INCREDIBLY SIMPLE TIMES FOUR

Here I am to share with you not one, not two, but four recipes that are so simple you could make them in your sleep. Each delivers a lot more than you’d expect in flavor and you will find yourself making them again and again. Not necessarily in your sleep.

composite

From top to bottom, left to right, here they are:

CHEESE JALAPENO CRACKERS. Credit should go to Angela, from Divalicious Recipes.  Recently she composed a post with 50 ideas for low-carb appetizers very well-timed for a Super Bowl party.  These crackers are pure cheese, with a kick of Jalapeno. I made only eight for the two of us. There was a bit of an argument over the last one, we could not quite agree on who had the right to grab it. I won. Determination is everything.

crackerstutorial

My version, 50:50 Monterey-Cheddar & Parmigiano.
Baked at 350F for about 10 minutes.
Watched them like a hawk.

MARINATED CUCUMBER SALAD. I saw this recipe at FoodTV the other day, a show I don’t normally watch called Valerie’s Home Cooking. I admit to having a bit of a problem with Hollywood folks turned into FoodTV chefs. Maybe I should open my mind a little? Nah, I like my mind the way it is… Anyway, her recipe sounded great but I adapted on my second time around because she used too heavy a hand on the sesame oil. It pretty much overpowered the delicate cucumber.

cucumber

In a small bowl mix and whisk well:

1/2 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil.

Slice one cucumber as thin as you can make it, a mandoline could be helpful. I used a Persian cucumber, so I did not remove the seeds, but if you only find regular ones, removing the seeds is a nice touch. Delicately mix the cucumber slices with the dressing, refrigerate for half an hour if you have the time, but it’s good right away too.
So refreshing!

FRIED EGG OVER LABNEH WITH ZA’TAR. This is unbelievably good!  I confess I’m addicted and have it several times each week for my lunch.  I know you will find the combination a bit odd, but trust me, it is to die for. Just smear some labneh or thick Greek yogurt on a plate. Squirt a bit of lemon juice and a little salt (no need for salt if using labneh). Sprinkle za’tar all over, use a heavy hand if you are a za’tar lover.  Fry an egg whichever way you prefer, for this concoction I like a little bit of a crisp edge. Rest the egg on top of the cold labneh or yogurt mixture. Swoon!

zataregg

I use different spices sometimes.  Sumac goes well, Ras El Hanout is superb, but za’tar is hard to beat. There’s something about the mixture of the runny egg yolk with the cold seasoned yogurt, I never tire of it.  I first saw this combination at Maureen’s beautiful blog, she also included in her cookbook Rose Water and Orange Blossoms, which I own.

BLUEBERRY CHIA PUDDING.  I am usually pretty slow to jump on fashionable ingredients, and most of my adventures with chia seeds have been unremarkable. Not this one. It turned out so good I would serve it for company without thinking twice. It is creamy, sweet and tangy at the same time, the coconut flavor so subtle it would not offend those who are not too fond of it.  All you need to do is remember to soak the chia seeds the day before, or at least a couple of hours in advance.  A minute in the blender, and there you have, Nirvana in a bowl.  You can find the recipe here, but I highly recommend you get the book My New Roots, where you’ll find this one and a multitude of other interesting recipes.

blueberry-chia

for the recipe, visit Les Petites Pestes

Sometimes simple is all we need…

four-simple-recipes-from-bewitching-kitchen

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

ONE YEAR AGO: Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

TWO YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Cupcakes

THREE YEARS AGO: Valentine’s Day: The Finale

FOUR YEARS AGO: Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

FIVE YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

SIX YEARS AGO: Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

LAVENDER MACARONS WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE

lavender-macaroncover
Confession number one:
 I have a macaron obsession. Odd, because when I lived in Paris by myself I never touched a macaron. Then a few years later, when Phil and I went back together for a sabbatical, I got hooked. It is the type of  concoction with just the amount of sweetness I like, the different fillings are a feast for the taste buds, but what really gets me, as you might imagine: the colors. I have a soft spot for colors. All of them. You should see my wardrobe. 😉

