Sep 26, 2010

Chocolate Tomato Cake with Mystery Ganache

I am a food snob, or so I have often been told, especially by my daughters, in their more accusatory modes. And it's probably true. So not that surprising that I had a visceral negative reaction to the tomato-soup cake. Like the Ritz Cracker fake apple pie, I thought--you can do it, but why? Why substitute crackers for apples? Why dump a can of soup into a perfectly good cake? And yet, in the end I had to admit that it makes a very good, classic birthday-party-type all-American chocolate layer cake.
Also--I'll admit it--after the demanding diva Ms. Apple Charlotte, it felt good to get back to solid ground. Quick and Easy. The most difficult thing about making the ganache is chopping the chocolate. I thought I'd try the non-food-processor method because some people prefer it, but after chopping chocolate for a half hour and then still ending up with a few crunches in the ganache, I'm a food processor believer.
Whatever your method of choice, this haute-cuisine-sounding ganache just required you to mix lots of chocolate, lots of cream, and about a quarter-can of tomato soup. (I used mostly 62% Scharfenberger, with a little leftover
70% and a little milk chocolate to balance that out).
It soon turned into a richy, chocolatey (if a little runny) mixture, and I gave it a taste. Delicious....oh, but what's that aftertaste? It tastes like tomato soup.
Another taste. Yup. Could definitely taste the soup, and decided to take it on faith that the flavors would mellow out in the time it sat. I have finally learned my ganache make-ahead lesson. It takes more than a few hours for it to get to spreading consistency, and there's no way to rush it. So I made it in the morning and then got to the cake after eating dinner.
This cake is so easy! Mix together cocoa, four eggs, vanilla, and a can of soup. Jim had to use artificial light for these pictures and had a lot of trouble getting the colors of the egg yolks, cocoa, and soup.
The butter--almost a pound--is gradually added to the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda. Okay, the soup may give this recipe a demerit in my book, but massive amounts of butter? Wipe away the demerits; add extra credit.
Then the chocolate soup mixture is added gradually. The batter is lovely: thick, fluffy, and lots of it.
I tried to weigh the batter so I'd have layers of the same height, but I got confused by the tare button, so just decided that close was good enough.
It took about 30 minutes for the smaller layer to bake and about 35 minutes for the larger one. This is why I like to weigh and wish I weren't so easily confused by numbers.
It was closing in on 10:00, and I told Jim he was going to have to eat a slice of chocolate cake before going to bed. I thought he might grumble because he gets up so early, but he showed little reluctance.
And we were at the moment of truth where I had to test the ganache again. Oh ye of little faith! When will you learn to trust the master? Not a hint of tomato soup flavor, no matter how intently I tasted.

I am by no means a first-class icer, but this ganache was pretty easy to work with. It started getting a little sticky after a while, and I decided that I was at the point of diminishing returns, so I pronounced it good enough. I have a friend who insists that we'd all be much happier if we followed the "good enough" rule, although, truth be told, she's kind of a perfectionist herself.
I decided not to bother with the cookie decoration. Although I think it would be very impressive, I wanted to have just chocolate cake without the crunchiness of cookies. Also, I was running short of time--as usual--and just wanted to taste it.
A piece of this cake made a terrific bedtime snack. If you like to drink milk with cake, this would be the kind of cake you'd do it with. The cake is rich and moist, with a fine but sturdy texture. No discernible tomato taste. The ganache is rich, and does not at all remind you of a bowl of soup. Together, they're dynamite.

Jim: "Good cake. A light texture. I didn't taste any tomato soup, so I wasn't grossed out. It's not as good as a flourless chocolate cake, but I liked it."
(Jim told the two other people on the tasting panel that there was a mystery ingredient).
Jan: "I don't taste any mystery ingredient. Just chocolate cake, and I like chocolate cake."
Laurel: "There's pepper in the cake, isn't there? It's good." (I thought pepper was a good guess because it has subtle spicy undertones).

