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Monday, August 30, 2010

HCB: Chocolate Layer Cake with Caramel Ganache

I made this cake last weekend along with the Marionberry Shortcakes. Both cakes were 1/2 recipes.

The cake itself was pretty easy. It's very similar to the cake base for the other butter/oil chocolate cakes in RHC.

One thing that surprised me when I took the cake - or my 1/2 cake :) - out of the oven, is how short it is. I think it only measured a little over an inch. Plus I would have to split it in half, yikes. That freaked me out a bit and I was afraid that the layers will be too fragile and I will mess it up when I applied the ganache.

Anyway, while the cake was easy, the ganache put up a bit of a resistance - to say the least.

The caramel making part went along smoothly. I had the heavy cream hot and ready and poured it onto the caramel. Sure enough, it bubbled like crazy. So far so good. Then I heated up the whole thing until the caramel dissolved. I took it off the heat and incorporate the butter, then pour it onto the already-chopped chocolate.

Oh, and by the way, I chopped the chocolate using my newly purchased chisel (great tip from Monica.)

Back to the ganache, mixed until the caramel and chocolate are all blended and started looking super shiny. Too shiny in fact, as they started separating. The ganache was looking too greasy and it looked like the oil/cocoa butter separated from the rest.

I panicked and didn't know what to do. Unlike regular non-caramel ganache, I can't re-melt this one and hoped it will emulsify again. How do I know this? Because that's exactly what I did, and I think I ended up melting the caramel because the ganache started becoming watery.

Onto the trash can it went.

By this point I was frustrated and pissed. Not at Rose, not sure at myself either. I was just pissed.

Starting over...

Caramel... while it was approaching the dangerous 350 degrees, my phone rang. I jumped, and released the caramel pot I was holding. A couple of drops of the caramel jumped out of the pan, landed on the palm of my hand (one drop on each hand). I screamed, yelped, jumped! It hurts like hell (never had caramel burn before).

And by this point, the caramel already burned and was beyond saving.

Starting over... with a band aid on my left palm...
Caramel... Exactly 370 degrees. Then heavy cream. I skipped the butter part (or more precisely, I forgot the butter part). Then chocolate and mixing by hand. And the ganache threatened to separate. I threatened it back and guess who won? Don't mess with a girl with a caramel burn!!!

I put the ganache - along with my hand - in an ice bath.

Next, frosted the cake. The ganache feels a bit slimy so I didn't bother to make any decorations.

And I said to myself, this cake looks ugly. It was just way way too plain. So I looked into the pantry and saw leftover chocolate pearls from the Designer Chocolate Baby Grand. I decorated the cake with it.

Okay still looks ugly.

Aha! *lightbulb above my head* Let's make caramel decorations!!!

Caramel... this time I used the full amount of sugar & water for the caramel ganache. The plan was to make some swirly designs but when I poured the caramel out of the pyrex cup it came out in one big glop. So I ended up just pouring the rest out onto the silpat, wait until they cool, and then bashed them in to make the shards.

Results? Not sure I like the combo of chocolate pearls and caramel shards. But I didn't feel like taking the pearls away, and figured that we'd ended up eating the pearls more than the caramel shards so both stayed.

Tasting impression:
I am disappointed. I was expecting more caramel taste, but the chocolate taste was more overpowering. I like the fudgy texture of the cake but otherwise it's a bit on the plain side. Though I do have to say that the taste improved after a couple of days - or it's just because my caramel burn started healing. I can't say I will make this cake again, but I will say that I have one caramel burn story (hopefully it's the only one) and a caramel shard-making experience :).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

HCB: Marionberry Shortcakes

Shortcake... sponge cake... who wouldn't like them?

Add that to the fact that this one has beurre noisette in it. I know by now that Rose's cakes, when it has beurre noisette in it, is simply pure bliss. Add fruit to that and I'm sold.

