Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Inspiration in Cake Form

We got together later than usual on Tuesday. Usually we bake in the morning, about 9 am or so (Usually, I seem to be running late at that point, but I do make a stop at Dunkin' Donuts.) Today we started at 1:45 or 2.

So it began for me, harried, late and frazzeling (ok, I have no idea how to spell that word). It started out, for Janet a bit on the rough side, too. The leader of the Tour de France's last section was kicked out for doping. And it was a rest day so there wasn't much being said about it on our news. I just noticed that it was in the headlines on my homepage, so it's news here too.

You could say we both got up on the wrong side of the oven. Given these bumps and the fact that last week's cake was very, very good, it's safe to say that we both expected today's cake to be ok, alright, not great, plodding.

We made the Golden Luxury Butter Cake (pg 48) I know, it's another butter cake -- but we are only 4 away from the end of the butter cake chapter! This cake goes together like most of her butter cakes, sift dry ingredients, aerate, add butter and wet ingredients in 3 batches, only for 20 seconds after each batch....This one came together with no problems. We did notice a bit of bubbling on the tops when the layers were cooked, so we probably over mixed, but it wasn't a problem overall.

RLB suggests that we make a Lemon Buttercream for the cake, but we had done that with our Buttermilk Country Cake
(Mar.30.07) And since we want to cook as many things as possible without making duplicates, we made the Mousseline Buttercream (pg 244) We do realize that we made it the last time (Ju.17.07). This time we made the Orange version,

For a fruit Mouselline RLB suggest using puree or curd. Due to my tardiness and Janet's feelings of stir craziness she made Orange Curd (pg 342) before I came. Following the directions as written it came up a bit pasty, floury without the almost silky, slightly opaque quality of curds.

"This really frosted me!" Janet said grumbling under breath. I burst out laughing, cause, near as we can tell, the reason would be we used frozen eggs yolks -- remember the 4.5 egg whites from the last cake? We assume that being frozen changed the proteins and made them coagulate in tighter balls. At this point Janet said, "Ok Alton." I grinned and said I don't know if I'm channeling Alton Brown or Shirley Corriher. (Mr. Brown is the host of Good Eats, probably one of my favorite all time cooking shows. Ms. Corriher wrote a wonderful food science book _Cookwise_ that would be the entire text of my food class.)

At this point, we're both thinking, "Rats, this is going to be a big let down." It's followed by a comma when the feeling's not as strong -- can anyone tell us where that's from?

Then, the cakes came out of the oven. They were lightly golden brown, the edges were that crisp, crepe like edge that we both like. They turned out easily -- well it was easy for Janet, mine got a bit of a crack in the top.

Both of us looked at it like them like they were the Holy Grail. They smelled righteous.

The Mousseline turned into its fine self. And Janet and I got the idea that we'd place the curd between the layers. A great idea until it started to slide. Domed cake tops will do that! So I sliced off the dome of one and they fit together much more nicely. As I said, "There are no accidents here, only snacks." We placed the domed parts in a bowl and continued to eat them up. With a fine crumb and a dense texture, it was a pound cake without the weight. Kathy, who got a drive by caking last night, said to me on the train, "That cake was so good. It's texture...great."

What is beauty? To me along with a good long dinner with friends, it's a cake that inspires you. Janet and I were so happy with the outcome of this cake that we both started to spout out ideas of what would work as an addition to the frosting.

We said nuts finely chopped, almonds, walnuts, pecans, placed between the cake layers would be good. So, Janet turned around and pulled out a bag of each. "You're so like me, only prepared." Strangely enough it's true. We do work well together.

In the taste test: Untoasted almonds were quite bland. Walnuts caused such a reaction on my face that Janet said, "If it did that, I have to try it." Way too bitter for the cake frosting combo. Pecans were quite a nice addition with their texture and their sweetness. Janet still holds out for toasted almonds.

This led to a discussion about what herb would we use. I suggested Basil. Orange and basil often work well together. Alas, we had no basil to test.

With the orange, we did decide that blackberries would be wonderfull added to the plate. Then we found blueberries in the fridge. Adding a splash of orange flower water, a bit of sugar and muddling that with the blueberries was a wonderfully refreshing, perfumy addition to the cake. Try it. It was a bit like sex.

"Don't get me wrong, I like sex...a lot. But it's never going to replace cake." Stephanie Plum. Thank you Kristing in West Lafayette for the quote. Read Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum Series, they are a hoot!

Bake through....


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

One Cake, Many Recipes

Well, it's been a long time. Between work and family visits for the 4th of July and a hellishly hot day (about 95 with about 95% humidity) it took us awhile to get back to the Cake Bible, but today we did.....

Today we made the White Velvet Butter Cake (pg 46). This is the one used to make the White Lilac Nostalgia cake (pg 167) that requires 1/2 recipe of the Raspberry Mousseline (pg 245) and 1 full recipe of the Creme Ivoire Deluxe (pg 246). You are supposed to use crystallized lilacs (pg 326) but we didn't.

