Les Succes

I am  lucky enough to have owned a copy of Rose’s “A Passion For Chocolate” in which Rose translates and adapts the recipes of Maurice and Jean-Jacques Bernachon.  It is a wonderful book filled with fantastic chocolate recipes from the simple to the sublime.  I think over the years I have made everything in it.  This succes is used throughout the book as a base for many recipes and fillings and frostings.  All are wonderful.

I have always viewed this recipe as a bit of a contradiction.  It is very simple, only 4 ingredients and the batter comes together in just a few minutes.  However, it is a bit tricky.  The egg whites need to be beaten stiff enough or once the almods are added the batter becomes runny and it is hard to pipe.  The baked cake is thin and flat.  It isn’t that hard to do but then once done correctly comes another tiny problem.  The layers are very fragile and soft and sticky and great care must be taken when handling them or you end up with crumbs.  This really isn’t a problem unless your like me and not at all patient. I like to get them off the parchment and onto the cooling rack and sometimes I rush it and have a disaster on my hands.  So, while this is a very simple recipe with very simple techniques I always approach making a succes with trepidation.  Always keeping in the back of my mind.  “Slow down, take your time, be patient”.  I think it worked this time.

The recipe is simplicity itself.  Egg whites are whipped until foamy and then the cream of tartar is added.  The egg whites are then beaten on high speed until doubled in volume.  Sugar is added and they are whipped until stiff and glossy.  Then the almond/sugar mixture is folded in and the batter is piped onto a baking sheet in three 8 inch circles.  Mine baked for 15 minutes at 325 degress in my convection oven.  Then they sit for a moment or two and then are carefully (and I stress carefully) removed from the parchment sheets and set to cool completely.

Then on to the ganache.  I was intriqued by this tea ganache.  I wondered what the lemon flavored tea would do to the taste and also what the addition of creme fraiche would bring to an already decadent frosting.  I was quite surprised.  I am not sure if I tasted the tea at all but I did notice the slight lemon flavor in the background and the subtle tang that the creme fraiche added made it well worth the cost you have to pay for it (or the time it takes to make it yourself) if you can find it at all.  All in all I loved this ganache.

No offense intended to Rose but I flatly refuse to drag out a food processor to make ganache.  It is just too easy to make it the old fashioned way to be bothered with getting out the processor and then having to clean it and put away when I can make this in one bowl.  Here is how I did it.

I chopped the chocolate and put it in a bowl.  I combined the cream and creme fraiche and scalded them in a small sauce pan.  Then I added the tea and stirred to make sure it was disolved.  Then I poured the cream mixture over the chocolate and let is stand for a few minutes.  Then I stirred it with a wire whip until it was smooth.  I let is sit for one hour and then covered it with plastic wrap and let it sit for a few hours until it was a smooth spreading consistency.

Assembling the cake is easy but takes a bit of waiting time.  I anchored the first layer to my serving plate with a bit of ganache.  Then I spread a layer of ganache on the succes layer, topped it with a second succes layer and refrigerated it for and hour.  I then spread the second layer with ganche and added the top succes layer and refrigerated it for an hour.  I then evened my layers around the edges and covered the top and sides with ganache and finsihed decorating.

This is a totally rich and heavenly dessert for a small amount of effort, a little (or in my case alot) of patience  and a bit of waiting time.  All it takes is a little patients and you are in for a heavenly treat.

Next up:  Sybil’s Pecan Torte with Coffee Cream

Peanut Butter Ingots

I knew these were going to be delicious.  How could anything be made with peanut butter and not be delicious?  And, in spite of my always complaining about specialty pans I actually broke down and bought a specialty pan for these.   I figured they were going to be good and I would be making them often so that would make this a regular pan and not a specialty pan.  I also noticed that there were several recipes in the book that used this pan so I figured it would be worth it.

