Monday, August 4, 2008

Best Cobbler Ever

So I was only going to use this space to write about my Daring Bakers challenges, but I had to make an exception. I find that there are few recipes involving fruit that manage to make the fruit taste even better than it did fresh, but this is one of them. This cobbler is one of the best things I've ever tasted. Seriously. I'm going to go to the fridge and take another bite right now.

From the NYT magazine, June 18 1995, discovered and perfected by my mom.

4 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
1 tbsp all purpose flour

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt (but regular is okay too)
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
6 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch peices
3/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375. Mix filling. Mix dry ingredients of dough in a food processor, then cut in butter until a coarse meal. Add cream and barely mix with a fork. Transfer filling to baking 1 1/2 qt. baking dish. Gently press dough into 6 patties, each 2 inches in diameter and 1/2 inch thick. (the more gentle you are the flakier the biscuits will be!) Add patties on top of berries, okay if touching. Bake until filling is bubbling and dough is light brown, about 35-40 min. Cool briefly and serve hot with ice cream.

By the way, can you believe how not-blue the inside of a blueberry is??

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Hazelnut One-Time Wonder

July 2008 Daring Baker’s Challenge: Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

(Recipe from Great Cakes by Carol Walter)

This month’s recipe is not one I will be making again. The challenge contained a whooping 7 sub-recipes. It required a pan I didn’t own, and required 8 hours I didn’t have. The introduction of the recipe described a decadent hazelnut cake with buttercream topped with ganache. I don’t particularly like hazelnuts. But despite all of this, I thought I would give it a try, in an attempt to be open minded and expand my baking repertoire. My mom was visiting for the weekend, and she agreed to help me.

Let’s recall trying to melt the sugar for the praline paste. Thirty minutes of frustrating pan
shifting and gas adjusting just to create a partly burned, deathly hot, carmel. Then add the
hazelnuts and “stir with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters.” See pic. In my mom’s words: “Well that’s a cluster fuck if I’ve ever seen one.” And then I burned myself on the caramel.

The cake itself took 20 minutes longer to cook than the recipe recommended. While cooling, the cake sunk into the cooling rack giving it a ¼ inch deep grid across the top. One sub-recipe after another became more painful, in the heat of my small, un-air-conditioned kitchen. Seven hours into it, there was no way I was going to try to make buttercream leaves on top. Even my attempt at a decorative circle failed. I finally opted for a more natural, crushed hazelnut garnish.

While transferring the cake from the cardboard round to a dish, most of the bottom layer of cake stuck to the spatula. Then, on the way to the concert picnic where I had promised 10 hungry students there would be “filbert gateau with praline buttercream,” the buttercream and ganache melted enough for the layers to slide off one another. Great. This is not a summer recipe.

Now I have to say that I did save half of the cake at home and was able to sample a still assembled, cold version of the cake late that night. And I can’t say I thought it was very good. The buttercream to cake ratio was way too high – I’ve never been a fan of creams or frostings, but I really think this is not a subjective comment. Each bite was too rich, and texturally unsatisfying. There was not enough sponge or crunch (even with the extra shopped hazelnuts on top) to balance the buttery mush of the buttercream.

This recipe was far too time intensive for the quality of the product. I don’t have very much extra time in my schedule – who does?! – and definitely won’t be making it, or anything like it, again.