SPICE CAKE WITH BLACKERRY PUREE & THE GLOBAL PASTRY TABLE REVIEW

HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO ALL MY AMERICAN READERS! 

After five and a half years blogging, a few things about me should be quite obvious for those who have been around this site for a while.  For instance, my obsession with exercise and fitness is almost as intense as my fear of baking cakes. However, even though I am terrified of baking them, cakes fascinate me so much that I often visit blogs of talented bakers, to live vicariously through them. You know, those amazing people who are not afraid of Italian meringue, of piping gorgeous flowers with buttercream icing, or slicing a cake horizontally in perfect flat layers. One such blog is Pastry Studio. If you don’t know this site yet, you are in for a very sweet treat…  Gayle Gonzales has been blogging since 2007, so there is a lot to drool over in her virtual spot.  One of the reasons Pastry Studio captivated me is the way she adds “Bench Notes” to her recipes.  Just to give you a couple of examples,  check out her Roasted Pineapple with Pink Peppercorns., or her Brownie Brittle. The recipes would be great by themselves, but the bench notes add that extra stuff that makes a person like me consider the recipe doable.  Little tips that an experienced baker can offer, but not always does. Many cookbooks and food blogs assume those to be superfluous, since it should all go well.  Clearly, they have not been in my kitchen.  😉

When I learned that she published her first e-cookbook, I ordered it right away. The Global Pastry Table has 95 recipes, of which 70 are not in her site, so even if you followed her blog from the get-go, the book will give you a lot of new recipes to choose from.  I had a bit of trouble to decide which delicious concoction to bake first. I wanted it to be a cake, and my love for spices pointed me to her Spice Cake with Blackberries. I am thrilled to inform that it was a smooth baking session: the dogs slept through the whole thing, undisturbed by eggs dropping on the floor, exploding bags of flour, or flying spatulas. So there! I might be getting better at this cake baking thing… Ok, I know what you’re thinking: it’s all thanks to her bench notes.  I’m afraid you might be right.

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SPICE CAKE WITH BLACKBERRIES
(reprinted with permission from Gayle Gonzales)

for the cake:
1 + 1/4 cups cake flour (5 oz)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup (4 oz) buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 oz (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (3 + 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (1+3/4 oz) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature

for the filling:
6 oz fresh blackberries
2-3 teaspoons granulated sugar (to taste)
powdered sugar, for dusting

Heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease an 8” x 2 1/2” cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Measure out the buttermilk and add the vanilla.

Beat butter and both sugars until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the bowl as you go. Add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with half the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour. When the batter looks fairly well combined, use a rubber spatula to finish mixing the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pa and spread evenly. Bake for 28 to 30 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes. Run a thin bladed knife around the edges and invert the cake. Gently peel off the parchment and invert again. Cool completely.

Place the blackberries in a bowl and sprinkle with sugar, to taste. Set aside to macerate for about 10 minutes and then mash them with a fork.

Using a long serrated knife, cut the cake in half horizontally and set the top aside. Place the bottom on a platter and spread a thin layer of blackberries. Replace the top half of he cake and dust with powdered sugar.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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This was a great cake, from start to finish, no problems. Of course there is room for improvement, because I did not have the exact size cake pan she recommends. I used a 9-inch pan instead of 8-inch. So my slices were a little thinner, and I should have used less filling.  But, I don’t really care, those are details that don’t bother me. I had NO trouble slicing the cake in half, and that in itself is a monumental feat.  The cake was a huge success with the members of our department, I received emails and visits to the lab. Felt like a Royal Baker.

And now, let me take you through Gayle’s book, The Global Pastry Table

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First of all, did you know that even if you don’t have a reader like Kindle or iPad you can get ebooks and read them in your computer or other devices? All you need is to download a free software and you are all set. Stop by amazon and click away.

Gayle introduces her book with this paragraph: “The Global Pastry Table is a collection of pastries and desserts with a reverence for international style. It’s your invitation to the flavors and aromas of a world connected.”  Indeed, all her recipes start with a little paragraph explaining its origin, and you will see she assembled a collection of goodies rooted in many geographic regions of the world. The book is divided in 6 sections: Cakes, Custards & Creams, Tarts & Galettes, Cookies, Ice Cream, and a final section on More Pastries and Desserts. The first adjective that came to my mind as I browsed the recipes was “refined”. Even recipes that seem pretty simple have an aura of refinement and rustic elegance. Apart from being a great baker, Gayle is a fantastic photographer, and took all the photos of the book.

For a visual tour of all recipes included in The Global Pastry Table, visit Gayle’s flickr collection.  

Chapter One: Cakes
You would be surprised to learn how many cake and dessert cookbooks I own, but for most of them I’d say less than 30% of the cakes included appeal to me.  In Gayle’s e-book, every single one of the 21 cakes sounded great. Shocking, I admit. I will not list them all, you can check the full index at amazon, but I’ll give you my top five (excluding the cake from this post). Cake with Chocolate Cardamon Glaze; Olive Oil Wine Cake, Rum Cake with Spiced Butter Rum Sauce, Hazelnut Cake, Yogurt Cake with Roasted Five-Spice Plums. Well, I must give you a sixth, because it is an amazing cake, very unique and enticing: it is called Coil Cake, an yeasted cake original from Morocco. Show-stopper.

