Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Daring Bakers July - Filbert Gateau

Here we are again - its the end of yet another month this year - I can't believe how fast it goes by. This month's Daring Bakers challenge comes to us courtesy of Chris at Mele Cotte. She chose this fantabulous cake from Great Cakes by Carol Walter.

This cake is more than just a cake but we'll get to that in a bit. I was very excited about this challenge. I had been quite a while since I had made a cake of this caliber, and it would be interesting to see if I could pull it off here in AK, without the aid of my cake decorating and construction tools!

I ordered filberts (hazelnuts) from Barry Farm's Amazon store. They were not too badly priced and shipping was fairly quick. I've ordered from them before for bread baking ingredients and had no issues with the turnaround or quality of the item. He does charge an additional fee, to cover his packing cost, but at the end of the transaction, I paid less to get 1.5 pounds of shelled raw filberts here than from other outlets, so I can't complain. I was considering substituting another nut for the filberts, but all bulk raw nuts were sold out here.

It took about two weeks to get the nuts here, so I stewed looking at my fellow DB'ers provide sneak peaks, trials, and tribulations of their experiences with this month's challenge. Once my filberts arrived, I tried skinning them using a roasting method, but the skins were too stubborn. I ended up blanching them off and then putting the skinned nuts back into the oven to drive of any excess moisture.

I divided off the portion of the skinned nuts for the cake and made the praline and praline paste the same day I skinned the nuts. I have no pictures of this... in fact, I got so focused on not messing up that I have absolutely no pictures of the cake or buttercream part of the process! Sorry folks. The praline was good. I never carmalized sugar on an electric range before, so it was darker than I wanted, but since it wasn't burned, I went ahead and added the nuts.

The next day I processed the nuts with the flour and sieved it 4 times to try and get the finest grind possible. I probably could have not done this with similar results, but I wanted to make sure that I didn't have too many coarse pieces of filbert in the cake. The cake wasn't too difficult to pull together. You don't want to over-fold it, yet want to fold it enough to incorporate the ingredients well. I did think I over did it, but my cake rose perfectly :).

Making the swiss meringue was interesting. I can say that my I followed the spirit of the swiss merignue, but it may not have truly been one. I don't have a hand mixer, and heating the eggwhites while beating them is kind of difficult with a stand mixer. I did manage to place a bowl of boiling water under neat the mixer bowl, and the egg whites did 'warm' a bit, but I would venture to say it didn't achieve the temperature it needed to. There were moments while adding the butter and praline paste, where I thought that it was going to go badly, but perserverance and a high speed beating brought it back in line LOL. I added rose water to my buttercream to accentuate the flavor of the filberts and the praline. I have to admit - the addition of this flavor was pretty good, but I wasn't certain how it would go with the cake and chocolate.

I sliced the cake into three layers, and assembled the cake as directed. I added a vanilla bean to the simple syrup I made and made my glaze using homemade apricot preserves and spiced rum. The assembly of the cake came together pretty well. Here's a picture of part of that process:

The ganache coating wasn't too difficult. I did substitute sourwood honey for the corn syrup. I did do one booboo - I doubled the recipe to make sure I had enough (and to make some truffles afterward) and didn't double the honey portion so my ganche wasn't as shiny as it should have been.

To decorate I bought a plastic cake decorating set (you know, the one with 4 tips), and used that to deocrate. I also peeled some extra filberts and carmelized them for decoration. Here's the gallery of the finished cake!

The cake smelled amazing. I was concerned that even though every part individually tasted great on its own, that it wouldn't marry well together. I took the cake to work, and people were in awe of my creation. We managed to save it for our afternoon break. People were floored - some of the comments circulating the break room

"Oh My God, this cake is heaven!"

"I think I am having a sugar plum orgasm..."

"This is the best cake I have ever had."

"Please excuse me while I collect myself..."

I guess they liked it... and if I still wasn't sure after that:

The cake was amazing, the rose flavor matched perfectly with the filberts and dark chocolate ganache. I expected the nuts to make the genoise heavy and dense, but the cake was light in flavor and texture. All in all I loved it. Granted, the rest of the month seemed empty, since this type of recipe isn't something you can make over and over again (unlike Dainsh Braids!).

