Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Torta de las Tres Leches -- [a catch-up cake for me]

This marvelous creation was one that I have not baked previously, but when I was informed by a friend last week that it was his favorite cake – what could I do?
A simple mis en place        

The cake, itself, came together very easily – biscuit cake in a 9 x 3” round.

After cooling, place the cake on plastic wrap, wrap it, and place it back into the pan in which it was baked, wrapping the tops over to seal it. Keep refrigerated while wrapped until ready to soak it in leches.

For the leche mixture, boil the milks and sugar, reducing to half.  Cool, add the whipping cream and condensed milk . [Tip to self: Next time, weigh the saucepan to be able to easily guage the reduction].  Refrigerate until ready to pour onto cake.

Because I intended to surprise my friend with it at lunch time today, I completed the whole milk addition last evening, and the cake soaked, refrigerated, over night, more than eight hours.
This morning I carefully inverted the torta onto a tart pan bottom and set it into a large platter with a lip that accommodated it perfectly. I sopped up some excess milk several times by rolling narrow pieces of paper toweling around the base of the cake.
There wasn’t enough of the whipped cream stabilized with cornstarch made the night before, so in the morning I made another batch and the stars I piped were more full.

Not only was my friend surprised, but he was delighted, and there were rave reviews from his friends. The cake was moist, but not soggy, beautiful flavor, and crumb.

This was a very pleasant experience, with an exceptional cake ~~ a nice one to repeat!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Rose Genoise

The mis en place appeared very simple; only a few things to weigh.

Sometimes, however, looks can be deceiving – especially when one does not pay attention well enough. I was reminded of this, one more time, as I cracked my 17th egg, in the attempt to reach the 250 grams Rose has called for in the Rose Genoise. I actually separated 17 eggs to arrive at 250 grams of egg yolks.
Something was wrong. I checked Rose's recipe over and over. I weighed water on the scale to ascertain functionality. I weighed the egg yolks in different bowls. But still those yolks came out to 250 grams. Either Rose’s numbers were wrong, or I have just done something totally erroneous – but what was it? What would you guess? My error or Rose's text?

But, I continued with eggs/sugar warming, then beating them, but still,  something was very wrong – by the time I got to the folding in of the flour, there was serious no go. I had a grotesque mass of something inedible in the bowl. Now I am convinced Rose’s numbers are wrong – it’s a typo in her text.

I didn’t want to wait until we post our blog on Sunday since I wanted to bake this cake for a friend tomorrow. The only alternative I could think of was to email Marie, who must have just rolled on the floor laughing when she realized my dilemma. But she was very kind to this forlorn creature as she explained, “I think the problem is that it is 5 whole eggs, not 5 egg yolks.” And she was even more kind enough to add, “I can see how you were puzzled.” 

Well, even I can’t see how I was puzzled. I had cataract surgery a month ago, for Pete’s sake: I am supposed to be seeing the recipe better, not worse. So, we all know it has nothing to do with seeing. I responded to Marie, saying, “I think it is about my poor eye-to-cake coordination”. Welllll – that will have to do -- loathe to admitting the real reason --- what is that called, a mental block? Or do I really want to improve my expertise in egg separating that much?

At any rate, on the way home from supper later on, I refilled the egg container and weighed out 5.5 whole eggs for the 250 grams specified by Rose. Gratitude to Marie for lending her helping hand. I pitched the preliminary sticky mess and prepped again. This time, I simply focused, and followed directions: 

Made beurre noisette and kept it warm. Warmed eggs and sugar over hot water to about 90'. Beat on high for 5 minutes. Egg foam tripled or more, very pale and ribbon stage. Sacrificed a cupful and mixed into the beurre noisette. Sifted the pre-sifted cornstarch and flour half mixture over eggfoam and folded in with large balloon, folded in additional flour mixture. Folded in beurre noisette mixture lightly, checked for flour pellets. Poured into pan and baked --- Easy peasy - And it looked like this:

Before long - in fact, after exactly 27.5 minutes of breathless nose-to-oven-door, there tumbled out of it's rose-mould an incredibly light and airy genoise.  When cooled, this rose was syruped with the lovely- scented Triple-Sec, while waiting overnight to take its journey to my friend for her surprise afternoon tea party the next day. What nicer addition to a party than this absolutely glorious cake?
It is my experience that each person who has been in the company of this creation has been enthralled by its beauty, flavor and consistency. My friends complained their pieces were too small~~there were too many friends and not enough cake. Now isn't that a nice thing! I must say, I was proud of a fine result after my calamitous beginning. The second time around was, indeed, the charm. I must constantly remind myself that this new-found avocation of baking is all a learning process, and how much fun it is, no matter how many blunders I make. Certainly, an apology is due to Rose and the editors. So, on to the next rapturous creation of the 'chocolate ice cream cake or sandwich' next week -- wow!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Coconut Cheesecake with Coconut Cookie Crust

As I recalled baking the marvelous pumpkin cheesecake last Thanksgiving, I looked forward to preparing this coconut one now. I will use a chef's pan for the water bath, and foil to seal it.

