Monday, 23 February 2015

Lemon Posset Shortcakes

Reading this recipe I was completely overwhelmed by the faff factor.  Five pages of instructions for six cakes - are you freaking kidding me?  Six teeny tiny cakes with four component parts - seriously?  Beurre noisette - as well?  Life is too short.  Especially on a Sunday morning.

But I took a deep breath and decided that Sunday lunch needed *something* lemony to cut through the aftermath of roasted pork belly.  And I also wanted to test if my oft moved Wondra flour really was best before 27 January 2011.  Ha.  My flour is older than my youngest boys.  By a comfortable margin.

So come Sunday morning I set out on the marathon of the Lemon Posset Shortcakes.  But it wasn't a marathon.  Even with the beurre noisette, it was a no more than a shortish jog around the block.  The individual shortcakes are essentially a genoise sponge.  This just means that there is no chemical leavening from baking powder or bicarbonate of soda.  The fluffy texture comes from beating the warmed eggs for five minutes or so until they quadruple in volume.  I went with time because I am not good at measuring increases in volume in an graduated bowl.

Browned Butter - beurre noisette for the fancy amongst us
Quadrupled slightly warmed whipped eggs
A portion of the egg emulsified with the browned butter

The final mix delicately folded by a grown up

Then so long as you gently fold everything in, and you let the ages old Wondra flour work its magic you and you cook it for the right length of time and you have sufficiently greased the texas muffin tin, you will most likely end up with a delicate mouthful of browned butter amazingness.  This is definitely for the light of touch - I had to keep telling the ever keen and ever helpful Patrick that this was a cake that could only be made by grown ups.  Patrick was quite pleased that he was too strong and powerful to mix these delicate little cakes.

Rose warns not to open the oven before the minimum time lest the cakes sink.  Mine were cooked at the 15 minute mark - not pulling away from the sides, but most definitely cooked.  I think I will try 13 minutes next time.

I baked these in a texas muffin pan.  There were a few tense moments trying to set them free.  Line pan with paper!  Once released they were brushed with a lemon syrup.  Because I didn't have the fancy shortcake pan, I had to carve out an indentation to hold the lemon posset.  The carving resulted in three tiny sponge sandwiches which Patrick happily had me share these two with his brothers.  He is a clever little cookie, because when I returned to the kitchen he had moved his chair in front of the cakes and was sampling the full article.  As well he is cute.
Patrick with the mini victoria sponges - genoise indentations

Patrick's further sampling
Wondra can safely extend their recommended shelf life

Lemon posset - in my mind, posset was filed under easily digestible food for the elderly and infirm.  I think this was completely misfiled - and my mind is usually a steel trap of efficiency!  And it should definitely not just be the preserve of the elderly and infirm.  Actually it probably shouldn't be eaten by the infirm - all that cream?  Rose's lemon posset is three ingredients: cream, sugar and meyer lemon juice.  Meyer lemons are clearly stocked beside the unblanched sliced almonds, so hence I just used the juice of a lemon and a half and a clementine/satsuma/mandarin - that is, an indeterminable easily peeled citrus.  Perfect - but I would highly recommend straining it (just as I now reread the recipe and Rose is way ahead of me and recommended the same - huh, the things you learn when reading the recipe).

Rose's posset recipe was to melt the sugar and lemon juice together until near boiling point and then in another saucepan to scald the cream.  Then the cream is stirred into the sugar/lemon juice.  Which is fine.  Except I was busy faffing about trying to work out if I was making a double batch or a single batch.  And before I knew it my subconscious had measured a double amount of sugar into a single batch of cream.  And right when I reread the recipe to work out what double the cream was I worked out I had invented a new posset method.  So the new tested method is as follows:
  1. Bring the cream and the sugar to scalding point (small bubbles around the edges, faint steam)
  2. Stir until the sugar dissolves whilst keeping it at scalding point
  3. Step away to have a Skype conversation with your Mum for about ten minutes before remembering about it.  
  4. Swear and run back into the kitchen
  5. Sieve it
  6. Stir in the lemon/citrus juice (but remember to sieve that too).
  7. Pour into a shallow pie dish
  8. Put it into the fridge for about four hours
  9. Hope for the best
  10. Catalogue stuff up as an another Um moment for future defence if required.

