fat free opinions on a food centric life

Chocolate Almond Gateau with Almond Praline Buttah-cream

I do have to say that this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge was officially the most involved dessert I have ever made.  Okay, so I don’t actually keep a tally, but jeez.  And have I actually seen the inside, or tasted it yet?
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Um, no.

I mentally line up donation options when I complete these challenges so I’m not stuck with all those calories straining to attach themselves to my rear end which is large enough, thank you very much.  Since school’s out for the summer and I can’t drop it off there, and my mother swears that she can’t leave things in the clubhouse of her complex for residents to sample, I donated it ahead of time to my good friend’s dinner party. 

When I meet her in the morning at 5:30 for our walk (yawn…), I’ll pick up the remnants, listen to her critique, finally get to see the inside, and taste it myself. 

I’ve made some pretty involved desserts, but goodness.  I knew it was going to be a hum-dinger since I’d just made that Cassata,  but I was determined (since I yet again put this off until the last possible second…) to efficiently work through the entire cake in record time.  Well, record time for me, anyway, because that’s always a challenge.  I simply l-a-n-g-u-i-s-h in my kitchen.  I probably would have done it, too, if my Mac hadn’t been on the counter.  It is such a distraction.

I will say I must have been concentrating fairly hard, because at some point around noon, I received a few emails, and some Twitter inquires about an earthquake.  Earthquake?  Really?  Sure enough.  After checking USGS, I could see that there had been an earthquake near LA.  I also saw in a news report that it was felt as far south as San Diego.  Huh?

So I emailed my hunkster, and he responded saying that their building had swayed quite a bit, and that he checked USGS minutes later and they had already documented the quake.  He works maybe five miles from our house, and my son and I felt nothing.  Go. figure.

I guess that means my Almond Gateau with Praline Buttercream is quite THE cake.

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But wait!  There’s more.

I didn’t have to make one single trip to the store for this challenge.  Not one.  Well, let me qualify that.  I sort of half-assed and semi-casually scanned the nut aisle at Trader Joe’s a week ago knowing that I’d need hazelnuts for this challenge, and didn’t see them.  There’s no way my regular market has them — EVER —  and I wasn’t in the mood to take on Whole Foods and the inevitable basket full of luscious food I’d have to pay for if I ventured there for hazelnuts.  And I just so happened to have not one, but TWO packages of almond meal in my obsessive-compulsively hoarded stockpile of culinary accoutrements well-stocked cupboard just screaming for attention on this cake.   

And there you have it.  For the Daring Baker’s July Challenge recipe, please visit the Hostess with the Mostest, Chris of Mele Cotte.  There you will find that the original recipe from Great Cakes by Carol Walter included hazelnuts and not almonds.

So about those interminable steps for this cake:

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The Genoise:
  I have never made a genoise like this.  When I saw clarified buttah, I thought, jeez.  And if I wasn’t careful I’d have a brown buttah genoise on my hands.  Trust me that I would have used it, too.  It was definitely odd adding that butter to the egg-nutmeal mixture and after pouring it into the cakepan, finding that there was a pool of butter at the bottom of the pan that I wasn’t supposed to include.  Sure the directions mentioned that little tidbit of information, but it looked like none of the butter actually mixed into the batter based on the lake-sized pool I saw rippling on the bottom of the bowl.

Interesting.  But the cake rose beautifully.  I’m still wondering what the clarified butter was all about.

The Apricot Glaze:  This would be the step I forgot.  Sure I read the recipe 18 times.  I even had my little jar of peach preserves (no apricot in my cupboard…) sitting on the counter just waiting to be used.  It just didn’t happen.  My after-the-fact thinking (big fat excuse…) is that since there would be syrup in every nook and cranny on this cake, the glaze wouldn’t be missed.  Right.  I should have realized that making the glaze was first up after the cake came out of the oven. But no.  My brain farted on this one. Loudly.

