Tart vs. Prostitute

I decided to make a new dessert for Passover this year. Of course, leavening agents, such as flour, yeast etc are prohibited from Passover foods, so the chocolate/orange tart I was considering was out… or was it?

My research into Passover prohibitions and tarts logically led me to a discussion of the difference between tarts and prostitutes. Using the Wiki dictionary (the source of all truths) I find the word prostitute, as a verb, is to use one’s talents in return for money, or fame, or perhaps a few nights lodging, whereas a tart, as a noun, is a small open pie, or piece of pastry. Dictionaries are like statistics: what do you want them to say?

This research actually stemmed from looking at the story of Solomon deciding which woman was the real mother by offering to split the child with his sword and giving half to each woman. The women were actually prostitutes, but their profession was either superfluous to the story, and Solomon’s decision, or not, depending on the interpretation. And, of course, as usual in midrash, there are many more opinions than “opinioners.”

I find it interesting that a judge can rule on a case 3000 years ago by purely considering the facts of the case and not the legal standing of the two women. Some say wisdom began flowing from his mouth when he threatened to cut the child in half. Today so many people with questionable legal standing are unable to appeal to the legal establishment for fear of reprisal due not to the injury they may have sustained but rather for the superfluous state of their resident status. And therefore, so often judgement is rendered without any wisdom present.Almond Flour Tart Shell

Anyway, I decided an almond flour tart shell with chocolate mousse and orange zest swirl is appropriate and fitting for our Passover this year. I made a shell to be confident it would have the taste and texture required, and it did. It doesn’t roll our like a standard AP flour
dough, but can be formed into the tart shell by hand and pastry weights should keep the shape well enough to form the final tart. Because there is less binding agent in almond flour, I doubled the amount of egg.  I will probably increase the almond flour content by 25-50% to make the dough easier to handle and hopefully a little more pastry-like. The chocolate and orange ingredients are allowed anyway, substituting almond flour for AP flour where appropriate.

Please pass over me when the gefilte fish is served!

INGREDIENTS

For the Tart Shell

  • 100 g cold butter cut into small cubes
  • 200 g almond flour (I may increase this by 50g, not sure yet)
  • 60 g icing sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs (100g)

For the Chocolate Filling

  • 75g butter
  • 115g dark chocolate (no more than 60% cocoa solids), finely chopped
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 55g almond flour
  • 4 medium eggs

For the Orange Filling

  • 25g butter
  • 50g white chocolate
  • 1 orange, finely grated zest only
  • 35g caster sugar
  • 25g almond flour
  • 2 medium egg yolks

METHOD

Tart Shell

  1. Mix butter with sugar (I break up the chunks of butter by rubbing them into the sugar with my hands)
  2. Add salt then vanilla
  3. Add egg and mix well
  4. Stir in flour. Mix by hand until incorporated. I did this in 3 parts mixing well between each.
  5. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 min until it firms up a bit.
  6. Butter (spray) tartlet pan
  7. Coat hands with flour and press the sticky dough into tart mold
  8. Prick holes in bottom and sides of formed dough
  9. Add pastry weights to the pan
  10. Bake in preheated oven 350o F (175o C) for 17 – 20 min
    1. Remove pastry weights with 5 min left in the bake
    2. Remove pastry shells from pans and let cool on wire rack

Chocolate Filling

  1. Melt the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water until melted and smooth.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar and flour.
  3. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and leave to stand.

Orange Filling

  1. Melt the butter and white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water until melted and smooth.
  2. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange zest, sugar and flour.
  3. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time and pour the mixture into a bowl.

Assemble and Bake the Tart

  1. Place the tart shell on a baking tray.
  2. Pour the chocolate mixture into the shell.
  3. Drizzle or pipe the orange filling over the chocolate filling to create a swirl effect.
  4. Draw a tooth stick through the filling to create a marbled effect.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until just set around the edges, but still slightly wobbly in the centre.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, until warm but not piping hot, then serve. It is actually very good cold also.

