Monday, March 29, 2010

Le Petite Succes

Le Succes is a definite success.   Everyone likes it very much.  Chewy almond cake and smooth chocolate ganache frosting with a certain je ne sais quoi, which happens to be hint of lemon tea.

Mixing the batter of eggwhites, ground blanched almonds and sugar was simple enough.  I missed the instruction to smooth the tops before baking, producing disks with resembled funnel cakes at the fair.  Luckily they spread during baking.  And after I was feeling rather proud of myself for laying out the ingredients in bowls, including the divided sugar, in an effort to mend my errant ways.

All went well until it was time to face fear, namely The Beast, which still intimidates me.  I tried to stuff a pound of chopped chocolate into the ever faithful mini Cuisinart, but alas, it could not be.  With trepidation, The Beast and I squared off.

Thirty minutes later of fiddling about with That Thing, lots of dark chocolate, scalded creme fraiche and heavy cream, a splash of English Breakfast tea infused with lemon extract and Voila! delectable chocolate ganache.  

The most difficult element in this recipe is the requirement of patience. Letting the ganache cool for three hours   was agonizing.  I should have made the ganache the day before.  There was but one thing to do; errands including shopping at Whole Foods.  That place can make anyone forget about anything, especially with displays of King Arthur's unbleached Cake Flour, which naturally stopped me in my tracks pondering what Rose might think about unbleached cake flour.  

Since the discs were on the thin side having burned one to an absolute crisp, I decided to cut out mini ones with a biscuit cutter for individual cakes.  A final dusting of Valrohna cocoa.


The leftover bits and pieces made for some rather nice truffles.

Crumbled cake mixed together with the chocolate ganache and rolled in Valrhona cocoa. There would have been loads more but little fingers prefered the almond cake bits plain and absconded off into the sunset.

This recipe for Le Succes seems adaptable to all sorts of variously flavored ganache.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Peanut Butter Nearly Plum Ingots

It finally happened.  Starting one recipe in Rose's Heavenly Cakes and finishing with ingredients from another.  If you've seen Rachael's English Trifle on Friends, you'll understand.  If not for my daughter asking "Mind if I have a look at the recipe?", heaven only knows what sort of Ingots would have emerged from the oven.  Come to think of it, Heavenly Only Knows would be a more fitting name for this blog!

Luckily for me the ingredients in both recipes were similar.  The toasted almonds were recalculated, as was the powdered sugar and flour. The next bit of confusion involved adding beurre noisette.  Drizzle and whip intermittently for five minutes or drizzle, then whip for five minutes?  Tired, late and irritated, I poured the whole lot in and decided to live dangerously.

Tired because I pulled weeds for two days.  Spring has brought forth weeds in abundance.  Late because we spent the afternoon at the barn playing with the horses.  Irritated because, well........Really, I've offered before and I'll offer again to be a test subject for Rose's next book.  Any day I expect a knock at the door only to find Woody and Hector demanding I turn over my copy of Heavenly Cakes with a Cease and Desist Order swearing never to bake anything from Rose's books again.

I used organic peanut butter instead of Jiff.  Since organic peanut butter must be kept refrigerated,  I warmed it up a bit in the microwave. All was going well until my daughter asked "What does plan ahead mean?"

Oops, missed that part.  I could also have sworn it said blanched almonds.

And the debate began when exactly the batter is supposed to be refrigerated.  Since I could not find proper Financier Molds and opted to use a long forgotten Nordic Ware mini tart pan, the first batch went in unrefrigerated, the second refrigerated.  The refrigerated dough was much easier to handle but did not seem to make any difference in texture or crumb.

The peanut flavor is understated.  I left some plain, added a sweetened peanut butter drizzle pelted with leftover mini chocolate chips on others, sprinkled muscavado with crushed cornflakes on a few and Lindt chocolate on the rest. The flavor seems stronger after sitting overnight.  I'm quite curious as to the flavor of a traditional financier and will make some if I ever find the molds.  Neither William Sonoma, Sur La Table or the cake decorating supply store knew what financiers were or that they required a mold. Loads of curious questions, though.

