Wednesday, April 25, 2007

These are the three pound cakes from our first week: double vanilla on the left, perfect pound cake center, and the lemon poppy seed on the right.

These lovelies are from week 3. We've got the Chocolate Cherry Almond Pound Cake- that's what looks like a meatloaf in the back and also the 2 small rounds. We also made a layer of Golden Butter Cream Cake and frosted it with Royal Honey Buttercream. Need more butterfat anyone??

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

This one has frosting....

So....we've made a few decisions....

Janet doesn't really care for chocolate. Those chocoholics out there, please pick yourselves up off the floor. It's not the end of the world. It just means that we'll have two options periodically.

For those of you who don't know Janet, she's made a list of upcoming recipes and she's VERY diligent. What we've decided is ok not to follow the _Cake Bible_ word for word. We're going to mix it up a bit so we don't end up with a string of chocolate cakes at the end of the butter cake section. Like I said, Janet is diligent and you know what, I'm happy she is.

Also, after our last episode, I arrived today and she had everything in place. Obviously, she learned from our past mistakes and definitely remembered her mise en place.

This week we made the Chocolate Cherry Almond Pound Cake and the Golden Butter Cream Cake. That's pages 33 and 34 for those of you who are following along.

Here's what's different:

1. We did them out of order.

2. We frosted one of them. This led to what's different #1. We decided that we wanted to frost the Golden Butter Cream Cake and it needed to cool so we did it first. Just because there are rules, doesn't mean we have to follow them. :)

Like I said to Janet, "I think of this like a Master class" -- After she smirked, I said it was more of a bachelor's class, really :) Really, she knows what she's doing and I just sorta muddle along.

The Golden Butter Cream Cake was a snap. It only had about 8 ingredients and it all fell into place. It became a dense hearty cake, that when we poured it into the springform pan, didn't look like it was going to amount to much. But, when it was done in the oven, it was a thing of beauty. Various times we thought it was to be the best cake of the bunch. I even said, "If we ever open a bakery, this will be the basic cake recipe for our cakes."

This led to a discussion of bakery names: Janet's suggestion: The Sweet Spot - Of course, I go to the "dirty place" and think of ribald comments (who really says ribald these days?) My suggestion was: Sweet Tart with a picture 1/2 of a virgin and 1/2 of a "lady of the evening". We both worried that Sweet Tart would be attacked by the candy company that makes the treats with the same name and we'd be involved in a long term lawsuit, where everyone would side with us, but the law would see it differently.

The Chocolate Cherry Almond Pound Cake threw us for a loop. First of all there are 14 ingredients and it's call an "Almond" pound cake and yet there are hazlenuts in it. Janet couldn't figure out why there weren't just almonds. Good point Janet. We vascilated between "I love this cake" and "I can't stand this cake".

Also, at step three, "Divide the eggs between two bowls, placing three eggs whites in a large bowl and one whole egg plus one yould in a smaller bowl." Janet asked if we had any eye of newt. It wasn't until I read these directions aloud that I realized it sounded a little like the witches of Macbeth.

However, with this cake, we did get to do what we'd been trained to do -- cream our butter and sugar!

Of course, we deviated from the recipe in that we didn't use cream of tartar, we used a copper bowl instead. Supposedly, it works in much the same way. I don't really understand. At this point, I just looked at Janet and nodded. Althought, I have to say she did manage a kickin' stiff peak.

This was the first in a series of questions for me:

1. Why does copper work like cream of tartar?
2. Why do you whip eggs at room temperature and cream cold?
3. Why do fools fall in love?
4. Why do women go to the restroom in pairs? (I found out the answer to that one -- To talk about the other people at the table.)

While we both thought the Golden Butter Cream cake was going to be the hands down favorite, it turned out that we really liked the Chocolate Cherry Almond Pound Cake. I did think that the Apricot Version would have been nice to try.

Janet, in her infinite wisdom thought, "Why don't we pour cream over the Chocolate Cherry Pound Cake?" Honestly, it was a supreme discovery. And, should be added to the next edition, it really was THAT good.

Frosting, yes, we did it....

So as not to have to make 18 cakes at the end to enjoy the frostings? Do I mean Icings there? We went with Ms. Berenbaum's suggestion of a Royal Honey Buttercream.

I have to ask, what is the difference between frosting and icing?

