Saturday, 27 March 2010

What Google Wants to Know

I was checking through what brings people to this blog - other than via Marie's fabulous Heavenly Cake Baker.  Gladly, nothing too bizarre or weird.  Just people wanting to know why their cakes don't turn out quite like the pictures in the book - take comfort, your cake probably looks like better than mine!  There are people searching for recipes (sorry, none here - but definitely buy Rose's Heavenly Cakes, I can't recommend it enough).  Yes, you can use almond meal/ground almond instead of toasting and grinding whole or slivered almonds and the cake will be fine (I actually think better than fine unless you are after a coarse texture and the crunch of almond).


In response to a couple of search requests, I have created a simple excel template for scaling recipes up or down.  For example, last week when I made the Peanut Butter Ingots, I defrosted egg whites and found that I had 224 grams instead of the 120 grams that the recipe called for.  So instead of throwing the excess out, I just scaled up my recipe to use up all the egg whites.  You can only scale a recipe for one variable.  I have also set it up so that you can input the recipe pan size/cupcake quantity and then scale it to the pan size you have/cupcakes you want.  Note that there is none of Rose's baking powder adjustments in these recipes... maybe in version 2!

The example is in metric, but it will work for cups and imperial.  Though don't ask me what 0.837 of a cup actually looks like...  Buy some scales and your baking life will be way more simple and your cupboard free from those measuring cups!

Can you tell I am procrastinating about baking the Succes?  I am having my own little internal debate about the lemon tea powder.  I have found a few versions of it.  I love lemon, but I hate lemon and dark chocolate.  Maybe I could substitute cranberry & raspberry or just use up the Almond Ganache frozen after the Chocolate Pine Cone adventure.  But then again, maybe Rose's version of chocolate and lemon will be fabulous and I will be missing out?  Isn't it great that this is the most perplexing issue that I have in my life right now?!

Friday, 26 March 2010

Peanut Butter Ingots



Wow!  Five days late.  What's more, there are still two and a half of these things left.  Which is surprising given that peanut butter is treated as a separate food group by a certain person in this house.   It has taken me years to not be offended by my husband having peanut butter on toast after I have cooked him dinner.  And truth be known, I still get a wee bit peeved sometimes.  Like - why do I bother cooking?  Why don't you just have peanut butter on toast for your dinner too, save me washing up... like, I said, I am completely over it.  Maybe.

It has been a long week around these parts.  The nanny was sick, I was sick and then the little assistant came down with the norovirus.  Let's just say that I was too busy with laundry to blog about these little peanut butter fingers before now.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Unfortunately for you all, there is only one picture this week.  So, here come the next twelve thousand words...  Except I don't think I can write twelve thousand tonight, or ever to be honest, about these cakes.

These were pretty simple to make - especially since I had frozen egg whites and cheated by using ground almonds, instead of toasting and grinding sliced blanched almonds.  The hardest thing about these cakes was getting them in the molds.  However the old trick of snipping the corner off a freezer bag to squeeze out the mixture worked a treat, so really they rightly deserve their spot on the quick and easy list.

That said, I don't think I will be making them again.  Neither my peanut butter loving husband nor I really liked them that much.  I kept wishing they didn't have that weird light peanut butter flavour.  I wanted the peanut flavour to be stronger or not at all, and also that the instant hit of sweetness from the powdered sugar to be dialled back a tad.  Hence why there are still two and a half left.  Actually, can someone tell me if using powdered (icing) sugar versus granulated sugar would make a cake taste different?

The texture was perfect (I will definitely stick with my cheaters ground almond) and they have kept really well - actually improved in texture and moistness as the week has raced by.  Not sold on the peanut butter flavour, but I definitely like these almond financiers.  And really, if you haven't already got a financier mold, then I would recommend getting one.  The final cakes are a perfect size and loads easier to get in your mouth than a cupcake.  Was that an inappropriate thing to write?

Clearly, I better up the photo count this week, because I am blathering and I need less words and more photos.

Onwards to meringue disks and chocolate something or others this week.

Updated to say : apologies for my poor commenting in the past couple of weeks... I will strive to do better!

