Thursday, 27 May 2010

Bernachon Palet D'Or Gateau

Chocolate cake covered with a creme fraiche chocolate ganache and then dressed with a shiny coat of chocolate glaze.  You really do wonder how this cake could ever go wrong.  And to be honest, it doesn't go wrong.  It isn't puke inducing rich.  How's that for a compliment?  It looks quite amazing with that shimmery shiny glaze - like it must have taken hours.  But you know what, I think I would almost put this onto the quick and easy cake list.  Sure there are three components, but none of them are a big deal.  In fact, other than the cooling time, you could probably whip this cake up in about an hour.

First the cake.  Simplicity itself, a sour cream and cocoa base mixed in the now familiar two step method.  Then into the pan insulated by cake strips - do not forget these!  Thirty five minutes later, it looks great.  Ten minutes to cool on the rack and then about 3 seconds to tear its bum getting out of the pan.  You can just see the tear in the photo below.  Nothing that ganache couldn't hide!

The ganache is super easy also, scald the creme fraiche and then blitz with the chocolate.  Or you could do as Raymond and I do and just stir in the chocolate squares until it all comes together.  I was a big worried about the ganache because it seemed pretty grainy.  But as is most often the case, time is a great healer.  And once everything was cooled enough to ice, the ganache came together perfectly.
Here is a tip from Kylie Minogue (who seems to favour her left very arched eyebrow a lot whilst posting for photos) - always have them photograph you from your best angle...  No one really wants to see that your cake is a bit lopsided because the baker didn't smooth the mix properly.

The next step after ganaching the cake and determining its best angle, is to prepare the glaze.  I had a young accountancy graduate reporting into me once upon a time.  He was a bit weird, as accountants usually sometimes are.   He had this saying that he spouted often...I think it was his Mother's mantra and I quickly discovered why.

"Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can, seldom found in woman, never found in man."


And as I prepared the glaze this cake, this very quote sprung to mind.  Firstly because I actually sieved the glaze as instructed by Rose.  And it was worth it.  Those are undissolved bits of cocoa that you see below.  Nothing more sinister than that.  They would have looked awful lumping away on the top of my cake.  Nothing says "OMG, what is that" like brown lumps on an otherwise perfect cake.



And secondly, because I glazed my cake a total of three times.  First time my glaze was too hot, so it didn't quite cling to the ganache on the edges.  The second time was better and the third time was just because I quite liked the process of watching the glaze run over the cake.


So, yes, you may need a little patience when composing this cake.  And in the end, I think it is worth it. If not a wee bit messy.

That glaze makes the cake slice so nicely, it is quite incredible.

I had no redcurrants, just pomegranate bits.   Pretty enough but not a match for the cake.

I served this cake with the option of creme fraiche or ice cream.  I preferred the tang of the creme fraiche compared to the ice cream.  In all honesty, I think this cake is a vehicle for the fabulous ganache and the show stoppingly impressive chocolate glaze.  But be warned, that glaze is as unforgiving as those new fangled treggings.   It shows lumps and bumps and dings and all those imperfections that come courtesy of laziness.  If you want to see how it the professionals do it... 

I have to admit that I found this cake a touch on the dry side.  I have noticed that with a few of Rose's cakes, just ever so slightly needing a bit more moisture.  How do I tweak the recipe to increase the moisture?  More fat?  More liquid?  More ice cream when serving? Inquiring palates want to know.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Very little Baby Lemon Cheesecakes

Very little, as in non existent.  These babies went out with the bath water.  Let this be a lesson to all of you, just because your silicon muffin pan *can* float in your water bath, it doesn't mean that you should let it.   Heed Rose's advice and put in that wire rack for them to rest on.

Because just like at sea, the swell picks up more than a little when there is a bit of movement in the tectonic plates so do does the water in the roasting pan when you attempt to slide the shelf back into the oven.  Unlike at sea, where you can batten down the hatches and let the waves wash over, those little roasting pans waves just washed in and didn't wash out.

And note, that hopping from leg to leg whilst uttering expletives doesn't prevent the second tray from succumbing to the white caps in the water bath.

Devastation.  I was very much looking forward to eating my way through sharing twelve cheesecakes this week.  So perhaps it was my subconscious (and my wardrobe) that resulted in disaster.  My wardrobe would say that this was an no great loss compared to the damage twelve, albeit wee, cheesecakes would have done to my waistline...

The weekend wasn't a complete baking disaster.  I managed to whip up a batch of very well received whoopie cakes.  They went head to head with the most elaborate cupcakes I have ever seen.  Lets just say that no one asked for the recipe for the cupcakes...

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Back with a Gateau Breton

Wow.  That was longer than I expected.  And during the past three weeks I was lucky to cook toast let along cake!  I will have to play catchup because after reading the posts for the Coffee Chiffonlets and the St Honore Trifle, I cannot let them pass.