I didn't find marionberries at Whole Foods, but at Vitamin Cottage. While it is thawing in a bowl, I made the beurre noisette. So far so good. Since it's 1/2 recipes, I didn't see a point of using the stand mixer to whip the warm 1 egg + 1 egg yolk. I used my handheld mixer, and quickly regretted it. It is not fun standing in the kitchen for 10 minutes holding handheld mixer. Yes okay I could sit down and do this but still no fun. See how I've become very spoiled with my stand mixer :).

Once the egg mixture has become airy and lovely and spongy, I sacrificed part of the egg mixture onto the beurre noisette. Then folded into the egg mixture, the sifted cake flour cornstarch mixture. Then folded in the beurre noisette.

These lovely batter is then distributed evenly onto 3 corningware ramekins. Then baked in the oven for 15 minutes.

Next, the liquid from the strained marionberries are reduced, cooled, and combined with Chambord. I think I reduced the sauce too much, so I added 2 Tbsp of water.

Rose said to make a small cavity onto the cakes for the berries, so that's what I did. There's quite a bit of scooped up shortcake, enough to make a mini marionberry shortcake trifle :).

Tasting impression:
Oh boy oh boy oh boy... This is one of THE BEST cakes from RHC. Light, moist, and tender. The berries added a wealth of flavor - sweet and slightly tangy. I don't know if I'm still giddy from finding frozen marionberries or it's the chambord talking. Maybe it is the beurre noisette - and I know that Raymond would agree with me. Whichever reason, this is really so good that I regretted making 1/2 recipe! Maybe I'll make this again for the free choice week next month.

Monday, August 16, 2010

HCB: Chocolate Feather-less Bed

This is what happens when you "rebel" from a recipe, you get punished. In my case, said punishment is in the shape of your cake failing. Do not let the picture above fool you. That is 6 layer of chocolate feather(less) bed, sandwiched with very thin layer of chocolate ganache.

I was so looking forward to this cake. Mostly because the picture in the book looked so appealing. Of course when one is looking forward to a cake, one is supposed to pay attention to the recipe (heck, one is supposed to do this every time). I knew I still have a bar of Scharffenberger chocolate in the freezer so I didn't get another bar of chocolate. Until on Saturday morning (baking day) I realized that the chocolate I had was 70% cacao content, instead of the 53-62% called for in the recipe. I am blaming this as the reason why the chocolate cake lost volume and turned out to be almost paper thin.

I'm not 100% sure this is the reason of course. There's only one way to prove it. Make another one! LOL! Hm... maybe for the free choice :).

As for the ganache, I had a little leftover ganache in the freezer from the Chocolate Banana Stud Cake. Looking at the ingredients, I saw that the leftover ganache was a 1:1 ratio (8 oz of chocolate to 8 oz of heavy cream). The light whipped ganache in the featherbed was a 1:2 ratio (8 oz of chocolate to 16 oz of heavy cream). So I weigh my leftover ganache - 135 gr - dumped it all in a pot, and added 68 gr of heavy cream, making it about 1:2 ratio.

I skipped the whipping part of the ganache, making this just plain ganache I suppose, and spread the ganache onto my paper thin chocolate cake.

I didn't like the sides as they look so sad and uneven. So I use made some gelatin stabilized whipped cream and decorate the side. I thought they did a pretty good job hiding the featherless quality of this cake :).

Tasting impression:
Feather or featherless, this cake taste good! It is pretty rich - with 70% cacao - but it sorta like eating a chocolate bar. And I don't mind eating a chocolate bar at this point LOL. Hubby gave it a 7.25 (he gets pretty precise with his rating), so I'd say that it's a winner. Imagine the rating if it is really feathery!

Feeling that I haven't baked enough this weekend, or rather, feeling that I need to bake something that is a success. Also completely inspired by Matthew's awesome presentation of the whole bread bible, I looked through my pantry to see what I can make. Turned out I have leftover dried cranberries from Christmas (they haven't expired yet). So I made 1/2 recipe of Flaky Cranberry Scones.