This was another of those recipes that takes longer to gather the ingredients than it does to make the cake.  Well, maybe not quite.  In this one we had to make a beurre noisette but that is hardy work and it is so delicious that who would mind making it.  We also had to toast and then grind the almonds but that isn’t anything either and I got to christen my new food processor so that was good.  So, after making the beurre noisette and toasting the almonds, you grind the almonds with the sugar and then pulse in the flour.  Egg whites are whipped until they are just foamy and then the flour/sugar/nut mixture is whipped in.  Then the beurre noisette is dribbled in and then the peanut butter.  What could be easier than that?  I was totally surprised at the amout of peanut butter flavor that these had considering there was only 3 tablespoons of peanut butter in them.  It is amazing what a fantastic flavor came from the beurre noisette, almond, peanut butter combination.  You can definitely tell they are peanut butter but yet it is subtle and rich and deep and smooth all at the same time.  These were truly a revelation to me.  They went right on my bake often list.  In fact, this is probably a bake weekly recipe.

I did have one slight problem with this recipe.  The recipe says that it makes 16 ingots.  Well, once I was finished with the batter it didn’t look like it would even make the 8 ingots that my pan made.  Once I filled that pan I had to adjust each mold as there really didn’t seem to be enough batter to go around.  Well, I reread the measurements on the financier mold in the recipe and low and behold.  My molds were all 1/2 inch wider and longer than Roses mold.  No wonder there wasn’t enough batter.  I baked them and they were fine.  (See pictures).  I knew instantly that there was a work around for this.  As soon as they were out of the oven I went back to work and made another batch only this time I quadrupled it.  Now even I got the 16 I was supposed to have.  Given how good these are I should probably get another pan and always make lots more.


Next Up:  Le Succes

Sicilian Pistachio Cake

Back in the late 60s and early 70s my mom used to make a bundt cake she called Pistachio Nut Cake.  It was a typical 60’s housewife cake made with a cake mix and Jello Pistachio pudding.  It had a layer of nuts in the center and was a really strange green color because of the pudding mix.  It was one of our favorites and I remember my mom made it all the time and I would snack on it when I would come home from school and watch the escapedes of Barnabas Collins on Dark Shadows.  I spoke to my mom last Sunday and I was telling her about this cake and low and behold she said that she had just made a Pistachio Nut Cake and it was on the counter cooling and she and my dad were going to have it later for dessert.  I couldn’t believe that 30 some years later and she was still making that cake.  Then I asked her to send me the recipe.

I always refer to cakes like this as “It can’t possibly be” cakes.  What I mean by that is, the cake is so easy to make that it can’t possibly be any good.  But, Rose keeps surprising me with these cakes.  We have had several lately.  Whipped Cream Cake, the Lemon Poppyseed Cake.  All so easy they couldn’t possibly be any good, and yet they are fantastic.  This one is no exception.  It conjured up memories of my mom’s Pistachio Nut Cake, even though it is much more sophisicated.

This cake was so easy to put together that I swear it took me longer to assemble the ingredients than it did to actually make the cake.  Pretty amazing for a cake that tastes this good.  I found this cake to have a very subtle nut flavor.  I am not sure if my nuts were just not very strong or what but I found it totally delicious with that subtle pistachio hint.  To put it together, the liquid ingredients are mixed.  The dry ingredients are mixed.  Butter and sour cream are beaten in, then the liquid ingredients are added in a few additions and that’s it.  Way to easy to taste this good.

The completed batter

The cake ready to bake

The baked cake

I know that I have complained in the past that Rose’s frostings are often difficult to make and tricky to work with.  Such is not the case with this buttercream.  It went together in no time flat and I have to say it was a dream to work with.  I found that it had the perfect texture to spread and was heaven to pipe.  I also suffer from hot hand syndrome so I am always having to put my piping bags in the refrigerator to chill as I work because the heat from my hands melts the frosting.  I didn’t have that problem with this buttercream.  I finished the whole cake without once having to chill a bag.  This may become my new go to buttercream.  And it was delicious.  I can see all sorts of possiblilites for flavoring this buttercream. 