The posset was perfect.  Mine had the same consistency all the way through.  Which was great as I had plenty left over...

No Um defence was required because these little cakes were absolutely perfect.  From last weeks "not one of your better cakes" to this weeks "the best yet", you are clearly only as good as your last bake.  We did have different taste testers this week, ones who haven't eaten nearly so much cake, and they were probably both on their best behaviour.  But Chris ate one as well as Isaac and Patrick finished off his partly consumed cake and all three gave it the double thumbs up and they were most definitely not on their best behaviour.  Thomas was on a hunger strike because lunch wasn't sausage/chips/broccoli so he missed out completely.
Isaac couldn't get the cake in his mouth fast enough
The saddest thing about these cakes is that I didn't make a double batch. They were amazing.  And definitely worth the faff (albeit not that much faff was actually undertaken).  The Lemon Posset is amazing and it can be served without the cake in a little pot with a little spoon (or in a massive pie dish with a huge spoon - the latter option is my preferred serving recommendation) and you don't need to be elderly or infirm.  Given it is two thirds cream, I would definitely recommend you have full gall bladder function.

No idea what is up next week.  I know it is Hamantaschen but I have no idea what these are.  No pictures, so I know my interpretation of these will be perfect!

Chocolate Pavarotti with Wicked Good Ganache

My ear for music is as refined as my sporting ability.  I have been to a few operas in the past eight years in some fairly fancy opera houses and I am embarrassed to admit that I couldn't differentiate the tenor from the baritone, let alone high C from an E - Pavarotti's claim to fame (one of them).   I am however, much better at reading a crowd and could generally work out whether it was good, bad or indifferent from other cues.  In all, I was an okay guest but not stellar.   I tended to not participate in the post mortem conversation, but instead concentrate on drinking my champagne and voicing my appreciation of the invitation.  "Airhead" pops to mind.

The Chocolate Pavarotti - I think I missed the E, and instead hit an off note.  The cake contains three different sources of fat - white chocolate (containing cocoa butter - I used Green and Blacks and a bit of Marks and Spencer white Belgian), butter and canola oil.  I was expecting this cake to be even better than the Chocolate Cuddle cake, with the added bonus of not having to divide and conquer egg whites from their egg yolks.  High, high E hopes.

It all came together pretty easily.  A number of Rose's chocolate cakes dissolve the cocoa powder in the boiling water first.  This definitely intensifies the chocolate flavour.  In this cake it was quite a fluid mixture - most often it is thick and viscous, less dissolving and more cocoa mud pie.

Rose's other party trick when it comes to cakes, is to mix the fats and liquids into the dry mixture, rather than creaming the butter and sugar and then adding in the flour/dry/egg.  Which I happily did.  After the fats and cocoa mixture you then beat the eggs in to build the structure (still not overly sure about this but it does give a great visual - I think gluten and protein and fat all get together and arm wrestle?).

All brilliant until I read the next line which says "add the melted chocolate".  Um.  What melted chocolate? It took me another read of the recipe to work out that the white chocolate I beat into the dry ingredients at stage 2 was the same chocolate required at stage six.  Um.  As I bake I always take note of the Ums because these are the reasons I will later reveal to my taste testers if the cake doesn't live up to expectations.  Defend Rose's recipes and lay my baking ability upon the cake knife.
The cake bakes in a single 9 inch cake pan and supposedly between 30 - 40 minutes.  I am usually right on the lower end of cooking times, but at 30 the toothpick was barely warm and dripping with wet cake mix.  Another five minutes, better but still not cooked.  Another 3 minutes, still not complete.  Another five minutes and cooked.  But I do think overcooked by 3 minutes.  A fine line between cooked and uncooked for this cake.  I have made a note to cook this with the rose nail to even out the cooking time.

Whilst the cake was slowly cooking I tackled the Wicked Good Ganache.  Really? Wicked Good?  I feel like some old person trying to hang with the kids when I say that.  Hang on.  I am an old person.  That said, I have yet to overhear any youth use wicked good in the same breath as ganache, so perhaps I just need to get over myself.  Again.