Back to macarons. A few months ago our friend Gary – Patissier Extraordinaire –  brought to my attention a book by Pierre Hermé, called quite simply Macarons. Once I got it, I quickly realized that  much like his classic masterpiece Desserts, Macarons is not for the faint of heart. My first adventure with it was almost a complete disaster, save for a few pistachio macarons that would barely qualify as such. In the book he says to use a convection oven at 350F, and I guess that was too high, or my oven misbehaved. Hard to tell. All I know is that my beautiful bright green macarons turned brown in 2.5 seconds right in front of my eyes, as I happened to be staring through the oven door when the metamorphosis took place. You know, the one that took perfect macarons to ruined ones.  Of course, they did not turn homogeneously brown, but all blotchy, really unappetizing. Yes, there was considerable amount of profanity that afternoon, in three languages, although French was first.

After that dreadful weekend, serendipity hit big time. I got an email from Craftsy.com with a special offer for their online classes. One of them was Miniature French Desserts, which included – you guessed it – macarons! I read the reviews and everyone raved about it. I signed up, downloaded the class and here I am to share with you my first real nice experience with these finicky creatures! Plus, Colette Christian, the wonderful instructor, gave me permission to share the recipe with my readers. How cool is that?

married112

 

LAVENDER MACARONS WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE
(slightly adapted from Craftsy.com, published with permission from Colette Christian)

Yield: About 72 shells; 36 assembled macarons

for the shells:
198 g powdered sugar
113 g almond meal
1/8 teaspoon dried lavender
113 g egg whites (I aged mine for three days)
1 g or a pinch of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
Purple Gel color from AmeriColor
2 drops vanilla extract
for the filling:
170 g white chocolate
85 g heavy cream
2 drops lavender extract

Line 2 or 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, almond meal and lavender in a food processor or mini processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 15 seconds. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and pinch of cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to medium-high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme. Add the gel color and the vanilla. Staying at medium-high speed, whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm. When you hold the beater up, the meringue should gently fall with and angle supporting the peak at the  with the angle supporting the peak at 11:30hs (easier to understand on the tutorial video). Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the almond meal mixture in three increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl. Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with one of the tips listed above. Pipe on the prepared baking sheets.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter. Then fist bump each end of the sheet’s underside twice. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. Ina dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 330 F (170 C/gas mark 3). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide, then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. The macarons should release without sticking. Check one or two. If they stick, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes. Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Make the filling: Place the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a rolling boil in a small saucepan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and let stand for 15 seconds. Stir with a spatula until smooth. If the chocolate has not fully melted, place the bowl in a saucepan of steaming water (the heat should be off), and let stand for 1 or 2 minutes. Stir again until the chocolate is fully melted. Add the lavender extract.

Assemble the macarons: find two macarons similar in size and add a good amount of ganache to the bottom of one of them. Place the other on top and squeeze gently to take the filling all the way to the edge.  Ideally, store in the fridge for 24 hours before devouring them… or sharing with great friends!

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

compositemac

We’ve got feet!

Comments: I cannot tell you how much I loved this online class! Colette is personable, fun and a natural teacher.  The video perfectly timed so that you can actually make them in real-time together with her, pausing the video during baking, obviously. You can pause it, rewind it, save and watch it again and again. You’ll also get printed material with full recipes and variations.  Now, Colette is one super neat chef, because her kitchen ends up in the exact pristine condition as it was in the beginning. The same applies to her apron. I need to evolve into another type of human being to match her serenity and grace.