Thanks Chris for a great challenge!!! Please check out the DB Blogroll to see how my fellow DBers did this month!

Here's the recipe (I didn't include decorating instructions, as I did my own decorating scheme):

Filbert Genoise (I followed this exactly as written with the exception of a 9" pan)
Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.
1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted/skinned

2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

7 large egg yolks

1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ tsp. grated lemon rind

5 lg. egg whites

¼ cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.
Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside. Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute. Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds. With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking. Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes.

You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.
*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup (I added a split vanilla bean to mine and let it steep for added flavor)
Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers

1 cup water
¼ cup sugar

2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream

1/3 cup praline paste

1 ½ - 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)

Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.

Swiss Buttercream
(I used rose water instead of liquor)

4 lg. egg whites

¾ cup sugar

1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm

1 ½ -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice

1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a elevtric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.

Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not over beat*. Set aside.
Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.* On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy. Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Wait! My buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.
Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste

1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless

2/3 cup Sugar

Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter. Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle.

Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Apricot Glaze (I used rum instead of water)
Good for one 10-inch cake

2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.
Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze (I used honey instead of corn syrup)
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

**Ganache can take on many forms. While warm – great fudge sauce. While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled – can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid – the base of candied chocolate truffles.

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream

1 tbsp. light corn syrup

1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
¾ tsp. vanilla

½ - 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.
Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside. Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.
Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with ½ of the whipped cream, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream. Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake.

Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.
Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-ich blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge.

Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.
Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”.

Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.
Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Shopping is supposed to be fun!

Every few weeks, or as the mood to bake/cook strikes me, my loving husband and I head down to the local store to shop. Now back in Ohio, I would go to the store several times a week to pick up items on demand, as well as frequent the local farmer's market for seasonal fresh veggies. Here, shopping is a depressing experience, because priced can fluctuate at a moments notice (i.e., without apparent regard to 'demand'), the quality of fresh produce what you get compared to costs is somewhat borderline, but if you have to do it, there's no other option.

Here's a quick review of some of the things we bought for the next week or two:

Luckily I don't remember what Romaine costs in the lower 48

Looks like there will be no peppers for us

Yes, we bought it - man can not live by Romaine alone!

These actually smelled like tomatoes should, the alternative as only 50 cents cheaper... three made their way home with us

I spent $7.99 for a half a flat when I was back in NC in May, these were quite tasty, so in the end they were worth it.

I decided to pass.... they looked good but I couldn't bring myself, you'll note the regular price is 8.99/lb. (I am sure I will regret not getting any at some point - like when they are GONE.)

For my Daring Baker friends, here's those two pesky ingredients I talked about from the June Challenge. While the price fo the cardamom went up only a little, the price for vanilla beans is increasing at a faster rate than crude oil!

Back in Ohio, I would buy KA flours, here I have decided to go 'store brand'. I haven't found too many issues. There is a regional brand, but at this store its $2.50/bag more (this is a 10 lb bag btw). I order specialty flours from KA and eat the shipping cost.

I don't like soda, but I did tell my better half, if he ever saw his fave drink on sale, to go for it... yeah I should have factored what "on sale" really means!

I buy a lot of butter, even at this price.

Lucky for me, the price of eggs had dramatically decreased since we moved here. Last Aug, they were 7.98/18ct. I guess there's a silver lining on every grey cloud!

Used to buy by the gallon in OH. Here, I am only able to not go mental if I buy the half gallon. We have also cut back on our OJ intake.

I didnt' get a picture of it, but my hubby decided to sneak in two containers (the clear cubes about 5in x 5 in) of plain couscous. He didn't tell me what they cost until we made it to the check out and I found them in the cart.... they were 11.29 each. He's lucky I love him.

We made it out spending just over 120 bucks, we did have to buy laundry detergent (13.29 for the small jug of triple strength tide) as well. I get lunch for free at work, and dinner, if my hours let me get over to the cafeteria, and meals costs 5 bucks for my hubby. Sometimes, though, you can't beat the comfort of a home cooked meal.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Breadchick's Dark Onion Rye

This was supposed to be Dark Onion Rye, courtesy of Breadchick from The Sour Dough - this month's Bread Baking Babes host, however, dark rye flour wasn’t available here, so I had to go with what they had which was just “rye flour.”

