Apr 28, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

The big news for Rose's followers is, of course, that Rose's Heavenly Cakes was selected the IACP's Cookbook of the Year. (That is the International Association of Culinary Professionals, not the International Association of Chiefs of Police). In winning this award, Rose is in some pretty good company: former winners include Richard Bertinet's Simple Contemporary Breads, Alice Medrich for Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart, The French Laundry Cookbook, by Thomas Keller, and Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Rose herself won the Baking and Desserts category in 1989 for The Cake Bible (that was before the Cookboook of the Year category was established). Publishers' Weekly calls her a "baking powerhouse," the LA Times calls her a "baking goddess," and Powell's Books calls her a "baking legend." She is all those things, as well as a wonderful person and an encouraging teacher. Congratulations, Rose!

Despite the fact that one of Rose's trademarks is her meticulous and detailed instructions, no one, including me, followed her recommendation to use the mini angel-food cake pans. In fact, my faux angel food, with the center hole added after the fact, was the closest. Nancy B. used mini Maryann pans. (Good choice, Nancy! Vicki's utensils of choice were miniature bundt pans. Kristina and Svetlana used  full-sized tube pans. Elaine and Mendy made cupcakes. Hanaa made hers in a springform pan. Saira used loaf pans, and she cut the loaf into layers (she called it a "baking disaster," but it didn't look very disastrous to me). Raymond's Christmas pudding mold was definitely the fanciest version. (By the way, Raymond does admit that this is quite a specialty pan "for someone who constantly complains about specialty pans," but says he gets a lot of use out of it.)

I had such a hard time this week deciding on a FEATURED BAKER. There was so much variety in the cakes and frosting, and all the variations looked delicious. But as soon as I saw Svetlana's entry, I knew it had to be her. Not that Svetlana's cake didn't deserve to be featured in its own right, but my heart went out to her for reasons unrelated to the cake. First, she started baking the minute she got back in the house after returning from a two-week vacation. You have to admire that dedication. Second, and most importantly, she upped the whipped cream by 150% just to make sure there was plenty for all true whipped cream lovers. As a dyed-in-the-wool whipped cream worshipper, I appreciate that thought. And third, I totally identified with her finishing her cake 20 minutes before guests arrived! I have a real habit of finishing the last steps of dessert with one eye on the clock, hoping that people won't arrive 5 minutes early. It's a bad habit, but it usually works out for me, and it worked out for Svetlana, even though she didn't have time to grate the chocolate on top.

I sense a lot of enthusiasm for the upcoming trifle, and I'm looking forward to seeing who bakes the cake and who tackles the spun sugar. I still haven't decided whether or not I'm going to do it. It might depend on whether I run out of time before guests arrive. After we struggle with thae trifle, and I do anticipate a bit of a struggle, we'll have a nice break with the Gateau Breton. Even though it has a French name and resembles a French pastry, I have it on good authority that it's a breeze to make.
Our next Free Choice week will be May 31. That is my birthday week, and I said to Jim, "Don't you think it would be nice for you to make my birthday cake for me so I don't have to?" He looked at me to see whether I'd lost my mind, and tried to figure out a way to escape from the conversation. When I told him it would be my fondest dream, he reluctantly agreed, but told me it would taste and look like crap.
This little adventure on Jim's part will be a real test of Rose's ability to lead the reluctant baker to greatness. I guess I'll have to take the pictures.

