Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Bet it's a record!

So how much time did you take to make your Filbert Gateau?

I made it in a record time of four hours! (Confession: I ignored the sugar syrup and the apricot glaze).

Soon after Chris of Mele Cotte announced the challenge, I, like hundreds of other Daring Bakers took a print out. I had been planning to try the recipe for my sister's birthday, which is in mid-July. But that day we went shopping, came back after 5 p.m. and I was too tired, so I asked my brother to buy a cake. But my sis' long face at this made me change my mind, and I rolled up my sleeves.

So sometime after 6 (after having tea, I have a mental thing about tea) I started. Of course the b'day girl helped me a lot, and we somehow managed this feat!

And you can understand why I skipped the sugar syrup and glaze... I was too tired! Well, what after the praline, swiss buttercream, whipped cream, ganache, and of course the cake!

But the cake was amazing, it was air! And the whole combo, though very rich, was well worth the crazy four hours! One other change I made was that I used almonds; for two reasons: first, that's what I had at home, and second, buying hazelnuts, if available, would have meant a huge hole in my pocket.

And though I love decorating, I was running out of time, so I just spread some of the praline buttercream and sprinkled some nougat on top! I think it looked pretty.

And another thing, I just LOVE swiss meringue buttercream, it was amazing the way it incorporated the praline paste!


Friday, 18 July 2008

Plums galore!

There is so much lovely summer fruit to choose from these days. The other day I bought several pounds of plums and thought I should use them up before they got too soft. So I made this easy peasy plum tart from the Contessa herself. Her recipe called for a lot of plums, and I found I didn't have enough to get a tightly packed tart, so I added some apricots I had on hand.

Then I got my hands on some Italian prune plums, which the Contessa's recipe had called for, and I thought I should take a shot at clafouti.

Clafouti had always seemed something mysterious and unattainable for some reason. And then I read about it again recently at the LA TImes food blog. And after reading that plums are often used in clafouti, second only to cherries, I was sold. The Italian prune plums are really juicy and the flesh is a delicate green color, they reminded me of damsons that I had long long ago. IN fact they were so tasty, that by the time I got to making it the next day, I found my husband had scarfed down a pound or more. So I had to supplement the scarce fruit with strawberries.

I used this recipe from Orangette for the clafouti. It was really good, but I couldn't get my fussy 4-year-old to try any.


Friday, 11 July 2008

Very berry cake

I made this cake a few weeks ago, but never got around to posting about it. I used a victoria sponge recipe and topped it with a little leftover white chocolate ganache and lots and lots of raspberries and blackberries, to cut the cloying sweetness of the white chocolate. I always get excited when I see blackberries -- partly because the sightings are so rare and I love the fruit. But also it brings back childhood memories of a hardy little blackberry bush we had in a house we stayed in for a few years. I loved eating them half-ripe -- so tart and sweet at the same time. hmm.

My mother used to make victoria sponges every now and then, along with her staple madeiras, when we lived in England. But I hadn't made or had one in years.
Looking around for recipes, I learned that basically a victoria sponge, named for Queen Victoria, consists of equal weights of flour, eggs, sugar and butter, with eggs counting for about 2 oz each and of course baking powder as leavening. I found this recipe on the BBC, but because I was using larger tins, i went up to 6 oz of AP flour, butter and sugar, plus 2 tsp baking powder and 3 eggs. I used the creaming method, and added the eggs one at a time. And I used strawberry jam to sandwich the layers.
I liked the result, but I'm not a fan of white chocolate, and next time I'll make the classic, sandwiched with jam and dusted with confectioner's sugar.


Thursday, 10 July 2008

Chiffon cake - two halves make it whole

This is my first attempt at Chiffon cake -- I had shied away from it so far because I hate making things that require separating the egg whites and yolks, and I especially hate it if I have leftover yolks. But I finally bit the bullet, and I must say it was easy-peasy and so delicious! I am mentally kicking myself for not trying it sooner. I divvied up the cake to make two variations -- one the classic strawberries and cream, and the other with mango mousse, using a delicious ataulfo mango a friend at work brought in for me.

Some more photos after the jump.


Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Thrice as nice!

I missed my niece's first birthday coz of my darn exams... and it's not like I am going to do very well because I was good and studied... I didn't. But I just couldn't bake a cake because that was like admitting that I'm not going to study.. so I just sat and didn't bake a cake and didn't study... But you see I did not want to give myself the opportunity to say that I didn't study because I was baking! But then I scraped thru my exams somehow and I'm enjoying my holidays (:D) now and i felt it was time I put things right.

I was first planning to make a huge four-layer cake, two layers of vanilla cake and two layers of madeira. but then instead of making one huge cake that I wasn't sure what it would taste like, I changed my mind at the last moment and made two two-layer cakes hoping that at least one would taste good.

The reason behind this last-minute decision was that the vanilla cake was pretty flat. I had chosen recipe because How to Eat a Cupcake had paired her Vanilla Cupcakes with swiss meringue buttercream and I really wanted to make some swiss meringue buttercream (hehehe) -- because then I get a chance to use homemade white butter, yeah!

The recipe was a bit strange, calling for the dry ingredients and the butter to be mixed and then later incorporating the wet ones. the cake did rise, but it was dense. A lot denser than my madeira. At that time i panicked. looking back now I guess that the madeira batter gains a lot of volume during the creaming stage and also while adding the eggs. The only rise the vanilla cake got was in the oven.

Anyway at that time i was panicking, right? So I split the madeira in half, layered it with the buttercream and topped it with some milk chocolate ganache I had in the fridge (I always have some ganache in the fridge). What you see at the top is what it looked like.

Then I split the vanilla cake in half, layered it with buttercream and covered with the same and then spent sometime making it look horribly pinky and purply... well guess what, it tasted good.

And the cupcakes? I got them from the leftover madeira batter...  topped them with leftover buttercream and the leftover ganache...