Monday, October 12, 2009

White Spice Pound Cake

My decision to bake this cake rested solely on the fact that it uses only egg whites, and I have a healthy amount that need to be used up. (see the next post, when it appears, to find out why) But sometimes it's nice to bake something that requires absolutely no skill at all. Just dump the ingredients, mix, and plop it into the pan! If this cake tastes even half as good as the batter, it'll be a 'file-for-future-reappearances' cake, for sure. It doesn't even need any kind of ganache, icing, or topping! (I did dump some left-over maple caramel on top...I hope it's not too chewy!) Since my cake carrier is carrying someone else's cake (I borrowed her cupcake carrier the other day), I needed something that transports with relative ease.

And the finished product:

Inspired by Tartelette...

which is not quite the same as copying! However, I did follow her recipe fairly closely, so I'm not going to write it out here. If you go want to check it out, visit Tartelette and look for her Vanilla Salted Butter Caramel and Chocolate Mousse recipe. All I did was exchange pumpkin puree for the chocolate and use this maple caramel recipe (half the amount) instead of the plain caramel. I omitted the pecans and made sure not to cook the caramel too long, as I wanted something that would fold into the mousse base.

As I'm taking this to work, and as it really requires individual presentation, and as all my clear ramekins are at my parents', I used cheapo plastic cups to layer the deserts. I suppose I could have used my white ramekins, but the layers are what makes this so pretty! I did, however, make just one for my super fancy Mikasa Palatial Gold Champagne Flute. (Yes, it requires Capital Letters.) Just so that the photo would look better than the real thing!

Adventures along the way:

The first layer was going to be plain vanilla custard, but wouldn't you know it: I cooked the yolks for the first batch of custard. The following process then occured:
Brain: oh no! Custard should be smooth! This has the texture of pumpkin puree! (frantically whisking and sieving)
Other brain (I carry an extra for emergencies like this one): Pumpkin...well, why don't you just make this the pumpkin layer then!
Brain: Ok, in it goes!
Other brain: Wait! Don't you need to add spices?
Brain (sheepishly): Oh yeah. (In go random amounts of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.)
Other brain: And do you really think people will appreciate the taste of raw pumpkin? Shouldn't you have cooked that up together with the custard?
Brain (even more sheepishly): Oh yeah. (Dumps pumpkin in saucepan.) Maybe if I heat it through it will take the edge off?
Nose (sniffing): well, it smells ok so far...

And that was just the first layer!

Making the caramel, I realized that I need (yes, that's need, not want) a digital candy thermometre. Mine might as well say 'hottish' and 'kinda getting close to boiling' and 'oops, that was too much heat for too long'. The caramel, which needs to be soft enough to fold into the mousse (i.e. more liquid than solid) was, although delicious and mapley, definitely not in the mood to be folded into anything. I couldn't remake it because I have a limited supply of whipping cream on hand and it's Thanksgiving; nothing's open. So I heated it a little to soften it, and then did my best to whip some of it into the mousse. The leftovers make really yummy candies, though!

I made the mousse recipe 3 times to make the 3 layers in greater quantities. This meant increasing the amounts of pumpkin and caramel as well. I also made 1.5 times the original amount each time. Now, my math skills aren't exactly what you would call stellar, but I am aware that this probably throws the proportions all out of whack. I'm just hoping that doesn't matter too much for mousse.

The last time I made the mousse was the best yet...I think. I really wanted to make sure this one wouldn't cook up at all, so I left it fairly thin. I was also about 1/2 cup short for whipping cream. I'm hoping a night in the fridge will solve that.

Of course, after separating 16 eggs for the yolks, I now have ridiculous amounts of egg white lying around...some of them will go into a White Spice Pound Cake (see above post).

After all that chatter, here's the final product. If you want to, you can click on the picture to see a close-up, but then the smears on the wall behind the glass become painfully clear...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Copying Tartelette

If you've never checked out it, now! I'll wait for you...

Isn't Helen's work amazing?!?! She not only concocts the most delightful confections, she photographs said concocted confections so beautifully that even I think I can go and make what she made.

I decided to try her Vanilla, Salted Butter Caramel and Chocolate Mousse recipe. (Click on the link for her post, which contains the recipe.)

While my version was definitely edible, it left a lot to be desired in the looks department.

The things I learned:
  • put a heavy-bottomed pot on my Christmas wish list
  • be even MORE patient with custard
  • the chocolate could be hotter when I fold in the mousse...maybe that way it would be easier to fold in before it goes all chunky
  • I'm sooo glad I used my last lonely vanilla bean...the taste is completely different from using flavouring, even the the real stuff
The pictures below show, in order from left to right:
  • boiling sugar and water
  • caramel
  • melted chocolate
  • whisking egg yolks and sugar
  • cooking up the custard base
  • the finished mousse

And the finished product? Mine weren't nearly as impressive, but for a first try, I'm not too embarrassed to post it here: