Waiting for Agnes

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More defiant baking: Part one October 14, 2010

If I’ve been out and about during the day, far from the kitchen and thoughts of dessert planning, I sometimes think to myself ‘Ah well, perhaps we don’t need dessert tonight. Perhaps I can just have a cup of tea and maybe a teensy piece of chocolate or twelve’. I’m almost convinced of this. Until about seven thirty pm. Then I get completely distracted, eyes glazing over, while I compile a mental list of potential dessert ingredients. Then I start grilling the beloved:

If I was making pudding, what would you want?

Don’t want pudding, am busy.

But if I was and you did, what would you want? (such a stupid question, beloved cannot understand the overwhelming need to make something different and will invariably suggest making these chocolate fondants)

Don’t want pudding. Thought you weren’t baking today? WHY ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT BAKING? I’M WATCHING MY STORIES!!

What about something with cherries?

NO BAKING! STORIES! CHERRIES BAH!!

Lemon?

Gah. Can’t you just make chocolate fondants?

Hmmm. Lemon. Something quick and lemony? Lemon delicious? No. Boring. Lemon lemon lemon.

muttering… fondant fondant fondant

Hah! Lemon fondants! Would still need chocolate. Hmmm. White chocolate?

Ugh.

That’s it! White chocolate and lemon fondants! (could be way too sweet, but worth a shot)

8pm Puddings

300 grams of white chocolate (at least 35% cocoa butter: ie. Green & Black’s or Whittaker’s)

75 grams of unsalted butter, at room temperature

75 grams of brown sugar

40 grams of plain flour

6 eggs of various sizes*

Zest and juice of a lemon

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced).

Butter six ramekins/small cups/small glasses.

Gently melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over just simmering water. Set aside to cool a little.

Put the butter, sugar, flour and eggs into a food processor and whizz until combined and smooth.

Add the zest and juice and whizz to incorporate.

With the processor running, add the melted chocolate in a continuous stream.

Divide the batter evenly between the six ramekins.

Bake for 8-9 minutes.

You can prepare these up to two days in advance. Just cover and chill the filled ramekins before the baking stage. I usually do this if I’m only baking for the beloved and I – bake two at first and the remaining four can be plucked out and baked as we like for snacks and whatnot. When you cook them, increase the baking time to about 12 minutes.

Turn out the puddings into bowls and top with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Dig in…with the first spoonful, the shell of the pudding will burst and molten pudding will ooze out deliciously.

The verdict: almost there, but not quite perfect. The balance of white chocolate to lemon needs to swing more to the lemon for my liking, to balance out the white chocolatey sweetness – next time I would add the zest of two more lemons. I would also use Whittaker’s white chocolate instead of Green & Black’s – the vanilla isn’t needed here and adds unnecessarily to the sweetness. We still have four in the fridge waiting to be baked, so I’m going to cook up some lemon curd this afternoon and try one with that for some added lemony oomph. Watch this space…

In exciting news, Betty is back on the lay after two months of concentrated chick-raising. Pictured (back left) are the shells of two of her gorgeous little eggs. Darker than Lola’s creamy shelled eggs (back right) and Mrs P’s bright white delights (front), Betty’s eggs are light brown, slightly glossy and oblong, with compact golden yolks and very viscous whites.

 

Loophole number three… September 8, 2010

Filed under: Beautiful baking — titchandboofer @ 3:38 am
Tags: , , ,

…The virtuous use of leftovers:

Beloved, from bathroom where she is in bath with small (thus trapped and unable to patrol the kitchen) –

“I hear something! What are you doing out there?”

“Nothing, just, you know, putting stuff away”

“What stuff?”

“Um, dishes?”

“Why can I hear chopping?”

“I don’t know. What, do you have supersonic hearing now?”  …whispering “usually you can’t hear me when I’m talking to you from two feet away”

“I heard that! And WHAT ARE YOU CHOPPING?”

“Nothing”…whispering veeery softly “rhubarb”.

Pause. General baby-bathing noises resume. Plug pulled. Bath toys clatter about. Small complaining about end of bath.

Back in the kitchen I am trying to bake and hide evidence as quickly as possible. Mainly this just makes more mess.