Her method is pretty straightforward.  For starters, she skips the sifting – and has a rationale for doing so. And she also prefers the simpler French meringue, again for reasons she states during class. I have to say that visualizing the macaron batter, and following her very careful explanation made all the difference. I concluded that in all my previous attempts I failed to mix the batter enough – that’s why many of my shells would crack and end up with a coarse texture, some hard chunks inside. If you have a deep desire to conquer macarons, her online video is a great option. I haven’t watched the other classes in the same video (Madeleines, Lemon Meringue Tartlets, and Opera Cake), but intend to do so in the near future. Madeleines have been on my list of goodies to make for… ever.  Or so it seems.

layersHer tip to add the dry ingredients in layers inside the food processor makes sure that things are incorporated smoothly. Macaron success is all in the small details and proper technique.  These had a very delicate lavender flavor. When you taste the white chocolate ganache – I know you will do it – try to stop after the second teaspoon, or you might run out of filling. Just saying…

macarons2
Colette also gives many tips to create your own flavors, it is amazing how versatile this cookie can be. As long as you respect simple rules to avoid messing up the basic formula, you’ll be fine. I would also like to invite you to take a tour of the blog Pizza Rossa. Rachael is very creative with her macarons, and came up with wonderful variations, including one that uses sesame seeds instead of almonds. She is inspiring me to spread my wings and try to fly a little higher.

I still want to try again the Italian meringue method because I am stubborn. There, I admitted it. And yes, that was confession number two. But Phil doesn’t need to know.

lavender-macarons-from-bewitching-kitchen

 

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

ONE YEAR AGO: Raspberry Chocolate Truffles

TWO YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Cupcakes

THREE YEARS AGO: Happy Valentine’s Day!

FOUR YEARS AGO:  A Few Blogging Issues

FIVE YEARS AGO: Dan Dan Noodles

SIX YEARS AGO:  Sophie Grigson’s Parmesan Cake

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Antibiotics and Food

Save

Save

Save

FIRST MONDAY FAVORITE: FEBRUARY 2017

First Monday of the month, and it’s time to share with you my favorite recipe from January. It was fun to look back at the month and realize there were so many great things happening in the Bewitching Kitchen. I had a tough time picking my favorite, but here it goes, The Carioca Cake! How could I not pick that one? One of the most stressful adventures I faced in the kitchen, but at least it had a happy ending…

If you missed it, here is the link back to it…

carioca-cake

First Monday Favorites is the blog event started by Sid. Participants share their favorite recipe from the previous month. Not necessarily the most popular by views or comments, but our own favorite. Click on the link below to see everyone else’s favorite recipe. And, if you’d like to participate, visit Sid’s website and drop her a line, we firmly believe that the more, the merrier!

 .

STAY TUNED FOR NEXT MONTH’S FAVORITE! 

😉

https://static.inlinkz.com/cs2.js

ZESTY FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE

VALENTINE’S DAY IS COMING UP!

Flourless Chocolate Cake is one of our favorite desserts. Creamy, chocolate-y, sweet, intense, decadent but not too much. Not until I took it to a new level, that is. First, I added orange zest to the batter. Not a lot, but enough to give the cake a brighter flavor. Chocolate and orange is another one of those culinary matches made in heaven, if you ask me. This cake proves it.  But what really took care of decadence was adding a ganache on top, and then shaving Valrhona chocolate all over. OMG, this was stupendously good.

flourlesschoccake

 

ZESTY FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE
(adapted from this recipe)

7 oz extra bittersweet chocolate
14 Tbs unsalted butter  (1 + 3/4 sticks)
5 large eggs, separated
1 Tbs vanilla extract
3/4 cup granulated sugar
zest of half a large orange
pinch of salt
2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
for the ganache:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, cut in small pieces
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Shaved chocolate to taste for final decoration

Heat the oven to 350F. Grease a 10-inch springform pan.

In a small bowl, sift the sugar and combine it with the orange zest. Rub the zest with your fingers to release the oils into the sugar. Reserve.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a double boiler over simmering water, heating until fully melted and smooth.  Transfer to a bowl, let it cool slightly for a few minutes, and whisk in the egg yolks and vanilla.  Add the sugar/orange mixture,  salt, and cocoa powder, while constantly stirring.

Whip the egg whites to soft peaks.  Gently mix about one-third of them into the chocolate mixture, fold the remaining whites trying to deflate them as little as possible. Pour the mixture into the prepared springform pan.  Place in the lower rack of the oven and bake for 25-28 minutes.

