Archive for August, 2008

Misc.*

August 31, 2008

So we are back home and man, were those three weeks ever refreshing! Nothing to do (well, apart from laundry and cooking, chasing after the kids, putting the kids to bed etc..) and no internet** is the most relaxing way to spend a vacation, if you ask me!

In the meantime, a few things happened here and there (mostly me forgetting everything about teh innernet), so to bring you up to date while easing myself back into the blogging business I will simply point you in various directions and ask you to be patient while I cop-out get my markers around our regular life back.

Top of the list: I came back home to find a copy of ths month’s abitare, a design magazine based in Italy, with a link to this website by yours truly in the Tip section of the magazine… Can you believe it? Not only did they link, but they also printed a little insert with photos. Incredible and THANK YOU, abitare! I will try to get a scan of the page to post here. I am blushing just thinking about it!

I have noticed also, that Cynthia Barcomi, whose baking books and cafés I really really like, now has a website AND a blog, you should check it out now. The apple pie on her site looks fantastic!

Finally, since I really seem to have gotten rusty at this blogging game, and am completely unable to find a coherent segue into the photos of the lemon verbena (top right corner), laurel (bottom right corner) and the figs we colected in our garden in France, I will just leave you with them to look at:

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* This post is titled ‘miscellaneous’, in response to Holly’s discussion of favorite phrases and words. Along with ‘sheath’ and ‘ream’, misc. is one of my absolute bestest word in english. I love the sound of it, and always associate the word with a labeled chest of drawers and with what could be hidden in the one titled ‘misc.’.
Just thought you might want to know that!

**No internet was actually so nice that it took me three days to decide wether to read up the 322 news items in my rss-reader or no. But then I caved and read most of them.

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At last

August 8, 2008
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We are leaving for France tomorrow, for a well deserved holiday. The image above shows the garden as viewed from the house and I wish I could just skip over the three days of travel ahead of us and just will us there now!

I am not sure if I will be able to post, since there is only dial-up available, but I will try my best.
In the meantime, because my brain is too empty to do anything beyond packing (and for 5 people, so YAY brain!) all I can leave you with is telling you to go click through my blogroll, leave comments here (or there) and expect me back with more food, stories and a possibly improved mood in three weeks!

The Honeymoon Is Over

August 3, 2008
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I am happy to report that I am officially done with my obsession with layercakes. It’s been holding up for nearly four years now, ever since we got married in my parents’ vacation house in the south of France. I had really wanted a tiered american layer cake — just like the ones you can see here, a serious princess cake — and was sorely disappointed with the fact that all french pâtissiers flatly refused to make me one. Their argument was très french: they simply said that in order for the cake to hold up and look good, ‘we’ would have to compromise on flavor. And ‘we’ don’t do that. So, I had to shelve this particular gastronomic (or not, according to the french!) fantasy, since baking the cakes myself was deemed unacceptable by my family.

The choice we made for our wedding cakes was so fabulous however, that the layer cakes where scoffed at in retrospect. We chose to get multiple cakes and macarons from a great pâtissier in the the town near our location, and even now I can’t think back about the food and desserts we served without drooling! In fact we are going there next week, and I can tell you right now, that we will most definitely be visiting this pâtisserie!

Anyway, I had forgotten all about the perfect layer cake, until I was sent straight back into obsessionland, thanks to the suspense story that was smitten kitchen’s project wedding cake. As soon as I read about it, I had to eat one, make one, find the perfect one. I mentioned the first one I didn’t blog, and ate a few in the meantime. This weekend, however was the apogee as well as the epiphany. In terms of layering that is.

I made a chocolate layer cake and filled and frosted it with a chocolate sour cream ganache. And lo, it was really really great. Hence the apogee. And really really American. Hence the epiphany. I have come to understand, that I actually like simple cakes and tartes better than this big affair that screams CAKE and represents CAKE! I like cakes, and desserts and sometimes I really need to have layer cake, but not enough to make it myself. So back to the simple dessert drawing board for me.

