"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".

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Two Cakes!

Readers, when I finished my final chicken recipe I got all excited and started looking around for other chapters I am close to finishing--and there are two where I am just a leap or two away from the finish line--Cakes, and Cookies, Bars and Confections. I guess you know where my true interests reside!

This excitement coincided with my book group--which always turns out well for them. I flipped through the cake chapter for the remaining recipes...

...Lemon Pound Cake? Too plain.
...Almond and Brown Butter Financiers? Too...muffiny.
...Passover Sponge Cake with Apples? Not big enough.
...Three-Milk Cake with Coconut and Fresh Fruit? Even more not big enough.
...Cranberry Cognac Trifle? With three embedded recipes in the recipe, too complicated.
...Nectarine Mousse Cake? Out of season.
...Lemon Blackberry Wedding Cake? Uh, no.
...Bananas Foster Cheesecake? YES!!! That's it, that's it!

I did have a moment of hesitation because when Teena and I met a few summers ago this was one of the recipes that she had had high hopes for but ended up not being so crazy about, if you'll excuse my fractured grammer. Or in other words she wasn't sure it was worth all of the effort--because it is a lot of effort, at least more than your average cheesecake!

Why? Here's why. For one thing, you don't just have a graham cracker crust, you line the edges with crisp ladyfingers. Here's my approximation, thank you Stella D'Oro:

Then the cheesecake itself is kind of like a layer cake--a layer of cheesecake filling (your standard cream cheese/egg mix plus banana liqueur):

a layer of bananas sauteed in brown sugar, rum, more banana liqueur, cinnamon and almonds:

then cheesecake filling on top of that, which you bake in a hot water bath in a medium oven. Here's my brilliant solution to no-baking-pan-big-enough-for-my-cheesecake-pan, which is to put it in my biggest skillet instead:

Tangential cheesecake gripe--no matter how many layers of foil I put around my pan, water always gets in. Enterpreneurial-minded people, make some kind of water-tight sheath that can go on the bottom of a cheesecake pan! I will buy it!

Tangential banana liqueur gripe--I went off to the liquor store hoping against hope that they would have some kind of smallish bottle of this stuff. No such luck. I am now the proud owner of a big-ass bottle of banana liqueur. Please either a) help me with drink recipes and/or b) come over here and drink some.

The cheesecake is topped with a "praline" topping, which had me worried that I'd be doing some candy-making, but fortunately it was just pecans mixed in with melted brown sugar and butter. I actually cooked it for a while, hoping to make it more candy-ish, but it never happened, and that's fine I guess.

How was it?!? Well, I thought it was pretty damn good. My book group lurved it, but they have notoriously low standards. The one part I didn't like so much was that decorative cookie border, but keep in mind that the recipe was designed after one found in a cafe (Cafe Vermilionville in Lafayette, LA) and it's a PERFECT restaurant dessert because the edges are decorative and sturdy--easy to serve and pretty to look at. Oh and also delicious!

Here's O'Malley eating what was left the next morning for breakfast. Notice the product placement of his favorite all-time book, Lord of the Rings. Actually that's the Fellowship of the Rings, now that I look at it. Anything Tolkien is his favorite.

Teena, I'm afraid we'll have to agree to disagree on this one--I think it's a worthy dessert!


Cake #2!

It was Don's birthday last week, and I wanted to make him a birthday cake, of course. I looked first of course in The Gourmet Cookbook, but my cake list didn't hold anything that seemed birthday appropriate, especially considering that we'd be at my sister's for a pre-Thanksgiving harvest dinner (which means lots-o-people).

So I looked (with great delight) through the Cakes chapter of Gourmet Today. Oh, the new green pastures of a new green cookbook! Which cake to pick?!? Would it be Chocolate Whiskey Bundt Cake? Devil's Food Cake with Marshmallow Frosting? Apricot Almond Layer Cake?

I decided to go with Walnut Meringue Cake with Strawberry Sauce because it looked unusual and yummy, and the shorter Active Time of 30 mins didn't hurt either.

People with celiac disease! This is the cake for you! Why? Because it's a layer cake with absolutely no flour of any kind whatsoever. Nothing. Nada. People with nut allergies, stay away. There are many nuts here--two cups worth!

So the idea is to take 8 egg whites and whip the bejeezuss out of them for a super long time, adding 2 1/4 cups of sugar bit by bit. Add a little vanilla extract and white vinegar (not sure why the white vinegar--bears some research, methinks) and then fold in the two cups of chopped walnuts. Bake in two 9" cake pans until they're puffed and golden, after which they will alarm you by falling dramatically and making you think you're a failed baker.

But never fear! All is not lost because what happens is that the meringue in the pan, although it falls and breaks on top, kind of melts together in the pan and creates one kind-of-coherent surface that you can handle. And these two unpromising looking layers combine to spectacular effect with whipped cream and strawberry sauce (or whole strawberries if you are lazee like me):

Look at my patient birthday boy husband back there with the empty plate while I take a picture. This cake was so delicious--really tasty and somehow rich and light at the same time. That's a good trick to pull off!

Here's a bonus pic of me with my cute mom--she loves it when all of her chickies are under one roof:

Hey I'm thinking that cranberry cognac trifle would be pretty good for Thanksgiving. Stay tuned!


Gluten-Free recipe in this post (and Recipe WIN!): Walnut Meringue Cake with Strawberry Sauce


Adrienne said...

I can personally vouch for the chocolate whiskey cake - it was AMAZING.

And how about we arrange a trade here - you take half my bottle of butterscotch schnapps, and I'll take half your bottle of banana liqueur. I will never understand why specialty liqueurs come in such giant bottles.

Georgia said...

Glad you're back and with TWO cakes!!!

Recent purchase: MORO, The Cookbook by Sam and Sam Clark which contains yummy sounding desserts like Chocolate and apricot tart & Yoghurt cake with pistachios & (bitter) Chocolate, coffee and cardamom truffle cake.

Melissa Bach Palladino said...

Adrienne--Ha!! That's not such a bad idea, come to think of it--and you're not too far away, either! Hmmm....

Georgia--mmm, those sound good! Let me know if you need any testers. ;-)

Sue McGettigan said...

Yum! Reminds me of pavlova :) The vinegar is part of the chemical reaction that helps the egg white retain their airy structure as it bakes, at least that's the conventional pavlova wisdom.

Melissa Bach Palladino said...

Ohhhh--that makes sense, kind of! Yes, it was a lot like cross between a pavlova and a dacquoise. And with all of this cooking I've been doing recently involving egg yolks, I have even MORE egg whites in the freezer!