DEVIL WEARS CHOCOLATE (AND A COOKBOOK REVIEW)

Back in 2006-2007 I used to follow a food blog called Cafe Fernando. The absolute majority of food bloggers are female, so I’ve always been fascinated by men who food blog. And you cannot get more fascinating than Cenk Sönmezsoy, from far away, exotic Istanbul. He is a fantastic baker, very talented, and comes across like a super nice human being. For one reason or another, I lost track of his blog. I think in those days I did not subscribe to anything, just had some sites bookmarked and whenever the craving for novelty hit me, I would browse a few blogs. Fast forward to 2017, amazon.com hit me with a suggestion for a cookbook. You know, “based on your purchases, we think you might also like this.”  That’s how the cookbook The Artful Baker jumped into my virtual basket. Only after I bought it, it hit me. Cenk was THAT Cenk, the blogger from my past, who – much to my surprise – is still food blogging today, 12 years later! I share with you today a recipe from his cookbook, in fact it is the cake he chose for the cover. A complete dream for the chocolate lover!

DEVIL WEARS CHOCOLATE

This recipe is a re-make of one Cenk’s recipes, in which he coupled chocolate cake with a Biscoff filling. You know, Biscoff, that spread that makes angels sing and have naughty thoughts. Cenk decided he could improve on it, because the devil should in fact wear chocolate head to toe. Who am I to disagree? It makes perfect sense. So, instead of Biscoff, or fancy pralines, he coupled chocolate ganache with… water!  Yes, you read it right. He makes a water-chocolate-ganache, because it allows the full flavor of chocolate to hit you in full force, no distractions. I tell you one thing: it works.

Recipe Overview

His chocolate cake uses the creaming method, butter and sugar together as the basis for the cake. Then, eggs are beaten into it. To that, a suspension of cocoa powder in boiling water and yogurt is added alternating with flour and leavening agents.

For the ganache, chocolate, sugar, cocoa powder and salt, are first combined with boiling water, only after fully dissolved, some butter and heavy cream are added to the mixture, that then sits in the fridge for one hour for perfect spreading consistency.

Why am I not giving you the full recipe? Cenk was a total sweetheart when I got in touch with him and asked for some advice on the decoration of the cake. I told him I wanted to blog about it, and he said he would be honored if I did so. But, I just don’t feel it’s right to share the very recipe that is on the cover of his book, so I prefer to publish a brief overview. As a teaser, I will show you how the chocolate shards are done, such a cool method! No tempering of chocolate involved, which makes it doable by common mortals. In fact, tempered chocolate will not work for this design, it does not break the proper way for the effect.

You simply spread the right amount of melted chocolate on parchment paper (dimensions recommended by Cenk to get the right thickness), place another parchment on top, smooth it well, and roll it. Cool it completely in the fridge. Unroll, which breaks in the chocolate into nice, curved shards. And that is all it takes.

It is basically the coolest thing you can do on a Sunday afternoon. I made a double batch to make sure I would have enough big shards to decorate my cake. They can be saved in the fridge or even frozen, and any leftovers used to decorate cupcakes, enjoy over ice cream, or sneak a bite or two as Netflix entertains you through the evening.

The filling/frosting is shiny and creamy at first, once you frost the cake it gets a more dull appearance. It is the most chocolate-y frosting you will ever taste. Basically, this is a cake for choco-holics at peace with their affliction.  Cenk offers an alternative idea for decorating the cake, in case making the shards seems like too much work. Just make a double batch of the water-ganache and frost the cake with a thicker layer, making designs with the back of a spoon.  Simple and elegant. Now, for some confession. I messed up the top of the cake a little bit. First I was going to do the same that Cenk did for his in the book: adding little bits of shards all over the surface. But, as I started to do so, I just did not care for the way it looked. So I stopped, removed the choc bits, and went with a wavy fork design.  The only problem is that I had already compromised the surface a little bit by inserting the pieces of chocolate and the fork design did not go as smoothly as it should have. I considered a little hairdryer action, but I already had the shards placed around the cake. No major harm done, but another little lesson learned. I go through them often (sigh).

The cake was served for our department colleagues, in a farewell party for two wonderful staff members.

And now, allow me to show you why you need The Artful Baker in your bookshelf… I will walk you through the different chapters.

Cookies… Not sure how to break this for you. I’ve never had a cookbook in which every single recipe of a chapter appeals to me. This was it. Every. Single. One. He opens the chapter with Cenk’s House Cookies, a recipe that was born out of a kitchen problem with his food processor. You know a baker is great when boo-boos turn into culinary masterpieces.  Then he proceeds to temp you with all sorts of amazing delicacies:  Vanilla Bean Meltaways (his version of the Turkish un kurabiyesi), Pistachio and Matcha Sables, Lime and Ginger Cookies (with good advice on zesting citrus), Hazelnut and Caramel Cookies (OMG), Macarons… macarons so exotic they left me dreaming. The one that made my heart stop used kaymak in the filling. Many years ago, 1986 to be precise, I happened to travel to Yugoslavia and one morning, in the island of Krk, I had kaymak for the first time. Unforgettable. One of those perfect gastronomic moments. Of course, it is impossible to find in the US, and he suggests mascarpone as an alternative. Still, it’s nice to see he designed a macaron with kaymak in mind. Cocoa and Chestnut Macarons, Sour Cherry and White Chocolate Macarons, Chocolate and Lavender Macarons… I am in love.

Brownies… Have you heard of leblebi? Probably not. Intriguing ingredient. He uses that in a brownie that is, simply put, drool-inducing. But nothing beats his “Brownie Wears Lace.”  I so wish I could try it, but my artistic skills are definitely not up to that challenge, just looking at the design my hand starts to shake. I will share a picture of this beauty since it’s in his blog anyway.