Monday, 15 March 2010

Sicilian Pistachio (Cup)cakes


 

Last week I decided not to make this cake, primarily because I couldn't find shelled unsalted pistachios.  I think my local supermarket is sourcing ingredients on Just In Time for Marie's baking schedule, because I swear those pesky shelled pistachios weren't there last week.  But this Saturday they were, so here I am posting.  All talk and, as it so happens, all action too!  This working lark is doing wonders for my motivation levels.

For some strange reason, I figured this cake would be difficult and time consuming.  My subconscious thought that each one of those vivid green pistachio slivers were hand cut and placed "just so" on the cake with tweezers.  If you don't have Rose's book, then check out Matthew's photos.  Doesn't that look like a cake that requires effort?  Impressive isn't it.  Truth be told, even though I bagged the elusive pistachios, I was still unconvinced about going to all that effort.  I sought my usual Sunday inspiration and had a revalation that I didn't need tweezers or a scalpel to prepare the cake.  In fact, I was so inspired (and my Tupperware was already half full of Rose's Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch Toffee Sauce from Saturday nights dinner party) that I opted to cupcake the recipe.


Such an easy cake to make.  Especially if you don't blanch the pistachios!  My subconscious must have been feeling rather lazy, because I didn't connect that "blanched" actually means more than "shelled".   So, if you are particularly keen, go ahead and blanch those nuts.  The nuts are whizzed with the sugar, but not too fine - don't look to me for any definition of that, because I think I overwhizzed.


This is the ole two step method cake.  Mix the dry ingredients, add the fat, then add the whisked eggs padded out with some of the sour cream in two batches.  Literally, this cake is ready for the oven in about 15 minutes.  This recipe made 16 cupcakes, and I would have got 18 if I had been a little less generous.  I can't remember how long they took to bake.  Just keep an eye on them - sorry, I am not very helpful with this post.  The trickiest thing about this cake was trying to read the recipe around a shipwrecked pirate ship.

 

I couldn't find any pistachio essence or extract - my supermarket needs to pay closer attention, so I used the almond extract instead.  I think I will seek out the pistachio essence, given I am not a fan of the faint almond undertone.  It is ever so slight and it has faded to a lower note today.  This cake was even quicker because I opted out of making the icing.  I happily unearthed some mystery icing that was in the freezer.  I am embarrassed to say that I am not quite sure what it actually is.  I *think* it was the leftovers from Woody's Lemon Cake, so that would make it white chocolate lemon buttercream.  It is actually a great pairing, the lemon is very slight.  The flavour is quite like a really well made pistachio gelato - creamy with just a slight note of pistachio nuttiness.

I didn't go mad on the pistachio topping.  My pistachios were such insipid dull little creamy green impersonators of pistachios.  Can you tell I am having pistachio envy?

These little cupcakes have generated some rave reviews.  The little assistant ate two today and was still pointing for more.  His Dad has also eaten several and was also pointing for more.  I think they will be on the repeat list!

Oh, and by the way - the toffee pudding with the butterscotch sauce?  Amazing.  Get some of that on your plate quickly.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze



On Sunday evening on our drive back from Brighton, I had decided that I would cut my losses.  I would hurl my Saturday attempt at apricot Lekvar which was masquerading as fruit toffee resin and take a week out from the HCB'ers.  Which was a little disappointing, given how much of a cake martyr team player I am.  As I was coming to terms with missing out on a week of posting (and therefore comments), I checked in with Raymond and learned a few things.

  1. Raymond gets up stupid early o'clock to go to the gym.  I didn't even know they opened gyms that early!  That man is dedicated.
  2. That I really needed to bake this cake.
I quite like that Raymond posts early, that way I can pick up a few tips and some inspiration and motivation.  I think the only time I have ever eaten the chocolate and apricot combination was whilst on holiday in Adelaide.  Those South Australian's go mad for FruChocs.  Me?  Not so much.  As in, not at all.  As in, didn't finish the packet.  Not sure if it was the apricot/choc pairing or the not-amazing-chocolate chocolate coating that I put.  Anyway, I don't have Raymond's nor Rose's deep love affair for the apricot and chocolate duet.  Would this cake see that change?  Ah, the suspense!



