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Monday, October 26, 2009

HCB: Almond Shamah Chiffon

This cake is pretty easy to make. Sure, there are a lot of steps, but it's not that hard. First you have to blanch the almonds, then toast them. Wait until they cool and then grind them (I love my food processor). Mix the ground almonds with the dry ingredients.

Then, whip the yolks for 5 minutes until thick and ribbony (it takes 9 yolks to get the prescribed weight), add to it oil, water, almond extract, and vanilla extract - beat again to mix everything together. Then sprinkle the dry ingredients mixture on top. Since I only have 1 mixer bowl and 1 whip, I have to wash and dry them really well before proceeding to whip the egg whites (I don't like to do this).

Next, whip the egg whites. Pretty standard steps, whip on low until foamy, add cream of tartar, whip until soft peaks, then gradually add sugar until stiff peaks form. I have to say that cream of tartar does help stabilize the egg whites - can't tell you how many times I "broke" whipped egg whites in the past (easy to do in high altitude) and have to start over. Doesn't seem to have this problem now with cream of tartar in the mix!

After the egg whites achieved stiff peak, mix 1/3 of it into the flour/almond/egg yolks mixture until incorporated (this is called "sacrifice" in chef terms). Then fold in the remaining egg whites in 2 addition. I use a big spatula and my arm got tired at the end since it's a heavy batter. Then divide the batter into 2 pans (I actually weigh them to make sure I distribute them evenly). Into the oven it goes.

The cake smells so good coming out of the oven. I let it cool. Then using a serrated knife, trim off the top of the cakes. Apply the syrup (water and sugar boiled, cool to room temperature, and combined with amaretto disarono liquor). Since the cake become really fragile after being syruped, I syrup the bottom layer first, then proceeded to make the raspberry jam whipped cream before I continue with the syruping. I did this because I want to apply the whipped cream between the layers - so I don't have to move the cake after syruping.

For the whipped cream, I bought raspberry preserve and it has seeds on them. So I push the whole thing through a strainer to get rid of the seeds. I was hesitating about this, I though it was gonna be a pain to do, but it's actually not bad (can you tell that I'm in a baking mood, all these steps and I was still a cheerful bird!). I whip the cream in the pre-chilled mixer bowl & whisks - slowly increasing the speed until it's stiff peak, then incorporate the strained raspberry preserve. The result is this creamy heavenly raspberry whipped cream with a hint of pink color.

Continuing on with the recipe, I put a huge dollop of the cream between the layers, syruped the top layer of the cake, then apply the rest of the cream all over the cake. I started off using an offset spatula, this works pretty well for the top of the cake. For the sides, I use the bench scraper. It is sooooo much easier using bench scraper (whoever invented bench scraper should get some sort of award, if that person hasn't already!).

Now full disclosure: I was going to skip this week's cake selection. I'm not sure I like chiffon and this cake sounded too plain. Again, I was wrong. This cake is so moist and so yummy. I think I am changing my opinion on white cakes!

Lesson to be learnt: NEVER doubt Rose, if the recipe is lucky enough to make it to her book, it must be worth it, and this cake is anything but!!!

A Baking Weekend - Part 2

I've borrowed The Bread Bible from the library, so I want to make something from it. Everything in the book looks so good! I can't decide on what to make (this is a recurring problem) so I made 2 breads. The first one is the Olive Bread.

The second one is the Raisin Pecan Bread.

Both breads are wonderful and are not hard to make. The only thing is that they have a lot of resting time in between the process, so you have to plan your day. I wish I could share a slice with you all.

