Tuesday, June 29, 2010

TWD: Rum-drenched vanilla cake

This is the recipe I would have chosen if I ever got to choose one with the Tuesdays with Dorie group. You know, if there were 400 more recipes in the book, and if I had joined a lot earlier than I did. No matter, cause Wendy of Pink Stripes chose it, and I just got to make and eat it, which works better for my lazy self. She'll have the recipe on her site.
I made half a recipe, as the original makes 2 loaf cakes. I halved all but the rum, just because. I really thought I would love this cake, as all the ingredients are among my favourites. My only doubt was whether the syrup would make the cake a bit soggy. I love syrup-soaked cakes, but prefer sponge cake in this situation. It gets moist, but never heavy, like butter cake can.
I thought the cake had a wonderful vanilla flavour, and all the vanilla bean seeds added a slight crunch that I liked. The rum was good, but the syrup never soaked through the entire cake. I poked holes in it and even made it in a 9" pan so it was shallower, so this was disappointing. The texture was lovely, but a bit mushy on the top crust and the bottom dried out quickly. I'll definitely try this again, as I want a perfect result next time.
Check out the other TWD bakers for many different takes on this cake.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Daring Bakers make chocolate pavlova!

Lots of pictures and not so many words today. I'm sure many of you are grateful! I made this challenge only days after it was revealed, which is very unusual for me. As I didn't write it up then, I can't remember much. What I do remember is that it was delicious, and I took it on a picnic along with the Daring Cooks' challenge of pâté and bread. This pav wasn't exactly what I think about for a picnic dessert, but it was certainly good. Even though I'm not a big fan of chocolate, the chocolate-mascarpone mousse was rich and delicious. The meringues were nice and crisp, and the crème anglaise-mascarpone-Amaretto mixture was the most amazing dessert sauce ever. 
I made a vanilla meringue, as chocolate on chocolate does not appeal. I'm glad I did, because this was already an incredibly rich dessert. I garnished with some wonderful organic cherries I had found on sale that morning. They were the reason I decided to make this dessert on a very busy day, what with the pâté and bread I was already making. 
I had fun piping the meringue and mousse in swirls. This is the sauceless version I packed up for the picnic, so we could add it at the last moment. I may even have tried to lick the jar it was in. The one I kept right-side-up travelled surprisingly well. 
They looked just like this on our picnic. In our minds' eye, anyway. But, I still had a few baked meringue bases left over, so a few days later, on a very cloudy and rainy day, I put together a blackberry curd pavlova with the curd left from these shortcakes. Click on the link for the curd recipe. It was a perfect combination, though the colour looks a bit weird in the gray light.
A few days after that, with my move date looming, I thought I had better use up some of the egg whites that were still in the fridge. This time I made a soft, marshmallowy meringue in the true pavlova style. There was lots of discussion in the forums about whether a crisp meringue was actually a pavlova, but I just stayed out of it and kept baking. I topped this pav with some strawberry-white chocolate mousse left over from the wedding cake, and topped it with some fresh strawberry coulis. This was fantastic! I'd go make another now if all my baking equipment weren't in storage. 
Blog-checking lines: The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard
Original challenge recipes can be found here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

TWD: Dressy chocolate loaf cake

Some of Dorie's recipes have funny names, don't they? I love loaf cakes, but dressy and chocolate don't really do it for me. I do have some chocolate-loving friends, though, and they were helping me to move yesterday, so dressy chocolate loaf cake it was! What gussies this cake up is that it's cut into 3 layers and  sandwiched with jam. I used sour cherry jam, thinned with Amaretto. The frosting is a simple mixture of melted chocolate and sour cream. I used a mix of milk chocolate and 72% dark chocolate in the interest of using up what was left in my cupboard.

This was a really quick and easy cake to mix, which was a relief after the wedding cake marathon. I added some vanilla and upped the salt, as I find many of the recipes in the book could use a bit more. Some had trouble with this overflowing the pan, so I only filled the pan about ½ to ⅔ full and it rose just to the top. With the extra I filled a couple of ramekins. I think I'm going to have to break down and get a muffin pan one of these days, because I keep ending up with gigantic cupcakes. And eating them.
This is the one I taste-tested inhaled, so I used a different frosting. Chocolate cake I can do, but with chocolate icing too, no. Mixed with sour cream? Nope. So, I had some very sweet white icing in the freezer that was actually leftover Oreo filling, from this fun day. I thinned it with a bit of cream and slathered it on. Yum. Cleaning out the freezer was on my list, so this wasn't just idle procrastination from packing. I think this is why I've been 'almost finished' for 3 days. I'm sure some of you are rolling your eyes, but not only am I not a chocoholic, but I hate sour cream. I won't go into great detail about all the reasons I don't like it, but ick. It does make great cakes, though. I sometimes replace it with yogurt, which I love, love, love, but I wanted the richness here, and I wasn't sure yogurt would work for the frosting. 