Unfortunately, we realized that we didn't have honey so we exchanged the clover honey with Cane Syrup. It was definitely a more subtle note to the icing to me. Janet said that she'd been playing with honey vs. cane syrup and found them interchangeable. I'm certain that we'll have time to make the comparison later -- we had about a cup of left over icing after frosting the cake, and it freezes! Who knew?. See the pictures. Janet is an amazing crumb coater.

We did have to chill the frosting a bit. While it wasn't too hot here, it was a bit of a spring/summer afternoon.

I have to ask, why does Ms. Beranbaum mention a liquid cup? When we measured a dry cup in our liquid cup measure, it was the same. Obviously there is more to this than we got.

Here's what I learned, I don't know very much, but I do like cake.
Michael's tastings always surprize me. He said that he thought the cakes were a bit dry and lacking buttery tastes. Remember he gets them after they have hung out a bit.

Another thing I've learned....

Sometimes cream can make it all better.

Bake Through,


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Hello folks,
Here are some photos from episode 2: Chocolate Bread, and White Spice Pound Cake. The latter is so delicious, reminiscent of the New England ice cream flavor Frozen Pudding. Amazingly, the former did not seem to suffer from the late addition of sugar. A side by side
surely would prove otherwise? Janet

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Oh, yeah....we forgot something...what was it?????

As we are currently in the "butter cakes" section of the Cake Bible, we are certainly using up the butter supply in the Northern Westcester area. Buy butter stock now.

Figuring that we will have to spend more time on the frosted, pretty cakes later on, we decided to cook two recipes today: 1. Chocolate Bread and 2. White Spice Pound Cake.

The Chocolate Bread recipe -- really, it's not a bread at all, it just looks like bread -- is Janet's mom's favorite from the book. A dense and velvety cake, it does look like a loaf of bread when it comes out of the oven. I guess anything could look like a loaf of bread if you bake it in a loaf pan.

Ms. Beranbaum gives an option of slicing the top of the loaf. It sounded interesting, but I think that I'd have preferred it to "crack" on its own.

One of the things about doing two cakes, or variations, is that you can't help but to compare the two that you have in front of you. The Chocolate Bread looked a bit over cooked, but when we took it out at the right time, it was a bit oily and the wooden skewer wasn't clean, so we put it in only for a bit longer. But, that wasn't something we noticed until we had taken out the White Spice Cake.

Taste wise, the choclate cake wasn't our favorite. As Janet said, "The chocolate cake suffers in this comparison."

We took pictures today on Janet's camera. Hopefully, we'll have them to show you. The Spice cake was the best I've ever seen a cake come out of a bundt pan (or any pan for that matter). It was perfectly golden and crisp on the edges. I almost preferred the edges to the cake. There was something comforting in that crunch.

One thing we noticed was the chocolate in the spice cake. It was a weird addition to us. We found in the tasting that it acts kinda like salt, bringing out the flavors of the other spices -- you don't taste the chocolate at all. The cloves were extremely nice in the mix. Giving the cake a rich, warm aroma. It reminded us of Egg Nog -- a perfect holiday cake. An extra splash of brandy didn't hurt at all.

That great combination of cinnamon and crunch, reminded me of cinnamon toast I used to have growing up, the brandy gives it that adult twist. Served with cinnamon or pumpkin ice cream it'll make someone very happy. It was just really yummy (I realize it's bad food critique to use the word really, but really it's the only way to describe it.)

Janet and I have this down to a science -- sort of....

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot what we forgot. Way back in the Chocolate bread recipe I said, "It looks like chocolate mousse." and proceeded to take a taste of it. It was floury, flat and didn't have any spark. It was a reminder of what Chemistry teachers say throughout high school chem labs, "don't taste your experiments." That particular phrase is my second favorite chemistry teacher quote. Number 1 is "If you do this right, it won't blow up." Luckily Janet and I haven't had to worry about explosions. Yet.

Well, we finished the mixing of the rest of the chocolate mixture. Janet tasted it off the beater after she poured it in the loaf pan. "Why is there so little of it?" She was right, of course. It barely come up the side of the pan half way. And trying to spread it out, was a nightmare.

"Did we include everything?" she asked. This is when we realized that we had "superfined" the sugar in the food processor and hadn't included it!

So, what we basically had was butter, flour, eggs and chocolate. Can you say chocolate pastry dough, sort of?