Jocondularity, Jocondularity, Jocondularity. (M*A*S*H Father Mulcahey Omage)

The weather was, and still is, unusually cold the past few weeks here in the Sierra Nevada foothills. A cup of hot chocolate is a welcome, warming treat. A Hot Chocolate Joconde cake ain’t too shabby either.  I made a variation of Amanda Faber’s (The Great American Baking Show champion) Hot Chocolate Cake. First I reduced the recipe by 1/3rd to suit my family’s and tasters (who happen to be the same people) appetites and thinking marshmallow pairs properly with hot chocolate, I substituted mint marshmallow frosting for the mint vanilla butter cream. The first modification was a good choice, although it added a couple of challenges, the second did not work as well as I hoped. The marshmallow frosting did not set firm which resulted in smeared lines between the layers. It looked ok for a few jaconde-servings-close-upminutes, but the frosting started to flow a short time later. The other issue was tempering a small amount of chocolate. Because the cake was 1/3rd the original size I cut the
chocolate glaze to about 1/3rd as well. That mean starting with 40g of bittersweet chocolate and adding 20 g to temper. Accurately measuring and stabilizing the temperature of small amounts of chocolate and controlling the temperature is a challenge. I think I was lucky as the resultant glaze was well tempered and glossy.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cake Amanda Faber – The following is the full recipe as posted by the GABS with comments by me reflecting any modifications.

INGREDIENTS

Chocolate Joconde

  • 171g almond flour
  • 171g confectioners sugar
  • 171g all-purpose flour
  • 45g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 9 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolk
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 96g granulated sugar
  • 84g (2tbsp) unsalted butter, melted

Peppermint Buttercream

  • 1/2c water
  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 226g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1tsp pure peppermint extract

Chocolate Glaze

  • 80g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 200g bittersweet chocolate chips, divided

Chocolate Milk Soak

  • 1tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2c water
  • 115g granulated sugar
  • 1/2tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2tsp pure chocolate extract
  • 1tbsp heavy whipping cream

METHOD

Chocolate Joconde – Remember I only made 1/3rd of this recipe, so only made one pan of sponge

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400° F/205° C .
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the almond flour, confectioners sugar, flour, and cocoa.
  3. Add eggs and egg yolk. Mix on high for 5 minutes. Set aside.
  4. Put a new bowl on the stand mixer and change to a whisk attachment. Whisk the egg whites with the granulated sugar until soft peaks.
  5. Fold half of the egg whites in to the other mixture. Then, stir in the melted butter.
  6. Fold in the rest of the egg whites.
  7. Using a scale with a bowl on top divided batter evenly among 3 sheet pans. Spread with off-set spatula to smooth.
  8. Bake one at a time for ~7 minutes.
  9. When the sponge is removed from the oven, slice around the edges to loosen.
  10. Invert the cake on to a large cutting board covered with a piece of parchment paper. Cool.

Peppermint Buttercream – I didn’t make this frosting. I used the marshmallow below

  1. In a heavy-bottomed sauce pan over high heat, boil the water and sugar until 238° F/114° C.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks for one minute.
  3. Once the sugar has reached the proper temperature, stream it in to the stand mixer with eggs while it is running.
  4. Beat until completely cooled, 5-7 minutes.
  5. Beat in the butter little by little until thick and smooth.
  6. Add in the peppermint extract.

Chocolate Glaze – using 60 g of chocolate rather than 200 g was challenging

  1. Over a bain-marie, gently melt the butter and 170g of the chocolate. Stir constantly to keep an even temperature.
  2. Once melted and smooth, stir in the remaining 30g of chocolate.
  3. Cool until room temperature but still liquid. Reheat if necessary.

Chocolate Milk Soak

  1. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium-high heat, stir the cocoa powder, water, and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Stir in the vanilla extract, chocolate extract, and heavy whipping cream.

