Sweet Life: French Lesson
Our new sweets columnist, Leah Eskin, shares a mystery au chocolat from her recipe files.
Recipes slouch around my kitchen. They loiter on the microwave, behind the toaster, flat against the fridge. For years, I stuffed the clippings and scribbles into a paperback cookbook. Eventually, I moved the jumble to a filing folder—which, over the decades, devolved into a tattered wrapper, clinging to its contents with the help of two rubber bands. Sad.
And so, a resolution. I purchased a binder, a stack of slick plastic sleeves and divider tabs. Over many a night of sorting, I made discoveries. First, that I needed more binders (at least one for dessert alone) and fewer tabs (so many recipes are either Chocolate or Cake). But also, I unfolded a letter from my grandmother, detailing hamantaschen cookies. I studied my mom’s pot roast, good for cold nights in Iowa City. I found recipes from friends: Annie’s sourdough, Grace’s eggplant, Daryn’s latkes, Danielle’s truffles, Sarah’s rhubarb pie. I came across my husband’s favorite pasta, my daughter’s college-level lentils and my son’s early vision of Birthday Soup (largely ice cream and sugar). I paged through notes from chefs, travels and readers, accumulated over 15 years of writing “Home on the Range,” a food column syndicated by the Chicago Tribune. I found a lot of chocolate cakes.
One recipe—handwritten, in French—struck me as mysterious. I have no idea who it’s from or how it crept into my folder. It lists five ingredients and reads, in its entirety: “Mix the three eggs with the sugar in a bowl. Melt the chocolate then add the butter. Finally mix the two together. Then put in oven.” Provoking concern. What kind of chocolate? Where’s the flour? How long does it bake? My curiosity piqued, I dived in, and one chocolate-covered week later, I had worked out the details (and added salt). I’m filing the revised recipe under both Chocolate and Cake. Definitely a keeper.
Gâteau au Chocolat recipe This exceedingly moist and rich cake is all about chocolate and butter; if you can swing it, choose the good stuff.