Sep 23, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

Kudos to all of us! Massive group hug! We conquered (well, sort of) the temperamental Queen of the Cakes--the Apple Caramel Charlotte. With seven, count them, seven pages of instructions.
Before I get on to the cakes, I want to give a little shout-out to Rose for the quality of the instructions, although I'll admit that their thoroughness was not apparent until AFTER I finished the cake. In retrospect, looking through the pages, I could see that she included every detail that we needed and with as much clarity as was possible, given that she was describing what is essentially visual and sensory experience. And, looking at it that way, her advice to make it again--soon--makes a lot of sense. But I'm not ready quite yet.

I also have a confession to make. One of the seven deadly sins hit me really hard. Don't worry--I didn't kill anyone. But I did suffer grievously from envy. I was so of all of you who trimmed your cake slices so tidily and evenly. Then I gradually worked my way back into equanimity. But I'm sorry to say that there was a point when I did not want to look at one more picture-perfect example.

We have two new cake bakers: Sarah and Andrea--both of whom deserve a round of applause for jumping right in and making this complicated cake as their maiden cake voyage. And talk about picture perfect! Fortunately, Sarah confessed to having to make six different versions of meringue before she got it right. And Andrea had to rescue her Bavarian cream after it set before she wanted it to. But you certainly can't tell from the final pictures that either of them had problems.
Sarah and Andrea weren't the only ones who turned out beautiful Apple Charlottes. Nor were they they only ones who had some problems with the cake.
Vicki ended up poaching two different batches of apples. First, her beautiful Pink Pearl apples turned into beautiful Pink Pearl applesauce. (Really nice-looking sauce!) But her more mundane Granny Smith apples, tinted with the Pink Pearl apple peels, also looked lovely and held their shape.
Julie was forced into a caramel re-do after she mixed up the water/sugar proportions, but she was "back on track" as soon as she fixed that little blip.
Others may not have had to do any retakes--but tfound themselves baking deep into the nighttime, when normal people were in bed. Monica, who called this cake "pure evil," may have been affected by the fact that she couldn't sleep, so she got up and padded down to the kitchen to get a head start on the Bavarian cream. Then, after she started, she decided she had to go ahead and make the whole thing. At 2:00 a.m., she finally got back to bed, vowing never to make this cake again! (But, like many of the rest of us who made similar vows, she's already weakening).
Jen had 2:00 beat as a quitting time for the Bavarian cream--she stayed up until 4:30 a.m.! Jen gets many bonus points for also showing a picture of the Ethereal Pearl Charlotte that she made for her son as a birthday cake--proving that she has mastered the Charlotte.
Shandy and Kristina both ended up with magnificent cakes, but both also struggled with the Bavarian cream. Both of them had they same experience--it set too quickly, and they ended up with a solid cream into which they had to try to whisk in the meringue and whipped cream. On the other side of trouble, Katya ran out of gelatin, leaving her with a cake that "didn't so much slice as gloop." Katya is unfazed by running out of things. She didn't have Calvados--wno needs it? She didn't have apricot preserves--what's wrong with cherry? Fewer tears in the kitchen with that attitude.
Mendy made the biscuit (in 4 separate pans) in his miraculous toaster oven, and ended up with some burned spots, but he was able to cut around them and still have plenty to spare. And cheerful Mendy willingly admitted that he "had a lot of fun with this."
Nancy B. fell victim to her own organizational skills. Her only real problem was that she lined up her cake slices in a long row, and then realized that she was going to have problems transferring them to the circular cake pan.
And Raymond soldiered on in the midst of a personal crisis, turning out a beautiful charlotte. That is dedication!
This was another week where I had a hard time picking the FEATURED BAKER. In the end, though, I decided it had to be Jenn. Our Knitty Baker ended up with a breathtakingly beautiful cake that looked like a twin to the show-stopping photo pictured in Heavenly Cakes. And not only was her cake beautifull, but also she really sailed through this long and difficult recipe, showing that she's mastered many of the steps that I feel that I'm still working on. (Not that there's anything wrong with still working on something!). Congratulations again to all of us!

