Classical oriental fragrances like Guerlain Shalimar (1925) used a large amount of citrus oil (30% bergamot oil in case of Shalimar) supported by a lush base of animalic and woody notes. The effect of this dramatic juxtaposition is unforgettable—the scintillating, icy chill of citrus melting into the languid warmth of the amber accord, rich civet and leathery castoreum. Such contrasting sensations not only serve to lend an intriguing and memorable quality, but also to lighten the intoxicating richness of the classical oriental notes—vanilla, benzoin, tolu, opoponax, civet, ambergris, castoreum, musk, sandalwood, and patchouli. The new generation of gourmand fragrances based on the chocolate accord has taken a similar approach—the heft of chocolate can be made more palatable when accented with bright and sparkling notes, be it the lemony jasmine of hedione and bergamot in Thierry Mugler Angel, the orange blossom in Missoni Eau de Parfum, or green ivy leaves in Lolita Lempicka Eau de Parfum. …
In the culinary arts, the pairing of orange and chocolate has gained classical status for the same reason that it is explored in perfumery. The marriage of sweet citrus and rich and bitter chocolate produces an intriguing sensation on the palate. The initial bright burst of orange is soon counteracted with the warm and lingering darkness of chocolate. It is as if its flavor notes—the animalic tinge of jasmine, the nutty richness, the coffee redolent bitterness and the honeyed sweetness—are thrown into relief against the tart citrus.
The recipe I would like to offer as an illustration was inspired by the magnificent brownies I discovered in Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé, a book devoted solely to chocolate creations by one of the greatest pastry chefs. He was even dubbed the Picasso of Pastry. These brownies became my standby dessert option, given their effortless and quick preparation. Little by little, I started to experiment with the basic recipe by adding different flavorings and nuts. The simplicity of the recipe belies its ability to showcase the beauty of the ingredients—chocolate, nuts and orange.
Hazelnut Orange Chocolate Cake Recipe
5 oz (145g) bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa such as Lindt, Valrhona)
2 ¼ sticks (260g) unsalted butter at room temperature
zest of 1 organic orange
1 ¼ cups (250g) sugar
1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
1 ¼ cup (145g) hazelnuts
pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Toast hazelnuts till they turn golden, about 10 minutes. Rub skins off, set aside to cool and then coarsely grind the nuts.
Chop the chocolate and place it in a heatproof bowl or a small pot. Set the bowl over the pot of boiling water and melt the chocolate. Let it cool until it is warm to the touch (not scalding).
Cream the butter, then stir in the chocolate and the orange zest. Add eggs, one by one. Then add the sugar, salt, flour, and nuts. Stir until all of the ingredients are incorporated. This batter should remain smooth, rather than aerated, therefore do not be overly enthusiastic when mixing it.
Butter a 9 inch spring form and sprinkle it with flour. Pour the batter into the form and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top of the cake is dry. I prefer my cake to be fudge like, with a decadently luscious and melting center, but you can bake it until the cake firms all the way through.
Photo © Bois de Jasmin.