Thursday, October 29, 2009

Almond Shamah Chiffon Cake

ButterYum Almond Shamah Chiffon CakeHere's my entry for the latest Heavenly Cake Bakers selection... an Almond Shamah Chiffon Cake, filled and frosted with raspberry whipped cream.

This cake has a lot of steps, but it's simple when you break it down.
Here we go...

Blanching almonds nuts ButterYumStart by toasting and grinding some blanched almonds. I didn't have any blanched almonds in the house, so I blanched my own by boiling skin-on almonds in water for about a minute...

blanching almonds nuts ButterYum...then plunged them into ice water to stop the cooking process. At this point it's really easy to remove the skins by giving the almonds a gentle squeeze.

toasting almonds nuts ButterYumNow we toast the almonds in a 350F oven for about 7 minutes.

making almond flour ButterYumWhen the almonds are cool, grind them in a food processor with a bit of flour, which keeps them from getting oily.

dry ingredients in food processor ButterYumAdd the remaining flour and baking powder, process for a few seconds; set aside.

whip egg yolks and sugar together ButterYum
Now we whip the egg yolks and 1/2 the sugar for 5 minutes....

ribbon stage ButterYum...until they look like this. Add the oil, water, and the two extracts; mix. Sprinkle the reserved ground nut/flour mixture on top if the yolk mixture; set aside.

add cream of tartar when whites are foamy ButterYumNow we make the meringue. Beat egg whites on med speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and whip until soft peaks form.

soft peaks ButterYumSoft peaks achieved. Time to slowly beat in the remaining sugar until the whites are glossy and they form "stiff peaks with slight curves".

egg whites stiff peaks ButterYumDone.

making a chiffon cake ButterYumNow we make the batter by folding the meringue into the reserved egg yolk/ground nut mixture.

pulls away from the sides of the pan ButterYumPour batter into 2 prepared 9" pans and bake until the cake tests done in the center and the sides start shrinking away from the pan. The pans were sprayed with Baker's Joy and lined with parchment rounds. No insulated baking strips were needed for this cake.

flip a cooling cake ButterYumThe structure of this particular cake recipe requires that you immediately turn them out of the pan and invert them to the right-side-up position. This is easy to do if you have extra cooling racks. Once the cake is right-side-up, remove the top cooling rack and cool completely.

making simple syrup or soaking syrup ButterYumNow we make the yummy soaking syrup. Boil water and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved; remove from the heat.

applying the syrup ButterYum sprayingCool syrup completely and add Amaretto. You should have one cup of Amaretto syrup. We're going to add 1/4 cup of syrup to each side of both cake layers. Most people would use a pastry brush to do this, but...

ButterYum Almond Shamah Chiffon CakeI saw a pastry chef on TV syrup a cake using a spray bottle once, so I bought one to try today. I'm happy to report that I loved using it. I was able to spray the syrup on very evenly, and completely avoided all the extra crumbs that dragging a pastry brush across the cake would have created.

If you'd like to give this trick a try, be sure to wash the spray bottle out with hot soapy water and rinse well before using. Set the nozzle somewhere in the middle between "spray" and "stream". Use long, even squirts. I found it helpful to tilt the cake a bit when doing this.

raspberry whipped cream ButterYumAre you still with me? We're almost done.

Time to make the Raspberry Whipped Cream.

raspberry jam whipped cream ButterYumMy seedless raspberry jam was a not-so-appetizing shade of beige-ish pink, so I added a few drops of red food coloring to brighten it up.

simple cake decoration ButterYumAh yes, MUCH better.
I piped a border and dotted it with wild raspberries I had stashed away in the freezer.

ButterYum Almond Shamah Chiffon CakeWould you care to stay for a spot of tea?

Helpful Hint:
make your own grease proof cardboard rounds ButterYumI found this cake required a lot of "flipping" of the layers, done with the help of a lot of extra cardboard cake rounds. Since the layers were wet and sticky, I covered my non-water and grease proof cardboard rounds with a protective layer of Press'n Seal.

Once I was done assembling the cake, I was able to peel the press'n seal off, revealing pristine cardboard rounds that can be used again.

how to grease proof cake boards ButterYumPlace the Press'n Seal, sticky side up, on the counter. Place upside down cardboard round in place and wrap/press the extra onto the brown backside of the cardboard. Now your round is completely water and greese proof. The press'n seal is easily removed when you're done with it.

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How To Make Fresh Whipped Cream At Home

ButterYum how to make whip creamIs there any such thing as heaven in a bowl? You bet there is - it's called fresh whipped cream!

Fresh whipped cream is about a gazillion times better than the stuff that spurts out of a can... and let's not even mention that frozen non-dairy whipped topping stuff... ugh! Okay, I've eaten that stuff once or twice, but seriously, this is WAY better!! It's pretty easy to make too, and believe me, after you taste it you'll be hooked!

If you want to drag out the stand mixer, or the hand-held mixer, feel free, but I'm going to show you how to do this by hand so there no excuses about why you can't make this out there in blogland.