I'm going to be out of town for a week. With any luck, I'll get my chocolate tomato cake done before I leave, and have it ready to post sometime Monday. Do you all have your cans of Campbell's condensed tomato soup? I know that some of you who don't live in the U.S. may have trouble finding this, and I don't know if there's an easily available substitute. If you can't find condensed soup, I think it would be difficult to substitute something because the soup is kind of the point of the cake.

The week after that I'm giving you a twofer. If you make your own brioche loaf, you'll be able to cross two things off the Still-to-be-Baked list. I know that some of you have a fear of yeast, but I've made this bread already--it's waiting in the freezer for me to use for the Caramelized Pineapple Pudding Cakes with Homemade Brioche. If you want to take a shortcut, of course you can use non-homemade brioche, but the brioche loaf is a surprisingly easy bread--you can easily spread it out over the course of a few days, because it can go in the refrigerator at any point. It makes a rich, buttery bread that is wonderful to have on hand (my only regret is that I didn't double the recipe). If you'd like to try your hand at a loaf of bread that will make you feel good about making it, I encourage you to give it a try.

Because I'll be gone, there will be no mid-week post next week, so good luck on the tomato soup cake!

Sep 19, 2010

Apple Caramel Charlotte

As I was baking on a spectacularly beautiful fall Saturday, I kept hearing Woody's words echoing in my ears: "The Apple Caramel Charlotte is the biggest pain in the ass in the entire book." Truer words were never spoken.
Although the cake ended up tasting delicious, putting it together is not the kind of thing I enjoy, and, as I have noticed to be so often the case, the projects that require a lot of fine motor coordination are not the ones at which I excel. This cake was definitely aesthetically challenged--mostly through my own errors. But I have no desire to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again--at least not with the apple caramel charlotte. For that, once is enough.
I made the cake over the course of a few days, and Jim took about 150 pictures of the process, but I'm going to condense the steps in order not to have the world's longest blog post.
Poaching the Apples:
This was the most satisfying part of the whole process. I picked up some Zestar apples, the University of Minnesota's newest entry in the apple hybridization sweepstakes. (Seriously. They make a lot of money from those apples).
Baking the Biscuit:
I've shown the Miraculous Transformation of the Eggs photos on this blog a million times. You've just got to let your KitchenAid do its thing.
For some reason, it only took 5 minutes for this biscuit to bake to a golden brown. Maybe it was a little thinner than usual.
Cutting the Parts:
You know what they say--measure twice, cut once. It's probably even truer in cakery than in carpentry. If you mess up with the cake measuring, you have to bake a whole new cake. Easier just to grab another piece of wood.
I was feeling pretty confident that I'd measured carefully and that I had four even rectangles.
Well, they turned out not to be quite as even as I'd hoped, and the final stack was listing a bit, but I put the listing stack in the freezer. I now believed that there was a fighting chance for me to finish the cake before we went out for dinner and a play with our friends June and David. I got a little surge of energy.
Making the Bavarian Cream:
Remember the apples I poached a few days earlier? Time to get the poaching liquid out of the refrigerator, heat it up, and pour it into some caramelized sugar.
This caramel sugar syrup is added gradually to about five egg yolks. The idea is not to make scrambled eggs.
But, of course, even though you've just made this complicated egg yolk/caramelized sugar/gelatin mixture, you're not done yet. Oh no. This is a three-component Bavarian cream. Next comes the Italian meringue.
I was starting to get tired and crabby. I hadn't had time to take a shower yet, and we were closing in on the time that June and David were going to pick us up. My feet hurt, and I was snapping at my photographer. But I managed to whip the cream and whisk it into the Bavarian cream, after first whisking in the Italian meringue.
Making the Walls of the Cake:
This is where I really screwed up. I thought I was being so precise, because I measured off a 3/8-inch piece, cut it, measured another, cut it, and so forth. But after cutting a number of pieces, I noticed that I was supposed to end up with 20 slices in order to have enough to line the mold. I started making them much smaller, but still only ended up with 16 uneven slices. Just the fate I'd hoped to avoid.
Fortunately, I'd saved the scraps and slapped together some last-minute strips, but they weren't the same size and shape (as the first ones or as each other). My goals now shifted. I was no longer hoping for "magnificent." I'd be satisfied with "not butt-ugly." But I wasn't sure I was going to get there.
Filling the Cake:
Jim and I both tasted the finished Bavarian cream, and agreed that it was excellent. I still hadn't had time for a shower, but the sugar gave me a nice rush, and I was actually seeing the end in sight.
Forming the Apple "Rose":
The cake-strip debacle made me afraid to cut the apple slices too thickly or placing the slices too tightly--I didn't want to run out of apples too! I think I over-compensated because I had plenty of apples left and some naked places showing.
Still, although you might not say "Oh, nice rose shape," when looking at the cake, you would probably not burst into laughter upon being told it was supposed to look like a rose.
The glaze gave the apple slices a nice shine. I was so happy that I'd noticed I needed arrowroot (not a pantry staple) for the glaze. If I'd had to run to the grocery store late Saturday afternoon for arrowroot, I'd have shot myself. Luckily for me, I didn't have to try to find a gun.
I had just enough time for a quick shower before June and David picked us up. When they came I told them we were coming back here for dessert after the play whether they liked it or not. They agreed. I noticed that they exchanged glances that looked like they were telling each other not to cross me.
Serving the Cake
Five hours later, we returned for the promised dessert. I showed June and David the seven pages of instructions. June asked me if I'd ever make it again. "Absolutely not!" I said. "What if someone really old wanted a piece?" I allowed that I might make it for someone really old and frail if the old, frail person wanted it. Luckily for me, Jim was the oldest person in the room, and he didn't want a repeat.

