Monday, May 31, 2010

RHC: Golden Lemon Almond Cake (free choice week)

Golden Lemon Almond CakeIt's a free choice week for the bake-along, where we can pick from any of the cakes Marie made before the bake-along started. Or any cake that you skipped--but I haven't skipped any yet. (Been late, yes, but I've gotten them all baked so far.) I enlisted nephew and younger niece in the selection process when niece called to ask what the cake of the week was and when I'd be baking. First week after school let out, and she's looking for activities...

We decided on non-chocolate, as last week's Bernachon Palet d'Or was definitely chocolate. Nixed the whipped cream cheesecake because of the recent Baby Lemon (or Passion Fruit) Cheesecakes, and because niece is not fond of cheesy things. That took out the tiramisu as well. I've been wanting to do the crumb coffee cake, but niece wanted CAKE, not breakfast. (It's all in your perceptions...). We thought hard about the She Loves Me cake with lemon curd and blueberries, but ended up with the signature Golden Lemon Almond Cake, which Rose says is her favorite in the book. It also has the virtue of being on the Easy list.

Easy it was. I was going to make it even easier by using the Trader Joe's almond meal I'd substituted before, but this time I decided to toast it lightly as it had been in the freezer. However, after a few minutes in the oven the meal was warm...but had absolutely no almond smell. Not good. I grabbed for sliced almonds and went with the recipe instructions all the way, toasting the sliced nuts, cooling them, then grinding them with part of the sugar to a fine meal.

The rest is easy: mix the wet ingredients (eggs, some of the sour cream, vanilla, lemon oil and zest) in one bowl. Niece grated a tall pile of lemon zest off three lemons. The volume measurement for zest is always dubious to me because the Microplane grater gives so much fluffier zest and my scale isn't very accurate for very small quantities. We went with a combination of a probably inaccurate measurement, and a judgement call based on the table in the back of the book for average yield from lemons for zest and juice.

Wet stuff mixed, all the dry ingredients go in the mixer bowl and are blended. In goes butter and the remaining sour cream, then the egg mixture in 2 addtions, and the batter is done.

Golden Lemon Almond CakeI'd bought the 'Bavaria' Bundt pan that is used in the book illustration for this cake, and this was its inaugural use. Having remembered Marie's problems, I made sure niece brushed the Baker's Joy into the crevices of the pan and the cake came out without any problems. Niece also brushed the lemon syrup all over the cake, including a few extra sugar grains I added in to get the sparkle effect.

Golden Lemon Almond CakeTasting results: This is a lovely cake. Nice lemony flavor, though even with the good tasted almonds, there's not much almond flavor present. The lemon syrup both gives that strong flavor punch and added moisture. The Bavaria patterned pan makes a beautiful presentation, too.

My brother and the nieces all liked this one as well--it will be on the list to bake again.

Fred checks out L.'s hairForgot to add in that Fred (Princess Winnifred, but she goes by Fred /obligatory Once Upon A Mattress reference here/) decided to get in on the kitchen activity. Niece's shoulders proved to be suitable for a short repose, plus her hair required some serious sniffing and a little grooming assistance. I'm not sure niece found the hair-washing to be a big help....

Monday, May 24, 2010

RHC: Bernachon Palet d'Or

Bernachon Palet D'Or GâteauThis week's cake-of-the-week for the Heavenly Cake Bakers is the cover recipe, the Bernachon Palet d'Or. My writeup will be brief, for the same reason my cake took the quicker road when possible--it was a busy week, and I left town Saturday to join my brothers at a work session towards clearing our father's house, leaving the available time for baking rather short. That meant primarily skipping the signature lacquer glaze that gives a mirror finish to the cake. We've done one cake already with the glaze, though, the Chocolate Apricot Roll, so I'd already attempted the glaze itself. That removed a couple of motivations on making the glaze: a major reason I'm participating in the bake-along is to push myself to try these new things, and I also felt that the glaze wouldn't add much in terms of taste as opposed to presentation.

Removing the glaze, then, my cake-of-the-week was a single-layer chocolate butter cake using cocoa as the chocolate, frosted with a ganache made with creme fraiche. The cake was easy to mix up, though not quite a one-bowl cake. Mine baked up nicely with just a little bit of curling of the top edges of the cake, despite the cake strip on the pan. A little strip of the bottom edge of the cake fell off as I turned it out onto a rack after the 10-minute cool-down--don't know why that happened, but I just glued the little pieces back on with ganache before frosting the cake.