But, if YOU are looking for an awesome, delicious, perfect and highly good looking chocolate layer cake, then look no more, here it is! I made it from two different recipes from the same book namely Cynthia Barcomi’s Backbuch. The chocolate fudge cake is actually to be frosted with a chocolate buttercream frosting, which somehow wasn’t quite what I wanted. I therefore opted to frost it with the sour cream ganache frosting from the banana chocolate swirl cake which I will never make, due to my intense dislike of all things banana. The chocolate fudge cake together with the sour cream chocolate ganach makes the whole thing somewhat akin to the aptly named devil’s food cake. I would like to apologize also, for bringing this up during a time where we all should be donning swim suits, and for my defense would like to say that… I don’t know. Go run or something!

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Chocolate Layer Cake

From Cynthia Barcomi’s Backbuch

prep time: 25 min total, cooling time 1h30, 1h for the cakes and 30 min after frosting it
metal mixing bowls,two 24 cm cake tin with removable sides

For the Chocolate Fudge Cake

280 g flour
120 g cornstarch*
400 g sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
250 g of butter, softened
335 ml boiling water
125 g unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp molasses / sugarbeetroot syrup
3 eggs

Preheat your oven to 180° and butter your cake tins. Line them with parchment paper if you are so inclined. Dissolve the cocoa powder in the 335 ml boiling water and stir in the syrup. Pour out 60 ml in a separate bowl and leave both to cool.
In a mixing bowl, measure up flour, cornstarch, baking powder and soda, salt and sugar. Mix in the butter by hand or with a handmixer until the mixture ressembles coarse crumbs.
With the handmixer (and preferably the help of a baking assistant) pour in the larger batch of cocoa and mix until everything is perfectly homogenised, about 2 min.
Add the eggs one at a time to the rest of the cocoa mix and incorporate it to the previous mix in three batches, making sure to beat each batch for about 15 sec.
Pour equal parts into your baking tins and bake for about 25 min or until set. Leave to cool for about 10 min before removing the cakes from the tins.

You should go take a break now, this was hard work, and if you are thinking of making the frosting right away, stop now. Applying it to a cake that is still slightly warm, will give you a melting mess and no choice but to simply gobble up the rest of the ganache right then and there (seriously, this ganache is practically a desssert on it’s own, it’s that good!).
When your cakes are good and cooled, make sure you level them, so you won’t end up with a domed cake, or one that looks like two cakes fell upside down on top of each other to smooch!. Levelling the domes will ensure you’ll two get even, straight cakes that you can frost and fill.

For the Chocolate Sour Cream Ganache

340 g chocolate, melted
400 g sour cream at room temperature

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. With a rubber spatula, incorporate the sour cream and mix until everything is smooth and uniform in texture.

How to Frost the Thing

Put the first leveled cake bottom down on a plate or cake platter (another obsession of mine!), then take an offset spatula** and start applying a thin coat of ganach to the top of the cake and it’s sides. This is called a crumb coat and prevents the frosting from getting, well crumbey and not so pretty-looking. Let it set for a minute. Be patient. You will be rewarded.
Once set, fill the inside with a third of your frosting. Put the second leveled cake bottoms up on top of the first and apply a crumb coat to the top and sides as well. Putting it bottoms up will allow for the top layer to look as flat and even as possible.
Now, apply a generous amount of frosting to the middle of the cake, and in a sweeping and turning motion, run the spatula all over the cake while simultaneously turning the cake platter. Keep applying more frosting and let it run down the sides of the cakes. Put the spatula horizontal to the sides of the cake, and turn the platter while applying more frosting. If you are completely confused now, just google ‘how to frost a cake’ and find a video to visually demonstrate what I am trying to explain!.
I reccomend giving the cake 30 min to collect itself before you eat it.

And thus endeth my obsession. I promise I will post something other than crazy rich cakes next time!

* You could also use 400 g of cakeflour, which has a softer texture and a lower protein content and makes your cakes rise higher and have a finer texture.

** I finally bought one, and seriously, is there a better tool to frost cakes? It makes it all so easy and martha stewart-ish!
*** If you are worried about the bathing suit issue, rest assured, we shared this cake among friends…