I am guessing the Wicked Good of the ganache is the sneaky cayenne pepper - between 1/4 - 3/4 of a teaspoon mixed in.  Sneaky huh?  It is either that or the corn syrup/dark chocolate enrichment base.  I used golden syrup instead of corn syrup.  And I broke a few rules with the ganache.  Rose did the enrichment process in one pot and the scalded cream in another pot and then added them to the chocolate.  Having already used five bowls to make the cake I economised and just made boiled the syrup and then scalded the cream as an all in one activity and then mixed into the two types of chocolate.  Glossy good ganache.  Not wicked good until I added the 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.  And not to self, 1/2 teaspoon is pretty mild if you are eating it on the day, but it does seem to get hotter in the following days ...

I served this cake as dessert for Valentines Dinner - we had friends over.  Friends who have sampled any number of Rose's cakes over the years.  Friends with expectations.  The resounding refrain was, "not one of your better cakes..." - they must be good friends, usually the British are terribly polite!  It was a crumbly chocolate cake, with more than a toe in the "dry" camp.  Those extra three minutes of baking.  Definitely an off note.  The sneaky heat in the ganache was novel, but for me didn't accentuate the cake.  I think hot and dry was not a great combination.  Maybe if I hadn't over cooked the cake?  Maybe?  The cayenne added heat, but no extra taste.  Chris opines I should maybe think about adding some Sudden Death Sauce but he can do that on his watch.

All in all, not a keeper.  I have noted to add more water to the cocoa - some of the other Alpha Bakers did this and had a great result.  I want to love this cake, it is quick and easy, so I need to get it to work.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Swedish Apricot Walnut Bread

So I come here to post about this weeks Lemon Posset Cakes and I am greeted with a guilty trail of incomplete posts.  And by incomplete I mean they are complete only in title and hastily uploaded photos.  Clearly the blog fairies have been on strike.  How could they not piece together an amazing few post with such incredible photos...

Apparently four weeks ago I made this Swedish Apricot Walnut bread.  From memory, this was after the great storm that never really was (at least where I went) Juno that delayed my US trip by a week.  My recollection of this recipe is not great.  The one thing I do recall is that my usual laissez faire approach produced sub optimal results.  I think there was some definite over proving during this process and I ended up with a tough little loaf, which was still hanging around the kitchen when I returned the following weekend... never a good sign.

The thing I like about bread is that it is a relatively simple beast - few ingredients.  The thing that I dislike about bread is that it is a beast.  A bit like an animal, it seems to have a mind of its own and that is where we fall out.  I am not a bread whisperer.  Well, not yet, though in the coming years, now that I have risen (ahem) to the challenge of baking through Rose's Bread Bible with some other keen whisperers, I may yet tame the beast.

This bread was biga based again.  And it felt like it had to go through about five different resting periods, rises and folding and shaping and resting again.  Random resting, rising, folding and shaping photos as follows:

This bread called for 40 grams of pumpernickel flour (course rye) which I quickly discovered didn't exist in real life.  Well, not in my real life.  Chris went off on his white charger to hunt down the nearest thing to it - plain rye flour.  He came back with two 500 gram packs of plain rye flour.  Another impetus for doing the Bread Bible bake through.  Between that and the dry skim milk powder for the Panettone, I have enough Rye flour to see me to the end of my days.

At the end of this very long process I ended up with a disappointingly dense fruit loaf.  The flavour was good, but the texture, meh.  There was definitely no oven spring on this loaf.  I think my loaf did its best springing in the warming cupboard.

I think I will come back to this recipe once I have learned a few bread words to whisper to it sweetly.  Or maybe I just need to leave the "she'll be right" attitude at the kitchen door and arm myself with a spreadsheet and a timer...  It held such great promise...  I don't know if it is a particularly Australian thing, but toasted fruit bread with a cup of tea - bliss.  And the UK version is not a patch on the whole fruit wonders of the old country.

Coming soon, Chocolate Pavarotti with Wicked Good Ganache.