The ganache is a food processor version using 62% chocolate, and that's what I did. I skipped the creme de cassis after opening my old bottle and remembering that the smell always reminds me of cough syrup. <g> No issues there, and the ganache set up to a great consistency for frosting in a couple of hours. I did a quick crumb-coat, refrigerated the cake for a few minutes, then finished the frosting and did a spiral pattern on the top for a little decor since I wasn't going to do the glaze.

Bernachon Palet D'Or GâteauTasting results: I really like this one. The cake is even-textured and reminds me of a pound-cake style chocolate cake that was the staple of my high-school-age baking, one made with Hershey bars and chocolate syrup. (This is a positive comment--I really liked that cake, though I haven't made it in years. <g>) It is just on the edge of dry, but the ganache compensates for that.

Younger niece, pressed for a report by phone (I brought some slices with me for me and my brothers to have, and left the rest in Atlanta for the nieces and nephew) liked the ganache, but was rather 'meh' about the cake. No bad comments, she just felt it was an unremarkable chocolate cake. My brothers both like it, as well.

Monday, May 17, 2010

RHC: Baby Passion Fruit Cheesecakes

Baby Passion Fruit CheesecakesCake-of-the-week for the Heavenly Cake Bakers is a cheesecake, baked in individual servings in muffin pans. The recipe was for Lemon Cheesecake, the lemon being added by a topping of lemon curd. Curd...Heavenly Cakes...I flashed back to the White Gold Passion Génoise and its lovely passion fruit curd, and lemon seemed so...tame. I already had a bag of passion fruit puree in the freezer, even.

Baby Passion Fruit CheesecakesBaby Passion Fruit CheesecakesFirst off in the cheesecake recipe was making a biscuit (do your French accent: bis-KWEE), a flat sponge cake, which gets cut into rounds and used as the cheesecake base/crust. Then came the cheesecake itself, a fairly light version with less cream cheese to eggs and sour cream. The recipe suggests using 12 silicon muffin cups, but my only silicon pan is a 6-holer. I grabbed down my mini-cheesecake pan for the rest of the batter, and that was just about the right volume. There was lots of biscuit left over, though--I think a half recipe might have done it.

Baby Passion Fruit CheesecakesThe cheesecakes should bake in a water bath. I did that for the silicon pan, but the mini-cheesecake pan has removable bottoms, and my last attempt at covering it with foil and using it in a water bath was, um, not very successful. (The results were edible, after the crusts dried out a little...) I decided to just bake it as it was, for a shorter time. Baby Passion Fruit Cheesecakes That was a mistake--at my first check, the little mini cheesecakes had high sides and collapsed middles and were over-done. Next time, I'll put the mini pan in at a lower temperature after the pan in the water bath is done. I got the internal temperature on the muffin pan cheesecakes a little too high, too, but it didn't seem to hurt the final product.

Baby Passion Fruit CheesecakesOnce baked, the cheesecakes get chilled before the curd is added. I made the full recipe of passion fruit curd (a little more yield than the lemon curd) thinking that a little extra would be nice for other uses. Both nieces had wanted some--older niece asked that I make her an entire recipe (right....), younger niece offered to help make the curd with an eye, I'm sure, to getting tastes and first crack at any leftovers. As it was I made the curd solo, and used it all topping the cheesecakes. The collapsed tops of the minis provided a little crater to hold curd, and that helped compensate a little for their over-baked-ness.

Baby Passion Fruit CheesecakesTasting results: Older niece of the often-small appetite reportedly finished her muffin-sized one, and nephew ate all of a mini. (Younger niece did the running back and forth between houses, so I didn't get any first-hand comments.) Younger niece herself doesn't like cheesey things much including cream cheese, and so took only half a mini. I wouldn't be surprised to hear she ate the curd topping and discarded the cheesecake.

My comments? Excellent combination of creamy cheesecake and curd--the passion fruit works beautifully here. My minis are indeed over-baked and a little hard, but the regular muffin size ones are lovely. I'm ambivalent about the biscuit base--it's almost not there, and I wonder if I might prefer a no-crust version. The biscuit wasn't hard to bake, but it took a lot of additional time and mess and didn't contribute much in my opinion. On the other hand, I may try a shortbread crust sometime for a textural contrast and more flavor.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cinnamon-Apple Flatbread

Mixed up my blogs again, and posted my breakfast of Cinnamon-Apple Flatbread over on LJ. You can read it there if you're interested!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

RHC: Gâteau Breton

Gateau Breton(Posted this by accident over on my LJ, so this is a repeat for those who read both. Sorry about that...)

After the very elaborate trifle, this week's 'easy' cake (it's on the list in the back of the book) was a relief. The recipe describes the Gateau Breton as a cross between a pound cake and shortbread, two of my favorite desserts. This looks like a can't fail recipe for me, so count it as easy on the tasting end too.

