Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Almond Update

In the search for a mightily almondy cake, I stopped by David Lebovitz' blog which includes a lovely and simple almond cake recipe.
almond cake
It includes almond paste, which I was worried I would not be able to find in the middle of the Midwest. Since I moved to Indiana, there are many little things that are harder to find, so I typically assume the worst. Lo and behold, Meijer super-stores offer Solo almond paste, right in the baking isle along with all those other pre-made pie fillings. I have never used one of those, but I assume they're terrible (there I go with the worst, again).

In any case, I tried making his recipe with cake flour in a 9-inch layer pan instead of a cake pan, so I had enough left-over batter for 10-cupcakes.
Did I say ten? I meant eight. Just ignore that open wrapper at the top there. I also only baked the cupcakes for about 45 minutes, and the cake for 55 minutes. I think I could have left the layer cake in for longer.
The actual cake did "sigh" as David so nicely puts it. Maybe "totally collapsed into itself" would be more accurate.
Mind you, this thing had domed up about twice as high as it is in this picture. Ah well. I filled in the sad crevice with chocolate butter-cream frosting, so it was a happy crevice. Unfortunately, we ate the entire thing before I could take a picture. Here are the remaining cupcakes.
Overall, the flavor is very almondy. The texture is pretty light, though, totally unlike a pound cake. So the search for an almond pound cake recipe is still on. Let me know if you find one!

Almond Cake Recipe
Adapted from David Lebovitz

265g white granulated sugar
1 - 8 oz can almond paste
140g unbleached cake flour (David's recipe calls for one cup of flour. I measured my 140g, and found that I had between 1/2 and 3/4 cup of flour. So that's what I used.)
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cubed and brought to room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
6 large eggs, at room temperature

1. Pre-heat oven to 325ºF. Grease, flour, and line with parchment a 9" layer cake pan. Put paper liners in muffin tin.
2. In food processor, process the sugar, almond paste, and 1/4 cup of flour. Process for about 15 seconds, until the texture is sandy.
3. Add butter and extracts, and process until the texture is fluffy, about 30 seconds.
4. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each egg before adding the next.
5. In a small bowl, combine rest of the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add half this mixture to food processor, and use short bursts to incorporate it, making sure not to overmix.
6. Add rest of flour mixture, and again use short bursts to incorporate flour.
7. Pour about 2/3 of batter into prepared cake pan. Place about 1/3 cup of batter into each prepared cupcake liner.
8. Bake cupcakes for about 45 minutes, and cake for 50 to 60 minutes.
9. Let cool on rack. (I removed the cupcakes immediately, but let the cake cool in its pan for about an hour or more.)

Chocolate Butter-cream Frosting
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

1/3 cup of white granulated sugar
6 tablespoons of egg whites (I use leftovers, but it's about 2 large egg whites)
pinch table salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1.5 sticks (6 oz) butter, cubed and brought to room temperature
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (I used Trader Joe's 72% dark chocolate)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

[Note: You can do triple use with a pot of boiling water. First use it to melt the chocolate double boiler style. Then use it to warm up the egg whites while whipping. Then, cook your linguine with kale in there for dinner. Num. Don't forget the garlic!]

1. Combine egg whites, sugar, salt and lemon juice in stand mixer bowl. (The salt and lemon juice stabilize the egg whites and help them fluff up)
2. Over a pot of simmering water, whisk the ingredients constantly for about 3 minutes until egg whites are all frothy (and the temp is about 150ºF).
3. Place the bowl back in your stand mixer with whisk attachment, and and beat mixture on medium (I used level 6 out of 10) for about 2 minutes, or until it's fluffy. America's test kitchen says like shaving foam, but I have never seen shaving foam look like my egg whites do. More importantly, the egg whites should have cooled so when you touch your bowl it's warm rather than hot.
4. Add the room temp butter, one piece at a time.
5. Add vanilla extract.
6. Add melted chocolate.
[Note: Make sure to keep scraping the sides of the bowl down as you keep adding ingredients.]
7. Increase mixer speed to medium-high (I went all the way up to 8/10) and mix until light and fluffy. This took mine a few minutes. Actually, I stuck the whole thing in the fridge for about a half hour, and then beat it again. My chocolate was not completely cooled though, so you might not have to do that.

Finally, assemble your cake/cupcakes by slathering as much frosting as you can on each baked good. By the way, this frosting is very creamy, but not very sweet, so piling it on tastes lovely without hurting your teeth.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Elusive Almondy-ness

Last week, I ate the most delicious almond pound cake I have ever had. It might have been the only almond pound cake I had ever had, but I would even venture to say that this was the best pound cake I had ever had. It all started when my good pals John and Lisa got engaged.
How friggin cute are they. Lisa asked me to be a bridesmaid, and John asked my husband Nick to be his groomsman, and of course we both accepted. Lisa has to be one of the nicest people I have ever met. She is the kind of girl who really likes you before she even meets you. This also seems to translate into her cake preferences; if it's cake, she likes it. So, she invited me to the cake tasting because I am not the nicest person anyone has ever met, and I certainly do not whole heartedly embrace all cake as delicious. In fact, I have very discriminating tastes. Fondant? I don't think so. All purpose flour in angel food? What's the matter with you!? Imitation vanilla flavoring? Not on your life!
So last week, Lisa, John and I headed over to "Classic Cakes" in Carmel, IN, and tasted some cake. And after a taste of their almond pound cake, I demanded that the couple include this flavor in the most important four-tier-cake of their lives! They happily obliged, so all ended well. But now, all I can think about is delicious almond pound cake. I quickly looked for a recipe, and found one on America's Test Kitchen. I made it and brought it to a dinner party. Our friends rather liked it.
However, I can not recommend the recipe. It's a smidge dry, but that might just have been because I didn't bake it in a loaf pan. More importantly, it's boring. The only almond aspects involved are a couple teaspoons of almond extract and some slivered almonds on top. There was no bold almondy goodness explosion in your mouth! So I'm on the lookout for a good almond pound cake recipe. I'm going to try out a few more, and let you know what works best. Almonds, here I come!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Farmer's Market Morning

Boy oh boy do I love the farmer's market. Here's my catch this week:
Tell me that is not some beautiful looking produce. And I got a super deal on the apples! I ran out of money (because everything looked so good!) and only had $2 left. I told the lovely people at the apple booth that I would give them all I had left for their best sweet eating apples, and the woman knocked off $.25 per pound making my apples $1/lb.
I can't wait to eat all of this stuff! So good.