Have you ever seen a more beautiful brownie in your life? I swear, I cannot stop staring and dreaming…

Cakes, Muffins, Cheesecakes and Meringues… There are 21 recipes in this chapter. Honestly, I have a hard time deciding which could be my top five to share. The three madeleines call my name loudly: Sakura, Lemon Verbena, and Lavender. Three flavors I adore.  The cake featured in this post comes from this chapter too, Devil Wears Chocolate. Matcha and Pistachio No-Bake Cheesecake and Monte Bianco would probably be the other favorites. Just an amazing collection of goodies. In this chapter he also writes about his first day in San Francisco. I will never forget my first day in California, when I landed also in San Francisco and then went to my first home away from home, in Mountain View. Life changing experiences.

Tarts, Galettes, Pie, Quiche, Cobbler & Crumble…  Blanche is a fruit tart that opens the chapter. It is a masterpiece. It seems almost doable, because his instructions are so detailed, but I am not sure I’m ready to face it quite yet. My experience with tarts and pies is a bit limited.  Chocolate and Salted Caramel Tart (seems like every nice cookbook has one, but his version as usual, takes it a step higher). Peel-to-Stem Apple Pie has a very interesting ingredient that totally changes the game in terms of texture. Just like the Devil Wears Chocolate Cake, this pie maximizes the apple component. I need to give it a try. Lemon Meringue Tarts and Fig, Thyme & Blue Cheese Galette make my personal favorite list too.

Breads and Pastries… Another total winner of a chapter. Have you heard of Simis? They are Turkish breads shaped as a ring and encrusted with sesame seeds. I need them in my life.  Whole-Wheat and Kefir Pullman Loaf, Croissants & Pain au Chocolat, Profiteroles, Mocha Eclairs (so so cute).

Ice Creams, Frozen Yogurts, and Sorbets… I have to quote his opening paragraph: Ice cream is to me what water is to you. Your body weight is 60 percent water; mine is probably 60 percent ice cream. About 70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water; more than 70 percent of my tongue’s surface is regularly covered with ice cream.  When you take those words in account, you know you can trust his taste in the subject. He starts with Chocolate, moves to Three-Bean-Vanilla, and gets to Salted Caramel Ice Cream right away. But the Roasted Strawberry captured my imagination. Strawberry is a very tricky fruit to use in desserts in general, because it has such a big water content. His trick to roast the fruit makes sure the ice cream will deliver intense flavor.  Blackberry Swirl Frozen Yogurt makes this list also.

Confections and Drinks…  He shares recipes for caramels (like Passion Fruit Caramels!), Fernando Rocher (a labor of love, recipe he carefully crafted using home-made sour cherry liqueur),  Elderflower Syrup, Hot Chocolate, are all very tempting to try.

Jams and Jellies… Well, I have to admit I am not crazy for jams to try and make my own. But I know lots of cooks have a fascination for this type of endeavor. Those will be mesmerized by the chapter, that starts with detailed instruction to make your own apple pectin, apparently an ingredient that will take your jam-making experience to very high levels. But there are two recipes in the chapter I could happily try: Dulce de Leche and Cajeta

Base Recipes… Pretty much everything you need to pull any of the recipes in the book and also to design your own. It includes ingredients like Vanilla Wafer Crumbs, Cocoa Wafer Crumbs, Cinnamon and Ginger Wafer Crumbs, for those times in which you are ready to go the extra mile. Recipes for several kinds of pastry cream, and doughs (pies, tarts, pate a choux).

So, what’s so special about the book? Definitely the author behind it, and his commitment to making his recipes work in your own kitchen, no matter your baking comfort level. He skips no details, he carries no hidden cards up his sleeves. As I try to improve my baking skills and attempt more elaborate desserts, I notice how often quite reputable cookbooks have omissions (and even mistakes!) that can be fatal to the outcome. I won’t name names, I realize writing a flawless cookbook is a daunting task. But The Artful Baker is just that: flawless. And the talent (and humbleness) of Cenk is evident all the way through the book. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is wonderful that he’s getting all the praise and recognition he deserves.

Cenk, thank you for a fantastic cookbook! I am so glad I reconnected with your blog…

ONE YEAR AGO: Slow-Cooker Pot Roast with Potatoes, Carrots, and Fennel

TWO YEARS AGO: The Best, the Very Best Hummus

THREE YEARS AGO: Cheddar Cheese Crackers

FOUR YEARS AGO: A New Take on Cauliflower Puree

FIVE YEARS AGO:
 In My (NEW!) Kitchen

SIX YEARS AGO:
 
The Lab Move and New Beginnings

SEVEN YEARS AGO:
 Honey-Oat Pain de Mie

EIGHT YEARS AGO:
 Carrot and Leek Soup

NINE YEARS AGO:
 Chicken Parmigiana 101

 

 

ON A HALLOWEEN ROLL

It’s the season of pumpkin and warm spices, of sweaters and scarves. This pumpkin cake roll would shine in any Halloween party, perhaps with a side of appropriately decorated macarons

PUMPKIN ROLL WITH HONEY CREAM CHEESE FILLING

Full recipe is available at Bluprint.

My modifications:

I used 1.5 teaspoons of a Speculoos spice mix (awesome stuff!) in place of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

I omitted the nuts on the topping, and just added colorful sprinkles.

To print the recipe, visit Bluprint.

 

Comments: This recipe was brilliantly demonstrated by Abby Dodge in her Craftsy class called “Beyond Grandma’s Cake Roll: One Pan, Six New Cakes.”  I loved it, and want to make every single concoction she shared, including pretty cool “wrapped cakes.”  Clever idea with very adorable results.  I know I sound like a broken record, but I am always happy with Craftsy baking classes, every single one has superb, often unexpected gems of wisdom.  In this particular case, Abby’s method to roll, unroll, and fill the cake is outstanding, I feel totally confident I can pull it (or maybe I should say roll it) without fear from now on. Of course, I shall regret these very words in the near future (sigh). Baking has this amazing way to throw you some curve balls.

