Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Baked: Olive Oil Orange Bundt

We are having a party for my Mom's birthday today, and coincidentally I am scheduled to make Mom's Olive Oil Orange Bundt for my Sunday Morning Baked challenge. How fantastic is that!? I secretly think my family is getting sick of me bringing buttercream-style cakes to ALL our family events, so this cake will be the perfect break in pattern for me. I can't wait to surprise her. Happy Birthday Mom, and thanks for all you do for your crew :)

I always get so excited when I discover fun and interesting little shops offering unique goods and wares. Such was the case with a little place I happened upon in my own town called Twisted Olive. This little gem of a shop specializes in gourmet olive oils and balsamic vinegars, as well as a variety of other goodies for the foodie in you. What is really great about this shop is that you are able to sample all of their offerings before you purchase. It's set up as sort of a wine bar but with large vats of olive oil to siphon from.... who doesn't love free samples especially when you don't have to worry about driving yourself home (as the case with our local wine tasting shop).

After much sampling, I decided on their Meyer Lemon Extra Virgin Olive Oil based on Matt & Renato's recommendation to use a high-quality olive oil with a citrus undertone. What I didn't plan on with my purchase was that 3/4 cups is a lot when using fancy-schmancy olive oil. My $12 olive oil purchase was not quite enough to cover what I needed, and I ended up using olive oil I had on hand to make up the difference.... Whoa, this was turning into one expensive cake!

I quickly got over my olive oil shock as I started zesting the oranges. Their sweet perfume lifted my spirits as it wafted up into the kitchen.... such a rejuvenating smell. In all honesty, I needed that little pick-me-up 'cause I was a feeling bit crankish.

This batter was a bit of a challenge to work with (think thick) until you folded in the whipped egg whites. For me, this is always a test of patience to make sure I don't fold to frantically. Believe me, I have ruined many a cake by folding to hastily. So, take your time, and I always have the best luck folding with the biggest balloon whisk I have! Mine is fairly obnoxious looking, but it does the trick every time (sorry I didn't get a picture of it for you.)

This cake looked beautiful baked! I love seeing vanilla bean seed in my baked goods, and the smell was delightful. It was a perfect way to break in my NEW bundt pan... I know, I can't believe it took me so long to purchase one either.

When all was said and done, this cake was quite tasty. It had a mild citrus taste, but I would have liked a bit more of an 'orange' flavor. Perhaps, I just need to add more orange zest to meet my needs, or maybe the lemon olive oil I selected overpowered the orange flavor of the zest. It also had an interesting 'chewiness' while eating that I can't decide if I liked or not.

Due to the out of pocket expense for this cake (because of the high-quality olive oil), I am not sure I will make this again. However, I still recommend you give it a try. It is a unique cake with good citrus flavor. Oh, and I definitely recommend the citrus glaze :)

Hmmm.... I am very curious to check out how my fellow Baked Sunday Morning bakers fared with this recipe

Have a Sweet Sunday!
Jaime @ The Great Cake Company

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Fresh Fruit Fraisiers

You know those weeks when you just can't seem to get it together? You simply can't catch a break. I know you all do. We all have had them. For me there were no life altering events, just lots of stuff. We're talking sick kids, crazy summer camp schedules and sweltering heat... not to mention pending cake orders and an upcoming road trip to prepare and pack for. I couldn't catch my breath or 10 minutes to myself. I know, complain complain, but seriously, enough already I need to bake!

I had been looking forward to this Daring Bakers challenge with great anticipation all month long. Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make Fresh Fraisiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine. Fraisiers are one of those desserts I have always admired in the windows of pastry shops, but never dreamed of attempting at home. I was eager for the challenge, and for the notch in my pastry belt.

A fraisier is traditionally made with strawberries, however, we were given the option to experiment with our fruit selections. Since the recipe called for an almond paste layer, the most obvious fruit selection to me were peaches, glorious peaches! I love the flavor pairing of peach and almond, and if you add a few blueberries for color, you have yourself a delicious and beautiful fraisier.

