Monday, January 25, 2010

RHC: Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake

Chocolate Tweed Angel Food CakeThe cake-of-the-week for the Heavenly Cake Bakers is an angel food cake, a type of cake which I have to admit I've always felt was a waste of caloric intake, containing no butter and too much sugar plus all those beaten egg whites. (No, I don't see the point in meringue or divinity either.) Rose's recipe, though, adds grated chocolate to the usual angel food cake, which sounded promising. And I did set out to bake my way through this cookbook along with the other Heavenly Cake Bakers, so...I made my first, and maybe only, angel food cake.

The full recipe calls for 16 egg whites for a 16 cup angel-food cake pan. My angel-food cake pan fortunately is only 10-cup capacity, and for the sake of easy math I just halved the recipe. I hadn't been saving and freezing spare egg whites, but I made younger niece's requested birthday cake this weekend (White Gold Passion Génoise) giving me 4 extra whites, then looked ahead and made the sour orange curd for the True Orange Génoise coming up February 8, having found sour oranges at Your DeKalb Farmer's Market (Buford Highway Farmers Market had 'em, too). That gave me 4 more spare egg whites. Those 8 whites gave me a little to spare, as my local eggs seem to be more white and less yolk than what Rose worked from. I went with a weight measurement, though I don't think the amount of extra egg white I had would have done much but give me a little extra volume.

The cake starts with beating egg whites and sugar to stiff peaks, beating in vanilla, then folding in the flour, salt, and more sugar to make the batter. Grated chocolate is folded in at the last, then the cake is baked, cooled upside down to prevent it collapsing, and removed from the pan and decorated. My smaller cake was done in about 25 minutes. It didn't brown much, but when the sides started to pull away from the pan I pulled it out, tried a cake tester on it, and declared it done.

The baking went pretty smoothly for me, though my folding technique still probably can use some work--I didn't get quite the volume I think I should have had. Or maybe those 2-3 T. of egg white should have gone in. My grated chocolate was too fine, and I ended up with more a light tan cake than a tweed look--maybe the Microplane grater was too efficient. And I should have spent more time running my spatula through the batter to eliminate a few more of the large holes in the batter. All this was cosmetic, though, and overall the cake came out well.

Rose offered a suggestion of splitting the cake and frosting it with whipped cream. Given the excesses of the birthday cake the night before, I gave that a pass. Alternatives were a dusting of cocoa, or drizzling melted chocolate. I grabbed a partial bar of 62% bittersweet chocolate, melted it, and drizzled. More chocolate is rarely a mistake around here.

Now, the tasting. First, keep in mind that the tasting was inherently unfair, as we had White Gold Passion Génoise last night and it was a smash hit. (I will blog that cake later, maybe in the 'free choice' week coming up.)

Younger niece liked the texture, otherwise just gave me permission to take the leftovers to the office. She refused such permission for the passion fruit cake. <g>

Sister-in-law found her first bite (which got some of the top 'crust') too sweet, but middle bites were better. Overall though, it was still too sweet for her.

My brother thought it better than other angel food cakes, but still, it's an angel food cake. Seems like he had some other comment which has escaped my brain...must start taking notes...maybe it was that it was somewhat moister than the dry texture of angel food cakes, which he dislikes.

I think I agree with my brother. It's not bad, and the chocolate (not just the drizzled stuff, the chocolate in the cake proper) really cut the sweetness level. Finished with Rose's whipped cream treatment it might be even better. Fundamentally though, it's an angel food cake, and the fluffy texture and the sweetness just don't appeal to me.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Joe Pastry and Rose

For those who don't follow Joe Pastry, he was critical of the cookbook Rose's Heavenly Cakes (he thought the recipes were too elaborate), author Rose Levy Beranbaum saw his comments and responded, and now he's posting some dialog between the two of them about his comments, the cookbook, and specifics on the Golden Lemon Almond Cake recipe which Rose suggested that he bake when he wanted to try out one of the recipes. There are more posts to come, but here's what's up so far [edited 25 Jan 2010 to complete the list of posts]:

Rose's Golden Lemon Almond Cake

"New Journalist" or just incompetent?

