Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tartine Desserts

October is going to be an exciting month for me as it is the month that I officially begin my 2-month long culinary adventure in San Francisco.  I'm taking an 8-week bread and viennoiserie course at the San Francisco Baking Institute (which I'm surely going to blog about) and part of my itinerary during my stay in this wonderful city is to explore San Francisco's famous culinary establishments and numerous farmer's markets.  One of the bakeries that I'm looking forward to visiting is the renowned Tartine Bakery which is fortunately, just a few blocks from where I am to live in San Francisco.  I own both their books "Tartine" and "Tartine Bread," and all of the recipes that I've made from each were really delicious and most were very easy to make as well.  During the past month, I've been on a baking frenzy and have made quite a few luscious desserts from "Tartine" namely the Banana Cream Pie with Caramel and Chocolate, Lemon Bars on Brown Butter Shortbread, Zucchini and Orange Marmalade Tea Cake and the Lemon Cream Tart which I topped generously with slices of strawberries.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Versailles: My Birthday Cake!

I just celebrated my birthday yesterday and once again, I decided to challenge myself and bake another special cake from the book "Extraordinary Cakes" by Karen Krasne.  I chose this elegant and stunning cake called Versailles for my birthday cake because it contains a huge quantity of a particular flavor I'm obsessed with at the moment -- salted caramel -- YUM!  Ever since I made salted caramel ice cream a few weeks ago I've been craving for it non-stop and this cake definitely satisfies any caramel lover's appetite as you can taste it in almost every layer of the cake -- the creamy layers that top each slice of almond joconde sponge is a salted caramel mousse wherein salted caramel, in its most basic, ooey gooey form is folded into a plain mousse which already creates a fabulous dessert on its own.  Then during assembly, more salted caramel is drizzled on top of these mousse layers giving you a much more concentrated caramel flavor along with each bite of the cake.  And if that's not caramel-ly enough for you, the rest of the salted caramel, which is about 3 or so cups, is spread generously all over this wonderful cake providing a sticky exterior for the crunchy ground pistachio-almond praline to cling on.  For a touch of elegance, the book suggests to encircle the cake with French caramel macarons and a thin ribbon which I did but since I was unable to find caramel ones, I just settled for store-bought butterscotch which was just the right color for this cake as well.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

ABC: Mile-High Vanilla Sponge Cake with Honey-Sweetened Greek Yogurt and Brandied Blackberry Sauce

This month's recipe for the Avid Baker's Challenge is the Mile-High Vanilla Sponge Cake which was one of the cakes that Abby Dodge, author of the "Weekend Baker," fondly remembers eating often during her childhood.  I also have a lot of fond memories of eating this cake when I was a child as my grandmother would bake this every so often and serve it to her weekly mah-jong group along with whipped cream and fresh fruits.  She would even turn the leftovers into other confections which we often snacked on in the afternoons like toasted mamon which is just slices of sponge cake sprinkled with sugar then toasted until crunchy through and through.  The adults would eat this together with their many cups of coffee while us kids enjoyed dunking them in our own tiny mugs of hot chocolate.  On certain occasions, my grandmother would also use untoasted sponge cake crumbs to coat her famous silvanas which everyone in our family loved especially my sister and I who would occasionally sneak in the kitchen to get a few pieces for ourselves LOL.  

TwD: White Peach Upside-Down Chiffon Cake

   It's a shame that this Baking with Julia recipe for what should've been a Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake was chosen for this month's TWD bake rather than last August's as it was around that time that our supermarkets had an abundance of all kinds of stone fruits-- apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, pluots, cherries--you name it, we had it!  The nectarines in particular were really gorgeous; they were large, unbruised, and perfectly ripe which I'm certain would've been amazing on this cake but alas, stone fruit season is no more here in our neck of the woods.  All that remained in the shelves for me to use were four pathetic-looking white peaches that thankfully were somewhat sweet and had their flesh intact but their paleness lent a rather dull, less-appealing color to the caramelized topping of this upside-down cake.  Using nectarines or even yellow peaches would've definitely contributed a much more vibrant and appetizing color.