Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chocolate Banana Stud Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

This cake was among those that I have found the least difficult; at least in the recipe itself. Easy mis en place:
 My problems continue to be getting my oven titrated. Next time I have decided to bake at 360’ by the oven indicator since my thermometer reads about 15’ low. Today, the cake at 35’ was reading l86’ and then came a battery of temp checks, leaving the poor thing looking like an archer’s target. Finally about 40+ minutes I took it out at 196’. It looked fine.
The ganache was no problem except that a bunch of  hot milk made it into the processor’s lid. Note to self, get a funnel for ganache. I know, I should use the microwave – maybe I will. In that case, at least the spout on the cup will help. Oh, and I used Kahlua in the ganache - lovely.
Next cocoa, Green&Black's [Yay], egg, banana, sour cream mixture in processor. Then mix with dry for batter.

I really cannot complain about the assembly of this cake.

At least we didn’t have to be leery about folding flour into egg foam, a practice for the genoise that I still approach with a jaundiced eye. Btw: Does anyone have the same problem I have in losing a lot of flour out of the bowl when the mixer starts on low? I have tried plastic and tea towels, but there must be something better. I threw away that plastic shield thing that came with the KA  machine. I also have a terrible time adding sifted flour into the batter while the machine is running. I am feeling quite obtuse.
The batter in its pan, and remembered strips.
In the oven. When will it be done - who knows?

This is the cooling cake that was shot by archers manned with Thermopens.

The flat frosting of the cake with ganache. 
The cake is very chocolate-y . . . why not, with a pound of chocolate at various places in it. The banana flavor didn’t come through for me, but it, combined with the sour cream undoubtedly contributed to the moist and light texture cake. I found the cake to be excellent, if overloaded with the chunky bits of chocolate wafers in bites. I saved mine for later. My slice of cake pictured here shows chocolate looking flecks – I don’t know what that is, but it sure didn’t impair the quality.  

My husband had gotten Eguittard 72% chocolate wafers instead of the chips. I wondered what I might do since they are larger, and I was not too inspired to create the studded effect in RHC anyway. I took a cake pan and turned it upside down. I laid out some of the wafers, wondering what would be fun.

As I laid out the wafers, I suddenly, I remembered a jar of Williams Sonoma Pearls that was on the shelf unopened. Hmm, I thought, things were shaping up. 

Why not do that kind of design? Well, later into this endeavor, I almost said, “What for do that design?”. Actually, 'what for' is definitely more accurate – I had no occasion, or any special reason, to become involved in such an intricate, time-consuming d├ęcor. The fact that I have done a lot of petit point comes to mind. But, in the early afternoon when I was well into it, a friend stopped by. He came upon me working, and said, “Oh, that is precious!” --- And I thought, “Precious.” And then I knew this cake was for my daughter, who is so precious to me. The white blur on top is white rose I made. I need some lessons from our Food Photographer, Butteryum!

At this moment, my daughter, Stephanie, is in San Diego, and I in Texas. She has no inkling that a cake, of all things, is being dedicated to her. I think she has a fun surprise tomorrow! I just wish she could share it.

I must admit: I made the cake and the ganache on Saturday, and this decoration alone took ten hours on Sunday, an hour out for tacos. Each pearl was put on with tweezers, many dipped in water to cause the sugar of the pearl to adhere. I didn't include this info until after my daughter read the blog since I didn't want her to think I had gone off my rocker. I doubt if I would ever do it again, but if I did, I would require surgical tweezers, and major work on my mind.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Mini Vanilla Bean Pound Cakes

This baking was a nice experience. I used Chicago Metallic mini loaf pans that said to lower the temperature of the oven 25 degrees, so I did-to 325'. Everything seemed okay until the 15-minute time when the split down the middle was to be imminent. I decided to go with it and learned quickly about imminent. I should have waited for the split to begin, which it didn’t, and my slit went into soup. The instructions tell me to tent it. I did. At around the right time, I take a temperature reading for 196’ and Thermopen says it is 205’. It still seemed a little soupy to me, but I just have to learn to trust sometime. I took them out. I would have liked a little more color, and rise, but next time I will know more. It still seems a toss up between pan and oven, or whatever and oven. Soon, I hope experience will guide me.

