Peychaud’s Fallen Chocolate Soufflé Cake, a Stunner to End All Others

I organized an East versus West Coast IPA tasting on Saturday night.  You can see the setup here.  Please note, the seemly Real Simple-esque picture does not show you the destruction that follows when four people consume 160 ounces of high-octane brew in a single-blind tasting.

We tasted.

Peak Organic Brewing Company’s IPA, Portland, ME (7.1% ABV)
Somerville Brewing Company’s Slumbrew Flagraiser IPA, Ipswich, MA (7.5% ABV)
Brewmaster Jack’s Ambrewsia Imperial IPA, Holyoke, MA (7.7% ABV)
21st Amendment Brewery’s Brew Free! Or Die IPA, San Francisco, CA (7.0% ABV)
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Torpedo Extra IPA, Chico, CA (7.2% ABV)
Bear Republic Brewing Company’s Racer 5 IPA, Healdsburg, CA (7% ABV)
Sixpoint Brewery’s Bengali Tiger IPA, Brooklyn, NY (6.4% ABV)

We commented.

“Smells like Heineken; tastes dirty.”
“I want to like it, but it has an odd finish—like dishwater.”
“A good IPA for winter—a woodsman’s beer.”
“Smells like my gym bag.” “Fruity, but a bit like B.O.”
“Tastes like clean plants, like you watered the lawn and then drank it.”
“Caramel smell; almost brown butter-like; like a financier.”
“I want to drink this on a boat.”

We ate.

An entire loaf of no-knead bread studded with chunky flecks of fleur de sel intended to balance the sweetish bitter brews. 

Plus a few narrow strips of rye focaccia I had squirreled away for such an occasion, with a version of Yotam Ottolenghi’s hummus, spiked with cumin.

And slices of fallen soufflé cake.  Also known as the cake to end all chocolate cakes. 

Lest you think this cake praise was swayed by consuming my weight in high-powered IPAs—let  me assure you—I had it for breakfast the next morning.  It was good, if not better, in its following days.

Its inspiration came from a beautiful photo in Gather Journal mashed with a riff on the late Richard Sax’s chocolate cloud cake in bon appétit's most recent edition.  It’s a rich, yet light cake with an almost cheesecake-like quality.  I ruffled it up with a little Peychaud’s bitters.  Though you can’t taste the Peychaud’s, I believe its subtle anise and nutmeg notes add warmth to the cake, deepening it. 

The decision to dust or not to dust with powdered sugar is yours, and yours alone to make, though I think I prefer the look without it.  What you cannot forgo is the sprinkling of sugar on top, which adds an additive crunch and a hint of sweetness to an otherwise mildly sweetened cake. The powdered sugar had dissolved into the cake the following morning, letting the glints of crystallized sugar shimmer through again.  Which was how I preferred it in the first place. 

“This gal’s a stunner.”

Peychaud’s Fallen Chocolate Soufflé Cake
Inspired by bon appétit and Gather Journal


½ cup (1 stick) butter, cut into 1-inch pieces (plus more for the pan)
¾ cup plus 2 tbsp sugar, divided (plus more for the pan) 
10 ounces 60-80% Taza dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 tbsp canola oil
6 eggs, divided
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tbsp Peychaud’s bitters
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ tsp kosher salt
powdered sugar (optional)


Set the oven at 350 degrees.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with (the granulated) sugar; tap lightly to remove any excess.  In a large heatproof bowl set over simmering water, combine the butter, dark chocolate, and oil.  Stir until the chocolate and butter melts.  (You can take the bowl off the simmering water before everything has fully melted; it will continue to melt from the residual heat.)

Meanwhile, separate 4 of the eggs.  Place the whites in a stand mixer and the yolks in a medium bowl.  To the yolks, add the cocoa powder, bitters, vanilla, salt, ¼ cup of sugar, and the 2 remaining eggs.  Whisk until smooth.

Once the chocolate butter mixture has fully melted (be sure it’s well combined), gradually whisk in the yolk mixture.