Remove the cake to a rack and immediately loosen the sides of the pan. Allow the cake to cool before icing. If the cake is too uneven, shave the protruding parts with a serrated knife to even out the surface, but no need to make it perfectly flat. Usually the edges will be a bit too high, with a collapsed center.

Make the ganache by heating the whipping cream in a small saucepan until bubbles appear along the sides. Place the chocolate in a small bowl, and add the hot whipping cream and the vanilla on top. Mix gently until the chocolate is fully incorporated, very smooth. Let it cool for 10 minutes, then pour over the cool cake. I like to do that by placing the cake back in the springform pan, so that the icing is contained. Refrigerate for a couple of hours. Open the pan and remove the iced cake to a serving platter, leaving it at room temperature for half an hour or so before slicing it (a wet knife is a must).

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

banner

Comments: I’ve always been partial to a classic flourless cake in which at most a delicate shower of powdered sugar would be added for cosmetic reasons. The surface of a flourless cake tends to be a bit cracked and uneven, as the cake puffs up in the oven, but then collapses in all its fugdy glory.  A dollop of whipped cream would show up in real special situations. But those who follow my blog might remember that my husband firmly believes that a cake is not a cake without frosting. Or icing. Or whatever indulgent concoction is added on top of it. Powdered sugar would not suffice. I made this cake the day before we would be hosting a reception at home, and Phil started his Movement For Frosting right away. I caved. Made a simple ganache and poured all over it early next morning. Then shaved some Valrhona chocolate on top. Decadent? Perhaps. But I tell you, this was one awesome cake.  Try it, serve it for your friends, sit back and wait for the compliments. Once they stop moaning, that is…

I apologize for not sharing a picture of the sliced cake, but I do not like to take pictures when we are having a get-together. Just imagine a very dense, moist, perfect slice, that when you cut with your fork, will leave a nice coating of slightly melted chocolate on its tines. You then use your lips – with as much elegance as humanly possible –  to clean the fork, and repeat the process. Ad libitum.

flourless-chocolate-cake-from-bewitching-kitchen

Have I mentioned that Valentine’s Day is coming up?
(wink, wink)

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

ONE YEAR AGO: Maple Pumpkin Pecan Snacking Cake

TWO YEARS AGOSilky Gingered Zucchini Soup

THREE YEARS AGO: Sweet Fifteen!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sesame and Flaxseed Sourdough

FIVE YEARS AGO: Green Beans with Miso and Almonds

SIX YEARS AGO: Saturday Morning Scones

SEVEN YEARS AGO: White Bread

 

CARIOCA CAKE, THE FINAL CHAPTER

(Missed the first chapter? click here)

This is the kick-ass cake by definition, although it could also be described as yet another cake that kicked my ass. But I won’t keep you curious for much longer. There was a happy ending to the epic saga, Phil was over the moon, told me it was the best cake I ever made!  I don’t care if he was embellishing the truth, let him. I need all the positive feedback I can get, because crossing the end of this marathon was no piece of cake. Forgive the lousy pun. Without further ado, here is the result of my ordeal adventure…

carioca-cake

FINALLY, MY CARIOCA CAKE!

What? Where is that herringbone pattern, you may ask?  It is not there. I went with swirls. Why? Because it is a much sexier name.  I see you are not buying it. Let me be honest instead. By the time I got to the ganache decoration, I was in such state of emotional turmoil, that the idea of manipulating a knife could prove dangerous to my physical integrity. Indeed, the herringbone pattern is best applied with a long serrated knife. Swirls are made with the back of a spoon. Has anyone ever been harmed by a spoon? Granted,  there is that gag me with a spoon saying,  but a spoon covered in luscious chocolate ganache would gag no one. I skipped the knife, and went with the spoon. Zero worries.

