Wednesday, October 31, 2007

One cake with no flour... is a cheesecake!

What did we do this week?

It's been a wild wacky end of October. So much so that it's now November.

I spent the last two weekends in Boston teaching a class for a chain of salons. It was all good, but boy is that a long ride from Peekskill to Boston (3 hours). Ok. It's not that long of a ride, but it does take its toll on you when you do it alone.

Guess I'm in trouble since M and I are going to Indiana for Thanksgiving. Well, that's not a big deal. The big deal is that we've decided to drive. That is a 12 hour drive. I'm happy to have some one to share it with. Here's a picture of my home state:

Again with the diversions. What did we do this week? Oh, yeah, the cheesecake. (Glad J wrote the title or I'd have forgotten.)

The Cordon Rose Cream Cheesecake (pg 81) is treated more like a custard by RLB in that she has you do a water bath (a bain marie in French cooking terms). Bain Marie is really a double boiler. I never thought of a cake/custard in a pan half full of water as a double boiler. To me, that is a pot inside a pot. But I guess extrapolated, a pan in a pan is very similar to a cake pan in a roasting pan.

Ok, this'll teach me to search something on Wikipedia:
The term bain-marie originates from alchemy, where some practitioners needed to give their materials prolonged periods of gentle heating, in an attempt to mimic the supposed natural processes whereby precious metals germinated in the earth. It was said to be an invention of Mary the Jewess, an ancient alchemist traditionally supposed to have been Miriam, a sister of Moses. The name comes from this tradition: balneum Mariae in medieval Latin, from which the French bain de Marie is derived, although, in the French wikipedia the coinage of the term is attributed to the medieval German philosopher, theologian, and chemist/alchemist Saint Albert the Great (1193-1280).

Probably more information than any of us need on that subject.

One of the things that J and I noticed was that the recipe had a tremendous amount of lemon juice (3 tablespoons). It was definitely tangy, what with the lemon juice and the 3 cups!!! of sour cream to only 1 lb. of cream cheese.

She suggests adding a tablespoon of cornstarch to help it thicken and not leach water after unmolding. Interestingly enough, we used the cornstarch and it did seep a bit- a lot really.

You do get to incorporate one egg at a time much like when we added flour in the butter cakes. Speaking of butter cakes, this cake also contained no butter. Wow, that has to be a first..... well, except for the vegetable cakes that used oil.

This cake came together with out any fuss or fight. It poured into the prepared springform pan just like we thought it should. It was a bit tangy as mentioned before. We had that wonderful Raspberry Puree (pg 337) from a previous cake in the freezer, and added a lovely swirl of it to the cheesecake. We put it into the bain marie (see long dissertation on that above). Set it in the oven and waited.

While we waited, we discussed our plans for a birthday cake for a young friend of ours (she'll be 3) whose mom asked us to bake a cake for her. Her only requirements are that it be pink and princess-y. I know, hard to imagine a child who likes pink AND princesses. But Lila does.

So excited were we by the discussion of the birthday cake, we didn't notice that the oven was still on and we cooked to the cheesecake for an extra 18 minutes. We then let it cool and refrigerated it overnight as the recipe stated.

I stopped by the next day after tricker or treaters (or in the case of J & K's house, right in the middle of the steady stream) for the taste test.

This wasn't our favorite. It was too tangy, lacked a certain creamy/cakiness, and really seemed off. Now, it could be the overcooking of it. But, since the instruction was to turn the oven off and let the cake sit for an hour immediately after baking, the extra bit of time should not have been a large factor given our complaints. And in fact, one would expect that extra time would create a firmer, perhaps more cake-like consistency. Instead it was a too-fluffy, too-tangy, too- wet, absolutely not New York style cheesecake. That's fine, not every cheesecake has to be NY style, but RLB took pains to describe it as such. This is one instance where not making every variation listed is a very good thing indeed. We would not have been happy with 4 or 5 times as much cheesecake. This one didn't even get distributed, that's how little we thought of it. Currently it sits in the freezer. Who knows maybe we'll need it as an ingredient later on- raspberry cheesecake ice cream?? Cheesecake ice cream doesn't sound any better today than it did when it first came out 20+ years ago.

