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 fraîche--but I didn't have any ingredients to whip that up so I went with what I had...

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