Monday, March 29, 2010

Le Succes

I am really excited about the next couple of cakes as they are gluten free. This particular cake stretches the typical definition of cake, as it is made up of dacquoise disks layered with a tea ganache.

Le Succes

March 28, 2010
Name of cake: Le Succes (souk-say)
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: 3 dacquoise disks and a lemon tea ganache

Maybe its just because I have been baking for a while now, but I am always surprised when people look at me quizzically when I say "ganache." I usually look at them just as quizzically. Then I remind myself that not everybody bakes for a hobby. In the back of Heavenly Cakes (p 429), Rose says that her French dictionary (Cassell's) defines ganache as "a well-padded easy chair." Well, I can only say that eating ganache will make any chair feel well-padded, but you will be the padding. I mean come on--this glorious velvety stuff is simply chocolate and cream. Rose's raspberry ganache is so lovely I have wanted to swim in it. It is hard to say no to something so simple to make but so satisfying to eat. This ganache is a little different to me as it is made with creme fraiche instead of the traditional heavy cream, and it has an additional flavoring agent of not vanilla, not alcohol, not fruit, but instant lemon iced tea. Fascinating!

Le Succes

The most trouble this ganache gave me was in scalding the creme fraiche and cream. Which really isn't any trouble, so that tells you exactly how simple ganache is to make. I used to be on a total losing streak when it came to ganache--I was always overheating the chocolate so that it broke and the ganache would have a pool of cocoa butter floating in the surface. Now I have no idea why I was making it that way, when scalding the cream and adding it to the unmelted chocolate in the food processor has resulted in beautiful unbroken ganaches.

Dacquoise is a word I would expect people to not know, and would probably look at someone quizzically if they did know the word. A dacquoise is simply a meringue to which ground almonds have been added. (Can other nuts be used? Probably, right?) I really like dacquoise as it kills some of the sweetness of a meringue and gives the flavor some depth. In truth, I have only made dacquoise one other time, but it was really great, and dead simple:

Egg whites are beaten to stiff peaks, with the addition of cream of tartar and a little sugar.

The almonds and sugar, which were processed together to a fine powder, are then folded into the meringue in three parts. I wonder if I got a little overzealous and deflated the eggs a bit.

The batter is then piped into three eight inch disks. I have done this before with meringue for other cakes, with varying degrees of success. I hoped that it would all go well with this one, but like I consoled myself in the past, frosting covers a multitude of sins. That, and most people will be happy to eat it, even if it doesn't come out perfect. The batter flowed fairly quickly from the piping bag, which is why I wonder if I had deflated the eggs. I was able to pipe out the three disks and had a little left over to make four little meringue cookies.

Le Succes

Into the oven the disks went for 15 minutes. The first batch came out looking a little browned and thin. Huh, hope that's okay. The third disk didn't brown as much nor did it look so thin. The little meringue cookies I ate pretty much right away, and they were good. Loosening the disks from the parchment was a little difficult, and I tore the third disk a little bit. Maybe next time I'll be sure to thoroughly spray the parchment; I was a little light-handed when I did it.

Le Succes

After the disks are completely cooled, it's time to assemble the Succes. There is a lot of down time in this part of the recipe, so plan accordingly. After frosting the first disk and topping with the second disk (upside down), it is chilled for 1 hour. I assume this is to ensure the disk is sturdy enough to take another round of frosting and stacking. After frosting and stacking with the third disk, it is again chilled for 1 hour. Then you can finish frosting and decorating the Succes, and then you can let it come together for 24 hours before eating. Dang!

As a testament to how cold my kitchen is, I had to warm up and rebeat the ganache after each 1 hour interval. In fact, as I was frosting the top of the third disk and the sides of the completed cake, the ganache on the cake began to get too hard to smooth out. Thankfully I bought a little butane torch a couple of years ago, so I torched the ganache to soften it up enough to finish smoothing out the sides and top. Then I tried just torching the spoon to make the decorative swirl Rose suggests, but that wasn't enough to make a dent so I torched the entire top of the ganache until it looked soft too. Then I was able to drag a spoon through the ganache in a neat spiral. That gave the unexpected but neat effect of a two-tone ganache. Hooray for little butane torches!!

