Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Swedish Pear and Almond Cream Cake

                  To me, this little cake is special.
It is light and tender beyond belief. The almond cream so fragrant, and the marvelous texture and sweetness of the Bartlett pear render it so flavorful.
It took me a good bit of time to make it. But then it takes me a good bit of time to make any cake.
The almond cream came together perfectly, and perfectly yummy.
The Bartlett pears were barely ripe so they would hold their texture, which they did.
The batter came together easily. In the pan, after spreading the batter evenly, I had a slight problem keeping the indentation circle wide enough in the batter to keep the cream separated, so it wouldn't slide over onto the sides and around the tube of the pan; but it seemed to come out fine after all, even though it did go onto the tube.
My grumpy oven scowled at me as I ignored his temperature-display and turned him to 355' instead of 350'.  I checked the cake at 55 minutes and decided the top was a little too fluffy and a bit sticky. I let the cake stay in for the extra 5 min. and took it out.  I hoped for the best, and was rewarded.
Then, I did what I was meant to do - let it sit for 10 mins. Then, shake to dislodge. I was concerned, but it came forth undamaged, and sat on a rack until it totally cooled.
The recipe says to put the the pan back over the cake and then invert it onto a plate. After much deliberation, I decided that since I had used the intricately patterned chrysanthemum pan, I probably wouldn't be able to set it on top the cake without destroying the fragile design.
So, instead, after it had completely cooled, without inverting, I transported the cake with a large cake spatula to a cake round and into a carrier I will use tomorrow. Perfect.
But now, I just had to know if the pear and almond cream had really done the impossible. Had they really baked down through the batter and come to rest in a beautiful, pear and light custard crunchy top?
I cut into it with a serrated knife and there were the pear slivers, and a touch of white almond cream, just like the picture in RHC. I was beaming. And, now the true test - would it be soggy? - It wasn't! The crumb was absolutely heavenly - almost floating. [in contradiction to my angel food of last week]. Yes.
I think I can use the higher oven temp now with some confidence.
My husband has just had a piece, and has pronounced it 'marvelous'. Tomorrow I will keep half and share the rest to friends whom I know will also find it delicious.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The chocolate Tweed Angel Food Cake: or 'The Lost Weekend'

        Friday, October 22: It has been a long summer, and so long since I have been here, or even baked a cake at all. I am thrilled to be back, and delighted to see that an angel food cake is on the agenda. Although I have never made one, I merrily go ahead with little consternation at the many complaints I have heard about it --
So, what is the problem, aside from separating 16 eggs, which may make me a bit nervous, but is it truly a deterrent?
The little mis en place was easy to lay out. I was extremely careful. I wanted to remember every detail, hard enough for me when I am used to baking weekly. Even sifted half the Caster sugar onto parchment; mixed Wondra with salt and sugar; hand-wiped out the mixing bowl with vinegar and then water, along with anything that would be in the area. It was like surgery.
     It has been humid in Texas, and I turned off the air conditioning since I had heard about drafts being problematic. I couldn't locate a properly sized bottle in-house so went to Google where an ingenious chef said, just use a colander and the NordicWare feet will fit over it and it will be suspended high, with the air coming through the colander to the cake. Aha. Good idea. Let's see, what else. The egg whites had been separated cold, but are now coming to room temp. I left them about an hour.
    The horror-oven has preheated to 350'; there is a rack on lower third with a tile. I have had problems with this oven, undoubtedly me and the oven. When I put a thermometer in there it is always 15' lower than the stove temp' indicator. But I left it alone this time. 
    Okay, now just follow directions. Whip egg whites until foamy, add cream of tartar.

foamy ready for cream of tartar

soft peaks add sugar incrementsstipeaks add vanilla.    
folded in flour
 Fold in flour in increments of 1/4 c. I used flat skimmer with holes. Lastly, fold in cold finely-ground chocolate. I forgot it because it was in fridge.

 I had lightly frosted inner sides of the pan with some of the batter per Rose's suggestion. Carefully placed batter in pan, smoothed with spatula. Poked some places with knife. Placed in oven and timed for 35 min.

When I returned to the kitchen, the cake looked beautiful, slightly domed, beautiful color. I stuck it with a skewer that seemed to come out dry. Quickly, my husband managed to take the unwieldy, hot object from the stove, and had placed it upside-down onto the waiting colander. At that moment, a huge surge took place and the cake turned on it's side and slid out halfway into the colander receptacle. It was quite impertinent as it cocked it's head and just lay there. I was horrified. How could this happen to me when I had done it all with such precision. Well, it had.

The cake seemed moist and rubbery. I just kept looking at it in a fury, and then just pitched it as a deserter, certainly a desserter. Later, my husband came upon me writing. He asked what I was doing, and I handed him a note upon which was written:

2 dozen eggs, 2 bags of Caster sugar. He just shook his head. The whipping cream for the frosting is still in fridge.

     Saturday, October 23: I knew I had done everything correctly yesterday, and don't know what I can do about the oven. I went to the Forum back as far as 2008, where I found Bill, Patrincia and others having a problem. I must say it was somewhat gratifying to see that even our Patrincia had lost one of these, even though it was selfish to feel that way. Julie and others had suggestions about heat, steam, humidity, oven placement. My brain was spinning. Then I went to Rose's demo of the angel food cake in New York. This is where I learned about lightly frosting the inside of the pan. Also, I saw hers sitting atop a Pellegrino bottle, jauntily tipped to the side ... and it sat there for a full hour plus. She even prepared one in front of us. She did, however, relate that she had lost one the day before. She explained it is important to wait until the doming ceases and the cake flattens out before pulling it. Aha!

     Armed with the new information, I began to scour the surgery once again with vinegar followed by water. I made a star by the ground chocolate entry in my book. I am a lot more easy with it now, and almost know the recipe by heart. I have raised the temperature this time to 355' and I left it in for 35'. It is beautiful! It domes like a pro. I stick it with a skewer, and it seems done. My husband comes to execute the deed. Boom. It plops on its side. I walk away.
     I watch Rose's demo again. I am in a state of confusion and despondency. What could it be? Folding too long and not thoroughly? Or -- the bloody oven too high/too low; too long/too short? My husband said he smelled some electrical fumes outside on the landing of the condo. I smelled them also. I must say, I really hoped the stove was about to blow up so I could have one that I could count on. I did remove the top rack and the tile that usually sits on it since people say excessive heat at the top is not good for the angel food cake.
     So . . . He couldn't believe it. "Pleeeze get more eggs?" I couldn't believe it either. But, dadgummit [or worse], how could I let this cake get the better of me. It, itself, must be willing to help me. Don't they say the third time is the charm?

     Sunday, 24 October: Do I need to tell you that  the third time is not the charm? I even used the famous JB Prince balloon to fold. You have never feasted your eyes upon such a beauty as the one in my hateful oven today, Sunday. It was so perfectly gorgeous in medium brown, luscious and tender looking; domed to about 3 inches, and then flattened out as it was supposed to do. It tested well. But - just as I was taking it out I noted verrry slight separating from the sides, yet with it's brand-new Pellegrino bottle awaiting in the wings, my husband set it askew and it stayed.  Oh, I have accomplished a miracle. I ran for the camera, only to hear my husband shouting: "It's falling!" I didn't get to see that, not that I am masochistic, but I sure did see the rest. And I will rest my case.
        I would venture to say that I will not attempt this cake again -- even though I know how delicate, and delicious with chocolatey bits tastes the beaten meringue batter. Not until, however, I can make it with Rose, whom I believe would be the only one who could teach me. [maybe Woody].
End of Lost Weekend -- lol.