Beat the egg whites on high until frothy and then gradually add in ½ cup sugar, with the mixer still running.  Beat until firm peaks form.  Gently fold the whites into the chocolate in 2 additions, until the mixture is just incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan.  Smooth the top and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tbsp of sugar.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, until the cake is puffed, starting to crack, and the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan.  Let cool fully in the pan on a wire rack before releasing it.  The cake will collapse slightly and continue to crack and pull away from the sides of the pan as it cools.  Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Serves 8

-This cake is flourless, which could be perfect for the start of Passover.  I’m no expert in religious dietary restrictions, though I seem to think the Peychaud’s (and possibly vanilla) might be problematic….

-Keep any leftovers in an airtight container.  Mine was gone after 2 days, but definitely kept wonderfully in the interim.  (Also, I used a mixture of Taza bars that probably averaged out to 70% dark.)

- bon appétit serves this cake with a mascarpone whipped cream scooped into the center, which I’m sure would be splendid, as well.

-P.s. the winners of the tasting were Peak Organic and 21st Amendment.  Slumbrew did very well too.  I won't discuss some of the others, because it's mean.


Dark Winter Rye Boule, It Isn't Over Yet

This week has felt like a week of Mondays, strung together.  I interviewed a worker on Misty Brook Farm on Sunday.  (Who was charming.)  And the co-owner of The Wine Bottega on Tuesday.  (Also incredibly charming.)  Did a ton of writing.  (Please note: I am now out of charming adjectives.)  Worked all week, like a regular human.  And cursed at the wind (the wind!) today because it was so cold. 

What I really want right now is for someone to do my dirty dishes, and pour me a glass of wine. 

But that someone will have to be me tonight.  So I hope you’ll forgive me if I'm curt.  In fact, this pretty much sums things up: winter rye boule.  Because it’s (still) winter.  But also because it’s the variety of rye I bought from Misty Brook Farm.  Which they grow themselves and mill at their farmhouse, just down the road from their farm shop in Barre, MA.

Some winter rye, a little molasses, hint of cocoa, and a bit of caraway seeds was all it took to transform everyday bread into a dense and lovely loaf to chase out the end of winter.  While many dark ryes rely on caramel coloring to get their hue, this version uses the cocoa and molasses to impart a milk chocolate tint that deepens as the bread bakes.

The recipe borrows from Jim Lahey’s no-knead method of Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City.  So you can mix it up the ingredients in a bowl on your counter.  And then clean the dishes.  Or do the laundry.  Or—better yet—open a bottle of red.

Dark Winter Rye Boule


2¼ cups bread flour, plus extra for dusting
¾ cup rye flour
½ tsp active dry yeast
1½ tsp kosher salt
1½ cups cold tap water
1 tbsp blackstrap molasses
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
cornmeal, for the bottom of the bread
2½ tsp whole caraway seeds, divided


In a large bowl, combine the flours, yeast, and salt.  (Start this process 15 to 22 hours before you plan to eat the bread.)  Fill a measuring cup (or small bowl) with the water and vigorously whisk the molasses and cocoa into the water until it turns dark brown.  Add the liquid to the flour mixture and combine the ingredients using a rubber spatula until a sticky dough forms (it will be wetter than standard bread dough), add more water, if needed.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 12 to 18 hours in a warm, undisturbed spot.  During this time, the dough will double in size and become puffy.

To start the second rising of the dough, scatter a handful of cornmeal in the middle of a clean kitchen towel.  Add 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds to the dough and, with floured hands, take it out of the bowl and gently stretch the dough by tucking the sides of the bread together to meet at the bottom (if it is too sticky to handle, add a little bread flour); continue this process until the seeds are fully incorporated and the top is smooth.  Shape into a round ball.

Place the dough on the cornmeal, sprinkle the top with the remaining ½ teaspoon of caraway, and cover with the sides of the kitchen towel. Let the dough rest for 1 to 2 hours (until it rises slightly).  30 minutes before you plan to bake the bread, set the oven at 475 degrees and place a 4 or 5 quart Dutch oven or roasting pan with a tight-fitting lid on the middle rack of your oven.  (Be sure your pan can withstand the high heat and avoid pans with plastic parts.)  Preheating the pan helps the dough expand rapidly to produce a chewy interior and a crispy crust.

