Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fat Tuesdays: Lemon Chiffon Cake

National Lemon Chiffon Cake Day

According to Punchbowl it is indeed National Lemon Chiffon Cake Day, and for me, a day to celebrate the lighter than air texture and flavor of a delicious, simple chiffon cake. Oh, so yummy!

The chiffon cake was created by Harry Baker, a Los Angeles insurance agent, in 1927.  Baker carefully guarded his secret technique for almost two decades, only selling his cakes to celebrities and the famous Brown Derby restaurant. The popularity of his cakes grew quickly, and he eventually sold the recipe to General Mills in 1947. All I have to say is thank goodness Mr. Baker finally agreed to play nice and share 'cause life without chiffon cake would be unbearable. Not really, but I wouldn't like as much :)

Now, I personally didn't develop a fondness for citrus flavored desserts until recent years... terrible right? I just could bring myself to separate my mouth from the chocolate.  It's a shame too because their refreshing quality has a particular draw, and they are appropriate for just about any occasion.


Alright, I know, enough yapping already!  Go! Go gather up all the lemons you can muster. Let's celebrate and make your friends and family happy with lemon chiffon cake!

When I make citrus desserts that call for zest, I like to rub the zest and sugar together with my fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and very aromatic. I think this step makes a big difference in the flavor intensity of the end product.

Now, Mr. Baker had two big secrets with his chiffon cake recipe. The first is that chiffon cakes use oil instead of butter, which aides in the airy quality of the cake. It is also nice because the cake can be refrigerated without firming up. The second secret of the chiffon cake is to whip the egg whites separately from the yolks and to fold them ever so gently into the batter.  If done correctly, the results are divine. If not, you can end up with an ooey-gooey mess in your pans.

No joking, it took me 10+ attempts before I was able to perfect the whipping and folding technique. The key for me was visually seeing it done and the biggest balloon whisk I could get my hands on. I mean huge :) The video below from the brilliant Rose Levy Beranbaum describes perfectly the process for whipping the perfect egg white.

Wait, we are not done yet. Here is another excellent example of how to properly fold egg whites into batter. The chef here is making pancake batter, but the same basic concepts apply. You can use a spatula, but I stand by my giant balloon whisk :)

Not so bad, right!? Once the basic techniques are mastered, you are on your way!

Lemon Chiffon Cake (Printable Version)
Adapted (with changes) from The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

Rose's recipe as written is excellent, however, I did make a few changes to suit my personal tastes. I upped the sugar by 2 tablespoons, the lemon zest by 1 tablespoon and the vanilla extract by 1/2 teaspoon. I also used canola oil in place of safflower oil.

2 1/4 cups (8 ounces) cake flour
1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbs granulated sugar
2  Tbs lemon zest
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil
7 large eggs separated, room temperature
3 large egg whites, room temperature
2/3 cup water
2 Tbs lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Grab your 10-inch tube pan with a detachable bottom, but do not grease it as the batter needs to climb up the sides :)

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the sugar and the lemon zest. With your fingertips, work the zest and sugar together until the sugar is grainy and very aromatic.  Add the cake flour, baking soda and salt to the bowl.  If using a stand mixer, use the beater attachment and beat on low until the ingredients are well incorporated. You can also do this by hand with a whisk. Once incorporated, make a well in the center of your mixing bowl.  Add the oil, egg yolks, water, lemon juice and vanilla to the well. Mix for about 1 more minute on medium speed until the batter is smooth and there are no lumps. 

In a second large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they are foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat on medium speed until they reach soft peak stage. You will know your egg whites have reached this stage when the beaters start to leave a trail or when the peaks fall over when the beaters are raised. Add the remaining 2 Tbs of sugar, and continue to beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks when the beaters are raised.

Using a large spatula or whisk, add 1/3 of your egg whites to your cake batter and gently stir them until they are incorporated. Add the remaining egg whites to the batter and very gently fold them into the batter until they are incorporated and no traces of egg whites remain.  

Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 50 to 55 minutes or until the cake bounces back when lightly pressed in the center.  You can try the 'ole toothpick test, but it can be tricky since you can't get all the way into the center. Mine baked in 50 minutes to perfection. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately invert it onto a wine bottle (or something similar) to allow for proper cooling, which can take up to 90 minutes.

Serve this heavenly cake with a dusting of powdered sugar or drizzled with your favorite glaze.  Either way, enjoy and Happy Lemon Chiffon Cake Day!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sunday Baked: Malted Crispy Tart

I am very excited as this is my first post for the Baked Sunday Mornings baking club. Hooray! We are going to be baking our way through Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito's eye-candy of a cookbook, Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented. I am late to join the group, so I will be trying to catch-up over the next couple of weeks. I am also technically supposed to post on Sunday mornings, but I didn't anticipate that life with three kids would still carry on as normal even though Mommy had to bake and blog :) Anyway, it should be a lot of fun, and I encourage you to join us and get baking.