ButterYum how to whip creamHere is the cast of characters that we'll need. Well chilled heavy cream/whipping cream/heavy whipping cream (they're all basically the same), and vanilla sugar. If you don't have vanilla sugar, you can use regular granulated, superfine, or even powdered sugar, plus a splash of vanilla extract. You'll also need a whisk - one with thin wires works best; the more the better. And lastly, a nice big bowl - one that will give you lots of room to move that whisk around!

ButterYum making whipped whip creamOkay, watch your clock. This is going to take about 60 seconds.

Put your cream/sugar/vanilla in the bowl and start moving the whisk back and forth quickly. No need to do a "figure 8"... a simple east to west motion is all you need.

ButterYum Making whipped cream at homeAfter just a few seconds you'll notice the cream start to thicken.

butterYum whipping heavy cream by handKeep going. You're doing fine. Just a little longer now. You're almost there!

ButterYum easy whipped creamAnd there you go... start to finish in less than 60 seconds. See how glossy and smooth it is, and it holds it's shape beautifully.... now, just wait until you taste it!

One word of caution - don't be tempted to hide in the guest room and eat this all by yourself! Also, be sure to stop whisking at this point or you'll end up with a big bowl of vanilla sugar flavored butter.

Now go buy a pint of heavy cream and get busy impressing your friends and family!

Fresh Homemade Whipped Cream

1 cup chilled heavy cream
1-2 tablespoons vanilla sugar (to taste)
or substitute granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste

Whisk together in a large bowl for about a minute. That's it. done. Enjoy! :)

Vanilla Sugar

To make vanilla sugar, rinse and dry used vanilla bean pods and place them in an airtight container with granulated sugar. Add more vanilla pods as you acquire them, and add sugar as needed. Use for cakes, cookies, whipped cream, coffee... good stuff!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Apple Upside Down Cake

ButterYum Apple Upside Down CakeThis week's Heavenly Cake Bakers entry is an Apple Upside Down Cake. Perfect now that apple season is upon us. I forgot to take a pic of the first step, but you'll need to start this cake by slicing apples and letting them macerate in sugar until they get all nice and juicy. Set that aside - you'll need both the apples and the juice later. I used Golden Delicious apples.

how to line a cake pan with parchmentTime to line my 9" cake pan. I like to use precut parchment circles whenever possible, but I'm fresh out of ones that fit a 9" cake pan and I can't order more because my beloved Sweet Celebrations decided to go out of business (sniff, sniff). Please, drop me a line if you know where I can get some.

Anyway, no problem - it's easy to cut them yourself.
By the way, wax paper works just as well as parchment, and it is much less expensive.

lining a cake panTo cut parchment (or wax paper) to fit your pan, trace around the outside bottom edge of your pan.

cut wax paper or parchment paper to fit panThen fold the circle in to eighths and cut just inside the pencil mark. You just made a circle that will fit in your pan perfectly.

insulated baking strips magi-cakeHold the wax paper in place with a little cooking spray - butter or shortening will work too. Now brush the paper and sides of the pan with melted butter, and wrap the pan with insulated baking strip. These cloth insulated baking strips are soaked in water before being applied to the cake pan. They keep the cake from over baking on the edges, and help to produce a very level finished cake. I have 8 or 10 of them in different sizes and I wouldn't bake a cake without them!

making caramel toppingTime to make the caramel. This is where the reserved juice from macerating the apples comes into play. Butter and brown sugar and yummy juice from macerated apples... Hello!!! This mixture is cooked for just a few minutes. The caramel is then poured into the cake pan and that's when all the fun begins.

arranging apples in panI thought it would be a nice touch to start the swirl design with a slice of apple cut into the shape of an actual apple. I had a nice large slice of apple set aside, ready to be carved when I turned my back for just a second... as you probably guessed, one of the kids walked by and thought that perfect apple slice looked good enough to eat, and that's exactly what she did with it... sigh! Thankfully I had a smaller one reserved "just in case" (just in case I messed up the carving, not just in case someone ate it!). So in the end my carved apple was smaller than I had planned, but I still like the way it turned out.

Lesson learned - don't turn your back on perfect apple slices!

making apple upside down cakeTime to arrange the apple slices. I divided the slices into 3 piles - small ones, medium one, and large ones. If I had read Rose's directions more carefully, I would have cut them lengthwise, resulting in slices that were relatively all the same size.

making swirl patternBut I had to do things the hard way... not really, just a little different. Heck, you could even just dump the apples in haphazardly and be done with it if you want to - it would still be super delicious in the end.

So anyway, I started the swirl design using the small slices, then worked my way through the medium and large slices respectively.

apples in cake panHere we are, all done. Don't tell the kids I said this, but it's fun to play with your food.

BeaterBladeTime to make the batter... have I told you how much I LOVE my new BeaterBlade!!!!

Into the oven, placed on a preheated baking stone. The baking stone is optional, but if you have one, by all means use it. Doing so will help to caramel the apple layer. Good for homemade pizza and bread too.

unmolding cakeWhen the cake is done baking you immediately invert it onto your serving plate.
Wait a minute or two, then slowly lift.

removing cake from panTada! It came out of the pan perfectly with absolutely no sticking! My Golden Delicious apples didn't exude as much liquid as the photo in the book shows, but believe me when I say it tasted heavenly!

