The Surprising Simplicity of French Cakes”. In this case, the cake relies on almond paste and cornstarch to keep its gluten-free credentials. A note at the bottom of the recipe also caught Andrew’s eye, especially since I had brought back literally pounds of Ecuadorian Cacoa considered the best in the world, especially in Ecuador. See https://www.sensecuador.com/blog/why-dark-chocolate-from-ecuador-is-the-best-in-the-world/
“Entirely untraditional, but terrific, is the possible addition of chocolate. To make this… au chocolat, simply fold in 125 grams (4.4 oz.) of room-temperature melted chocolate after beating the eggs and almond paste. Replace the lemon zest with orange zest.” –Aleksandra Crapanzano
The French name of this cake is “Pain des Genes au Chocolat” which translates to “Chocolate Bread of Genoa”
It is of course really a “gateau”. But it was named to commemorate the French siege of the Italian city of Genoa. Forty years before Parisian pastry chef Fauvel created the cake, the French forces held off an Austrian force ten times its size for nearly 60 days. That allowed Napoleon to cross the Great St. Bernard Pass and defeat the Austrians in the Battle of Marengo in a surprise attack. As to the cake, during the siege, almonds, native to the region saved the French troops from certain starvation. Hence, very likely, the reference to “Pain” or “Bread”. Almond paste is more common in Europe than in the US. But Andrew found it in our own King Kullen on Long Island. The “Odense” brand that Aleksandra uses can be found at Whole Foods.
About Aleksandra Crapanzano and her book, “Gateau”
Having lived many years in Paris as a child, knew that the French bake at home far more than all the Parisienne Patisseries would make you believe. Those temples of Croquembouche, Éclairs, and Napoleons are left to produce the fancy stuff. But like the rest of us, Parisians like to finish their dinners with something sweet. So they excel in collecting recipes that are infinitely adaptable to seasonal ingredients and what’s in the larder. What Aleksandra has done in “Gateau” is to interweave recipes for dozens of cakes in a culinary memoir that takes us on her personal journey. Magically, she incorporates anecdotes and culinary history (see above) into conversations with pastry chefs, bakes, and food experts. On every page, she sheds light on techniques, flavors, and traditions associated with cake-making. It’s a thoroughly entertaining read. *
Here is the recipe for today’s Pain de Genes au Chocolat. And after it, some other baking recipes to enjoy.
Pain de Genes from Gateau by Aleksandra Crapanzano
This decadent chocolate and almond confection was gussied up with whipped cream, almonds, and raspberries and served in honor of a guest who has a gluten allergy.
- 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- The grated zest of ½ lemon or orange if making the cake “au Chocolat”
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 9 ounces / 255 grams almond paste,
- such as Odense, cut into ½-inch-thick slices
- 3½ tablespoons cornstarch
- 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
- 6 tbsp. of unsalted butter, melted, at room temperature
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the sides of an 8-inch cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment.
- Step 2 In a clean metal mixing bowl or a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy and white.
- Step 3 Add the sugar and salt and beat until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
- Step 4 In a second mixing bowl or stand mixer, beat the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla, and almond paste until smooth, pale, and thick. There should be no lumps of paste. If there are, continue until smooth. Sift the cornstarch and baking powder directly into the bowl.
- Step 5 Beat to integrate. Add the melted butter and beat until thoroughly combined. Gently, but thoroughly, fold the egg whites into the batter using a rubber spatula until no white streaks remain.
- Step 6 Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The cake will be a pale brown and will not jiggle. It is best eaten at room temperature.
- Step 7 For PAIN DE GÊNES AU CHOCOLAT: Entirely untraditional, but terrific, is the possible addition of chocolate. To make this a pain de Gênes au chocolat, simply fold in 125 grams of room-temperature melted chocolate after beating the eggs and almond paste. Replace the lemon zest with orange zest.