Le Succes

I had about a cup of tea ganache left over after filling and frosting the cake, and you can bet your well-padded easy chair I ate it up with a spoon. It has a very interesting flavor; it doesn't scream LEMON ICED TEA but there's a little something different. You know, it reminds me of Cadbury's milk chocolate. Which is the chocolate I grew up on, so to me that is a good thing.

I tried to keep the layers of ganache on the thin side since the dacquoise is so delicate and the ganache so rich. The almond flavor, to me, is quite muted. In hindsight I wish I had toasted the almonds, which I did last time I made dacquoise. Untoasted, the almonds merely serve to provide a textural crunch to contrast with the velvety chocolate. The ganache is rich, and delicious, but in these thin layers I don't feel like it is too much. But I did eat the last cup of ganache with a spoon last night, so maybe my ganache tolerance is much higher than most.

Le Succes

Also, and not related in any way, I found this on Portland Food and Drink today and thought it was hilarious!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Peanut Butter Financiers

It seems like I'm falling back into my Lazy Bakers ways, posting way behind everyone else. I'm trying to catch up! I can do it!

A financier is a little almond-brown butter cake, usually baked in little molds that make them look like little bars of gold. This version includes a bit of peanut butter as well.

Apparently these financiers can also be called "ingots," which to me sounds like the larval form of some bug. There is nothing appetizing to me about ingot so I prefer to continue to call them financiers. According to the online merriam-webster dictionary:
Main Entry: in·got
Pronunciation: \ˈiŋ-gət\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, perhaps modification of Middle French lingot ingot of metal, incorrectly divided as l'ingot, as if from le, the
Date: 14th century

1 : a mold in which metal is cast
2 : a mass of metal cast into a convenient shape for storage or transportation to be later processed
Word hippo (not sure how I got there) suggests slab, nugget, lump, brick, bar, and block as other words for ingot.

This supports my refusal to call what I had baked as ingots, as they are not bars, they are flower shaped cakelettes. So nyah. (Sticks out tongue.)

Peanut Butter Ingots

March 22, 2010
Name of cakelettes: Peanut Butter Financiers
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: almond-brown butter cakes, with a bit of peanut butter

I hemmed and hawed for a few days as I couldn't decide what to bake my financiers in. The traditional mold of little rectangles was not an option (can't buy any more pans), the more common substitute of mini cupcakes was also not an option (can't buy any more pans). I don't really have anything mini. I thought about regular sized cupcakes, but remembered reading that these have a great crust and that was why the little pans were so great--a good ratio of crust to inside. So I decided to use my cakelette pan, as it is cast aluminum and I hoped it would give these cakes a nice crust.

The cakelette pan has 6 cavities, each holding about 1 cup. I calculated the recipe and knew I wasn't going to be able to fill all 6 cavities, but decided to go ahead anyway. It would probably be good for Cookie, her husband, and I to eat less cake this week.

The batter was very simple. Sliced almonds are lightly toasted, and ground into a powder along with powdered sugar and flour. Brown butter is made, which smells delicious. Egg whites are beaten until foamy, to which the flours are added. The brown butter is slowly added to the mix, taking about 5 minutes to let everything emulsify and be happy. Lastly, the peanut butter is mixed in and the batter is ready to go.

Peanut Butter Ingots

I was able to get four cakelettes, which I thought was pretty good. I patted myself on the back for remembering to turn the oven down by 25 degrees since I had a dark pan. A little bit later these lovely peanut buttery smelling cakes came out of the oven and I set them on a rack to cool. After about 10 minutes I turned them out and Cookie, who had come over, and I smelled their aroma and waited a bit until they were cooler. They had a nice, tight, shiny and crusty crust which was pleasing. We cut one open to sample, saving the other 3 for craft night. They smelled like peanut butter cookies, but they didn't taste as strongly of peanut butter as they smelled. The texture of the cake was amazing--light, delicate, melt-in-your-mouth, and moist. It was the flavor. Something was missing. Maybe a little salt? Perhaps my peanut butter was unsalted?