I used speculoos spice mix, something I impulse-bought a while ago and cannot live without, the smell is amazing, it’s just that perfect combination of spices found in my very favorite cookie in the known universe. Yes, I know I could make my own mix, but there’s something sexy about that bottle, ready and waiting for me.

You can roll the cake in two different ways, from the long end you will end up with more slices and less roll. Perfect if you need to feed a crowd. But, if you are going for the most harmonious look when sliced, roll from the short end. Smaller cake, more roll.

The filling, a honey-cream cheese mixture, is absolutely delicious, goes perfectly well with the flavor of the cake. The icing is a white chocolate ganache, but you could serve the cake just with a light coating of powdered sugar, for a more austere look (and considerably less calories). It’s your kitchen, it’s your call… Roll the way you see fit (somebody stop me now).

Pumpkin Macarons

ONE YEAR AGO: Pumpkin Macarons

TWO YEARS AGO: Zucchini, Lemon & Walnut Cake

THREE YEARS AGO: Paleo Energy Bars

FOUR YEARS AGO: Pecan-Crusted Chicken with Honey Mustard Dressing

FIVE YEARS AGO: Mozzarella Stuffed Turkey Burgers

SIX YEARS AGO:  Cashew Chicken Lettuce Wraps

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Clay-pot Pork Roast

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Panmarino

NINE YEARS AGO: A Classic Roast Chicken

 

THE BRAZILIAN BATTENBERG

Triple culinary fusion, the cake is originally from UK, and was designed to honor the marriage of Princess Victoria to Prince Louis of Battenberg from Germany, back in 1884.  In my version, a little tropical flair was added to the party, even if 134 years late. Better late than never.

LIME AND MANGO BATTENBERG
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

175 g butter
175 g sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
175 g all-purpose flour
2 + 3/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
zest of two limes
2 tsp Amoretti mango emulsion flavor
350 g marzipan

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour Battenberg pan, including the inserts.

Cream butter and sugar until light and creamy.  Gradually add the beaten eggs.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt so that they are evenly mixed. Fold it in the butter-egg mixture.

Divide the cake batter into two equal parts.  Add the lime zest and a drop of green gel food dye to it. Mix gently. Add the mango flavor and a drop of orange food dye to the second portion of the batter.  Spoon the green mixture into two sections of the pan, spoon the orange batter on the two remaining sections.  Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan. When completely cold, remove from the pan and trim if needed. Brush the mango jam onto the long sides of the cakes and join one plain and one pink slice together and then one pink and one plain on top, creating a checkered pattern. Now brush the jam over all the sides. The jam is what glues the marzipan to the cake, so make sure you have a  thin coating all over the surfaces, and also in between the  four individual parts.

Roll out the marzipan on some sugar, making a rectangle approximately 8 x 12 inches. Place the cake on to the marzipan so that one edge is lined up to the edge of the marzipan (see my composite photo below). Trim away any surplus marzipan and both ends of the cake with a sharp knife. Decorate the top, if you so desire.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I first saw this cake on the Great British Baking Show, and was mesmerized by it. Of course, they made the poor contestants improvise a pan using folded parchment paper, and then go into heavy hyperventilation as the two-colored batters baked in that iffy environment. I followed a safer route and got the right tool for the job. Shocking, I know…

If you browse the internet and cookbooks, you’ll see countless variations on Battenberg, many will have not four, but 9 blocks of two-color bakes. In that case the easiest way is to bake two large cakes and cut blocks from them, assembling them in alternating colors. The traditional version has a single flavor, almond, and half the batter gets food coloring, usually pink.

I used the recipe that came with the pan as a starting point, as I reasoned it would generate the perfect amount of batter. The recipe called for British self-raising flour which is different from that sold in the US.  I made the British version from scratch (it is essentially 2 tsp baking powder per cup of all-purpose flour).  To take the cake into a more tropical atmosphere, I chose lime and mango in the form of lime zest (inspired by this cake from Philip), and Amoretti mango flavoring. Great product, by the way. I highly recommend it .

The cake was a perfect project for a rainy Sunday…

This was my second time working with marzipan (first time was for the Fraisier Cake), but in the Battenberg the marzipan plays a much more prominent role. You need to make sure it is rolled with uniform thickness (not too thin so it won’t crack as you fold it), and that you have enough marzipan to cover the whole cake. So, measure twice and roll away. Any imperfections on the edge of the cake and marzipan layer will disappear once you trim it. As the baker, you are allowed to nibble on the trimmings, but it is absolutely mandatory to share with any four-legged creatures in your home. Which explains that I barely had any, magnanimous soul that I am. Buck and Oscar were in absolute heaven, BogeyQT™ inhaled it all so fast, I doubt his taste buds had a chance to fire. Not much I can do about it. Such is the life of a 75-pound dalmatian.

If Battenberg Cake appeals to you, I urge you to visit Philip’s blog,
he has many versions, one better than the other.
Check them out with a click here.

The cake turned out wonderful, both flavors complemented each other well… and what’s even better, it was highly appreciated by our colleagues next day!

Now I want to pick new pairings of flavor… chocolate and orange, coconut and lime, white chocolate and strawberries… the possibilities are endless!

ONE YEAR AGO: Salzburg Sourdough

TWO YEARS AGO: If I had One Hour

THREE YEARS AGO: Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal Cake

FOUR YEARS AGO: Sourdough Rye Bread with Flaxseeds and Oats

FIVE YEARS AGO: Apricot-Raspberry Sorbet: A farewell to Summer

SIX YEARS AGO: Marcela’s Salpicon

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pork Kebabs

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Fondant au Chocolat

NINE YEARS AGOGot Spinach? Have a salad!

