Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Huckleberry-Blueberry Slab Pie

Last weekend, I took a little day trip up to Port Orchard, Washington to see a couple of friends, and pick up Joelf and drag him back to Portland for a little bit. The drive takes about three hours one way so I picked up a two-pound package of blueberries for snacking. Sadly, the berries were picked too early and had little taste. I was pretty disappointed, since it is the tail-end of blueberry season and HELLO, these should be RIPE.

huckleberry-blueberry slab pie

I told Joelf my blueberry woes when I got him, and he said to mix them with some of the frozen huckleberries he left with me when he moved out a couple of years ago. He says the hucks would increase the flavor but the blues would tone down the tartness.

Suddenly my mind began spinning with blueberry-huckleberry possibilities.

Pie seemed the obvious answer, but I am not a pie fan. More than that, I am not a berry pie fan. Cooked berries tend to get all gloppy and jammy and when presented in pie form, there's just too much of it and not much of anything else to cut the texture and flavor. I thought of a cobbler, but that isn't much more appealing to me. (Now, stone fruit pies and cobblers, that I can get behind.)

Then I had it: slab pie. A slab pie is baked in a jelly roll pan, and has twice as much pastry as there is filling. It is also huge and can (literally) feed a crowd, but I had two pounds of blueberries and so I figured a slab pie would use them all up. Deb at Smitten Kitchen published a sour cherry slab pie recipe I could use as a base, and so that was it. (I noticed she modified a Martha Stewart recipe, so if have Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook the recipe is in there too.)

huckleberry-blueberry slab pie

Deb's (and Martha's) recipe is for a jelly roll pan smaller than the half sheet pan I have, but I didn't notice that until I tried fitting the bottom crust in my pan. Her recipe recommends 1.5x her all butter pie crust, but in the comments (as I found later) people said using 2x the recipe was perfect for a half sheet pan. That would explain why my pastry didn't quite fit in my pan, and why I had to roll it out extra thin to get it to fit.

By the way, her all butter pie pastry is simple and really easy. I have not yet said that about any pie pastry recipe so keep that in mind, bakers. All you pie people have your favorite recipe and I think I might have found mine.

The hucks, about 3.5 cups worth, defrosted with a good amount of juice which I reduced by half. The huckleberries and blueberries got tossed with about a cup of sugar (I like to keep it tart), the zest of one lemon, juice of half a lemon, and a couple tablespoons of cornstarch. I let this macerate while I got the crust into the pan, then spread out the berries, and rolled out the top crust.

huckleberry-blueberry slab pie

(Ya'lls, the top crust was getting soft and crappy as I rolled it out, so I folded it into thirds to make a long skinny rectangle, put it in the refrigerator to give both of us a break, then rolled it out again. I realised that I just put extra layers into my top dough which probably added to its super flakiness--I might just do that on purpose from now on.)

I forgot to wash the top crust with milk or an egg white, so it didn't brown to a deep golden color as I would have liked. Also, the fork pricks were not enough to let the steam escape while baking, so I ended up cutting longer slits with a knife while it was baking. In hindsight, a lattice top or cutout would have been better as many of the slits jammed up with berry juice and I had to re-cut them. I also think I could have used another tablespoon of cornstarch as juices were madly bubbling away between the crust and the edge of the pan, and some did spill over onto the bottom of the oven. Alas.

I lightly glazed the pie about an hour after it was removed from the oven, and I like it. I wouldn't glaze a regular pie but with so much pastry the lemon juice-powdered sugar glaze is a nice little touch. Especially since the berries are so tart.

huckleberry-blueberry slab pie
I am happy with my slab pie experiment. I realise a galette is also a higher ratio of pastry to filling so in the future my fruit pie experiments will probably lean towards them. The slab pie is awesome but without a potluck to feed it to, it is quite a lot of pie. Not that I'm complaining.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Red Fruit Shortcake

A lovely genoise cake with fresh strawberries and raspberries, the Red Fruit Shortcake is a splendid way to celebrate berry season.