I am glad to say they are better the next day--the flavors have woke up a bit and sorted themselves out. I can taste the almond now, and the peanut butter is a nice playmate. The texture is still wonderful and light.

Peanut Butter Ingots
shortly after coming out of the oven

I thought about glazing these cakes in the leftover hot fudge glaze, but was worried that it would overpower the cakes. So I made some peanut butter cupcakes and glazed those suckas with the hot fudge. Delicious!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze

In 2006, a little cupcake bakery opened its doors in NW Portland. They were Portland's first cupcakery, and it was during the height of the cupcake craze, so naturally we were all over that action. Since then other cupcakeries have opened their doors, but I am still a fan of Saint Cupcake. Mainly because of this little beauty on the right:

birthday treats from st cupcake

That is a yellow cupcake with hot fudge frosting. This, my friends, is my ideal in cake and frosting: a buttery rich vanilla cake with a thin layer of rich chocolate, and hot fudgy to boot! Hot fudge is one of my most favorite ways of chocolate delivery. And here it is, in frosting form! I have often wondered how they do it. And how I can do it, since it is my favorite.

And now, thanks to Rose and the Heavenly Bakers and this Chocolate Apricot Roll, I know how I can do it too. (Cue Happy Dance.)

Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze

March 15, 2010
Name of cake: Hot Fudge Apricot and Stuff
Occasion: HCB, one week behind
Constituents: Biscuit roll, Apricot Lekvar, Ganache, and the Hot Fudge Glaze

The Heavenly Cake Bakers baked this cake last week. I was in California hanging out with these guys (mostly the one on the right):

my sister and the nephew

Even though this recipe is like 500 pages long, everyone said it was pretty easy once all the steps were broken down. Heartened by this news, I decided to play catch up. There are several steps, pretty much all of which can be done ahead of time. I saved them all for a Sunday.

Step one: make the Lekvar
This is an optional step, as one could simply buy apricot preserves and go from there. The HCB really liked the lekvar and encouraged readers to make it, so I did too. It is really simple, but it does take some time to make. First off, dried apricots are soaked in water for two hours. Did you read that? Two hours. So plan ahead. I actually soaked mine overnight, as I started soaking then forgot about them until I was going to bed Saturday night. Oops!

They are then cooked for about 30 minutes in order to soften them completely. The soft apricots and water are pureed with a little sugar, lemon zest, and apricot brandy. I forgot to buy lemons so I used a teaspoon of lemon extract. I also had this cheap ass bottle of apricot brandy from my Mad Hatter Tea Birthday Party six years ago. Eh, I decided, let's use it.

Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze
the lekvar....and mr. boston

The puree is then put back on the stove, I presume to cook off the alcohol and some of the water, and caramelize the sugars a bit. The lekvar should be thick, take 3 seconds to drop from a spoon, and be a dark orange color. I got the first two requirements, but not the last. In hindsight that is a bummer, as I think the lekvar would be really tasty with the sugars a little caramelized. Mine just tastes like apricot puree.

The lekvar is then set aside to cool and hang out. Rose says this can last indefinitely in the refrigerator. I doubt it will last more than 6 months!

Step two: the ganache

Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze

This is a simple, classic, basic ganache, with the addition of a little Mr. Boston. Once made, it also hangs out and cools. Curiously, Rose instructs to let it cool uncovered for one hour, then covered after that. Huh.

Step three: bake the biscuit

how do you pronounce that?

This is a sponge type cake, so leavening is achieved by nicely beaten eggs. Four eggs are used, plus one egg yolk, however only two of the four egg whites are beaten into a meringue. The other two whites, plus all the yolks, are first whipped up with most of the sugar and the vanilla. They make a nice thick yellow substance.

Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze

I was getting all confused about which egg parts went into which bowl, so I rewrote the instructions to help me out. Of course, owing to the egg yolk conspiracy, I also calculated out the exact grams of whites and yolks needed where. I generally need about 3/4 more yolk than called for, and about 2/3 less white. I used to be hardcore and measure out the whites and yolks separately for EVERY cake I baked, but recently have become lazy and now only do it with cakes where only one of the egg parts is needed, or for sponge type cakes where the eggs do all the work.

Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze

Both bowls of eggs mixed up nice and fluffy, and after folding all the parts together I spread the batter in the sheet pan and set it to bake. It only bakes for 7 minutes or so, then comes the fun part. As soon as the biscuit comes out of the oven it is pulled from the pan, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and rolled up to cool. Fun!

Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze

Step four: the freaking fantastic hot fudge glaze
Rose named this the Lacquer Glaze, because it is so darn shiny. It really is. Here is a photo of the just glazed cake, and you can see in the glaze a reflection of the trees outside my window and the church across the street. I mean, seriously.

Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze

I had no idea this was the hot fudge frosting I had been searching for until I made it. Which, by the way, is much easier than one would think a shiny glaze would be. When I smelled it, and licked the spoon, I realised what I had just made. Basically, hot fudge!! Then I thought about the ingredients: cocoa powder, cream, corn syrup, sugar...pretty much that's hot fudge. This is different in that it has gelatin, which gives it that amazing shine.

I am so in love with this stuff.

Step five: assembling the cake
Another easy step. The biscuit is unrolled, and first a layer of lekvar is spread, then a thicker layer of ganache. Personally I didn't think there was enough lekvar--next time I would use more lekvar and less ganache. Then the biscuit is rolled up again and gets a crumb coat of ganache to smooth the surface for glazing. I didn't have much ganache leftover so the cake only got a very thin swish across the top. Then the lovely glaze is poured over the top to coat the cake. You can bet that I scraped up every last bit of overflow and saved it for later! Rose says this glaze is very forgiving; you can freeze and refreeze it no problem. I don't think it will be around long enough to need freezing.

Technically the cake should relax for at least a couple of hours before serving, but it was time to go to Cookie's house for craft night. Mondays I go over to her house and we knit and watch tv. We both needed a hiatus from knitting after all the hats or mittens that we made for the Olympics, but last night we were ready to get back on the horse. So after an hour's rest I set the cake on the serving plate and drove on over to her house. Somewhere along the way the cake tipped over (dang!) and some of the glaze stuck to the plate (dang!) but oh well. We didn't seem to have a problem eating it.

Step six: eating the cake
I brought over a jar of lekvar in case anyone wanted more apricot flavor. Which we all did.

Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze

I thought the biscuit was a little dry; Rose recommends an apricot syrup for the cake if eating the same day as assembling, but says that the ganache will moisten the cake perfectly if you can wait until the next day. I rolled the cake Sunday and glazed it Monday, so the cake should have been moist. But next time I will syrup as well.

Cookie and Cookie's husband liked the cake, but also agreed it needed more apricot. We all enjoyed the hot fudge frosting. All in all, a good cake. Not a huge hit, but not a bust either. And that hot fudge is a clear winner.

Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze
I borrowed this shot from Monica, who has the best photos ever

Note to the GF readers: I've made the biscuit a few times before, twice gluten free. In The Cake Bible, Rose says this is a good cake to convert to other flours as there isn't much flour and the structure is provided chiefly by the eggs. Both times I used the basic GF flour mix of white flour, tapioca flour, and potato starch flour. They came out great, although once it came out a bit gritty as I used less cornstarch and Bob's Red Mill rice flour, which isn't ground fine enough and is always gritty. Now I only buy rice flour from Asia, which is very finely milled. Anyhoots, if you want to see those posts (but still, no recipe. Go buy the book!!) they are GF tiramisu #1 and GF tiramisu #2.

(Aww, and Melinda, I think GF Tiramisu #1 is the first time you left me a comment! That gives me the warm fuzzies...)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Lemon Poppy Seed Sour Cream Cake

Hello, everybody! This week's Heavenly Cake Bake was the Lemon Poppy Seed Sour Cream Cake, which was a big hit around these parts. I mean, how can you go wrong with lemon, sour cream, and cake?? Impossible!

