Posts Tagged With: almond

Flag Cake (for lack of a better title…)

For the Americans poking around my blog, yesterday was Independence Day – a moment where the USA likes to tout its freedom and principles and set off fireworks (which is pretty entertaining).  I’m not hugely patriotic and therefore am not entirely invested in this national holiday HOWEVER when my sister brought this cake to my attention, I couldn’t say no.  It’s an ordinary, white, frosted cake on the outside…but a rockin’ STARS AND STRIPES (well..no stars…details details) gâteau on the inside !

The actual source site for this “flag cake” à l’américaine doesn’t list recipes, so I used my own creations listed below. Again, this cake requires some serious dedication – you have to WANT to sculpt and craft this dessert, spending much time cutting and placing before being able to actually devour the final product so don’t tackle this project at 8pm.  You’ll be busy until the wee hours of the morning.

A little note on the cakes :  The white and blue layers, both the same size, were made of the same base : a Lady Baltimore cake.  It’s a light, almond-flavored white cake that is easy to cut and handle given the egg whites.  The red layer was a raspberry yellow cake recipe – this way, we didn’t waste any part of the egg, utilizing the yolks in this cake recipe that remained from the Lady B cake.  I added Chambord and raspberry jam to help both with the color of the cake and give it that raspberry flavor.  The frosting is an almond buttercream.

For the RED CAKE : 

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
3 egg yolks
1-2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup jam
3 tbsp Chambord (raspberry liqueur)
LOTS OF FOOD DYE.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line two 9-inch pans.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Separate the yolks and whites of three eggs.

Add the vanilla, followed by the egg yolks.  Beat well after each addition until the batter is nice and…homogenous.

Add the milk and flour together, stirring until just combined.  Add the jam and the chambord and the food coloring, mixing until the red is well-distributed throughout the batter.

Pour into prepared pans and bake until springy to the touch – about 20 minutes.

For the WHITE and BLUE cake :  

1 stick butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup milk
3 egg whites (4 will make the cake rise more)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 350F.  Cream the butter and sugar until light in color.

Add the vanilla and almond extracts.  Mix in the flour, baking powder, and milk at the same time, being careful not to over mix.   Set this bowl aside.

In a clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry.  You can add salt or cream of tartar to the whites in order to help them whip up…but I usually skip that part.

Fold the egg whites into the batter.

Fill the white cake pan with batter.  To the remaining batter, add LOTS AND LOTS OF BLUE FOOD DYE.

Mix until combined; pour the blue patter into the cake pan and place both pans in the oven.  Let cook until springy to the touch – about 20 – 25 minutes.

For the frosting :

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
about a whole bag of confectioners’ sugar (slightly less…leave about 1/3 cup in the 1 lb bag)
Vanilla (about 1 tsp)
Almond extract (to taste – probably about 1 tsp)

Beat the butter until nice and creamy.  Add the sugar, watching the consistency.  Throw in the extracts.  Taste LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS to make sure it isn’t too buttery/sugary/etc.  If you find it to be too thick, add some milk – about 1 tbsp.

Assembly :

This is the complicated part.  I had a hard time getting my mind around it…hence, my sister was the brains of the operation.  I just obeyed.  Here are her lovely orders :

1. Using the lid of a canister of oatmeal (a circle between 4 to 5 inches in diameter), cut the BLUE LAYER so the it looks like a doughnut.  Use this same circle to cut one of the RED LAYERS down to size.  This RED LAYER will fit inside the blue layer.

2. Cut the other red layer IN HALF – you can do this by using a wire like we did OR with a serrated knife.  It’s a little stressful, but these cakes are tolerant of cutting – yay eggs !

3. Cut the white layer in half, too.

4. Take ONE of the thin white layers and cut it to the size of the smaller circle.

5.  On the cake pan, lay the thin red layer first.  Spread a thin thin thin layer of frosting on the red layer.  Cover with the thing white layer and some frosting.  Then the red layer.  THEN THE BLUE DOUGHNUT, followed by the thin, small, white layer and then the small red layer.  Here are some photos to help you visualize all of this.