 

 

 

VAGUE MOUSSE CAKE

Once again I decided to push a little the limits of my comfort zone. Actually, let me rephrase that. With this project I threw caution to the wind and walked through pretty treacherous baking neighborhoods. When you buy a Silikomart Vague mold because you are mesmerized by its looks but have no idea what to use it for, you are in for a wild ride. It’s not as if you could order a cookbook called  “Silikomart 101.”  In fact, it’s hard to find even blog posts to help you out. Lots of amazing concoctions pop up in Pinterest, but instead of recipes they direct you to fancy patisserie pages in Paris, Rome, Prague. No help whatsoever to make them materialize in your own kitchen. Through some google-overwork, I finally saw a little light at the end of the tunnel through an Italian blog hosted by Vanessa (Tra Zucchero e Vaniglia = Between Sugar and Vanilla). Thanks to my limited ability to read the language and the help of google translate to fill in the blanks, I managed to put my beautiful mold to use.  With this project, I also tried for the very first time an amazing technique: chocolate spraying with a paint gun. I know. I am gone. Beyond recovery. But… can we still be friends?

VAGUE MOUSSE CAKE
(inspired by Tra Zucchero e Vaniglia blog)

For the cookie base:
40 g all-purpose flour
3 tbsp (25 g) almond flour
¼ cup (25 g) hazelnut flour
1 tsp  unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
50 g unsalted butter, room temperature
50 g light brown sugar

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the all-purpose, almond, and hazelnut flours and the cocoa powder. In a separate bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar, then incorporate the flour mixture. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Heat the oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Evenly spread the dough about ⅛ in thick onto the prepared baking sheet (the batter should be slightly larger than the cake ring that will be used for assembly). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Cool completely. Reserve.

for the creamy raspberry insert:
75 g sugar
190 g raspberry pulp (passed through a sieve to remove seeds)
100 g whole eggs (about 2, lightly beaten)
2.5 g gelatine in sheets
65 g butter

Coat a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper and place on it a 7-inch diameter flan or cake ring, preferably with a sheet of acetate lining it.  On another baking sheet, place a Silikomart globe mold (optional).

Soak gelatine in cold water. Put the beaten eggs, the granulated sugar and the fruit pulp in a glass bowl. Bring the mixture to 180 ° F in microwave at maximum power, measuring the temperature after 50 seconds. Continue to measure it every 30 seconds (it will take over 2 minutes to get there, depending on the power of your microwave).

Once the indicated temperature has been reached, add the gelatine and mix well to dissolve it completely. Cool to about 105 to 110 F and add the butter, emulsifying with an immersion blender. Pour the cream into the previously prepared steel circle until it also fills one of the globe mold cavities . Freeze for several hours or overnight.

for the white chocolate mousse
creme anglaise component (makes more than you’ll need):
175 g fresh cream
75 g fresh milk
55 g egg yolks
32 g sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the milk and cream in a small saucepan until it starts to boil. Meanwhile, with a whisk mix the egg yolks, vanilla extract and sugar, taking care to incorporate as little air as possible. Add a small amount of the hot milk mixture slowly to the egg yolks to temper it, then slowly add the rest and blend well. Cook until it reaches 170 F.  Pass the cream through a sieve and transfer it into a cold container to stop cooking. If necessary, use an immersion blender to make it fully smooth. But if you are careful heating it gently and constantly stirring it, it should not need any further blending.

You will use 150 g of the creme anglaise for the white chocolate mousse, as follows.

for the white chocolate mousse:
150 g creme anglaise (made as described above)
250 white chocolate
225 g freshly whipped cream to soft peaks
2.5 g gelatin in sheets

Soak gelatin in cold water.

Chop the chocolate coarsely and melt it in the microwave with the defrost function or maximum power 500 W.

Warm up the creme anglaise to about 100 F. When the gelatin is soft, squeeze it to remove the water and add it to the creme anglaise. Mix gently to fully dissolve it. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, wait a moment and mix well. Fold the whipped cream to the still warm mixture.  Reserve.

for the chocolate spray:
300 g white chocolate
200 g cocoa butter

Melt together and place in sprayer at 90 F.

to decorate the globe insert: melted white chocolate

Assemble the dessert. Place the Vague mold on a baking sheet that will fit inside your freezer.  Fill with the white chocolate mousse, making a thick layer at the bottom.

Remove the raspberry creamy disc from the steel ring, removing the acetate and place it in the middle of the mousse making it sink a little.

Cover with the remaining mousse and beat the pan gently on the countertop so as to bring out any air bubbles. Level the mixture with a spatula and transfer into the freezer for several hours, preferably overnight.

Once frozen, turn out the cake and spray it with the mixture of white chocolate-cocoa butter at 90 F. Make a light coating, otherwise the mixture might just slide off the surface instead of forming a nice velvet texture.

Place the mousse over the cookie base, decorate the globe insert with a drizzle of white chocolate and set it at the center of the cake.

Store in the fridge until ready to serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I completely changed the cookie base, as Vanessa’s recipe had some unusual way to deal with it. In her method, you make a dough, cool it, grate it, and press it to make the base. I felt too insecure to give it a try, and also thought it was a bit too convoluted. Plus, I wasn’t sure it would result in the texture I wanted for the bottom layer of my cake. I opted for a chocolate sable instead. It is a nice dough to work with, and I love the texture. For this torte, you’ll need two Silikomart molds, the Vague and a small globe mode to make the center decorative piece that goes on top. You can definitely omit it and serve the mousse cake plain. But it does add a striking look to the dessert.