A Baking Weekend - Part 1

This weekend, I was very inspired to bake so in addition to the scheduled cake for the HCB group, I also made several other items. First, I did the Chocolate Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate Egg-White Buttercream from Rose's Heavenly Cakes. I made half a recipe of the cupcakes and the full recipe of the buttercream. Why, you asked, would I make another cake? Well, because I just received the 6-cavity Lekue silicone muffin pan and I feel compelled to test it. Also, I want to play with buttercream and the idea of making practice buttercream using shortening sounds plain gross (if there are shortening lover out there reading this, please don't take this personally). Anyway, back to the cupcake. It's very easy to make. The only thing is that you sorta have to plan ahead a bit because you have to boil the water and then mix it really well with the cocoa powder, then let it cool down to room temperature. The recipe said you can refrigerate it. But even that takes about 10-15 minutes to cool down (and this is half the recipe btw so you see how you should sorta plan ahead.) The buttercream is a bit more challenging. It tells you to beat the butter first until smooth and creamy. Rose suggests that you use the hand mixer for this if you only have 1 stand mixer - as you would need the stand mixer for the egg whites. So I did that. Then you beat the egg whites until foamy, add cream of tartar, beat again, then gradually add the fine sugar, until stiff peak. After all that, continue beating while adding butter by the tablespoon. Halfway through this, the buttercream looks like a soupy mess. Rose said that if the whole thing curdled, which I'm guessing what the soupy mess is, you should increase the speed and continue beating until it came together. Well, I did that and what feels like forever later, the consistency didn't changed. So I put the whole thing in the fridge - thinking that the reason why it still curdled is because it's too warm. True enough, after five minutes of refrigeration, I rebeat on high speed and it smoothed out. After all the butter is added, add the melted chocolate that's already cooled to room temperature. And you're done. Next is piping fun! It is so fun to pipe buttercream - provided you're not a perfectionist and fussed over every little imperfection (which I am kinda like that but I've decided since this is for personal consumption it just have to be fun and does not have to be perfect). I used a round tip, rose tip, and star tip and here's the result.

Aren't they cute? At least I think so. I'm very happy with the result. The one with the star tip makes me think of odd-shaped mushrooms.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

HCB: Apple Upside-Down Cake

At first, I was going to use peaches for this recipe. But it's apple season now, so I decided to use apples. This recipe is easy to make. I used Honey Crisp apples, core it with a melon baller and cut it thin. It is so fun to arrange the apples - I had the book next to it so I could try to mimic the design. I am short by 10 grams for the egg yolks, but I'm out of eggs, so I went ahead with the recipe anyway. This cake is baked in a 9x2 inches pan - encircled with Rose's cake strips - set on a baking stone. The stone was preheated for an hour. The stone really helps with the temperature of the oven because usually I have to add 10 minutes or so to the baking time because the middle part is not set yet. This time, however, baking time is exactly as prescribed by Rose. The result is this beautiful Apple Upside-Down Cake.

Now don't think that everything is going super well in my kitchen. It turns out that I did not have a plate large enough to hold this cake. I tried one of the biggest plate that I have and since the sides of the plate was slightly slanted, the cake was a bit damaged on one side. Anyway, ended up using a sheet pan as the place holder of this cake. Voila - disaster averted. Note to self: please go find a cake stand or a large plate!

Now onto the tasting impressions. I like making apple pies/tarts, I have tried several recipes of pies and tarts (including Rose's Open Face Designer Apple Pie). However, I am not a big fan of the taste of apple dessert. I know, I know, how can I not like apple dessert, right? Well, that's how it is. Given the choice between Apple Pie or any other cake I would usually pick the cake. Anyway, just when I thought that all is lost in the apple dessert land - that I wound never find a kind that I like - comes Apple Upside-Down Cake. This cake is soooo good. It's tender and moist and taste awesome! In retrospect, maybe what I don't like is pie crust then? :) Anyway, I love making (and eating) this cake. I will definitely make it again - and maybe try the peach version.

Monday, October 5, 2009

HCB: Hungarian Janci Torta

Here is my contribution to the 1st scheduled "bake-a-long" - the Hungarian Janci Torta.
Honestly, I was a bit hesitant of making this cake, never really made gluten-free dessert before. I wasn't sure what the combination of walnuts, chocolate, sugar, eggs, and cream of tartar would make. But I thought it would be an interesting experience and experiment :).

Here are my notes:
  • I wanted to make a small portion of this so I split the recipe in half.
  • For the pan, I used a 6 by 2 inches Fat Daddio aluminium anodized pan. Since this recipe calls for 3 inches tall pan, I encircled the inside of my pan with parchment paper for added height - per Rose's instructions. I'm glad I did this because the cake really rose high.
  • I didn't use any cake strips (ordered Rose's Silicone Cake Strips from amazon but haven't received them yet.)
  • I used Valrhona Extra Bitter chocolate.
Issues/concerns: 5 minutes before the specified time for baking, the top middle portion cracked. I'm not sure what's causing this.
Tasting impressions: This cake is very tender and moist. All the components are well balanced, I can taste slight nutty flavor and chocolate-y. The taste is much better than I expect, though I shouldn't be surprise considering Rose has excellent recipes! Bravo Rose! I have a feeling I will be loving this bake-a-long, :))))).