Chiffon is such a wonderful, light cake. If you whip up your egg whites properly and fold them in with great care, you are in for a real treat. As a cake decorator, I find chiffon cakes to be an excellent medium to work with. They absorb a simple syrup with ease and compliment a wide variety of fillings and frosting. Another big plus is that they can be served right out of the refrigerator. Since they are made using oil and not butter, there is no need to allow them to come to room temperature since the oil does not firm up in the fridge.

It is essential to have a rock solid pastry cream recipe in your baking repertoire. It is a pastry staple that can be used in anything from banana cream pie, to cake filling to eclairs. This particular recipe calls for fewer eggs than most resulting in a less rich pastry cream. For me, the flavor is wonderful in this cake. It is a delicious compliment to the fresh fruit and lighter than air chiffon cake. It is a keeper in my book, and one that will be used often.

I love almonds in almost every form. However, I recognize that not everyone shares my love of this nut (yes, I know they are not technically nuts). If you are making this for a gathering and you are not sure if you have any almond haters in the bunch, I would suggest omitting the almond paste altogether. Instead, you could spread a layer of fruit preserve or puree, and it would be equally as delicious.

Plain and simple, this was my kind of dessert. I am only moderately ashamed to admit that I could eat this cake in its entirety and for days on end. It is that good. It is light and the flavors work so well together. The best part about this cake though is its versatility. Just about any fruit would work in this recipe. You could also get a little crazy and use a flavored simple syrup or an alternative chiffon cake flavor. The options are plentiful, and I plan to try them all :)

Thanks to Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes and my fellow Daring Bakers for a wonderful challenge.

Happy Baking!
Jaime @ The Great Cake Company
Recipe adapted from Tartine by Elisabeth M Prueitt and Chad Robertson

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons  (5½ oz or155 gm) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3). Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.

In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.

In a separate bowl, whip your egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar and continue beating on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.

Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days in an air tight container. 

1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon (4 gm) gelatin
1/2 tablespoon water
1 cup heavy cream

Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine. Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.

When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the stand mixer is whisking, pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture.Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon

Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally. Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth

Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator for up to five days

In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften

Put two inches (55 mm) of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
Measure 1/4 cup (2 oz/60 ml) of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.

Heat the cream until it is 120 F (48.8 C). Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.

In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.

1/3 cup of sugar, flavored or white
1/3 cup of water
*optional flavoring (flavored sugars, herbs or spices, 1-2 tsp extract, or up to 4 tablespoons of liqueur or fruit juice)

Combine the water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly. Add any optional flavorings. Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.

Line the sides of a 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with plastic wrap. Do NOT line the bottom of the pan.

Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers. Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.

Wash and slice enough fresh fruit to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the fruit against the sides of the pan forming a ring. Pipe cream in between fruit and a thin layer across the top of the cake. Wash and slice your remaining fruit and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover entirely with all but about 1 tablespoon of the pastry cream. Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup.

Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners' sugar and roll out the almond paste to a 10-inch (25 cm) round 1/16 inch (1.5 mm) thick. Trim almond paste to fit top of cake (I used a 7" cake pan as my guide to cut clean circle). Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover with the round of almond paste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours until set.

To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sour Cherry Crumb Cake

I could kiss you right now Michael Sullivan. I really could. I could give you a big 'ole wet one for planting the beautiful cherry tree in the front yard of your home. The same home that would one day become ours.

I was totally unaware of the gift you left for us until it bore its beautiful red fruit, a most fantastic surprise. Now, for a few weeks each year we are blessed with a bountiful crop of sour cherries. And, what better to do with a bowl full of cherries than make sour cherry crumb cake.  Fooled you! You thought I was going to say pie.

Cherry pie along with a few other family favorites will probably be on the list of things to make this cherry season, but alas, the family demanded crumb cake. So, crumb cake it is.

I need to digress a bit here and apologize for all the cherry photos... I just couldn't resist. They are so darn photogenic. Any which way you position them, they look fantastic. Even my amateur level photography skills were able to get a few decent shots.... everyone should shoot cherries!