David: "Extraordinary! I really like it when you get a little piece of cake with each bite."
June: "I really like it. I even think it's worth making it again, and you could really perfect it if you made it a second time. But I'm sorry it was a pain in the butt for you."
Jim: "I liked the flavors of the individual components, but I didn't think they blended together very well at all. I know you worked hard on it, but I think it's my least favorite of the cakes you've baked."

Sep 15, 2010

Last Cake(s), Next Cake

Free choice weeks are nice for me--I don't have to bake something unless I feel like it, and I get all those trips down memory lane--"oh, I remember how much I liked that cake," or "Now I remember how that cake fell apart in my hands."  This week there was lots of participation, as well as just a mite of anxiety about progress on the road to completion of the project.
We are just about a year into this project, by the way--and congratulations to those of us who are still going at it, week after week.  Raymond suggested that it would be fun to think about what cakes have been our favorites, and to have a poll.  So start thinking about what 10 cakes you'd include in your list of favorites so far.  The first week of October, we'll have an official poll.

What's amazing about the list of this week's cakes was the variety--there was just one overlap (and there would have been none if Jennifer hadn't decided to make two cakes!)

Vicki:  Barcelona Brownie Bars  ("full of chocolate, roasted pecans and more chocolate in the form of ganache. It's a simple recipe and judging how quickly they disappeared, will go on the Please Make Again list.")

Lynnette:  Lemon (Lime) Meringue Cake ("Overall I think this is a tasty cake.  I like the smooth filling, the flowery flavor of lime, and the light meringue topping,")

Lois:  Yellow Butter Cupcakes with Dreamy Creamy (chocolate) Frosting  ("The cake is tender and buttery with a crisp crust - and did I say quick and easy?")

