THE BEWITCHING KITCHEN TURNS EIGHT: TWO MILESTONES AND A TRIPLE GIVEAWAY!

*comments are now shutdown, winner to be announced July 3rd, 11pm*

Here I am, wrapping up my eighth year of food blogging. But, are you ready for something even more amazing than that? Today, on this exact day, with this very post, I reach ONE THOUSAND ARTICLES PUBLISHED. I can hardly believe it myself… Can you imagine the odds on that? Gives me a thrill, that’s for sure. I actually noticed that those events could coincide, so I increased up slightly the pace of posting this month, lending a little helping hand to fate. Still, it deserved a very enthusiastic version of Sally’s Personal Happy Dance.  You should be grateful that there are no videos. But, to what matters most. What is a Birthday without cake? It is an idiosyncrasy. I could not allow that to happen. So, I rolled my sleeves up, took a few yogic breaths in and out, sat down on a rug staring at a candle for a full 19 seconds, and look what I baked for this party:

A Ferrero Rocher Cake, with – obviously – eight bonbons decorating the top. One for each year, my friends!

The interesting thing is that I own a pathetically large number of cookbooks. Of those, many, I repeat, many are cake cookbooks. Is this recipe from one of them? Obviously not. Why would I take the sensible path? No, not a chance. I got this recipe from the youtube channel hosted by Chetna Makan, the wonderful contestant of  The Great British Bake Off. A couple of months ago she demonstrated this Ferrero Rocher cake, making it seem easy and doable. I could not take it out of my mind. Plus, the idea of topping it with eight bonbons… how could I not go for it on this occasion? You can see Chetna in action with a click here.  And without further ado, I share with you my transcript of her recipe.

FERRERO ROCHER CAKE
(slightly modified from Chetna Makan)

for the cake component:
250g softened butter
250g caster sugar
50g melted dark chocolate
5 eggs, roughly whisked
200g self-rising flour
50g cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbs milk

for the ganache:
375g dark chocolate
450mL double cream (I used heavy cream)
30g unsalted butter

for the icing:
300g salted butter, softened
600g icing sugar, divided in two equal portions
2 Tbs milk
4 Tbs finely ground hazelnuts

for the pouring ganache and decoration:
50g dark chocolate
150mL double cream (I used heavy cream)
8 Ferrero Rocher bonbons

Make the sponge cake component: prepare three 9-inch round pans by greasing them with butter and placing parchment paper on the bottom. In the bowl of a KitchenAid type mixer, combine the softened butter with superfine (caster) sugar. Beat until creamy, a couple of minutes. Add the melted chocolate, mix a few seconds.  Slowly add the eggs, a little at a time with the beater running in low-speed.  Still in low-speed, add sifted self-rising flour, cocoa powder and the additional teaspoon of baking powder.  Mix until combined, add the milk, and mix well. Pour into prepared pans and bake at 350F for about 20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Make the ganache: place the chocolate cut into pieces in a large bowl, add very hot –  almost to the boiling point – cream, allow it to sit for a minute, then slowly mix with a spatula. When the chocolate is dissolved, add the butter. Reserve, covered with plastic wrap.

Make the buttercream icing: Add the softened salted butter to the mixer, beat with the paddle attachment until creamy. Add the sifted powdered sugar in two additions, 300g each. Mix well, then add the finely ground hazelnuts. Taste a little bit and dream. Reserve.

Assemble the cake: place the first layer to a cake stand, add the cooled ganache. Spread almost to the edges. Sprinkle diced hazelnuts all over the ganache. Place the second cake layer on top, repeat the ganache/hazelnut spreading. Place the third cake on top. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Ice the cake with the buttercream hazelnut component. Try to make it smooth on top and sides. Refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes.

