Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Alpha Bakers: Double Damage Oblivion

This world is full of some very serious chocolate lovers. I am not one. I love chocolate as much as some of the next guys, but there are guys out there for whom a dessert without chocolate might as well be a flip flop. When offered soup, a friend of mine has the habit of answering, 'No, thank you, I don't need a beverage.' I have many friends who react in the same way when offered pie--pie being all very well, but utterly beside the point. This cake is for those people.

You know, those people. The ones who need a flourless cake sandwiched between two layers of light, fudgy cocoa cake lined with ganache to be happy. The ones who'd like some cake with their cake, please. This cake is for them (although it could be improved by a layer of chocolate mousse, maybe).

So, what you see here is what you get--a thin, eggy, flourless cake layer inside of Rose's Deep Chocolate Passion, a light oil and cocoa confection that has served as the base everything from wedding cakes to cupcakes. The flourless cake, the Chocolate Oblivion, is very rich and bitter (at least with the chocolate I used), and the Chocolate Passion is essentially an improved Hostess product. Light and simple. I can't speak to the ganache because I followed the variation and used heated and strained raspberry preserves, rounded out with a little pear jelly, to glue the whole confection together, and, there you have it.

Done and done. The workplace did not complain. I am going downstairs now to investigate the leftovers, and there will probably be some, as it was very intense, but nobody quarrels with chocolate around here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Alpha Bakers -- Rose Red Velvet

I have a complicated relationship with Red Velvet cake. I don't get the hype, but I love gratuitous food coloring, and I never turn down cream cheese frosting (or whipped cream, which is this recipe's garnish of choice. Red Velvet and I have agreed to disagree, and I usually just enjoy the fact that I get to make such a recognizably pleasing cake that holds a special place in many other people's hearts. In this case, the Rose Red Velvet as written takes the concept of RED to a bigger, better place. 
First of all, bundt pans are amazing. Second, NordicWare makes some bundt pans that really impress, and usually all I have to do is pull a cake out of my Heritage bundt (or, in Rose's cake, their rose bundt) and people think I'm a baking genius. 

In this case, however, the baking genius bought some crappy off-brand baking spray at Pathmark and the results were...unimpressive. 
I don't do cake pops, so folks at work were forced to be unimpressed with a container full of scraps. They were dutifully underwhelmed. I did do another run, though, with some modifications (ran short on baking powder, glazed with the reduced syrup of Trader Joes' cherries), and the look was much finer.  The texture didn't suffer too much from the low baking powder addition (and can we talk about the fact that I ran through a container of baking powder in about two months), but I also ran low on food coloring so I couldn't get that glaring artificial red. Consider this the entirely artificial organic beet juice look. Next week's cake is called the 'Double Damage Oblivion.' I'm sure it's a spare little cupcake.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Alpha Bakers -- Classic Brioche

Dear world. This here is a classic brioche. It has no bells and no whistles. It has quite a bit of butter. I made it over a day or two, and it involved some heavy lifting (of the mixer), some folding of dough into letter folds, one, two three, and then a quick overnight proof in the refrigerator. 

I have eaten nearly all of it, and plan to eat the rest for breakfast. Enough said.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Alpha Bakers - French Orange Tart

Orange cream tart. Looks like cottage cheese, tastes way better. I brought it to work and most of my colleagues ignored it. Their loss. I just kept eating it. It was a mildly tangy orange tart. Nothing not to love. Could have made the filling a little deeper, or cooked it slightly softer. No problem. It wasn't pretty but it was good.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Alpha Bakers -- Double Chocolate Oriolos

Lovely chocolate wafers. Like many of the best buttery cookies, these 'Oriolos' are made in the food processor, so although the small size of that appliance limits the size of the batch. I mixed this half batch up with almonds and cacao nibs replacing toasted walnuts (I had imprudently used all my toasted walnuts in some zucchini bread just hours earlier), and let the dough mellow in the refrigerator for 48 hours. I chose to roll them out on a very humid 81 degree day, so the final cookies squashed a bit flatter than I'd intended--next time I'll make sure they have more heft. The results were pleasing, though, if fragile.
Also, I did make, though don't plan on posting about, the BlueRhu pie from a few weeks ago. It was excellent, but more and more I think doing anything with rhubarb beyond roasting it (even pie!) is a waste.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Alpha Bakers - Lemon CreeMees

These were supposed to be Lemon Jammies, They are butter cookies enhanced with lemon zest, filled with, well...not lemon curd. Instead, I made Dorie Greenspan's (Pierre Herme's) lemon cream
Then I called them Lemon Creamies, and then that made me think of these. Now they're Lemon CreeMees. They were creamy (creemee). And delicious.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Alpha Bakers -- The Polish Princess

The Polish Princess. Sounds like a cruise ship, doesn't it? Or a jewelry display. 

But no, it is a cake. Under its fancy veneer, it is actually quite a humble and homebody cake. Just because a girl wears two layers of buttercream doesn't mean she's stuck-up. Also, doesn't she have a right to some honest pride when she's a righteous sponge soaked in a tea and rum syrup, topped with two smooth and creamy and eggy layers of pastry cream buttercream, one filled with cocoa and walnuts, the other with raisins and chocolate? 

The Polish Princess, or the Ambassador as it is apparently known in Poland, is a bakery cake--the kind you ogle in the pastry case that often doesn't punch its weight in taste outside the cage. This lady, however, holds up, especially at room temperature, where all the layers soften into a creamy blend.
The creation of the Princess happened over a few days, in slow stages. First, the sponge was baked and syrup-ed. The syrup, in Polish fashion, was meant to be a strong tea steeped spiked with vodka. Having no vodka, I used rum, which was delicious if not culturally appropriate. According to the recipe headnote, the cake was developed after the fall of the USSR, when new quality ingredients came to Poland, so perhaps it's just an appropriate cultural cross-pollination.

Then came the buttercream--one recipe divided at the end for flavorings. It starts with a goopy pastry cream, into which a LOT of butter is blended. I mean a LOT--about three sticks worth. Because I was making the recipe in stages, I had some trouble with the buttercream--it broke badly and became a cottage cheese looking wet mess. I waited for everything to come to a warm room temperature, added a few more tablespoons of butter, and came out at last with a creamy fluff. 

The Princess had a warm reception at work, as I made sure she was served at a cool room temperature, the spongy buttercream was a great success. One of our young shelvers (who have just been temporarily almost laid off due to budget constraints--call your city councilors!) told me it was a brand new cake experience for him--he had never eaten anything like it. 

The last few weeks have been stressful. Some of the stress is personal, a result of something very wonderful that I have the privilege to do, that is none the less...stressful. Also, a few mountains have been falling and a few cities have been burning, and that's not without its impact too, however far away it may be. Many of my friends seem to be finding themselves in a slightly ragged place as we straggle into spring. The reasons vary, from the personal to the professional, from life to love to happiness to sadness, but regardless, most of us need a heavy dose of cake and flowers and soup. 

Last Sunday I had a few dear ones over and made this soup--quick and simple and rich, a basic potato soup raised up with prosciutto and saffron and garlicky ground almonds, from my new cookbook, Food52 Genius Recipes. More from this cookbook soon. I'm going through my cookbook back catalogue and trying not to buy many more, but this one was a printed version of about half the recipes I have already bookmarked and printed out, and it seemed prudent to pick up the bound version.