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

 

 

BLOOD ORANGE ENTREMET CAKE


Entremets seem to be the rage at the moment. Originally, entremets were small portions of sweet concoctions served in between savory items in a multi-course banquet type meal. We are talking royalty stuff, from the Middle Ages to the overindulgence that was happening in France before 1789 (wink, wink). Nowadays, the term is applied to cakes that involve multiple layers with different textures and flavors. Basically it is a layer cake with severe superiority complex. My version was closely based on a Craftsy class taught by Kathryn Gordon, Contemporary Layer Cakes.  I don’t have permission to publish the recipe but will share an overview.

BLOOD ORANGE ENTREMET CAKE
Recipe Overview
(from Craftsy)

For the cake component, a Jaconde sponge is prepared using the following ingredients:
6 egg yolks beaten with 90g sugar
110g  almond flour sifted with 60g cake flour
a touch of vanilla and salt
60g melted butter
meringue made with 6 egg whites and 90g sugar

The cake batter will be enough to bake one round 8 inch cake and you will have leftover batter to spread as a thin rectangle for the sides (for lack of a better term) of the cake. The round cake will be halved crosswise so that you’ll have two layers for the entremet. To line the pan, make sure you will have 2 pieces that will cover its whole circumference. You can use the mathematical formula C = π x D or cut a piece of string that goes around the pan, and measure it. In any case, you will arrive at the need for two pieces of cake 13 inches long. The height depends on how tall your cake will be in the end. Make it around 6 inches so you have some flexibility. The top can be trimmed once assembled. I placed a Silpat on top of the paper and spread the cake batter on it, using the drawing underneath to guide me.

For the marble effect you have two options: paint some food color on the Silpat and pour the batter on top, or divide the batter in two portions, add orange food color to half, and pour the two batters together, spreading them gently so that the color is not fully distributed.  I prefer the second method because it gives a much more subtle effect.  But, if you are in a Pollock frame of mind, go wild with a brush.

In the center you see the full rectangle of very thin cake, that was split in half lengthwise and placed inside the ring. Those are technically called “sponge strips” and I thank Gary, patissier extraordinaire for enlightening me. Please keep in mind that the photos are not on the same scale. The cake is assembled inside an 8-inch ring. First the sides are set in place, with the swirl facing the outside. Then the bottom layer.

Filling components:
Blood Orange Cremeux:  cream made with 8 egg yolks tempered and cooked with 360mL heavy cream previously infused with the zest of two blood oranges and 3/4 cup of blood orange juice.  Once the mixture coats the back of a spoon, it is poured over 200g white chocolate and 6g sheet gelatin, softened in cold water.
Caramelized rice cereal: 1/4 cup sugar is heated in a heavy pan until amber. To that 1/2 cup popped rice cereal is added, quickly mixed and poured on a Silpat or parchment paper.
Caramelized blood orange segments: Make a syrup with 100g sugar and 4 tablespoons water. Heat until fully dissolved, then pour over the segments of one blood orange. Let the fruit sit in the syrup until cold, drain before using in the cake.

To the bottom cake layer, a little cremeux is added and spread. Then pieces of caramelized puffed rice. A bit more cremeux, caramelized orange segments, and more cremeux on top. The second piece of cake goes over it, pushing down to make sure it’s all well compacted.

The top of the cake is brushed with a bit of melted white chocolate and oil, to seal the layer. The whole thing is frozen for several hours, then the cake is covered with a very thin layer of white chocolate mirror glaze, made with sugar (50g dissolved in 2 T water), heavy cream (2 T), corn syrup (1 T) and white chocolate (150 g). Kathryn explains exactly how to do it in a way that the top will be very smooth.

The cake is then removed from the ring, the top edge is trimmed, if so desired, and the top is decorated with bits of caramelized rice cereal and blood orange zest.

Comments: First of all, my apologies for not posting the full recipe, but without permission to do so, I cannot do it. You can find the basic method of preparing a Jaconde sponge, as well as all other components online. In fact, many different cake formulas and fillings will work to produce a similar entremet cake. All you need to keep in mind is a contrast of textures and flavors.

The blood orange cremeux turned out very refreshing, so even considering this is a rich, indulgent dessert, it had a light and bright quality to it. Rice puffed cereal is a good alternative to the famous Gavottes cookies that were part of my recent Gateau Royal. You can definitely caramelize it and  use it to add crunch to any layer cake. Those things are sold in huge bags, and we don’t eat puffed rice as a cereal, so I see a few aventures with this caramelized version in my future.

This Craftsy class by Kathryn is really wonderful, because not only she explains every single step of the recipe in real-time, but she encourages you to plan and make your own version of this elaborate cake. Although it might seem a bit too involved, each component can be made in advance. I actually baked the cakes and made the cremeux on a Saturday, the other components Sunday morning, assembled the cake, froze it, and added the mirror glaze in the end of the day. Piece of cake! (Literally).

Just like macarons are my favorite cookies, I suspect entremets are quickly becoming my favorite type of cake. The possibilities of cake, fillings, textures, and icing are endless.

ONE YEAR AGO: Flourless Chocolate Pecan Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: A Tale of Two Macarons

THREE YEARS AGO: Chocolate Chip Shortbread Cookies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chicken in Green Pipian Sauce, Sous-vide Style

FIVE YEARS AGO: Classic Shrimp Gobernador Tacos

SIX YEARS AGO: A Walk Towards the Sunset

SEVEN YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Heavenly Home-made Fromage Blanc

NINE YEARS AGO:  A Perfect Sunday Dinner

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THE BEWITCHING KITCHEN TURNS NINE!!!!

I can hardly believe it. For nine years I’ve been sharing recipes, stories, dog tales, kitchen mishaps, happy and not so happy news in my virtual spot. The thrill of writing it is still with me, in many ways more intense now than ever. The overall atmosphere of my blog might be changing a little because my cooking interests have changed.  I used to be a certified cake-o-phobe, but now I get more excited about concocting a genoise than making an exotic risotto. Go figure. To celebrate my 9th year of food blogging, I wanted to bake a special cake that would push the boundaries of my comfort zone a little. Thanks to help and advice from my friend Jennifer, Patissiere Extraordinaire, I share with you a French classic: Gateau Royal. Chocolate lovers, this is your dream come true in cake form.

GATEAU ROYAL
(based on Il etait une fois la patisserie and Rock the Bretzel)

for the chocolate genoise:
(makes a 9 x 13 cake, you will use only part of it)
70 g butter, melted, warm
90 g cake flour
45 g cocoa powder
6 eggs
200 g sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste

for the pate praline:
125 g hazelnuts
125 g almonds
160 g sugar
5 mL water

for the filling:
40 g milk chocolate
160 g pate praline
80 g Gavottes cookies (or rice Krispies)

for the mousse:
115 g egg yolks (about 6)
100 g syrup (35 mL water + 70 g sugar)
200 g chocolate
400 g heavy cream

for the pouring ganache:
227g chocolate (at least 60% cocoa)
170g heavy cream
28g light corn syrup

Make the genoise. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Sift the flour with the salt and cocoa powder. In a heatproof bowl whisk together the eggs and sugar. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, heat the eggs and sugar until warm to the touch, and the sugar feels dissolved if you test it with your finger. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to the bowl of your electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment.

Beat on high-speed until the egg mixture has cooled, and tripled in volume. It will fall like a ribbon from the beater, and form a distinct pattern on the surface when it drops. Beat in the vanilla extract. Add the flour-cocoa mixture in three increments, mixing gently by folding.  Remove about half a cup of batter and mix with the hot butter. Pour that back into the cake batter and mix gently. 

Pour on the prepared pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula. Do not be aggressive, the batter is delicate and the air you beat into it is all that will lift the cake. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Cool completely before inverting and moving on with the recipe.

Make the pate noisette. Start by placing water and sugar in a skillet or a large saucepan. Heat up to 240 F.  Add the hazelnuts and almonds. Gradually, they will be covered with a white film, that looks like sand.  Cook until the sugar re-dissolves and caramelizes, stirring gently often.  Pour the mixture on a sheet of parchment paper and let cool completely. If you have a Vitamix, use it to process the praline, in about 5 minutes you should have a very nice, flowing paste.  Reserve. You will not use the full amount for the cake. 

Cut the sheet of cake to form an 8-inch circle. Freeze the trimmings for other uses. Center it inside a 9-inch cake pan with removable bottom and tall sides. To make removal easier, place a sheet of acetate film all around the inside of the pan.

Make the praline filling: melt the milk chocolate and allow it to cool slightly. Add to 160g of pate praline, mix well. Crush the required amount of Gavottes or rice crispies and add to the mixture. Immediately spread it over the cake, bringing it to the edges in a layer as uniform as possible. Work fast because the mixture will get harder to spread as it cools.  Reserve.

Make the chocolate mousse. Place the cream in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid and place it in a cool place for at least 30 minutes. Beat until firm. Transfer to a bowl and keep in the fridge. Wash the Kitchen Aid bowl, you will use it to whip the egg yolks. Melt the chocolate in a bain-marie. Reserve. Heat the sugar with the water in a saucepan. When the mixture reaches 230 F, start whipping the yolks in the mixer.   When the mixture reaches 240 ° C, pour it on the yolks while continuing to whip. Continue to beat until completely cool. The mixture should be clear and form a ribbon. Delicately stir in the melted chocolate. Your mousse is now ready.

Spread the mousse all over the cake, making sure it completely covers the space between the cake and the wall of the pan. Add all the mousse to the top of the cake, forming a thick smooth layer that will almost reach the top of the pan. Smooth the surface with an offset spatula, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.

Prepare the icing. Cut the chocolate in small pieces, pour the almost boiling cream on top, wait a couple of minutes and gently mix. Add the corn syrup. Cool until it is around body temperature, and working very fast, in a single movement, pour it over the still frozen cake. Once the icing sets, decorate with white chocolate drizzle, or in any other way you envision.  Keep in the fridge until serving time. Slice using a knife moist with warm water, cleaning it after each cut.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Traditionally, the Gateau Royal is made with a base of almond sponge, similar to the Joconde used in the Opera Cake. Jennifer likes it better with a genoise, because the cake needs to be fully frozen after assembling, and the genoise performs better upon freezing-defrosting. She speaks, I listen. Chocolate genoise it was. My other departure from tradition happened in the final step, the icing. A real Royale shines (literally) with the coating of a mirror glaze. I had a few issues and resorted to plan  B, a more humble pouring ganache. The mirror glaze adventure shall be re-visited in the future. And I promise you won’t have to wait for the Bewitching to turn ten.

I will not lie to you. Making this cake will be a labor of love. One of the components, the crunchy topping for the genoise, requires making pate noisette. The photo above shows the overall process. The nuts are coated with the syrup and you must cook them until it all caramelizes and forms a nice shiny coating on the nuts. It takes a little time, and constant attention. Once you get to that stage, a powerful mixer like a Vitamix is the method of choice to liquefy it, so that the result will be a luscious, thick and smooth cream. Once the pate noisette is ready, it will be combined with special French cookies called Gavottes, which will probably require a virtual trip to the Store That Sells It All, aka amazon.com. Adaptations in the US often call for rice krispies. Their job is only to provide texture. Since it’s not every day that a food blog turns nine years old, I went the extra mile and used the real deal. When folks at the department tasted the cake, the ALL wanted to know what was the crunchy filling. It is that good, my friends. Leftover pate noisette is the stuff Nirvana is made of. I put it to good use in some macarons, remember?

Assembling this cake is a ton of fun. It needs to freeze for several hours before the icing is poured on top, so in case you make it, keep that in mind. Definitely better to spread the process. You can bake the cake on day one, make the praline and the mousse on day two, and coat it on day three. Easy peasy. The resulting cake has everything a choco-holic loves: intense chocolate flavor in each layer, perfect contrast of texture thanks to the praline, and that Nutella-aura that turns us all into happy kids. Cannot imagine a better cake to celebrate a special occasion.

A little slice of chocolate heaven!

So here I am, inviting you to follow me as I start my 10th year of food blogging. Expect a lot more baking, by the way. I want to learn different skills, from tempering chocolate to working with choux pastry, from sugar work to entremets. Petit fours? Yeah, I want to tackle them too…

If you’ve been with Bewitching Kitchen for a while, or happened to stumble on my site today for the first time, thanks for being here! 

Special thanks to Jennifer, who virtually held my hand during the preparation of the cake,
calming me down in some particularly thrilling moments
(wink, wink).

Celebrate, grab a pin!

ONE YEAR AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns eight!

TWO YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Seven!

THREE YEARS AGO: Bewitching Kitchen Turns Six!

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Five!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen turns Four!

SIX YEARS AGO: The Bewitching Kitchen Turns Three! 

SEVEN YEARS AGO:  The Bewitching Kitchen turns Two!

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Bewitching Birthday!

NINE YEARS AGO: Welcome to my blog!

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SECRET RECIPE CLUB REUNION 2018

Talk about a flash back!  Those who follow my blog for a while might remember my favorite group virtual event, The Secret Recipe Club.  Food bloggers were paired in secret, and had a few weeks to stalk the assigned blog, pick a recipe and blog about it on Reveal Day. Every post would go live at the exact same time, midnight of the first Monday of the month, New York time. I was a member for years, and had a lot of fun with it. Not only for the cooking aspect, but for its social component. SRC had it’s last appearance in November 2016, but our beloved organizer, Sarah, had the idea of a special encore that celebrates the 10th year anniversary of its creation. So here we are, one final time! I was assigned pure royalty in food blog shape. I got Sarah’s food blog, Fantastical Sharing of Recipes!  Can you believe it? The queen behind my favorite event!  I was assigned her blog in the past as pretty much every member rotated through every blog in the group.  At that time, I made a fantastical recipe as you can see here.  Now I share another fantastical recipe, a Carrot Cake Roll with Cream Cheese Icing. OMG OMG OMG. Because this is such a special occasion, I felt like dressing it up a little, and tried my hands at adding a pattern on the surface of the cake. One word: THRILL!

CARROT CAKE ROLL
(from Fantastical Sharing of Recipes)

for the decoration (optional):
50g  butter, softened
50g powdered sugar
50g  egg whites
50g  all-purpose flour
orange food coloring (I used gel)

for the cake:
3 eggs
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup flour
2 cups shredded carrots (about 2 medium carrots, pat dry)
Powdered sugar

for the filling:
6 oz. cream cheese, at room temp
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temp
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Make the piping decoration by beating the butter with powdered sugar in a small bowl until fully combined. I used a hand-held electric mixer. Add the egg whites and beat for a couple of minutes. Add the flour and mix by hand with a spoon, add a couple of drops of orange food color.  Reserve.

Draw the design you want to have on the surface of the cake with a pencil on parchment paper that fits a half-sheet baking pan. Invert the paper so that the pencil mark is at the bottom. Pipe the icing using a very thin piping tip. Freeze the whole tray with the decoration for at least one hour. When the time is almost up, prepare the cake batter.

Heat the oven to 350F.

Beat eggs on high-speed for 5 minutes until they are dark yellow and frothy. Add sugar and vanilla and beat. In a medium bowl, whisk together salt, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and flour. Stir dry ingredients into wet until just combined. Then stir in carrots.

Remove baking sheet from the freezer, and quickly spread the batter on top of the decorations. Gently bang the pan so that the batter gets well into the design.  Bake for about 15 minutes until done, it should spring back gently when you press your finger at the center of the cake.

You will need to flip the cake twice, first time the pattern will be up, but you will need to flip it again so that it will be down, and once the cake is rolled, it will be on the outside surface. On the second time, flip it over parchment paper sprinkled with sugar. Roll the cake while still warm, and let it cool completely, about one hour.

Make the filling: beat butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat again until nice and smooth. Unroll cake, spread filling evenly, then roll it back. Chill in fridge for at least one hour to firm it up.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Public thank you goes for my dear friend Gary, Patissier Extraordinaire, for his advice on the piping technique. I used my new gadget, the silicone bulb with a very fine piping tip (featured here), and was pretty pleased with the way it worked. The amount of piping icing made would be enough to cover three cakes, but particularly on my first time doing it, I decided that having extra icing was better than not enough. And, by the way, this was also my first time making a rolled cake!  I was quite happy with the outcome, although as usual, there is room for improvement. A small crack happened in one side of the cake, but it was not too bad. Considering the types of tragedy I’ve endured during cake baking, this was nothing.

Our departmental colleagues loved the cake! It was very moist, warm due to all spices, and the cream cheese filling takes it over the top. I cannot wait to try another type of rolled cake and a bit more elaborate patterns. The trickiest part of this recipe was flipping the cake twice, I think it would be easier to wait maybe a few more minutes before doing that, the crack actually happened during flipping, not rolling. The cake was a bit too warm and still very moist from the oven. Live and learn.

Sarah, I am so thrilled I got your blog for this special reunion!  
Really felt like closing the Secret Recipe Club chapter with a golden key!

I invite all my readers to browse through the recipes posted by all members of SRC following the link at the end of my post.

ONE YEAR AGO: Parsnip and Tomato Soup

TWO YEARS AGO: A Retro Dessert

THREE YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Tortillas: Going low-carb and loving it!

FOUR YEARS AGO: Clementines in Cinnamon Syrup

FIVE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, April 2013 

SIX YEARS AGO: Thrilling Moments

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Maple-Oatmeal Sourdough Bread

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Pork Trinity: coffee, mushrooms, and curry

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TRES LECHES CAKE: THREE TIMES A WINNER!

I baked this cake three times in the same month.
I shall now pause briefly so you can recover from the shock.

Breathe in…. Breathe out….
(image from Wikimedia)

Allow me to explain. I had never paid much attention to this cake, until a scientist from our department who joined another university in Kansas, mentioned that he would travel all the way back to our town if he knew I would be baking a Tres Leches. His all-time favorite cake. I filed that information in my neuronal system, and a few months later guess what happened? He needed to do some experiments with bacterial membranes and joined our group for the duration of the work. I decided to bake that cake for his first day in our lab, which, quite conveniently, fell on a Monday. And that’s when my best laid plans degenerated. He texted me to say he would be driving to the lab in a few minutes, and I assumed he was already in town since the evening before. Nope. He was not. What he was about to start was a 90 minute drive to our lab. When he arrived, not even a crumb of the cake was left.  Can you feel his pain, and my pain when I found out about this harsh outcome?  Undeterred, I made another Tres Leches on Thursday.  And you know what? The second turned out better than the first… Sweet mission finally accomplished!

TRES LECHES CAKE
(slightly modified from The Pioneer Woman)

for the cake and soaking:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 whole eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla (I used Mexican vanilla)
1/3 cup milk
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened, condensed milk
1/4 cup heavy cream

for the icing:
1 pint heavy cream
3 Tablespoons Sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan liberally until coated. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs.

Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high-speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.

Beat egg whites on high-speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry. Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool.

Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1/3 cup of the milk mixture—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.

Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. I actually allowed it to sit in the fridge overnight, lightly covered with aluminum foil. To ice the cake, whip the heavy cream with the sugar until thick and spreadable.

Spread over the surface of the cake, you might not need all the amount made, but a thick layer of icing should be your goal. Decorate cake with maraschino cherries. Cut into squares and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This is a fantastic cake. Period. It is sweet, it is rich, but it does not feel heavy. It is obviously super moist, with a very delicate crumb, and the icing goes perfectly with it. I’ve been baking cookies, cakes, tarts, pies, brownies on a regular basis to share with our departmental colleagues.  No other bake got even remotely close to this one in terms of praise. The second time around there was a migration of people to the mail room because they heard that “the best cake ever” was there. I know, I know, it sounds as if I’m bragging. I promise you, I’m not. It’s not my recipe, and as I mentioned, I had no idea what this cake was all about until then.

Tres Leches means “three milks” in Spanish. The name reflects the use of evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream to soak the cake. Since there is a little regular milk in the cake, I suppose a more accurate description should be “Cuatro Leches“, but let’s not split hairs. We go with the soaking milk component only, as that is what gives the cake so much flavor and sweetness.  My only modification from the original recipe was to increase a little the amount of liquid in the cake (yeah, imagine that!). Ree advises to leave one full cup of the three milks  behind. I did it that way on my first time, but on the second cake I left just 1/3 cup behind. I liked the cake better that way, particularly when soaking it overnight. The extended time in the fridge allows the crumb to retain additional moisture. Consider making the cake the day before you intend to serve it.

You might be wondering why the title “Three times a winner?”  I actually baked it again just a couple of weeks later, as one a graduate student from another lab asked me if I could make one for his Birthday. It turns out he grew up enjoying Tres Leches baked by his family, and professed mine to be “the best one he’d ever had.”  I still carry a permanent internal smile for that. Complete gratitude should be directed to Ree Drummond as I followed her recipe to a T.  “T” for Total Winner!

(photo by Dr. P. Sukthankar)

ONE YEAR AGO: The Joys of Grating Squash

TWO YEARS AGO: Auberge-Pecan Walnut Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Gluten-free and Vegan Raspberry Bars

FOUR YEARS AGO: Lasserre, a French Classic

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sourdough Bread with Walnuts and Dates

SIX YEARS AGO: Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Apricot Glaze

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Real Vodka Sauce

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin and Blue Cheese

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RASPBERRY ALMOND BRUNCH CAKE FOR A SWEET MONDAY

Almost exactly three years ago I reviewed The Global Pastry Cookbook, a cookbook that is very dear to my heart, as I’d been following Gayle’s blog for a very long time. Today I share with you one more recipe from the book, which Gayle gave me permission to publish in full. It is a delicious cake, easy to prepare, with a soft crumb, intense raspberry flavor, and the perfect textural topping given by sliced almonds. Perfect. Just perfect. As it’s often the case, this cake was a Sunday baking project to be shared with our departmental colleagues next day. My goal? To turn the least appreciated day of the week into… something sweet…

RASPBERRY ALMOND BRUNCH CAKE
(from Gayle Gonzales’ Global Pastry Table)

6 oz fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons (26 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup (5 oz) flour
1/ 2 teaspoon baking powder
1/ 4 teaspoon baking soda
1/ 4 teaspoon salt
1 egg at room temperature
1/ 2 cup + 2 tablespoons (4 1/ 2 oz) sugar
1/ 2 cup (4 oz) buttermilk at room temperature
3 oz (6 tablespoons) butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/ 4 cup (3/ 4 oz) sliced almonds

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

Combine raspberries, sugar and lemon juice and set aside to macerate. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In another bowl, whisk the egg, sugar, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Use a fork to stir in the flour mixture and mix until moistened and there are no streaks of flour.

Spoon a little over half of the batter into the prepared pan, making sure to cover the entire bottom surface. Top with the raspberry mixture. Dollop the remaining batter over the raspberries and spread out in an even layer. There will be some raspberries exposed and that’s fine. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edges and gently turn out the cake. Invert again and cool.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

It’s hard to find a more beautiful color than that of fresh raspberries…  I always catch myself smiling at the bowl, feeling it’s almost rude to cook them or hide them in a cake batter. But it’s for a great cause. They melt down into a single layer, topped by the moist cake and crowned with the almonds and their delicate crunch. Almonds and raspberries, at the risk of repeating myself, it is one of those perfect matches. This is a cake you can make with kids, very easy and it will be a hit with anyone who tries a slice. Or three…

Before I leave you, let me invite you to re-visit my old post and get a tour of Gayle’s book. Hard to believe it’s been three years. When I wrote her to ask permission to publish this recipe, I though the review was maybe a year old, 18 months tops. Almost fell off my chair when I realized it was written in November 2014.  This type of time-shock happens to me quite often these days. I wonder why… (sigh)

ONE YEAR AGO: Paalak Paneer, a Farewell Post

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, November 2015

THREE YEARS AGO: Helen Fletcher’s Oatmeal Cookies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Thai-Style Pesto with Brown Rice Pasta

FIVE YEARS AGO: Shrimp with Spicy Orange Sauce

SIX YEARS AGO:  A Simple Appetizer (Baked Ricotta)

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Sour Cream Sandwich Bread

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Pasta with Zucchini Strands and Shrimp

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PAUL HOLLYWOOD: THE WEEKEND BAKER

In the past year, I was hit hard by two addictions. The Game of Thrones, and The Great British Baking Show. Odd to see them mentioned together in the same phrase. I caved to GoT despite my adamant stance against violent movies. That show is awesome, brilliant, irresistible. I can hardly wait for the next season, already feeling deprived. But The Great British Baking Show is a lot easier to watch, and so much better than ANY cooking show made in the US, it’s not even funny. They really hit a magical formula to entertain and teach at the same time. The right amount of humor, the right amount of anxiety, great atmosphere among the contestants, and so much talent! I also love the fact that they do blind judging of the technical challenge, to me that immediately sets the show on a higher level.  Then, there is the chemistry between Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry. I realize she won’t be part of the new season, and from what I heard the new person does a stellar job too, the show should follow its natural path of glory. Paul is something else. Those penetrating blue eyes probably turn the blood of some contestants cold when he deeply stares at them and asks “have you really tried this before?“, or “is this slashing going to be alright?”    Analogy for my hard-core biochemist readers: if Paul asks “are you telling me that a low Kd means higher affinity for this enzyme? you sure about that?”  you would probably doubt all the biochemistry that until then was solid in your brain…

When you are so in love with GBBS. you do two things.

  1. You move to binge watching Master Class, in which Paul and Mary actually bake all that stuff they inflicted on the contestants, spilling some of the secrets for success.
  2. You buy their cookbooks. I now own several written by Paul and Mary, as well as a few from the show itself. Yes, I have a problem. No, I do not intend to go for therapy.

One of the cookbooks I own is The Weekend Baker by Mr. Hollywood. And I got his and Penguin Books permission to share with you one recipe from it (insert happy dance here). After a lot of mental struggles to pick just one, here it is. Chocolate to the limit, an Italian classic from Capri. Gluten-free, which might be a bonus to some, and decadently rich. A small slice will be enough, making it perfect to share with many friends, or in my case, co-workers. A certain Monday morning was made quite a bit sweeter in our department.

TORTA CAPRESE
(Reproduced from THE WEEKEND BAKER by Paul Hollywood, published by Penguin Books Ltd (2016). With permission from Penguin Books Ltd. Recipes © Paul Hollywood, 2016. Photography © Issy Croker)

 to buy the book, follow this link:  The Weekend Baker

for the cake:
100 grams (3.5 ounces) blanched whole almonds
50 grams (1.75 ounces) plus 160 grams (5.6 ounces) superfine sugar
1 whole egg, plus 5 eggs, separated
265 grams (9.3 ounces) dark chocolate, melted and cooled
50 grams (1.75 ounces) chopped almonds

for the topping:
70 grams (2.5 ounces) water, plus for softening the gelatin
90 grams (3.2 ounces) superfine sugar (superfine)
30 grams (1 ounce) cocoa powder
25 grams (.9 ounces) liquid glucose (I used light corn syrup)
2 gelatin sheets (about 2.4 grams/.1 ounces)

Candied lemon peel or chopped almonds, for decorating

Heat the oven to 180 degrees C/Gas 4 (355 degrees F). Grease a deep 20-centimeter (8-inch) round cake tin. To make the cake, grind the whole almonds with 50 grams of fine sugar in a food processor. Reserve.

With an electric mixer, beat the whole egg and 5 yolks with the 160 grams fine sugar until the mix is pale and creamy and leaves a trail on the surface. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Do not over mix.

Add the cooled melted chocolate with the egg yolk mixture. Stir in the ground almond mixture and the chopped almonds. Beat in a spoonful of the egg whites to loosen the mixture. Now, a spoonful at a time, gently fold in the remaining egg whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Once the cake is cooked, leave it in the pan to cool before turning it out onto a serving plate.

To prepare the topping, place the water, fine sugar, cocoa powder and glucose (or corn syrup) into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and stir.

Soften the gelatin sheets in a little water. Remove the saucepan from the heat. Squeeze any liquid from the gelatin sheets and then add the sheets to the pan. Stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Leave to cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour the chocolate topping just onto the surface of the cake and decorate with candied lemon peel or extra chopped almonds.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Please notice that instead of almond flour, Paul prefers to grind whole almonds with sugar. He states to get better taste and texture this way. So resist grabbing that bag of Bob Mill’s you’ve got on your pantry. The glaze. Oh, the glaze. Very intense chocolate flavor topping a cake that also has a punch of chocolate, but mellowed down by the almonds, both in taste and texture. In fact, when you look at the Torta Caprese you’ll expect your classic flourless creature, very fudge-like. It is not, the ground & diced almonds turn it into a different type of cake, one that in fact will feel a tad bit less rich. When I bite into a flourless chocolate cake, I always have the filling that it is so rich, a small slice seems tricky to finish.  This cake? Not the case. It is rich, but you’ll feel that keep working on that slice is the most natural move… Consider yourself warned. Plus, the glaze… Oh, the glaze…

 

And now, a quick virtual tour of Paul Hollywood’s book.

 

The book is organized in ten chapters, and contrary to most cookbooks, these are not your regular ‘Breads”, “Pies”, “Cakes” categories. Instead, Paul dedicates one chapter to each place he’s been to, showcasing the recipes that impressed him most during his visit.  Consider it a gastronomic tour. His introduction to the book will have you excited to jump on a plane (or as he puts it, start a very long swim from UK all the way to New York), and, book in hand, try every one of the delicacies he talks about.  So, without further ado, a few of my favorites from each chapter.

SUN BAKED, MADRID: I’ve never been to Spain, so baking from this chapter would be a nice way to tempt myself to finally go visit. My favorites include Churros and Spanish Hot Chocolate (for dipping them into), as churros were actually quite popular in Brazil when I was growing up.  But how about Iberico Ham and Manchego Empanadas? I am crazy for Manchego… Buñuelos de Viento sound great too, these are very light puff pastry entities, filled with chocolate or cream. But I am really intrigued by the last recipe in this chapter, quite simply called Torta. It is like a focaccia, but made with 70% olive oil in its formula. I bet it is amazing!

LA DOLCE VITA, NAPLES: My showcased recipe, Torta Caprese, comes from this chapter, where you will find many of the most authentic examples of Italian baking, like Pizza Margherita, Ciabatta, Focaccia. But the one that captured my imagination is Gatto di Santa Chiara, a cross between a quiche and a pie. The dough calls for some mashed potato in it, which I know results in incredible texture. Definitely something to make in the near future.

