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Monday, September 27, 2010

HCB: Golden Lemon Almond Cake

As I do not feel like making the Chocolate Tomato Soup cake for this week's HCB selection, I decided to play catch up and make something else from the book.

The lucky cake of the week is the Golden Lemon Almond Cake.

As a habit of making 1/2 a recipe, I thought of taking Rose's alternative suggestion - making 2/3 of the recipe and baking it in a loaf pan.

Of course as I am so used to halving recipes, I started well by toasting 2/3 of the almonds, and measuring 2/3 of the sugar, but then proceeded to measure 1/2 recipe of the flour and leavening, and then mixing all of them together. Okay, so I am not that adventurous that I want to try to bake the concoction - not to mention that it will be awfully sweet - so I threw away everything and started over. If I am a math whiz I can probably figure out what's missing and backtrack but math is pretty low on my list of skill sets :).

Anyway, so first things first, toast almonds! Then grind with some of the sugar until they say "MERCY!" Mix it with the flour, remaining sugar, leavening, and a lot of lemon zest. I used a little bit more than the recipe requires. In a separate bowl, eggs are whisked with a bit of sour cream, lemon oil, and vanilla. Then added in the remaining sour cream and butter to the flour mixture, mix and mix until they are incorporated. Lastly, added in the egg mixture in two additions. Mix, mix, and mix. Well okay, the KA is the one doing all the mixing, I was just standing there and timing the procedures :).

While the cake is baking, I made the syrup. Combined lemon juice and sugar over medium heat until the sugar dissolved. I am happy this recipe calls for turbinado sugar, it gives me a chance to use up my supply.

The cake looks awfully plain in it's loaf pan shape, so I whipped up some dreamy creamy white chocolate frosting and piped roses and rose buds all over. I made 2/3 of the recipe and still had a lot left, so I piped some cute words and presented the cake to hubby - who said "AWWW" at the writing, before he proceeded to chow down a little piece and gave his thumbs up :).

Tasting impressions:
It is so good. Very lemony and moist. It reminds me of a pound cake - a REALLY good one. The frosting adds a nice chocolate sweetness to it. This will definitely get made again and again!

Monday, September 20, 2010

HCB: Apple Caramel Charlotte

I was not looking forward to this cake. For one thing, it is seven pages long. I had once thought to suggest Marie to schedule this on a holiday weekend. Before I had chance to make my suggestion, Marie posted this on the schedule for this week. It crossed my mind to skip this cake, but I knew that I would never make if had it not been for HCB, "no turning back" I thought.

Another reason why I hesitated with this cake is that this requires baking the sponge cake evenly, something that never happened to me. I thought that my "charlotte" would definitely be uneven, unlike the nice picture in the book. And then I would be sooo disappointed, having spent all the hours making the cake.

Well, on Friday, after searching a couple of liquor stores for Calvados and gotten the "Cal, what?" and "what kind of liquor is it?" I got to one that carries it. At the price tag of $45 for a 750 ml bottle, I decided against buying it. In absence of Calvados, I decided I had 2 options: 1) use regular brandy and add more apples to the poaching liquid. 2). use peach brandy and hope it works.
In the end, I used the peach brandy and added more apples to the poaching liquid.

On Saturday, while doing my mise-en-place for the sponge cake, something amazing happen. You know when you do the same thing several times, over and over, and it's always the same way, and then one day, you have those "light bulb on" in your head, like you see in cartoons. Well, I thought aha, even though I'm making 1/2 recipes, I should make the full recipe of the sponge cake, so I would have a lot of cake to play with, since they will be uneven.

So I did, made the full recipe of the sponge cake. I haven't made full recipe of sponge cake for so long that I just realized it is easier to fold the sponge cake when it's the full amount. It doesn't deflate as much as if it's 1/2 recipe. And for once, for once, the sponge cake was even. The whole sheet was an even depth. I was so happy I was jumping up and down in the kitchen.

While the cake was cooling, I poached the apples. Nothing to report on this step, it was pretty easy.

The cake cooled, and I measured twice to cut the cake per instruction. Since this is 1/2 recipe, using 7 inch pan, I had to made a 6 1/2 inch circle. That leaves me plenty of cake "strips" for the charlotte. They are brushed with the apricot preserve and into the freezer they went.

On Sunday, I finished the rest of the cake. First was lining the pan with the sliced cake. I didn't really measure as I don't know exactly what 3/8 of an inch is LOL. So I just look at the picture in the book, look at my cake slices and cut. I must say that I enjoy this process the most.

Next was the Apple Caramel Custard. Made the caramel and poured the hot poaching liquid over it. Didn't get burn this time, :) phew! Heat up and stir until all the caramel dissolved and then stir into the egg yolks, then add in the gelatin and heat the whole thing up until it's thick like lemon curd.

Next was the tricky part, and the part that I totally missed when I read the recipe. Apparently I had to time the cooling of the custard until it's a certain consistency before making the Italian meringue and whipped cream. moving on to the next step. The good thing is that the cream is not quite as fragile as the Italian meringue, so I proceeded to whip the cream, and then store it in the fridge while I want.

I gotta tell you that I must have hovered over the custard like a mama bird guarding its nest. I thought of sitting on the couch and read my book, but I knew that I would get sidetrack and then forgot about checking the custard. Plus the instruction said to stir the custard often, so I hovered and did so! After I don't know how long, the custard is almost thick enough and I made the meringue.

Then all 3 components are folded together and poured onto the charlotte mold. Into the fridge it went, for about half an hour. Now is the step that's the trickiest, making the Apple into rose design. I tried to slice the apples somewhat thin and separate the big pieces from the small pieces. With the book next to it to guide, voila, here's the Apple Rose.

Tasting impressions:
This cake is DIVINE! The apple caramel custard is a knock-your-socks-off kinda of a dessert. It is so fragrant, I can smell the caramel and the apples in it, even though it's been refrigerated. I love sponge cakes and this one is no exception a winner. As hubby puts it, "when there's a fruit in the cake, it is usually good." This one gets "at least an 8" - which is the highest score any cake every get. As Rose's cake usually gets better the next day, I am so looking forward to having my slice today :).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

HCB: Tiramisu

Heavenly Cake Bakers submissions No. 41.

Once upon a time - the time when I was using my oven as storage for pots and pans - I had an idea of trying to make tiramisu. It being my favorite dessert at that time, I thought I should learn how to make it. So, armed with store-bought ladyfingers, a hand mixer, and the Williams Sonoma's Tiramisu recipe, I attempted to make this lovely italian dessert. Everything went on smoothly, I mixed the egg yolks over simmering water and mixed it with the mascarpone. Then I whipped the cream, which btw, took forever with a hand mixer. Then fold everything together. At that time I didn't know what folding means, so who knows what I did exactly. The WS recipe used whipped egg whites. So I had my egg whites in a bowl and used my hand mixer. Well, the instruction said to "whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form." I have read somewhere that stiff peaks means that I can invert the bowl and the egg whites would not fall at all.

Not really believing this is possible and not knowing how long it would take, after 5 minutes on medium speed I thought this is impossible, and whatever literature I read that said I can invert the bowl must be wrong. So I called it good and proceeded with the recipe. The tiramisu came together nicely and into the fridge it went.Well, by the next morning, the egg whites has dissolved and I got this nice puddle of liquid at the bottom of the tiramisu. We still ate some of the tiramisu as it taste okay though the texture was less than desirable.

That was 3 years ago. I no longer use my oven for storage (heck, I have dual oven now :)). And I have since then, made the WS' tiramisu recipe many many times. I have even made my own ladyfingers - which happened because I couldn't find it at the store one day. My friends has said that it's the best tiramisu they've ever had.

That being said, let's see how Rose's recipe compared.

First, the ladyfingers. It was pretty easy and came together nicely. And I have to say that I love piping these babies.

The next thing didn't come together nicely or easily. The egg yolks, marsala, and sugar mixture was whisked on top of simmering water for 10 minutes. It thickened, all right. But it didn't triple in volume. More like doubled. I was devastated. I read the recipe again and it looks like I did everything right. So oh well, let's try this again. 2nd batch of egg yolks, marsala, and sugar. Same results.

Moving on...

Whipped mascarpone then whipped in the cooled egg yolk mixture. Then whipped some cream. To compensate for the volume-less egg yolk, I doubled the whipped cream. Then, taking cue from the WS recipe, I whisked 3 egg whites until stiff peaks, then folded it into the egg yolk mascarpone cream mixture.

Then came the best part: putting the tiramisu together. It is so easy to do and it is the part that I look forward to the most. I used coffee instead of espresso as I'm not a big coffee drinker.

Tasting impressions:
I am in tiramisu heaven. With floating ladyfingers and mascarpone cream. It is very very good. I would say that Rose's recipe won over the Williams Sonoma one. I love that Rose used sweet marsala, more fitting, seeing that this is an Italian dessert and all. When I make this again (and yes there will be many many repeat), I hope to be able to make the egg yolks triple in volume :)). If  not, I know I can use more cream and some egg whites!

Monday, September 6, 2010

HCB: Gold Ingots and Chocolate Ingots

Heavenly Cake Baker submissions No. 39 and 40.

Post caramel burn from last week's cake, I went and bought a couple of cookbooks and a financier pan. Yes, any major kitchen accident deserves a shopping therapy in my house.

To commemorate the arrival of said financier pan, I decided to make the Gold Ingots and the Chocolate Ingots that I missed. Lots of celebrating in the house, you see. But I figured that any silicone pan that cost $20 deserves some celebrating.

To avoid suffering from Ingots overloaded, I made the full recipe of Gold Ingots and 1/2 recipe of Chocolate Ingots.

The recipe is easy and similar enough. Toast almonds, grind almonds with flour. Made beurre noisette. Mix the egg whites with sugar. Then add almonds flour mixture until blended. Drizzle the beurre noisette then mix on medium low speed for 5 minutes.
For the chocolate ingots, I've added the cocoa powder into the almond flour mixture.

The hardest part of these recipes is to fill the narrow acvity of the financier pan with 30 grams of batter. The 2nd hardest part of the recipe is washing the financier pan 3 times! As I only have 1 pan, I have to bake the batter it twice.

Tasting impression:
YUM! We tried both cakes on the day of baking and on the day after. They were really good on the day of baking but the taste improves the next day. I love that they are crunchy on the outside but soft and moist on the inside. I know this post is supposed to be about the Gold Ingots but I have to say I love the Chocolate Ingots more :). I like it so much that I made 1/2 a recipe again today (and yes we are officially suffering from Ingots overload).