ASSEMBLY

  1. Assembly the cake on a large cutting board.
  2. Soak the first cake with the chocolate milk soak. Cover with a thin layer of buttercream. Repeat with remain two layers. The top layer of buttercream should be very, very thin. You should see the cake through it in all places. It’s only there to make it smooth.
  3. Pour on the chocolate glaze. Spread it to be smooth. It’s okay if it runs off.
  4. Chill the cake for ~10-15 minutes.
  5. Cut in to 12 equal pieces, probably about 4×1.5 inches.
  6. Garnish each cake bar with a marshmallow and a mint leaf. (I had the mint leaf, but not marshmallows so I skipped this. It was for tasting anyway.)

SUBSTITUTED MINT MARSHMALLOW FROSTING

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 tablespoons cool water, plus more for the double boiler
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Pour some water, about 2 inches deep, into a saucepan to create a makeshift double boiler. Put the pan on the stove and bring the water to a gentle simmer. Dip the instant-read thermometer into the simmering water to clean any impurities off the end and to test that the thermometer works.
  2. In a clean, large mixing bowl, combine the 5 tablespoons of cool water, cream of tartar, sugar, egg whites and corn syrup. Gently lower the bowl over the simmering water. Turn off the heat under the pot. Use an electric hand beater to whip the whites over the water. Do not leave the egg white mixture unattended or stop beating any time during this process.
  3. After about 3 minutes, remove the bowl from the heat, set the beater down and quickly take the temperature of the egg whites. You want them to reach 140 degrees F. If you measure the temperature before they reach that point, immediately put the bowl of whites back over the water and resume beating until they are finished, an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Remove the bowl from the water and fold in the vanilla extract. It should look like marshmallow fluffiness. Set the frosting aside to allow the mixture to cool. Frost the cake by, as my father used to say, “glopping” the frosting all over the top and the sides. Serve immediately

 

Nearly Neapolitan Mousse Cake

As Nearly Headless Nick cannot join the hunt because of a technicality, this dessert is only nearly a Neapolitan Mousse Cake due to a couple of technicalities. Picky, picky picky.

neapolitanish-cake-3

The chocolate ice cream base is actually almond chocolate cake. the vanilla ice cream is white chocolate mousse, much like a white chocolate ganache but lighter and airier as the cream is whipped, and the strawberry ice cream is raspberry mousse, because I like raspberries.

I have to be honest, this dessert takes some time and patience. Experimenting with the cake recipe (two tries), making the mice, mousses, err… white and pink fillings took 2 or three recipes each adjusting the amount of pectin, when to add it, the amount of whipped cream and how much to whip it. The whipped cream for the raspberry has to be whipped to firm peaks while the white chocolate should be soft peaks. I have removed gelatin from my pantry and replaced it with pectin. Gelatin is easier and fine if you like processed skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals such as domesticated cattle, chicken, pigs, and fish. I don’t. Pectin is sourced from fruit and vegetable peels. I am sure there are some nasty processing steps, but at least it didn’t start with Bessie or Babe or Miss Piggy.

The almond cake uses almond flour instead of food processor ground baked almonds. Its easier and I had some. The batter is pretty low viscosity but don’t worry, it about doubles in thickness in the oven. After cut, wrap the cake disks in plastic and they will stay fresh for 2 or 3 days so you can make them ahead.

I ordered some 3 mil acetate sheets online. I cut them to size (10 x 41/2″), cut 10 paper bands to hold the acetates in place around the cake. This obviated (not obliviate, we want to remember this recipe) the requirement to tape the acetate. I hope to use them again.

The vanilla mousse sets quickly so work with some speed. Varying the whipping time – Tied to the Whipping Post – can create a thinner mousse, but too short a time can make the mousse dense. I like to pipe the mice, mousses, errr… fillings so I can control the thickness of each layer.

The raspberry fruit has the most powerful flavor, but is the trickiest to make just right. Pectin requires sugar and acid to cross link. Pectin’s structure binds with water in an acid environment and sugar increases pectin’s ability to gel. The lemon juice (I used key lime juice, it was in the fridge) provides the acid and the berries and sugar provide the sugar environment. Vary the amount of each and when to add them. The method below worked well for me.