Make the pouring ganache: mix the chocolate in pieces with almost boiling heavy cream. Wait a minute or so, then stir until the chocolate is fully melted and smooth. Pour on top of the cake, allowing it to flow down its sides. Sprinkle the top with more chopped hazelnuts, decorate with Ferrero Rocher bonbons….  Place in the fridge until serving time, removing it to room temperature about 30 minutes before slicing.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I decided to take my time to make this cake. Baking the cakes on a Saturday, making the ganache and frosting the following morning, assembling the cake in the afternoon. A well-laid plan indeed. To my delight, the cakes baked beautifully, flat and smooth. I removed them from the pans as if I was born doing it. Something we all know not to be the case. Next day the ganache and buttercream preparation went flawlessly. I was radiating self-confidence and pride. Then, I confronted the hazelnuts. A portion to be coarsely chopped, a smaller portion processed more finely. Hazelnuts are kind of expensive, so I bought them whole. That was a move to regret for as long as I live. Have you ever had to peel those pesky creatures? The skin seems to be covalently bonded to the nut. If you are not into chemistry, let me explain. Covalent bonds are strong. The atoms involved are sharing electrons, and the electrons don’t intend to stop dancing together in that complex, undetermined space. I sense an essay coming:  Implications of Sub-atomic Interactions for Cake Baking.  Anyway,  it took me 90 minutes to peel the hazelnuts. On my first innocent attempt I trusted instructions to simply roast them “and the peel will come off easily by rubbing them with a paper towel.” That is not only wrong, it is cruel. In desperation, and with two fingers burned, I googled for alternatives. Found out that if you boil them for “a couple of minutes” the peel should come off with “very little effort.” When I did that, I could hear the dancing electrons laughing at me. No intention of leaving their Covalent Gala. More google action. Found yet another set of instructions, more realistic as it included a clear warning – this method won’t be easy, but it’s by far the best way.  You do boil them, but with baking soda. A lot of it, actually (3 tablespoons for 2 cups of water). The pan will look like a witches brew, as you can see on the composite photo below. 

Get a bowl of cold water ready. After 4 minutes, grab a couple of hazelnuts with a slotted spoon and throw them in the water. Rub gently with your fingers, if the peel starts to come off, you are done. If not, keep boiling them, stirring constantly in low heat, otherwise you will have a very epic mess  on your stove (no need to ask me how I know). Once you reach the point of peels starting to come out,  drain the whole batch and shock them all in cold water. Peeling them will still be a labor like no other. Messy and long-lasting. An ordeal that I do not wish on anyone. In fact, I tell you what a great concept for hell could be. A place where you spend your full day peeling hazelnuts. In the background, the song “Don’t worry, be happy” plays non-stop. Once you are done, you can go to sleep, but not before watching Titanic, beginning to end. That is hell. Hazelnuts, Bobby McFerrin & Titanic, day in, day out.

But was it worth all the trouble? Oh, yeah! I tell you one thing, the icing with the finely ground hazelnuts is to die for, some serious deliciousness in taste and texture. If you like Ferrero Rocher, this cake is the ultimate celebration of it. The creaminess of the ganache, its intense chocolate taste echoed by the sponge cake. A real winner. Now, if you watch Chetna’s video, you’ll notice that her pouring ganache ended up thicker than mine. I think it’s a matter of the ingredients used. She used double cream, easily available in the UK, I had to go with our regular whipping cream. If I knew my way around baking, I would probably adapt it, perhaps using a higher proportion of chocolate. At any rate, I am happy with the way it turned out. Also, a warning: the ganache makes more than you’ll need. Chetna baked four cakes, I went with three, slightly larger. But trust me, you can use the leftover ganache in many tasty ways. Macaron filling? Yesssss!  Stirred into the morning cappuccino? Oh, yessssss…

So here I am, at the eight year mark! According to Foodista, 8% of the blogs make it to six years, no statistics available for food blogs older than that. What matters is that I am still having fun, and intend to keep going, so if you’d like, step with me into the 9th year of adventures in our kitchen.

source Foodista

To celebrate my special double milestone, I am offering a triple giveaway!  Three cookbooks that deal with some of my passions. The Book of Buns, a delightful publication that covers all sorts of breads, from simple to more complex. Second, Les Petits Macarons, because… how could I not include this colorful obsession of mine? And finally Flavor Flours, in my opinion the best cookbook for gluten-free baking. If you follow my blog, you know I don’t have any dietary restrictions. But recipes that try to adapt classics to gluten-free alternative versions fascinate me.  I’ve made quite a few of her recipes, and they were all top-notch. Alice Medrich does her homework before coming up with a recipe.

If you’d like to enter this giveaway, just leave a comment, and I’ll draw the winner on June 30th, announcing it the day after. I intend to give the books either as real hard copies (for those living in the USA), or as Kindle copies to those anywhere else in the world. Of course, if you live in the US but rather have the virtual versions, let me know.

 

Grab a pin to celebrate!

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ONE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Seven!

TWO YEARS AGO: Bewitching Kitchen Turns Six!

THREE YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Five!

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Four!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Three! 

SIX YEARS AGO:  The Bewitching Kitchen turns Two!

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  Bewitching Birthday!

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Welcome to my blog!

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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….

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(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

 

BEWITCHING BIRTHDAY!

