Posts Tagged ‘cake

31
Aug
08

Orange Chiffon Cake

I recently had a request to do an orange chiffon cake for a friend who’s Grandmother used to make it all the time, but she hasn’t had it since her grandmother passed away.

I had never made an orange chiffon before, but have a soft spot for the Grandmother-baking connection, so I agreed to give it a go.

It turned out great. The friend said she and her sister finished the 10″ cake in an evening.

I made three individual sized cakes with leftover batter so I could test the finished product before passing the big cake along. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of the big one.

Orange Chiffon Cake

2 1/4 Cups cake flour

1 1/2 Cup sugar

1 tbsp. double acting baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 Cup vegetable oil

7 large egg yolks

3/4 Cup fresh orange juice

2 tbsp. orange zest

2 tsp. vanilla

9 large egg whites

1 tsp. cream of tartar

     In a large bowl, sift together flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, baking powder and salt. In a bowl whisk together the oil, egg yolks, orange juice, zest and vanilla. Whisk wet mixture into flour mixture until batter is smooth.

     In a stand mixer, whisk egg whites and salt until foamy, then add cream of tartar and beat until whites hold stiff peaks. Add remaining 3/4 cup of sugar a little at a time until glossy peaks form.

     Stir 1/3 of the whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining whites thoroughly. Spoon into an ungreased 10″ tube pan, 4″ deep.

     Bake in a 325F oven for 1 hour, until tester comes out clean. Invert pan immediatly on rack and let cool completely in the pan upside down on a rack. Run a long, thin knife around edge to dislodge from pan. Turn out on a rack.

This is basically a variation on an angel food cake, so serve accordingly. Whipped cream and fresh fruit would make an ideal accompaniment. The individual sized cakes I just dusted in icing sugar and garnished with orange segments. I used an orange flavoured sugar syrup to moisten the cake. Grand-marnier would also work well.

31
Aug
08

Three Cakes, One Day

So I worked as a pastry chef for a good chunk of my cooking career, and although I love pastry, I no longer do it professionally.

I currently cook for a major corporation and am attempting to further my education in food science. (I’m refraining from naming my employer because I’m not exactly sure of the legalities and implications that could be involved if I ever write an article about a topic closely related to what we do, and I’ve signed confidentiality agreements with some of our major corporate customers. In other words I wouldn’t want to lose my job or get sued.)

Needless to say, I don’t get the chance to flex my pastry muscles all that often anymore. However, I have been known to take on the occasional pet project for friends and acquaintances.

A few weekends ago a co-worker requested that I do a birthday cake for her niece. I figured little girl’s birthday cake, no problem.

Well, one cake turned into three, and a quick Saturday afternoon of baking became a late Friday night (2:30am) of prepping the cakes followed by an entire Saturday of finishing. Oh, and everything had to be done in rolled fondant. Oh, and only two specific colours per cake. Oh, and they each want a different flavour. Oh, and… you get the idea.

I’m pretty used to that, though. I think that sums up rather nicely the life of a pastry chef. Long hours and little creative input. Fortunately I’m fairly well set up at home to be able to accommodate these requests.

Anyway, here’s the result:

 

The cakes turned out great, but the pictures were taken in a bit of a rush, so I’m not so thrilled about their quality.

The most satisfying part is knowing that three little girls got exactly the cakes they wanted for their birthday.

Well, that and the nice cold beer I had on the deck when I was finished.

24
Mar
08

The Ten Commandments of a Chef

1. Thou shall not work with dull knives.

Every kitchen I’ve worked in has had a large knife rack. The only kitchen I’ve ever worked in that didn’t make keeping those knives sharp a priority, I didn’t stay at for very long. In my opinion, if you use a tool all day, every day, you should keep it in top working condition. Hone that edge.

2. Though shall not work sloppy.

Keep your work area clean and well organized. If your space is sloppy, so is your mind. This goes for counter space, as well as the fridge and floor around you. If you don’t work clean, you also don’t work safe, and may injure yourself or others in the kitchen.

3. Honour thy master

Make sure you work only for the best people. If you work for the best, then do what you are told. Learn from their years of experience. Listen to what they have to tell you. Stand on the shoulders of giants. There is usually only room enough for one ego in the kitchen, therefore if you are there to learn, respect your superiors. Although I have moved on and worked at several other kitchens, I still have great respect for my first master, who helped me build a strong foundation from which I was able to build my career.

