Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lemon Poppy Seed Sour Cream Cake

This week's HCB choice was quite welcome as lemon and poppy seeds in scones, muffins, cookies and especially cakes are tops on my list. Rose's recipe did not disappoint. And if I might confess, next time there will be a double batch of lemon syrup to saturate the poor cake...I loved it!

Nothing special required mixing this cake together except for the odd number of yolks to whites.

"Wouldn't it be funny if I got a double yolker?" thought my rambling inner baking voice.

Utter shock when two yolks cracked themselves into the bowl, thereby completely destroying any semblance of equilibrium I might have started off with. It totally disrupted my faithful saving of egg whites for the far off imagined day when I whip up macarons, which of course, will never happen, unless there is a macaron cake in Rose's Heavenly Cakes book or Faithy hops over to California and conducts a seminar. Hear that Faithy?

The dough was fairly thick and had me wondering if I'd gone amiss. The consistency changed with the added egg mixture, becoming lighter and fluffier. The NordicWare Pumpkin Pan was coerced from the cupboard and pressed into service, pulling extra duty instead of loafing about and coming out once year on Halloween. Of course, had I known about the delightful Jewish holiday Purim that Mendy is enjoying I might have poured myself a drink or two and joined in the festivities.

This pan seemed like a good idea at the time since the word "tube" went completely unnoticed. Luckily it worked and produced two cute little cakes. The outer crust was slightly dark as it took longer to bake. I dolloped a bit of lemon curd mixed with creme fraiche on slices and it's true, lemon and creme fraiche do set each other off nicely. All in all, everyone loved this cake.

Monday, February 22, 2010

English Gingerbread Cake

I learned a huge lesson: never EVER admit it's a free choice week when asked which cake is being baked from Rose's Heavenly Cakes book. Rose's book suddenly turned into a tempting dessert cart.

And I struggled as well, reading through the list Marie baked before my book arrived. I hadn't realized she made so many, especially the Chocolate Raspberry Trifle which I've been eagerly wanting to make since first opening the book and landed on the picture. Trouble for me really started when HCB'ers posted their choices. It further added to my indecision; they all looked and sounded delectable.

I searched for something light, whilst fending off pleas for cheesecake, and leaned towards the Red Fruit Shortcake. It's a good thing the bakery supply store is closed on Mondays because I have my eye on a -don't read this Marie- Nordicware berry basket pan for shortcakes. But then, my eldest granddaughter jumped up and down with excitement, squealing "Make the cake that failed because the oven broke. It was the best."

Ah, yes, that would be the Gingerbread fiasco.....

Thus began my second attempt at English Gingerbread Cake. As before, it is quite a simple cake to make, probably the simplest one in Rose's book.

But for the love of all things holy and true, can someone please explain to me the secret for mixing in flour ingredients by hand without annoying little white puffs exploding just when the batter teases it has been sufficiently mixed?

Where are those Two Fat Women that Raymond speaks of? I need help. This happens whenever folding is required and the KitchenAid is forbidden.

I opted for the mini bundt Nordicware pan as I figure they will be easier to give away. I still am paying the piper for the decadent chocolate confections consumed over Valentine's Day. The kids love "painting" cakes and always line up to help. These were much better coming out of an oven that actually heated vs only broiling.

Notice the baking attire-apron with a princess cape. Very difficult to measure when one's pink measuring cups are in the hands of a three year old who claims all things pink as her own.

See? SEE? SEEEEEE????? Blasted white flour puffs taunting and mocking......

Ayurvedic repentent couscous with almonds and cranberries, side of broccoli and lemon spritz because I like a bit of excitement during my spartan feasts.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Chocolate Cloud

Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates made the most exquisite cake for Valentine's Day. I must have whined and sniveled and coveted more than I realized because my daughter brought it home as a surprise. To say we had chocolate in the house on Valentine's Day is an understatement! But let me say, it was by far the most amazing cake I have ever tasted. EVER. It was light as a feather.

Here is the description: "the Palet D’Or Entremet Cake from Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates is 65% Maracaibo Venezuelan Chocolate Mousse, layered with Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache, Chocolate Dacquois, and Crunchy Chocolate Shortbread Inspired by our popular Palet D’Or truffle and similarly garnished with gold leaf, this cake is made with a 65% bittersweet chocolate from the prized Maracaibo cocoa growing region in Venezuela."

The local paper interviewed and posted a little video

The macarons she speaks of is what I had been buying for a year before tasting one of her chocolates. Yes, I know, what a nit wit!

Freeport Bakery is the bakery we've been buying birthday and special occasion cakes from since they opened. It was truly the first innovative artisan bakery that reset local bakery standards.
Every Valentine's Day I would make the drive to pick up Blackout Hearts; chocolate cake single serving hearts layered with raspberry mousse. Making Rose's Double Chocolate Cake and stuffing it with raspberry mousse came very close which made me very happy. On St Patrick's Day, Freeport Bakery makes the same light chocolate cake as shamrocks with mint mousse. For my granddaughter's first birthday, a Winnie the Pooh themed day, I bought their bee hive cake. It was adorable.

And now I repent with Ayurvedic rice and lentils.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Double Chocolate Cake

The Heavenly Cake Bakers made Rose's Double Chocolate Cake this week, just in time for Valentine's Day.

Double Chocolate Cake is another one of Rose's recipes which easily could be found behind a glass display in a favorite artisan bakery or on a restaurant menu. It is a simple combination of chocolate, cake and raspberries put together in such a way that makes it sublime.

Rather than making this is in a heart shaped pan for Valentine's Day, I made oversized cupcakes to give away. Spreading ganache on the bottom of the cupcakes proved difficult without the paper to hold them together. It seemed wiser to instead fill them a la Twinkie style with a Fun Frosting Gun, guaranteed to "make food decorating a pleasure". Some were filled with ganache, others with raspberry mousse and the rest whipping cream. The Fun Gun proved irresistable once I got the hang of it. The more ganache/filling, the less dry the cake. This isn't a cake that can stand on its own.

I was surprised how gorgeous and considerably tastier the raspberries became brushed with melted red current jam. It sweetened them considerably. The current jam proved harder to find and more expensive than raspberries. It's quite delicious, perfect for scones or biscuits.

The alkalized cocoa powder used in the batter was Valrhona bought at a local chocolate shop. Lindt has a new 50% dark chocolate which I wanted to try for the ganache. I liked it; being slighter sweeter than than 60-65%%.

I will make this cake again in a round pan, using a chop stick to poke holes big enough for the ganache to easily fill. Besides being a very pretty cake, the taste combination is fantastic.

Ganache, raspberry mousse and whipped cream.

Uh-oh! Better to leave the papers on.

Current jam brushed on the raspberries beforehand.
Just a few missing!

Lining up the ingredients, including Ginger Elizabeth'sVahrohna alkalized cocoa powder; amazing stuff!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Darker marmalade is Mrs. Beeton's 1886 recipe
made by Corti Bros Market. Lighter is blood
orange, cara cara and grapefruit mix marmalade.

This is the direct result of my newly acquired reputation of becoming a Seville orange fanatic.

Remember that friend who suggested I shimmy up a tree or two?

The very same enrolled in a marmalade making class and graced me with 1.78 pounds of prepared mixed citrus, packed in water requiring explicit pampering. They should have checked into a spa.

As I saw it, the main problem was having no jam making experience whatsoever, but my friend, since the age of twelve, was not to be deterred and handed over the infamous local instructor's directions. It was unique; the sole source of pectin came from seeds stewing along side the fruit in a cloth bag.

"Where are the seeds?" I asked.

"My oranges didn't have any."

As per my usual modus operendi, I made a few bumbling errors.

A) Misunderstood all fruit was to be cooked together and no, they were not for individual types of jam.
B) Forgot about and left the sugar warming in the oven for an hour instead of ten minutes. Luckily no house fire to report.
C) Didn't realize the seeds needed to soak in the water along side the oranges to soften.
D) Cheesecloth and muslin are not interchangable.

Surprisingly, it turned out edible. Quite nice, infact. Still, I didn't want to risk botulism and put two jars in the freezer and one in the frig. Makes me wish I had eaten real marmalade while in England, lo those many years ago, as an au pair. I could have happily slathered it across the malted fruit bread I ate morning, noon and night.

And the Seville festival update? What are the chances an article on the city's Sevilles and the wanton waste came out in the local paper Monday, the very day HCB True Orange Genoise tales posted? The politics involved......I'm on the city councilman's "call back" list.