I don't have a picture of the finished cake to post because it looked like a big brown blob. Maybe when I slice it and have internet again I'll add one. I'm writing this on Sunday night and the move is tomorrow. Hopefully I'll be sound asleep and all my stuff will be in its new home (storage) when this posts. :)

Thanks a lot to Amy Ruth from Amy Ruth Bakes for choosing this recipe. It was one I definitely would have passed over, and that would have been a shame. Check out the rest of the TWDers here.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Strawberry wedding cake

It still amazes me that anyone would ask me to make their wedding cake. Sure, it would probably taste good, but would I finish on time? I'm happy to say that I finished this cake with 6 minutes to spare. Yeah, 6 minutes didn't leave much time for piping, hence the rather rustic coat of whipped cream on it. Oh, and it tasted good! Sadly I didn't get a photo of the cut cake, which had a lovely pink filling, but I was so relieved by then that it hadn't collapsed that I just sat down and ate some. In fact, this is the only picture I got of the finished cake.

This cake was for my friends M and D, and it was the most relaxed wedding ever. Nobody could be further from being a Bridezilla than M. In fact, her only requirement was 'cardamom', and we did discuss berries, and there was a definite preference for whipped cream rather than buttercream, but that was it. And D, well I think he'll eat anything. I got pretty stressed out by this cake, which is unusual, especially when it comes to baking. I usually throw things together without too much of a plan, and because I have enough experience, it usually works. However, I wasn't willing to have a big, slumping, melting mess of a cake unveiled in front of lots of people I didn't know, and some that I do. So, I thought about it a lot. I read books and looked at websites and forums.  I bought new pans and lots of accessories. I stole a dozen straws from Starbucks. Not exactly stole: I paid $3.25 for a latte, and took them in lieu of sugar.

Those of you who have seen my kitchen are probably wondering how I did it. There are 6 layers of cake, all made on my 16" (40 cm) of counter space, and baked in my apartment-size oven. No worries, I have a breakfast table that's 13.5' (4.1 m) from said counter. Did I mention that I am moving? I am, on Monday, meaning that the space between counter and table is littered with half packed boxes, and requires hopping, turning sideways and taking a very circuitous route. Needless to say, it was a tight squeeze, and I broke 3 plates in the process, including my lovely old cake plate. I was upset about that one, as good cake plates are hard to find, but, as for the other two plates: less to pack. I also managed to drop a full container of cornstarch off the kitchen counter and discovered that it can fly all the way to the breakfast table, and even stick to the curtains. I came home the other day to discover a set of white footprints leading from my apartment to the elevator. I keep thinking I've got it all cleaned up, but it's hard with all the boxes in the way.

Anyway, back to the cake. All the recipes were from The Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Berenbaum. No recipes, as I've already packed the book. I made the génoise classique in 6", 8" and 10", with 2 layers of each. This took 22 eggs, but less than 200 grams of butter! It was a light sponge cake, spiced with freshly ground cardamom, soaked with a rum syrup and filled with a strawberry-white chocolate mousse. This mousse was a combination of Rose's strawberry cloud cream and white ganache. I frosted it with sweetened whipped cream flavoured with vanilla and stabilized with cornstarch. There was more than 2 litres of whipping cream in the cake, more than making up for the lack of butter, I think.

I baked the cakes on Thursday evening, syruped and put the layers together on Friday night (after the civil service and a great Chinese dinner), meaning I finished at 3 am. On Saturday morning, I woke up at 9 and thought I had better find a box to transport it in, and pick up some strawberries to garnish it. As you can see, I went a bit overboard with the strawberries, buying a flat (12 pints). I finally finished them yesterday. :) I got the tiers put together, using those straws to support them, and got the whipped cream on at 1:24 pm. My ride was arriving at 1:30. All I needed to do was get dressed. I was really worried about the cream melting, so I ripped a rack out of my fridge by force, and jammed the cake in.
When my ride arrived, I got the cake in its box and got it in the car, but sat in the backseat with it, as I was really worried. It was then I noticed I was wearing my house flip-flops, which did not match my dress at all. Oh well. Even though I had pushed a wooden dowel down the centre (a long cooking chopstick, actually), I could envision it sliding apart. Sure enough, on a corner that T took like an F1 driver, the whole thing tilted dramatically. Once I saw that it was okay, I relaxed. A bit too much, apparently, because as we took off from a stoplight, the box and cake lurched backward, smearing on the back of the box. Luckily it wasn't too bad, and I fixed what I could and put that side against the wall. I put the strawberries on at the venue, and watched the cake through the whole dinner, as I was really worried about it melting, or just collapsing entirely. It seemed the time to eat it would never arrive, to both me and the four year old at our table. He kept asking, "Is it time for cake yet?"

