Each week I contribute an article to the Whole Foods Market Cooking Boulder website expanding on one of the 10 Ways Tuesday ideas. This week I cooked and photographed a recipe for Boca Negra. For the full article, click on the icon below.
The name says it all- Boca Negra means black mouth in English, and it’s impossible to sneak a piece of this cake without anyone knowing. Your sticky fingers will leave smudged chocolate prints on the fridge door, and even after wiping your lips clean a tiny piece of evidence will linger on the corner of your mouth- not to mention the satisfied smile that will certainly tip off anyone who knows you well. Boca Negra is a rich, fudge-like cake infused with the flavor of smokey dried chipotle chiles. This recipe comes from Fany Gerson’s book, My Sweet Mexico, a heartfelt collection of traditional Mexican desserts and sweet treats. The book has a noble mission, manifest in Fany’s commitment to traveling Mexico in search of recipes passed down through generations orally, recipes at the brink of extinction as modern cuisine carries on without them. Fany was born and raised in Mexico, but here career as a pastry chef has taken her around the world. She writes of family matriarchs carefully guarding their treasured recipes, willing to “go to their grave with them rather than share.” Motivated by her desire to preserve these meaningful traditions, Fany spent time with people, earning their trust, and wrote a book that is much more than a collection of indulgent desserts. My Sweet Mexico is a history book, a dictionary of traditional Mexican ingredients, a map, a lesson in pastry technique, and a heartfelt trove of stories. Boca Negra is the very last recipe in the My Sweet Mexico, and Fany writes that this cake is one of her proudest creations. After baking it, I can see why.
I’m passionate about chocolate, hoarding my special bar of dark chocolate in a secret place, like a squirrel. All I need is one piece a day, which I savor quietly in the corner of the kitchen when no one is looking. During winter, my nightcap is a tiny teacup of hot chocolate before bed, and when selecting a dessert at a restaurant I will always go for the chocolate option. I take my chocolate pretty seriously and don’t like other ingredients disturbing the experience. In my opinion, nuts ruin a perfectly good brownie, orange overpowers, and fruity liqueur is a nuisance. Boca Negra turned my world upside down. It was love at first bite, as I tasted the luscious chocolate cake with a hint of citrus and felt the lingering heat in the back of my throat. Chocolate is the star of this cake, and the beauty of chipotle chile is its subtle, slowly building spice. The cake has a depth and character that stimulates the palate in a way that won’t soon be forgotten. For such a show-stealing dessert, Boca Negra is a simple cake to throw together.
As I toasted the whole dried chipotle chiles in a skillet, a smokey, earthy aroma filled the kitchen. While the chiles soaked in hot water for half an hour, I stirred together the rest of the ingredients: semi-sweet chocolate, butter, orange juice, sugar, eggs, and a scant amount of flour. Buy the best quality chocolate you can find, by the way. At the very last, the pureed chiles go into the batter, which can be baked in single-serving ramekins or as one 9-inch cake. I chose not to fuss with the ramekins or water bath. In about an hour, the cake developed a thin, delicate crust and though the interior set, it was very much like a flour-less chocolate cake- delicate and prone to collapse. For this reason I think it’s easiest to serve the cake straight from the pan, unless you used single-serving ramekins which can be inverted and served on their own. Fany includes a recipe for Sweet Tomatillo Sauce, which I did not try because tomatillos are not in season right now. I enjoyed the Boca Negra simply as is, but a little whipped cream would be lovely too.
A chocolate cake infused with the flavor of dried chipotle from My Sweet Mexico by Fany Gerson
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, plus additional for greasing ramekins
1 cup sugar plus additional for dusting
6 medium dried chipotle chiles
6 tablespoons fresh orange juice
10 oz high-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 large eggs
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt