STRAWBERRY MINI-CAKES FOR BAKE PINK PROJECT

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and I am joining Chef Colette Christian in her Bake Pink Project. I don’t know how many dear friends and acquaintances of mine have been affected by breast (and other) cancers, but far too many.  In fact, one in eight women will be diagnosed in their lifetime, with early detection being KEY to survival. In other words, get screened annually, and talk to all your friends to make sure they do the same.

I’ve never met Chef Colette in person. But I know for a fact she is one of the nicest human beings around. I will talk more about it in a few months, for reasons that will become clear by then. For now, let me just say she is a fantastic online instructor who is responsible for me finally conquering macarons a few years ago (check her 6 classes at Bluprint, all pretty amazing). Once I got addicted to baking macarons, my horizons were opened to other kinds of patisserie. In many ways, I think Colette is the person who helped me go from cake-o-phobe to passionate baker.  She is winning her own battle with breast cancer, and I am absolutely thrilled to join her BAKE PINK project. Today I share a recipe for a cake I recently enjoyed at Ottolenghi’s cafe in London.  It is pink, it is delicious, and quite simple to put together.

STRAWBERRY-VANILLA MINI-CAKES
(slightly modified from Ottolenghi’s Sweet)

recipe also available online here

for the cake:
250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
250 g granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla paste
4 large free-range eggs, lightly beaten
120 g flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
140 g almond flour
15 oz fresh strawberries, hulled cut in half
1 T olive oil
2 T maple syrup
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

for the strawberry icing:
55 g fresh strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
300 g icing sugar
1 T light corn syrup
1/8 tsp vanilla paste

to decorate:
whole strawberries
freeze-dried strawberries
sprinkles

Heat the oven to 400°F.

Start by making the roasted strawberries, preferably many hours in advance, or the day before.  Mix the strawberries with olive oil, maple syrup and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl, add to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast until the edges start to get dark and the liquid gets thick. Do not let the strawberries burn or get too dry.  Reserve. Dice before using in the recipe. If there is excessive liquid, drain it.

Prepare four mini-loaf pans by coating them with butter and flour or using a baking spray.

Make the cake batter. Place the butter, sugar, and vanilla paste in the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment in place. Beat on medium speed until light, then add the eggs, a little at a time. Continue to beat until fully combined. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl, then stir in the almond flour. Turn the speed of the mixer to medium-low, then add the dry ingredients in three batches and finally fold in the diced roasted strawberries.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared pans.  Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of one of the cakes comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for about 20 minutes before removing the cakes from the pans.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the strawberry icing, place all the icing ingredients in a food processor and process together until smooth. Drizzle the tops of the upside-down cakes with the icing, allowing it to drip down the sides. Garnish and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: While in London, I really wanted to stop by Ottolenghi’s place, but since my schedule was quite tight, I was worried it would not happen. So one afternoon I was all by myself and realized I barely had the time to catch the tube and get to the cafe before closing time. When I got there, I could not sit down for an early dinner because they were just getting ready to call it a day, so I was a bit frantic trying to decide what to get. From the corner of my eye I saw some cute mini-loaf cakes, and that’s what I bought. My plan was to travel back to the hotel and have it as my dinner. But it could not hurt to take a test-bite as I walked back to the metro station, right?  Right. Problem is, I could not stop eating it. Moist, sweet, but also tangy with the strawberry taste. It was so so good… The sweetest walk ever through Notting Hill.

Of course, it is often problematic to try to match the great things we stumble upon like that. But I have to say, the ones I baked at home were pretty close to that level of goodness. I opted to roast the strawberries because at this time of the year they are not at their peak, and also because roasting will always intensify the flavor, so why not? It is just a small additional step that I think pays off big time here.

Chef Colette, thank you for Baking Pink, and for all the help and advice you’ve given me this past few months.  You are a sweet and bright person…

And for all my readers and fellow bloggers, let’s do all we can to raise awareness about breast cancer, it is a serious killer that can be tamed by early detection.

