Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Gâteau Basque

Winter sucks.  This winter sucks big time.  I mean...W.T.Frack?

I'm tired of the unrelenting frigid temperatures, the snow, the ice.  I'm tired of talking about it.  Of hearing about it, of feeling blah every time I look out the window.

I'm also sick of complaining about it.

So about this cake...

Gâteau Basque.  It originates--from what I've read--from the Basque regions of Spain and France--I guess both sides have a version.

I came to know this cake from a cafe/bakery I frequent.  It's Cafe Floriole (check it out--they really make some amazing pastries).  Anyway they make a gâteau basque too and it is my favorite pastry they have.

It comes as a 4" cake dusted with powdered sugar and filled with cherry preserves (usually).  It's decadent and rich.  I mean, normally I can polish off a giant slice of cake all on my own and then some.

I also refuse to share my desserts--that's like sacrilege to me.  But this cake is so rich that I have to share it which is disappointing to me because it has surely been sent down from heaven.  And I'm selfish.  As far as desserts go.

First comes the bottom layer of cake batter...

So, ever since I first tried it I put it on my list of things to get busy with in the kitchen.  And I did.

Then the lemon curd...

About eight months ago when I had an abundance of cherries.

Then the pastry cream with my less than stellar spiral...

 I found a recipe for a gâteau basque.

And finally the top layer of cake batter with an egg wash

I found some different recipes actually--most had cherry preserves and pastry cream nestled in the middle of the cake while others just had the preserves.

I know for sure that the one at Floriole has the preserves but I can't tell whether or not it has pastry cream--I think not but I could be wrong.  Nevertheless, I picked out a recipe and made it as 4" little cakes just using preserves.  The result was good and tasted delectable but it wasn't anything like the ones I knew.  It was more like a pastry (almost pie crust-like) dough than a cake batter.

And the one at Floriole is more like a cake--moist (I'm not afraid of that word) and dense"ish."  So I decided to try again and I finally found a recipe that seemed to have more of a cake batter ratio which was less like the other ones I tried but which also appeared to be more of a better fit.  I just didn't make it until now for some reason--when cherries are far from plentiful in these parts.

Thus I decided to make a slight adaptation and make a Meyer lemon (those are in season somewhere) curd to replace the preserves.  This recipe also included a vanilla pastry cream so I implemented that as well which was a blessed addition indeed.  As a whole this an awesome recipe.  It was really close to the one I have come to love at Floriole.  It was definitely more cakey and had a similar look although I did make it in a 10" (maybe a 9") springform pan instead of the little 4" ones.  The lemon curd replacement was pretty good too I have to say but I'm looking forward to trying it with some cherry preserves. 

I made this into a 2 day process because I needed to make the lemon curd and the pastry cream first.  You could definitely do it all in one day but I was taking my time I suppose.

Lemon curd - recipe from Joy of Cooking

Supposed to make about 1 1/2c which was accurate

3 large eggs
1/3c sugar
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2c of strained lemon juice (I used Meyer lemons)
6 tbsp of unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1/2 tsp of vanilla extract

-Whisk the eggs, sugar and lemon zest in a medium sauce pan until the color of the eggs is lighter
-Add the lemon juice and the butter
-Over medium heat whisk the ingredients together constantly until the butter has melted and the mixture thickens (So, I believe I removed the mixture from the heat too quickly because it wasn't thick enough when it cooled.  Therefore I had to put it back on the heat until it thickened up more.  But I think I left it on the heat too long because it thickened well enough but once it cooled it had a slightly grainy texture. It didn't effect the overall finished product but the moral of the story is keep the curd on the heat long enough until it is the thickness of a custard)
-Once the curd has thickened, remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
-Transfer the curd to a clean bowl and let cool completely.  It should thicken up a bit more as it cools.

