"Perhaps the most impressive of all the cookbook blogs are the three devoted to the 2004 edition of Gourmet magazine's "The Gourmet Cookbook" -- all 5¼ pounds and 1,300-odd recipes of it. Befitting this culinary Everest, all three writers are overachievers in their professional lives."

--Lee Gomes, The Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2008
"I should have told you before how much I've been enjoying reading your thoughts. You seem like such a great cook."

--Ruth Reichl, Editor-in-Chief of Gourmet Magazine, June 8 2008, comment on "Chocolate Velvet Ice Cream".

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Georgia Bakes a Cake, or, Melissa Gets Clever, Part II

Friends, I would like to introduce you to Georgia, grand-daughter-in-law of Dr. and Mrs. S. She and her husband Robby are academics, they live on the West Coast, and they are foodies.

Georgia has been an avid reader of Cooking Gourmet, and you have probably seen her comments here and there (which is why I'm using her full name, not her initial). So we were thrilled to be in the same three-dimensional space this past week, and since I've been doing baking projects with her sister-in-law, I suggested that Georgia and I might have a baking day too.

She was excited, and on Sunday we commenced to making Coconut Cake with Raspberry Coulis.

For a cake baking activity, I'd say that this recipe is pretty advanced. It involves folding egg whites, making pastry cream, and cutting a one layer cake into three layers. All of these things have the potential to turn out badly, so while I let Georgia--a relatively inexperienced baker--take the reins, I was (very) close by to supervise.

One thing she was sad about was that the recipe calls for the pastry cream to cool for three hours--her husband and in-laws were coming for tea and she had hoped to serve her creation. We decided it would have to be a dessert cake but that she would come in the morning to get some for the family.

We hit our first bump in the road with the heavy cream. Georgia had set the Kitchen Aid to whip it, but soon said with dismay--"Oh no, my peaks have deflated!"

Sure enough, she had created butter.

But thanks to a well-stocked fridge, we had more cream to work with. Yay!

I don't feel comfortable making pastry cream without a thermometer, so I had Georgia deviate from the instructions (bring pastry cream to a boil?) and stir with a wooden spoon until it reached 170. I showed her how to strain it, too, since sometimes you have lumps, or maybe you want to get out that vanilla bean pod.

Georgia mixed in the coconut, covered it with wax paper, and we let it sit out to cool to room temp before putting it in the fridge.

That's when I had my brainstorm.

If the whole thing hinged on the pastry cream being cool and set, why not just cool it down quickly? Like spread it out on a big metal pan and put it in the fridge?

I'm so smart.

Now we knew we could get it together for tea, so I asked Georgia if she wanted to try cutting the cake layers. I told her the various ways it could be done, but she declined this piece of the excitement. So I cut the cake while she made the raspberry coulis. Curiously, the cake was tunneled. Experienced bakers, you know that this means the batter has been over-mixed, but this recipe calls for a base of flour, sugar, egg and oil (and salt and bp) and egg whites are folded in. The egg whites are fine and tight, so perhaps it was in the folding, or perhaps it's just the nature of the recipe since Georgia didn't spend an excessive amount of time on that part.

One thing Georgia does love is spreading. She could spread for days. Here she is spreading the custard.

I had to remind her we were watching the clock.

And I got her to pick up the cake layers too, once I assured her they wouldn't break or crack--the texture is very much like angel food cake. See how flexible it is?

Non-butterized whipped cream on the top and sides, some coconut to gild the lily, and we were ready for tea! It was very exciting.

Want a slice?

It was a pleasure to have Georgia in the kitchen, and we're already making plans for next time--which might be Christmas, but may hopefully be sooner.

We could make Roasted Apple Strudels...

or Chocolate Orange Dobestorte...

or Brandied Sour Cherry and Pear Tartlets...



Anonymous said...

It looks as good as it tasted! Thanks for the wonderful experience. I am definitely looking forward to another round of "Melissa Gets Clever"!

By the way, did the pastry cream stiffen by the time the cake was served (again) at dessert?

Anonymous said...

The cake was delicious! While not normally a coconut person, I had no problem devouring my (extra) large slice.

Anonymous said...

Your next round of baking ideas are great - Roasted Apple Strudels...or Chocolate Orange Dobestorte...or Brandied Sour Cherry and Pear Tartlets.

Should we draw pockey sticks?

Jessica said...

I have a little pastry saw that I use to cut layers, esp. when I'm baking a specialty cake (a dump truck or a hamburger cake) that requires precise, level layers.

Melissa Bach Palladino said...

It did set up, and I suspect that cake will be gone when I get back there today, since your in-laws came for dinner last night and seemed excited there was still some left!

Jessica, can you provide a link for that pastry saw or tell me where you got it? That's just the sort of thing I'd love to have, though I do pretty well with a long, serrated bread knife.