“Why are you opening the fridge?”

“Just looking in it.”

Footsteps approaching kitchen. Quick appraisal of scene of crime. “YOU’RE BAKING! I SAID NO BAKING UNTIL SUNDAY! IT’S TUESDAY!”

“Did you just want me to let this rhubarb go off? Did you want it to be wasted and thrown into the compost? SHALL WE JUST THROW SOME MONEY AWAY TOO?!!”


Thrifty Rhubarb Muffins

leftover rhubarb from Wintery Whinypants Cake approx 100 grams (after trimming leaves and ends off), finely sliced (finer than cake, as cooking time is shorter)

160 grams of self-raising flour, sifted

125 grams of brown sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 egg

90 grams of ricotta

65 grams of unsalted butter, melted

handful of white chocolate pieces, originally intended as snack, sliced up finely and thrown in at end for the hell of it

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees celsius (160 fan forced)

Line a muffin tin with cases, or grease it very well, or use the little flat-bottom-and-smooth-side paper cases that can just sit on a tray (you will need 9 or 10)

Mix the flour, sugar and chopped rhubarb in a medium bowl.

Mix the vanilla, egg, ricotta and butter in a small bowl/jug.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir to combine.

Stir in the white chocolate.

Spoon into muffin tin/cases

Bake for 15-20 minutes. They are done when risen, golden and springy to touch.

“I’m not eating any.”

Fine.”

“But I will take two to golf tomorrow.”


 

Second chance September 5, 2010

Persistent in her attempts to curb my baking enthusiasm, the beloved has come up with a new system. Rather than just arbitrarily slapping down an embargo when she gets to sugar overload (usually by midweek), she’s now issuing out baking passes like she’s some kind of kitchen border control. “Carrying unsalted butter? Sorry, you cannot cross the border. Refer to the terms of your multiple-visit visa…see? Section 3, subsection a/ii: Items that pertain directly or indirectly to the pursuit of creating baked goods cannot be carried into The Kitchen. Are you intending to carry out work that may lead to the combination – mechanically or manually – of sugar, butter, eggs and flour? If so, again I refer you to the terms of your current visa… Section 5, subsection c/ix: declaration of intent to bake without a valid pass will result in detention and/or confiscation of equipment. False declarations will lead to deportation from The Kitchen and the revoking of all previously held visa rights.”

A couple of loopholes have yet to be covered by this legislation, allowing baking if the resulting goods are to exit the house – untouched – within twelve hours of completion, or if the resulting goods are of a flavour/form/consistency that would never be willingly consumed – even when desperate – by the beloved. In the true style of all corrupt border control officials, the beloved can also override her own rules and just demand baked goods at any time. Luckily for me, the weekend swung around and I realised that all of this week’s baking has ‘somehow’ fallen within the loopholes, leaving me with one perfectly valid baking pass. To celebrate this and feed a friend (and fellow baking enthusiast) visiting from Canberra, I decided to delve into the pristine pages of Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.

This incredible book winged its way to me some months ago, a gift from the beloved’s sister. I have loved it dearly, all these months, even before I’d baked a single crumb from its pages. Not only is it photographed beautifully (which, let’s face it, accounts for 90% of the grade when you’re marking a potential new cookbook) but it is thorough. Really, really thorough. Ingredients are listed  by name, volume, weight in pounds & ounces, weight in metric and temperature (in celsius and fahrenheit, naturally) at which they should be used. Instructions for a single cake cover several pages. There are planning ahead tips, so as not to find out five minutes before your guests arrive that your icing will need 2 hours to set. There is a little back-story for each cake. And yet, despite the slightly anal thoroughness, Rose doesn’t come across as preachy or terse. She’s not as dip-your-bosoms-in-it indulgent as Nigella, but I still find myself drooling a little over almost every recipe (Two Fat Cats Whoopie Pie anyone? Or perhaps some Baby Chocolate Oblivions?). So what has taken me so long to get going? Well, the sheer length of the recipes did give me pause, but it was mainly the size of the completed cakes. This weekend’s project serves 14-16 people and requires 17 eggs. Obviously they would be 14-16 people who don’t like cake as much as I do, but even so, 17 eggs is a big commitment – either save up for a long long time and be super vigilant against The Crow or (the horror) buy extra eggs. I bought the extra eggs.