4. Thou shall not waste.

Use everything. Use all parts of the animal. Have a recipe that calls for only egg whites? Use the yolks for something else, like creme brulee. Leftover cake or bread? Dry it out and grind it up. Use the resulting filler in place of a little flour in a recipe that needs just a little dryness. All of the world’s great cuisines have many examples of economical uses for the whole product. Use everything.

5. Honour thy classics.

No matter what your culinary background, honour the classics of that cuisine. The classics are the building blocks you should use to perfect your technique. Once your technique has been perfected, then you can start to modify and create.

6. Write it down.

Each kitchen I’ve worked at has had a seperate set of recipes they work from. When you learn a recipe write it down so you don’t forget how you did it years down the road. Also, When you try something new, and it works for you, write it down so you’ll remember what made that recipe work.

7. Thou shall not ignore the world of food.

It can be tempting to put on blinders when learning a specific cuisine, but don’t block out other areas of food just because it doesn’t fit what you are learning right now. A pastry chef who learns charcutterie (meat) will be able to produce superior savoury pastry. A French Chef who studies the flavours of Asia will be able to use them to tweek the classics of his cuisine and create something new and unique.

8. Honour thy tastebuds.

I don’t trust a cook who doesn’t taste his own cooking. Only by tasting can you guarantee the best results everytime. Learn to season things properly. If it doesn’t taste right, don’t send it out to the customer.

9. Honour the fire

I have already written a post about the use of fire in cooking. Master the use of fire, and respect the properties of heat. This is what transforms quality ingredients into amazing meals.

10. Thou shall not ignore criticism.

Criticism, as long as it’s constructive, can be a great creative force. A lot of ego and emotion goes into cooking, so it’s easy to get angry at a critique, but if you are able to learn from it and use that knowledge the next time around, you be sure to get good results. Back in commandment one I mentioned the kitchen with dull knives. The head chef there was very insecure, and wouldn’t accept input from customers or co-workers. He would just get angry. This attitude doesn’t solve anything. It creates an environment of hostility and indifference in the kitchen. If you ever find yourself working in such a place, get out. It makes it impossible to follow commandment #3 if you don’t.

21
Mar
08

The Chocolate Cake Sutra

I said to my soul be still,

and wait without hope

wait without thought…

so the darkness shall be the light,

and the stillness the dancing. 

-T.S. Eliot

I’ve been reading through a book called “The Chocolate Cake Sutra” by Geri Larkin. I’m enjoying it so far, and although it’s not really a food book, it does have a recipe for chocolate cake on the last page, along with the following tips:

You’ll have to wait for the cake to cool to frost it. Good luck. I’ve never been able to wait that long.

This cake is best eaten immediately with three friends…

Any cake eaten in pure awareness – without the distractions of a cell phone, computer, television, or conversation – is a perfect chocolate cake. This includes cakes that have been in your freezer since last February. I know this.

After reading a bit of the book, as well as those tips, I got thinking about how much we miss out on in our modern world, when we don’t take the time to slow down, share life with those around us, and enjoy what we have. 

Most of my favorite food related memories have less to do with the actual food, and more to do with who was with me and where we were. I remember the first meal I cooked for my wife. At the time she didn’t like fish, so she doused her fish in lemon juice until it was inedible. We still get a good laugh about it to this day. Was the fish good? Doesn’t really matter. The memories are great.

24
Feb
08

Practice, practice, practice…

Chocolate bags, originally uploaded by adelphos24.

When I was doing my apprenticeship, the pastry pictured above was the one that gave me the most difficulty.
The inside is a cake called a chocolate marquise. It’s a very rich, dark chocolate mousse with a flowing white chocolate ganache center. The outside is a paper thin shell of chocolate, formed by hand, with split second timing and precision.
I had a lot of frustration trying to get this dessert to work for me. The pastry chef who taught me made it look so simple. He could whip up 50 of these in no time, while I struggled with four.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the most useful skill I learned while struggling with this was patience. I worked at it for quite a while, and then one day it just seemed to click. My skill improved drastically after that.
This pastry was one of the most difficult things I had to learn how to do, but it’s now one of the things I’m most proud of.