Neapolitan Mousse Cake

CHOCOLATE ALMOND CAKE

INGREDIENTS

  • 200 g (¾ cup + 2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 30 g (¼ cup) unsweetened cocoa
  • 60 g (½ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 120 g (1 cup) almond flour
  • 225 g (1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 5 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 180° C (350° F). Line rimmed jelly roll pan with non-stick baking paper or silicone baking mat. Be sure to line the sides as well.
  2. In small saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat, occasionally swirling pan, until it begins to brown and smells nutty, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, using fine mesh sieve, sift cocoa two times. Then sift together cocoa (for a third time), flour, almond flour and sugar, baking powder and salt into mixing bowl.
  4. Add egg whites, one at-a-time, whisking until just combined after each addition (do not over mix).
  5. Stir the vanilla into the cooled butter.
  6. Gradually pour the vanilla-butter in a thin, steady stream into the batter, whisking to just combine. (Kitchenaid with beater on level 2)
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared jelly roll pan.
  8. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean, about 22 minutes. Poke the cake gently, the depression of your finger should bounce back.
  9. Remove from oven and transfer to wire rack. Let stand 5 minutes, transfer cake to wire rack. Let stand until cooled completely.
  10. Using a 2½” ring cutter, cut 10 round mini cakes from the cooled sheet cake.
  11. Line rimmed baking sheet with non-stick baking paper or silicone baking mat. Arrange cakes on baking sheet, spacing 2½ cm (1-inch) apart.

 VANILLA MOUSSE

 INGREDIENTS

  • 200 g white chocolate, cut fine
  • 350 g heavy whipping cream

METHOD

  1. Melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave. Heat 30 sec, then check the chocolate and stir. Heat another 30 seconds and stir again. Heat 15 seconds and stir. The chocolate should be liquid but not boiling. If more time in required keep reducing the time by 5 sec and check. Do not over cook.
  2. Whip the heavy cream until it forms soft peaks. If you overwhip the chocolate/cream mixture will set to quickly and will not form smooth even layers.
  3. Gently fold the liquid chocolate into the whipped cream using a figure 8 pattern. Be sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
  4. Add to a piping bag and fill the acetate cylinder with about an inch of vanilla mousse.

RASPBERRY MOUSE

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon powdered pectin
  • 175 g fresh raspberries (about 1 pint)
  • 2½ tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup cold heavy cream

METHOD

  1. Place lemon juice in a small bowl and sprinkle with pectin. Let sit until pectin softens, 3 minutes.
  2. In a blender, puree raspberries until smooth, scraping down bowl as needed.
  3. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a measuring cup, pressing on solids (you should have about 1/3 cup of puree); discard solids.
  4. In a small saucepan, combine raspberry puree and 2½ Tbsp sugar over medium. Cook until bubbles form at edge. Add pectin mixture and cook, stirring constantly, just until gelatin dissolves, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a small bowl and let cool to room temperature, 20 minutes.
  5. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat cream and 1 Tbsp sugar on medium-high until firm peaks form, about 4 minutes. Do not over mix.
  6. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in raspberry puree mixture in 3 parts until combined.
  7. Add raspberry mousse to a piping bag and fill the acetate cylinders with about an inch of mousse.
  8. Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours (or up to overnight).

 DARK CHOCOLATE GANACHE

 INGREDIENTS

  • 120 ml (½ cup) heavy cream, 35%
  • 113 g (4 ounces) dark chocolate, 70%

METHOD

  1. In a small saucepan, bring cream and corn syrup just to boil (small bubbles beginning to form around the sides of the pan) over medium heat, stirring until corn syrup is dissolved.
  2. Meanwhile, finely chop the chocolate and place in small bowl.
  3. Pour the cream mixture over the chocolate and let stand, 2 minutes. You may not need all the cream. I pour some to just wet the chocolate, wait a minute and stir. If it is too thick, I add more cream, too thin, more chocolate.
  4. Using a flexible spatula, gently stir together beginning in the center of the bowl gradually working toward the edges pulling in as much as chocolate as possible until the mixture is smooth, glossy and combined well.