I served it at room temperature with a dollop of fresh homemade whipped cream!

I found cutting through the apple layer easiest using a serrated knife, cleaned between each slice for the neatest presentation of course ;).

ButterYum Apple Upside Down CakeThis cake is incredibly delicious! Very moist and the flavor is oh so good!! The caramel compliments the apples extremely well.
Really buttery and yummy.
Butter... Yum... ButterYum (get it?).
Seriously, I'd love to share with you, but you're all the way over there!

ButterYum Apple Upside Down CakeThanks for visiting.
I hope you try this cake some time!

To see more of this week's Apple Upside Down Cake entries, head on over to Marie's blog.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

It's been raining non-stop for days... very gloomy out. I can't think of a better way to chase the rainy gloom blues away than to make a summery Strawberry Banana Smoothie. This is more of an "orange julius-like" version, but feel free to substitute yogurt for the milk if you like your smoothies a bit thicker.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie
Makes 2 generous portions

2 cups milk
1 banana
strawberries (as many as you like - frozen berries are great)
1 tbsp. sugar (or more to taste)
a splash of vanilla
ice (optional)

Put all the ingredients into a blender and froth it up. Delish!

Now for a few rainy day photos.

You just never know what you're going to come across in the country... I think this is an Emu, but this city girl isn't completely sure. Whatever it is, it's nice to see I'm not the only one who had a bad hair day with all this rain!

Got this shot while sitting in a parking lot waiting for the kids.

Hope you're staying dry!
Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Not So Spooky Halloween Brownies

Halloween Ghost BrowniesThis is my latest Heavenly Cake Bakers entry - Barcelona Brownies (aka Not So Spooky Halloween Brownies). Baker buddy Matthew suggested I call them Frownies - Perfect!

To be completely honest, I did not set out to turn these brownies into little ghosts, but I'll explain that a little later.
For now let's just go through the recipe, which you can find here. I suppose you could do this with any brownie recipe, or even a mix if you like... just have some fun!

BeaterBlade AttachmentOh, oh, oh... I want to quickly mention how in love I am with my new BeaterBlade attachment for my KitchenAid. I'll write much more about it once I've had a chance to use it more, but my initial feelings are WOW! No more stopping to scrape the mixer bowl... something I loathed doing!

That being said, the recipe for these brownies instructs the use of the whip attachment (if using a stand mixer), but I used the BeaterBlade and it mixed the ingredients perfectly.

Rose's Barcelona BrowniesOkay, the recipe starts by making a simple ganache from chocolate and heavy cream - set aside to cool and reserve for use later. Sorry, forgot to get a photo of that step.

Next, I melted butter and chocolate together. Easy, and you don't need a double boiler if you have a good quality heavy duty pan and a very, very low flame. Stir constantly - it doesn't take long to melt and you want to make sure the chocolate doesn't burn.

Then I weighed the remaining ingredients, but you can use standard measuring cups/spoons if you prefer. I opted to omit the nuts from this recipe... I like nuts, but I'm just not a fan of nuts in my brownies.

Okay, I combined the ingredients in the order instructed and placed the batter in a heavy duty quart size storage bag to easily fill my pan. I didn't get my silicone financier pan yet so I used a mini muffin pan instead - this recipe made exactly 24 mini muffin size brownies.

Rose's Barcelona BrowniesSee how neat the zipper bag makes filling the pan? Easy clean up too... just throw the bag away when you're done.

Rose's Barcelona BrowniesInto a 325F oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 194F.
Don't they look good?

Ganache Barcelona BrowniesAs soon as the brownies come out of the oven, you poke three holes in each using a chopstick or 1/4-inch dowel.

You're supposed to coat the chopstick/dowel with oil to keep the brownie particles from sticking, but I found myself constantly removing brownie bits and recoating the dowel with oil.

Which reminds me of this quick tip - did you know the best knife to use when cutting brownies is a plastic disposable knife? It's true... absolutely no sticking! So I guess I'll start my search to find a set of plastic chopsticks.

ganache barcelona browniesNow it's time to fill the holes with the reserved ganache. I find this process a bit messy if using a spoon or pastry bag, but these plastic squeeze bottles make the job effortless!

ganache barcelona browniesSee how neat :).

brownie bitesHmmm... I had exactly enough ganache to fill each hole, but it seeped down into the brownies and left these odd looking open voids. Kinda reminded me of alien faces. Not very appetizing.

What to do , what to do...

Halloween Ghost Brownies(lightbulb!!) Since I'm not very fond of alien faces, and since it is October, little ghosts seemed more seasonally appropriate. A quick sprinkling of powdered sugar really helped to drive home the ghost theme... let's see if the kids get it when they come home from school.
(update - yes, they recognized the little ghosts right away)

Be careful not to poke those holes too deeply... I found little puddles of ganache under all my brownies. Anyway, thanks for taking the time to visit!