The coffee syrup. I did not have that much trouble with it. It is pretty straightforward, just spectacularly messy a bit messy. You simmer a huge amount of finely ground coffee (2 full cups) in a small amount of water and pass it through a double layer of cheesecloth, that may or may not spill over during the process. Essentially, you are making the strongest coffee ever, so strong that if you take a small sip you’ll get cross-eyed. The eyes will uncross after a few minutes, and the lips will also revert to their normal shape. Phew…

cofeesyrup

The chocolate mousse. That’s when things got chaotic. Mr. Hermé’s timing completely messed me up. You need to coordinate the beating of heavy cream with the making of a syrup that shall reach 257 F. According to the master, it would take 8 to 10 minutes. I was a bit involved with the melting of the chocolate, but kept track of my timer like a hawk. At 6 minutes, instant thermometer in hand, it already seemed too dark.  I let go a couple of highly colorful words, removed the syrup quickly from the burner, and poured it into a Pyrex bowl.  The whole thing solidified like a rock right in front of my eyes. Congratulations, Sally, you went pass the soft ball stage all the way into Titanium Land. You are now ready to start all over. My beloved entered the kitchen when he heard my screaming and once I explained the unfairness of what had just taken place, the man I married almost 17 years ago told me the following;

“My Grandma never left the side of the stove when she made sugar syrup.”

I will give you a moment to let this sink in. Without going into details, I’ll just say that he got a sharp lecture on how irrelevant, tactless, borderline cruel his remark was. “Maybe you’d like me to go ask for your Grandma’s advice right now in the after life?”  He denied. Profusely. Approached me to offer a hug, but added a don’t be silly that was definitely uncalled for. Hug aborted. Talk about a festive Christmas mood.

Now, have you ever had to wash hardened caramel from a Pyrex container? Oh, that is loads of fun, I highly recommend it when you need to redeem yourself of things like real nasty thoughts. For instance those I had going towards Mr. Hermé. Come to think of it, in a recent past I also directed dark thoughts to Thomas Keller for his fancy-schmancy macarons. But that’s another saga, left to another time.

So I was back to square one with the darn mousse, trying to re-negotiate the beating of the cream with the new syrup, and the melted Valrhona chocolate in waiting. This  time, I stood by the stove like a certain Grandma – although I will never ever admit, not even under torture, that her grandson had anything to do with my changed behavior. The mousse materialized with some imperfections. I detected a slightly grainy texture because I suppose the temperature of the melted chocolate was a little off after the whole drama. But what do I know? And at that point, did I even care?  Some could call it grainy, I would go with rustic.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-11-13-37-am

With all the components ready, I took another deep breath, grabbed a cake ring, and proceeded to slice the genoise, and assemble the final cake. I used toothpicks and dental floss to help me cut thin slices. Worked like a charm, I had to mentally pat myself on the back (hands were pretty messed up with chocolate stains). The Carioca calls for a bottom layer of cake soaked in coffee syrup, then mousse, then cake, then mousse on top. Straight to the freezer until the final step: coating with ganache, decorating it, and sticking the almonds on the side.

soaking

The making of the ganache. I’ve made ganache a gazillion times. I own it. I can make it in my sleep. For this particular coating, the ganache needs to sit at room temperature for a while until it sets. That’s when I got greedy. I decided that I had more than enough time to drive to a store in town that I heard was selling several kinds of bottled shrubs. I placed the cake and the ganache on top of the highest cabinet in the kitchen, which even if Bogey was part-dog, part-giraffe he could not reach. And off I went to get my shrub.  When I got to the store, it seemed closed. Through the glass window I noticed a couple of very agitated people inside, they came out briefly and said they were having computer issues. “Can you come back in 5 minutes?”  Sure, no problem. When they finally opened, 11 and a half minutes later, I picked one of their shrubs, Apple Ginger, and went to pay. The “computer troubles” were not over. The person working the cash register, a very nice German woman in her mid-fifties, was a nervous wreck, shaking a little as she could not get the machine to read my item, enter the price or do whatever it is that the machines must do these days. It was her second day on the job, in this tiny grocery connected to a big liquor store. The manager of the liquor store was the only one able to help, but he was busy with customers, so let’s say things were taking a sweet time to happen. The clock was ticking, I really needed to leave, almost told her to forget about my shrub, but she was in such distress, it would ruin her day further if I left. So I plastered a smile on my face, and said, in a performance worthy of Meryl Streep:  “I have all the time in the world, don’t worry about a thing” and stood there, like the Martyr Baker that I am.  By the time I got  home, the ganache was hard. Ready to be rolled as truffles (sigh). And I was fit to be tied.