 Assembling Mousse Cakes

  1. To make acetate collars, cut ten 10 x 4 ½” strips of acetate paper or non-stick baking paper. Also cut 20 1” x 8½” pieces of paper for use as bands to secure the acetate. Wrap one collar around the base of each cake keeping the base flush with the baking sheet. Slide paper band down to base to secure the acetate collar. Return to baking sheet. Cover loosely with a sheet of plastic wrap.
  2. Prepare Vanilla Mousse.
  3. Evenly divide the vanilla mousse between each acetate collar. (The layers should be no more than 2½ cm or 1-inch high.) Cover the cakes with a couple of sheets of plastic wrap (don’t secure too tightly otherwise the collars will lose their shape).
  4. Transfer the cakes on the baking sheet to the refrigerator. Let chill until firm, about 2 hours.
  5. When vanilla mousse layer is firm, prepare Raspberry Mousse.
  6. Remove the cakes from the refrigerator.
  7. Evenly divide the strawberry mousse between each acetate collar. (Again, the layers should be no more than 2½ cm or 1-inch high.) Again, cover cakes with plastic wrap.
  8. Place the cakes in the freezer. Let chill until firm.
  9. Remove the cakes from the freezer and immediately remove collars. (I recommend
  10. Removing collars immediately after removing cakes from the freezer because removal is much easier when the cakes are firm. It makes for best presentation too.)
  11. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of chocolate ganache in the center (onto the surface) of each cake, gently coaxing the ganache to the edges, leaving a 6 mm (¼-inch) border. Chill, uncovered, in the refrigerator until thawed, about 15 minutes.
  12. To serve, transfer each cake to a dessert plate, and top each cake with raspberry.

 

Pavlova is Dancing in the Street

“They’ll be laughing and singing, music swinging
Dancing in the street”

Ballet dancing, actually. Specifically, Anna Pavlova, Russian prima ballerina who is most recognized for the creation of the role The Dying Swan. We saw pavlovas made on GBBO yesterday and as I have made meringue cups for years, this seemed like a natural extension. (Plus, I had egg whites left in the fridge from making crème pat earlier this week.)

The recipe was created in either Australia or pavlova_0001New Zealand and is a favorite around Christmas in the summer. Wait! Is it a Christmas treat, or a summer treat? Isn’t that a North American oxymoron? Ah, well, it is Christmas Eve, therefore, this time, it is a Christmas treat. (I just realized, I could have used the blueberries and made it a Chanukah treat in Israeli colors of white and blue.)

pavolva_0004Deceptively easy and insidiously versatile. You can top your pavlova with berries, nuts, chocolate, mocha, fruit, lemon curd or as King
Mongkut of Siam was fond of saying “etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.” It often depends what is in the fridge or what season it is, or whatever floats your current boat.

 

 

Ingredients

  • Meringue:
    • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract (clear to keep the meringue very white)
    • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
    • 1½ Tbsp cornstarch
    • 1½ cups granulated sugar
    • ¾ cup (6 ounces, about 6) large egg whites, preferably room temperature
    • Pinch salt
  • Topping:
    • 2 pints fresh or frozen berries
    • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Whipped Cream for topping

Method

  1. Place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 275°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.
  3. In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites, cream of tartar and salt, starting on low, increasing incrementally to medium speed until soft peaks/trails start to become visible, and the egg white bubbles are very small and uniform, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour in the vanilla. Increase speed a bit and whip until meringue is glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Pipe the meringue into 8-10 large round bowl like mounds that are 3 inches wide on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon liner. (I used a large 1M piping tip.) Leave an indentation in the middle of the mound for holding the filling once meringue is baked.
  6. Place baking sheet in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 250°F. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside, and white — not tan-colored or cracked. The interiors should have a marshmallow-like consistency. Check on meringues at least once during the baking time. If they appear to be taking on color or cracking, reduce temperature 25 degrees, and turn pan around.
  7. Gently lift from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. Will keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature, or individually wrapped, for up to a week if your house is not humid.
  8. Served topped with your favorite filling – lemon curd, raspberry or blueberry sauce, and freshly whipped cream, etc, etc, etc.