A few things I learned through pain and struggles. You can see in my picture above that I used a silicone cake pan to make the raspberry insert.  I had a pretty tough time un-molding it. The sides are too high, the material a bit too flimsy, I thought the whole thing was going to be ruined. Luckily, just a few boo-boos on the surface, no major harm done. Note to self: invest in a flan ring for this type of adventure. With a 7-inch metal ring, you simply freeze it and pull it up, leaving the perfect layer of mousse behind. Lesson learned. You need the right tools for the job.

The overall scheme in this type of dessert goes like this: you make a cookie base, a creamy, frozen center insert with smaller dimension than the 8-inch full cake, and enough mousse to fill the mold, surrounding the insert. Once you have these three components, all that is left is to freeze it solid, un-mold and decorate the top. Chocolate spray is one cool method, as it gives a beautiful velvet texture. Contrary to fondant, it is a pleasure to eat. But no doubt, it is a very involved process. I used a Wagner sprayer that was a surprise gift from the saint I married. He actually tricked me. Asked me to go to Menard’s with him. Once we were there, he made a bee line to the paint section, next thing I knew, the box was in the shopping cart. He had even researched the model to get, as he knew I had been dreaming about spraying my world with chocolate. You knew already he is a keeper. This just confirms it… 

The velvet texture requires two things: the surface to be sprayed must be frozen, and the chocolate suspension must be at a maximum of 90 F, even a bit colder if possible. You need it to flow well, but to freeze immediately upon contact, forming the little velvety looking texture. Since the suspension needs to be passed through a fine sieve before going into the sprayer, things can cool down pretty fast. I decided to use my bread proofing box set at 98F to store the sprayer for 30 minutes or so. Then, I got the chocolate ready at the right temperature and worked as fast as I could to get the spray going. That brings another very important point: it is a very messy process. Very messy. People use all sorts of tricks to deal with it, usually doing it outside or in a garage with cardboard boxes forming a wall all around the piece to be decorated. But I found a tip that worked better than anything else: setting up the spraying unit inside the dishwasher!  I just removed the racks, placed a baking sheet inverted on it, a plastic turntable to hold the cake, and that was absolutely perfect. All I had to do was run the dishwasher in the end.

I watched quite a few youtube videos on chocolate spraying to make sure I would have some chance of getting it right. One thing is certain: no matter how many videos you watch, how many detailed instructions you read, nothing prepares you for the real thing. It’s a wild experience. The sprayer works very efficiently but it is very hard to see what is happening because there is a haze of spray everywhere. It was also not very easy to turn the cake while spraying, the Wagner is not feather-light. Plus, my heart was beating at 120 bpm, maybe faster. To summarize, things got intense pretty quickly. Let me rephrase that also: Hell broke loose, big time. I hope the next adventure will be easier, though. At least I am confident that the set up I designed works well to keep the temperature in the correct range for a while, I won’t need to rush to get it done. Apart from a few problems here and there, I am reasonably happy with the way my first adventure with the Silikomart Vague turned out.

As far as taste is concerned, this was absolutely scrumptious! It is pretty hard to beat this trilogy: chocolate cookie, white chocolate mousse, and raspberry cream. They all go together like a dream…

Things to keep in mind for next time:

1. A little more gelatin in the mousse so that it will un-mold with a more defined surface.

2. Place the raspberry insert slightly more on the center of the dessert, so that it won’t be at all visible underneath the top mousse layer. In other words, add a bit more mousse inside the mold before setting the insert on top.

2. The cookie base could be rolled thinner, but opinions are divided on this issue. Phil thought it was perfect the way it was.

3. Be a bit more Zen with the spray paint gun. There’s really no need to scare three dogs and a husband into hiding. Even if your contact lenses fogged up with the spray, no amount of screaming will make them clear up. That is a fact you proved to yourself. Next time,  keep calm, and spray on.

Make Sally and Bogey Quit That happy, grab a pin!


ONE YEAR AGO: Cottage Loaf, my very own technical challenge

TWO YEARS AGO: Pork Ribs: Sticky, Spicy and Awesome

THREE YEARS AGO: Sobering Peach Sorbet

FOUR YEARS AGO: Buttermilk-Blueberry Breakfast Cake

FIVE YEARS AGO: Silky Cauliflower Puree with Almond Milk


EIGHT YEARS AGO:
 Popeye-Pleasing Salad
.
NINE YEARS AGO: Summer’s Finale

 

 

 

 

 

 

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JAPANESE-STYLE CUPCAKES WITH CHERRY BLOSSOM ICING

Two first-timers happened in the Bewitching Kitchen. My adventure with Japanese cheesecake, and with the intriguing flavor of cherry blossoms. Have you heard of Japanese cheesecakes? They originated in Hakata, back in 1948. Considerably lighter than the American variety, they are also baked in a water-bath, delicate creatures that they are. I intend to make them as such in the near future, but for the time being I share a departure on the basic method, taking them into cupcake territory. The steam part is provided by a big pan with water kept in the oven. And now for the unusual flavoring: Sakura, aka cherry blossom extract. I first heard about it years ago, finally caved and ordered some from Japan. The smell is amazing, floral as expected, but not as potent as rose extract, for instance. Think of vanilla with less of a sweet component, more pungent and bright. I know, trying to describe a smell is a big waste of typed words. Oh, well…  Without further ado, here are my Japanese-style cupcakes.

JAPANESE COTTON-SOFT CUPCAKES WITH SAKURA ICING
(adapted from Mowielicious)

for the cupcakes:
250g cream cheese
50g unsalted butter
100ml whole milk
1 tsp vanilla paste
60g all-purpose flour
20g cornstarch
1 tbsp lemon juice
6 egg yolks
6 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
150g sugar

for the buttercream:
150g unsalted butter
300g icing sugar
50ml heavy cream
1 tsp sakura (cherry blossom) extract
pink colour gel (I used Chefmaster)
sparkling sugar to decorate (optional)

Heat the oven to 300 F. Half-fill a baking tray with water and place on the bottom shelf. Line a cupcake tray with cupcake cups.

