Friday, December 18, 2009

The Fruitcake Wreath

mis en place

In my childhood, the Christmas fruitcake was always made by my Aunt, and like Barbara's father's, it was stashed to mellow for months. It was only later in life that I realized I didn't really like the cloying sweet candied cherries, and taste and texture of the citron; from that time I have assiduously avoided fruitcake.

At this time, however, trusting Rose once again, I determined to be adventurous. I sent for the Parisian cherries, and mixed orange and lemon peel glaceed fruit from ChefShop at a very dear price, as others have noticed. When they arrived, it was tortuous to keep from consuming more of these delectables than I needed for the recipe required. As instructed, I macerated the fruit and raisins in a glass quart canning jar with the rum, turning them daily. It was pleasant to walk by and see the sparkling, colorful mixture resting on the tray where the mis en place was coming together. Next on the tray came the toasted nuts. The Muscovado dark brown sugar, and later the creamed butter; the eggs. Flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

When I first saw the picture of Rose's NordicWare Wreath pan, I felt happy to see pinecones and the large ribbon. I sent for one. If this cake was as fabulous as I thought and hoped it would be, it should have that special pan. I sprayed it with Baker's Joy. Since that time I have noted several comments about how to use it for other holiday cakes; for instance, ButterYum suggests an eggnog cake, decorating the bow etc. This is very exciting!

Now that the fruits were happily macerated and ready to go, off we went. We followed the directions; quickly the batter came together. When, after about 65 minutes, the cake emerged from the oven, it was perfect at the rim of the mould.
It received it's first dousing of 1/4 cup of rum while still in the pan, and remained there until it was completely cooled. In the meantime, I readied 36-inch strips of cheesecloth soaked in another 1/2 cup rum, and cut long strips of saran wrap, and double-strength foil, with which to more securely wrap the cake for storage and/or shipping.
The cake is a surprise Christmas gift for my friends Suzan and David in Northern California, where I hope they will enjoy it with hot buttered rum, or eggnog, by their wood-burning porcelain stove, Alice. I will leave a blank here in the post so that they can send a picture for us to see what a slice looked like after being cut.

*Spirit guards this spot, awaiting a picture of a cake slice, and critique from Suzan *

When inverted, the cake looked beautiful, perfect, and so rich. However, after each dousing it looked even more lovely as the fruit began to peek through the cake like tiny, scattered jewels.
The rum-soaked cheesecloth made an etheral shroud,

and then the plastic wrap, and then the foil, and then into the box filled with bubble-pak, double-boxed, and so on.

Today it finally shipped. I hope it arrives in one piece, but even if not, chances are the resulting pieces will be delicious! The most fun will be that she doesn't know a thing about it. I do love surprises!

Oops - as I write just now, a horrible thought - Quickly, I went to my husband who reassured me that he had thought to write, 'This Side Up' and 'Fragile' on the carton. Without it, there might have been the wrong kind of surprise.

What to my wondering
eyes should appear . . .


love, Spirit

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Classic Carrot Cake

Like others who have expressed in the blog their not-too-strong feelings of excitement at the prospect of baking a carrot cake, I felt the same tinges of disinterest. Of course, with the rousing results of our cakes thus far, I might have known better. Baking the cakes included in our Bake-Through agenda is a joy. No matter which cake is presented in Rose Levy Beranbaum's new book, "Rose's Heavenly Cakes," there seems to be something unique and exceptional about it. It would follow, then, that this 'Classic Carrot Cake' would be very special, indeed.

mis en place
Actually, this was a simple cake to prepare. The most difficult task was shredding three pounds of carrots. I used the medium-large-grating side of a box grater. This, of course, was not a difficult task at all, except I finally found it necessary to bind up my little finger; after that it was a breeze. I did forget to add one-half the amount of raisins. They do add a lot to the cake; next time I will remember. The molasses of the the dark brown Muscovado sugar lends a great depth of flavor. The color of the cake is thrilling. My cake was so moist that it was almost loosely crumbly. I don't know if that is the result of something I didn't do, or did do. I haven't seen reference to that on our blog, but if anyone has curiosity or answer, please let me know. Perhaps that is its nature. Thanks. Since this cake has the merits of simple and the most flavorful carrot cake I have ever encountered, to me it is special. I will definitely make it again - with all of it's raisins.

mis en place
In my opinion, the Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting was dreamy and creamy, luscious, and just the right thing for this cake. Particularly dreamy with its white chocolate, marrying so well with the carrots' flavor. And, once again, very simple to prepare. I used my new La Bomba bowl to melt the chocolate.

Since the creation of this cake fell during Chanuka, we invited our friends, Leah and Rosty, who observe this holiday, to join us for celebration. They thoroughly enjoyed the cake, and we enjoyed the Festival of Lights together.