Personally I like creamy desserts: cheesecake, flan, tiramisu, creme brulee (not as much as one of my coworkers who sometimes sneaks downstairs to have one as a late night snack -- I won't say who, but she knows who she is), but I couldn't get it to like this one. Even with the best Raspberry Puree in the world.

Here is a picture.....

I hope you are enjoying the first bits of real autumn (or is it fall?) at least here in the North East.

Bake Through,


Tuesday, October 9, 2007

In This Kitchen, Carrot Cake is a Vegetable

The forecast for today was hot. Not as hot as yesterday -- we broke records all up and down the Hudson River. You know, it's very pretty river. And, it's ours.

It didn't get that hot today. All our preparing. I even wore shorts. Guess I wouldn't be talking about it, except that it's October! And, 90 degrees yesterday (or there abouts) is just plain wrong.

However, today wasn't wrong. It was warm to start, but while the 4th cake cooled (Mind you that is not the 4th pan with cake in it, but the 4th kind of cake we made today. We actually used 7 pans for our 4 cakes- la de da.), J and I sat out on the back steps and commented on how cool it had gotten. And, now as I write this, it rains. Sometimes rain makes me think of sadness. Sometimes, it's more like a promise of things to come. Really, I love rainy days and mondays. (Mondays are a part of my weekend!) Rainy nights are good too. They mean a restful sleep. Cool rooms. The lightening makes the world light up in split second intervals and somehow it all seems more doable. All this, plus it'll be more seasonable tomorrow. (We are so lucky to have a stream of consciousness section from Robb in this installment, hopefully this therapy is doing him some good!)

This week was carrot cake. We made the Golden Wheat Carrot Ring (pg 75). There is a sprinkling of cinnamon/sugar, RLB's first adornment suggestion. It was suggested that the white chocolate Cream Cheese Buttercream would also be a nice compliment, but someone (namely me) totally spazzed on getting the white chocolate. In my defense, I had to take my dog to the groomers, pick up colored construction paper to fabricate this thing for a class I'm teaching in Boston....basically, I didn't write it down, so it didn't happen. Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa. (if you're only going to know a little Latin, that's the phrase.)

Here's a pic of my doggie so you know how cute she is.

This cake tasted good. And, the grated carrot had a lovely orange speckling. The cake itself was a nice "wheaty" brown -- probably from the whole wheat flour it used. Interestingly enough, 1 cup of Whole Wheat Flour was about 1 oz heavier that 1 cup of Cake Flour. We never thought of how much heavier it could or would be. The wheat flour did come through the finished product. It was really noticeable to J, but not as much to me. This cake is a wonderful breakfast/coffee type cake. You could be happy with a slice and a cup of tea to start your day. It strongly reminded me of the zucchini and pumpkin cakes we've done recently. (M said to me yesterday, that Pumpkin Cake was amazing -- and that was two cakes ago!)

Then we made the Carrot Cake from the Silver Palate Cookbook. Why did we do this? RLB's recipe didn't seem like it would yield a "carrot cake" like the ones we grew up with. The Silver Palate recipe did. And, honestly, this is the recipe that a local restaurant must use for their carrot cake. It is a perfect carrot cake. We even used their Cream Cheese Icing. And, boy howdy did it taste good. (It's the triple layered cake on the pedestal in the photo.) The taste was deep and rich. In other cakes I wanted to add nutmeg or cloves or some woodsy, earthy type spice. While this cake didn't have any in it, the depth of flavor brought that to mind, surprisingly. We used a new tool, well new to me, a cake comb. What a groovy invention. (Sorry for the really bad pun.) Here's a picture if you don't know what one is.