Hanaa:  Spice Cake with Whipped Molasses Cream Cheese Frosting ("I'll definitely increase the amount of spices next time. As for the cake's texture: melt-in-your-mouth tender! Yum.")  By the way, Hanaa took this cake to a fund-raising bakesale to aid the flood victims in Pakistan.

Julie:  Torta de las Tres Leches  ("We really loved this cake. I liked how easy it was and we loved the flavor of it. We will definitely make this again.")
ButterYum:  Designer Baby Grands  Not strictly a catch-up cake, this was ButterYum's attempt to get the recipe just to her liking, which she managed by making the cupcakes smaller ("I guess the saying is true, because the third time really was the charm for me to finally get these cupcakes to turn out like the ones pictured in Rose's Heavenly Cakes")

Shandy.:  The Bostini.  Not a catch-up either, but an enthusiastic make-ahead.  ("Vanilla pastry cream, orange chiffon cupcake batter, and a delicious chocolate butter glaze; what is not to love?")

Katya:  Chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake ("Angel food cake is one of those fun food substances that is all texture, like marshmallows, cotton candy, or pop rocks, all but the latter of which it strongly resembles. Looks like cotton, squishes into candy, tastes sweeter than should be allowed, and uses up a large egg white overrun from Rosh Hashanah challahs.")

Jen:  Lemon Poppyseed Sour Cream Cake  ("/Super delicious.  My favourite parts are the crunch the lemon glaze produces and the poppy seeds gently exploding in the mouth.")

Mendy:  Double Chocolate Whammy Groom's Cake.   A third cake that's not a catch-up because it's not on the official list, but it joins potato kugel in a guest appearance from "Mrs. Mendy." ("When at long last we sat down to have the cake on Rosh Hashanah we realized that we weren't supposed to eat walnuts because the word "egoz" which means walnut has the same numerical value as "sin!"  I suppose sin is an appropriate concept for a cake that is made up of brownies, chocolate cake, and a heavy dose of bourbon."

Kristina:  Golden Lemon Almond Cake  ("We brought it to our friends' cottage. It was a big hit.  Between 5 of us, we ate more than half the cake Friday night, and the rest disappeared the next morning.  Jay's convinced there has to be a some way to improve it, though.  He wants me to keep making it until I find a way.")

Nancy B:  German Chocolate Cake  ("Put this cake in the winner column.")

Raymond:  Marble Velvet Cake  ("This cake was delicious.  Not too sweet and perfect with coffee or tea and a good book.")

Jennifer:  Sicilian Pistachio Cake ("Although this cake was low on my list of cakes to bake, and without the HCB (or Joelf) I probably would have never made the cake at all, I am really glad I did.") AND Marble Velvet Cake ("Rose really goes to town with this sour creram bundt, as the batter uses only egg yolks (six to seven of them!), a cup of sour cream, and a little over two sticks of butter.  That, my friends, is a lot of fat.  It makes this cake dense, rich, and truly velvety.  She wasn't just usinjg pretty words when she named this a Velvet Cake.")

And so these cakes have been crossed off the "To be baked" list for the bakers, and the last crumbs probably eaten up by now.  Good work, gang!

Well, you know what awaits us next--the Apple Caramel Cake with 7 full pages of instructions!  But we can do it!  Right?  Can't we? 
The week after that, we go from the (possibly) sublime to the (possibly) ridiculous:  the only cake that I haven't wanted to make (not counting the cakes I dread making) in the whole book--the tomato soup chocolate cake.  I'm reminding myself to keep an open mind.

