Well, I've made the Pierre Herme (cocoa) chocolate loaf cake (with dried apricots, stem ginger, and chunks of chocolate and can say it worked out very well: very dense, very chocolate, and not too sweet (much of the sweetness comes from the fruit).
I'm not a terribly experienced baker, but the procedure seemed a bit odd to me - particularly the omission of any salt. How typical is this ordering? Also, because this is to be eaten by children, I added only half the stem ginger, but I think it was a mistake. The ginger is far more subtle than I anticipated.
Also, were I to add a pinch of salt, what effect would that have on the cake?
APRICOT AND GINGER CHOCOLATE LOAF CAKE by Pierre Herme: serves 8-10
a dark as midnight chocolate flavor from cocoa and small chunks of bittersweet such as Valhrona. The cake’s texture is soft and dense and, if you press a little against the roof of the mouth, melting. A classic with the addition of small cubes of dried apricots and the intensely spicy stem ginger. Sweet and chewy, tangy and hot, it’s the add ins that make this a remarkable cake.
Stem ginger should not be confused with crystallized ginger, a candy. Stem ginger, small knobs of ginger preserved and packed in heavy syrup is an expensive Chinese market, specialty store, and large supermarket delicacy. Tightly sealed it will last for months in the fridge.
Serve into thick slices for the best advantage of the varied textures of this cake.
KEEPING: Wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature, the cake will remain moist at least 5 days; wrapped airtight, it will keep in the freezer for a month.
1 1/3 cups (180g) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (40g) Dutch processed cocoa, preferably Valrhona
½ tsp double acting baking powder
4 ½ oz (125g) moist, plump dried apricots, cut in chunks
3/4 cup (165g) sugar
5 oz (140g) almond paste, broken into small pieces
4 large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup (150g) whole milk, room temperature
2 ½ oz (70g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona Guanaja, cut into chunks
1 ½ oz (55g) drained stem ginger, cut into small chunks
1 ½ sticks + 1 Tbs (6 ½ oz, 180g) butter, melted, cooled
1. Center rack in oven; oven at 350f; butter 9x5x3" (28cm) loaf pan; place it on an insulated baking sheet or 2 regular sheets stacked on top of each other. Reserve.
2. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder; set mixture aside
3. Bring 1 cup (250g) water to the boil. Add the apricots, pull the pan from the heat; soak apricots 1 minute, time enough for them to soften and plump. Drain and pat them dry between paper towels. Set aside.
4. Put sugar and almond paste in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed til the almond paste breaks up, blends with the sugar and looks sandy. If the almond paste is hard (a sign of age) and does not become sandy in the mixer, you can pulverize the paste and sugar in the processor, then transfer it to the mixer. Add eggs, one at a time, beating for about 2 minutes after each addition. Replace the paddle with the whisk attachment, increase the mixer speed to high; beat 8-10 minutes, til the ingredients have formed an emulsion - the batter will look like mayonnaise and the whisk will leave tracks as it spins.
5. Reduce the mixer speed to low; add the milk, mixing til combined, and then the sifted dry ingredients. Continue beating on low speed til the batter is homogenous, then remove the bowl from the mixer. Working with a large rubber spatula, fold in the set aside apricots, the chocolate chunks, the ginger; then gently fold in the melted butter. (Although the recipe did not call for lightly dusting the fruit with some flour, I did so because in the accompanying photo of the cake, it looked to me as though most of the fruit was on the bottom. I also forked through the batter to bring it to the top after pouring the batter in the pan and noticing that a lot of the top batter didn't have much fruit, despite what I thought was careful folding.)
6. Turn batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake 60-70 minutes til a slender knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. (The cake will crack as it bakes. If you want to help it crack more evenly than it might by chance, wait til the cake just starts to develop to develop a crust, then run a dough scrapper dipped in melted butter lengthwise down the center of the cake.) If the cake appears to be baking too quickly – chocolate cakes have a tendency to darken around the edges – cover it loosely with an aluminum foil tent for the last 20-30 minutes.
7. Remove cake from oven and cool it on a rack for 10 minutes before unmolding and turning it upright. Cool cake to room temperature on the rack.