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.
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.
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.
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).
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.