Well, it's always time for cake, in my world, but I think I'll stick to simpler things for the next little while. See you Tuesday!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Daring Cooks make pâté and bread!

This was my second challenge with the Daring Cooks, and it was a great one. I love pâté, but rarely make it. I enjoy making bread too, but again, I don't do it often enough. The components of this challenge were perfect for a picnic, and that's exactly what I did with them. It was a beautiful day for a picnic, and even though we were downtown, we enjoyed watching the wildlife frolic. There were chipmunks and squirrels, of course, but also groundhogs and raccoons, and a visit to the stray cat colony behind Parliament Hill.
The challenge required us to make one of the given pâté recipes, and you can see it in the upper right corner of the picture above. I chose the vegetarian pâté, with a layer of pesto, seasoned white beans, and a roasted red pepper layer. It was delicious, but as you can see the red pepper layer didn't set. The meat pâté is a combination of caribou, pork and veal liver. I ground the meats by hand with my grandmother's grinder, seasoned it with Marsala, and included figs and pistachios. The caribou was some from my uncle's hunting trip, which I had used here earlier. I wrapped the whole thing in bacon and it was delicious. I served it with Dijon mustard, hot red pepper jelly and cedar jelly. This is a product I picked up in Montreal, and it is delicious with cold meats and cheese. It's a lovely pale green colour, and it does taste of cedar. It seemed the appropriate accompaniment, as our hosts for this month both live in Montreal. They were Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valérie of The Chocolate Bunny, and they did a fabulous job. Thanks!

Oh, and where's the bread, you wonder? It was still in the oven at this point. I'm not known for being early, and I had woken up that day and decided to complete both my Daring Bakers' and Daring Cooks' challenges. I grabbed it out of the oven about 3 minutes before I left for the picnic (which I had already had to make a bit later). I made the Rustic Potato Bread from Baking with Julia. I don't really like potatoes, but I do like this bread. It's really quick, and it's moist and tender with a fine crumb. In fact, I'm going to have some toast right now with the leftovers.

Blog-checking lines: Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

Recipes after the jump!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

TWD: Tender shortcakes

I feel like I made these ages ago, because all I can remember is that they were very good! I really should write up my posts soon after baking, but writing is my least favourite part of this blogging thing, so I put it off as long as possible. Anyway, it's all coming back to me now. I made one quarter of the recipe and ended up with 5 dainty shortcakes. The dough was very crumbly and I had a hard time making it stick together on the baking sheet, so I was worried that I'd end up with a pile of crumbs, but the baked shortcakes were incredibly tender and crumbly. Even though local strawberries arrived in the market here this past week I used blackberries, as I had lots in the fridge. I had so many that I decided to make a blackberry curd with some of them. This was purple and tangy and creamy, and perfect with the shortcakes, berries and whipped cream.
This week's pick was chosen by Cathy of The Tortefeasor, and it was a great one! Almost no effort, and a delicious result.

Blackberry curd
8 ounces (by weight) blackberries
½ cup sugar (maybe more)
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
a pinch of salt
2 eggs

Combine berries, sugar, lemon juice, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until hot and berries have broken down. Mash them with your spoon to help. Remove from heat and turn stove down to medium low. Beat eggs in a heatproof bowl, and slowly add about ½ cup of the fruit mixture, stirring all the while. Return tempered egg mixture to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly on medium low, until thickened. Do not allow it to come to a boil or it will curdle. It should be opaque when it's ready, and remember that it will thicken further in the fridge. Taste and add more sugar if needed. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and refrigerate, covered, for up to a week.

If you want it thicker, reduce blackberries to 6 ounces. You can also use raspberries here for a bright pink curd.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Cherry buckwheat clafoutis

I had a special request from my friend Judy to post more buckwheat recipes. It seems the least I can do after encouraging her to buy a bag of buckwheat flour to make this and these. So, here we are, with something suitable for dessert, or Sunday breakfast, especially on a cold and rainy day like today. I love clafoutis, as it's like a very thick crepe. I like the custardy, slightly stodgy texture of it, and I like playing with the proportions of the ingredients to make it cakier or eggier. I prefer it on the custardy side.