I didn't take many pictures of this one in process because indeed it was easy, and I made it even easier by using purchased almond meal instead of grinding my own toasted almonds. The almond meal was made from unblanched almonds, adding little extra color to the cake. To avoid messing up the food processor, I sifted the almond meal together with part of the sugar to get them well mixed. Then it was on to beating butter and sugar, adding in the egg yolks one at a time, then the almond meal and sugar combination, vanilla, and a tablespoon of dark rum (which added a surprising amount of flavor). Finally the flour went in in four parts, and the batter was ready for the pan.

I had a 9-1/2" x 1" tart pan, not the 1-3/8" that was called for. The batter very nearly filled the pan, but as Rose said, the sides rose above the pan as it baked with no spillover or other unpleasant consequences. Mine did take more than the maximum 45 minutes to bake, going by temperature.

Gateau BretonTasting results: I love it--indeed, as I predicted on reading Rose's description, this cake is right down my taste buds' alley. Sister-in-law allowed herself one small bite and also really liked it, though the nephew and younger niece thought it was too plain and got blueberries on the side. Not me--the joy of this cake is the rich buttery cake with a hint of rum. I'll be trying this again and experimenting with some other options from the liquor cabinet. Oh, and maybe addding some fruit on the side....even if it isn't necessary.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

RHC: St. Honore Trifle

St Honore TrifleI'm behind on my cake posting, though not on the baking. I did bake the St. Honore Trifle last weekend, started a blog post (well, wrote down some notes), then left town on a business trip. Somehow I then never got back to that write-up. I'm going to post the trifle tonight and this week's cake tomorrow. At least that's the plan...

Last weekend's baking was rather an uninspired effort on my part as it fell during the weekend I took a local tour of sweetshops and bakeries called Sugar Coma. (Also yet to be blogged.) After 5 hours or so of tasting one sweet treat after another Saturday morning, cake-of-the-week was not calling to me. But in the spirit of completeness (and because I like trifle), I started the St. Honore Trifle Saturday evening. Someday I'd like to try spun sugar, but it wasn't happening last weekend. (Given the usual humidity levels in Georgia, I'm not sure it's happening any time unless I can actually make it and serve it within hours. That sort of timing is usually not in my schedule.)

St Honore TrifleThe recipe as written makes a very large trifle, so I decided on a half recipe. I turned to my 6" pans for the sponge cake, and it rose high. The pastry cream preparation went smoothly, though I used the Madagascar vanilla bean I had in hand and didn't go in search of a Tahitian one, too. A quick syrup with Grand Marnier added, some orange marmalade thinned with more Grand Marnier, and all the pieces were assembled.

I do actually own a trifle bowl, but it is huge--bigger than the full recipe needs. My half recipe substitute was a glass mixing bowl that was almost big enough. The taper on the mixing bowl required some extra cutting and fitting of cake peices to get the layers and I was a little short on the top layer. I split the cake layers horizontally to get 4 rounds, then brushed one side i with the marmalade. One of these (trimmed to fit) was put, marmalade side down. The upper side was brushed with syrup, then on went a layer of pastry cream, then strawberries. Younger niece and I took a look and felt that there weren't nearly enough strawberries, so she sliced up more and we added to the recipe amount, ending up with double strawberries. The layers then repeated for a total of 4, and in a nice, straight-sided trifle bowl that would just use up the 4 split cake layers.

We used all the strawberries in the house for layers of the trifle and forgot to reserve one or two for garnish. I had to compress the trifle a little to get the last layer in, but I think that was probably a help to getting the layers to meld. In addition to being a little short on the top layer of cake, I was a little short on the whipped cream for the topping, so this is definitely not in the running for prettiest cake I've made.

Taste results:

St Honore TrifleNot bad, not great. Probably not worth the effort of the multitude of steps, when I prefer the results I've gotten with simpler trifles. My nephew called it "bitter", but my conclusion is that he didn't like the alcohol flavor. He didn't finish his serving. Younger niece and I both liked it a lot, but still had some things we'd change. Niece suggested everything needed to be smaller: smaller pieces of strawberry, thinner layers of cake and pastry cream. I like trifles where the cake becomes a little soaked with the pastry cream, which didn't happen in this trifle. I also probably went a little too lightly with brushing syrup on the cake layers, keeping them a little drier than designed. On the other hand, I wouldn't have wanted much more liqueur flavor in the trifle. Cutting thinner cake layers might have let the pastry cream soak in more and muted the liqueur, too.

The real standout component was the Chiboust pastry cream--that I will probably come back to!