ONE YEAR AGO: Bourbon-Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Pea Pesto

TWO YEARS AGO: Chocolate Chip Cookies from Naturally Sweet

THREE YEARS AGO: Little Bites of Paradise

FOUR YEARS AGO: Maple-Glazed Pumpkin Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, October 2014

SIX YEARS AGO: Grilled Steelhead Trout

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Brown Butter Tomato Salad

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  Spelt and Cornmeal Rolls

NINE YEARS AGO: Roasted Potato and Olive Focaccia

TEN YEARS AGO: Multigrain Bread Extraordinaire

 

COMMON TABLE, SOMETHING NEW IN MY LIFE

It is quite obvious that I love to bake. From cakes to cookies, from bread to pies, I love it all. Last year I got a lot more serious about my hobby, as I went through the process of screening for the Great American Baking Show (you can read about it here, in case you missed it).  When that did not materialize I kept searching for an outlet for my baking, something that would keep me focused on it and help me improve. It took a bit long, but I’ve finally found it: Common Table, a meal for homeless people organized by volunteers and churches from our town.  They serve meals a few times each week, I’ve been taking my bakes on Fridays. It is the most rewarding and satisfying thing I’ve done in a while. I enjoy everything about it, planning what to take, baking, and finally delivering my bakes in the meal room, at 17:45hs, when folks are starting to arrive. I had no idea so many people rely on this type of charity to get by. Probably the only chance they have for a decent meal. I feel lucky to be able to help.

I share today the recipe I took on my first participation (April 26th) and after that a list of what I’ve made so far.  It would be pointless to blog on each of them, unless I wanted my blog to turn into a baking site at the expense of general cooking, which is not my intention.

COCONUT TRES LECHES CAKE
(adapted from this recipe)

for the cake:
1 cup all-purpose flour (130 g)
1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 whole eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, divided (215 g)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup milk (82 g)

for soaking after baking:
6 oz coconut milk (1/2 can, well-shaken)
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, coconut 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 if you like, with toppings of your choice. Cut into squares and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I chose this cake for my first contribution to Common Table because it was by far the most popular cake I’ve ever made to our department. I was curious about adding a hint of coconut to it, and when I tried a bit of the cake trimmings, I knew it was going to be another winner.  It was very well-received in that meal. If you like Tres Leches, try this version, you won’t be disappointed.

And now, let me share the bakes I’ve made since then…

Millionaire’s Shortbread Bars
(May 3rd)

 

Raspberry-Rose Petit Fours
(May 10th)

 


Chocolate Cake Pops

(May 17th)

 

Chocolate Raspberry Celebration Cake
(a smaller version of this one)

(May 24th)

Chocolate Blood Orange Curd Cake
(May 31st)

 

Come to think of it, it’s clear I’ve been playing the chocolate tune quite strongly…
Must add a bit more variety from now on.
😉

ONE YEAR AGO: The Daisy, a Bread with Brioche Alter-Ego

TWO YEARS AGO: Pork Tenderloin, Braciole Style

THREE YEARS AGO: Raspberry Buckle

FOUR YEARS AGO: Seafood Gratin for a Special Dinner

FIVE YEARS AGO: Cooking Sous-Vide: Sweet and Spicy Asian Pork Loin

SIX YEARS AGO:  Farewell to a Bewitching Kitchen

SEVEN YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen. June 2012

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Goodbye L.A.

NINE YEARS AGO: 7-6-5 Pork Tenderloin

 

A BRAZILIAN HUMMINGBIRD

Hummingbird Cake is a classic concotion quite common in Southern regions of the US. Today I share with you my Brazilian take on this classic, which I am calling Beija-Flor Cake. As you may have guessed, Beija-Flor is Portuguese for hummingbird. A three-layer cake very moist with banana, mango, and passion fruit, with a bit of texture given by Brazil nuts. Everyone loved it, including the resident critic, grandson and son of fantastic bakers, the man I married 19 years ago.  He actually said (and I should have captured it in a video) that the frosting was as good as his Grandma’s.  My heart missed 3 beats in a row. Obviously, I am very happy with this bake!