Apr 26, 2010

Coffee Chiffonlets with Dulce de Leche Whipped Cream

Whipped cream never lets you down. Unlike persnickety buttercream, which is always ready to turn on you, whipping cream just sits like a docile child in its carton until you need it, and it blooms into glorious creaminess in just a few minutes with a simple hand mixer. And then, if you add some thick, caramely dulce de leche, you've attained nirvana.
I'm going to talk about the chiffonlets, if for no other reason than that they're so cute, and have such a cute little name, but they're really not the star of this show. Just to let you know where I'm coming from here.
I didn't get around to ordering mini angel-food cake pans, so I used my Maryann pans, which I love. Just like I love wearing Mary Jane shoes. Maryann and Mary Jane both seem so proper, but also like they have a touch of evil about them. (Not nasty evil, but more like gleam-in-your-eye evil. Maybe like Evil Cake Lady). I feel like I've gotten along just fine my entire life without these pans, but now that I have them, they're indispensable.
Unlike an angel food cake, these baby chiffon cakes have egg yolks, not just egg whites. They also have leavening (baking soda, in this case) and oil. They're not as feathery-light as angel food cake, but they're still quite light, and this lightness causes people to think they're healthier and less caloric than they really are, but if that's what people want to think, who am I to correct them?
The yolks, flour, instant espresso powder, water, sugar, and baking soda are all mixed together to make a nice mocha-colored batter. (Oh, by the way, I doubled this recipe because I was making dessert for eight people--that's why I have way more than the three egg yolks in the recipe. It doubles quite easily, and makes an impressive dinner-party dessert).
The meringue is whisked into the rest of the batter, and then poured into pans.
I filled two Maryann pans, and still had some batter left, so I filled a few custard cups too.
See how cute they are when they're turned over? Like the awful spongy "shortcakes" you buy at the grocery store, only not like them at all.
I didn't put the Kahlua in the syrup because I knew I'd be serving some of these to people who don't use alcohol, and I didn't want to bother with making one syrup with Kahlua and one without. I do think the Kahlua would have been a nice touch. I also have Kahlua on hand, and would have loved the chance to open the bottle again. Kahlua and I have not been on good terms since one night many years ago when I drank an inordinate number of Black Russians. Big mistake.
I just realized that this cake has four separate components, and that fact did not phase me in the slightest. In fact, I was kind of wondering why this cake wasn't on the Quick and Easy list. All four are really simple components--like dump a can of sweetened condensed milk in a pan, put it in a bigger pan, and try to remember to take it out of the oven before it burns.
I don't like to whipped cream in this big bowl because I usually get little drops of cream all over the kitchen wall--the bowl is too wide. But I was whipping a generous amount of cream, in addition to the dulce de leche, so I did. It was crazy. Oceans of cream spattered all over the kitchen, not to mention my clothes and Jim's clothes. If it had been blood instead of cream, my kitchen would have looked like a murder scene. (Sorry--an occupational metaphor). But it must not have been as much as I thought, because there was still plenty of whipped cream to put on all the cakelets. I previously thought that the raspberry whipped cream was the best possible version, but I'm a dulce de leche convert now. This cream was so deliciously deep and rich. If I weren't civilized, I'd have licked it off the cake and asked for more. It was wonderful.
Oh, I almost forgot. Although I didn't have mini angel food cake pans, I did make a couple of fake angel food cakelets, simply by taking the plastic tube of a bulb baster and carefully removing the center core of the cakes I'd baked in the custard cups. I can see why these cakes would have been sweetness itself as baby angel food cakes.

Fred: "It's so light--my cardiologist would approve of this dessert." [I didn't have it in me to disabuse him of that happy thought.]
Laurel: "The whipped cream is indispensable."
Doug: "Will you please put this on your bake-again list?"
Jan: "What can I say? It's delicious."
Jim: "I really liked the cream. The cake had a nice chewy texture that I liked."
Mary: "Nice and light. The coffee flavor is just right."