Place the cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla paste in a bowl over a hot water bath and stir until mixture is smooth and creamy. Remove bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.

Sift the flour and cornstarch into the cheese mixture, add the lemon juice and egg yolks and stir until a smooth mixture forms.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar until frothy, then slowly add the sugar and whisk until soft peaks form. Add the egg white mixture to the cheese mixture and gently fold.

Pour into cupcake cups and place in the middle of the oven over the water bath and bake for about 1 hour or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

To make the buttercream, whisk the butter and icing sugar until crumbly, then add the double cream and flavouring and whisk until smooth. Place the buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1M tip and pipe swirls on the top of the cooled cakes.  Decorate with sparkling sugar, if desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The most amazing thing about these cupcakes is how light they are. I mean light in terms of weight… Feather-light. Very airy. I am definitely going to try the cheesecake soon, because I know it will be right up my alley. The Sakura flavor is delicate and complements the cupcake well. The only thing I would change for a next time is the buttercream component. The recipe uses your classic American buttercream, which not only is the sweetest type, but it also crusts after piping when in contact with air. It is often the buttercream of choice for elaborate piped effects, as they will not melt away. But in the case of this simple swirl, I think a Swiss buttercream will be perfect. Something to consider if you want to make them. By the way, if you don’t have Sakura extract, a little rose-water, or orange blossom water can be substituted.

A little sprinkle of sparkling sugar to dress them up, and we were all set!

Japanese baking is a whole new universe for me.
I’ve been exploring two excellent cookbooks on the subject.
Stay tuned for some exotic adventures in the future!

ONE YEAR AGO: Quick Weeknight Soups

TWO YEARS AGO: Sourdough Loaf with Cranberries and Walnuts

THREE YEARS AGO: Sichuan Pork Stir-Fry in Garlic Sauce

FOUR YEARS AGO: Our Green Trip to Colorado

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ditalini Pasta Salad

SIX YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

NINE YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

 

QUEEN OF SHEBA

Sometimes a beautiful cake demands a lot from the baker. The Queen of Sheba looks like the outcome of a labor of intense, ever-lasting love, but it is deceptively simple to make. Trust me, because I never lie. If you want to impress your guests and do so without hyperventilating, succumbing to profanity, or worse yet – ending in a puddle of tears, this dessert is for you…

QUEEN OF SHEBA
(adapted from Alice Medrich’s Craftsy class)

for the cake:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons  brandy
1/8 teaspoons salt
2.5 ounces hazelnut flour
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 large eggs, separated and at room temperature
3/4 cup (5.25 ounces) sugar, divided
pinch of cream of tartar 

for the glaze:
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate cut into pieces
8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 ounce white chocolate, finely chopped (for marbling)
1 ounce milk chocolate, finely chopped (for marbling) 

Make the cake. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line an 8-inch springform pan with a circle of parchment paper. Leave the sides of the pan ungreased. 

Melt the chocolate and butter gently over simmering water or in the microwave. Stir in the brandy and salt. Set aside. Mix the hazelnut flour and the all-purpose flour in a bowl until well combined.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the sugar until well blended. Stir in chocolate mixture, reserve at room temperature while you prepare the meringue.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar at medium speed until soft peaks form, then sprinkle in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, beating at high-speed  until peaks are stiff. Sprinkle the hazelnut/flour mixture over the chocolate batter and scoop about one  quarter of the egg whites on top. Fold with a large rubber spatula until partially blended. Scrape the remaining egg whites into the bowl and fold them in. Turn the batter into the prepared pan and level it gently.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted about 1. inches from the edge emerges almost clean but a toothpick inserted in the center is still moist and gooey. Set the pan on a rack to cool.  Release the sides of the pan (or push up on the removable bottom) and invert the torte so that the bottom becomes the top, then remove the pan bottom and paper liner. If the torte is still uneven or appears slightly sunken in the center, level it by pressing the top firmly with the bottom of the empty cake pan. It must be at room temperature before you apply the crumb coat.

Make the glaze. Place the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a medium heatproof bowl. Set the bowl in the skillet of water over low heat, stirring frequently until completely melted and smooth.  Stir mixture gently with a spatula or a wooden spoon until completely smooth; do not whisk or beat. Cool glaze, without stirring, until nearly set and the consistency of easily spreadable frosting.  You will use about 1/4 of the mixture to do a fine coating all over the cooled cake (the crumb coat). Place the cake for 10 minutes in the fridge, while you warm up the remaining of the glaze to about 90 F. At this point, melt both the white and milk chocolate and set them aside. 

Place the cake on a turntable. Pour all of glaze in the center of the top of the cake. Working quickly, and rotating the turntable, use just 2 or 3 spatula strokes to spread the glaze over the top of the torte so that it runs down over all sides. Use the spatula to scoop up excess glaze and touch it to any bare spots on the sides of the cake. Immediately, while the glaze is still fluid, drizzle the white and milk chocolates randomly in an overlapping “scribble” all over the top of the torte. You can use a toothpick or needle for additional effect.

Remove it to a rack to dry at room temperature. Glaze will set in 10-20 minutes. Store and serve at room temperature, this cake is best if never refrigerated.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you might remember that I love Craftsy, and have taken quite a few of their online courses. Based on my personal experience, Alice Medrich’s Decadent Chocolate Cakes is by far the best. I learned so much from her class! Small details on how to deal with ingredients, the clever tricks she uses, stuff that you simply do not find in cookbooks. She has experience, she does things in ways that are often a bit unusual, but make sense. And they work. I highly recommend you to get this class if you are interested in improving your baking skills.