The HCB baked this cake in May, but as raspberries weren't fresh yet I decided to hold off. Today at the grocery store and the farmer's market I discovered berry season was in full swing--strawberries, raspberries both red and white, blueberries, marionberries! The time has come, I thought, for Red Fruit Shortcake.

Red Fruit Shortcake

(This week, the HCB are baking the Coffee Chiffonlets, which I baked in April 2010, and met Rose and Woody!)

July 21, 2011
Name of Cake: Berries!
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: one 9 inch layer golden genoise, center hollowed out and filled with macerated strawberries and raspberries

This really wasn't much of a new cake by this point. The cake recipe comes from another cake in the book; making a sugar syrup and adding alcohol is old hat now. I didn't do the best job macerating the fruit without destroying the raspberries. They were too soft and I was too manhandly. (I'm making manhandly a word.)

Red Fruit Shortcake Red Fruit Shortcake

The new skill I learned was how to cut out a depression in the top of the cake so that one could nestle in a bunch of juicy berries. I bet this would work equally well with juicy stone fruit too. Cutting the depression was really easy; the genoise so accommodating that it was no trouble to gently scrape up the cake. I saved all the scraped up cake for a snack.

Red Fruit Shortcake

After syruping the cake with a tuaca-berry juice simple syrup, the macerated berries are tumbled into their cake-bowl. And that's pretty much all there is to this cake.

Red Fruit Shortcake

I brought the cake to work where coworkers and patients alike enjoyed it. The genoise makes a lovely spongy layer to soak up the juicy berries, and provide a very light stage for the fruit to shine. Delicious. Summery. Divine.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

German Chocolate Cake

I almost skipped this one, as I have made the cake component many times before (like two weeks ago for the wedding) and I made The Goop back when the bake along was just Marie, baking along. So technically I could call this recipe made, but because I am a rule follower and a joiner, I went ahead and squeezed this cake in before I left for a long weekend.

(And I regret to say, no photos. I forgot!!)

August 09, 2011
Name of Cake: The Hermione
Occasion: HCB, and a summer potluck
Constituents: two 9 in cakes filled and topped with the goop, a coconut-pecan-condensed milk frosting. optional ganache for the sides.

I just pulled the cakes from the oven but I can already tell you how this tastes.

The cakes are moist, slightly spongy and nicely chocolatey. This cake is a real crowd pleaser.

The goop is the best goop recipe I've tried--and I've tried a lot. It is easier than all others I've used, and yields something smooth, rich, and buttery with just the right amount of coconut and pecans. Goop lovers will be very pleased.

Since the cake was gong to rest overnight, I very thinly frosted the sides with the rest of the leftover Midnight Ganache that I defrosted for the top tier of the wedding cake. A very thin layer is just the right amount for this cake.

Coleen invited me to her home for a summery potluck, and to meet her niece, Rebecca, her niece's husband and their little baby. The niece and her family live in France and this was a rare trip to the States. Rebecca said excitedly to me, "I miss cake. I love cake, and I MISS IT." We gave her the first slice and she looked at it closely, approvingly bounced her finger on one of the cake layers, and dug in. You guys, that kind of appreciation for cake is much respected around this blog. I told Coleen if there were any leftovers her niece needed to keep them. Rebecca asked me if I delivered cakes to France. I said hells yeah, as long as I got a plane ticket to personally deliver the cake.

I had to run home soon after as I needed to pack and get ready for my trip. So I didn't get to ask Rebecca--what, no cake in France? Maybe she means she misses American-style cake, and if so this German Chocolate Cake is as American as it gets.

Marie posted the recipe on her blog, way back in the beginning of the bake through.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Chocolate Raspberry Trifle

I hope upon seeing the title of this post you weren't expecting a large and glorious trifle, with layers upon layers of feather-light chocolate gemoise, thick creamy creme anglaise, and bright red raspberries. 'Cause mine is a little more rustic than the photo in the book.

chocolate raspberry trifle

August 7, 2011
Name of Cake: Late July Trifle
Occasion: HCB, and raspberry season
Constituents: moist chocolate genoise, creme anglaise, leftover raspberry coulis (in place of raspberry jam), and fresh raspberries. and raspberry whipped cream.