Some very gentle microwaving, very gentle stirring, a little more waiting for the right magical temperature (114 F) when I finally poured the ganache all over my cake… But I could not, simply could not bring myself to attempt the herringbone. Long serrated knife? At THAT point of my life? Not wise. Honestly, I just wanted the cake to be on my rear view mirror. I went with swirls, then stuck the roasted almonds all over the sides, licked the spoon clean and collapsed on the sofa. Which, in retrospect, describes the end of almost every single cake I make. Except for the licking of the spoon. That was a first.

slice22

And now for what matters most: how did it taste? It was absolutely wonderful! The coffee flavor is quite pronounced, a perfect match for the chocolate mousse (delicate and light, with underlying notes of rustic) and the ganache coating (real intense chocolate flavor). The almonds on the side did not look particularly beautiful, but they added a pleasant texture. Maybe if they were crushed instead of kept in slices it would work better from a cosmetic point of view.  My only other modification of Hermé’s recipe would be topping the Carioca with a cake layer instead of mousse. That would make it a bit easier to slice and eat. The genoise component would easily give three slices for the final cake, so my advice would be to use a third, thin layer of genoise on the very top. Then cover it all with the chocolate ganache. If you are feeling brave, go for the herringbone. According to my friend Gary, Patissier-Extraordinaire, you can practice with Crisco. I cringe imagining what my kitchen (and my hair) would look like after the combination of Sally + thick layers of Crisco + cardboard circles + long serrated knife. I will allow your imagination to take over…

guilty

That’s all for now, folks. I survived the Carioca Cake,
and so did our marriage!

Isn’t life grand? 

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

ONE YEAR AGO: Duck Confit for a Special Occasion

TWO YEARS AGO: Ken Forkish’s Warm Spot Sourdough 

THREE YEARS AGO: Bran Muffins, Rainbows, and a wonderful surprise!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Salmon Wellington

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Green Chip Alternative

SIX YEARS AGO: Weekend Pita Project

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Let it snow, let it snow, eggs in snow

THE UNBEARABLE UNFAIRNESS OF CAKE BAKING

A tale of cakes, dogs and tears

My beloved’s Birthday falls on December 27th. Since he was a child, he felt it was a bit unfair to have his special day buried in between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, a day that was born to be ignored. But certain things do improve with age, and now he feels it’s perfect: the university is pretty much closed, he can work as much or as little as he wants, it is a Birthday in the middle of a small vacation break. A nice way to view it. This year we would be by ourselves on his big day. I told him I would cook a special dinner, and then had this crazy idea: offered to bake any cake he wanted. Did you get this? Sally, the cake-o-phobe offered her husband to bake ANY cake he fancied. I was reasonably confident he would choose one of his childhood cakes, like Chocolate Cake with Coconut Frosting, or his grandma’s legendary Angel Food Cake. I was wrong. He did not even blink, asked me where was “that book.” You know, that book…”  I knew, but pretended not to. “Of course you know, that book by the French guy.”  I seriously considered telling him the book was lost during our move to Kansas 5 years ago, but how could I lie to my perfect match about something as important as his Birthday cake? I couldn’t. Sheepishly, I went upstairs, grabbed the book,  gave him, and sat down, already with a cold feeling in the stomach. “That guy” is Pierre Hermé. “That book” is Desserts by Pierre Hermé.