So, in the past three weeks, we have moved house (painful, painful, painful - why do I persist in agreeing to "do it ourselves" instead of paying for a man and a van to move the 11 loads of toys, 9 loads of kitchen stuff, 8 loads of books and 2 loads of everything else); welcomed my father in law and his wife through the volcanic ash haze; had six days in Seville (glorious and my almost two year old son has developed a taste for Caracoles - little snails cooked in garlic and herbs); and finally two days in Paris (working, so not very glamorous).  We are still surrounded by boxes and disarray.  Moving from a furnished house with lots of storage, to an unfurnished house with little storage has been interesting.  And not interesting as in "who is going to be the UK prime minister?".  Lets just say that I have a love/hate relationship with Ikea.  Cheap and functional, but a soul destroying labyrinth of flat packed consumerism.

I am in love with my new kitchen.  An expanse of black granite that advertises every single crumb in neon.  A fantastic oven that actually heats to the temperature indicated on the dial.  This is an absolute first for me!  The only slight downfall is that no cupboard is big enough for my Kenwood or Magimix, so they have been relegated to to the "top shelf".  If you read in the Darwin Awards about a woman killed by a blow to the head from a Kenwood...

This was a pretty easy cake to make.  This is a cake from the Brittany region in France, renowned for its butter and dairy products.  I searched high and low trying to find Brittany butter, well, to be honest, I just looked in the butter section at my local supermarket.  Nothing from Brittany, so I ended up with President, which hails from Normandy and is 80% butter fat.  Rose recommends 84% butter fat, the lower butter fat apparently results in a moister crumb, which makes sense since those four percentage points are replaced by water.

In general I am a big follower (some would say "instigator") of chaos theory.  So things like the mise en place that I see other HCB'ers do on a regular basis is completely foreign to me.  The photo above is my attempt at mise en place.  Two of the eight nine ingredients required for this cake.  Most of the time it all comes together with out any problems.  On Sunday night, I realised I missed the vanilla extract after I had smoothed the cake into the tart pan, hence the eight ingredients instead of requisite nine.  I brushed some vanilla extract on the top of my gateau, but I really do think it needs to go *into* the cake.

The cake is a traditional creaming method cake.  Fats creamed with sugar, add in almond meal (I was lazy and didn't do the toast and grind as Rose requests), egg yolks added one at a time, then flour in batches.

These egg yolks were looking so glorious, I just had to take a photo of them.  They look more like apricots than egg yolks.  I was momentarily distracted by a cold glass of Rosé on my way back across the kitchen to the mixer when gravity and alcohol interacted.  It is never good when gravity and alcohol get together...

I like to think it was my innate dexterity that prevented all five egg yolks hitting the deck, but I know it was more that I had finished swigging from my wine glass and righted my balance before the remaining eggs fell to the floor.  And anyone who knows me in the flesh knows that my innate dexterity is almost non-existent.

So anyway, after I opened another egg yolk and beat it in, the mix looked a lot like this.  In the euphoria of not dropping all the egg yolks I tipped them all into the mixer at once, instead of one at a time.  I am not sure if this had any effect on the end cake.  I did beat the mix for the total time and it seemed well combined.

This makes a really thick batter.  More biscuit like than cake like.  Which is exactly how Rose describes it - a cross between shortbread and pound cake. 

The most difficult thing about this cake was smoothing it out evenly in the tin.  That is if you discount the balancing of eggs on a plate whilst sipping your wine as you walk across the kitchen.  Rose goes into a lot of detail in her recipes, but rest assured, that was my invention and not a requirement from Rose.  So assuming you don't mix alcohol and motion with your eggs, you will be fine.

This is a completely gratuitous shot of my new oven.  I am astounded that I can take a photo through the front of the oven and you can actually see what is inside, clearly.  You may also see that my oven thermometer is measuring exactly as it should.  A first for me.  I may just take a photo of my oven each week to make sure that I continue to see into it and don't allow my cleaning chaos theory to spoil it.

I'm not raving about this cake.  Sure, we have eaten it (best warm from the oven with clotted cream icecream), but it doesn't call me up the stairs in the middle of the night.  And I wouldn't have missed it if it had been sent to office mouths.  I am a bit non-plussed by the middle ground of shortbread and pound cake.  I am a big fan of shortbread, and not fussed by pound cake.  So I guess any deviation from the shortbread end of that linear scale was going to leave me a bit disappointed.  I do think that my appreciation of it was somewhat dimmed by me forgetting the vanilla extract.  It tastes a lot of butter, eggs and a smidge of almond and Effen Black Cherry Vodka, but I can say I miss the completeness or familiarity that vanilla adds.

This won't be going on my bake again list.  I might try it again if I ever end up in Brittany and I have eaten my fill of baguette and butter and pastries and flan and, well, you get the idea.

Next week is baby Lemon Cheesecakes.  I am not sure if mine will be baby or not.  I haven't done anything about a pan.  The English must not be big bakers, or at least, not into specialty pans, because they are pretty hard to source over here.  I do have a little giggle that the land of the big has such an array of little specialty pans.  I need to finagle myself a work trip to the States...