A normal-sized trifle feeds about 20 people, and since I wasn't feeling like rounding up 20 people I halved the recipe. The trouble with halving a trifle recipe is finding an appropriate receptacle for the thing. I chose a glass food storage container which was a little too wide and a little too short. So what I'm trying to say is my trifle has only three layers and the creme anglaise seeped all down between the cake and the side of the container. Oh well. So much for pretty trifle pictures!

chocolate raspberry trifle

Despite not looking so hot, the trifle tastes amazing!

This trifle involves lots of steps:
  1. chop, melt, and cook dark chocolate for the genoise, let cool
  2. make the 2 layers of genoise, let cool
  3. make a sugar syrup for the genoise, let cool
  4. make creme anglaise, let cool
  5. remove the top crust and torte both genoise layers
  6. spread raspberry jam, or in my case leftover raspberry coulis from the wedding on one side of the cakes
Then comes trifle assembly:
  1. place cake layer jam side down in your trifle dish
  2. syrup the other side of the cake in the dish
  3. pour over some creme anglaise
  4. scatter some raspberries
And lather, rinse, repeat.

chocolate raspberry trifle

Gosh, when written out like that it looks really easy! Even though there are a lot of steps, they are all easy steps. The hardest part was being patient with all these cooling down shenanigans. I distracted myself by making dinner. A good distraction, with enjoyable results (most of the time).

The assembled trifle gets covered airtight and left in the refrigerator overnight to sort itself out. I have become a firm believer in letting cakes get a good rest to sort themselves out.

chocolate raspberry trifle
check out the larger version of this shot; i got good detail on the raspberry!

After letting the trifle do its sorting, the raspberry whipped cream is made. Basically you whip up cream, sugar, and raspberry jam until you get a cute pink topping that makes the trifle look adorable. Here's my advice bakers: if you want your cake to look adorable frost it with pink tinted frosting.

I discovered that taking a photo of a serving of trifle is difficult, as the insides are scooped out and plated. This scooping action just smears the frosting and creme anglaise all over the place and makes your trifle photograph like a dead animal. Check it out:

chocolate raspberry trifle

I tried again, and it came out marginally better:

chocolate raspberry trifle
At least its insides aren't spilling out like Skywalker's tauntaun

But at least you can see the layers. And never mind how it looks, just know that it tastes wonderful. Rose mentions in the header for this recipe that this dessert is deceptively light, making it suitable even after a heavy dinner. I agree that is deceptively light and very flavorful; the creamy vanilla creme anglaise, the tart strawberries, and the mellow chocolate genoise are a perfect combination. Although I agree with others who said the St Honore Trifle is the better of the two, don't skip this trifle when raspberries are in season!

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Plum Round Ingots

You guys, I actually like these! A lot!

I have had a crazy day, and finding these plum round ingots delicious just fits the theme.

Plum round ingots
This is a murky phone photo, so pretend they look prettier.

August 1, 2011
Name of Cakes: almond plum teacakes
Occasion: HCB
Constituents: ingots (almond brown butter teacakes), baked in little rounds with plums and/or blueberries

These are super easy to make. The batter, which is just a small amount, is blended in the food processor and then refrigerated for at least 6 hours. After a good long rest, you fill the mini tart pans half full; I used my little ramekins which held exactly double what the mini pans would. Then some lovely plums (I used pluots) are sliced thin and placed into the batter, or blueberries are sprinkled over the top. I ran out of pluot slices after lining the third ramekin so I filled in the middle with blueberries.

These bake for about half an hour, cool completely in their pans, and then are ready to eat!

I wasn't too sure about these ingots as I have not been a fan of the ingots we've baked in the past. But these! The beurre noisette-vanilla-almond combination is wonderful and complements the pluots (or blueberries) so perfectly. The edges are crunchy and the middles are soft. I finally am on board with this ingot thing.