The Queen of Sheba
The Queen of Sheba was Solomon’s only match, as rich and wise as he, or more. Legend has it that it was she who told him of the lost vessel of blessed light that cast peace on anyone who stood in its presence, which became the greatest of his treasures. William Butler Yeats imagined the two of them together in his poem, Solomon to Sheba:
Sang Solomon to Sheba,
And kissed her dusky face,
‘All day long from mid-day
We have talked in the one place,
All day long from shadowless noon
We have gone round and round
In the narrow theme of love
Like an old horse in a pound.’
To Solomon sang Sheba,
Planted on his knees,
‘If you had broached a matter
That might the learned please,
You had before the sun had thrown
Our shadows on the ground
Discovered that my thoughts, not it,
Are but a narrow pound.’
Said Solomon to Sheba,
And kissed her Arab eyes,
‘There’s not a man or woman
Born under the skies
Dare match in learning with us two,
And all day long we have found
There’s not a thing but love can make
The world a narrow pound.’
The Queen of Sheba is also an almost-flourless chocolate torte, rich and overwhelming, made with almond meal. We like to serve ours with cocoa nib whipped cream. The cake itself does not come bearing brilliance and wit in addition to its riches, but it does tend to inspire them in others.
Dave made the Queen of Sheba for the last NYC food blogger potluck, and I had to promise to post the recipe for everyone, so here it is. Enjoy!
The Queen of Sheba
(Very minimally adapted from Alice Medrich’s base recipe.)
6 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 stick unsalted butter
3 tbsp framboise
3/4 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 C almond meal
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, separated
3/4 C sugar
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
Prepare a 9″ round cake pan by cutting out a round of parchment paper and covering the bottom with it, then buttering or oiling the whole thing, sprinkling it with flour, and tapping the excess flour out.
Preheat your oven to 375°.
Melt the butter and chocolate together in a double boiler (or a bowl set in a pot of gently simmering water), removing from the heat when they are almost completely melted and just stirring until they are entirely smooth. Stir in the framboise, almond extract, and salt, and then set that bowl aside for the moment.
Stir the flour and almond meal together in another bowl and set that aside.
Whisk the egg yolks together with 1/2 C sugar until well blended. Stir in the chocolate mixture. Again, set aside.
Beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until they reach soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining 1/4 C sugar and keep beating until they reach stiff (but not dry; that’d be meringue!) peaks. I tend to get the best results when whipping egg whites if I start slow and only slowly increase the speed. Be patient. Walk away and get distracted. Don’t just beat on high from the start. The temperature of the eggs does not actually appear to make a difference, contrary to popular opinion. (Harold McGee agrees.)
Fold the almond meal and flour and about 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture together. Then fold the rest of the egg whites in.
Pour into the pan and spread the thick batter to level it.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted about 1 1/2″ from the edge comes out clean, but a toothpick inserted into the center still comes out kinda gooey.
Place the cake pan onto a rack and let it cool. The torte will deflate as it cools. Don’t worry, that is what it is supposed to do. A torte is sort of like a collapsed souffle, but in a good way.
Once it cools, you can invert it onto a plate, running a knife around the edge between the cake and the pan to loosen it if necessary (this will probably not be necessary). Smooth the sides and the level the top with a knife if necessary, then cover with ganache (recipe below).
It helps to cover it with a thin layer of ganache, just to sort of glue in the crumbs, and let that cool and solidify before continuing. It will be easier to spread a smooth layer of ganache over that afterwards.
Serve with cocoa nib whipped cream (recipe below).
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
Melt all ingredients together over a double boiler. Let cool a bit before using. I don’t have amounts, but it is very hard to go wrong by just throwing some in and giving it a go.
Cocoa Nib Whipped Cream
2 C heavy cream
1/2 C cocoa nibs
3/8 C granulated sugar
Roast the cocoa nibs, unless they are the pre-roasted kind. Place the cream and the nibs into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover the saucepan and just let everything sit and steep for 15-20 minutes. Strain out the nibs and chill the infused cream. Once the cream is cold enough, add the sugar and beat until it is whipped cream.