Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Banana Refrigerator Cake with Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting

This cake seemed simple and I anticipated no problems. This, in itself, can be one - because I can get careless.
You know, I have difficulty moving back and forth to view the recipe. It's not that the distance is that far; in fact it is four feet back and forth across. Nevertheless, I lose focus. My friend, Leah, has gifted me with a software program called "Sous Chef." One may scan the recipe into it. It then appears in very large text on the screen, and it speaks the directions - out loud. I am in awe. I can't wait to try it.

But back to the present challenge - I set mis en place. I have a very small counter space where two KAs sit forward, and a Cuisinart sits in the corner. For this project, I moved the food processor forward and the KA stand-up to the left. This machine is the latest one I have acquired. I am used to my tilt-head. Dealing with a bowl that fits on side heads and has to be pushed down in the back and then the whole thing moved by a lever up and down was a bit daunting, but I might as well get used to it, I bought it. This arrangement is crowded for working, to say the least.

As you know, the whole Banana Cake starts out using the food processor with bananas and creme fraiche being blended. [It also requests addition of the Turbinado sugar that sat brightly on its tray, ignored by me]. The banana, egg [I added extra yolk], vanilla mixture is added to the KA and oil added.

The dry ingredients are whisked together. The dry inredients are to be sifted into the batter. I placidly took my handy battery sifter in my left hand, attempting to turn its button on and off. The PourPerfect bowl with spout was grasped in the other hand, aimed at the sifter. I turned on the sifter and began to attempt to pour flour into that sifter, balanced carefully [actually not so] against the bowl and the space between it and the beater.
The act of sifting went forward, but suddenly near the end of the task, it lost it, and flour mixture began flying. Probably half cup or more - spewing out all over. I thought, well that's that cake. But I just scraped up what I could with a bench scraper, threw an extra handful of untreated cake flour from the container into the bowl and turned on the beater. And then, in front of me: Of all things -- there was the little bowl of Turbinado sugar, still sitting brightly on its tray. It was to have been added initially to the banana mixture. Well, you know what I said ^#[-= ! And, then feeling sorrow for the little sugar, I just slid it into the bowl of now even more dubiously- balanced ingredients. I let it all whirl for a good 2 minutes plus until it seemed to be mixed, and turned it into its pan with apologies to it.

Thinking the worst, I went away, and returned in 15 minutes or so. Peeked through the glass in the oven, and behold -
This sturdy little cake was rising happily. I was awestruck. I have been attempting to listen to Hector a little better lately and so I took the temp of the little cake with my Thermapen instead of a toothpick. It was about 202f. Looking firm, a slight dome, good color, sides just beginning to pull from the pan. It was ready.

I removed it, let it sit 10 minutes, in the pan, inverted it. Went back a few minutes later and reinverted it.
And as we speak, a couple of hours later, it is cooling. It is all I can do to keep from going out there and leveling it so I can see what the interior brings, and steal a bite. But I want to refrigerate it over night. The final verdict won't come until tomorrow night after it is frosted. I now have leveled it and it was moist and full of texture, the taste of banana, and the slight taste of the caramel of the Turbinado sugar. It was a miracle to me that the loss of certain ingredients in the flour spill hadn't ruined it. But Lady Luck was here for sure.

The cake turned out beautifully. The dreamy, creamy white chocolate frosting was a dream to make -
--delicious and pretty on the top of the cake. We found the combination superb in its simplicity. It will be very easy to make again, quickly for any appropriate occasion. [excuse photo color of frosting]

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sicilian Pistachio Cake

I have been enamoured of this cake since I have first seen it; Matthew's, and then the ones created by our Heavenly Bakers.

Eternally, I find myself playing catch-up with our cakes, having been renovating our living quarters, and retiring from my job. Hopefully, I will be more able to participate now. I really miss you when I am not here. This is my first cake for a month.

That being said: To prepare for this cake, I went on a two-week search for the pistachios. As others have found, they where were out of stock at Kalustyan, and La Cuisine, etc. Finally I found them through Amazon at an Amazon-like price. Wow! And they were not slivered, and they were darker than those I had seen. However, they tasted really delicious. I slivered them the best I could to get the insides to show. I had hoped for the violet color, but they were more lime. They photographed darker than they are.

The cake was to be a surprise party gift, and I wanted it to be double-layered. I have usually been setting mis en place the evening before baking. So I did this. I doubled, weighed and combined the dry ingredients as specified. Ground the nuts and sugar. Flour. Separated the sour cream. Weighed the butter and took it out early the next morning [In retrospect: Altho holding shape but squishy - I didn't take its temp. Mistake]. The eggs were left out at room temp, but I did not set them in warm water before using; I did not weigh them [Later I think, I know better]. Did I not beat the batter long enough? Was the rack down one too low? I did not have a thermometer in the oven [I do still need to get one]. Something could have gone amiss because I don't usually double a recipe; maybe I did something wrong in that area? Did I not grind the pistachio/sugar fine enough? I had cheated and did not use super-fine sugar. I thought why do that when it is going to be ground anyway? Well - Back to reality -

I have not had this problem before, albeit many other problems! Now, I have visited the baking forum and have read the seniors' ideas on this. Mostly oven temperature. And under-beating re structure.

It would be interesting if I had done all things I know to do, and the cake still cratered. At least then I could rule out things, and less obvious reasons could come to light.

I fled to the forum. I noted that people who wrote that although their cake fell in, also wrote that it was delicious in flavor. Mine was absolutely delicious in flavor, as well, and with the few drops of pistachio essence it seemed ethereal. I thought it a little dense. Perhaps it is meant to be. But under the circumstances, I would conjecture it was most likely the result of some maltreatment of mine that had perpetuated the caving in.

At first, as I watched the cake in the oven, not rising in the center at 35", I was in a panic. I read that in this type situation, others thought theirs not done and let the cake stay in the oven longer. I did this also, and tested it. I would have thought it underdone as well except that the sides were very far away from the cake pan sides by then, and the color was approaching copper. I decided to give up and try to rescue it.
I followed normal procedure and cooled it. Wrapped it and refrigerated it. What was I going to do with it. It looked like one of the tortes meant to be filled with fruit. Finally, I gave up and took it out of the refrigerator. I began to attack it with my 14" knife to level it.
This actually did a very good job. And I had my first taste of it. Fabulous!! However, it still had a very slight basin in the centers of the layers that, perhaps, a few tricks of the eye could remedy.

The bc having been made, I now put filling into the lower-layer basin, leveled it; then some into the upper layer and leveled it. I frosted the lower layer and placed the bottom layer upside-down onto the top. This left the bottom flat and the top layer flat. I chilled it a bit more, and because of the cake's consistency, I crumb-coated it.

Then chilled it for a few minutes and frosted it, using a bench scraper to try for smoothness.
I decided not to attempt to adhere pistachios all round the cake, a la Matthew - whose was awesome. At this point, for me, it was more prudent to stay simple. I couldn't bear another problem to solve, and adhering pistachios by tossing them up from below onto barely sticky mousseline was not something I could strive to attain that evening, or maybe any other evening without him to share his expertise.

In my opinion, this cake is remarkable, a real winner. The flavor is sensuous and alluring. Perhaps mine was a little dense from being overbaked/underbaked, but most assuredly - I think it is absolutely beautiful and can't wait to make it again.
Echo says yum.