Apr 21, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

When Raymond posts his cake-of-the-week, usually sometime late Sunday afternoon, it's the equivalent of the announcer at the Kentucky Derby shouting, "And... they're off!" From then on, I click on the blog every few hours to see who has posted next and what their results were. We had about a 50% participation rate this week, and a few people (Hi Sugar Chef! Hi Jill! Hi Elaine! Hi Rozanne!) who have been on hiatus for a while are back to baking. This week it was especially fun to read everyone's story because people generally fell into two camps: those who had heard of Whoopie Pies and had a favorite bakery or recipe and those who had never heard of them and who were a little bewildered by the whole concept.
Raymond, for example, has known them as Scooter Pies (in Ohio), Chocolate Goobers (filled with whipped cream),Moon Pies (Tennessee), and Whoopie Pies (California). Rose's version sounds like pretty much the best he's had in his travels, although he says that next time he'll just fill them with whipped cream.
On the other hand, Faithy confesses that she had never heard of Whoopie Pies until she started baking and has been "wondering what the hype is all about." Faithy ended making only three, large "flat as a pancake" pies because she mis-read the instruction. (Imagine that!) She also decided she might as well just fill them with marshmallow cream instead of making fake marshmallow cream. Her verdict: she'd make the chocolate pies again, only as cupcakes, not as Whoopie Pies, because she just doesn't "get the novelty of it all."
In addition to the excitement about the Whoopies this week, there was also a lot of hoo-hah about Rose sightings. Rachelino's got a great photograph of Rose making the chocolate lacquer glaze at a bookstore in San Francisco. Inspired, Vicki and her granddaughter trekked to the same bookstore. Vicki has notes from Rose's talk that are fun reading.
The FEATURED BAKER this week was definitely no stranger to Whoopie Pies. Kristina has fond memories of going to the Goody Shop Bakery in Fredericton, New Brunswick, where her dad taught engineering. The bakery was "owned and operated by the same ancient man" who also baked all the treats. While other people went to the Goody Shop for the hot dogs always available on the roller racks, Kristina went for the Whoopie Pies, and she's never lost her taste for them. In fact, the Whoopie Pies are Kristina's madeleines, inspiring in her the remembrance of things past. In addition to photos of the Heavenly Whoopie Pies, Kristina includes a recipe for the WPs her mother used to make--a recipe that she quite possibly managed to "wheedle out of the guy who ran the Goody Shop."

I'm going to Detroit this weekend to see my younger daughter, and so I made the coffee chiffonlets ahead of time. I encourage you to bake them. I used Maryann pans instead of mini angel food cake pans because that's what I had, and they are just lovely as individual cakes. You could also bake the cake as a regular-sized chiffon cake, in a regular-sized angel-food cake pan, but I don't think that would be as adorable. Also it wouldn't be a chiffonlet. It would just be a chiffon.
The Saint-Honore trifle is coming up after that. If you want to get the optional beeswax to make the spun sugar, you can apparently get it at a craft store or a sewing supply store. But Woody says you don't need it. After reading the directions a few times, I hereby absolve anyone--including myself--of feeling any guilt if they decide NOT to make the spun sugar. You can top this quite nicely with whipped cream, and you won't end up throwing melted caramelized sugar onto your ceiling. We'll get a break the following week with the Gateau Breton, which, despite its fancy-pants French name, is on the Quick and Easy list.