It does seem that there is so much “next time” for me that I would welcome the opportunity for us to re-bake all of these cakes. Of course, there are considerations – like with this one, when my husband came home bearing vanilla beans - $32.00 for 4 mini cakes. He tentatively inquired, “When will this end?” I could not answer in good faith, realizing, as I do, that it is somewhat of a long manic episode. Friends now call and say, “Oh, are you baking?” No more Saturday and Sunday brunches. They don’t seem interested in coming over to read directions to me, or measure ingredients. Fair weather, I’d say. Oh well, I lament, reaching for my trusty KD 7000. I am even beginning to speak the lingo.

Yet, these little cakes withstood my usual forgetfulness, not starting the timer on time; losing flour out of the back of the bowl when adding butter or whatever. So, all things being equal, the cakes went into the oven in pretty good shape. I think in my case the tenting could have been omitted, but who can be that picky?

Easy mis en place. 

Easy execution, easy unmolding from Baker’s Joy and non-stick pans.

Easy syruping. Instead of cognac, I used a tablespoon of Cherry Heering, and served the cake on a coulis of cherry. I had to chuckle - the bottle of Cherry Heering was acquired some time ago, when two tablespoons or so were required for a recipe. At that time, the liquor store owner laughed, and ‘lowed as how he hadn’t sold a bottle of that in 20 years. This was his last one. I’m sure he thanked us for stopping by.

Easy cooling. I pilfered a bite from one of the slices of the cake and it was, amazingly, light as a feather. This was not like any pound cake I have ever had. Light, subtle flavor, angelic crumb. Perfect.

I might not have to re-bake this recipe to prove a point to myself, after all. But, I shall definitely do it to delight myself; that is for sure. I will deliver these cakes as  gifts to 4 friends tomorrow. I think they will be delighted as well.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Chocolate Ice Cream Cake or Sandwich

Well, although I had decided not to bake this week’s cake because of the lack of feasibility, by virtue of Marie's kindness in designating me Featured Baker of the Week last week, I felt a certain chagrin and headed for the kitchen. All of this actually translates back to my lack of having an ice cream maker, and to not being prone to locate the kind that one churns with rock-salt and ice from the icebox like Uncle Louis used on hot Sunday afternoons in Annapolis, lo those many years ago. Nostalgia, I loved the fresh peach, especially. In this case, however, I had chosen Cherries Garcia; my husband chose coffee -  I swallowed my pride and used store-bought 'Blue Bell Coffee'.

Also, relevant to preparing this cake, I was thankful to the Green&Black’s people for finally having made the cocoa available once more. I still couldn't find it at Amazon or Williams-Sonoma, but I did find it at 'Lucky Vitamins', of all places, online at a very reasonable price, and very fast shipping. Now I will no longer be able to blame anything on the cocoa.

The mis en place was set up for the cake and the sauce. As I began to weigh things, I realized that I need to obtain a separate little sifter for the cocoa, for obvious reasons, and put it onto list to self. Next, I almost missed the message from Rose saying to substitute bleached all-purpose flour for the cake flour in the German Chocolate Cake, which I did. And then-- I arrived at the place where I was told to ‘make ¾ of the batter’ – well, unfortunately, I haven’t arrived at the point in my education to attack the ‘Rose factor’.  I don’t even dare cut a recipe in half for fear of making a mess of the project. So, now I must figure out what ¾ of the recipe is. Well, I will just make the whole recipe and use ¼ for Financiers. Okay. How will I know what is ¼? I don’t even know how high it is supposed to sit in the pan. At least, I have had presence of mind to measure the weight of my tilt-head KA bowl and put the grams on tape on the bottom. A tip from our Forum. Therefore, I can figure the weight of the batter as added to the bowl. I guess I can divide that number by 4 and use the extra fourth for a cupcake. Does that sound convoluted? Well, it was the middle of the night. Will the batter have totally deflated by the time I go through all these gyrations? I put everything under wrap that would wrap, and went to bed.

In the morning I made the batter and hoped for the best. In the oven: 
I tested and tested, and finally with the thermometer reading 200’ I took it out. It was stuck with many holes from thermopen. 
Probably, a few more minutes to 205’ would have done it. It was passable, however, although very difficult to move, very moist, even as Rose had cautioned, and I still was worried if it was done. It crumbled around the edges as I ran spatula around and took off the spring-form pan. I didn’t use the warm towel – that might have helped. 

I am still haunted, and daunted, by the state of the oven, even with quarry tiles top, bottom, and middle, and have begun to put a hex upon it. 

In the composing, I had a little problem with ice cream leakage in the spring-form pan that prevented crisp layer definition. Also the crumbled bottom edges contributed to that. I think I would have been smarter to freeze the bottom layer, then put the ice cream layer on and refrozen, and then added the top cake layer and finally to have frozen it for the eight hours. I think that is what I will do next time.