Rose on the Question of Excess [the main interview post]

"Guest Host" Rose

Why does this recipe call specifically for bleached flour?

Why do you use all turbinado sugar in this cake instead of regular granulated?

and a side post in response to a reader's question: Turbinado Sugar vs. Granulated

(edited to add the rest of the posts on this topic below)

The High Cost of Photography

Why lemon oil?

Is Wondra flour really necessary?

So where's the history?

You talkin' to me?

How to Make Rose's Golden Lemon Almond Cake (recipe)

It's a guy thing

A little last wave of the flag

Monday, January 18, 2010

RHC: Torta de las Tres Leches

IMG_0659I think I've had a restaurant version of Torta de las Tres Leches, or "Tres Leches Cake" as the Spanglish version usually has it, maybe once, so my standard of comparison is limited. However, my tasting panel this week includes my older brother, who has sampled it several times and had made a version.

IMG_0636This is another sponge cake, and I noticed as I worked that I'm already feeling more comfortable with this type of cake--I'd never baked one before starting the Heavenly Cakes bake-along. Eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla was lightly beaten, then beaten/stirred over simmering water to warm. Then the bowl was moved over to the KitchenAid for the major beating until very thick--5 minutes of beating or so, though I think I actually overbeat and lost some volume. I should have trusted my eyes and ears (the sound of the beater changed) and quit about 4 minutes in, not continued for nearly the 5 minutes the recipe gave as an approximate time.

Once the eggs were beaten, half the flour was sifted over and folded in. Then the rest of the flour was also folded in, the batter went in a 9x3 inch pan (I used my springform, not having another 9x3), and baked.

IMG_0641Next it was on to the "three milks" part, though this recipe actually uses four. A mix of whole milk and skim milk, with a little sugar, was to be boiled together to reduce the volume by half. This remains one of my least-favorite recipe instructions, as I always end up stopping to measure early (not feeling that I can tell by eye if I'm at 'by half' yet) and then needing to put the mix back on the burner. Well, that wasn't so much the problem this time--I took my eye off the mixture a little too long, and it boiled over and scorched a little on the bottom of the pan for good measure. However, not wanting to start over, I strained the milk into a measuring cup (which let me check on the volume while I was at it), cleaned the pan and the stove, and carefully put the milk back on the burner. After that I stirred almost constantly to keep from having a scorching problem again--no matter what heat setting I used, if I had it simmering then the milk started to stick on the bottom of the pan.

IMG_0644Once the milk was reduced, I poured it back in my measuring cup and stirred in a can of sweetened condensed milk and a cup of heavy cream. That all went in the fridge to chill, and I wrapped up the cake once it had cooled for overnight storage. The next morning I unwrapped the cake, removed the top crust and the parchment that was on the bottom plus some crust there, too, and wrapped the denuded cake back in plastic wrap before putting it in the springform pan, now set in a silicone 9" pan lest the milk mixture leak through my springform. The top crust was really easy to remove--the crust had separated from the cake proper, and could be picked off with my fingers for the most part. The milk was poured over the cake slowly to soak it, and the whole thing was wrapped back up to soak for at least 8 hours.

IMG_0644I poured on the milk Friday morning, then brought the whole thing with me as I drove to south Georgia to meet my brothers for a weekend of sorting and cleaning out my father's house. Saturday night I unmolded the cake into a pie plate , covered it with a layer of whipped cream (I only whipped one cup instead of Rose's cup and a half in a faint attempt at calorie control), and we all dug in. By Sunday night, when I took the remains to my cousins' house (our local relatives spared us finding dinner after 2 full days of sorting and packing), the pie plate had a puddle of milk, and the upper part of the cake was looking dry. I just spooned some milk onto each slice as I served, and the result was fine.