Apr 19, 2010

Two Fat Cats Whoopie Pie

Could there possibly be a better name for a dessert?  Just calling it Whoopie Pie is a stunner, but adding Two Fat Cats?  It's wonderful.  Rose says that whoopie pie is a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition.  The staid Amish women would put it in their husbands' lunch boxes, or so the story goes, and when their husbands opened the lunch box, they would shout "Whoopie!"   Well, maybe.  I come from Pennsylvania Dutch stock myself.  As the Wikipedia article on "Pennsylvania Dutch" will tell you, you don't have to be from Pennsylvania to be Pennsylvania Dutch--you can be from northern Indiana, too, as I am.  (You're not Dutch either; "Dutch" is a corruption of "Deutsch.")  We did not have whoopie pies, although we did have Shoo Fly pies, as well as Old-Fashioned Cream pies (not a cream pie at all--more like a heavy, very sweet custard).  Also, I never heard my grandfather say "Whoopie!"  I might have said "whoopie" when I ate this "pie," which is also known as a "gob."  I don't like to call it a gob.  Amish women used to call it a hucklebuck, which sounds more like something my grandpa would have said, but I never heard of that either.
I don't know what took me so long to get around to making this. I think I was put off by the fake marshallow cream because I really don't like marshmallow and figured I wouldn't want to make something that resembled it. I was wrong on that count, although my "marshmallow" didn't fluff up the way it's supposed to. But more about that later.
The cake was simplicity itself. But here's a sad picture.
I got out my package of dark brown Muscovado sugar, and it was hard as a Muscovado rock. I tried the wrap-the-sugar-in-a-damp-towel trick and the microwave-with-bowl-of-water trick, but the rock remained stubborning rockish. So I got out some boring but soft light brown sugar.
The sugar, egg, butter, and oil mix up to be a tawny brown. If you used Muscovado sugar, it would be darker. And probably better, too, but you don't have to rub it in.
Then the flour and cocoa mixture is added alternately with the buttermilk. Jim told me to include a picture of the buttermilk so you could see that I don't have that much left to use up.
I used a two-tablespoon measure to put the batter on the baking sheet. As I was doing this, I kept making them bigger and bigger because it looked like I had way too much batter for six blobs of batter. After I did about three, Jim said, "So do you put the other six on the other baking sheet?" "Huh?" I said. "Well, aren't these just halves?" he asked. I said a few words that would have shocked my Pennsylvania Dutch forebears, and started mentally dividing the batter into twelve blobs instead of six.
I smoothed the batter a little, but the mounds of chocolate batter went into the oven looking pretty rough.
But they came out of the oven looking good, making me glad I hadn't bothered with more smoothing.
Then the frosting. I swear I'm getting worse at making buttercream since I found out it was hard. Before I knew how tricky and unpredictable it was considered to be, my buttercreams turned out fine. A friend of mine really jinxed me when she asked me if I'd give her a little tutorial on buttercreams. I haven't made a decent one since. The idea with this "marshmallow" is to make a meringue, then a "finishing cream," and then mix then together.
Bubbling sugar syrup.....
Mixed with a beaten egg white. I may not have beaten the egg white enough, because it didn't maintain its texture after I added the syrup. Last time I made a meringue, I said I thought it was better to overbeat than underbeat, and I should have paid attention to myself. I have it on good authority (Rose) that adding a bit of cream of tartar makes it difficult to do damage to the egg whites by overbeating. Now we all know.
Suffice it to say that the buttercream did not look like marshmallow cream, and I did not get to "step back on my heels and congratulate myself on making a perfect buttercream," which I'd been looking forward to. I was even thinking of clicking my heels together as I congratulated myself.
It still tasted delicious, and Sarah, for whom it served as a birthday cake, was completely in love with the whole idea of whoopie pies in general, and her particular Whoopie Pie with a candle on it in particular.
Oh, by the way, I do remember somewhat snobbily declaring that Fudgy Pudgy brownies did not pass my Presidential dessert name test. And yet here I am, crazy about the name Whoopie Pie. Maybe it's just in my genes. Assuming that I ever figure out how to make buttercream again, I'd happily serve it to the President. And, who knows, he might just take one look at it, smile, and say, "Whoopie"!

Sarah: "Wonderful! The creamy center is amazing--this is what marshmallows should taste like."
James: "Tasty. Light and fluffy." [When I offered Sarah the last two pies to take home, James enthusiastically accepted].
Jim: "The crust has a kind of chewiness that I like, and the cookie thing has a nice chocolate flavor. The cream is not overwhelming, but it's really very good."

Apr 14, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

I'll admit I felt a little left out when everyone but me was making the banana cake, especially when I remembered that I wanted to try it again without the almond extract in the frosting. I dumped too much in the last time, giving it way too almond-y a flavor, and I decided it wasn't essential anyway. I was reminded by Nicola, because she insists that "almond essence is the work of the devil." I was struck with how everyone made this simple and delicious cake uniquely their own. In fact, Jenn was one of the few who made it exactly as written.

