Ultimate Flourless Chocolate Loaf

Serves 10 or more

This may be my favorite dessert. It keeps so well you can freeze it for up to a month, then when someone drops by, you can instantly pull it out of the freezer and offer a slice. Also, it’s so easy to make but look’s difficult and “restauranty.” It’s wonderful with softly whipped cream, but you can doll it up with a drizzle of chocolate syrup or a spoonful of cherry, blackberry, strawberry, or raspberry sauce. It can be refrigerated rather than frozen, but it’s more difficult to cut and doesn’t last as long.

1 pound bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon Cognac or other brandy or liqueur (optional)
6 large eggs, separated
2 large egg yolks
Pinch of salt

1. Butter an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan and line with 2 sheets of plastic wrap, one going the long way and one going the short way, leaving an overhang of several inches on all sides.
2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of about 1 1/2 inches of nearly simmering water, whisking until smooth. Whisk in the sugar and Cognac, if using, until well blended.
3. Remove the bowl from the heat and with an electric mixer on low speed, beat in the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition and occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.
4. Beat the egg whites and salt with clean beaters on medium high speed in a large deep bowl just until the whites form stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted. With a whisk or a rubber spatula, fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the remaining egg whites in 2 batches just until well blended.
5. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan, pushing it into the corners and smoothing the top with a rubber spatula. Cover with the overhanging plastic wrap and then wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Freeze for at least 6 hours.
6. To serve, unwrap the pan, fold back the plastic wrap, and run a table knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the marquise. Place a serving platter over the pan, invert the pan onto it, and release the marquise by pulling on the edges of the plastic wrap.
7. Remove the plastic wrap and smooth the edges of the marquise with a small warm metal spatula if necessary. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices with a sharp knife dipped in very warm water and wiped dry between each slice, and place on chilled dessert plates. (You can tightly rewrap and freeze any leftovers)