But, it doesn't stop there, I must confess. Actually, it came to pass, in the dark of that very night, that I crept ~~~ into the kitchen and > attacked my precious, furtively- saved slice of cake . . . mmmm! Smiling, I returned the remaining half of it to the fridge and left, turning out the light. Next, a flash, in that instant himself the Devil, fancifully attired in ruffles of chocolate, buttercreams and spun sugar, appeared and intoned, "You must immediately hasten back into that kitchen, and devour the other half of that slice of cake"! SO, but of course, I did and . . . Yum! [Shhhh. Please don't tell].

'Mercurious Sublimatus' assures he most certainly would have done the same!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Pure Pumpkin Cheesecake

The Pure Pumpkin Cheesecake was lovely after the heartiness of our Thanksgiving feast. It was also a surprise departure from the usual pumpkin pie.

For this springform setup, I used a shallow 13" paella pan as the bain-marie, and it worked very well along with a double layer of cake strips on the springform pan. I could see how much water was in the bath behind a double-layer of crumpled heavy duty-foil, and it was easier to remove.

Here it is in the oven

The Ginger Snaps for the crust in this recipe are called 'Mi-Del' and they were delicious. They had the Snap and flavor of real ginger. I have never had ones like them before. Next time, I will increase the crust recipe a bit because it was very difficult to reach one and a half inches up the sides. I would also use a cup to help push the crust evenly. Also, next time I will incoporate a beurre noisette, which I do think lends a deeper, nutty flavor that would enhance the crust.

The pumpkin, cream-cheese batter was very simple to blend, and tasted marvelous. I used Libby's pumpkin as Rose suggests for those of us who do not intend to use the real thing. Without the spices of the usual pumpkin pie, and with the addition of the turbinado sugar, this cheesecake was subtle, velvety and elegant.

There were some small bubbles when I poured the batter into the pan. These could have been from my processing too long. I am not really certain, but was happy to see they disappeared in the baking.

caramel mis en place

The caramel: It was either that the cream was not hot enough or the sugar hadn't reached temperature, probably the latter. After the sugar was boiling a good while, I inserted the thermometer in the syrup with the saucier turned over to the side. The thermometer took forever to rise and the syrup was turning amber, so I took it off - too early. After being refrigerated, however, the caramel was just of a consistency that I could pipe it. Next time I would really want it darker, and more candy-like, to better offset the creamy texture of the cheesecake.

The cheesecake baked beautifully within its expected time frame. Heeding Rose's directions always pays off.

Everyone declared that once again Rose Levy Beranbaum has created a Heavenly Cake. The Pure Pumpkin Cheesecake was an uncommonly beautiful and luscious ending to our Thanksgiving celebration!

Philemon agreed!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hungarian Jancsi Torta

Because it was on the list of Heavenly Baking, it was on my agenda, although I probably wouldn't have chosen it left to my own devices. I have noted similar remarks in some of the other blogs, and I felt the same way. But I was also baking it because I think that the cakes in this book, Rose's Heavenly Cakes, have evolved into the most exceptional cakes of Rose's repertoire. So there were two very good reasons to bake it.

I haven't owned a springform pan for aeons, but our erstwhile Williams-Sonoma was very happy to remedy that for $46.00. Wow. Concealing the price slip from 'prying eyes,' I made my way home to the kitchen. Now I needed a bain-marie. The grocery had a pan 12" and I brought it home. Indeed, this was going to be a very tight fit, with cake strips, foil, parchment, and the kitchen sink in this contraption. Actually, it turned out okay, except for not being able to see how much water it needed in the bottom with such a tight fit. And there was no water left in the bottom at the finish.
With the 'contraption' resting on the oven rack pulled-forward, I used a very small funnel between the foil and the pan [my friend's brilliant idea] through which to pour the hot water; spillage producing billowing steam that I was convinced was going to totally deflate the cake. At this time - a moment of deja vu, Jacques Pepin laughing at those of us who normally prepared a water-filled bain-marie at the sink, and carried this sloshing vessel to the stove. He then blandly announced the most expedient way is to take the water to the oven. Where was he today? Besides, he had a waist-high oven, and I was leaning into a steam-filled furnace. Merde!

So now, a week later, I am searching out a 13", or even 14" pan if necessary, in which to bake other cakes requiring this setup. Rose showed a larger amount of crumbled up foil between the 9" and the outer pan, so it will be significantly easier to view the water, and just less unwieldy. The parchment band worked well because the cake rose just to the top of it, but sank on the sides as expected. The center did dip a tiny bit, but when the sides fell, this was compensated. You can see the parchment collar being removed.

You will notice a large hole in the center. This is from my brand-new-fancy-cake-tester that has a somewhat large tip meant to turn bright red, as shown in the press. The problem was, that cake could have cratered by the time that tip turned bright red. So, panicked, I began inserting other thermometers in there. Finally, I just took the cake out. It looked beautiful, but for some reason I had worried it wasn't quite done. I should have just used the standby toothpick in the first place. So, crisis averted, and everything fine. Happiness reigned.