The idea of trying this rye bread (along with being bestowed the title of 'Bread Baking Buddy'!) excited me. I’ve been on the sourdough bandwagon for some time now. When I moved here, I retired my 11 year old starter that I had made during my first year of graduate school back in 1996 because I couldn't take it through security with me. Can you imagine trying to explain it to TSA? When I first moved to Akron that year, I had very little money for entertainment, so I bought myself “Bread Alone” by David Leader. The bread gods must have been smiling down at me, because the creation of my first rye starter was a complete success. I baked a loaf or two every week, freezing the starter when I’d be away for long periods like visiting family or doing field research.

It was sad to see such a great starter go into the annals of my baking history, but I told myself that this would give me the opportunity to try different starters. When I came to Alaska, I purchased Peter Reinhart’s “Crust and Crumb” after totally LOVING his “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.” I started with his wheat flour barm and never made it to the rye starters. His barm was consistent, lively, and had great flavor. I’ve been using it for nearly a year now for breads, bagels, and pancakes. It wasn’t until I saw what the Bread Baking Babes were doing this month that I decided to venture down the rye starter path once more.

I mixed up Breadchick’s sourdough starter, and diligently coddled to life this past week. There was a fine wine like aroma that was less acidic and more 'rich' than my wheat barm starter.

Yesterday morning I made the sponge and let it sit out for just over 10 hours. Last night I pulled together the dough. I did make one other substitution, I used malt barley syrup instead of molasses. The overall dough looked lighter than what Breadchick had pictured, but that could be the difference in the flours.

I let it proof until doubled which was less time than indicated, so I decided to throw it into a well-floured towel lined bowl and let it retard in the refrigerator overnight for the final proof. Not only would this let me have just-baked bread for lunch today, but the time in the refrigerator would probably let the flavor develop even more.

This morning I pulled out the boule, turned it out onto a parchment lined pan, slashed it and allowed it to come to room temperature (about 1.5 hours) while the oven was heating.

I sprayed it with water and put it into the 400º oven and followed Breadchick’s instruction of baking 20 minutes followed by 25 minutes at 375º. I rotated the pan a few times to make sure the baking was even. I left this to cool before going to work:

When I came back for lunch it was gone. All of it… Apparently the dog decided it was time to practice his ninja skills. I can assure you that he’s usually a well-behaved freak of nature, as well behaved as those can be anyways, but sometimes my creations excite him to the point where he forgoes all knowledge of politeness and obedience and decides stealing something tasty is worth dealing with my anger. Evolution is a funny thing, however, because it granted him the ultimate trump card – uber super cuteness (how can I be mad at that?):

Looks quite please with himself, doesn't he? Luckily he has the iron constitution, if you get my drift, and the onions in the loaf will only torment us with a bad case of gas instead of a vet visit. I have to take Kramer’s word for how good it was, there was nary a crumb left. So maybe next week we’ll try this again and actually get to sample how it tasted. Thanks for the recipe, it smelled fantastic throughout all stages, I’m sure it will taste just as fantastic when we finally get to try it!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What's my last frontier look like?

I don't think the conclusion that I love cooking and baking is much of a surprise anymore. I love being in the kitchen, ANY kitchen. There's a sense of comfort and satisfaction I find there - which is why I can spend 12+ hours at work, only to come home and spend time working away at a loaf of bread, or making dinner.

However, since this blog IS called "Diary from the Last Frontier", I guess I should, from time to time go adventuring into said frontier!

Dear hubby and I took some time this weekend and explored our new home a little closer. Even through summer solstice has passed, things here are still just waking up from the long cold winter. Highs are in the mid-50's right now. I wanted to share some photos I took of our adventures!

A view of a snow-melt creek:

Mountians behind some type of willow like bush:

Caltha-leaf Avens (yellow) and Dwarf Dogwood:

Close-up of the dwarf dogwood (they were very VERY small):

Some cool patterns on wood washed up on the beach:

Salmonberry bud:

View of one of the many bays on the island:

View of the 'other side' of overland pass:

Some even tinier flowers:

Mountain Heather:

A picture I took while working today:

I was truly surprised at the variety of foliage and wildlife there is here. I didn't capture any wildlife this outing, but I promise to capture what I can on future adventures!