It is now Monday night and I started this cake on Saturday.  That would be when I made the Apricot Resin aka Levkar.  Not very difficult to make, the difficulty comes in being able to count to three.  You see, Rose has you boil the apricots and water (note, don't add the sugar then, like I did) for a while until they soften. 



Then process with the sugar et al and then put back on the heat until it becomes a deep orange colour and it takes three seconds to drop from a tablespoon.  Yeah, well.  Apparently I can't count to three very well.  Because once my levkar cooled, it was solid and the only way to get it to spreadable consistency was to heat it and add more water.  Alot more water.  Maybe my tablespoon loosens it grip on the levkar more quickly than Rose's... 95% of the stuff would drop off in the first second.  A temperature guide would have been much more fool proof than just assuming that everyone can count to three.  In the end it didn't really matter, because all I needed to cover my tracks was a microwave and then water.  In that order.


I expected the Levkar to be more tangy than it actually was, but I think that was due to the quality of the apricots I used.  They weren't anything special, and you could tell!  I washed out a couple of jam jars and used that to store the resin.  Very difficult to chisel it out, now that it has set.

Fast forward to Sunday night and I whipped up the sponge, which really was pretty easy.  Strangely, there was no heating of the eggs and the volume didn't seem to suffer in the slightest.

 

Right about now was when I missed Rose's "understanding cakes" section from the TCB - Rose, how come we don't have to heat the eggs this time?  It bothered me for about three seconds, and then I silently thanked her for one less faffing step and one less pot to wash... little did I know that the glaze would more than make up for that one pot saved!

 

After beating the eggs to four times their volume (give or take) you then fold in the flours in two batches.  And then the whites.  As an aside, I read that recipe about six times and I still have no idea when to add in the vanilla extract.  I just threw it in with the eggs in the first step.


About ten minutes later you pull this out of the oven and get to marvel at how well you didn't smooth the surface... cunningly disguised by powdered sugar.  And then you quickly roll it so all faults are gone, and given they are on the inside, it is no big deal.  Just my little secret.  I made the ganache on Sunday night also, because it is super quick to grind chocolate and tip in scalded cream. 


I "composed" the cake tonight, whilst making dinner, so again, not difficult.  I didn't syrup the cake, and after eating a slice, I wish that I had.  Hopefully, like Rose promises, the ganache will moisten the cake up perfectly sometime between now and tomorrow evening.  Spread on the loosened up Lekvar, then the ganache, roll it back up and crumb coat with the faintest covering of ganache.  No photos of this - probably because it was all pretty quick.  If you can make a sandwich, you can make this cake.

Then comes the wow factor of the Lacquer glaze.  I really dislike the word Lacquer - when I say it sounds like lack-her and well, that sounds like "she" has a "lack" of something.  Not right.  Anyway, pronunciation and my weirdness aside, this glaze is the business.  Easy to make.   You don't even have to count to three or any other number.  Just stir and pour.  Like making instant gravy, you even boil water and mix in a few other things.  Easy.  Rose has lots of helpful temperatures in this section, so that made my life quite simple.  It does use about fourteen different bowls and pans and sieves and mixing utensils, but you could probably do it with a pan and one bowl and one sieve and one jug.  That is still a lot isn't it?  It really is simple and you really should make it because it really is impressive.

Whilst the glaze is still warm, you need to get it onto your cake.  Make haste at this point, but pour it on slowly and carefully and remember that for once, gravity is your best baking assistant.

 

I have just eaten a slice now and I did find the cake a bit dry... so definitely use the syrup.  Probably not helped by me baking the cake 24 hours ago.  I am still not sold on the apricot/chocolate matchup... maybe in a few days.  My guess is, if you are from South Australia or already understand the love that is Apricot and chocolate, you will love this cake. 

