Sunday, August 29, 2010

Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache

Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache is a light cake with a deliciously rich topping.  This was an easy cake to make from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. The ganache sounded tricky but it really wasn't difficult.  The moment the hot cream sputtered furiously when poured into the boiling sugar mixture made me very happy.  I was delirious to be in the ganache zone instead of a rock candy science experiment gone bad.

This inadvertently became a Green & Blacks chocolate cake.  I haven't a clue how the math works out combining the 70% and 85% but it tasted great, which is what counts.  I turned it out of the pan immediately to cool rather than leave it in the pan. This seems to help me keep chocolate cakes from being dry.

I used less than half the ganache, leaving the sides unfrosted and paired the cake with creme brulee ice cream. The chocolate is exquisite with the faint caramel undertone. Everyone liked it.  Next time, however, I'm pouring the caramel cream over the cake without adding chocolate.  It was tasty stuff!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Apricot Almond Berry Buckle

This is my first recipe with the ABC group baking from Flo Braker's book, Baking for All Occasions.  It was this recipe which made me want to join Hanaa's  bake along.  Flo's book is chokablock full of delightful recipes.

The local apricot season already ended and those in the store looked pretty dismal.  Hanaa suggested using canned apricots which were surprisingly tasty.  For the berries I used a mix of  marionberries, blackberries and raspberries. The almond topping was reminiscent of a chewy Italian cookie.  It was such an easy recipe to mix up and a big hit with the family.  

Monday, August 23, 2010

Marionberry Shortcakes

Marionberries were nearly impossible to find.  The season is officially over but I was told by a grocer to meet The Berry Man under the freeway at the Sunday farmer's market.  I was also told by another grocer "They are just blackberries" and more often than not, asked "What kind of berries?"  One last call to the local Natural Foods Co-Op and a cheery voice non challanty said "Oh, yes, we have frozen Marionberries."  Sputtering, I asked her more than once if she was absolutely certain they were Marionberries?  Indeed they were.  I felt like I won the Marionberry lottery.  Stahlbush Island Farms has a store locator on their web site.  Pop in your zip code  to see if stores in your area carry them.

The genoise batter for these shortcakes used Wondra flour which I always have better luck mixing in than cake flour.  The beurre noisette with vanilla gave it a wonderful flavor.

After two hours the berries barely thawed and were not releasing their highly prized juice.  Placed in a double boiler over simmering water for just a few minutes worked like a charm.

The berries released the requisite amount of juice for painting the cakes.  I didn't use any liqueur and the flavor was amazingly intense reduced on its own.

The dilemma of choosing between creme fraiche or whipped cream was solved by making both and coloring the whipped cream with the gorgeous juice.  Not surprisingly, kids preferred the whipped cream and adults the creme fraiche.  Mine was topped with both.  This is a nice light dessert and perfect for any berry in season.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Chocolate Feather Bed

Flourless cakes are intriguing.  Mix chocolate, eggs, sugar and vanilla together and magic happens.  Top with  whipped chocolate ganache and the combination is sublime.  Rose dreamt up chocolate heaven with this Chocolate Feather Bed.

The recipe called for dark chocolate which sounded perfect for my favorite Lindt 50%.  As luck would have it, there was none to be found.  Lindt 70% and Creamy Milk were substituted in even amounts.  There must be an easy way to calculate dark chocolate percentage, but the more I read,  the more confused I became.
But it's just not possible to go wrong with Lindt chocolate.

Mixing up the batter was surprisingly easy.  Since I made half the recipe, I didn't split the cake but instead cut it into four equal parts.  There were plenty of hands to help with this delicate procedure. Eldest granddaughter was quite adept at scraping crumbs off the parchment and taste testing the trimmed bits.

The mini Cuisinart is still standing in for The Beast and could not hold all the ganache ingredients. The chocolate and half the heated whipping cream were pulsed, then the remainder added and mixed in the Kitchen Aid.  It worked.
The magical part was watching the cooled chocolate mixture transform into a billowy topping.  My quality control inspector stayed on task.  Rose's whipped ganache passed muster with middle granddaughter.

 Lindt white chocolate lightly grated over the top and then garnished with fresh picked blackberries lined up by little fingers completed this lighter than air cake.  Everyone loved it.  So much so that I'm off for more chocolate to bake the other half.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Plum and Blueberry Upside-Down Torte

Plum and Blueberry Upside-Down Torte baked in a cast iron pan-what fun!  So delicious and simple to make except for finding Greengage plums.  This was the chosen recipe from Rose's Heavenly Cakes for this week's  HCB baking.