Eldest granddaughter has bestowed the ultimate endorsement for Peanut Butter Ingots:
"Grandma, you could sell these to Starbucks."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Faux Sicilian Pistachio Neo Classic Buttercream Truffles

Rose's Neo Classic Buttercream
+ corn flakes
+ Scharffen Berger's 62% dark chocolate, melted
+ pulverized pistachios with sugar
= Faux Truffles

These were so much fun to make with leftover ingredients from the Sicilian Pistachio cake and Apricot Roll, loosely based on a recipe from Dorie Greenspan. After rolling the buttercream and crushed cornflakes together, the balls were put in the freezer to chill. Dipped in melted chocolate and rolled in pistachios, they are a yummy combination. (Sicilian Pistachio Cake is the previous post listed on the sidebar)

Sicilian Pistachi-uh oh Cake with Neo Classic Buttercream

An unusual event happened. I finished this week's HCB cake two days early. I am posting ahead of schedule to encourage anyone who might be sitting on the fence because of difficulty finding ingredients not to hesitate making it with substitutions. It's worth it.

Happy Mothering Sunday Nicola!

Sicilian Pistachio Cake is this week's choice for the Heavenly Cake Bakers. It's a lightly flavored pistachio cake with an amazing molasses-y pistachio-y buttecream frosting which could easily stand on its own in a box of Godiva candy. A big fan of pistachio anything I was excited about making this cake.

The biggest surprise for me was trying to locate blanched pistachios. Twenty minutes of driving would have landed me in the midst of literally thousands of acres of pistachio orchards. It would seem pistachios in all manor of variety would be readily available locally. Not so. For some peculiar reason any sort of blanched nut seems to be out of favor and not carried in the hundreds of grocery stores in my town. Luckily Whole Foods had raw pistachios on sale with 20% off the steep price of $14.99 a pound. These days roasted salted pistachios are everywhere at $3.99 a pound. Go figure.

So I blanched my own. Rubbing off the skins took longer than to make, bake and frost the entire cake. For all I know it might have been possible to briefly blanch salted pistachios, removing enough salt for an acceptable substitution. I actually think salted pistachios would be a delicious topping, the salty/sweet "sel" combination being in vogue at the moment. But then this cake would have to be rechristened en Francais.

The other ingredient which took me on a scavenger hunt was the Pistachio Essence, which no one in this town of 1,394,154 (July 2008) heard of, let alone carried. The cake decorating store had a lone bottle of Lou Anne's Oils Pistachio flavor at $8.99 per ounce, which contained not one speck of pistachio anything but smelled divine. Trying to justify buying it I grilled the poor guy behind the counter what else it could be used for and how long would it last? Ice cream and indefinitely was his answer. Sold!

Putting the cake together should have been a snap, however, with each "Uh oh..." uttered, my trusty granddaughter would call out in alarm, "What happened? What's wrong?" Eggs flipping down the sink, switching the sour cream additions, thereby adding them out of sequence taking the eggs along for the ride, which caused anxiety as Rose says mixing the egg and flour "strengthen the structure". Images of Jack Lalanne flexing his muscles came to mind and I worried my little flour gluten proteins would be weak. They probably were as the cake fell slightly around the edges. That could also have been caused by me forgetting to blanch the pistachios before pulverizing them with the sugar.

In spite of the blunders the cake turned out nicely. I went full throttle, adding extra pistachio flavor to the batter and buttercream. Next time I'll add even more. Next time I might try pecans. Pecans with this buttercream sounds delicious to me or macadamias. Or black walnut. Or cashews, or peanuts. Or maybe no nuts at all and orange zest in the batter with a bit of whole wheat flour for nuttiness and orange extract in the buttercream or ...........
This cake had me thinking about all sorts of possible variations which is a new experience as a novice baker.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Abelskivers/Ebelskivers and Levkar, a perfect way to use the remaining jam from the Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze.

Abelskivers are essentially delectable Danish pancakes, made in a special cast iron pan which looks as if one were making tennis balls. They freeze easily and warm up nicely, stuffed with butter, sprinkled with powdered sugar, drizzled with syrup, or filled with jam and now Levkar.