Just so you all know, you can mix up the entire cake, leaving out the sugar, pour it into a prepared pan and place in the preheated oven for 1 minute then add the sugar and put back into a new prepared pan.

What did we learn today?

Mise en place, people, mise en place!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Well it begins

This morning we set out to bake the first recipe in _the cake bible_.

It's a pound cake. Used to be an equal amount of butter, flour, sugar and eggs (by weight). She has tweaked it a bit. We did the variations of double vanilla and lemon poppy sead.

Puttering around in someone else's kitchen -- Janet's kitchen is better suited for cooking at this point. My kitchen is also a workroom for the reno going on in the 1/2 bath. I don't think Ms. Beranbaum calls for sawdust in her recipes -- we began the project.

At first, it was definately daunting. A bit too anal retentive and a bit too worrisome for my own good. Had to remind myself that it's just a couple friends getting together and cooking. That made it a bit easier.

So, we sat out the ingredients -- reminder, it helps to look at the entire recipe, this one clearly states "room temperature" for all ingredients. Let's just say we had a few moments of chatting and a quick 10 second moment in the microwave when we got to the butter portion.

Also, cake flour isn't the same as bread flour. (I honestly don't know the real difference, all i know is the bag of flour I bought said cake on it when I purchased it, but when i got it to Janet's it distinctly said bread.)

We did the first recipe, Pound Cake using cake flour. The second batch the Poppy Seed Variation was a mix of 1/2 cake and 1/2 All Purpose (AP). The third batch was the Double Vanilla variation and was all AP.

After the alloted time, sorta, Janet announces, " They must be done. Can't be sposedta get any darker." Thank goodness I speak Janet!

After letting it cool for what was probably not the correct amount of time, we dug in. I forgot to mention that pictures were taken of the outcomes. Luckily Janet's father was there. When I get the photos, i'll attach them -- hopefully :)

To us, the texture of the pound cake was a bit like a sponge, but in a good way. This we cooked in a loaf pan. It was so buttery that it left a butter ring on the butcher's block counter! (all I could think of was _The Simpsons_ when Homer wants to get fat and Dr. Nick Riviera says, " And remember, if you're not sure about something, just rub it against a piece of paper. If the paper turns clear, it's your window to weight gain!)

Lots of butter and a firm texture (I still don't know what a crumb really means), dense, but in a soothing homemade sort of way, not dense as in not understanding calculus.

The Poppy Seed variation requires 3 tablespoons of poppy seeds and a bunch of lemon zest. Yes, 3 tablespoons of poppy seeds! While we used a mix of flours, it was my personal favorite as far as texture. It was a bit dense, and a bit crumbly (i'm not sure that is the culinary definition). We did this in a 6 cup bundt cake pan. Janet's not too keen on Lemon Poppy Seed. Usually it's my favorite, but....

#3 was the Double Vanilla. Baked them as muffins with 100% AP flour and sorta fell apart as we cut it. This was a wonderment to all three of us. It smelled rich, buttery and made us all exceptionally happy.

Honestly, this is the way we'd do it if we were going to make pound cake. I think we'd probably go back to cake flour or at least a mix of the two.

Originally we decided that we'd cook together so that we could split the goodies. Really, Janet & Kevin and Michael & I don't need to have full cakes floating around. But as you can tell we ended up with three pound cakes -- thus defeating one of our original purposes. But what a way to defeat!

If you live near us, you may get a drive by caking.

According to an email from Janet, "Kevin enjoyed the pound cake, snarf snarf gone. He's looking forward to the cakes he actually likes- says he's not such a fan of pound cake."

M's opinion about the pound cake (non variant) was that it wasn't buttery enough and he thought the texture a bit off (remember it was all cake flour) Hopefully he'll like the double vanilla we're having as dessert tonight.

I thought it was sorta odd..

kev who doesn't like, likes
michael who does like, doesn't.

But that is the outcome from this installment.

Bake Through!


Thursday, April 5, 2007

Bake Through

This is the start of two things for us.

1. We are going to cook together.
2. Hopefully, once a week, we'll bake our way through _The Cake Bible_ by Rose Levy Beranbaum, Maria Guarnaschelli, Vincent Lee, Manuela Paul, Dean G. Bornstein.

This is the place where we will report on our joys and errors and hopefully, take a picture or two.

Let us know what you think.

Robb & Janet