Sugar Syrup:  Why oh why do they always ask you to make so much, and why do I fall for it every single time?  In fact, why did I not save the syrup I made for the Cassata last week?  And why, I think as I’m pouring it down the drain, do I not check to see how long I can save the left-overs?  You know, in case I want to hop out of bed next month and make another cake that needs a sugar syrup soaker.  I could have parked it next to my 12 bags of frozen egg whites and 2 bags of anchovies.  For later.

Swiss Buttercream:  Okay, so I think I can say that each time I’ve made buttercream, it’s been made a different way.  Who knew there could be so many different ways to make the same thing.  Really.  The nice thing about this recipe is that you get to whip the whites in the mixer a bit before you have to use a whisk over the simmering water.  Those of us who like to whine about our wrists thank the recipe gods for this bit of good fortune because we actually had the wherewithall to hold the camera in one hand while whipping with the other.  Yes. Img_2453
   

Praline Paste:  This took the most time to do.  Hands down.  I should have kept track, but I didn’t.  I was cruising until I got to this part.  When I melt sugar, I normally use a small saucepan.  This recipe called for a 10-inch skillet.  Hmmmm….I was worried about all that surface area, but Hey!  Sure enough.  It took a month of Sundays to melt that sugar.  ARG!  I swirled and moved the pan over the low-low heat to keep the progress going.  It took an amazing amount of time.  And keeping with the almond theme, I used blanched almond slivers (yes, I had them…) and it was nearly impossible to mix them up in the melted sugar.  But it finally began to bubble, and I was able to dump the lump pour the praline on a pan to cool.  To make the paste, the processor must have run at least 8-10 minutes.  Seriously.  But in the end, I was rewarded with a shiny looking lump of something remotely resembling hard peanut butter.

Ironically, it wasn’t difficult to mix a bit of the Swiss Buttercream into the lump before throwing the whole mess into the bowl to get an interesting looking frosting.  Sort of brown.  With specks.  And surprisingly fluffy.

Whipped Cream:  I decided what the hell and added 2 oz. of softened cream cheese and 1 tsp. of sugar to the whipped cream.  You know.  To give it some substance.

Booze:  Whenever rum, or cointreau, or Gran Mariner, or anything else with alcohol in it was called for in this recipe (and it was seriously called for…) I used Cointreau.  I did leave the extra dose called for in the buttahcream out, though.  At some point, isn’t it just overkill?  Just wondering.

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Ganache Glaze:  Oh man.  This was a bit different than I remembered, too.  It was more…wet.  It was thick enough.  It spread nicely.  It oozed down the sides just fine.  But it never really dried.  Even after it had been in the fridge.  It was set, but not quite like I thought it might.  And I could see tiny lumps here and there after it had settled.  Picky picky.  The taste was lovely.  Mmmm…chocolate and orange is always nice.

Decorations:  I had to do the white chocolate leaves.  Had to.  It has been so long since I’ve taken the time to do any kind of decoration, I kind of got carried away.  And the almonds?  Clearly, we like almonds here, because I have all kinds of them around.  Yes, the decoration looks like a poinsettia.  No, that wasn’t the idea. In fact, the plan was to make dark chocolate leaves for the entire top, but my chocolate didn’t cooperate, so that’s why I ended up with white.  And you can’t exactly move things around on that ganache which is a complete drag.

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When I get the left overs of my cake back (because my friend doesn’t want it in her house, either…), I’ll let you know what I think of the taste and try to get a photo of a slice.  You’ll come back, right?

When pigs fly.  😉

Addendum:  Okay, so I walked my 3 miles this morning and have retrieved my cake.  The consensus last night at her party was that the cake is surprisingly not too sweet, half the cake was eaten, but they didn’t ask for more."    And now that I’ve tasted it, I’ll agree.  I just had a piece for breakfast and I’m loving that I can taste those tiny pieces of almonds.  The praline isn’t as strong as I thought it might be — a good thing — and the buttercream a pleasant, creamy compliment to the genoise.  Very, very nice.  But no, I don’t want another piece right now, either.  I’m quite satisfied.

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Don’t forget to check out the other 8 trillion Daring Bakers and their Nutty Cakes.  You’ll be amazed.

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