Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cakelove? Cakeporn!

Warren Brown's cookbook Cakelove might more aptly be retitled Cakeporn. The pictures, in full sumptuous color, of plump spongy cakes loaded with wet fluffy frosting make you want to run to the store and hunt down some of the more obscure ingredients his recipes require, like potato starch and cocoa nibs.

After making this lemon cake and a chocolate pound cake, I've noticed that his cake aesthetic and mine are a bit different. His cakes tend to be airy, and delicate, more a vehicle for his frostings, which also tend to be light and smooth as opposed to a dense traditional American buttercream. In fact, in almost all his cakes, you're expected to split the layers, which are already fairly thin, to create additional layers of frosting in each bite.

My problem with this is that his cakes are already so light that in each bite of cake, the "sponge," as Brown calls it, seems to melt into the frosting, which I found was the case with the lemon cake above. I'm curious to go to one of Brown's bakeries someday and see if I'm making the recipes in the wrong way or if this is just his aesthetic.

Yet I still love his book, not just for the pictures, but also because Brown illustrates a number of easy-to-follow techniques, which has given me added confidence in tackling cake baking.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Chocolate Pop Tarts!













I've been playing around with Pop Tart recipes for a while, but this is the first time I've tried a chocolate flavored crust.

This one's a winner.  You definitely want to give it a try.

I found the recipe on a Flickr page of a guy named Dennis Wilkinson. He makes a variety of homemade pop tarts, and for the crust in the chocolate version, he takes out a bit of the flour for his dough, and substitutes cocoa powder. He also adds chilled Frangelico liqueur, to give it a slightly hazelnut taste that gets picked up in the filling: nutella, right out of the jar.

The crust came together nicely in my food processor, and after chilling it for an hour, I had no trouble rolling it out to cut into small rectangles. (I made mini pop tarts, about 2 x 3, and ended up getting 18 pop tarts total.)  I rolled out the dough for the crust in a mixture of flour and cocoa powder because I didn't want the flour to leave white spots on the dough, but I didn't want too much additional cocoa flavor, which I worried might make the crust bitter.

Because my tarts were small, I reduced the baking time from 25 to 15 minutes. Also, I had a slight hiccup with the frosting, which calls for Frangelico, but I'd already used mine up for the crust. I substituted creme de cacao, which I found excellent. It added a chocolate flavor that had an adult sharp edge to it.  I'm now thinking about using it in the crust as well.

Sprinkle some raw sugar on top for decoration, or go for gold, silver, or fluorescent pink or purple sanding sugar.


Chocolate Pop-Tart Crust
(adapted from Dennis Wilkinson
7.5 oz. all-purpose flour (about a cup)
0.5 oz. dutch-process cocoa powder (about 1/8 cup)
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tbl. sugar
4 oz. cold butter, cut into cubes
1 egg (lightly beaten)
2 oz. chilled Frangelico liqueur
Plus 1 egg for egg wash
Chocolate Pop-Tart Filling
Nutella!
Chocolate Pop-Tart Frosting
1 c. confectioner's sugar
1 tbl. dutch-process cocoa powder
Frangelico or Creme de Cacao
Directions
To make the Pop-Tart Crust
Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the cubes of butter, and give 10-12 one second pulses, to cut the butter in. You should have pieces of butter about the size of small peas. Sprinkle the liquid ingredients (beaten egg and Frangelico) over the mixture, and pulse just a few times to distribute. Pour onto plastic wrap, form into a small disc, and refrigerate at least one hour.
To make the Pop-Tarts
Preheat your oven to 325°F.
Roll out your dough into a large rectangle about 1/8 inches thin. Divide it into small rectangles (2 x 3 inches for mini pop tarts, 3 x 4 for bigger ones).  Remember you need two rectangles for each tart.  Spread about 1-2 tbl. of the filling out in the middle of a rectangle, leaving the outer 1/3" or thereabouts clear. Brush an egg wash on the outer border, lay on another rectangle of dough, and press the edges to seal (I used a straightedge to do the pressing). Puncture the top several times with a fork, and transfer to a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Store completed tarts in the refrigerator as you work.
Bake for about 25 minutes (or less for mini tarts, about 15 minutes), until the dough is cooked through and set up but not really browned much on the top. Remove to a cooling rack.
To frost the Pop-Tarts
Add just enough liquid to the sugar (and optional cocoa) to make a thick glaze (work just a tiny bit at a time; it doesn't take much liquid at all do do this, usually less than a tablespoon). Spread the glaze out over the cooled pastries. If you like, decorate with some colored sugar (I used raw sugar on the chocolate version), since that's similar to what Kellogg's does. Or not.
My only observation on the frosting is that this glaze is pretty obviously not what's on an actual Pop-Tart. I actually had some stuck-on residue catch fire in my toaster (wee little fire, but still, use caution.) I have a slotted toaster whose "baskets" close in on the pastry, which results in residue like this. Toaster ovens and slot toasters that don't do this will probably be fine, but pay attention if you do toast these.