This was a very smooth baking project, which is a huge endorsement of Alice’s teaching skills. Not only she shows exactly what to expect, but, what’s even more important, she tells you what to do to avoid tragedy in case things start to go south. Her class is simply brilliant. I was over the moon when I finished the cake, as you can see in the photo taken by my beloved. Trust me, I rarely have a relaxed smile at the end of a baking session. Thank YOU, Ms. Medrich!

The cake is moist, chocolate-y to the extreme, and I think my decision of using hazelnut flour was a nice move, even if a departure from the classic. As Alice mentions in her class, this is a very flexible recipe. You can use different types of chocolate, different nuts, alternative glazes, or ways to decorate it. It’s like a classic black dress that moves along in many social situations, depending on what you add to it. I really like the modern-chic design she demonstrated in the online class, and that’s what I tried to replicate.

Everybody loved this cake, which brightened up a super rainy Tuesday after Labor Day weekend. You know, it’s not that easy to go back to work after a long weekend, the last summer holiday, so a nice dose of chocolate helps. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

ONE YEAR AGO: Brunch Burger

TWO YEARS AGO: Mango Salsa with Verjus

THREE YEARS AGO: Raspberry Bittersweet Chocolate Chunk Brownies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Scary Good Pork Burgers

FIVE YEARS AGO: Review of exercise program Focus25

SIX YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

NINE YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

 

 

STRAWBERRY-MANGO ENTREMET CAKE

Pushing a little bit the boundaries of my comfort zone, with this cake I practiced making a pattern on the sponge component, baking a mango-flavored meringue, and using a gelatin-based topping. The basic recipe was from the book Modern French Pastry. The cake, called Moulin Rouge, is a looker. I modified the recipe quite a bit, so I share my version with you. Make sure to read my comments, as I consider this cake still a work in preparation.

STRAWBERRY-MANGO ENTREMET CAKE
(adapted from Modern French Pastry)

for the side-decoration:
50 g butter
56 g powdered sugar
60 g egg whites (about 2 eggs)
56 g all-purpose flour
red food coloring

Mix the butter and sugar in a Kitchen Aid type mixer with the paddle attachment until creamy. Add the egg whites very slowly, a little at a time. Clean the sides of the bowl often. Add the flour and gently mix on very low-speed, then add the food dye.  Lay the stencil you intend to use on a Silpat, or if drawing a pattern free-hand, lay the design on parchment paper to make it easier to draw with the batter.  Brush the batter on the stencil, then scrape all excess off with a bench scraper. You will not use all the batter made, but it is easier to work with more than you need.  Gently pull the stencil up. See my composite photo under the recipe.

Freeze the design for an hour or so. You can do this step the day before.  Do not remove from the freezer until you are ready to bake the cake layer.

Joconde Cake Layer
65 g powdered sugar, sifted
36 g pastry flour
65 g almond flour
100 g eggs  (whole eggs, at room temperature)
120 g egg whites (from about 4 eggs)
30 g granulated sugar
75 g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Heat the oven to 400 F. Add powdered sugar, flour and almond meal to the bowl of a mixer. Mix gently to incorporate them.  Add the eggs and beat on high-speed for about 5 minutes, until very fluffy. Reserve.

Make a meringue with the egg whites and sugar, bringing it to soft peaks. Start with the egg whites in the mixer on low-speed, increase to medium, once you see a trail forming as the mixer is going, start adding the sugar slowly.  Once you get to soft peaks, stop. Over-beating the meringue will make it hard to incorporate it in the cake batter.  Gently fold the meringue on the egg-flour mixture that you reserved.  Add a bit of the mixture to the bowl with melted butter, mix gently. Pour that into the cake batter and gently fold.

Remove the stencil design from the freezer, pour the batter over it, trying to level it as best as you can with an off-set spatula. You want to keep the air incorporated in the batter, so be gentle. Run the spatula just over the surface, you don’t want to risk disturbing the pattern underneath it.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. You need to start noticing a little browning on the surface, but not much. If you notice the edges getting crunchy, remove from the oven. Let it cool before proceeding.

Mango-Flavored Meringue
30 g powdered sugar, sifted
30 g pulverized freeze-dried mangos (use a food processor)
80 g egg whites
80 g granulated sugar

Heat the oven to 350 F. Trace two 8 inch circles on parchment paper, and place it over Silpat. Prepare a large piping bag fitted with either a large (1/2 inch) piping tip, or just cut the bag with that dimension.

Mix the powdered sugar with the pulverized mango and reserve.  Make a meringue with the egg whites and sugar as described for the Joconde layer. There is a lot of sugar in this version, so you don’t have to worry about over-beating.  Once you get to stiff peaks, mix the mango-sugar mixture, folding it delicately. 

Spoon the mixture in the prepared piping bag, and pipe it on the Silpat, in each of the circles, starting from the center.  Leave a little border empty, as you want the meringue to be smaller than the diameter of the cake. You can see in the central picture of the meringue composite that the pencil drawing is about 0.5 inch larger. You could conceivably draw a smaller circle, but it is easier to see where you are and stop short, then risk going too much over it. Still, do whatever feels better for you.

Bake for 20  to 22 minutes. Meringue should feel dry to the touch and just be starting to brown.

Strawberry Mousse
12 g powdered gelatin
60 g cold water to boom gelatin
350 g strawberry puree (use the food processor)
175 g powdered sugar
350 g heavy cream

Combine gelatin with cold water and allow it to bloom for a few minutes. Place the strawberry puree in a saucepan, add the powdered sugar and mix gently over low-heat until warm.

Whisk the cream in a Kitchen Aid type mixer to soft peaks. Do not over-beat.  Reserve.

Melt the gelatin in a microwave, in very short bursts, keeping a close eye, as you don’t want it to boil, just melt smoothly.  Add some of the strawberry puree to the gelatin to incorporate it in, then pour the mixture into the rest of the puree. Mix gently, but well, you want the gelatin to be fully distributed throughout the fruit.  Add 1/3 of the puree to the whipped cream, fold. Add the remaining of the puree, fold gently. The mousse is now ready to use.

