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Posts Tagged ‘Ganache’

Making the Praline

Making the Praline

This month marks my first Daring Bakers Challenge.  I’ve been watching this group for the past year or so and debating with myself as to whether or not I wanted to join.  With a better than full time job, a wife and a 18-month old little girl at home, it’s not easy to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen.  That being said, after watching last month’s challenge, the Danish Braid, I just couldn’t hold back any longer.  They are baking up some great stuff and I just had to join in.  So, I sent my email and got on board, so, here I am.

This month’s challenge – and yes, it was a challenge, was a Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream selected by this month’s host – Chris over at Mele Cotte.  This recipe challenged me on several levels.  First, it was going to take some time.  I definitely had to plan out my baking schedule and do this in pieces. 

Cutting the Layers

Cutting the Layers

Second, I had to do some things I’ve never done before – whipped cream from scratch, whipping up meringue, making true Swiss Buttercream, melting sugar – all of which I have not done before.  Finally, here, like many other places in the country, it’s been a bit warm lately, and the thought of keeping the buttercream intact in the heat and humidity was a bit of a concern.

Finding the ingredients was not a problem.  Filberts (hazelnuts) are grown here in Oregon, so they can be purchased, in bulk for about $6.00/lb.  Add up the rest of the ingredients and the time it takes to make this recipe and it turns out to be a spendy little treat.

The Completed Layers

The Completed Layers

I enjoyed the fact that I was learning some new procedures.  I’ve watched countless times as meringue and whipped cream were whipped up on the Food Network, but I’ve never had the guts to try it until now.  You know what?  It wasn’t all that difficult.  Both came together very well.  I did add a small touch of cream of tartar to my egg whites as that is supposed to help give them volume and stability.  The hazelnuts weren’t too much trouble as I’ve worked with them before.  I had more trouble skinning the little buggers than I’ve had in the past, I’m not sure why, but I was left with some skins on the nuts.  Not a problem, I left them there with no ill effects.

The cake itself came together nicely, though there were a few hiccups.  I didn’t have any of the listed spirits available, so I used a Vanilla Flavored Rum we had picked up on a cruise to the Caribbean.  I forgot to spread the apricot glaze on the cake when it came out of the oven, so I did that later, after I had cut and filled the layers.  Cutting the layers wasn’t too difficult.  I have a Wilton tool for cutting cake layers, but I wanted to try it freehand and, if I do say so myself, the layers actually turned out nicely.  I did have some trouble cutting the sides of the cake.  I should have refrigerated the cake again for awhile after assembling the layers because the cake started to kind of crumble on me as I tried to make the cut.  The finished edges weren’t quite what I had hoped for, but once the ganache was poured on, it didn’t look too bad. 

The Big 'Ding-Dong'

The Big 'Ding-Dong'

Finally, I had a little trouble piping the buttercream on top of the cake.  I was trying to go around the outside edge of the top of the cake with a kind of scalloped pattern, but the buttercream was slightly separating and was breaking on me – kind of falling apart rather than staying in one nice unbroken line.  Oh well, I’m not much of a decorator anyway – that’s why my stuff has to taste so good – my creations may not be much to look at, but they usually taste great.  So, I made the best of it and I’m actually pretty pleased at my giant Ding-Dong of a cake (at least that’s how it looked with just the ganache on it).

Getting Ready to Decorate

Getting Ready to Decorate

We had a small gathering the day I finished the cake for an out of town visitor.  I served the cake to our guests who proceeded to wipe the whole thing out in one sitting.  One person thought I had bought the cake at a bakery – I’ll take that as a compliment.  They all enjoyed the somewhat complex mix of flavors in this cake.  It’s definitely what I would call more refined in terms of flavors.  You need to savor this cake slowly to appreciate the subtle qualities of taste and texture, rather than wolf it down with a big glass of milk.  No, for the amount of time and effort that goes in to making it, you’re darn well going to sit there and appreciate it! Tell me what a good job I did.  Tell me you love me. 

I guess it’s time to settle down and prepare for the next challenge.  Thanks again Chris for selecting a challenging recipe and to Lis and Ivonne for keeping the Daring Bakers rolling along.  See you all next month. I’ve posted a copy of the full recipe here.

 

 

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Chocolate Disaster Cake

 

Okay, I don’t like to admit my mistakes, especially when they’re foolish ones.  But sometimes our mistakes are too good to keep to ourselves.  We were on vacation 2 weeks ago and I did a good amount of baking at that time (yes, baking was a planned part of my vacation, I don’t get that kind of time at home).  I wanted to start the week with a simple dessert, but something that would be appreciated by a chocoholic.

Enter the Flourless Chocolate Cake.  I’ve made these before.  Several years ago, I made this in mini bundt pans for a ladies tea my wife was hosting.  I served them with a light dusting of powdered sugar and a small raspberry sitting in the little indentation on the top of the mini cake.  They were a huge hit.  Very chocolatey, dense and somewhat creamy.  Well, I had come across a similar recipe on King Arthur Flour’s website via their Baker’s Banter blog (you can read their entry on this recipe here).   Theirs was similar, but also added a very tasty chocolate ganache as a topping – whoa, that sounded really good!

I didn’t have any cake pans available at the vacation rental house, but I did have some loaf pans, so I thought I’d give it a try and just extend the baking time.  So, I lined the loaf pan like the recipe said, leaving some extra parchment hanging over the edges to help lift the cake out at the end.  I started baking the suggested time for a cake pan, and, of course, it wasn’t done.  I started adding time in 5 minute increments.  I checked a second time and a third, still not done.  That’s where everything went south.  Something else missing in this vacation rental home was a second oven mitt.  I usually like to use both hands when putting things in or taking them out of the oven, just so I keep the batter level and avoid spashes, etc.  This time, with only one oven mitt, and therefore, only one hand on the pan, I lost it.  I had sprayed the pan with nonstick baking spray and had gotten some on the lip of the pan.  Let me tell you, that stuff is slick – literally.  My thumb slipped and the pan fell out of my hand – upside down, onto the open oven door.  Quickly, I lifted the pan off the door in the hopes that maybe I could save it – no luck.  The parchment did a fantastic job and released the entire cake from the pan, cleanly. 

The interior of the cake wasn’t done yet, so the gooey batter spread out amidst the baked portions.  Everything began to bake onto the ungreased, unprotected oven door.  I stood there, amazed, wondering what to do.  My wife heard the comotion and quickly assisted by scooping up everything that wasn’t baked onto the door back into the pan.  That was that.  Some serious cleaning ensued (baking soda and water worked very well to remove that nasty mess from the door) and I was left with a pan of partialy baked cake.  My wife encouraged me to make the best of a bad situation, and that’s when the muse struck – Chocolate Disaster Cake would be born.

I had already prepared the ganache and didn’t want it to go to waste, so I scooped out some generous spoonfuls of the batter – some baked, some not and topped it with the ganache.  You know what?  It not only tasted fantastic (kind of like a molten lava cake), but actually didn’t look too bad – you can see for yourself.

The moral of the story?  1.  Always use 2 hands and 2. Make the best of even your worst disasters.  I haven’t yet tried to reproduce this in the loaf pan to see if that would have worked, but considering the outcome here, I may have a hard time letting the next one bake all the way before I start hacking into it.  Ahh, sweet defeat.

You can find the recipe for Flourless Chocolate Cake by King Arthur Flour here.

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