Alright, back to the crumb cake. This was top notch delicious! The flavor of the sour cherries is fresh, and not too tart. The cake portion is moist with the perfect texture to support the juicy cherries, and the brown sugar crumb is the cherry on top (pun intended folks)... the perfect sweetness for the tartness of the fruit. In my mind, this is a perfect summer breakfast treat. Heck, it is a perfect anytime treat. I can't wait to make this again. Wonderful!

I do have one note on this recipe. If you take a quick peak at the photo below you will notice that the cake portion is about an inch tall. This is where I kick myself for not taking the extra five minutes to wash my 9x13" pan that was coated with the remains of the previous night's lasagna. Curses! While it was still delicious out of my 8" square pan (with more cake per bite), it really is more suited to be made in a 9x13" pan. This way the cherry/crumb topping ratio is roughly equal to the cake portion. I actually found myself slicing my pieces in half lengthwise to get the perfect bite.

Happy Baking!
Jaime @ The Great Cake Company

Recipe adapted (with modifications) from Perfect Cake by Nick Malgieri  

Servings: About 24 (2-inch squares)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups fresh sour cherries, pitted (about 1 1/2 pounds)

1 cup all purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
pinch of kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees and position the rack in the center of the oven. Butter the sides and bottom of a glass 9x13-inch pan. You can use a metal pan, but the edges of the cake may turn brown and crispy.... this may be tasty option for some.

Combine all the ingredients except for the melted butter in a medium sized bowl. Mix to combine. Stir in the melted butter and rub give it a quick stir to incorporate all the ingredients. Use your fingers to rub the sugar mixture together to make course crumbs. Set aside.

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and beat for another 20 seconds, or until combined. Be sure to scrape down the sides as needed.

Decrease the mixer to its lowest setting and add half of the flour mixture. Mix until incorporated and then add the sour cream. Mix again until well incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add the remaining flour mixture and mix until well combined.

Scrape batter in the prepared pan and  and level the top with a spatula. Evenly distribute the cherries on top of the batter, but do not press them in. Scatter the crumb topping over the cherries taking care to cover the entire surface evenly.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cake is firm and the crumb topping is nicely browned. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunday Baked: Blackberry Pie (Galette)

I have been wanting to try my hand at a fruit galette for quite some time now. I love their rustic charm and carefree form. This week's Blackberry Pie challenge from Matt & Renato's cookbook Baked Explorations was a perfect chance to give it a go. So, I tweaked the recipe a tiny bit to suit my needs... I hope I do not offend.

Blackberries for me are fruit with lots of potential, but they need to be gussied up a bit to really shine. It the receptacle of the blackberry, which is the fibrous central core, that causes all the problems. While the seeds get into my teeth and can be annoying, it is the darn core that I can do without. It is bitter and hard and really takes away from the delicious fruit.

There is a rather easy (though messy and slightly time consuming) solution to this issue. I have a little fondant tool I use for cake decorating that works like a charm for removing the receptacles (it also pits cherries like a champ). Stick this wonder tool in the blackberry and give it a little twist... out comes the core. Yeah! Problem solved.

Yes, this recipe called for fresh lemon juice and zest, but when there are beautiful limes leftover from a night of Gin and Tonics, it would be irresponsible of me to pass them over. Right!? So, in they went. I was a little afraid to go straight lime though, so I threw some lemon zest in to keep 'em honest.

This was my first experience working with Matt & Renato's pie crust. I prefer butter crusts, and this one was tasty and really a breeze to work with. I had some reservations as to whether I would be able to pleat the dough without breakage, but alas, it was not a problem.

"Wow, Mom! Those look like blackberry volcanoes! Can we go blow them up? Please!!"   
Jackson, my 6-year old son

We really enjoyed these. I thought they were quite tasty, and I loved the added kick the citrus provided. I thought the galettes came together well, and I was quite pleased they didn't erupt in my oven as my son would have liked to witness. My husband (the "Pie Guy") liked the flavor, but found the seeds slightly distracting. He also mentioned that he would have preferred them as an actual pie... with a top crust... I can never win :)

If you will excuse me now, I have to go floss.....

Please check in my my fellow club members to see what they thought of this delicious recipe and to view some great photos of their experiences.

Happy Baking!
Jaime @ The Great Cake Company