Wednesday, July 30, 2008

That little special something

It is that time again for another Daring Bakers Challenge. I missed last month so I wanted this challenge not only to be successful but special. Something I can really be proud of. This resulted in a sloppy first attempt but I learned enough from that (and still managed a really tasty result) my second attempt was much easier.

I now know what it is that gives so many gourmet deserts that over the top deliciousness, booze. That special something, yeah, that's rum. But really, I do need to learn to decorate my cakes. The beauty of the outside never matches the beautiful taste of the inside.

So without anymore ramblings and delays I present my July Challenge:

Hazelnut Gateau with Praline Buttercream

For this recipe you will need several elements. It looks like a lot of work but it's worth it. Really. As usual I have modified the original version of this recipe to fit into my diet so we'll do without the heavy cream, the dozen or so eggs and the butter and replace them with things like flax, cashews, baking powder and vegan non-hydrogenated margarine (using a hydrogenated variety would of course work but please don't).

filbert genoise
sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
praline buttercream
cashew whipped cream

apricot glaze
ganache glaze, prepared just before ready to use
hazelnuts, toasted for decoration if you'd like

Filbert Genoise

1cup hazelnuts, toasted & skinned
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 Tb cornstarch
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
5 Tb flax meal
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/4 cup warm earth balance (or your choice of vegetable margarine)

Position oven rack to the center of oven. Preheat to 350 degrees. Grease & flour three 8" round cake pans (you can also do this on a jelly roll pan, you may also want to use parchment, this does tend to stick).

Using a food processor, process nuts, flour, cornstarch, baking powder & soda for about 30 seconds. Until nuts are reduced to a powder. Set aside.

Beat flax meal and water together, mixture should thicken slightly. Add sugar, vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice. Beat until well mixed. Add warm earth balance, beat to incorporate. Add flour and nut mixture and mix just until dry ingredients are moistened and combined.

Spread batter onto prepared pans dividing evenly. It will just cover the bottom of three 8-9" pans. Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven, allow to rest slightly in pan and then remove to cool on cooling racks.

Sugar Syrup

1/2 cup water
2 Tb sugar
1 Tb dark rum

In a small saucepan, bring water and sugar to boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add rum. Cool slightly before using on cake.

Praline Buttercream

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup vegetable margarine
1/3 cup praline paste (recipe follows)
1 1/2 tsp dark rum
1/4 cup soy creamer (or any nondairy milk)
3 1/2 cup confectioners sugar

Cream together shortening and margarine until well mixed and fluffy. Add praline paste, rum and creamer and beat until incorporated. Sift in confectioners sugar and beat until well mixed and fluffy.

Praline Paste

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
2/3 cup sugar

Line jelly roll pan with parchment paper and lightly oil with margarine

Put sugar in heavy bottomed skillet. Heat on low for 10-20 minutes until sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir. Swirl if necessary to prevent burning. Brush sides of pan with water to remove sugar crystals if needed. When completely melted and carmel in color remove from heat.

Stir in nuts with a wooden spoon and separate clusters. Return o low heat and stir to coat. Cook until sugar bubbles. Turn mixture onto parchment and spread evenly. It will quickly harden into a brittle. Break into pieces and place in food processor. Process until mixture breaks down and comes together into a paste, several minutes.

Cashew Whipped Cream

1 cup cashews, soaked 1 hr or up to overnight
1/4 cup water
2 Tb agave nectar (or maple syrup)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Add all ingredients into blender or food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.

Apricot Glaze

2/3 c thick apricot preserves, lg pieces removed
1 Tb water

In small saucepan bring water and preserves to slow boil and simmer 2-3 minutes. Add water as needed to prevent sticking.
Remove from heat and apply to cake with pastry brush.

Ganache Glaze

6oz of semisweet or bittersweet choocolate (I used Lindt Swiss Bittersweet and Madagascar 65% Dark Bars)
6 oz (3/4 cup) soy creamer (or nondairy milk of choice)
1 Tb light corn syrup
1 Tb dark rum
3/4 tsp vanilla

Chop chocolate and place in a medium sized bowl.
Heat creamer and corn syrup in saucepan on low until it reaches a gentle boil. Immediately pour over chocolate. Allow to set for one minute then slowly stir and mix chocolate and cream together until melted and mixed. Blend in vanilla and rum. Glaze will thicken but should still be pourable.


Cut a cardboard disc slightly smaller than the cake. Measure 1 cup praline buttercream and set aside.

Place first layer upside down on disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten with sugar syrup. Spread with half of the remaining buttercream and then cover with 1/2 cashew cream leaving 1/4 inch border around the edge of cake.

Place middle layer over first, brush with sugar syrup, spread with remaining buttercream and them cashew cream.

Moisten underside of final layer with sugar syrup and then place, syrup side down over middle layer. Gently press sides of cake to align layers. Refrigerate to chill 30 minutes.

Lift cake by sliding palm under cardboard. Holding a sharp, serrated knife parallel to sides of cake. Trim sides so they are perfectly straight. Brush top and sides of cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.

Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch ganache drippings. Remove gateau from refrigerator and put on rack. With metal spatula in hand hold saucepan about 10 inches above cake, pour ganache onto cake's center. Move spatula over top 3-4 times to get a smooth and mirror like appearance. Ganache should cover top and run down sides.

Garnish with reserved buttercream and pastry bag as the mood strikes you.

Refrigerate leftovers.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Return from the Greek Isles

Yes, it's been a while. In general I go through phases of unfocus or maybe narrow focus. I go through each day doing the basics: eat, sleep, work, repeat. This causes everything to be neglected. Blog posts most of all. However this time I do have a real excuse. At about the time of my last post I was on my way to Montreal to fly from there to Athens Greece. We returned a couple weeks ago but I am only now getting my head back in the game.

It's so disorienting to be away for long enough to settle into a different community and pace of life and then come back here. Now Burlington is pretty chilled out when compared to other "cities" but the Greeks have the market cornered on chilled out. Even in a busy city like Athens where there are tons of cars and bikes on each street just sit down to a meal and everything just slows right down.

My husband's parents live on the little island of Ithaki (I'll have to add some links as I find them) in the Ionian Sea. My pictures so far are of the food from our favorite restaurant Polyphemus. Set in a garden so you are completely surrounded by olive and lemon trees, herbs and some vegetables and just lots of beautiful green and splashes of color in flowers.

The Greek version of hummus, this is fava. Made from yellow split peas, olive oil, garlic, red onion. On top drizzle some bright green olive oil and a sprinkling of oregano. I've tried to make this a couple times but haven't quite got the taste right. I'll post a recipe when I figure it out.

Another favorite of ours (we ate it nearly everyday in one form or another), Melitzanosalata. This is an eggplant salad made from roasted eggplant, garlic and olive oil primarily. Depending on which restaurant you are at it's always different. This has been left a little chunky and has a healthy dose of garlic and drizzling of that gorgeous olive oil. I am closer to a recipe on this one.
This is simply a fried pita. I haven't seen this offered at any other restaurant we visited but damn this just makes eating those dips heaven.
And no meal is complete without the classic Greek salad, without the feta of course. The vegetables were always just so perfect here. Tomatoes just so big and juicy. Olives a plenty. The greenest olive oil I have ever seen and probably ever will see.