BEIJA-FLOR CAKE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen, inspired by this recipe)

recipe is enough for 4 cakes,  only 3 cake layers were used for the final dessert)

1 + 1/4 cup chopped Brazil nuts
3 cups (370g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 and 1/2 teaspoons mixed spice (or use cinnamon plus a touch of cloves)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed banana
1 cup mango coarsely pureed
½ cup passionfruit pulp
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1 cup (200g) packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 teaspoons vanilla paste   

Heat the oven to 300°F. Spread Brazil nuts onto a lined baking pan. Toast for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven. Turn oven up to 350°F, then grease and lightly flour four 6-inch cake pans.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, mixed spice and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the rest of the cake ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and whisk until completely combined. Fold in the nuts. Spread batter evenly between the 4 prepared cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove cakes from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. Once completely cooled, remove cakes from pan and level the tops off if necessary to make them completely flat.

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
(adapted from Sweet Bake Shop)  

2 cups (450 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup (110 g) cream cheese, softened
5½ cups (700 g) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 to 3 drops yellow and orange gel food dye
¾ cup yellow and orange sprinkles

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth.

With the mixer running on low-speed, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar. Add the vanilla, then turn the mixer up to medium speed and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then beat again on medium speed again for a few seconds. Use immediately or store in the fridge for a couple of days.

CAKE ASSEMBLY:  Place 3/4 cup frosting in a small bowl and dye it yellow. Place 3/4 frosting in another small bowl and dye it orange. Prepare two small piping bags (with no icing tips) containing the two colors, each in one bag. Carefully cut the tips with scissors, and place them delicately in a larger piping bag fitted with a 1M tip or any other tip of your choice. Make sure the opening of both bags are at the same distance of the 1M tip. Test that both colors are coming out together. Reserve.  Add sprinkles to the rest of the frosting that was not dyed.

Place the first cake on a board, cut side up.  Add a layer of frosting with sprinkles. Add another cake on top, cut side up.  Spread a bit more frosting, top with the final cake, cut side down (this makes sure that the top will be smooth and leveled).  Add a thin layer of frosting and refrigerate the cake for 30 minutes, or place in the freezer for about 10 minutes to set the frosting.

Frost the cake, top and sides, then use the two-color frosting to pipe decorative swirls on the bottom and top.  Refrigerate and bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Hummingbird Cake originated in Jamaica, containing banana and pineapple as the main flavors, plus pecans and spices such as cinnamon and cloves. It is normally covered with cream cheese frosting. I wanted to make a version with Brazilian flavors, so I used mangos and passionfruit. I kept the banana component since I imagined it would be important in the texture of the cake.  Brazil nuts seemed a natural choice, and with that in mind, my “Beija-Flor Cake” was born. In the composite below, you can see that the cake is not as massive as it might seem.  It is not a small cake, but definitely not humongous. See the little yogurt bottle next to it for perspective.

Traditionally, Hummingbird Cakes have a homey, rustic look which I find quite appealing, but I wanted to try something a bit different, and opted for a smooth frosting with yellow and orange sprinkles to reflect the fruits used in the cake. A small amount of sprinkle-free frosting was dyed in the same two colors and used for piping. The frosting is very easy to make and much more forgiving to spread than a classic buttercream, so if you are absolutely paranoid about a bit afraid of frosting a cake, this is a very good starting point.

My apologies for not showing the picture of a slice. We cut one slice to “test-taste” it the evening before, but the first slice never cuts too well. We took the cake to the department next morning, and I completely forgot all about it. By the time I got to the mail room hoping to snap a picture, it was too late. It was a big hit with our colleagues and graduate students. I liked how moist and flavorful it turned out, but in my opinion the passionfruit flavor was not prominent enough. Next time I will skip the banana, and maybe stick with two fruits only, for instance mango and passionfruit. Those are the ideas floating in my mind for a new version. The frosting will stay exactly the same.  A total winner, that will show up again in future bakings. You can count on that.

ONE YEAR AGO: A Cookbook Review

TWO YEARS AGO: Air-Fried Carrots, Two Ways

THREE YEARS AGO: Sweet Potato Crust Quiche

FOUR YEARS AGO: Chicken Thighs with Artichokes and Capers

FIVE YEARS AGO: Pea Pancakes with Herbed Yogurt

SIX YEARS AGO: Mushroom Stroganoff

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Tomato Sourdough

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Gamberetti con rucola e pomodori

NINE YEARS AGO: Flirting with Orzo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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