Sep 12, 2010

Peach Upside-Down Cake (Free Choice)

I could have taken this week off, but I was in a baking kind of mood, (at least I was before I got sick), so I decided to do a variation of a cake I'd already done. The apple upside-down cake became a peach upside-down cake, and the results were superb in this end-of-the-summer, abundant-peach season.
Last October 19, when I posted the results of the apple-walnut upside-down cake, I lamented that peach season was over so I'd have to wait until next year. Am I glad that I remembered!
I wouldn't like to do any comparing of the virtues of peach and apple upside-down cake, because, well, that would be comparing apples and peaches. The cake part is exactly the same, so if you want to see what's involved, you can just click on that post.
There are a couple of things about the peaches that I want to point out. First, I nearly scoffed at and ignored Rose's instructions on how to peel a peach. Peaches aren't hard to peel, I said to myself. They don't need any help. But, being the dutiful girl that I am, I went ahead and poured boiling water on the peaches,
let them steep for one minute, and then moved them into another bowl of ice water.

Look how that peach peel comes off with the merest whisper of encouragement.
Now I suppose you could argue over whether it's worth getting two pans dirty for such ease of peeling, and I'll admit I wouldn't do it every time I peel a peach, but for making a pie (or an upside-down cake, I'm a convert).
There was just one other major difference between the two cakes. I had the almonds ready to strew over the peach cake, but I just couldn't bring myself to sully their peachiness. And, believe me, I am not in the camp that thinks of nuts as a sullying agent. In fact, there's almost nothing that can't be improved by nuts--except maybe this lovely peach upside-down cake.

Erika: "I love this cake, and I'm having a second piece. It's perfect. The cake isn't too heavy, and the peaches taste really fresh."
Anna: "It's really good. I think it's better with peaches than it would be with apples."
Jim: "Delicious. I really like the cake. The whipped cream is a nice addition, but it doesn't need it."
Karen: "The texture is good. It's very moist, but not too heavy."

Sep 9, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

I usually write the midweek blog post on Wednesday because that's midweek. But if you really want to feel sorry for me, you'll have to know that I've come down with the flu, and nothing I'm saying makes any sense to me. There was almost no consensus about these ingots. Jennifer thought they were "crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, --they exceeded her expectations." On the other hand, Raymond, who we know is crazy about brown butter and vanilla, wasn't crazy about these. He thought they were "dense and dry and almost totally lacking in flavor." Just to show that it's chacun a son gout
, Vicki thought the flavor was wonderful and that they didn't last long in her house. Sugar Chef was also not a big fan of the peanut butter ingots, although you couldn't tell it by looking at the beautiful job she did. She didn't think they were very flavorful, but she
peanut butter would be better., and she "doctored them with buttercream rosettes and chocolate transfers left over from the cake in the previous post."
Mendy falls squarely in the undecided category: "good but not great." Julie made plain ingots as well as fancy ones, and she was definitely in the running for featured baked until I remembered she got it just last week. Buy hrt ganache-covered ingots and the ingots swimming in vanilla sauce look just amazing.

Our FEATURED BAKER is Lynette. How could I not choose Lynette because she's a big fan of financiers, unlike some of us who had never heard of them AND she made all three kinds--vanilla, peanut butter, and chocolate. Lynette didn't think the gold ingots were quite as flavorful as her stand-by financier, but she plans to add the peanut butter and chocolate versions to her financier rotation.

Next week is another Free Choice week. As we begin to have the end of this project in sight (even if still way off in the distance), it's time to look at the cakes that I made before the Cake Bakers began--just about this time last year.
Here's a list of the 21 (yes, 21!) cakes I made before we became an official group. You should be able to find plenty of cakes on this list of 21.

1. May 31, 2009: Spice Cake with Peanut Buttercream Frosting
2. May 30: Yellow Butter Cupcakes with Chocolate-Egg White Buttercream
3. June 1: She Loves Me Cake
4. June 8: Torta des las Tres Leches
5. June 9: Black Chocolate Party Cake
6. June 15: Financiers au Chocolat
7. June 22: Ginger Cheesecake with Gingerbread Crust
8. June 29: Chocolate Raspberry Trifle
9. July 6: Golden Lemon Almond Cake
10. July 13: Banana Refrigerator Cake with Dreamy Creamy White Chocolate Frosting
11. July 20: Tiramisu
12. July 27: Apple Cinnamon Crumb Cake
13. August 3: Heavenly Seduction Coconut Cake
14. August 10: Plum Round Ingots
15. August 17: Rose Red Velvet Cake
16. August 24: Red Berry Shortcake
17. August 31: Deep Chocolate Rosebuds
18. September 7: No-Bake Whipped Cream Cheesecake
19. September 14: Marble Velvet Cake
20. September 21: German Chocolate Cake
21. September 28: White Gold Passion Genoise