In my readings through Hector's Yellow Kitchen recently, I noted a suggestion he made re bringing maximum flavor of coconut out by making the filling and freezing it aheadCORRECTION: ONLY THE COCONUT SHOULD BE FROZEN- NEVER THE FILLING AS IT WILL RUIN THE CONSISTENCY OF THE FILLING. I MISUNDERSTOOD AND HECTOR CLARIFIED THAT ONLY COCONUT CAN BE FROZEN NOT CHEESECAKE FILLING. I thought I would do that for fun. At present this filling is freezing overnight. I will thaw it and bake the cake tomorrow afternoon. I must say, I still have grave concerns about this oven's behavior. 

Other than that, it seems this is going to be trouble-free, except for the oven problems : ). A tech came out and said that there was nothing wrong with the oven. He indicated oven thermometers are not reliable and that the far left corner was the most reliable spot, but also a spot in the right front. He suggested my pizza stone was holding the heat in the bottom and this is why the electric indicator was reading too high and the oven therm reading too low. This frustrated me so much that I went out and bought another stone for the bottom and now I have two to sandwich the cake between. Many people on the Forum have spoken of similar problems to deal with and some have figured out how.

I spoke with a patisserie chef today who agreed with the stone idea. Okay, so I return home, armed with a beautiful pizza stone by Oneida. I placed it on the floor of the oven, with the other stone on the top rack. Soon I heard craaack. Well, so much for the pizza stone. As I looked at the oven thermometer, it was reading around 400' + So, now I realize I have got to place the bottom stone on a rack higher. So, I placed a cooling rack bringing the tile up an inch. The day after, I visited a tile place who had 'natural' clay tiles 16 x 16". The natural tiles are not fired as high as the quarry  tile, and is more pourous, standing less heat. I sat one on a one-inch cooling rack on the floor of the oven. It broke after 20 minutes.
So:  Still on the trail of the elusive real live 'unglazed quarry tile.' It is Saturday and I have finally located a tile place where they sell the real 'unglazed quarry tile'. I came come bearing four. Monday I will acquire a third rack for the stove's bottom receptacle and, hopefully, that will solve the oven problem in time for the Rose Genoise next week. I am relating these endeavors here in the hope that perhaps others won't have to go through what I have to get their oven working evenly.  Finding things that were once available easily, i.e. at Home Depot, becomes nerve -wracking and time consuming. Thank you Hector for being so helpful to me in explaining what I need.  I have figured out that my electric oven has coils under the bottom that are probably going to crack any tile placed directly upon them. Now I am acquiring an extra rack that I can put on the lowest receptacle in the bottom to help that.
Here are the newly acquired real live 'unglazed quarry tiles' -- each 16" x 16" of pure gold! I think next I will acquire smaller squares so the whole racks are lined.

The batter had been frozen overnight and defrosted all day:

When I removed the cake from the water bath, there was water that seemed to be emanating from inside the three layers of wrapping of heavy-duty foil. I didn't know whether there was leakage or if it was just from the foil and bath. I have been reading on Forum etc. from people who simply do not use springform anymore and say they never have a problem. I am considering that. One woman, in discussion of the horrors of the water bath, says she has been making cheesecakes for her son's restaurant for years with no problem in regular pan ever. My springform pan was 'guaranteed leak-proof' and it didn't leak with the pumpkin cheesecake. So, since I couldn't do anything about it one way or another, I just unwrapped the foil and let the cake sit on a rack for an hour or so to cool. I then put it on a cake carrier with cover, and refrigerated it until noon today.
It was beautiful to see,
I cut a piece for my husband, and as I did I realized that it had not set enough. He was enraptured, however, announcing "This is as good a cheesecake as one would find anywhere!". He said the bottom crust was crunchy and thick. [I had doubled the coconut cookie recipe because there didn't seem to be enough when I got the sides done]. I must agree that the flavor is, indeed, absolutely awesome! That may be attributed to Hector's ideas about freezing coconut batter first for maximum flavor. The fact that it didn't set up enough is undoubtedly my fault. I [once again] forgot to start the timer at one interval and had to play catch up. That could have hurt. Also, the oven still has not been working properly. With the new tiles I hope to be ready for Rose Genoise next week.

Mainly, however, I realize I should have taken this cheesecake's temperature for 160'. I guess I was afraid it would fall because it was so beautiful and had risen so perfectly, albeit loose looking. I had read to look out for over-baking and that the center will look a little loose normally. Now, I think definitely I should have taken its temperature. In the meantime, if this cheesecake doesn't set more today, we will have delicious coconut pudding/soft cheesecake -- and I will most assuredly make Coconut Cheesecake again because it is not difficult and because I am certain it is the best ever!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Mousseline and Miss Irene Thompson's Dark Chocolate Frosting

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Mousseline and Miss Irene Thompson’s Dark Chocolate Frosting

Saturday 12 June:

Today’s exercise In Heavenly Baking was very odd – to say the least. Since I have had some not-too-nice results with my cakes, and since I still had not acquired an oven thermometer, I did so before beginning this week’s cake, and placed it center-stage in the oven awaiting it’s debut.