Pastry cream - recipe also from Joy of Cooking

Makes about 2c

1/3c sugar
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp corn starch
4 large egg yolks
1 1/3c milk (I used skim)
3/4 tsp of vanilla extract (I used vanilla bean paste)

-Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment on high speed--mix the sugar, flour, corn starch and egg yolks until thickened and very pale yellow in color
-Heat the milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer
-Remove the milk from the heat and pour 1/3 of it into the egg mixture whisking constantly until fully combined
-Pour the egg-milk mixture back into the sauce pan with the rest of the warm milk and place back on the stove over low to medium heat and whisk constantly until it has thickened (whisk constantly else you will risk burning some of the pastry cream) and started bubbling
-Remove the pastry cream from the heat and using a wire mesh strainer, strain it over a clean bowl
-Stir in the vanilla extract
-Place a piece of wax paper directly atop the mixture while it cools

Gâteau Basque adapted from The Travelers Lunchbox

3/4c (90g) almond flour
1 1/3c (200g) all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 large eggs at room temp.
1c (200g) sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
14 tbsp (1 3/4 sticks, 200g) unsalted butter melted
1 egg for an egg wash

-Butter and flour a 10" spring form cake pan and set aside
-Sift the flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl and then whisk together thoroughly
-Using a stand mixer--with the whisk attachment--whisk together the eggs, sugar and vanilla until thickened and pale in color
-Add the melted butter and whisk until combined
-Whisk in the dry ingredients until just combined
-Let the mixture stand for 20 minutes and preheat the oven to 400 F
-After the 20 minutes are up and the oven is preheated, pour half of the cake batter into the spring form pan and smooth and even out with a spatula
-Pour and even out the cooled lemon curd leaving about an inch around the outer edge
-Pipe or just pour and smooth out the cooled pastry cream over the lemon curd
-Pour, smooth and even out the rest of the cake batter and then apply the egg wash to the top of the cake
-Bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is golden brown and a toothpick stuck into the middle of the cake comes out clean
-Remove the cake from the oven and let cool completely before removing from the pan
-Dust some powdered sugar over it if it so pleases you

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Winter Soup

Surprise!  I made something savory again.  Believe it?  No?  Well whatever.  I did.  Nevertheless, I haven't been entirely excited about this post.  In fact I've been less than motivated about writing it.  It wasn't bad at all and as soup goes it was pretty darn good.  But, I'm just not a big soup eater.  Never really have been and I'm not sure why.

Maybe it's because they're never really all that filling for me and you're really just eating liquid.  Eh.  But there are definitely some good soups out there--and chowders too.  I like a thick tomato soup but gag at the thought of a creamy mushroom soup.  No.  Thanks.

But this soup is good, easy and fun to make because there's a good amount of peeling/chopping vegetable prep work and then you just pile it in one pot, cook it, puree it and then you're done.

Since it's winter and all that I can get at the farmers market is root vegetables I searched for a winter soup recipe and I found one that was published in the NYT for turnips, leeks and potatoes.

I followed the recipe pretty closely with a few exceptions which were either a result of me not having everything or me liking salty things.

So here goes my slightly adapted recipe from here:

1 tbsp EVO
1 medium onion chopped
2 large leeks halved and then 1/4" sliced (only the white and light green parts)
2 tsps salt
2 garlic cloves minced
1 large russet potato chopped into 1/4-1/2 inch cubes
4 large turnips chopped into 1/4-1/2 inch cubes (recipe calls for 2lbs but I had maybe 1 1/2lbs and it didn't seem to be a problem)
2 quarts of chicken stock
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs of fresh parsley
1/4 tsp ground pepper

4 slices of bacon fried and crumbled for garnish
fresh parsley for garnish

-Heat the olive oil in large dutch oven (at least a 5 quart)
-Add the onion, leeks and a pinch of salt (separate from the 2 tsps listed above) and stir until all soft--about 5 minutes
-Add the garlic and stir in for about 30 seconds
-Add everything else and bring to a full boil uncovered
-Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook for 45 minutes
-Test that the vegetables are tender and soft--try piercing them with a fork and if the fork pierces right through easily they're done.
-Remove the pot from the heat and working in batches spoon the vegetables and some liquid (I didn't incorporate all of the liquid into the final product--I think it just depends on how soupy you want it to be--I wanted my kinda thick so I maybe used only about half of the liquid) into a blender or food processor and puree until completely smooth
-Serve immediately or store in an airtight container for a week at most?  Or freeze it.

When I served it I sprinkled some of the crumbled bacon atop the soup--it was a great addition.