Monday, February 23, 2015

BB: Lemon Posset Shortcakes

Lemon Posset ShortcakesI'm conflicted about this week's Alpha Bakers assignment. One thing is clear: the results are a wonderful cakelet--lovely, light, and lemony. My debate is on the process. Really, nothing about this recipe is difficult, or at least not if you can handle a basic sponge cake. (OK, I'd never baked one before the Heavenly Cakes bake-through, but having completed that sponge cakes are about as easy as the butter cakes I grew up with.) However, it's a typical Rose recipe with many steps and precise timing to get exactly the result Rose was striving for, or so I assume. While I enjoy the results, I wish for a less-involved route to get there.

Lemon Posset ShortcakesSo: it's a sponge cake made with browned and clarified butter and baked in individual Maryann pans--that's the "shortcake" style now found at American grocery stores that has a depression on the top for berries. (I'll spare you my rant about the real shortcake for berries being a biscuit, not a cake.) Once the cakelets are baked and cooled, they are brushed with a syrup made with lemon juice. Here the lemon type was unspecified, but as I had an abundance of Meyer lemons for the posset, I used Meyer lemon juice in the syrup as well. Give the syrup a few hours to distribute through the cake, then glaze each cake let with an apple jelly glaze. That's the cake part.

Lemon Posset ShortcakesThe lemon posset is also simple: heavy cream mixed with sweetened Meyer lemon juice and allowed to set. From the recipe I had thought I'd end up with a distinctly layered result, with a thicker top layer, softer middle, and watery bottom. Well, the layers are there but subtle--there's no visual distinction until you start spooning out the posset, and then the texture differences appear. The thicker top layer is spooned onto each cakelet first and allowed to set, preventing the more liquid posset to come from soaking into the cake. Then the less-firm layer is spooned on top and again allowed to set. (The "watery" lowest layer is not used, but makes a great topping for fruit.) Finally, the cakelets are ready to serve. I spooned on a few blueberries for the classic lemon-blueberry flavor combination, and had a very elegant dessert.

No doubt it's a wonderful cake, and I wish the process were less involved--maybe the glaze could be skipped if the cake were made and served on the same day, maybe the time frame for putting the posset on the cakes could be compressed, but any way you look at it this recipe will take some time. I imagine I'll repeat it, but will need a special occasion to justify it.

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Monday, February 16, 2015

BB: Chocolate Pavarotti with Wicked Good Ganache

Chocolate PavarottiBack to The Baking Bible after 2 weeks away. The schedule worked out well for my planned 10 days at Walt Disney World, as Marie scheduled the apricot-walnut bread I'd baked last Thanksgiving and then a catch-up week, and I've baked everything to date. This week's baking was a little hurried though, as I was rushing to get to younger niece's diving competition.

The Chocolate Pavarotti was a pretty good "rushing" recipe. It's a single-layer chocolate cake with a ganache frosting. The cake includes white chocolate to add moisture and improve the texture, and the ganache has some cayenne (either a mere touch or enough to get some heat) plus a little corn syrup for a shiny finish.

First let me note that the majority of my white chocolate was quite old, and didn't melt very smoothly although the taste seemed fine. If that's an indication the the bar lost some oil during it's time in my pantry (if that's possible without the bar's wrapping showing signs of it), perhaps that explains my cake's rather dry and very crumbly texture. I was careful to cover my boiling water-cocoa mixture to not lose moisture there, and I don't think I over baked it. All my tasters found it too dry, though judicious application of whipped cream seemed to help overcome that.

The ganache was quite nice to my taste. I used the maximum amount of cayenne, and liked the heat+chocolate. The folks next door agreed except for younger niece. Has her 6 months at college affected her tastebuds? :) I delivered 5 pieces for her to share with her diving teammates after the competition finals, and got back a texted comment that the spice was weird. She would prefer the full spice mixture of cinnamon and cayenne we've used in various "Aztec" chocolate recipes instead of just cayenne, and the only reaction I got from a teammate was negative on the heat from the cayenne.

In summary, not really a successful cake, and there's not enough promise here for me to try it again. The ganache was fine and did have a shiny finish to it, but for most occasions I think the classic chocolate and cream, without a separate step of melting unsweetened chocolate in corn syrup, is fine.

The recipe for the Chocolate Pavarotti is available online at the Guittard web site.

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