All the mis en places for the mousseline and the cake were set up this morning
 and I turned the oven to 350’ F. to preheat/heat. This is an electric stove about three years old. At a certain time it dinged and presented the digits 350F.  All good to go.

--- until I looked into the oven at the thermometer, which said 335’. What? I looked again and saw that it indeed said 335’. This could not be possible. I raised the oven to 355’. The thermometer now looked as if it were going lower. I am delusional. I raised the oven to 360’ – nothing. Now I am really frustrated and I snap the oven up to 365’. After a few minutes, the thermometer deigned to slowly raise it’s temperature to 350’, where it proceeded to remain in concert with its wily companion.

I am nonplussed, to say the least. I make the batter, which is fluffy and divine.

 I now have doubts whether it will stay that way. I set the timers [two] for 30 minutes. Rose says 30-40”.  And I then sat on a Rubbermaid stool in front of the oven window, and stared, and took pictures of the cake layers. Well, it rose, making bubbles. I thought I would turn the pan that was looking a bit lopsided. I touched it and it jiggled like jello. I got out of there in a hurry. And sat. And waited. I didn’t even know what I was waiting for.

Calculating and reasoning are not my forte. I couldn’t figure out whether the temperature of the oven was really 365F or if the oven thermometer was not accurate. Moreover, I couldn’t figure out what the cake would like best – higher, faster or lower temperature longer baking. I reasoned that what I was going to have to do was to watch and wait. The sides were coming away from the sides more, and the domed tops were beginning to turn brown. Having been frightened by the soupy encounter earlier, I decide to let the cake become just a little more brown. The timers were still not ready to ding.  Finally, I summoned enough nerve to take a temperature with my Thermapen. I recall 190 – 200’ as being good, and I removed the cakes at 200’.                          I couldn’t really see the reading very well, but rechecked when out on the rack and it was indeed spot on 200’. Aha, something favorable. And having the oven calibrated is something very favorable to look forward to next week!
I Let the layers have their 10 minutes of glory in the pans on their racks, unmolded and re-inverted them, and went the h--- out to dinner, passing by Williams Sonoma, where I exchanged the OXO thermometer for a Taylor. At present the poor cakes are still resting on their racks, and I shall now wrap them and refrigerate them to ready them for their next onslaught tomorrow with the addition of strawberry mousseline and chocolate frosting.  I hate to contemplate what these cakes are going to be like inside. You’re right. I just may be presently surprised.

I know my friends, Patricia, Julie, Rozanne, Roxanne, Carolita, Matthew, Bill, Jenn, Jeanne, Cass, Sugar Chef, and many more, will be laughing their heads off. I feel like Calamity Joan, one more time. But I know these friends have answers for peculiarities, and I can count on that. Hector says he doesn’t have to use a thermometer any more because he has his oven spot on. Who knows, this may lead to a great genoise and biscuit for me!

Sunday, June 13

Well, this morning first thing I tested the replacement oven thermometer. Actually it acted exactly the way as the other one – my oven at 365’ and the thermometer at 350’. I am very happy to know this. It can reduce my baking problems a lot. After all, I can make enough mistakes without being sabotaged by my oven!

On that happy note, we went to the strawberry mousseline. I could not find American Spoon so obtained the preserves that looked the least seedy, so to speak. Therefore, did not strain. I decided to use Plugra butter after reading Rose’s comments and the Forum’s take on it. I, of course, don’t know if it was due to the Plugra , but the Mousseline came together in a snap. It kind of looked at me for an instant with that cottage-cheese look, but I stared it down and it just continued happily along. I didn’t use the Pyrex cup, just measured the temp of the sugar and dribbled it in at a steady stream and whipped it on high. Got a little heavy-handed with the red food coloring, but made up for it by putting in some wild strawberry essence.

The cake layers:  Believe it or not, although they had small holes, were very light and great crumb.       As you can see, a friend came by and before he knew it he had become addicted to the slices I was leveling off, spreading the pieces with the mousseline.
So, the cake came together well.
Miss Irene Thompson would most likely be displeased at my choice of chocolate. I only had Valrhona Le Noir 61% on hand, so I went ahead without the 99%. The frosting liquid covered the top in a perfect glaze. I did not use the spatula on it. Took a little work to keep it from cascading itself forever, but finally I got ahead of it, fighting it back up over and over on the sides, and finally the glittering, glazed treasure is holding court like the ugly duckling, all decked out in its finery. I think it is heroic.

My husband just loooves this cake!
I am excited to think I may have a calibrated oven soon, and I may love more cakes too!