Lemon Luxury Layer Cake

Get settled in, this won’t be quick. This recipe has three components: cake, lemon curd and buttercream. Either give yourself two days to complete this, or start really early in the morning. The cake is pretty straightforward, but must be completely cooled before it can be cut into layers. The lemon curd and the buttercream each need about a three-four hour jump on your predicted serving time.

You will need two cake tins of equal size (23cm, springform), a food thermometer (Rose recommends an instant-read sort, but I only have a milk-frothing one and that did the job), and a good amount of baking paper. An offset palette knife would be useful. I don’t have one.

Cake batter:

170 grams of white chocolate (I know, the hated white chocolate. Rose convinced me to hazard this recipe by specifying exactly what to look for in my white chocolate – information that would have been useful a couple of weeks ago – it should be at least 30% cocoa butter, ideally with vanilla, such as Green & Blacks or Whittakers)

112 grams of egg yolk, at room temperature (roughly 6 large)

242 grams of milk (1 cup)

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

300 grams of plain flour

240 grams of caster sugar

4 1/4 teaspoons of baking powder

3/4 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of lemon zest

128 grams of unsalted butter at 19-23 degrees celsius (room temperature, unless you’re a bit stingy with the heating, or if it’s the middle of summer)

Preheat your oven to 175 degrees celsius (160 fan forced)

Butter and line your cake tins

Chop the white chocolate and put it in a small heatproof bowl. Simmer some water in a small saucepan, then turn off the heat. Put the bowl over the saucepan, not letting the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Stir frequently until melted and smooth. Set aside to cool until no longer warm to touch, but still fluid in consistency.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, 1/3 of the milk and the vanilla extract until just combined.

Using a freestanding mixer (ie Kenwood Chef/Mixmaster) on low speed, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and lemon zest for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining milk. Mix on low speed until just combined, raise the speed to medium and mix for 1 1/2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as necessary.

Gradually add the egg mixture to the batter, in three stages, mixing on medium speed for 20 seconds after each addition.

Add the melted chocolate and mix until well combined.

Spoon the batter into your prepared tins. Each tin will be just under half full. To be precise, use your scales and put ~600 grams of mixture into each tin.

Bake for 25-35 minutes. The cakes are done when golden, springy to touch and when an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool in their tins for 10 minutes, then turn onto greased racks to cool completely.

Lemon Curd:

6 grams of lemon zest, finely chopped/grated

130 grams of egg yolk at room temperature (about 7 large)

225 grams of caster sugar

85 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

141 grams of lemon juice, well strained

pinch of salt

Put the zest into a medium bowl and set it aside with a sieve over the top. Just before you start the curd, rest this bowl in another bowl with ice in it.

In a medium saucepan, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and butter until well combined. Whisk in the lemon juice and salt. The mixture will appear split – this is okay and won’t last. Cook over low-medium heat, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula, scraping down the sides frequently. Keep stirring until the mixture thickly coats the spatula but is still liquid enough to pour (a kind of plopping consistency). The mixture will become opaque and turn a golden yellowy-orange. Do not let it boil or it will curdle. Err on the side of lower temperature. This may take a bit longer, but you won’t stuff it up. When you are satisfied, pour it immediately through the sieve into the bowl with the zest. Allow to cool, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Divide the curd into two containers: 100 grams in one, to add to the buttercream and the rest in another. Cover tightly and refrigerate until cool (about three hours, or overnight is fine).

White Chocolate Lemon Buttercream, Part 1:

White Chocolate Custard base:

300 grams of white chocolate (as per above specifications), chopped

150 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature, chopped

200 grams of whole eggs (about 4 large), lightly beaten

In a large bowl, over just simmering water (again, don’t let the bottom of the bowl touch the water), melt the white chocolate and butter together, stirring until smooth.

Whisk the eggs into the mixture.

Continue whisking and heating until the mixture reaches 60 degrees celsius and is slightly thickened.