At any rate, I had enough extra batter to make six Financiers, and they were fabulous. I sent them over to my friend with some of the delicious chocolate fudge dipping sauce, and she pronounced them, “decadent”. She was especially intrigued when I told her the story of their name, harking from long ago when a patisserie near the Paris stock exchange shaped the little cakes like a gold ingot in honor of their wealthy clientele, who were so fond of them, and named them “Financiers”.

I have been sleuthing on eBay and have found several very inexpensive ice cream makers by Cuisinart will probably acquire one -- another toy to sit out in the storeroom, along side of the old pasta maker, 3 woks, and my 40 year old convection oven. I really should resurrect that. It may work better than this new one with no convection.

Several neighbors have stopped by for expresso and ice cream cake. The two offset one another well. The cake turned out perfectly. The flavor is dark  fudge-like. The texture is just perfect, moist and shiny, as it relaxes from the freezing. There obviously is loss of excess moisture that I had worried about in the freezing that is restored again in part in the thawing. After all my ruminating, it is truly wonderful, and they all enjoyed it. 

This cake is a real winner, and I shall prepare it again. This time was a great learning experience in just how to do that the best way - and as usual Rose's way. It has set back up again and we are having a piece right now. Mmmm.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Gateau Breton [a catch-up cake for me]

It was not feasible for me to bake the chocolate ice cream cake this week, so I baked one of my catch-up cakes instead. Which one to choose was a difficult decision to make. But, I made this decision based partly on the fact that I feel somewhat on sugar-overload right now. Also, my decision was based on the rave reviews from my colleague Heavenly Bakers about the Gateau Breton. I was in the mood for something more rustic. And then, as I was trying to decide, I came upon a 'take' of Hector's in his Yellow Kitchen. That was it! Isn't it funny how something just pops up and makes your decision for you?

I was captivated by Hector's use of the Macadamia nuts, instead of almonds, in concert with Turbinado sugar, instead of just superfine. It occurred to me that this would be a subtle, complex flavor. I had no rum, or Kirsch. How could anyone run out of Kirsch - like I use it once a year? Actually, I wanted it because I wanted to serve some cherries and strawberries and blueberries with creme fraiche on the side for this little dessert. Oh well, what I did have was a small amount of Calvados left. I just used two teaspoons of that and water. If I had wanted to bake this gateau "au pommes" as they are prone to do in France, I would have used the whole amount of Calvados apple brandy. But that is for some future fun, for sure.
For the present, however, among us the word is that this is a simple gateau to prepare. So, for me an easy mis en place. Still, I must always remind myself that no matter how 'easy' I think it is, I have a propensity to forget things ... so I do this prepping.
The Macademia nuts, substituted for almonds, I slivered, toasted, and ground with the Turbinado sugar. I had asked Hector if he changed amounts for the substituted ingredients and he said no, so I just went ahead.

I used the flat Beater Blade to beat the sugar, nuts, and higher-fat Plugra butter. I couldn't locate the Organic Valley Butter or the Vermont. The egg yolks [egg yolks Marie lol], were added, and lastly the flour in four parts. 
This resulted in a heavy batter that was placed into a 9x2" round, previously sprayed with Baker's Joy, and put into a baking strip. The batter was then easily smoothed with a small offset spatula, brushed with one tablespoon of egg wash, and cross-hatch marks were made with a fork to prevent the crust from baking unevenly. The cake was now ready for the oven.

And so it emerged:

As the gateau sat for ten minutes, I became aware that at this time it would have been fortuitous to have a tart pan with removable bottom. So, I took the picture of the cake resting, for the record, because I had visions of it falling into smithereens as I attempted to invert it. But the 'flippin' gods' were with us. It turned over and even re-inverted onto the cake-stand with no problems.

Now the time was near for our intimate dessert gathering:

Our guests were not prepared for this dessert since it was more rustic than what I normally present to them. They were immediately enthralled. They enjoyed knowing more about the regional preferences for the gateau, the use of apples and prunes atop, and in it, in certain regions in France. They enjoyed its simplicity, and texture, and were intrigued by the subtle vestiges of caramel that the Turbinado sugar lent, along with the bare appearance of the Calvados and the flavor of Macadamia nuts. Although the gateau, of course, could have stood on its own, the different fruits, cheese and creme fraiche also added another dimension to the fare. And so, a little bit of France was enjoyed by all!
And we are having a piece for brunch ~