Tasting impression:
They are REALLY good! Flaky and buttery, they reminded me a of Croissant a bit. And so much easier than Croissant! Takes less than 1 hour to put together.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

HCB: Plum & Blueberry Upside Down Torte

This is one of those easy cakes that is bound to impress. It is very similar to the Apple Upside Down cake - except yummier! As I read the ingredients, I know I am going to like this cake. It's a no-brainer. Plum - YUM! Blueberries - more YUM. Caramel!!! Super YUM.

The recipe is super easy to put together. The hardest part is waiting for the sugar syrup to become caramel. Even if you put your stove on to high it can take 10 minutes.

Once the sugar caramelized, pour it into the baking pan that's been sprayed with non-stick baking oil.

Next, place the plum and blueberries on top of the caramel in a somewhat decorative pattern.

Then combine all the dry ingredients in the food processor. I hesitated when I read this, because sometimes, depending on what Rose said, I skipped the food processor step. Upon reading further, I discovered that this recipe only tells you to use food processor. No KA mixer. No mixing bowl. No extra tools required.

WOHOO! *Jenn is jumping up and down in the kitchen *

This recipe is officially downgraded to be super duper easy :))!

Once the dry ingredients are well mixed, mix in the butter, then the eggs and vanilla.

Finally, dump it into the pan and bake. Mine finished in 40 minutes.

Tasting impression:
This cake is so awesomely good. I love the slight tartness of the blueberries and it's well balanced with the sweetness of plum and the caramel taste. I love cakes with any fruit and this one definitely met my expectation :).

Sunday, August 1, 2010

HCB: Lemon Meringue Cake

Baking is so fascinating.

When you heat up the 3 egg yolks and 1/4 cup of sugar over simmering water until it's lukewarm (90 degrees), and then beat it with a mixer on high speed for 5 minutes, the mixture will quadrupled in size, fluffy, and ribbon-y. This mixture makes a cake called genoise.

When you skip the heating up portion and beat the same mixture on high speed for 5 minutes, the mixture will be thick, fluffy, and ribbony. This mixture makes a cake called biscuit.

Like I said, fascinating!!!

First part of the cake is making the lemon curd. Rose said you would only need 2/3 of the curd for this cake, but she likes to make the full recipe of the curd to have leftover for toast. I'm making 1/2 recipe of the cake, I was going back and forth about whether to do 1/3 or 1/2. In the end, I made 1/2 a recipe.

I won't go into the details of curd-making as I've done this several times. While the curd is cooling in the fridge, I started making the biscuit. The biscuit baked in 1/2 hour. While the biscuit is cooling, I made the lemon syrup.

While making the lemon syrup, I thought, hm.. I should've made the lemon syrup first so it will have time to cool while the cake is baking. What can I say, the organized part of me was taking a vacation :).

But wait, hang on a second - reading the recipe - it looks like that I wait until the cake cooled before applying the syrup! So the syrup doesn't need to be applied while it's warm. Phew! I'm okay then :)

After the cake cooled, I took the top "skin" off both cakes, applied the syrup, and sandwiched them together with all the curd. Yes, people, I use the full 1/2 recipe of the curd.

Finally, the italian meringue topping. I've made this before for mousseline buttercream. Though this time it's quite a relief to make a higher quantity for sugar syrup. Made it much easier to measure the temperature of the syrup.

The italian meringue came together without an issue as well. I piled it high on the cake and tried to make the swirls like the cake in the book. I baked it in the 500 degrees oven for 3 minutes, turning it every 1 minute. It was a little too brown, I think, but at least it didn't get burned and it was evenly brown LOL.

Tasting impression:
I am a little disappointed. The cake is too sweet for my taste. I did reduce quite a bit of the sugar in both the lemon curd and the sugar syrup. I didn't dare reducing the sugar in the cake and the meringue - for fear it will compromise their structure. Oh well, I have a solution to my problem: eat SMALLER slices!