I usually make this with all-purpose flour, but thought I'd try a few different versions: one with half all-purpose and half buckwheat flour; one with half ground almonds and half buckwheat; and the third with equal measures of all-purpose, buckwheat and almond. The all-purpose and buckwheat combination was the best of the three: a bit heartier than an all-wheat flour clafoutis, but delicious. The versions with almonds were good, but they separated to make a custard layer on top (very good), and a somewhat chewy layer of the buckwheat and almond on the bottom (not so good).

I looked at a variety of recipes before making this, starting with Julia Child's, and cobbled together one that is a bit lighter than I would make for a dessert clafoutis. Feel free to substitute cream for milk and add some melted butter to the batter.

Cherry buckwheat clafoutis
Makes 3 ramekins' worth, but easy to scale up for more. Triple it for a 9" dish.

1 egg
⅓ to ½ cup whole milk, or cream (I used the larger amount of milk)
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon Amaretto or kirsch, or other liqueur, or nothing at all
2 tablespoons buckwheat flour (or use all-purpose)
2 tablespoons all-purpose four
pinch salt
cherries, unpitted, to cover the bottom of each ramekin (6 in each was perfect for me)

Preheat oven to 425℉. Butter 3 shallow ramekins. Scatter unpitted cherries in the bottom. You can pit if you like, but the cherry pits add flavour. Combine flours and salt in a bowl and mix well. Whisk together egg, milk, vanilla, liqueur and sugar. Add to dry ingredients, whisking until smooth. Pour over cherries and bake for about 20 minutes, until the clafoutis is puffed and spotted with brown. Dust with icing sugar and serve immediately, or just warm, if you can wait. I couldn't.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Rhubarb and orange mini cakes

This is the last rhubarb recipe, I promise! Till next year, anyway. I have about 12 things I didn't get around to making this year on my mental to-do list. Don't worry, I'll probably forget at least half of them. 
I made this recipe twice last week, because it was that good. That good, but problematic too. The first time, I made a half recipe in a loaf pan, as the recipe called for, and it was delicious, but too tender. Too tender is usually not a problem with cakes, but this was impossible to slice. I ended up bringing a container of icing covered crumbs to school. They were all eaten, as teachers are not that fussy, I guess. Especially when it comes to a soft cake with rhubarb melted into it, leaving behind a tangy flavour. The second time I made it I decided to make individual cakes. I'd call them cupcakes, but I haven't got a cupcake tin, and so I used ramekins, which made for 7 slightly-too-large-for-one serving cakes out of another half recipe. I think you'd get a dozen if you use a regular muffin tin. Or refrigerate your cake for easier slicing. But cold butter cake? It doesn't appeal to me much, as it gets so firm.

This recipe was adapted from one in Rustic Fruit Desserts, by Cory Schreiber and Julie Richardson. They call it Lemon buttermilk rhubarb bundt cake. Makes 1 bundt cake, 2 dozen cupcakes, or 2 loaf cakes. Go ahead, make the whole recipe. Otherwise you'll just make it again the next day.

2½ cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour (12½ ounces+⅝ ounce)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 ounces) unsalted butter
1¾ cups (12 ounces) granulated sugar
zest of 1 orange
3 eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed and very thinly sliced (3 cups or 12 ounces prepared)

Preheat oven to 350℉, and butter your pan(s).
Sift the larger measure of flour, the baking powder and salt together. Cream the butter, sugar and zest together for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape the sides of the bowl occasionally. The batter will be very thick, but that's fine, because the rhubarb will release a lot of liquid. 
Toss the sliced rhubarb with the 2 tablespoons flour and fold it into the batter. Spread the batter evenly in your prepared pan(s). 
Bake for 20-25 minutes for cupcakes, 55-65 minutes for a loaf cake, and an hour for the bundt cake. Bake till the top is firm and the centre springs back when lightly touched. A toothpick will come out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before unmolding. Turn right side up to cool completely.

Orange glaze
2 cups (8½ ounces) sifted icing sugar, or more as needed
juice of 1 orange 
1 tablespoon soft butter
Whisk the glaze ingredients together. The mixture should be thick, so don't add all the orange juice at once. Add more sugar or juice to get the consistency you want. Spread over the cake/cupcakes as soon as you remove from the pan. (I preferred the cake without this, as it was very sweet)

Apparently this cake keeps for 3-4 days, covered at room temperature. I ended up keeping mine in the fridge, because it was so hot, but the texture was better at room temp.