Lois added some banana extract to "bump up the flavor." (Nicola will have to weigh in on whether she also considers banana extract the work of the devil.) Katya doubled the recipe to make a two-layer cake and piped rosettes around the bottom and middle of the cake.
Monica used special Manzano bananas, and also added lime peel to the lemon, part of which she sprinkled on top. Please go to her blog and look at the last photograph in her post--if that doesn't want to make you eat this cake, there is nothing that will. Vicki used coconut white chocolate for the frosting, and thought it worked quite well; she also has a good hint for ripening bananas if you've got some that aren't quite ripe enough. Hanaa frosted hers with caramel whipped cream instead of the dreamy, creamy stuff. Much as I like that white chocolate frosting, I'll admit the caramel whipped cream sounds mighty good. Jennifer skipped the frosting entirely, and just served the cake with ice cream. Omitting the frosting would make this cake super easy--and a good breakfast cake. (Jennifer is always looking for breakfast cakes). Raymond, on the other hand, gussied his up with sliced almonds and bananas on top, and with the frosting piped instead of just swirled.
Kristina and Nancy B. both had cakes that were slightly underdone and sunk a bit in the middle. Each one solved the problem in her own way, and loved the cake--at least the parts that were done.
I am naming Saira the FEATURED BAKER of the week. "What!" I hear you say. "That makes no sense. How can she be both Guest Host AND Featured Baker?" I guess I agree in principle, but I've already admitted to being arbitrary and capricious in my selection process. But I wanted to acknowledge Saira's great step-by-step instructions and really beautiful photography! (I kept scrolling back up to the picture of the bananas and sour cream.) Also, I was impressed with the way she just up and decided--at the very last minute, without even planning it--to make a whipped white chocolate frosting instead of the dreamy, creamy etc. As I believe I've mentioned ad nauseum, I am a rule follower, and am therefore awed by people who go around willy-nilly breaking rules. (Saira has been advised to try the prescribed frosting, and I hope she does, one day when she's in more cream cheesy kind of mood). Saira said that this will be her "go to cake" for light entertaining, given its combination of ease of preparation and deliciousness. And welcome back to the fold, Saira!

Next week is the Whoopie Pie. Nothing special needed here, and a sneak preview from Kristina, who calls them the Best Thing Ever.
After that, the coffee chiffonlets, which are supposed to be made in mini angel food cake pans. I don't have those yet, and if I can't find them, I think I'll use the mini Mary Ann pans that I do have, and which we'll use someday to make Chocolate Bull's-Eye Cakes.
We have another baker this week--Jinene (or Jaye, as she's called). She's a student at the Culinary Institute of Charleston, although she's not a Southerner by birth.
By the way, I've counted up the cakes that I've already made and the ones I have yet to make, and I'm over the hump! Fewer in the to-do list than in the already-done list. That makes me feel like baking through the whole book is a possibility--for all of us!

Apr 11, 2010

Banana Refrigerator Cake

Hi Heavenly Bakers! As Marie said in the last 'Last Cake, Next Cake' I, Saira, am the guest host for this week. It's been a while since I've blogged or participated in the group and it's great to be back! I was really looking forward to the Refrigerator Banana Cake recipe in this book and was so dissapointed when the cake was already done by Marie. Then, there was an ingenious idea of guest hosts making cakes already done by Marie before the group started. So of course I jumped on the wagon as I love banana cake. The best Banana Cake I've had was at my bridal shower, my sister picked a great bakery and a great cake! At the shower, I had the chocolate raspberry part of the cake but once the guests left, and there was a ton of cake leftover, I tried the banana cake and fell in love. Since then, I've been looking for a great banana cake recipe and knew Rose would have it so I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to try it.

So here's how I did it....

First, I proccessed the 2 bananas and sour cream together. To be honest, I was loathing using a food processor AND a hand mixer, but it didn't seem that much trouble at the end. The banana mixture tasted pretty good at this point!

Then, I added the eggs and the vanilla. No lemon zest.

I transfered the banana mixture to a large bowl and mixed in the turbinado sugar with a hand blender.

In went the oil. Then I mixed in the dry ingredients: cake flour, salt, baking powder,and baking soda.

Then the cake went in the oven. I had a little more batter from my 8" pan so I made a few banana cupcakes too...

I didn't make the White Chocolate Cream Cheese frosting for this cake. I was all set with my ingredients and all of a sudden had a change of heart. I didn't want the tange of this frosting with this cake so instead, I decided to make a whipped white chocolate frosting. I just used the White Chocolate Ganache recipe from 'The Cake Bible' and whipped it.

