Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Almond Shamah Chiffon Part Deux

Yesterday while baking Miss Almond Shamah, I noticed Rose's Plan Ahead notation.

"For best flavor, compose the cake 1 day ahead."

I wondered if that meant to make the cake base with the Amaretto syrup or put the cake together with the raspberry whip cream frosting. My husband and I debated the pros and cons. He thought the cake should be made in its entirety, I wondered if the whipping cream would slide off. Turns out, he was correct. This morning I checked the leftover cake to see how the flavor was after resting overnight. It was even more delicious. The raspberry and almond flavors tasted sharper, more distinct.

Today, after reading through all the Heavenly Bakers' experiences, I pondered why I go amiss in the middle of recipes. No one else seems to have any problem remembering details. It then hit me like a ton of butter.

There are five learning styles in education. I didn't apply the same principle to baking. Now I get it. I'm a visual/kinesthetic combo which means I have to see it in action and do it repeatedly for something to sink in. Plus, the times I did bake as a kid was out of an old Betty Crocker cookbook. Betty didn't trust her bakers and gave a heads up when an ingredient was divided, how much to divide, and what to save it for. With this knowledge I am going to label all mis en place ingredients so I quit ending up with a big mess en place.

Next time I make Almond Shamah Chiffon it will be a day in advance and give her my full, undivided attention. She's a high maintenance cake but she's worth it.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Almond Shamah Chiffon

This is a lovely cake and suitable for special occasions, however it nearly did me in. I may have to book into a day spa to recuperate.

The first obstacle was finding blanched almonds. It seems grocers do not stock them around these parts anymore. I poured boiling water over raw almonds for one minute, drained and plunged them briefly into cold water. They slipped right out of their skins and Voila! Blanched almonds. Cutting them into slices was a bit tricky but it worked, albeit minus a few burned ones during roasting.

I had a glorious time mixing up the egg mixture, especially after I cracked open the first egg and watched it go down the drain. At least measuring the yolks and whites, something I've never done before, it was possible to see enough was left without warming more eggs. I'm used to separating cold eggs and didn't realize warm eggs are more liquidy, full of little gymnastic tricks. The whites flipped themselves right out of the measuring cup.

Grinding the almonds in my mini Cuisinart, it was iffy knowing when to stop before I had almond butter for lunch. I was happy seeing how it fluffed up with the Wondra flour and in my zeal set it aside, and completely forgot about it.

I creamed the eggs, not certain what an eggy ribbon looked like, then watched the color and texture change. I felt giddy folding in the egg whites. After the first portion of whites I realized something was missing; the almonds and flour. At this point I nearly chucked the whole thing. It was disheartening to make such a silly mistake. There was nothing left to do but pour the almond mixture into the yolk and white blend. I used the funny unnamed tool from the fifties used to fold egg whites into Angel Food cake batter.

I'm sure the density of the batter suffered as it only filled the pans one quarter full.

My hopes were pretty well dashed by this point. I was astonished to open the oven and actually find the cake puffed up.

The sugar syrup had me slightly baffled because it went from zero to full boil in a blink, skipping the rolling step. The Amaretto was looking really good at this point. In a glass. For me. Not the sugar syrup.

My eldest granddaughter wanted to know what I was painting on the cake. When I explained about the sugar and water mixture she asked why we were eating Hummingbird food!

Flipping the cakes this way and that proved easy enough. I got myself into trouble placing the top layer onto the iced bottom and missed centering it. There was no going back unless this was going to be Almond Shamah Chiffon Triffle. By this time, I could have cared less. I was not liking this cake very much. We had been wrestling for eight hours, Almond Shamah Chiffon and I, and Almond Shamah was winning.

I slathered on the raspberry whipping cream, told the kids to take pictures for posterity's sake and cut into it. They were jumping up and down for a pretty pink piece of cake when it occurred to me maybe giving a three year old Amaretto wasn't the wisest thing. Using the loads of leftover raspberry whipping cream and the cake top pieces I made mini trifles in clear glasses.

Honestly I was so tired I was relieved the baking was over. And then I had a bite. It was yummy. The almond cake texture and raspberry whipping cream go well together. I think it will be even more scrumptious when it has had time to set.

The only conclusion I have come to is Rose needs an unskilled-wanna-be-baker to try out her recipes. The simpleton tester. Like a lab experiment behind one way glass. To see when confusion sets in. I hereby volunteer myself.

The blanched almonds out of their skins.

Over toasted and just right almonds

Mini Cuisinart. I think I can...I think I can....I think I can........

Here it is and there is the half inch of remaining Amaretto. I called "Dibs".

Voici Voila! Almond Shama, you little vixen.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Peach Upside-Down Cake

Trader Joe's tempted me with boxes of peaches. They caught my eye stacked by the apples I chose for Rose's Apple Upside-Down Cake. The variety was Last Tango, tree ripened in California and reasonably priced at $4.99 for 12. Whole Foods also had peaches; a large unknown variety. Remembering a few Heavenly Bakers mixed apple varieties I opted to buy both.

This time around I was ready with regular AA butter and noticed it produced more foam than Kerrygold during melting. Peeling the peaches after they sat in the boiling water was a new experience. The Whole Food peaches did not peel easily so I followed Rose's advice and tossed them back into the hot water for a few more minutes. It worked but they felt hard compared to Trader Joe's. The little Trader Joe's peeled easily and were quite juicy.

Both varieties were cling and it did not occur to me choosing a non-cling variety would make for tidier slicing. The brown sugar coated them easier than the apples which I attributed to the lovely peach juice. Later I discovered it was due to the fact I inadvertantly put the entire amount of brown sugar in the bowl instead of removing two tablespoons. Let me say they began releasing their juices at a furious rate. Caramelizing the sugar with the juice produced a significantly larger amount which was not as dense as the apple mixture.