Generally opinions on the cake were positive. Older brother said it was just like Tres Leches Cake should be, and was much better than the recipe he'd tried. The cake was nicely flavored, and the milk soaking makes for an interesting change of pace. Perhaps surprisingly, there weren't many comments of "too sweet" despite the tendency of me and the folks next door (younger brother and family) to think many current American desserts are over-sugared. Only younger niece turned down all but a taste, but she's a reluctant milk drinker. The next night at the cousins' the cake got a more suspicious receptions--few in the group had heard of it, and the concept of cake soaked in milk was quite strange. Those who tried it thought it was good, though. Maybe I converted a few to the idea.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chocolate Streusel Cupcakes

I'm late! I'm late! I baked the cupcakes Thursday night, but then headed off to a local SF con, GaFilk, for the weekend. Thus the photos didn't get downloaded and the writeup was delayed. Oh, well.

IMG_0623This is, as Marie said, very quick and easy even if not on the list in the back of Rose's Heavenly Cakes as such. I went with the alternate cupcake approach instead of a little bundt-style cake plus 2 cupcakes--I thought the cake might look a little too small for a coffeecake. As it turns out, this is more a pound cake than what I'd call a coffeecake, and the bundt pan would have been fine. The cupcakes worked, though!

Instead of streusels I've done before which were usually sugar (often brown sugar), butter, and flour with cinnamon, this one is just brown sugar, cocoa powder, and cinnamon. It doesn't have much different texture than the cake--you just get the hit of chocolate as you bite. It's a nice change.

IMG_0619The cake batter is pretty standard, and I won't walk through the steps. I put the bottom layer of batter in 12 cupcake liners in a standard muffin pan then divided the streusel mixture between them. Then I added the top layer of batter, and realized that even though I'd filled the muffin cups probably too full, there was no way all that batter was going to fit. So, I made 2 additional (and smallish) cupcakes, without the streusel. And indeed, I had overfilled the cupcake liners and also probably was slow getting the batter into the oven, as I layered and spread batter and pondered extra cupcakes, so the leavening may have lost some oomph. Anyway, I ended up with flat-topped cupcakes, though the chocolate swirl was still very pretty.

IMG_0621Tasting results: the cake, as I said, is very pound cake-ish and very like last week's. Again, the texture is more open than my standard pound cake. The flavor is very nice but the cake is quite sweet. I first tasted one of the overflow cupcakes that missed out on the streusel, and those seemed very sweet--the chocolate layer helps to cut that sweet-sweet effect, I think.

The cupcakes were shared with the folks next door on the Friday snow day (we got about an inch at my house--that's plenty to shut Atlanta down, especially with some ice underneath), and the only comments I got back were from sister-in-law and younger niece who both said "very sweet". Hey, we're consistent!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Whipped Cream Cake

IMG_0608I think I'll keep this short, as the other HCB blogs I've looked at seem to have done great write-ups and had better success with the cake. I made another half-size cake using my 6-cup fluted tube pan. Everything was according to the recipe, though I used heavy cream (I assume at 36% fat) and didn't go in search of a source for the special 40% stuff. One other difference which is probably crucial: I baked on one higher rack in the oven than usual, which put the cake closer to the center of the oven than the lower third.

IMG_0523Despite the smaller pan, my cake took 25 minutes to bake, the lower end of the range for a full-sized cake. However, instead of a lovely browned exterior, I ended up with a pale, sticky surface. It's not that the cake stuck to the pan for the most part--the cake just didn't brown except on top. My only explanation is the position of the cake in the oven, but I've very surprised that it could have made such a difference. This pan has certainly given good results with other cakes.

Well, pale and sticky exterior or no, we still enjoyed the cake. It is flavorful and moist, though not as much as my standard pound cake recipe that's made more conventionally with butter and cream cheese, not just using whipped cream for the fat source. The Whipped Cream Cake has a more open texture as well, and that may contribute to the feeling that it is not as moist. The crumb was very tender--in fact, I had problems getting the sticky cake to come out of the pan and lost a few chunks of cake off the bottom (the top as it was baking) in the process.

The tasting consensus was that the cake alone was not a real standout. Served again the next night with the addition of strawberries and cream, it was much more of a success.