For the frosting,

I ground 4 oz white chocolate in the chopper. Heated a cup of heavy cream and mixed it again in the chopper. Chilled it for a few hours in the freezer. And, finally, whipped it till stiff peaks formed.

So how was the cake...it was DELICIOUS. I am no longer looking for the perfect banana cake recipe. This cake will stack nicely so it will be great as a celebration cake with maybe a meringue buttercream. It's perfectly sweetened and has a strong banana flavor which wouldn't be over-powered by buttercream. I think the turbinado sugar gives the cake a depth and a uniqueness which other recipes don't have. The cake was really soft and moist and paired beautifully with the white chocolate whipped cream

I will do stacking and frosting of the cake some other time, but for now this cake is absolutely perfect with the whipped white chocolate frosting. I think this will be my go to cake light entertaining (granted I have ripe bananas on hand which is a scarce commodity in my home) because the cake was super easy despite the food process and other appliances.

Thanks Rose for a great recipe and thank you Marie for letting me be guest host! I've thoroughly enjoyed the experience:)

Apr 9, 2010

Last Cake, Next Cake

I loved these last two flourless cakes we've made, but Jim will be relieved not to have any more "grainy" cakes for a while. In fairness to Jim, I should note that he's eaten both Passover cakes quite enthusiastically, even though he apparently doesn't think that ground nuts belong in a cake pan.
I think that everyone who made Sybil's Pecan Torte liked it. Mendy described it as "wonderful" and "luscious," and Raymond thought it was a "lovely dessert" that was "right up [his alley]." For a change, almost everyone's cake looked very similar--a round cake with swirled tawny-white whipped cream topping. Only one cupcake version this week: Jenn's. She made just six cupcakes (cutting the recipe in third), and decorated each cupcake with a candied pecan. Beautiful! After I ate the rest of my leftover pecans, I realized they would have been the perfect decoration, and I was right. Or, rather, Jenn was right.
Vicki,who thinks of "Fawlty Towers" instead of Greek mythology when she hears the name Sybil, found that the cake survived despite a burned bottom. The burned bottom fate also befell Jennifer, who has the same cake pan that I have; we have both resolved to get another springform pan. (Jennifer has also declared this to be a "healthy" cake, which made me feel virtuous for making it). Nancy actually made both Passover cakes in the same weekend, quickly becoming an expert on cakes made with ground nuts.
The FEATURED BAKER of the week award goes to Katya. I will confess that I wasn't quite sure about Katya when I first looked at her blog. I noted the picture of her spotless oven and compared it to my spotted oven, and I thought, "This woman has too much time on her hands if she cleans her oven every day." But then I read her profile, where she describes herself as someone to whom elegant grammar is more important than table manners, and I decided I'd forgive her the clean oven. Katya's cake was absolute perfection--exactly the way it was supposed to look. No holes or cracks in the center of her cake, and it was just the right height. It was also beautifully but simply decorated, with sprinklings of powdered sugar and chopped pecans. Katya, who works part-time at a bakery and who actually made this cake at the bakery, has the advantage of being able to offer up her cakes to see if they sell. This one was two-thirds gone by mid-afternoon, and the rest of it probably sold quickly thereafter, when the people who wanted to pick something up for dessert stopped by.
Katya liked the cake, but not as well as she liked the chocolate feather bed cake, which she had made a week earlier. The feather bed cake is on my list of Cakes I Fear Making, because it has to made in two batches, and the fragile cake layers have to somehow be stacked. I don't like the sounds of it at all.
Other cakes on the Cakes I Fear Making list:
Apple Caramel Charlotte
Saint-Honore Trifle
Zach's La Bomba
Holiday Pinecake Cake
Pumpkin Cake with Burnt Orange Buttercream
I've already made some of the cakes on the list and survived, however, so I'm hoping I'll survive these.