After 30 minutes, take the pan from the oven and remove the lid.  Gently place the dough into the pan, cover it with the hot lid, and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover the bread and bake for another 15 to 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.  (If you are unsure, the internal temperature of the bread should be 190 degrees.) Let cool fully on a wire rack before slicing (1 to 2 hours).

-I baked this bread in a BreadPot, which I got for Christmas.  I also found some ceramic pots at T.J. Maxx which have worked well in the past.

-You can find Misty Brook at the Somerville Winter Farmers' Market on Saturdays.


Sea Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies with Cherries and Dates, Changing Hearts and Minds

Know how they say to keep your friends close and your enemies closer?  I say you should keep your friends close and your friends that know how to make the most-insane-chocolate-chip-cookies-you-have-ever-had-and-you-don’t-even-usually-love-chocolate-chip-cookies even closer.  

These cookies!  They are studded with bits of a Taza dark chocolate bar and have a slight butterscotch edge to them.  They also have soft, chewy centers with crispy rims.  They are the kind of cookie I’ve grown to expect from Brian Mercury, pastry chef extraordinaire. 

Topped with flecks of his own briny sea salt—homemade and hailing from the waters of Maine—he has delivered us all a very thoughtful cookie.  Brian is a friend.  But he is also one of the most passionate individuals I have ever known. (Sure I'm biased, but chocolate chip cookies don't lie.) And if you are someone who cares deeply for food, you can’t help but be charmed. 

Take this Sunday.  Dave and I met Brian and his wife, Denise, (also a dear friend) for a Sixpoint pint at Tasty Burger.  Brian had the mushroom burger and fries.  And had dreams of following up his burger with a tongue taco special from Highland Kitchen, seen on Twitter a few hours earlier. 

When Brian suggests something like this, you’d be wise to abide.  Just reconcile that you are having tongue tacos for “dessert,” order a Lambrusco, and settle in.  He rarely misses.  

He didn’t miss on the tongue.  And he surely doesn’t miss on these cookies.

Sea Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies with Cherries and Dates
Adapted from Brian Mercury of Harvest restaurant


6 ounces butter, softened
½ cup dark muscovado sugar, packed
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1¾ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
¾ tsp baking soda
3 ounces of a dark chocolate bar, chopped into small bits about a quarter inch size
½ cup dried cherries
heaping ¼ cup dates, chopped into pieces
sea salt for topping each cookie


In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, sugars, and salt on medium-high until light and creamy.  While the mixer is still running, add in the egg and vanilla and mix until well combined. 

Mix in the flour and baking soda until just incorporated.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the chocolate and dried fruit.  Cover and refrigerate, overnight if possible.

Set the oven to 350 degrees. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Portion out 16 equal sized scoops of dough (about 2-3 tbsp each) on the parchment-lined sheets (8 per sheet).  Sprinkle the center of each cookie lightly with sea salt.  (Refrigerate them until the oven is at temp.)

Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes, until the edges are lightly brown; the centers should still appear underdone.  Allow the cookies to firm up as they cool on the cookie sheet.  Transfer to a wire rack after the cookies have set up a bit.

Makes 16 cookies

-If you have the luxury of time, you should let the dough rest overnight in the fridge so that the flavors continue to develop.  (Also, the dough will not spread as much in the oven if it is very cold.) Otherwise, you can just bake them off once the oven comes to temp.

-The dates and dried cherries are my doing.  As was the muscovado (it was what I had on hand).  You can absolutely sub in dark brown sugar.  Also, Brian used cranberries as his dried fruit of choice.  Also very good.  

-A note on the chocolate.  I love Taza.  (As does Brian.)  If you can get it, use it.  It’s wonderful, albeit a wee bit pricey.  Brian’s recipe called for 9 ounces of chocolate chips, but after I cut up one 3-ounce Taza 70% dark chocolate bar and mixed it in, it seemed like more than enough.  Use your judgment here.

-Use a good fleur de sel or other sea salt for topping the cookies.  You won't regret it.

-Here is Brian's adapted recipe for rum raisin ice cream.  Also very good.