Cheers to Nancy B. are in order while we're talking about record numbers of cakes. I think she is the only person who has made every cake since we started last October, although I know some others have come close. If there's anyone else who hasn't missed a cake, let me know.

The week after the Free Choice week, we have the Apple Caramel Charlotte in store. I read the instructions over at least three times, and I think I'm starting to understand how it works. I also see any number of places in the recipe that could cause a person of minimal self-control to throw whatever she's working on across the kitchen.

Sep 5, 2010

Gold Ingots

The hardest part of making these tasty little morsels is not the beurre noisette, nor is it toasting the almonds--both of which I grumbled last week might take them out of the quick and easy category. Indeed, they were quick and easy, even though I got out the dreaded piping bag for neatness in placing the batter.  No, the hardest thing is getting the #%^#& ingots out of the pan in one piece.  This was particularly difficult since I added a raspberry to the center of each bar, making the middle very fragile. The good part was that Jim and I were forced to gobble up all the imperfect ingots. FORCED, I say!

If you've made any version of these ingots--or financiers--you know the drill: toast the almonds, brown the butter, grind the almonds, make the batter, fill the molds.

In this case, we not only browned some of the butter, but some was just plain melted. I truly don't understand the chemistry behind this, but Drew Shotts of Rhode Island Confectionary promnised Rose that they were the most melt-in-your-mouth financiers ever, and I can't say he's wrong.

Rose says you can use a spoon to fill the financier pans, but you really should use a pastry bag if you're any kind of human being at all. Or words to that effect.
So I got out the pastry bag. In truth, I was a bit pouty at the pastry bag idea, because it usually spells disaster. But I'll admit that filling the pans from the pastry bag was much slicker than glopping it in with a spoon.
Plus I like the Dairy Queen-like swirl that you get at the end of the batter. The key to successful piping, in my opinion, is that whatever you're piping has to be soft enough to go through the tip without getting stuck. So this batter was much easier than a stiffer buttercream. This is probably obvious.

A great new bakery opened up just a few blocks from my house in South Minneapolis: the 46 Patisserie., at 46th and Grand. They have financiers there--the first time I've ever seen them outside my kitchen. I now realize I'm so cutting edge that master French bakers will copy me. Actually, owner John Krause is a former pastry chef at Chicago's French Pastry School, and he's not copying me. I am copying him in carefully inserting a fresh raspberry in the center of the batter, which only improved this already excellent little unassuming pastry.
I probably shouldn't have pushed it down into the batter because the batter rose and nearly covered up the raspberry. It would have been more attractive if you could have seen more of the berry on top. But that's just a quibble. I'm pretty happy with the way these turned out.

It's my favorite of the three financiers I've made. The flavor of the butter really shines in this version, whereas the stronger flavors of chocolate and peanut butter masked its purity in the other ingot incarnations.


Doug: "Really good. I liked the aftertaste, and it was nice and moist."
Karen: "I liked the texture. The cake is delicious. I wouldn't have minded a bigger piece."
Jim: "Exceptionally good cake. I liked the raspberry inside, but it wouldn't have needed it. The cake tastes good on its own. I always like the cakes that are a little crunchy on the outside."