6. Ice the entire cake.  Yum.

We put some blueberries on the top for decoration, but it’s fine all on its own, too.  The layers of the cake work really well together and who doesn’t love a good surprise ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy (belated) Independence Day and bon appétit !

 

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Categories: English | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Macarons

Sometimes, we want to challenge ourselves.
See just how far we will go to accomplish a task.
The recipe in question : Macarons
The challenge : How to make them with only two bowls, a measuring cup, and a whisk as our tools.  In other words : the old-fashioned way.

Ah the joys of living in a dorm…

Macarons (yes, macarons, not macaroons because we are not fussing around with coconut!) are adorable and intimidating, two words I don’t usually like to see together.  They seems to be difficult, imposisble even to prepare, but really – they are just a meringue with a filling.  There is nothing scary about that – leave it to the dear français to make something seem more difficult than it is…

Here in America, these confections have quite the reputation : very few folks know how to make them because they just seem HARD.  I didn’t even know what went in them, let alone that it was just meringue.   However, with Pauline as my guide, we decided to tackle the classic French cookie.

She explained to me that they were in fact simple that she had already made them (successfully) before and that of course we could do it.

SURPRISE !

As we are attempting to whip egg whites by hand and prepare a simple boiled sugar solution, the panicking begins.  “We can’t whip the egg whites enough, this is never going to work, they won’t be perfect, we’re a failure…”  She may be a little pessimistic but I still love her dearly.

Aha.  Quite an adventure.  However, we survived.  Here as a witness, I am going to prove that macarons are really not so scary or difficult to prepare – they just require a lot of optimism and patience and perhaps a little luck.

Off we go !

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Ingredients :

3 egg whites
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 3/4 cups almond meal/powder/flour (found at Trader Joe’s)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

Pour half of the egg whites (you will have to approximate – 1.5 egg whites) in a large bowl.  With a whisk, whip the egg whites until they are stiff.  If you do this by hand, you will be sore by the end – and do not be alarmed, it does take a little while to whip the eggs to this point.  I recommend taking turns if you are lucky enough to have a cooking buddy.  You should be able to turn the bowl you are using upside-down without having the egg whites fall out/budge. The proof is in the pudding…or the egg whites…as here’s a photo (not staged at all…) of our final product:

Set these egg whites aside for the moment.  In another bowl, mix the almond powder and the powdered sugar.  Add the remaining egg whites and stir until well combined.  If you want to add vanilla or another flavoring to the mixture, do so now.  When complete, set this bowl aside as well.

Now we arrive at the complicated step.

What is going to happen now is really fun but can be challenging if you are alone in the kitchen (or if you have never worked with molten sugar).  We are going to make a basic marshmallow – it’s like “Quick White Icing” for those who are familiar with the classic Joy of Cooking.  A sugar syrup will boil on the stove top to a certain point, and it will be then added slowly to the eggs whites all while whisking the egg whites into a frenzy.

Mix the water and the sugar together and put over the stovetop.  If you have a candy thermometer, you will boil this mixture until 238 degrees F, or the soft ball stage.  If you don’t, just watch the mixture – it will change consistency to be come glassy and slightly thicker.  Remove from the burner.

Grab the bowl with the whipped egg whites and prepare the whisk.  One person should be in charge of whisking while the other carefully pours the syrup into the egg whites. If you are using an electric mixer, set the mixer on HIGH and hold the pot over your head while pouring in the syrup.

The sugar must be added in a long, thin stream so as to prevent the egg whites from cooking given the temperature of the sugar (and the tendency for sugar to continue cooking even when removed from the eye).  The mixture will thicken and turn glossy.  Beat until warm to the touch.

NB: BOILING SUGAR IS VERY HOT AND IF YOU BURN YOURSELF IT WILL BE PAINFUL.  So please be careful.

Just for reference’s sake, here’s a photo of the marshmallow fluff :

Add the marshmallow to the batter one third at a time, making sure that everything is well incorporated BUT not mixing too much – once everything looks uniform, stop mixing.