This cake took longer to bake probably due to the excess liquid from my brown sugar faux pas. When turned onto a plate, the entire cake came out with loads of lovely peach caramel running over the rim. The parchment paper stayed in the pan. I whipped the heavy cream using Amaretto instead of Bourbon, thinking it might play off the toasted almonds and almond extract.

This cake stands up very well to both toppings. The family liked it, although not quite as enthusiastically as the apple. I cannot decide if this is a result of the colder than normal fall weather and furious rainstorms. It definitely is a delicous cake and next summer I will make it again. Perfect for a hot day, perhaps with nectarines, mangos or all three.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Apple Upside-Down Cake

My family very much liked this cake. They oohed and ahhed over the delicate texture and caramelized apples. I was a bit impressed myself. I shouldn't have been. Rose makes it possible for the most amateur of bakers to bake successfully.

When Rose's book arrived, I cracked it open only to land on her beautiful Raspberry Chocolate Trifle. It took a great deal of willpower to tear myself away from imagining the Christmas holidays with this trifle as the star of the show, get down to reading the Apple Upside-Down Cake recipe and start assembling ingredients.

The new shipment of Honey Crisp apples I bought at Trader Joes were extremely small. This made slicing difficult and laying them in an attractive pattern a bit harder than it should have been. That was Lesson one. Lesson two was thinking I was ever so clever for putting back the Trader Joe's brand of butter and grabbing Kerrygold. Once home, I noticed it might be considered high fat content butter as it is one gram higher in fat than AA butters. Googling butterfat I learned more about butterfat to water ratio than anyone has a right to. Lesson three was comparing the new bag of brown sugar with the half bag of light brown sugar in the cupboard. It was soft so I chucked the new bag in favor of the old.

Ready to forge ahead, I cleared the counters and laid out the ingredients like America's Test Kitchen, and we began, my little granddaughter and I. She thoroughly enjoyed tracing a circle around the pan on the parchmant, wasn't too keen smearing on the greasy shortening but loved pressing the paper inside. Soaking the cake strip in water and squeezing out the excess water proved loads of fun and wrapping it around the pan just plain funny. I peeled the apples and helped her slice. Letting her pack the light brown sugar into the measuring cup was probably the most fun. I did notice a great deal of apple slices began disappearing but honestly, who isn't happy when a child eats fresh apples?

I never before roasted walnuts, or any other nut for that matter. Deathly afraid they would burn I watched them like a hawk, not knowing what I was watching for. A faint toasty aroma emerged and I yanked them out.

Carmelizing the sugar didn't cause me as much anxiety as spilling too much melted butter in the cake pan to grease the bottom and sides. The carmelized sugar sort of swam around when poured in. I didn't know if it was the amount or the ratio of butterfat to water in the Kerrygold. We laid apple slices in the sugar and once again, I noticed more apples disappearing. Evidently apples marinated in lemon juice and brown sugar make them more enticing. Finally, filled in enough,I gave her the rest. And that's where I lost my little side kick. She took off with those apples and got out of Dodge.

The batter was mesmerizing; watching the color and consistency change before my eyes. Plopping it over the apples I felt really confident, over the moon and itching to Twitter (if I knew how) or email, someone, anyone that the cake was in the oven, until I spied a bowl of egg whites.

Panicked, I re-read the recipe, searched for the overlooked step and then realized not every cake has egg whites. If they were supposed to be in there, I am sticking by my story they didn't belong, having promtly thrown them down the sink like a criminal destroying evidence.

The most wonderful aroma began to waft round the kitchen. Hope sprang eternal! I set the timer for a few minutes shorter than indicated as my cake pan was dark. The real moment of truth arrived and I flipped it upside down only to realize I forgot to run a knife around the inside edge. Gently giving the pan a lift to see how stuck it was, the entire thing slid off.

I called my granddaughter to do the honor of carefully removing the parchment. It came off easily and again I credit the butter faux pas. Her amazed expression was priceless. Not a fan of hard liquor I none the less poured the bourbon into the heavy cream and then made a plain batch for the kids.

The sounds of approval echoed down the hall into the kitchen. I cut myself a slice and dabbed on the bourbon laced cream. It set it off perfectly which completely surprised me. The best part? It's even better today!

Picture courtesy of granddaughter who wanted to take the picture rather than be in the picture.

The red apple is the Honey Crisp used and the green, from a bucket full gathered from trees at the stable which I almost used. They were considerably smaller than the Honey Crisps.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rose's Heavenly Cakes has arrived

I truly am delighted and excited to be one of the lucky recipients of Rose Levy Beranbaum's new book Rose's Heavenly Cakes from the site Heavenly Cake Place. http://www.heavenlycakeplace.blogspot.com/ .

Kudos to Marie of Breadbasketcase fame for creating this baking haven. http://breadbasketcase.blogspot.com/

A longtime reader of all things Rose Levy Beranbaum, I love Rose's books not only for her recipes but for the lovely vignettes. If there is one request I could impose upon Rose, it would be "Will you please write an autobiography?"

Truth be told, I am just the tiniest bit nervous joining the intriguing world of Bake Along Blogs. Being a dedicated food bloggie reader, I am more of a baking vicariously through others type, awed by the talent on the web.

This means, of course, I can no longer coast along on Marie's coat tails, reading her baking adventures sitting on the sideline. In my little world it ends the habit of simply reading a new cook book like a work of fiction and instead put it to the use for which it was intended; actually baking the recipes inside. For good measure my eight year old granddaughter has enlisted as my side kick.

But first things first, a nice cup of tea and leisurely stroll through Rose's Heavenly Cakes.