Monday, February 8, 2010

True Orange Genoise

True Orange Genois is one of those cakes easily listed on a classy restaurant menu. Composed of a traditional genoise cake layered with orange curd and topped with dark chocolate ganache,Rose gave it the slightest twist using Seville oranges. It was spectacular inspiration.
Born and raised in California, oranges were plentiful. My mother's family raised navel oranges, grapes and tomatoes in the central valley. Whenever an impending frost or freeze was forecast, smudge pots were lit, sprinklers pressed into service or giant airplane propellers mounted on poles switched on in hopes of saving the precious oranges from frost bite.
Sevilles, I thought, grew in Spain and were made into Marmalade for toast in England. Imagine my surprise to learn I'd been living amongst them since the age of seven. It seems about a hundred plus years ago, the streets in the state capitol were lined with Seville orange trees. Try as I might, I could not find any local history as to how or why this happened, but there they are, in local pictorial archives of graceful Victorian homes. Sadly, many of the Victorians are gone, replaced with hideous office and apartment buildings. But the Sevilles remain, as they are technically on city property; sidewalk legality and all.
I once asked why no one picked the abundant oranges; "too bitter." Figuring they were a sort of ornamental orange tree, I never gave them another thought, until this recipe. None of the local grocery stores carried them.
I knew they were on the grounds of the state capitol but didn't relish getting arrested picking them. The capitol is surrounded by a 40-acre park in the middle of downtown that sports trees, plants and flowers from around the world. They generally frown on picking so much as a blade of grass. It is legal, however, to gather any fruit that has fallen. Don't think the thought didn't cross my mind of sitting in a lotus position underneath a Seville waiting for a few to fall in my lap. A friend said I should drive the city streets, shimmy up a few trees and pick all I wanted. She even mapped out which streets had the best trees.
Too old for such shananigans, a local fruit warehouse ordered them, after my favorite Italian market gave me their supplier. They make their own marmalade. Curiosity got the better of me and I bought a jar. It's very dark, not the bright orange which typically are found on store shelves. And yes, I paid a fair amount all in the name of research.
"Every year in January, when the Seville oranges in Sacramento start to ripen, Corti Brothers produces its own Seville orange marmalade. Produced according to Mrs. Beeton's 1866 recipe using only fruit, sugar and water, its name is a pun. CAPITAL, since Sacramento is California's capitol and in British English, TOP QUALITY or FIRST RATE. VINTAGE, since it is aged for a minimum of a year before sale. Corti Brothers Capital Vintage Marmalade was first produced in 1980, and sold in 1981. The production for sale now is that of 2005. We also have a small quantity of a "reserve" production, that of 1997, which we are selling for the first time. This is a lot that "got lost" and was just discovered. So much for inventory control!"
I love this store:
This was my first attempt at making a genoise. I once heard it's the cake which tests the skills of a baker as the simple ingredients don't allow much forgiveness. Mine never quite reached two inches.
Making the orange curd was far easier this time around after making lemon curd for Woody's Luxury Lemon Cake. Quite exciting the moment it started to "pool"! Spurred on by forty pounds of Sevilles, I made more than a few batches along with, naval orange and Nigella Lawson's orange/lime substitution for Seville juice. All were equally nice. The Seville orange syrup was simple to make and gave the genoise a lovely additional flavor.
I made this cake twice. The first go around my littlest granddaughter insisted "everything is better with sprinkles" and generously showered the No Longer True Orange Genoise liberally. The second cake was drizzled with unadorned ganache.
The greatest difficulty I encountered was keeping the orange curd from disappearing. Both cakes were well received but the orange curd stole the show, making its way onto just about everything.
I have become very fond of Seville oranges, so much so, I'm on a campaign to give our city's their long overdue recognition with an annual festival, bringing in chefs, bakers and bartenders to showcase creations featuring Sevilles. While Nicola visited giant pineapples in Australia, probably every kid growing up in California during the fifties and Sixties visited a giant orange road side stand for fresh squeezed juice. It's high time they were brought back and a Seville parade down Capitol Mall is just the place to start. See what a little Triple Sec can do! I'll be the lady with oranges atop her head doing the merengue.

I know, doesn't it just make ya wanna cry? Sevilles litter the streets.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Souffle Class

Today I attended my first baking class, Souffles. It was fantastic for several reasons. First, the charming instructor was funny, engaging and easily imparted her expertise without baffling the collection of attendees. Secondly, the samples were out of this world. Third, I had no idea such an accomplished chocolatier lived right in my home town.

Sad to say, I've been going to her quaint shop for nearly a year to buy macarons. It wasn't until today during the chocolate tasting portion of the class that I had one of her exquisite, and I emphasize EXQUISITE, chocolates.

She explained the symbiotic relationship between the melting point of chocolate and lucky for us, it just happens to be in the range of 98 degrees. Perfect chocolate hits the palate and absolutely swoons as it melts. I was in heaven!

Souffles seem to strike terror in the hearts of home cooks. She de-mystified souffle's fickleness, which it seems, is directly related to the consistency of oven temperature.

"Don't be afraid of souffles. Knock the air bubbles out of them!"

Here's the link if you would like to have a look at her impressive profile. She was recently praised by David Lebovitz and I suspect, with such an irrepressible personality, won't go "undiscovered" much longer amongst chocolate fanatics.

Now if I could just ignore the Palet D’Or Entremet Cake calling my name........