FRENCH FANCIES, PARIS: My home away from home! He opens the chapter with royalty, Croissants… And offers some other classics like Quiche Lorraine, Eclairs (be still, my heart), and Madeleines (made with brown butter). Baguettes are there too, just in case you are wondering…  I have my mind set on Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringues, though.

PUDDING LANE, LONDON: A city I visited three times, and find absolutely amazing, definitely want to go back. You will find a basic recipe for Scones that you can adapt for any flavor you like, the famous Victoria Sponge, Chelsea Buns, Lemon Drizzle Slices (similar to a cake I just blogged about, but with fancier icing), and Battenberg (a two-color cake that is calling my name).

DANISH TASTIES, COPENHAGEN: Another place I’ve never visited but hope to stop by some day, to get fully acquainted with the meaning of hygge, a very fashionable word. Danish is in there, a version with Apricot and Passion Fruit,  Seeded Rye Bread, and the recipe I almost picked to showcase, Danish Raspberry Slices. They look so cute, I know I’ll be making them for our graduate students in the very near future.

BAVARIAN BITES, MUNICH. I’ve been there, years ago, ate superbly well. Beautiful place! Paul offers a recipe for Pretzels that has some unexpected twists, I am a lover of soft pretzels, and have been meaning to try and bake them at home for…. forever.  Stollen, the famous bread is in this chapter, as well as Lebkuchen Biscuits, a sort of soft spice cookie that I’m sure I would fall in love with at first bite. Prinzeregententorte (say that three times fast) seems like the kind of cake that could be the weapon of my self-destruction. Seven layers of sponge cake that must be absolutely identical, as they represent the regions of Bavaria in 1886. Are you amazed yet?

AMERICAN PIE, NEW YORK: There we are at the Big Apple, the chapter opens with Bagels, rightfully so! Also a big nod to Bittman’s No Knead Bread, New York Cheesecake with details for baking that definitely take it to the smoothest consistency ever.  I really want to try my hands at it. So many recipes, so little time!

FUN IN THE SUN, MIAMI: Still in the US,  dear friends…  Paul loved the beat of Miami – who doesn’t? – it is packed full of Brazilians (sorry could not resist a little wave to my home country). Great items in this chapter, starting of course with Key Lime Pie, passing by  Best- Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies,  Waffles, and American Pancakes.

PRIDE OF POLAND, WARSAW: Would I be repeating myself too much if I say I’d love to visit Poland? Not only I have great Polish friends, but all my friends who visited were mesmerized by it. Seems like a fantastic place indeed.  Here are the recipes I loved the most: Babka, for obvious reasons. A bread, beautifully swirled with chocolate. And Polish Cheesecake. Yes, I need to get to know this, if not in Warsaw, in our kitchen.

THE RUSSIAN OVEN, SAINT PETERSBURG: Paul was really smitten by that city, and I also heard plenty of great things about it. Of course, I would never go in the winter, just looking at the photos of Paul in full winter gear when he landed there, made me cringe. No, a Brazilian cannot face that ever. But the recipes seem just amazing. Russian Pies (much more involved and complex than the name implies), the famous Blinis, Medovik (a gorgeous honey cake), Sweet Berry Pancakes, but what really won my heart is something call Vatrushka. Go ahead, google, and drool…

So there you have it, my little tour of Paul Hollywood’s The Weekend Baker is over. The book has a little introduction to each recipe, with interesting bits about them, gorgeous photos, not only of the finished product, but of the places he visited.  Well-balanced, actually. You will not be bombarded with personal photos like some cookbook authors do (not naming any names), but you’ll have enough to tease you, make you dream about that plane trip to see the world.

Paul, thank you and Penguin Books for allowing me to publish your recipe.

Before I leave my dear readers… yes, a lower Kd will always indicate higher affinity. For any enzyme in the known universe. I am sure you can all sleep better now…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Texas Sheet Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, September 2015

THREE YEARS AGO: Sour Cherry Sorbet: A Labor of Love

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen – September 2013

FIVE YEARS AGO: Raspberry Sorbet at Summer’s End

SIX YEARS AGO: When three is better than two  (four years with Buck!)

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Grating Tomatoes (and loving it!)

EIGHT YEARS AGO: A Peachy Salad for a Sunny Day

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