Drop the batter one teaspoonful at a time onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (or wax paper).  The macarons will stick if you do not line the cookie sheet.  We used aluminum foil because we didn’t have anything else.  We succeeded but I feel that parchment paper would be a better option.  Allow the cookies to rest for 15 minutes before placing them in the oven.

Cook them in a cool oven, about 315F for 10 minutes.  Take them out of the oven and let them cool before attempting to remove them from the paper.  They are very light and fragile, and will crack or break if manipulated while warm.

This is how ours looked – we were lucky and they were smooth with a nice “foot” or the frilly/frothy edges.

Now all that remains to do is fill them – we used chocolate ganache and caramel but anything goes.  Common fillings include buttercream and jam/preserves.

Bon appetit !

Categories: English | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Three King’s Cake

A few weeks ago, my roommate and I had a BRILLIANT idea…a brilliantly tasty idea.  As it was close to Epiphany, we thought we would make a Three King’s Cake – or “galette des rois” in French.  This “cake” is more like one large turnover, made with puff pastry and a frangipane filling.  Frangipane is a sweet, almond and sugar combination that is used in pies or tarts…I used it as the base of an apricot tart once.  It’s similar to the filling of streudel or other breakfast pastries.

In any case – there is a tradition that goes along with this cake : inside, one hides a bean or a coin.  Once the cake is cooked, cut, and distributed, the person who ends up with the coin is considered the “king” or “queen” of the evening.  In French culture, upon cutting the galette, the youngest child hides under the table and announces who receives what piece…and everyone wants to find the coin.  For those of you who want to learn moreeeeee click here.

So Pauline and I, together, in our (poorly equipped…) college community room, prepared this treat for a few French (and American) friends…I’ll admit, Pauline was the workhorse behind this recipe as I had never made a King’s Cake…but I got to place the coin (we used a piece of pasta…) in the cake.  It’s a really simple recipe that doesn’t take much work and it is definitely worth noting.

So even though Mardi Gras has passed by…as has Epiphany and we are now in Lent and you probably gave up sweets (pity…) – this would be an excellent addition to breakfast with a cup of hot coffee, no crowns necessary.

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Ingredients :
– 2 sheets of puff pastry
– 1 1/4 cup almond flour/meal
– 1/3 cup sugar
– 1 egg
– 3 1/3 tbsp butter, softened
– 1/4 tsp almond extract
– 1 egg yolk (for painting the dough)
– 1 coin/bean

Preheat oven to 400F. If the puff pastry is frozen, allow it to thaw completely before unwrapping.  If you don’t wait, it will just break.  Take one sheet and press it into the cake pan, cutting it to size .  With a fork, score the pastry (basically cover it with holes).  This will allow steam to escape when cooking and decreases the chance for air bubbles…which while they might look cool don’t do anything for flavor…they’re full of hot air.  😉

In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients – the almond powder, the sugar, the egg, the softened butter and the almond extract.  I suggest putting the butter in first, followed by the sugar, the eggs, the extract, and the finally the almond flour.

Pour this mixture on top of the puff pastry, making sure to spread the filling evenly.  It would be wise to leave a small border  devoid of filling – this will make sealing the pastry easier.  Put a bean, coin, or small NOT HEAT SENSITIVE object somewhere in the filling, preferable near the border so that you don’t cut it accidentally.  We used a pasta…in hindsight this was probably not the wisest choice as our “fève” was eaten !  We never found out who the King was (or queen, as there were only females present for most of the nibbling process…sorry Matt !) and therefore just decided it was a mystery.

Using the second piece of puff pastry, cover the filling and make sure to pinch the edges well.  Again, cut the piece of pastry to fit the mould – no need to have TOO much excess as it will just take longer to cook.

To make the top an even (and beautiful) golden color, take the yolk of an egg and mix it with a small amount of water.  Paint the top of the cake with this mixture.  Then, score the top with a fork just like you scored the bottom piece.

Cook for about 30 minutes – just enough time for the top to be golden brown.

Wait for the cake to cool a little, then cut the cake !

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