This weekend was free choice week. The hardest thing is deciding what to make. The math goes something like
Maries Cakes Baked - My Cakes Baked = Cakes I should cook during free choice week
I think the stats are 52 - 30 something = I will be baking cakes long after Marie dusts the icing sugar from her hands and puts away her beater blade. To try to even the score a little I decided to do two Rose recipes this week.
The first was the "I shall not be beaten by a faffing water bath" Baby Lemon Cheesecakes. Only, I was beaten by the faffing water bath. Again. I have now marked my recipe book with a "bake in the round, do not be tempted by the cuteness of the itty bitty - disaster looms".
To be totally honest, I managed to have six perfect little cheesecakes, but lost two in the great flood (even with the supportive rack in place). I lost another two as I pulled the same tray out of the water bath and one of the other cakes sprawled out of its cup over the unflooded remainder. Not an attractive look. I was so peeved at the futility of it all that I didn't bother with the lemon curd. Quite glad that I didn't waste more effort and ingredients. Because once the six keepers had chilled they were a bit undercooked. Another batch of Baby Lemon Cheesecakes consigned to the drain. I retire, defeated from that recipe.
The second free choice was the Chocolate Ingots. I chose this recipe for a few reasons.
- Quick and easy.
- It was the recipe that frightened the living baker out of me! Caramelising cocoa nibs! I was totally intimidated. Not only new techniques but weird ingredients.
- The only place I had seen cocoa nibs was supporting the petit four chocolates that are served with the bill at our favourite restaurant, La Trompette. I was prepared to eat my way through a three course dinner and drink amazing wine just so I could tip that little bowl of nibs into my handbag for this recipe. The sacrifices I make for HCB recipes.
The first step for this recipe is to make some beurre noisette. I have now browned butter quite a few times. If you can boil water and tell yellow from brown, you can make beurre noisette. It is ready when you start to see brown specks foaming their way through. Just be warned that you should sieve it at this point... don't leave it to sit in the pot whilst you faff about finding the sieve and a bowl large enough to support the sieve. I think I was lucky this time. Next time I will take Rose's advice and prepare in advance. As much as I love extreme baking, I would have been greatly annoyed burning a pound of butter.
From the sieved leftovers, you can see that it was pretty much on the cusp. Thankfully the right side of the cusp. I have to say that this is the best beurre noisette I have ever made. It was really nutty, so it did benefit from my faff factor.
Sometimes you have to make a few sacrifices to the baking gods to have them smile benevolently on your beurre noisette.
Next is caramelising the chocolate nibs. Rose instructs that the sugar and nibs (yes, they be the nibs, not bark chips from an orchid - easy to confuse) should be stirred continuously in the pan over heat until the sugar all but disappears. Apparently this should take less than four minutes.
Being the inclusive wife I am, I offered the nibs to my husband to taste first before I mixed them into the batter. His comment was "yeah, they definitely need to be cooked because they have a really bitter after taste..." I have watched enough episodes of Masterchef to know that burnt = bitter after taste. Those benevolent gods aren't blessed with masses of patience. The photo below is of the burned nibs. I was happy with the amount of "white specks" just not the taste of burned bark. That shapely wooden stick is a spurtle and is absolutely essential in matters of caramelising nibs, never limit your spurtle to porridge. And yes, I have actually attended the Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championships (2008). We live in an amazing world.
I took a different approach in my second attempt. I melted the sugar almost completely and then added in the nibs and put up with more white specks than I thought Rose would have tolerated. The result was far and away superior. Funny that.
The cake mixing is simplicity itself. Egg whites, almond meal (or toasted and ground if your name isn't Nicola), flour, corn flour, cocoa mixed until, well, mixed. Then you drizzle in the warm beurre noisette to create a kind of really thick chocolate mayonnaise. Rose gives you the option to mix in some of the chocolate nibs. I opted not to, I wasn't sure about the texture of what I thought would be bark in the smooth little bar. I sprinkled the nibs on the top and left them out of the mix.
You can barely see the nibs in these wee bars. They have sunk to just under the surface. Next time I will mix them in as well. That gentle crunch is actually quite nice and tastes nothing like orchid bark. Or at least how I would imagine orchid bark would taste - caramelised or no.
They are tricky little things to get into the molds. Which is probably why Rose suggests chilling the mix for an hour before piping it in. Obviously from the photo above, you can tell that I didn't do that. I just spooned it in and roughly smoothed them out. Very roughly. I can highly recommend those bar shaped silicon molds. They make the perfect serving size for big and little hands alike. And not nearly as annoying as teensy lemon baby cheesecakes.
These little cakes bake about in about 16 minutes. So assuming you already had some beurre noisette (or you could just use ghee, I guess) and some caramelised nibs, you could go from zero to having these with your cup of tea in about 40 minutes.
What do they taste like? I left these on the bench to cool last night, since I didn't finish baking and cleaning up until about 10.30pm. From the photo evidence, I can count 16. This afternoon, not even 24 hours later, there were 5. I have eaten 1. That means that between my son (aged not quite 2 and can't open tupperware) and my husband, they have consumed 10. From my one, I can tell you that they are pretty good. The chocolate nibs complement the moist texture. And for the first time ever, I can actually taste the nuttiness of the beurre noisette. Definitely on the bake again list.
I hope the sun is shining as brilliantly where you are as it was here in London today.