Sauce or Filling Directions

If you want to make a berry sauce, heat a couple pints of fresh or frozen berries in a medium saucepan with about a quarter cup of sugar. (I used a 4:1 berry to sugar ratio.)  Heat on medium heat, stirring once or twice, for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how much the berries are falling apart. Remove from heat and let cool.

Grace’s Baptism Cake

Saturday October 28, 2016 was our granddaughter Grace’s baptism. completed-cakeAround 60 family members and friends attended at a Catholic church in Roseville for a short but meaningful service, then gathered at Frances and Daniel’s for brunch. I was asked to provide a cake for 60 people. (This may be the largest cake I have made.) The specific request was for a layer cake with chocolate mousse filling and a quilted finish.

For 60 servings the cake needed to be about 4″ high and 11″ x 15″. Knowing I would lose a little from the edges to square the sides I assumed there would be at least a few sheetcakepeople who do not eat cake (friends of Marie Antionette, no doubt) and I could get away with this size. Therefore I needed two sheet cakes. (Note: about 10 slices were left at the end of the event.)

To have a decent thickness of mousse separatinbuttercream-dam-4g the cake layers I built a dam of crusting buttercream around the edges of the top crumb coated cake. Crusting buttercream has a little more body and will keep the mousse in place. Add a tablespoon of meringue powder to the confectioners sugar to make regular buttercream into crusting buttercream. After the second sheet cake is cool, add the buttercream-dam-2mousse to the damned 🙂 bottom cake. Top with the second layer, crumb coat the entire cake and refrigerate. stacked-layersA cold cake is easier to trim to make nice square edges and setting the mousse will retard the effects the moisture will have on the fondant coating.

I used an electric knife to trim the edges of the cake prior to covering with fondant. After trimming crumb coat the nice, straight smooth edges of the cake. stacked-and-cut-layers

I rolled out a 17″ x 22″ piece of fondant to have enough to cover the cake. Once it was covered and smoothed, 45 degree crisscrossed lines were embossed into the sides of the cake. Then it was dusted with pearl luster to add a little sparkle to the fondant and little pink rosettes were piped into each intersection of the quilt pattern.

Egraces-cake-quiltingarlier in the week I made the pink orchid, cross and text backing from gumpaste.graces-orchid I purchased the text from a company that makes sugar images and pasted it onto the backing gumpaste.

YELLOW SHEET CAKE – SERVES 60

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 1/2 cups (570g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cup (460g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 3/4 cups (700g) granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (240g) sour cream, at room temperature
  • 2 cup (480ml) whole milk, at room temperature

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Generously grease and lightly flour a 12×17 inch half sheet/jelly roll pan. The pan should be at least 2″ deep. Set aside.
  2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 3 full minutes until creamed together. The mixture should be a light yellow color. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. On medium-high speed, add 1 egg at a time, beating well after each addition until both are mixed in. On high speed, beat in the vanilla extract and sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  3. With the mixer running on low speed, add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients alternating with the milk. Start and end with the dry ingredients. Mix each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix this batter. The batter will be smooth, velvety, and slightly thick.
  4. Spread the cake batter into the prepared pan. Smooth it out into a thin, even layer. Bake for 20-22 minutes (less for a half recipe or 35-40 minutes for a double. Actual times depend on pan used, less time for shallow pan, more for deeper, or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Make sure you rotate the cake pan once or twice during bake time if your oven has hot spots. Remove from the oven and allow the cake to cool in the pan placed on a wire rack. As the cake is cooling, make the frosting.
  5. Make ahead tip: Cake can be made 1 -2 days in advance, covered tightly at room temperature.