The Greengage plum is an elusive fruit.  Finding any required a dragnet telephone sweep covering 77 miles/124km north to south and 77 miles/124 km east to west.  Finally some were located at the very last place on my call list, near the stables in a small produce stand.  The one we drive by once or twice a week.  They saved me the last pound of Kelsey Greengages except now I'm not so certain Kelsey actually
are Greengage.  
Even produce people are confused by Greengage's identity hearing green and plum in the same sentence and they didn't look like these or the above picture. 

Along the way I learned quite a bit about Greengage plums and why, delicious and coveted as they are among jam makers and bakers, they've become scarce.  California farmers have pulled their Greengage orchards because they do not sell in super markets.  

The flavor is different than the more popular purple and red varieties, less sweet, but I honestly don't know if these were as ripe as they should be.

 This is the first time for me baking a cake in a cast iron skillet, which I have wanted to do for a long time. The caramel syrup was stirred up in a heavy sauce pan then poured into the skillet with the cut up plums and blueberries arranged.

I tossed the dry ingredients into the Big Beast Cuisinart which refused to start.  The trusty little mini Cuisinart was pressed into service, mixing the dry ingredients with butter in two batches, dumping the tasty dough into a bowl and then pouring in mixed eggs and vanilla.  They stirred in easily  with a fork.  

It baked forty minutes at 325 instead of 350 taking into account the dark skillet, cooled a few minutes then flipped out of the skillet intact.  

No one wanted to wait.  Everyone liked it.  Baking in cast iron and mixing the dough with a fork made me think of Little House on the Prairie.  Or in my case, Ma and Pa Kettle.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lemon Meringue Cake

Lemon Meringue Cake, Lemon Meringue Pie, Anything Meringue, is at the bottom of my list of desserts.  Weepy meringue on the lemon pies of my childhood ruined any chance of appreciation for meringue.  Why did meringue have to shove whipping cream, the stuff of my dreams, off a perfectly good pie and ruin it?  That was always my question while scraping it aside.  Eventually Marie Callender made a Sour Cream Apple pie with a topping from cheesecake.  Inspired, my mother topped her lemon pie with her cheesecake topping and never made meringue again. We always referred to it as Sour Cream Lemon pie and moaned complaints when the bridge group ladies weren't on diets, which usually insured at least one piece to split between my brother and I.

Upon leafing through a then newly arrived copy of Rose's Heavenly Cakes several months ago, the beautiful picture of this cake sent chills down my spine.  I have been dreading the eventual making  of it ever since.

Sunday rolled around and I did what I always do before anything else on Sunday mornings; check in with HCB to see if Raymond, Faithy and/or Mendy have posted up cakes.  Most normal people read the Sunday newspaper, do the Sunday crossword or read the Sunday comics.  They don't make a blurry eyed mad dash  to the computer to see how the weekly cake stacks up.  When does a hobby become an obsession?  I'll tell you when a hobby becomes an obsession; when panic strikes because a tried and true recipe (Abelskivers)  is given in volume only without weight measurement.  I've gone over to the dark side of the digital scale abyss.

I started this meringue monstrosity at 3:30 a.m.  putting summer heat induced insomnia to good use.  Mixing up the lemon curd and lemon syrup gave me a boost of confidence.  The cake was surprisingly simple to mix up, thanks to the Wondra Flour dissolving without traces of hidden flour balls lurking in the batter.  The only thing left was the Italian Meringue.   So many better options kept springing to mind.  What if I made a sweetened creme fraiche like Ginger Elizabeth at that soufflee class?  Or what about slathering Haagen-Dazs Lemon ice cream over the top and turning it into an ice cream cake?  Whipping cream!  Faithful, trustworthy whipping cream with some lemon curd mixed in.  But post after HCB post extolled the virtues and sang the praises of Rose's meringue.  Seventeen hours later, at 8:30 p.m., the instant read thermometer and I saddled up for sugar syrup battle.   An hour later the golden meringue topped cake emerged from the oven.

The meringue Rose created for this cake tastes nothing like any meringue I have ever eaten.  The cake is a burst of lemon; not too sweet because I found a leftover quarter cup of sugar which was supposed to go in the batter.  This cake certainly surprised me, which is a colossal understatement.  I didn't even scrape off the meringue.  Baked Alaska is suddenly calling my name.