I set out to bake a traditional Opera Torte, but I ended up getting distracted and took off in an entirely different flavor direction. In the end I created this Blackberry Opera Torte (which I have named the Diva Cake) and I’m not sure I’ll ever go back.Read More
By the time I became a pastry chef in the mid 1990s tiramisu, the decadent Italian dessert that defined the 80s, was banned from all high-end restaurants. It was a matter of bad PR, not because it wasn’t well liked or frequently requested. In fact, it was its very popularity that took it down. We pastry chef types just got bored with making it all the time to satisfy the demand. The same fate took down the molten lava cake and flourless chocolate torte. But, as happens with all good things, they find their way back in fashion. I predict the humble tiramisu will find its way onto a menu near you. If I happen to be wrong about this, we can have our own revolution and make it at home. This version was inspired by a recipe from Joanne Chang’s book, Flour. Yes, she apologizes for making it. I stand proud and layer espresso sponge cake, soaked with coffee and booze with rich mascarpone mousse, then top it all with chocolate ganache and raspberries. The trick is to soak the layers just enough to impart flavor and make them delicate, but not so much that they become soggy mush. The bite of the coffee and liqueur is perfectly mellowed by the custard, but none of it is overly sweet. I built them as individuals, using PVC pipe that I had cut to the right size (super cheap), but you can buy circular pastry molds (kind of expensive) or even washed out cans (sweetened condensed milk is just the right size). You can do this exact same recipe in a small trifle bowl or in short water glasses.
Andrew Zimmern was my very first boss out of culinary school – in the 1990s high-end restaurant I mentioned earlier. It was a wild and creative time in my life. He wasn’t eating freaky things, but he was pushing the culinary palate in Minneapolis, and I was lucky enough to be part of that ride. Last week he invited me to visit with him on his podcast Go Fork Yourself. We talked about baking bread in a crock pot, cooking in a dishwasher, vegan egg replacer that is changing the world, to be, or not to be gluten-free and the merits of a sexy index (my new book has one), plus the first time I told him to go fork himself! You can here the podcast here.
(makes 8 individual)
4 eggs, separated
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup espresso, hot
1 cup all-purpose flour
Mascarpone cream filling:
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup Amaretto
3/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
For assembling tiramisu:
1 cup coffee, plus 2 tablespoons Amaretto
1/4 cup cocoa powder, for dusting layers
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Amaretto
Fresh Raspberries for garnish
To make the sponge cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F
Line a baking sheet with parchment and grease with butter
NOTE: I doubled the above recipe, so all of the pictures will show a larger amount than you will be making.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat 4 yolks, 1/3 cup sugar and the hot espresso on high speed for about 5 minutes.
The egg mixture will be light in color and very thick.
The egg foam will hesitate on the surface when the whisk is lifted out of the bowl and the foam falls back into the bowl.
In another metal bowl (if you use the same bowl and whisk, they need to be perfectly clean and dried or the whites won’t whip properly). Beat the egg whites on medium speed until they start to foam, about 1 minute. Slowly add the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar and continue mixing until the whites are shiny and hold a stiff peak.
Mix about 1/3 of the whites into the yolks, this will lighten the yolk mixture. Gently fold the remaining egg white mixture into the yolks using a rubber spatula.
Sift the flour and salt over the combined egg foam.
Gently fold the flour into the eggs, using the rubber spatula.
Spread the cake batter over the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the cake springs back when gently pressed. Allow the cake to cool completely. It can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for 24 hours.
To make the mascarpone filling:
In a double boiler whisk together 4 egg yolks, sugar, Amaretto and salt.
Continue whisking until the mixture thickens.
Place the bowl in an ice bath to cool the mixture quickly. Stir occasionally until it is completely cool.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat together the mascarpone and heavy cream until they hold stiff peaks. Be sure not to over do it or it will get grainy.
Once the yolk mixture is cool, fold the whipped mascarpone into it.
To assemble the individual tiramisu:
Place the molds on a baking sheet lined with parchment and line your molds with acetate strips. The acetate is a stiff, but pliable, plastic that will line the molds, which makes removing the tiramisu a snap.
Using a round cutter that matches the diameter of your PVC molds, cut out a circle of the cooled cake. Place the cake circle on the bottom of the mold.
Brush each cake layer with the coffee and Amaretto mixture. Just enough to flavor, but not so much that it is saturated.
dust the top with cocoa powder.
Place the mascarpone mixture in a pastry bag fitted with a round tip.
Pipe a thin layer of the custard over the cream.
Repeat with another layer of cake, soaking liquid, cocoa powder, mascarpone. Finish with one more layer of cake, soaking liquid and cocoa.
To make the ganache: Heat the cream in a saucepan to a simmer. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate, swirl the pot to make sure the chocolate is covered. Let sit for 3 minutes, then gently stir with a spoon. Allow the ganache to cool and thicken slightly. While it is still pourable, spoon the ganache over the top of each tiramisu to make a thin layer.
Cover each tiramisu with raspberries and refrigerate until ready to eat.
They can be made a day ahead.
Remove the acetate and serve.
This cake makes me think of sitting on the porch swing in my Italian grandmother’s lanai. It was about 1973 and I would have been 6 years old and eating something sweet and spring-like. She had hanging baskets of flowers dangling from the ceiling from elaborately woven macramé; in shades of orange, chartreuse and gold. I’m sure I was eating Jell-o, but it should have been this cassata, with its basket weave icing and magical candied fruit flower. Ok, truth be told, my grandmother isn’t Italian, she didn’t have a lanai, I just like the word, and there probably was macramé, but I don’t actually remember any. But, this cassata makes me wish all these things were true. Not only is it visually stunning, but the cake is so delicious I licked the plate clean.
I really made the cake with my friend Bret, who I’ve known since I taught my very first baking class at Cooks of Crocus Hill about 13 years ago. He is a dynamite chef and baker, and I love playing in the kitchen with him. We decided to make this classic Italian ricotta cake after seeing it on the pages of Saveur magazine, just in time for Easter. Bret’s interpretation honored the traditional style of the cake and I went for a more 1973-macramé-hanging-on-the-lanai look. We were in a zone and made, not only the cake and all of its parts, but we also candied all the fruit. I discovered that one of my all time favorite taste sensations is a whole candied kumquat. They become translucent jewels in the process of cooking and the flavor is both tart and sweet. I ate them like popcorn. The candied citrus is a perfect compliment to the creamy smooth layers of ricotta and the orange liqueur soaked sponge cake. The frame around the cake is made from pistachio marzipan, which is a revelation of its own. I adore marzipan made with almonds, but this is exponentially better and adds a bit of flash to the outside of the cake; as if the basket weave and candied fruit flower weren’t enough.Read More
This week was my husband’s birthday and he requested a true American classic for his cake, Boston cream pie. Light pillowy sponge cake with layers of rich vanilla pastry cream and topped with a smooth chocolate glaze. Why do we call this cake a pie? It was invented in the 1850s by a French pastry chef working in Boston. My theory is that he got lost in translation and mistakenly called it a pie! (But I’m making that last bit up.) Whether the name fits or not hardly matters, it is delicious. In fact, my family loved it so much the four of us ate the entire 8-inch cake in one sitting. I was thrilled except I never got a picture of it for this post.
The next day a package arrived in the mail from the White On Rice Couple, Diane and Todd. It was a perfect stick of Vietnamese cinnamon bark. I had won it during a giveaway they had on their fabulous website. It is not an exaggeration to say that this gift has changed my life. Read More