Remove from the heat and refrigerate, stirring every 15 minutes until the temperature has dropped to 21 degrees celsius.

Buttercream Part 2:

142 grams of unsalted butter

The White Chocolate Custard

The 100 gram portion of lemon curd

Using your freestanding mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy. Gradually beat the white chocolate custard into the butter, scraping down the sides as necessary. Continue beating until stiff, creamy peaks form. Cover and set aside for about 1 hour (I had lunch and came back after about 40 minutes and that seemed fine)

Beat on high for 30 seconds, add the lemon curd and beat to just incorporate.

Putting it all together:

Cut your cooled cakes in half (horizontally, duh). This is not that tricky, just make sure you have plenty of bench space. Sliding two strips of baking paper under each piece will also help to maneuver them (you can pull the strips out from between the layers without dislodging much curd/buttercream at all).

Spread just under half the lemon curd on each of the bottom layers (leaving just a little left over). Spread not quite to the edges, the weight of the layers will push it further out.

Spread a little (~ a tablespoon) of buttercream on your serving plate (this stops the cake from lurching around)

Put a lower layer, spread with curd on the serving plate. Set an upper layer on top. Spread with about 1/2 a cup of buttercream, spreading not quite to the edges).

Put the next lower layer on top of this:

Set the final upper layer on the very top. Use the remaining buttercream to cover the top and sides of the cake:

Swirl the leftover lemon curd through the buttercream on the top of the cake:

Slice, serve and eat:

Do I need to say how good this tastes? I may have overdone the amount of buttercream on the top of the cake, but even so, it is truly lovely. Lemony, white-chocolatey and a cake that is dense but not at all dry.

Not only was it worthy of using up my baking pass, it has patched up the cracks in my relationship with the abominable white chocolate.

 

White nemesis August 28, 2010

One of my lovely-midwife-friends is engaged! Well, to be absolutely accurate, two of the LMFs are engaged and I give a third one about six months before she too sprouts a sparkly rock on her ring finger. But back to the point – the LMF of this story had her engagement party last night. She and her fiance (both as cute as buttons can be) celebrated their engagement with their friends and family in a hall bedecked with twinkling fairy lights, with ivy winding about candles, with photos of the two of them looking button-cute and with tables groaning beneath plates of all sorts of food (there was middle-eastern lamb that I would have sold a relative for, not small obviously, but any of the extended family). A week ago this LMF was at small’s birthday party. We were chatting about her upcoming celebration and how all the guests were bringing food. I half-jokingly offered to make the cake, thinking ‘oh it would be lovely to be able to do it for her’ but also thinking ‘surely she would have that all wrapped up by now’. Not, as it seemed. Huzzah! Gift baking! Not just fun and indulgent but completely sanctioned by the beloved at any time.

Having spent much of the past two weeks poring over epicure: chocolate, I had ideas. Too many ideas. The LMFs engagement story is utterly romantic. It all began in the dead of the night, there was mystery, there were aeroplanes, there was even a sea-plane, there was swimming, there were fish, and of course the popping-of-the-question, all by the love of her life. A heart shaped cake seemed the right choice. But one heart seemed small and lonely. Almost as importantly, it only enabled the use of one recipe.

Two Hearts

Part One:

“Coco the burlesque wonder cake” (I could not pass up an opportunity to make a cake with such an impressive name – thank you to Ben Johnson of thelovebite.com, very very much)

175 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

1/3 of a cup of cocoa

2/3 of a cup of caster sugar

1 1/2 cups of self-raising flour

1 teaspoon of baking powder

1/2 a cup of golden syrup

3/4 of a cup of sour cream

2 eggs

For the cake –

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius (180 fan forced)

Butter and line a tine (~22cm diameter)

Put all the ingredients in a food processor. Whizz until well combined. Pour into your prepared tin.

Bake for ten minutes, then reduce the heat by 20 degrees and bake for another half an hour. It’s done when you poke the top gently and it springs back.

Cool in the tin for about ten minutes then turn onto a rack and cool completely.