Chapter Two: Custards & Creams
Ten delicious options, once again I would make any of them without exception. Five top choices would be: Brown Sugar Panna Cotta with Five-Spice Figs; Coconut Cream (reminds me of a Brazilian classic called : Flan de Coco); Oranges with Rosemary Sabayon (a simple, very refreshing dessert); Yogurt Mousse with Grapefruit Gelee; Maple Custard (must make this one).

Chapter Three: Tarts & Galettes
I admit that I don’t make tarts and galettes very often.  For my taste, they are too heavy as dessert after a meal, and I am not too fond of sweets mid-afternoon or at breakfast. But, I know I am part of a minority, and of the ten options Gayle has in her book, it was easy to pick my top five. Apricot Galette; Butterscotch Cream Tart; Pear Galette with Honey Cream & Blue Cheese (great combination of flavors); Balsamic Strawberry Tart.

Chapter Four: Cookies
Twenty two amazing cookies for you. Don’t expect a regular choc chip cookie here, she really shines in this collection, going from very simple Plain Jane Cookies to Chocolate Hazelnut Nutella Sandwich Cookies (excuse me as I try to regain my composure). Five top choices for me (excluding that Nutella example already mentioned): Sesame Tiles; Oatmeal Shortbread; Chocolate Olive Oil Madeleines; Chocolate Garam Masala Cookies; Spice Route Cookies…  but it’s really hard to stop here.

Chapter Five: Ice Cream
Fourteen ice frozen concoctions, that are all incredibly creative and unique. Five top choices: Pistachio Gelato; Brown Sugar Creme Fraiche Ice Cream with Balsamic Syrup; Earl Grey Ice Cream; Guinness Ice Cream with Oat Crumble; Lime Ice Cream with Ginger Crumble. I must say, though, that I would gladly try them all.

Chapter Six: More Pastries and Desserts
Eighteen additional goodies, very hard to pick only five to showcase here.  By far my number one choice would be the Vanilla Custard in Phyllo. Her description and the photo made me want to go to the kitchen and make it right away. My other favorites would probably be Three Spice Russian Braid (gorgeous shaping of a loaf); Roasted Grapes with Yogurt Honey Cream; Pear and Ginger Scones; Pumpkin Empanadas.

I want to remind my readers that I do not do reviews by request, be it cookbooks or products. I only review things I love. I hope that you will stop by Pastry Studio to get to know Gayle and her wonderful site, and that you invite her cookbook into your virtual library.  It is truly a special publication, made with a lot of passion and attention to detail.

If you love being in your kitchen… if you love having people at your table… if you love that moment of opening the oven door and seeing what has transpired… if you love the preparing, the serving, the sharing, the savoring, I know you will enjoy this collection. (Gayle Gonzales, The Global Pastry Table)

ONE YEAR AGO: Own Your Kitchen with Cappuccino Panna Cotta

TWO YEARS AGO: Chicken Parmigiana, the Thriller

THREE YEARS AGO: Wild Mushroom Risotto

FOUR YEARS AGO: Tartine Bread:  Basic Country Loaf 

FIVE YEARS AGO:  Pugliese Bread

 

BLACKBERRY-CHERRY SORBET

When your office is next door to that of one of the best (and most generous) gardeners in the state of Kansas, be ready to receive amazing gifts, such as two boxes of freshly picked blackberries! We consumed some in their natural state, and decided to make a nice, refreshing sorbet with the rest. We’ve actually made two batches of this sorbet in the past month. I am sharing the recipe for the second version, which I think turned out to be the best, with the small amount of cherries plus a little unusual ingredient. Although some inspiration was found in Lebovit’s The Perfect Scoop, Phil devised his own recipe. Since we fully share our assets,  I feel entitled to call it “our own”. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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BLACKBERRY-CHERRY SORBET
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

3 cups blackberries
1 cup pitted cherries
1 ripe banana
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2/3  cup sugar
1 + 1/2 cup water

Add the blackberries, cherries, and banana to the bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth, cleaning the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Add the lemon juice, the sugar, and the water, and process everything together until fully smooth.

Keep the base in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours to cool completely.

Place the mixture in your ice cream maker and churn it according to the instructions of the manufacturer.

Scoop into a freezer-safe container.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments:  The banana adds a nicer texture to the sorbet, which can be a bit grainy once it freezes, because there is no milk fat in it.  You can barely taste it, though. Most recipes for blackberries or raspberries will instruct you to pass the pureed mixture  through a sieve to get rid of the seeds.  We decided to skip this step, and I’m glad to report that we did not mind the seeds at all.  If you are looking for a real smooth texture, go ahead and sieve it away.  If you don’t remove the seeds, the amount of sorbet made could be just a little big for your ice cream maker.  If that’s the case, no need to worry, it’s the type of problem you should welcome with open arms (and a spoon).   Save the excess, and follow these instructions: pour some of the sorbet base in a small bowl, add Greek yogurt and a handful of fresh blueberries on top.    Enjoy late at night, early in the morning, or anytime you feel like it… it’s that good!   😉

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ONE YEAR AGO: Asparagus Pesto

TWO YEARS AGO: Chocolate and Chestnut Terrine

THREE YEARS AGO: Under the spell of lemongrass

FOUR YEARS AGO: Greens + Grapefruit + Shrimp = Great Salad!