This week we tackled a whopper of a recipe, the Malted Crispy Tart (p. 71). After reading Matt and Renato's description of malted milk chocolate ganache topped with a light malt flavored pastry cream (diplomat cream as they call it), crunchy caramelized rice crispies and Whopper pieces, all of which is encased in a brown sugar crust, I was taken. I became nostalgic for the malt chocolate flavor I remember so clearly from when I was just a wee lass. Whoppers used to be my movie theater candy of choice back in the day, so I was excited to get started and reminisce a bit.

Let me start right off and say thank goodness this was delicious 'cause it sure was a whole heck of a lot of work! I wasn't joking when I said it was a whopper of a recipe. Perhaps if I had read Matt and Renato's baking tip mentioning all the bowls and steps it required, I would have started last week... I am not totally kidding. With that said though, you should really give this a try. It is quite tasty, and it brought back memories of my childhood. In my opinion, when a recipe can do that, it's a keeper.
This recipe called for a 9" tart pan, but since I was planning to ship these off with my husband in the morning to feed the hungry mob (aka - coworkers), I opted to make mini tarts instead. The brown sugar crust made with a hint of malted milk powder blended up easily in the food processor and pressed well into the pan. If you opt for the mini tarts consider placing pie weights into the cups to prevent puffing while baking.

I think my favorite part of the recipe was the flavor and texture of the caramelized Rice Krispies. They tasted very much like Frosted Flakes, but better. I can see many uses for these little guys. The malted milk chocolate ganache was delicious as well. I love the flavor of a good quality milk chocolate, and the malt powder added just a little something extra... I easily could have licked the bowl clean.

As a side note, if you choose to bake mini tarts you can go halfsies on almost everything but the crust recipe. I had a lot of extra ganache, pastry cream and caramelized Rice Krispies, which I will put to good use later.

Once all the components were made, none of which were too difficult, assembly of the tart commenced! Below is the breakdown on how they were filled. In hind site, I probably would have increased my chocolate to pastry cream ratio... perhaps 2/3 chocolate to 1/3 pastry cream. I also think the addition of a complimentary liquor to the pastry cream would be a nice touch... perhaps rum?

Finally, after all that, we achieved decadent, deliciousness! Again, a whole heck of a lot of work, but definitely worth trying at least once, especially if you are feeling nostalgic for the chocolate malt flavor of your youth.  

According to Baked Sunday Morning rules, I cannot publish this recipe for all of you. I can only try to make you drool. I respect this decision and encourage you to go out and by the book, you will not be disappointed, I promise.

Up Next: Fat Tuesdays

Lemon Chiffon Cake

Saturday, March 26, 2011

My Induction Into Blogdom

I am just going to say it. This is my very first blog post, and I am slightly more than terrified to do this... to blog. I resisted for a long time, creating silly excuses to avoid it. However, those excuses have all been exhausted. I did finally find the time to create a decent looking blog page. I did finally buy the fancy-shmancy external flash for my camera, which means I can now instantly take fantastic food photos... as soon as I figure out how to attach it to my camera and turn the darn thing on. I did finally join a few baking clubs, which I am super excited to participate in. So, off I go into the wondrous and vast world of food blogging.

If you care to join me on my adventure, here are a few things about me you may want to keep in mind:

(1) I do not take myself seriously, and either will this blog.  It is meant to be a fun, lighthearted record of my baking adventures. There will be posts about my cake business as well as thoughts on the successes and failures from my baking endeavors. It should be a lot of fun, and hopefully someone out there will learn a little something from one of my posts. If not, will someone please lie to me and say they did :)

(2) I am a terrible speller. I was the first one out of Mrs. Mallis's third grade spelling bee for spelling the word e-i-t-h-e-r wrong. It was traumatic, but I rebounded and befriended spell check. It is no surprise to me that it is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Err, at least I think it is. No? Well, it should be.

(3) I have a tendency to use long, flowery sentence with an abundance of unnecessary commas and too many prepositional phrases. I don't notice I am doing it, and I don't really know what it means, but apparently I do. It is what it is, and neither my dad nor my English teachers could stop it, much to their chagrin.

(4) I am a total blogging virgin. I am sure that I will butcher the terminology and violate some existing 'blogging' etiquette that I am unaware of. It is bound to happen at some point, I am sure. All I ask is that you please laugh appropriately, and then send me a note, preferably of the kindhearted variety, letting me know that I goofed.

Well, I guess that wraps it up for now. I hope anyone that reads this will check back in again... yes, that means you Mom and Dad :)

Wait! Don't go yet! I am happy to announce that I have my first follower... Hi honey! Don't forget to pick up some milk on your way home from work :)

 Happy baking!

 ~ Jaime