We made Linda's (J's Mom) recipe. One thing about getting recipes from people who've cooked for a long time, is that they tend to have shorthand versions of recipes that are mostly a list of ingredients with instructions like "mix it until it looks right," which seems to be a common instruction included in pie crust or biscuit recipes passed down within families. And, while an accurate instruction, it's not that helpful if you don't know what Looks Right is!! Well, J got Linda's recipe over the phone and wrote everything she said in order to record all her nuggets of wisdom for posterity, or whatever. This included and I quote the recipe "1 1/2 tsp. of vanilla & not that fake stuff" and "Bake for 25 minutes, ... or until done. It may be done sooner." That makes one wonder if the baking time is really 20 minutes, or perhaps even just 15? With practice, we'll know what done looks like. Maybe we'll even translate that in to a measure in time for the next generations of bakers... or not, why should they have it any easier?

There was a moment of worry with these cakes. We realized that we were at the end of our Pam. For those of you who haven't had this happen, when you run near the end of the can, it sputters. That means that it's not evenly coating your pan. Therefore, you will have trouble getting cakes out of pans. Out of this came a series of learnings:

1. Parchment can be your friend.
2. What does come out can be cut into circles to create lovely variations.

The ones we created are the two rings on the silver tray with the powdered sugar and the small three tiered cake. We used the store bought icing for this one. It is our gift to K. We thought, it turns out mistakenly!! that he preferred the tub 'o frosting to the real stuff. What was that handy turn of phrase, oh yes, mea culpa. Actually, I really like it. All I need is a graham cracker and a spoon and I'd be happy.

The 9 X 13 pan is a "Faux Carrot Cake" recipe we made from a friend of mine at my new salon. Sandi and I got talking about carrot cakes and she sent me this version:

'faux' carrot cake recipe

20 oz crushed pineapple (drain and set aside juice)
2 eggs lightly beaten w/ pineapple juice
2 cups flour
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp baking soda

mix flour and baking soda together in separate bowl combine all other ingredients
then mix in flour and stir until just mixed; pour in greased & floured pan 13 by 9 or 2 round cake pans

bake at 325 for about 45 mins or until sides start to pull away and center springs back

1 stick unsalted butter
4 oz cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
beat cream cheese, butter & vanilla till fluffy add in sugar slowly and beat till smooth frost cake when cool

We were both shocked when we looked at the recipe and there wasn't any fat or salt in it. It comes together in more or less the same fashion as other cakes, but it's a bit drier, and paler. When it's baked, it doesn't brown until the very end of the time. Then, it turns a nice brown that looks a bit like a potato latke. It makes an interesting cake, one that would benefit by the addition of some oil or melted butter. We might consult the CB for an idea of how much oil to add to the proportions of flour, etc.

I did like the icing. It was a bit thinner than the Silver Palate version, making it pourable. But, with a bit of fridge time, it set up nicely. It had a very nice tang and was not overly sweet.

Wow, a behind the scenes photo. Here we are loading them up to "ship" to our network of cake eaters. Can you see the tasting plates?

There was a point where we had to stop, not because we were tired or because we had run out of anything, but because there was no more room in the oven.

Now, that is baking through, isn't it?


Tuesday, October 2, 2007

In U End D'oh goal this week was not to wait until next week to get the blog done...check one thing off my list of things to do...

I have to say that I don't like bloggers who talk about the difficulty of getting the blog out without explaining, here's why...I've been battling a very nasty sinus bug...caused either by allergies or a cold or the stress of starting a new the way, I had a busy Saturday...woohoo...just wish my sinuses would clear....Am I bordering on TMI?

This week was a quick week...for a lot of, we only made the Zucchini Cupcakes (pg 73). Why would we only make the one, you ask? because last week we made a zillion of them....(ok, honestly, last week was so much fun, but the conversation we had during it was fractured....too many things to do and not enough time chatting with each other....we made up for it this week however.....)

J said that last week she and K didn't get back until almost midnight after delivering all the goodies...granted they did spend some time talking with Jessica & Mark, at least I hope it wasn't a drive by drop the way Kathy, did Geoff and Hil and Lila get their samples or did they stay at your house?