Of course, I can talk casually about surviving cakes, because my little corner of the world hasn't been hit with floods, tornadoes, or earthquakes. I got an email from a longtime reader of breadbasketcase and a person I consider a friend, although I've never met her. Her blog name is "Chris of R.I." and I always perk up when I see she's left a comment because they're always witty and warm. Chris of R.I. had a baby just a few months ago, and she sent me a picture of the baby, along with news about the terrible damage to her town caused by recent flooding. Chris asked me if I'd consider posting her description of what has happened, along with a request for donations to a local center that has worked tirelessly to help the people left without food and shelter.
Sometimes it's easier to understand the troubles facing people in crisis when you hear someone speak in an individual voice, instead of just seeing the pictures on CNN. After I read Chris's story, I clicked on the link for networkforgood, and made a donation. (Chris is right--it's as easy as buying a book on amazon.com). If you're so inclined, I know that the people of Westerly, Rhode Island, especially Chris of R.I. would appreciate it. Here's Chris's note:

Hi All

As I am sure most of you know, President Obama has declared all of Rhode Island as a major disaster area after unprecedented rainfall and flooding. And it is looking like my little town of Westerly may have gotten the worst of it. Parts of Westerly are fine, including our home; while other parts are still, literally, underwater. My neighborhood is bordered by the Pawcatuck River as it meanders to the sea, and from the bottom of our driveway, nearly a week after the rain has stopped, you can still see houses surrounded by swift moving water.

Other parts of Westerly that are still affected include those immediately surrounding Maria's school, and neighborhoods a little further away whose kids attend school with Maria. I visited Maria's school on Monday and spoke with the school secretary about trying to get help for Springbrook Elementary families and she listed 6 families off the top of her head that she knew were made immediately homeless. Left only with the clothes on their backs-style homeless. One first-grader in Maria's class was evacuated by boat. He hasn't been back to school yet.

The section of town that may be the worst of the worst is the North End of Westerly. This is a less affluent section of town and the densely populated neighborhood consists of apartment houses set closely together on small lots. I had heard as of Monday, 14 apartment buildings had been condemned in just the previous 48 hours. These numbers will only increase as the water slowly recedes and inspectors are able to, well, inspect.

I also visited the Bradford Jonnycake Center of Westerly on Monday. This organization provides clothing, social services and meals (800 a month!) to people in need of assistance. 75% of their clients are elderly, disabled or children. Their location on Industrial Ave. was underwater and they lost $8000 worth of food from their food banks and nearly all of their office equipment. Yet they were open Monday, with pumps shooting water out of a basement window, accepting and giving donations. I spoke with the Interim Director and she said their needs are immediate, urgent and increasing since they are only just beginning to hear of what the community needs.

Which brings me to the point of my email. It wasn't just to give you a local's view of the flooding! I have listed below links to collect donations for the Bradford Jonnycake Center of Westerly.

The first link is a secure link that will accept credit card or Paypal donations. It will take about a minute of your time and is as easy as buying something off of Amazon.

If you prefer to write them a check, I have included a link to their home page that has donation information.

If you would like to donate goods or services, I've also included a link to their Facebook page which seems to be updating frequently with what they are short of at the moment. Right now it is things like diapers, toilet paper and gently used mattresses.

You'll feel great about donating to a small local charity that has been there from the start and will be there long after the Red Cross Aid vehicles and Black Hawk helicopters and National Guard have gone. Please consider donating to this organization. This crisis is too big for our small town to handle on its own. That's where we're at folks.

Chris (Pirie) Martuscello

ps please feel free to forward this information

On-line Donation to Bradford Jonnycake Center of Westerly

Bradford Jonnycake Center of Westerly Homepage for Checks etc...