41zkpoakd3l-_sx258_bo1204203200_
Before my blogging life, I made one cake from the book, also for Phil’s Birthday, a Chocolate Dome Cake that shaved at least 24 months from my life expectancy. It required three visits to the grocery store, the first to get the ingredients, the second to get a few more eggs, and the third (in complete distress) to get the final dozen. So, of course, I was beyond worried when I handed the book aka How To Kill Yourself in Your Own Kitchen. He opened it, and in two seconds flat screamed: I FOUND IT!  I WANT THIS ONE!  He managed to open the book at random on the page featuring Carioca Cake. Can you imagine the odds on that?  Mind you, I am not carioca, but paulista. Paulista Cake would have absolutely zero charm, which is a bit unfair. Cariocas get all the love, fame, attention. Would Tom Jobim ever make a song about The Girl from Vila Mariana? Not a chance. Oh, well. São Paulo is close enough to Rio, let’s not split hairs.

r1280x0

Now, ask yourself which other food blogger would give you a free lesson in geography? You are so very lucky. Anyway, as I was saying, I took a very deep breath and read the recipe. FIVE components. The first, a genoise cake. My heart missed four beats. My nemesis. My most feared cake in the universe of cakes, the cake that embarrassed me in front of special guests, the cake that made me swear off cake baking for years. I cringed anticipating the disaster ahead. Apart from the genoise, it also required a coffee syrup, almonds roasted in cocoa syrup, a chocolate mousse, and a chocolate ganache. As a bonus, you also need skills of an Iron Chef to make the authentic decoration on top. Can you spell unfair? This is what the finished product is supposed to look like.

photoherme11Can you spell doomed too?

I immediately texted my friend-patissier-guru-golfer extraordinaire Gary, and asked begged  for help. In fact, when he visited us a couple of years ago he was kind enough to make a genoise cake right in front of my eyes to help me exorcise my inner ghosts. Gary sent me a few emails with reminders, pointers, videos and basically told me “you can do this.”  And you know what? He was absolutely right. Look at my production!

ready11

GENOISE CAKE – RECIPE OVERVIEW

I will not publish the recipe, as I do not want to deal with the process of asking permission from Mr. Herme’ or the publisher. Obviously, all genoise recipes are very similar, the success of baking it is all in technique. His formula calls for

2 ounces of unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
6 eggs
1 cup of sugar
1 + 1/2 cups flour, sifted

You will beat the eggs and sugar over simmering water until they reach a temperature of 130 to 140 F, then beat the living bejesus out of it until it triples in volume.  Once you get there – and the batter falls like a ribbon from the beater – you’ll add the flour and the butter, in specific ways described by Hermé, hoping not to deflate the batter too much. You’ll need to be delicate and assertive, quite a combination of skills. The batter is poured into a 9-inch springform pan, and baked in a 350 F oven.

If all goes well, you’ll be rewarded with a perfect starting point for your Carioca Cake.

composite
Comments: I cannot tell you how thrilled I was when I removed the cake from the pan and realized I had finally done it. I overcame my demons and managed to bake a perfectly gorgeous looking genoise cake! The extended version of the happy dance took place mid-afternoon on December 24th. The cake would wait until next day when I would proceed with the preparation, in plenty of time for the Bday celebration.

That evening we were going to cook our Christmas Eve meal together, so we put some music on, and let the fun start. I briefly mentioned to Phil that we should make sure to keep the sliding doors to the dining room closed because “I left the genoise over the table, and you never know with Bogey what could happen.”  Phil laughed, I laughed, and that was that.  Not sure how long after that innocent remark, I am in the kitchen and I hear Phil from the dining room, scream with intense pain in his voice… “Oh, no!”   I swear my first thought was “David Bowie is already dead, could it be Neil Young?”  I walked in, and realized no beloved singer had passed away. But a genoise cake had definitely passed to another dimension.

disaster

I confess, I sat down and cried. My perfect genoise. Gone. Instead, I had a dalmatian sleeping off his sugar coma, still with a smile on his face. Carioca Cake was brutally kidnapped from my life.

But, as the sun does every day, it rose again next morning. Phil had washed the cake pan for me, took care of the many crumbs left on the dining table and washed the table-cloth. All signs of the canine crime were gone, apart from that smile still on Bogey’s face, and his sudden obsession with the dining room table. I did the only sensible thing to do: started all over. And once more, I have the thrill to share my second – perfect – genoise, made 36 hours after the first.

genoise2

Thanks to Gary and a very mischievous dalmatian also known as The Fastest Mouth in the West, I can tell you I permanently erased the Curse of the Genoise from my life. Bring it, Pierre Hermé, bring it….

