Friday, May 22, 2015

Tiger Cakes

Dorie Greenspan's newest addition to the written word, Baking Chez Moi, is a baking tome.  And it's amazing--albeit a bit overwhelming for me.  There is a wealth of recipes to choose from.  Unless you are looking for something very specific or something that has specific ingredients, you'll be hard-pressed over deciding just which recipe to sate your sweet tooth.  Unfortunately--but not that unfortunate because I love perusing through this book--this is what happened to me the other night.

I was paging through the book with the intent of choosing one thing to make.  My only criteria was that I needed to have all of the ingredients already on hand because it was eight o'clock at night--on a weeknight--and I wasn't even considering the idea of leaving my apartment.  Luckily, I ran across quite a few recipes that I could make.  But after reading through many of them I realized that I had to amend my criterion to not just ingredients I already had on hand.

I also needed a recipe that was fairly simple and not time consuming to make because it was just two hours before my bed time.  Finally, my search ceased with the turn of a page and the visual of these guys....these...."tiger cakes" that befell my eyes. When I started reading through the recipe I started to think that they were just inverted cupcakes.  But they're not.

For one thing, they are mostly made with almond flour.  So if anything they are more like financiers with some chocolate chunks.  Also, after sampling the batter the first thing that came to mind was chocolate chip cookie dough.  For me, it was a dead ringer.  After baking them, that correlation didn't break because they tasted like little chocolate chip cookie cakes with an additional flavor and texture courtesy of the almond flour.  They were addicting too--so easy to just pop one in your mouth and then another and another--just like a can of Pringles--except insurmountably better than Pringles.

As for the name....from what I read in the book, the chocolate is somehow supposed to create striations within the batter--so you'd have alternating stripes of chocolate and cake batter I assume. But I didn't really notice this with my tiger cakes.  The chocolate just embedded itself within the batter as though it would within a chocolate chip cookie. So I don't know what was supposed to occur.  Maybe I did something wrong.  But, whatever--tiger stripes or not--these little cakes were delicious.

Recipe unintentionally--gladly--adapted because I didn't have unsalted butter from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan

3 large egg whites at room temp.
1c (100g) almond flour
2/3c (132g) granulated sugar
3 T all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
8 T (113g) salted butter (the original recipe calls for unsalted butter and also 1/4 tsp salt but I had only salted butter so I used that and omitted the salt)
85g finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate chunks

First, preheat the oven to 350 F and butter 24 mini cupcake molds.  Then, pour your egg whites in a large bowl and whisk them just until they are broken up.  Add the almond flour and stir until all of the flour is moistened.  Next, add the sugar, all-purpose flour and vanilla and stir until fully combined.  Then, using either the microwave or the stove top, bring the butter to a boil and then gradually add it to the batter stirring each time before you add some more butter until all of it is fully combined.  Lastly, stir in the chocolate chunks.  Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake molds and bake the cakes for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick that is inserted in the middle of the cakes comes out clean. Remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool for a couple of minutes before removing them from the molds.  After the cakes have been removed from the pan let them cool completely before glazing them with the chocolate.

Recipe for chocolate glaze (the book uses a basic ganache but I already had this glaze leftover from some eclairs I made earlier and I thought it would work just as well)

3oz unsalted butter
5oz semi-sweet chocolate cut into chunks
1 T light corn syrup

First clarify the butter and then set it aside while you melt the chocolate.  Melt the chocolate in a medium heat proof bowl.  Add the still warm clarified butter and corn syrup and stir until fully combined.

To assemble, just dip each of the cakes in the chocolate and let the chocolate set before consuming--or don't and eat them as you will...

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Chestnut Sponge Cake

I purchased Alice Medrich's new cookbook, Flavor Flours.  It caught my attention when I first heard about it because I'm always curious to see if you can replicate traditional desserts and pastries (ones that use wheat flours) using non-traditional ingredients (ones that don't use wheat flours) and have them still taste...well, good.  My default impulse is to assume that the end result of these types of desserts is just mediocre. And honestly, that's not a fair assessment on my part because it's rare for me to veer away from using a good old fashioned all-purpose flour.  Maybe that will change with this new cookbook.  Yet, I don't believe that the intent of this cookbook is to convert people away from wheat flours.  It's not even a book meant to rouse healthier eating or aimed specifically at gluten free bakers--at least not intentionally.  Instead, Alice Medrich is hoping to open up our taste buds to a completely new realm of flours and how they can alter--and maybe even enhance--desserts that we know so well with wheat flours.  So in that sense, I love the book and am truly excited to try out many (all) of these recipes.  That stated, shortly after I read through the introduction of the book, I bought a slew of the flavor flours.  I didn't even know what recipe I wanted to start with--it was semi-impulsive.  But after browsing through the recipes--and simultaneously running through in my head my new flour inventory--I decided on the chestnut sponge cake.  It was simple with the most basic of ingredients--aside from the flour of course.  At first, when it came out of the oven and I removed it from the pan I thought it would be dry because I saw some dry-like crumbs at the edges of the cake. It also didn't seem as spongy as a wheat flour cake.  When I went to lightly press my finger on the top of the cake, it seemed harder than a cake I normally make.  It didn't rise much either.  But that could have been a result of me deflating the batter too much during the folding process too.  I guess I wasn't sure what it was supposed to look--or taste--like.  But all fears were extinguished when I actually bit into the cake.  It wasn't dry and it tasted kinda like a gingerbread cake with some nuttiness.  There was no disappointment or a feeling of mediocrity towards it.  I was pleased with the outcome and left with a definite sense of hope towards the non-wheat flour baked goods.  I have a feeling that they will be a valuable asset within my baking stockpile.

Chestnut sponge cake recipe from Flavor Flours by Alice Medrich

3 T (45g) clarified butter
1c (100g) chestnut flour
2/3c (130g) granulated sugar
4 large eggs
pinch of salt

First, line the bottom of an 8 inch round cake pan with a piece of parchment paper and set it aside. Place one of your oven racks in the lower third tier of your oven and preheat it to 350 F.  Set aside a large bowl.  Take the clarified butter and pour it into a small microwaveable-safe bowl and set aside. Then, in a different medium bowl whisk 2 tablespoons of the sugar, salt and the chestnut flour together and set that aside.  Next, place the eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer and attach the bowl to the mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs on high speed until they've tripled in volume and have thickened up.  Before the eggs have tripled in volume--while your mixer is still running--heat the butter in the microwave until it's hot and then pour it into the large bowl you've set aside. Once the eggs are done, stop the mixer and remove the bowl from it.  Now, pour 1/3 of the flour mixture over the top of the eggs and fold it into them until almost all of the flour has been incorporated.  Then, pour half of the remaining flour mixture over the eggs and fold until almost all has been incorporated.  And repeat with the remaining flour mixture.  Next, take about 1/4 of the batter and pour it into the large bowl that contains the clarified butter and gently fold the two mixtures together until they are well combined.  Lastly, pour the buttery batter mixture into the eggy flour batter and fold until well combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 20-30 minutes (I left mine in for 22 minutes and I think it could have been done in less time--it all depends on your oven though). Remove the cake from the oven and let cool before removing from the pan.

Once the cake was cooled, I frosted it with some leftover pecan whipped cream I had from a prevous project.  I thought it would be a nice complement for it.  Alice Medrich's exact recipe uses a pear butter and creme fraĆ®che--but I didn't have any ingredients to whip that up so I went with what I had...