Lemon Poopy Seed Sour Cream Cake

February 28, 2010
Name of cake: Lemon Poppy Seed Sour Cream Cake
Occasion: HCB, and the end of the Olympics
Constitutents: Pretty much what you would think

The idea was to have this cake ready by the time the gold medal hockey game started at noon on Sunday. It was a good idea. However, I didn't get up until oh, 11 am, so baking the cake before the game wasn't going to happen. It turns out that was okay, since Cookie also got up late and wasn't going to come over until after the game. We had a lot of late nights during the olympics, and we are having a hard time getting back on a real schedule.

Anyhoots, after our sad defeat (and...congrats Canada), I decided that baking a delicious and easy cake would be a good solution to my silver medal blues. Cookie said she would come over to watch the closing ceremonies and so I began to assemble the ingredients.

By the way, I didn't take any process photos--sorry. A little too preoccupied!

Nancy B. said that the hardest thing about this cake is zesting all the lemons, and she is right. This cake is another two stage butter cake, basically. All the dry ingredients go into the mixing bowl, including the 10 grams of lemon zest and the poppy seeds. The eggs, vanilla, and some of the sour cream go into another bowl. The rest of the sour cream sits patiently by the side, with the butter.

Lemon Poopy Seed Sour Cream Cake

Oh--in the ingredients section of Roses Heavenly Cakes, Rose mentions that you can substitute full-fat yogurt for sour cream without much mishap. Since I am more apt to eat leftover yogurt, I decided to do just that. I probably will continue to do that with all the sour cream cakes--why not!

People have been sharing their tricks to get butter up to room temperature, especially if their home is naturally colder than "room temperature." My apartment is almost always colder than room temp, so what I do is cube the butter, set it on a wood cutting board (the one set aside for non-garlic/onion/meat) and set it on the top of the stove while the oven preheats. I do this right before I begin assembling all my other ingredients, and by the time I need the butter it is usually nice and soft but not melted. Oh--I keep a stash of butter in the freezer, so this applies to frozen butter only.

butter, defrosting

This cake filled up my apartment with the lovely perfume of lemon. It was hard not to eat it right away, but I dutifully brushed it with lemon syrup. I couldn't believe that cake could hold all that syrup without falling apart, but somehow it did. Cookie had come over by this time and kept asking when we could eat the cake. I told her, technically we should wait until tomorrow (she gasped) but I suggested waiting about an hour.

Lemon Poopy Seed Sour Cream Cake

After a long and painstaking hour (that lemony aroma!), we cut into the still-warm cake. YUM. The syrup wasn't evenly distributed, of course, but even the cake that wasn't syruped was delicious and moist. The syrupy parts were super lemony. The poppy seeds gave the cake a nice crunch. We chomped down a good third right away, then when Joelf came back we had a few more slices.

Lemon Poopy Seed Sour Cream Cake

Monday morning, Cookie stopped by again and the three of us ate more cake before getting lost in Ikea for six (!) hours. The syrup had made its way through most of the cake which made it a little more dense, and moist, but still melt-in-your-mouth tender, and wonderfully lemony. I think I like the texture of the cake without all the syrup--more springy--but I love that lemony pow the syrup brings. Nicola thought to add lemon oil to the cake, which might replace the need for the syrup, and Lanier made an orange sour cream cake which sounds delicious. I can't wait to try both versions!

Oh hey--if you are interested, here's a link to my flickr photos from the Olympics. We had a blast. The games we saw were amazing and varied (curling, ice hockey, bobsleigh), we got to go to Whistler for the day, and the Whistler village and the streets of Vancouver were filled with people from all over the world. Vancouver really brought the party out. That's the one thing I miss about living in San Francisco--when that city celebrates, it celebrates--and Vancouver didn't hold back either. Watching the world's top athletes complete while being surrounded by very enthusiastic Canadians and other people was a wonderful experience. We have Olympic fever for good now--London 2012 here we come!!

showing off our hats and mittens