The tricky bit with Abelskivers is turning the batter once it has browned to form the round shape without spilling batter everywhere, cooking thoroughly which is harder than it seems and most importantly, not burning one's fingers. The kids/grandkids, okay adults as well, jump up and down singing "Abelskivers Abelskivers how we love our Abelskivers!" Don't ask because I can't remember how that got started twenty-five years ago.

I give you Abelskiver accoutrements:

Lila's Abelskiver

(Scandinavian Home Cooking by Morry and Florence Ekstand)

2 cups buttermilk or regular milk
2 c flour
3 eggs, seperated
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla or almond extract
apple slices, optional

Beat yolks, add sugar, salt, milk; then flour, soda, baking powder. Stiffly beat egg whites and fold in gently. Heat abelskiver pan, add teaspoon of vegetable oil until hot but not smoking. Fill each cavity almost to the top. Cook until lightly browned. Use a skewer, knitting needle or long tined fork and turn the abelskiver 1/3 of the way. Continue cooking and turn again forming round ball. The batter will run into the center as it turns. Test to make certain the center is done. If using apple slices, place one piece in the center when the batter is first poured. Oil pan after cooking each abelskiver.


And last but not least, Nordic Ware makes an Abelskiver/Ebelskiver pan.
Amazon has several versions available, also William Sonoma.I bought mine in a hardware store.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Chocolate Apricot Roll Eureka!

My curiosity kicked into gear trying to figure out how to magnify the apricot flavor in the Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze. Taking a bit of orange zest I softened it in warm Apricot Brandy and water, then added Levkar. Spooning the warm sauce over a slice brought out all the flavors in the cake. It's a delicious juxposition; cool cake with warm sauce, slightly heating the delectable chocolate ganache and lacquer. Finally I got the apricot intensity I prefer. This cake is very good after all which makes me happy after dipping into my prized stash of Valrohna cocoa powder to make the lacquer. Eldest granddaughter keeps snitching little spoonfuls from the chocolate puddle on the platter. And she doesn't like dark chocolate!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze

Ta Da! After much procrastination the Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze is here, thanks to Raymond and Faithy.

I procrastinated all weekend and decided against making it. It sounded complicated. It sounded extremely sweet. It sounded almost too chocolate-ly. My nemesis also lurked within the recipe, namely folding in flour. After reading Raymond's and Faithy's posts late Sunday night, there was no way I could not make this cake.

I understood Rose's explanation for creating this cake; chocolate dipped apricots are a Christmas treat for us courtesy of relatives who still live in the midst of central California's farmland. Each year, the most delectible box of glaceed jumbo apricots, half dipped in dark chocolate, the other half in white chocolate, are sent up north by my aunt, along with chocolate covered jumbo muscat raisins. It's always our favorite things to unwrap!

Levkar sounded intriguing. It was fun cooking it up, sort of in the lemon curd category. It is delicious stuff. While it was cooling, I whipped up the syrup and then the ganache. The cake went together surprisingly easy. I used the whisk beater instead of a spatula for folding in the flour and it was much easier. With the cake baked and cooling, I faced the Lacquer dilemma, gelatin or agar? That was the question.

Being vegetarian, not vegan, just run of the mill lacto-ovo, I couldn't bring myself to use gelatin, not even for Rose. Having no idea if agar would work, I substituted an even amount, following the same instructions. It seemed to work but quite a lot did not dissolve and was left in the strainer. The lacquer didn't seem any worse for wear and drew loads of oooh's and ahhh's. Except I missed the step of getting it to the serving platter properly.

It's a show stopper cake but not as flavorful as I was anticipating. Everyone who tasted it is of the same opinion, except eldest granddaughter. She loves it and can discern every flavor but she has an ultra sensitive palette. I tease her she should grow up to be a professional taste tester.
(That's her "painting" the syrup)

Baking this cake had the potential to nail me to the wall. And it would have except for the HCB'ers. Being able to read everyone's posts while baking spurred me on to keep going, give it a try. I'm so glad I did. This recipe taught me a great deal. I'll make it again, adding spice, maybe orange zest to the cake batter for a bit more flavor.