Bradford Jonnycake Center of Westerly Facebook Page for Updates and Immediate Needs

Returning again to the subject of cakes, next week's cake is the banana refrigerator cake with dreamy, creamy white chocolate frosting. Saira has asked to be guest host, and she will post directly on this blog site. This will therefore be a weekend off for me, although I will probably bake next week's cake so I can be a little ahead. That cake--the Two Fat Cats Whoopie Pie--is one that I've been looking forward to since I first got the cookbook. How can you not want to make a Whoopie Pie? The cake following the Whoopie Pie will be the more circumspectly named Coffee Chiffonlets with Dulce de Leche Whipped Cream. This recipe calls for mini angel food cake pans. Yikes! I'd better get my hands on those. It also calls for homemade dulce de leche, which could be an adventure. (Please--do not heat the condensed milk in an unopened can--I don't want to read about any adventures that involve explosions). If you want to decorate as directed, you will also look for dark chocolate snowflakes.

Apr 5, 2010

Sybil's Pecan Torte with Coffee Cream - Passover Cake #2

I love the name "Sybil," a name I first heard in high school, when I was learning about the ancient Greeks. This Sybil was a weird prophetess, whose hair stood on end and whose breasts deflated when she was about to prophesy. That would make you pay attention, wouldn't it? Nowadays, people are more likely to think of the Joanne Woodward movie about the woman with 13 or so different personalities. The Sylbil of the pecan torte is Rose's "honorary cousin," and, I'm guessing, she is neither a prophet nor a person who suffers from dissociative identity disorder. She makes a nice cake, though.
It's always a good feeling to find the cake you're making on the Quick-and-Easy list, although that doesn't guarantee you won't have a problem. My problem here was getting the cake out of the pan. Although this pecan torte is easy enough to put together, I would take some points off the quick-and-easy scale because I found it a little difficult to work with. I'll see whether anyone else had this experience. If it was just me, I'll give the points back.
I toasted the pecans yesterday, so today all I had to do was process them with some sugar.
The most tedious part of the recipe is dividing seven eggs. I almost always break the yolk in at least one egg, so I have to first put the white in a small bowl to make sure it's untainted by the yolk before I add it to the mixing bowl.
When I was baking Christmas cookies this year, my friend Joanne astounded me by separating eggs in what I considered an extremely daredevilish way, by letting the whites just drop into the mixing bowl. I almost screamed in horror. "Joanne, what are you doing? If you break one egg yolk, you'll ruin the whole thing!" She gave me a puzzled look. "I never have," she said. I guess she's just a dainty egg-cracker.
The yolks are mixed for about five minutes, until they look like softened, whipped butter.
Then the whites are beaten until they look like beaten egg whites. Then everything is mixed together, and that's pretty much it.
My cake came out of the oven a little taller than the sides of the springform pan. I confess that I didn't weigh the eggs today, so I probably had a greater volume of egg whites than I should have. I'll also confess that, although I love to weigh other ingredients, I feel that an egg should be an egg, and there should be no more measuring involved.
Instead of immediately inverting the cake, as the recipe instructs, I had to leave it rightside up until it sank enough to turn it over. When it was time to take it out of the pan, I accidentally cut some of the edge away from the cake while I was using a knife to loosen the sides. Also, removing the parchment from the bottom was tricky, and I almost lost the cake during that process.
I let it sit while I made hot cross buns. I liked my ecumenical mix of Passover cake and Easter buns.
When the cake was completely cool, I made the coffee whipped cream. This was my first stab at stabilized whipped cream, with a little gelatin added, and there was nothing to it. The cream didn't turn gummy or lumpy, but it didn't weep either. Spreading it on top of the cake was a breeze; plus it covered up the hole where the instant-read theremometer had been.
It's nice to have this cake in reserve, should you ever be called upon to make a cake for Passover. It's not a cake that makes you feel like you're giving up something (i.e., flour); you're a long way from sacrificing flavor. The flavors are simple, yet intense; the textures are rich, yet light. It's a good cake for any holiday, or for no holiday, or no occasion, at all.

Doug: "This cake is a winner."
Jan: "It's a great dessert if you've already overeaten. It seems so nice and light."
Mary: "Way better than the lamb cakes my family used to serve at Easter."
Laurel: "Nice and light--but it has butter in it, doesn't it?"
Jim: "I like the flavors of the cake, and especially like the coffee flavor of the whipped cream. But it still seems too grainy to me."