One other thing along the way - you may notice the underside [parchment still on] has some of the 'little white pearls' of genoise notoriety ... Of course, I did notice that Rose cautioned in the recipe to be careful to get that meringue well incorporated. But - well, the batter was thick, and one more time, I was afraid of deflating it - I didn't incorporate the sacrifice well. Sigh. But as Rose recalls, her guests thought they were meant to be there. Mine thought the little flecks of meringue were what was making it so light. Who was I to say nay? Grin.

We waited until it was cool, and ate a small piece - it really wasn't cool enough, but we were greedy. In the morning, however, I was surprised to see my husband standing in the doorway with a mischievous grin, and a plate in his hands, announcing "this is great."

Finally, served as dessert, partially chilled, with Swiss cherry preserves and a dollop of creme fraiche, our friends proclaimed it: "Delicious!!"

Tomorrow I hope to bake the Pure Pumpkin Cheesecake. A NordicWare Holiday Wreath mould is en route, and I have also ordered candied fruit, and Muscovado brown sugar from ChefShop for our Fruit Cake. So, I am already excited about the next two cakes.


P. S. I must apologize for my picture quality. Actually, I think the iPhone does a remarkable job, but am hoping Santa might bring me a more effective camera to add to my fun!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Shamah Almond Chiffon

Next, I moved on to the Shamah Almond Chiffon cake. It sounded fascinating, and it was. A few mishaps, but nothing serious. I didn't burn the almonds for once. I really need to begin to weigh the cake pans for batter, and to be more careful to smooth the batter with a small offset spatula before it goes into the oven. The layers are coming out uneven. I was moving too quickly, and removed the parchment off the cake layers in a second. I realized too late that Rose really meant to leave them on. I also forgot the silicone strips. It seems I recall someone saying one mustn't use them, when? Genoise? The frosting not swirly, or am I needing a lot of work? You guessed it!. This is just objective criticism. I have known for some time that I needed to weigh that cake batter!

Also, as you can see from the slice of this cake, there are spots. Those spots are from the Amaretto syrup, believe it or not - it took me some time to figure it out. First of all, I had put the syrup on with a brush [Rose suggests a large syringe tube (mine is 70cc) without the bottom portion to just sprinkle the syrup]. Now, I have one of those, but did it really matter if I used the brush? Well, it did. Rose just talks, all I have to do is listen. And secondly, I had made the cake in the evening and served it the next luncheon. It was wonderful. How could it not be with the layering of those flavors and texture. But, then the next evening - Wow! By then that syrup had dispersed evenly, and married with the other ingredients, and the texture was fantastic. It was Divine!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Chocolate Tomato Cake with Mystery Ganache

When I recently joined a group of Heavenly Bakers, who intend to bake their way through Rose Levy Beranbaum's new book, I didn't really realize the portent of that. However, now catching up to their calendar, I must say that it is a bit daunting for me who is a fledgling baker. Moreover, I am even a fledgling blogger as far as setting a blog up. Thank heaven for my friend, Leah!
After my initial decision, I made my way to the kitchen, i.e., the place from whence all these delectable creations would emerge. This stage for the mis en place carries most of the burden for the infinitesimal cuisine to the right of it. It is also my dining room table. Now, this aside is for Bill, who has long maintained his is the smallest kitchen/galley. Hey Bill!

I began my late arrival of baking for the series by choosing the Chocolate Baby Cakes Oblivion. I had a bit of jaundiced eye while wrestling with an undulating silicone muffin pan and boiling water and steam. There has got to be a better way to build a mousetrap. Nonetheless, the next day the baby cakes were fantastic.

Next, I decided to have some Halloween fun, and undertook the Chocolate Tomato Cake with Mystery Ganache for this purpose. I thought I would just add some orange-red to the buttercream for flames, and use the tiny star tip as Rose suggests. The cake is not really a difficult one to make. I did it the day before, using Green & Black's cocoa. The cake was frosted with the ganache of Valrhona Le Noir, and its mystery ingredient. So the perfect cake was ready and waiting in the morning for its embellishment.
This cake is fun and showy, accompanied by its little Halloween black Boo! napkins. Everyone was captivated by the story of Rose opening the New York Stock Exchange with this cake as part of the Campbell's celebration of their 100 years. It was really the hit of our party. However, needless to say, nobody got the door prize - a can of Campbell's Tomato Soup!

It takes about 60 of the rolled wafers for the candles. I used 'Creme de Pirouline' filled with chocolate hazelnut. It didn't take long to trim the wafers into staggered lengths with a small, curved serrated knife, that now had the opportunity to finally come alive. I removed the cake from the fridge for just a few minutes and the cookies went right into place in the frosting, in some cases supporting each other. The little flames were piped after the 'candles' were in place and looked very festive. [One suggestion, don't try to have the little wafer-candle be crisp on the cake side. It just isn't. So, just dunk it into a blob of ganache and crunch away. That's what I did.]