BUTTERCREAM FROSTING – I made several batches of this frosting

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups of powdered sugar (or 1 box)
  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) of softened butter
  • 2-3 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 1-2 tablespoons of milk
  • Violet food coloring

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Add powdered sugar to mixing bowl.
  2. Add softened sticks of butter
  3. Add vanilla. If you want white buttercream use clear imitation vanilla.
  4. Add 1 tbsp of milk.
  5. Beat on low until powdered sugar is incorporated. Then move mixer up to medium-high speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When completely mixed the frosting may appear dry.
  6. Add more milk, a little bit at a time until frosting is the proper consistency.
  7. Again, for white frosting now add a little violet food coloring. I use the end of a toothpick and add just a little at a time. Mix thoroughly.

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 cup whipping (heavy) cream
  • 1 package (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ cups whipping (heavy) cream

DIRECTIONS

  1. Beat egg yolks in small bowl with electric mixer on high speed about 3 minutes or until thick and lemon colored, then gradually beat in sugar.
  2. Heat 1 cup whipping cream in 2-quart saucepan over medium heat until hot. Temper the eggs by gradually (i.e. slowly, a little at a time) stirring (rapidly) at least half of the hot whipping cream into egg yolk mixture; stir back into hot cream in saucepan. Cook over low heat about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens (do not boil). Stir in chocolate chips until melted. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours, stirring occasionally, just until chilled.
  3. Beat 1 ½ cups whipping cream in chilled medium bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff. By hand fold chocolate mixture into whipped cream to not collapse the whipped cream. Pipe or spoon mixture into serving bowls. Immediately refrigerate any remaining dessert after serving.

Small Batch Berry Jam

Confession here: I like seeds in my berry jam. I don’t know why, either some trauma forced on me by my older brother, or perhaps faded memories of my mother making jams or even some totally unrelated reason. The point is my berry jam must have seeds. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to find blackberry jam with seeds? Raspberry? No Blackberry Jamproblem, but find a jar of blackberry without that insidious word “seedless” on the label? Good luck. Either you spend an inordinate amount of time searching your supermarket, or go to a farm or specialty market and shell out twice the cash. I look for BOGO’s on berries. It’s like getting jam free, almost.
Or….
Google (the worlds 42) “small batch jam” and find 461,000 results in 0.44 seconds.
I read a lot of them and boiled it down (bad pun) to this:

  • Measure equal weights (not volumes) washed berries and granulated sugar. Obviously for sweeter jam add more sugar, tarter, less. Duh.
  • Mash berries in a saucepan, heat then add sugar in small aliquots. Use a large enough saucepan or you will end up washing two of them. Been there, done that, no t-shirt.
  • Cook at a moderate boil until the temperature reaches 220 deg. and it begins to thicken. Cook less for thinner (think dessert topping) or more for thicker.
  • Skim the light colored foam off the top as it boils.
  • While it is cooking put a canning jar (about a pint size for a pint of berries, go figure) filled to about an inch from of the top with water into the microwave and cook until boiling vigorously.
  • Pour the boiling water out into a small bowl containing your canning lid and funnel.
  • Wait a minute. You aren’t really sterilizing because you will just keep this in the fridge for quick use.
  • Pour the still very hot jam into the jar using the funnel, put on the lids, screw on the top and you are done, except for the clean up. One pan, one spoon and a funnel.
  • Total time, less than 30 min.