Frosting:

50 grams of unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 a cup of sour cream

3 tablespoons of golden syrup

80 grams of dark eating chocolate, melted

3 cups of icing sugar, sifted

1/4 of a cup of cocoa

25 grams of dark eating chocolate, chopped into little bits

Put all the ingredients except the chopped chocolate into the food processor. Whizz until well combined. Add the chopped chocolate and pulse to splinter it a little. Spread over the cooled cake. This cake is luscious – the golden syrup gives the cake and the icing a hint of caramel; there is a generous amount of icing; the chocolate splintered through the icing adds bite and a bittersweet edge. It doesn’t surprise me that this cake is rumoured to receive fan mail. I’m tempted to send a little note myself.

Part Two:

“Lisa’s white chocolate cake”. Not such an exciting title, but this LMF does like her chocolate and I was aiming for contrast.

125 mls of water

200 grams of caster sugar

80 grams of unsalted butter, chopped

100 grams of white chocolate broken into pieces

2 eggs, lightly beaten

100 grams of self-raising flour, sifted

30 grams of cocoa powder (yes, you read correctly, cocoa – the cake is not white to look at, until it’s slathered with icing)

1 cup of frozen raspberries (my tweak)

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees celsius (170 fan forced).

Butter and line your tin.

Bring the water to the boil in a medium saucepan. Add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Take off the heat.

Add the butter and white chocolate. Stir until melted. Cool slightly.

Whisk in the eggs. Sift in the flour and cocoa. Mix until well combined.

Pour into your prepared tin (it will be pourable) and tap the tin to settle any bubbles. Drop in your raspberries at the last minute (they will sink, but will still be tasty).

Bake for about half an hour. When done an inserted skewer will come out clean.

Cool in the tin.

For the icing:

Up until this point everything was very smooth sailing. Perfect. Tasty cakes. Excellent first batch of icing for cake number one. Layout ideas coming along nicely. Found a tray that meant I wouldn’t have to venture out to buy a cake board. Then I started on the white chocolate ganache. I haven’t baked with white chocolate for a long time and now I remember why. It is an abomination. It does not behave like chocolate. It doesn’t cooperate.

1 cup of thickened cream

200 grams of white chocolate, chopped

1 teaspoon of unsalted butter

~1 1/2 cups of icing sugar, sifted (yes I know, not traditionally a ganache component, all will be explained)

Heat the cream in a saucepan over low heat. Add the chocolate, mixing until it is melted. Add the butter and mix to combine. Remove from heat. Allow to cool and thicken, stirring occasionally.

Right. Well the first time I tried to be clever – I tried to treat the ganache like the version from the Nutella cake, whisking to cool and thicken it into a mousse-like consistency. So it split. Tasty, but kind of nasty to look at.

Nevermind, thinks I, I have enough things for a second batch. Gently I repeat the melting and stirring process, then leave it alone. It cools. It does not thicken. I put it in the fridge. It does not thicken. I put it in the freezer. It does not thicken. Time is running out. We should have left for lovely party an hour ago.

In desperation, I put a bit on the cake, hoping it will set in the manner of ice-magic touching ice-cream. No.

In further desperation, I start whisking icing sugar into it. Ah ha!! Success! Lovely texture, not quite tooth-achingly sweet, very white.

I put this on the cake. The previous, runny stuff slooshes off from beneath the new icing and onto the tray. I mop it up with half a roll of paper towel while the beloved, small and another LMF watch with a kind of amused horror. Frantic smoodging of icing continues. Cake ends up well covered, if not as perfectly pretty as I would have liked. In the meantime I have melted some extra dark chocolate and piped a message out onto some baking paper. Miraculously it has set and can even be extricated from the paper and transferred to the cake without stuffing it up irreparably. With zero time to spare, cake is complete.

Sadly I cannot show you a photo of the finished cakes in all their glory. For one thing, the hurried photo I took before we sprinted out the door was pretty appalling. More importantly, the anonymity of my LMF and her own beloved would be compromised. Best just to look at the second last photo and use your imagination. My last pieces of advice: if you want white chocolate just buy a block of Cadbury Dream. Then eat it. If you want glorious cake and mouthwatering ganache, use 70%+ dark eating chocolate, the tastiest you can afford.