Sep 1, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

First, you may have noticed that we have two new members, both of whom are introducing themselves with the chocolate cake with caramel ganache. Jen, who is from Malaysia, baked hers in a heart-shaped pan for an attractive result, and declares that this ganache is her "current favorite chocolate ganache." Yes, I know we already have a Jenn and a Jennifer, and that this will be confusing.
Fortunately, our second new baker is Shandy, which doesn't sound anything like anyone else's name. Shandy's ganache is very skillfully done, and her cake looks great, even though her first try at the caramel ended up as burnt sugar. Jenn (that's Jenn with two Ns) burned a batch, separated a batch, and burned her hand in the process. But that didn't stop her from an all-out burst of decorating, complete with chocolate pearls and hardened caramel shards.
Shandy and Jenn weren't the only ones who required more than one attempt for the ganache. In fact, the posts this week were almost all about the ganache, with the cake being almost an afterthought. For example, Nicola (welcome back to the fold!) described the ganache as "the business.... [I]ncredible. If they made face cream like that, plastic surgeons would be out of business." Mendy put it most succinctly:  "The ganache really stole the show with this cake."
The burning question of the week (other than "is the sugar burning?") was ganache-related: "Does this ganache taste enough like caramel to be called a caramel ganache or is it just a heckuva good chocolate ganache?"
Some opinions:
Raymond: "While most definitely chocolate, [the ganache] has a very pleasing caramel aftertaste."
Katya: "This one is like the best chocolate in the box, the one you spy and wait for, and know is the best because it is square and has chewy caramel inside."
Nancy B.: "The caramel and unsweetened chocolate combination was just right, dark and sweet and caramel-ly."
Vicki: "The chocolate is exquisite with the faint caramel undertone. Everyone liked it. Next time, however, I'm pouring the caramel cream over the cake without adding chocolate."
Kristina (Jay): "With caramel in the name, I expect to actually be able to taste the caramel. It’s good, but it’s not caramel."
Lola: "When first tasting, it seemed somewhat bitter. After allowing it to rest overnight in the refrigerator, the frosting had mellowed into a decadent taste sensation." By the way, Lola is leaving tomorrow for her annual trip north to the U.S. We'll hear from her again in about a month.
Jennifer: "A surprise caramel flavor in the ganache."
Your opinion of the ganache really affected your final verdict of the cake. For example, Monica, who was quite fond of the cake, nevertheless concluded that, "While [the ganache] did harden up a bit, it was not to the frosting consistency. I threw the towel and ended pouring it over the cake and gave myself a big hard “FAIL”."
And even thought Gartblue got some rave reviews on the cake, she was just so-so about the ganache: "The ganache was alright. Mine tasted a little too bittersweet, makes me wonder if my sugar was burnt."
There were some gorgeous, gorgeous cakes this week, making my own Melting Morass look even sadder than it did when I first posted it. (Yes, I know it's not all about me!) But Julie, this week's FEATURED BAKER really took the cake this week! (I've been trying so hard not to say "take the cake," but I couldn't help myself any longer.)  You just have to go take a look at her chocolate cake. Julie loves chocolate--she said she couldn't figure out what all the complaining about too much chocolate was all about. "This is something I really cannot comprehend."
As with other bakers, Julie had some misadventures with the caramel. She checked her thermometer dutifully, waiting for the temperature to go up to 370. Suddenly she realized that her thermometer only went to 300 degrees, which pretty much explained why the caramel wasn't getting hotter. But it turned out all right, although she was on the "would have preferred more caramel flavor" side of the chocolate ganache debate. Then, after she finished frosting the cake beautifully, she piped on more decoration--elaborate designs in a caramel hue to complete the theme of the cake in color. You know that I've confessed many times to suffering from piping envy, but don't you think I'm justified in this case?

Next week, we do another Quick and Easy cake (although I question whether a cake that requires toasted nuts and beurre noisette should be on the list); and that's what you need to do to make the Gold Ingots. After that, another Free Choice, so you can do whatever makes you happy before we tackle the Apple Caramel Charlotte, which nobody is ever going to call quick and easy.