The other reason we didn't spend so much time doing the baking thing is that K's parents are coming into town. They should be there sometime later this week. M & I get to meet them on Saturday. Can't wait! So, J is frantically cleaning the house. For her, that includes painting some items- talk about clean!

(OK, frantically makes me think
of the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil).

Did you know that they are a real animal?

Not as cuddly as I would have hoped....but really how cuddly could a devil be?

Well, really, she wasn't racing around like that, but she did have a long list of things to do....Now that I think about it, J always has a long list of things to do....hmmmm....

This cake (remember we are here to talk about baking cakes, right?) is very similar to the Pumpkin Walnut Ring that we did last week. The differences are really that this has zucchini in it and therefore needs more flour. RLB straightens that out for us in her "Understanding" section, which for me is a great section. I love the whys and wherefores of baking science.

One theme for us was what is the difference between this Zucchini "cake" recipe and the usual Zucchini Bread recipe? And, if it is a "bread" recipe, why is it in the Cake Bible?

RLB uses the words Cupcake and Muffin almost interchangeably. Are they really the same thing? I have a distinctive image of a cupcake that isn't at all like a muffin. The cupcake while it has icing, rich sugary isn't as domed usually. The muffin is a domed and usually sans icing/frosting.

My little research yields:

A cupcake or fairy cake is a small cake designed to serve one person, usually made in a small paper cup container. As with larger cakes, frosting and other cake decorations, such as sprinkles, are defining characteristics of modern cupcakes. (

A muffin is an individual cup-shaped quick bread made with wheat flour, cornmeal, or the like, and baked in a pan (muffin pan) containing a series of cuplike forms. (

Perhaps there is no difference and they are interchangeable. Anyway, what do you see as the differences? Discuss.

So this time, due to its ease, we decided to double the recipe. We split the work load thusly: I did the dry ingredients and wet ingredients, while J prepped the pans, preheated the oven, toasted the walnuts and grated the zucchini.

We are both working away at our tasks and I'm standing over a bowl talking to myself. Those of you who know me may realize that math isn't my strong suit so I spend a lot of time talking to myself while I do figurin'. (For those of you who really know me, this is strange because I was a Math Education major when I started at Purdue, all those years ago.)

Really we were working away until while J was grating the zucchini on the box grater, I heard, "I probably shouldn't spend the next half hour 'pleasuring the zucchini'. I'll use the grating disk for the food processor." The silence after the sentence was complete, no dogs barked, not a bird chirped....then, I giggled and broke the mood...

Having gotten the dry ingredients ready, I'm putting together the wet ingredients, packing the brown sugar (this recipe uses brown sugar, which gives them a darker than golden brown color and really makes the edges a good way), counting the eggs and doing numbers aloud to myself. When out of my mouth, I say, "Are my nuts warm yet?"

Still pleasuring the zucchini, J looks at me and laughs out loud.

We added the optional raisins and a bit of currants. I have to say I was a strong liker of the currants as they were smaller, yet gave the flavor of a dried fruit, to me the raisins were a bit too grapey and the different texture threw me off.

J on the other hand loved the raisins and didn't really mention the currants. What she liked about them was the change in texture ("They keep it from getting boring.") We both liked the flecks of green that we could see in the muffin/cupcakes. Also, when you cut it, it looked more like bread to us. Dense, but not too soggy. When they came out of the oven, they were quite heavy, so heavy I thought they might have needed a bit longer in the oven to complete baking, but I was wrong. It sliced like you'd expect a pumpkin/zucchini bread to cut, crumbly, but not falling apart.

This, as far as we were concerned, was the best ever. It was even tasty with a bit of cream cheese.

This is what it's all about folks, hanging out with friends, talking about family coming to visit and baking a cake or two.

By the way, J's in laws are going to have the Zucchini Ring we made (pictured in the center of the muffins at left) for breakfast their first morning. You can check that off the list, J.

Bake Through,