Unfortunately, he did bring it….

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

(to be continued) 

ONE YEAR AGO: Hermit Cookies

TWO YEARS AGO: Cremini Mushroom Meatloaf

THREE YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi & Tamimi’s Roast Chicken with Clementines

FOUR YEARS AGO: Eight-Ball Zucchini: The Missing Files

FIVE YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

SIX YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Ossobuco Milanese: an Italian Classic

 

FESTIVE GLAZED CRANBERRY LEMON CAKE

christmas-card

Time to celebrate! And what could be better than a cake topped with bright red cranberries?  At this time of the year, I go through two phases of culinary fever. First the pumpkin. Then these tasty ruby-red babies. In my mind, both are mandatory part of the end of the year festivities. Typing that gives me a sense of nostalgia. 2016 went by way too fast.  Oh, well. Back to food. Cranberries are perfect in sweets, because they are tart. Yin and yang. In this cake, drizzled with a little powdered sugar icing, they shine. Make this festive cake and take it for holiday potlucks or simply share with your co-workers, neighbors, family, friends. A little coffee or tea will go well great with a slice. Or two. All credit goes to Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, the moment I saw her blog post about it, I could not stop thinking about it.

cranberry-lemon-glazed-cake11
GLAZED CRANBERRY LEMON CAKE
(from Mel’s Kitchen)
.
for the cake:

1 1/2 sticks (6 ounces), room temperature
1/3 cup (2.5 ounces) packed light brown sugar
3 cups (12 ounces) fresh cranberries
2 1/2 cups (12.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (11.25 ounces) granulated sugar
Zest of 2 lemons (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
.
for the glaze:

1 cup (4 ounces) powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
 .
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously grease a 10 or 12-inch bundt cake pan with butter – making sure to grease all the nooks and crannies really well. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the bottom of the pan, then layer the cranberries evenly over the sugar.
 .
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the granulated sugar together with the zest from the lemons. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingers until the sugar is infused with the lemon fragrance. Add the butter to the bowl with the lemon sugar and, using the paddle attachment on the stand mixer, beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time, mixing and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
 .
Combine the buttermilk with the 2 tablespoons lemon juice in a measuring glass. To a large bowl, add one-third of the dry ingredients (eyeballing is fine). Mix until just combined and a few dry streaks remain. Add half of the buttermilk/lemon mixture. Mix again until just combined. Add another third of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, followed by the remaining half buttermilk/lemon juice mixture. Mix. Add the final third of the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Spread the batter carefully into the prepared pan over the cranberries.
 .
Bake for 45-55 minutes or until lightly golden on top and just set. Transfer the bundt pan to a  wire rack and let cool about 10 minutes. Invert the cake onto a serving platter, tapping lightly so the cake falls out. Let the cake cool completely.
 .
For the glaze, combine the powdered sugar with the 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice and whisk until smooth. Add additional lemon juice or milk for a thinner consistency, if needed. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake and let set, 5-10 minutes, before slicing and serving.
.
ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

cranbcollage

Comments: Can you believe that I had zero issues with this cake? I know, how can it be possible? It is shocking. I loved the smell as it baked, and the way it un-molded so perfectly, maybe one or two cranberries stayed stuck at the bottom of the pan, but they were carefully picked up and placed on the correct spot. Plus, the icing takes care of eventual boo-boos. Very forgiving. My kind of cake. The crumb was moist and tender, the tartness of the cranberries  in perfect balance with the sweetness of the cake and icing. And, it looked pretty good too.

buck11

I wish all my readers a wonderful holiday season! 

glazed-cranberry-lemon-cake-from-bewitching-kitchen

 

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

ONE YEAR AGO: Have a Cran-Merry Christmas!

TWO YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!

THREE YEARS AGO: The Avocado Mousse that Stole the Show

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sourdough Popovers

FIVE YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!

SIX YEARS AGO:  Sourdough Focaccia, with a twist

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Merry Christmas!