Strawberry Gelatin Topping
5 g powdered gelatin
25 g cold water
75 g soaking syrup (water and sugar in equal weights, dissolved by heating)
75 g strawberry puree (passed through a sieve to remove seeds)
red food dye, just a tiny drop (optional)

Combine the gelatin with water to bloom for a few minutes. Heat the soaking syrup, add the gelatin and stir until fully melted. Slowly stir the strawberry puree, and the food coloring, if using. Refrigerate until needed. When ready to finish the cake, warm it in a microwave in very short bursts of heat, until it’s about 90 F.

ASSEMBLING THE CAKE
Dust the cold Joconde cake with granulated sugar. Place a parchment paper on top, and flip it. Remove the silicone sheet slowly, and marvel at the pattern that you see! Now you need to decide the dimension of the cake strips. In the book he recommends 1.75 inches, but I did about 2 inches. You need two strips of cake with the exact same dimension, and they will go around the perimeter of an 8-inch diameter cake ring.  With what is left of the cake, cut one circle a little smaller than 8-inches in diameter, as it will sit inside the perimeter laid by the cake strips.

Place an acetate strip inside the cake ring. Lay the cake strips with the design facing out, they should fit very snuggly, so it is best to allow them to overlap slightly, then force them into place. Now place one meringue ring at the bottom. Add one-third of the mousse over it. Top the mousse with the cake circle, the design can be facing up or down, it does not matter as you won’t see it.  Add another third of the mousse.  Place the second meringue ring on top, add the rest of the mousse, and spread as flat as you can, trying to make it almost leveled with the top of the cake strips.  Freeze overnight. If needed, you can trim the top of the cake layer with scissors before finishing the cake.

Remove from the freezer, and pour the warmed up strawberry topping. Do it quickly, as it will solidify. Remove the cake from the ring, pushing it from the bottom, gently but with authority… Place it on a serving platter, and decorate with freshly cut strawberries.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: You know that thrill of opening the lid of the Dutch oven and getting the first glimpse of the sourdough loaf inside? That is quite similar to the thrill of inverting the cake after baking, and peeling that Silpat to – hopefully – reveal the design. My heart was going at 100 bpm… The stencil I have is really big. I wish they made it in half-sheet size. I’ve been flirting with the idea of cutting it, as I will never need to lay such a huge pattern during my lifetime. Since it is so huge, I had to lay it over the Silpat on my countertop, with the stencil extending way beyond it, and making quite a mess on the granite. No way to avoid it, actually. But the process went more or less smoothly. I had to do it twice because on the first time I lifted the stencil too quickly and messed up the pattern on one of the sides. Live and learn.  Once the pattern is laid and frozen, the rest should go smoothly. The cake batter is poured right over the frozen design before it goes into the oven.

The meringue component was a bit challenging for me, particularly judging when the disk was properly baked. You do not want to have it too dark, because it gets brittle and breaks when moving it around. But under-baking is not a good idea. Mine was slightly over-baked in parts, but not fully baked in the center. I need to get a better “feel” for it, and also practice the piping to get a more uniform surface. Still, since the disk is hidden in the final dessert, any catastrophic events becomes a secret between the baker and the cake. What happens in The Bewitching Kitchen, stays in The Bewitching Kitchen.

I had to modify quite a few details in the recipe, mostly because the texture of my meringue was far from perfect. I strongly advise you to get the book if you enjoy this type of baking challenge, and try their version. Their meringue is flavored with coconut and black pepper (yes, you read that correctly). And they also add another layer of complexity with some jam. I say no more. You must get the book. Which, by the way, has one amazing recipe after another.  Like the one in the cover, yin and yang of mousse and fruits. Can you imagine bringing that to the table after a dinner party?

When I make this cake again, I will substitute the meringue layer for something else. Maybe a genoise with praline on top for texture. I have to agree with my friend Jennifer, that the meringue does not freeze as well as a sponge cake. For this type of entremet that needs to spend hours in the freezer, I think sponge layers work better. I cannot believe I am considering modifying a pretty complex cake recipe but… strange things happen in the universe. We are living in a twilight zone in ways that go beyond politics (wink, wink).

The topping reminded me of a mirror glaze, because you need to exercise patience and wait for it to cool to below body temperature. I actually find it easier to make it the day before, and warm it up for a few seconds at a time in the microwave, with super gently mixing (no whisking!), to avoid bubbles. Then it will be just a matter of minutes until you are done. Well, not actually you, but the cake.

The edges of my cake did not look as perfect as the picture in the book, so I added some sparkling sugar. Nothing like a little sparkle to cover sins. The flavor was spectacularly strawberry-ish, and the mango in the meringue a subtle added tropical bonus. By the way, when I was processing the dried mango to add to the meringue something quite funny happened. As I opened the processor, a fine dust of mango powder hit my nose. I got a severe case of…. Hiccups. Pretty funny. It passed quickly, though, but just in case you process dried mangos, avoid getting a deep sniff of the powder. Or, go for a full sniff and tell me if you get the hiccups too.

I feel I’m getting a little more comfortable with entremet cakes. The layers in this cake were better defined than my previous attempts, and the cake cut very nicely. Still,  there is a lot of room for improvement. One cake at a time, I hope to get there.

ONE YEAR AGO: Hommage to the Sun

TWO YEARS AGO: Tomato and Cucumber Salad with Almond Vinaigrette

THREE YEARS AGO: Eggplant Tomato Stacks

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Couscous that Wasn’t

FIVE YEARS AGO: Apple-Cinnamon Bread

SIX YEARS AGO: Blueberry Galette

SEVEN YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, August 2011

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Journey to a New Home

NINE YEARS AGO: Friday Night Dinner