One year of blogging! It passed with astonishing speed, proving that time flies when you’re having fun!   It’s surely been fun, sharing what happens in our kitchen with friends, family and lots of other folks, and getting acquainted (at least virtually) with new people and bloggers through comments and emails.

A cake is a mandatory birthday celebration!  Unfortunately,  cake and Sally don’t make a good match.   But in the name of this special occasion I faced my demons and baked a cake. Choosing the recipe wasn’t easy, but I decided by elimination: genoise was out of the question, I’d rather be tortured.   Any recipes involving the instructions “cream the butter with the sugar” were also excluded.  Then, browsing the latest issue of Bon Appetit, I spotted a layered chocolate raspberry cake and I was smitten: that was it! Luscious, beautiful, perfect… would you believe  that the recipe didn’t need an electric mixer?  Instead, two bowls and a whisk…. my kind of recipe!  Even the layering didn’t bother me (although it should have, … but  ignorance is bliss).

So, here it is, my first layered cake, in honor of my baby blog…

CHOCOLATE-RASPBERRY LAYERED CAKE
(from Bon Appetit, June 2010)

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 + 3/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs

18 ounces bittersweet chocolate (maximum 61% cocoa), chopped
2 + 1/4 cups whipping cream
6 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam, divided
resh raspberries
powdered sugar

Heat the oven to 350°F. Coat two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with nonstick spray. Line their bottoms with parchment paper rounds and spray the rounds. Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl; whisk to blend and form a well in the center. Whisk 1 cup of water, buttermilk, oil, and eggs in a medium bowl to blend. Pour the wet ingredients into well in dry ingredients; whisk just to blend. Divide the cake batter between the prepared pans.

Bake the cakes for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Cool completely in pans on cooling racks.

for the ganache and raspberry topping;
Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Bring the cream to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan. Pour it over the chocolate.  Let stand for 1 minute, then stir until the ganache is melted and smooth. Transfer 1 + 1/4 cups of the ganache to a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until the ganache is thick enough to spread, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Let the remaining ganache stand at room temperature to cool until  lukewarm.

Invert one cake onto a cardboard round or the bottom of 9-inch-diameter tart pan. Peel off the parchment paper and spread 3 tablespoons of raspberry jam over the top, then spoon dollops of chilled ganache over the surface, spreading it around.   Invert the second cake onto another cardboard round or tart pan bottom.  Peel off  its parchment paper. Carefully slide the cake off its round and onto the frosted cake layer.  Spread the remaining 3 tablespoons of raspberry jam over top of the second cake layer, and pour half of the lukewarm ganache over the cake, spreading it over the sides to cover.  Place the cake in the freezer until the ganache sets, about 30 minutes. Pour the remaining ganache over the cake, allowing it to drip down sides and spreading over the sides if needed for even coverage and smooth edges. Freeze again to set the ganache, about 30 minutes.

Arrange the raspberries in concentric circles atop the cake, then sift powdered sugar lightly over raspberries and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I wish that my cake-phobia was cured, but now I have a few more reasons to stick with breads and pizzas.   At first  my confidence grew as the batter behaved exactly as anticipated, filling two 9-inch cake pans and baking into beautiful brown cakes with only a slight dome in the center.  But the Cake Gods  weren’t quite finished with their conspiracy against me.   Spreading the ganache was nightmarish, to put it mildly. Thinking back, I realize that it wasn’t quite  hard enough to spread, so instead of forming a nice thick layer, it ran down the sides, but my cake-naivete made me go on, thinking  that eventually everything would be OK.

When I placed the second cake on top of the first, once all the slippage-fiesta stopped, the ganache layer had a big gap all around the edges, that stubbornly resisted my attempts to fill it.  In despair, I checked my cake pans, and was shocked and appalled to realize that they were not identical in size – a small difference from one brand of pan to another, which made my layers unequal. My last hope was that the “lukewarm icing” would solve all the problems and make a beautiful, smooth covering of all the boo-boos. But, this was not the case.  Not a chance.  To make a  long story short, my cake ended a bit like the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy.  Its sides had nothing to do with the “picture perfect” look in the magazine.    I had hoped to post a picture of my cake on a gorgeous stand with a nice candle in the center, but I settled instead for the only photo that showed more cake than boo-boos.

Cake, my friends, is not for sissies…But, even if its looks were not picture-perfect, it disappeared in an afternoon, devoured with gusto by hungry grad students!  The flavor was amazing: deep chocolaty, with a tangy background of raspberries, not overly sweet, but decadent.  I guess there might be hope for next year… 😉

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One year ago…. Welcome to my blog!