Summertime, And The Livin’ is Easy

It’s summertime again. Actually, it is the end of May and summer is still 3 weeks away but if you live in South Florida summer began months ago. I needed a cake for a dinner party this weekend and said to myself, “Self, what springs to mind when you think about summer?” After a moment, I replied, “Well, after a long hot winter I want to fall into a cool, refreshing cake that shrieks summer.” I decided on a Watermelon Cake. It doesn’t taste like watermelon (it is actually a white cake dyed reddy/pink) but sure looks like one. IMG_1421[1]

Bake the cake in a greased and flowered Wilton Egg Pan (because I own one.) Fill the pan to within an inch of the top and be sure to put a cookie sheet under it while baking as it will overflow the pan. My oven is slow so I baked it for an hour at 350 F. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Trying to remove the cake while warm will destroy it.

After the cake is completely cool, (I know, the cake is very cool, but in this case I mean the temperature) cut the excess cake along the edge of the Egg Pan to make a perfectly flat side then turn it out onto a wire rack. If necessary loosen the edges of the cake from the pan with a flexible spatula.

Frost the cake with a heavy IMG_1422[1]layer of white crusting butter cream frosting (I made a double recipe of the below) and place in the freezer. When the frosting is set, about an hour, coat with another layer of white frosting making it as smooth as possible, returning to the freezer. This makes the thicker white watermelon rind. While the twice white frosted cake is again setting add some green food coloring to the remaining frosting. This green should be the background green of the watermelon, not the dark green lines. Add a little additional milk to reduce the viscosity, or to the non-scientists among us, reduce the “thickness.” After the frosting on the cake is set, smooth a layer of the light, thinner green frosting over the entire cake and return to the freezer. After the now light green cake is set, remove from the freezer and smooth the surface. I like to use a latex gloved hand wetted by holding it under the faucet. A bowl of water would also work but then you have to clean another bowl. You will have to clean and re-wet your hand a few times to smooth the entire cake. Once the light green frosted cake is smooth, guess what? Return it to the freezer to set.
IMG_1427[1]Remove the smooth light green frosted cake from the freezer and paint the dark green stripes. I used Duff green airbrush dye and a 3/8″ brush (because I own them.) If you are the artistic type with a good eye and imagination this is no biggie. If you are the more analytical, fallen chemist type, set your iPad with a picture of a watermelon next to your cake and copy to the best of your limited artistic ability.

BTW, here is a tip I found online: to disperse the chocolate chips and not have them settle to the bottom of the cake batter mix them into the flour mixture being sure the are well coated with flour. This seems to help them “float” in the cake batter as it bakes.

Here is another tip: don’t let the cake with the thick frosting warm up in the car ride to your party. Soften or melted rind signficantly affects the overall impression of the cake.

Recipe: Heavenly White (Watermelon Colored) Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 egg whites ( or substitute)
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of chocolate chips
  • Red dye

Directions

  1. Measure sifted flour, baking powder, and salt; sift together three times.
  2. Add chocolate chips and mix being sure the chips are well coated with the flour mixture
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy. Add 1/2 cup sugar gradually, and continue beating only until meringue will hold up in soft peaks. Add red dye to approximate a watermelon color.
  4. Cream butter or margarine. Gradually add remaining 1 cup sugar, and cream together until light and fluffy. Add sifted ingredients alternately with milk a small amount at a time, beating after each addition until smooth. Add red food dye until the same watermelon pinky/red is achieved. Mix in flavorings. Add colored meringue, and beat thoroughly into batter.  Pour into well greased and floured Egg Pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 60 minutes. Check the springiness of the cake after about 45 min. Guess when it is done (when the depression caused by your finger is anti-depressed, or springs back up.) Leave the cake in pans until completely cool, then trim the bumpy puffed up cake above the rim of the Egg Pan and remove and transfer to a wire rack.

Basic Crusting Butter Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup solid high ratio shortening
  • 1/2 cup butter softened
  • 1 tablespoon of meringue powder
  • 1 teaspoon Clear Vanilla Extract (or extract of choice)
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (approx. 1 lb.)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Green food color (add after cake is frosted with the white frosting)

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla and milk. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating on a slow speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. Keep bowl or covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Don’t overwhip or it will bring air to the icing and is impossible to smooth. If you have a kitchen Aid use white attachment, not whip attachment.