Ok, honestly, I grumble and complain about baking day. I'm that way about anything that I "have" to do. So imagine just how much grumbling I can do when it takes 4 separate and completely different recipes to create a cake. Well let me tell you, it's a lot. I spent quite a bit of time trying to get my head around all the parts of this cake.

The interesting thing is that it's no longer the actual cake part that makes me slightly nervous. I now understand what her process is for putting together a butter cake -- one would hope I could do it after what, 17 cakes!

The cake portion is a wonder to behold. It's light in color, almost crepe like in its crispy edge (hope it's supposed to be like that, 'cause it was tasty) and blonde almost white interior with a really fine crumb.

One learning of ours -- our butter has been consistently too soft -- runny butter isn't room temp butter, now is it?

This cake batter came together like none of the others. And baked in the alloted time. Seriously, I think this is my new favorite white cake. It reminded me of a cross between a white butter cake and an angelfood cake. Janet said it was very much like her Granny Martin's white cake. High praise indeed.

The raspberry mousseline was fabulously rich and wonderful. It did require a bit of orchestration and I did make the raspberry puree/sauce (pg 337) the night before. Trust me this sauce was worth every single bowl and strainer in my kitchen being raspberry-ified. The secret is in boiling down the raspberry juice from 1 cup to 1/4 cup. It's tart and sweet and has a depth of flavor. I gave Michael a taste of the sauce and he said, it's like the berry just explodes in your mouth. Truly it was perfection.

You add this sauce to the Mousseline buttercream. That was a bit of a bother, but honestly well worth it. It's similar to the Silk Meringue Buttercream we did back in mid June. The difference is that you add butter to the beaten whites and firm ball sugar syrup. We did it this time with a hand mixer so that we could do a steady steam of sugar into the egg whites. This offered a seemingly smoother version, but since we didn't do a side by side with the stand mixer, we don't know for sure.

There is a liqueur option and we choose to use it, but instead of the Grand Marnier she suggests, we thought Chambourd with its dark, cherry taste would be better suited to the raspberry sauce -- raspberry Stoli was dismissed outright, but got us thinking.

Raspberry Sauce/Puree Recipes: (You only need 3/4 cup of it, so you will have left overs):
Add a bit of the sauce to your lemonade or your favorite lemon lime soda. For an adult version, add it to Raspberry Stoli and ice.

There is a moment in the middle of the mousseline when you may feel that it's all over. It's not, don't stop, bake through. It is devine decadence in a non chocolate form.

The real bother and part that made us scratch our head more than once was the Creme Ivoire Deluxe (pg 246). Basically you melt all the ingredients white chocolate, cocoa butter (which is very, very expensive), clarified butter, a flavorless oil (we used canola).

Once melted, you cool and whip into a buttercream. This wasn't the case for us. By hand it never seemed to whisk to cool, although it did have the whisk marks on top, right away. We put it in the stand mixer and put the pan of iced water under it, like we did a couple cakes ago when we realize that over 90 degrees in Janet's house isn't good cake baking weather. We did add 4 tablespoons of butter at room temp. This helped, but it took a very, very long time. (I consulted my mother about this recipe and she said "That's insane!" and agreed with us that we followed the recipe, and that it does seem a stretch to make a glaze and then through magical whisking somehow it will turn into buttercream. -JM)

We spread the Mousseline between the layers (they were cut in half horizontally, thus making the four layers you see). Then, we crumb coated -- see our learnings from before. Then we put it in the freezer to cool. Then frosted it, but the frosting was warming up and getting strange so we put it in the freezer again. (See we can learn from previous mistakes.)

Then we sat down and had a nice bit of lunch and while I know that we're doing the Cake Bible, Janet came up with a wonderful chicken salad that I thought we should share:

Janet's Chicken Salad

Shredded cabbage & carrots (bag of cole slaw mix)
sour cream & a little teriyaki sauce
grapefruit vinegar
toasted sesame oil
chinese 5 spice powder
leftover jerked and grilled chicken, shredded
celery, sliced
water chestnuts, diced
toasted almonds, chopped
salt & pepper

I don't have amounts (& I hope that's everything that went in it), but think of making cole slaw and taste as you go. It was a recipe that Robb described that prompted me to purchase the slaw mix, but I couldn't remember what was in his aside from the slaw and chicken. This was good served with cantaloupe and cracked pepper. -JM

She served it over thinly sliced cucumbers and it was so good. I hope you don't mind that we included it here. It just needed to be published.

After we finished eating, the cake was a bit too cool. But we finished decorating it. Notice the zinnia, pretty huh?

This cake was the best one we've made, really. We ate the whole piece that we cut to taste. Very rare for us.

Only one cake, but what a cake it was.

Bake Through