Enjoy.  Next week I am definitely out as I can't find shelled pistachio's anywhere!  And I can't see shelling salted pistachios in my near future.  Yuck.  Salted pistachios on a sweet cake.  No thanks.  I will be reading along though.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Lemon Poppy Seed - Sour Cream Cake


Sometimes I wonder whether Rose will list *all* the ingredients when she names one of her cakes in her next book... This is no Lemon Poppy Seed Cake with a mystery ingredient.  Nope.  Rose tells everyone what makes this cake so great.   Lemons.  Poppy Seeds.  Sour Cream.  Amazing. 

Smart comments aside, this cake is freaking amazing.  I did wonder for a split second last week, whether two lemon cakes back to back was a good idea.  It didn't take long for me to realise that two weeks of lemon cake would be no hardship, given my deep love of a lemony tang.  And as it turns out, I was right.  Two weeks of lemon cake, is like two weeks staying in an incredible hotel, overlooking a balmy azure blue sea and eating amazing food. Sure, not everyone's dream come true, but it is definitely mine, and since making Lemon cake is a bit easier and cheaper than two weeks on Lord Howe Island, I'll be happy enough with cake.

Right, to the details.  It is another two step cake and almost a pound cake.  You know the ones - equal measures of flour, egg, butter and sugar.  It took me ages to work out why it was called a pound cake, because everything in my Mum's Edmonds Cookbook was in a strange mixture of weights and cup measures.  I thought it was so named because it had such a heavy texture!  Ahem.  That may have been my technique rather than anything to do with the cake.

 

As you can see, there is a lot of lemon zest in this cake.  Anywhere from 238,000 to 365,000 poppy seeds.  You don't need to count every single poppy seed - 50 grams will get you to the same result way quicker.  Though, if you need to keep the kids occupied for a little while... I also subbed in a quarter teaspoon of last week's lemon oil in place of some of the vanilla essence.  I told you I liked lemon.



I have a small crush on this little whisk thingy.  Those Salter scales have got to go.  Or else they need a new battery.  Hmmm, £35 for new scales or £2 for a new battery.  I better think that decision through very carefully.  And yes, that is a white thermapen in the top left hand side of the photo.  I think that has been a great learning with Rose's new guidelines with measuring the temperature of the butter/whatever.  I always did wonder what room temperature meant, especially when I moved from sub tropical Brisbane to less tropical London.  The Gulf Stream isn't quite that good when it comes to bringing my kitchen to room temperature.

I baked this cake in the stand by bundt tin.  I wished I had a fancy pants pan.  But I don't, well, not yet, anyway.  As per last week, I had to do some minor cosmetic surgery.  No where near as dramatic as last week, but enough for me to wish I was living in the land of Pam.


 

Once baked, this cake gets a liberal application of lemon syrup.  I think this weeks lemon cake was a bit more robust than the Golden Lemon cake, or maybe my technique was better.  It also probably helped that most of my cake made it out of the pan in one piece, unlike last weeks attempt.
Now, Rose in her handy Plan Ahead section, instructs that this cake is best composed a day ahead of serving it.  Here is where she and I disagree.  Eat this as soon as it is cool enough.  Sure, the syrup hasn't evenly dissipated through the cake.  But really, this is no dry genoise that needs loads of syrup to help you swallow it down.  We ate our first, second and third slices (don't judge me until you have this cake smelling all lemony and sitting all glistening on your bench) about three hours after it came out of the oven.  It was incredible.  Tender, little crunchy pops from the seeds, lemon zings from the zest and the syrup, the subtle tartness of the sour cream, and a fantastic crumb.  Um, yes, I do *kind of* like this cake. 

We have eaten more of it this morning, today and this evening (all in the name of research and evaluation of course), and it has lost some tenderness of its crumb, and the syrup has spread more evenly.  It is still a great cake, but I think I prefer it at its earlier stage.   When you can taste the zing of the syrup in contrast to the delicate cake.  The syrup was almost a sauce rather than an integral part of the cake in those first few hours after its birth.  Strange, because last week's Golden Lemon Almond Cake (lemons, almond but no gold!), I preferred after it had mellowed a few days.

Until next week.  I can't say I am overly looking forward to the Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze.  That sounds like a very unforgiving cake... thankfully, it isn't in a bundt pan, so I have some hope of starting without the cosmetic surgery.