The cake with a crumb coat

Almost finished

The egg yolks were beaten until light in color.  Meanwhile a sugar syrup is made and beaten into the egg yolks.  The mixture is beaten until it is cool.  Then the butter and flavorings are added and thats it.  Instant heaven.  I will definitely be making this cake many many more times.  I loved it.


Next Up:  Peanut Butter Ingots

Chocolate Apricot Roll with Lacquer Glaze

I know that Chocolate and Orange or Chocolate and Raspberries are the classic combinations but I love chocolate and apricots.  For years one of my favorite cakes has been the Flourless Chocolate Roulade with Whipped Apricot Souffle from Carole Walters Great Cakes.  There is just something about apricots, they are so lush and sweet and sensual.  Pair them with aphrodisiacal chocolate and how can you help but have a winning combination.   This simple looking roulade is just such a magical combination. 

Yes, this was a bit complex but I find that I like these construction job cakes as they allow me to spread the work out over the entire week, taking a few minutes here and there to complete one element and by the time the weekend comes all I am faced with is 30 minutes worth of assembly and decoration and my labor is complete and it hardly seems like I did anything.

I opted to make the lekvar instead of using jam just because I was intriqued and wanted to see what it tasted like.  While it wasn’t difficult to make and I did enjoy it, I won’t hesitate to use apricot jam the next time simply because this combination is too good to not have often.  The chocolate ganache was a straight forward ganache recipe and was completed in no time.  I also found the sponge cake to be very simple and while my family found it to have a strange texture, I thought it was delicious and also very very easy to work with.  I had no difficulty filling and rolling the cake with no cracking which is usually something that I just expect from a roulade.

The real miracle here was the lacquer glaze.  For years I have tried glaze recipes always wanting to get that shiny super smooth glass like coating that they always show in cookbooks and I usually end up with a semi smooth decent tasting coating but never that super smooth and shiny surface that I now believe to be a photo trick instead of any actual food product.  That is until now, this glaze was a miracle. It took no time at all to make and when I poured it over my completed roulade and it just slid down over the side and was as smooth and shiny as you could imagine I stood there in a daze.  I couldn’t believe that I was actually seeing that happen right before my eyes.  I was simply stunned.  I plated the roulade and just stood there in amazement that I had actually done it.  I have to admit that after the cake had set for a day it was no longer as shiny as when first applied but that surface was so smooth and professional I didn’t even care.  I was so proud, my chest puffed out and my eyes just beamed with pride that I had actually produced a cake with that smooth professional surface.  I only hope that it wasn’t a fluke and the next time (and there will be a next time) I make this that it comes out just as smooth.

The sponge is easy to make.  The yolks and sugar are whipped and then the egg whites are whipped.  The whites are folded into the whipped yolks, then the dry ingredients are sifted on and folded in and the batter is spread into a sheet pan and baked.

Whipped Yolks

Whipped Whites

The baked sponge

 Once the sponge is baked it is dusted with powdered sugar and rolled in a towel to cool. Once it is cooled the sponge is unrolled and the syrup is brushed on, then the lekvar is spread on and finally the ganache is spread on.  The sponge is then rerolled tightly and set aside until ready to be glazed.

The Lekvar layer

The ganache layer

The rolled cake

 When ready to glaze, the roll is placed on a cardboard support the size of the cake which has been covered in foil and then the form and roll are placed on a rack over a cookie sheet.  The glaze is poured over the roll and completed covers the roll.

Glazing the completed roll

Over the past several weeks I have had numerous comments and emails asking why I always post so early on Sunday instead of Monday morning like the rest of the group.  I wanted to take a minute to explain so that the mystery is cleared up once and for all.  I get up at 4:00 am each morning to go to the gym and then have to be at work by 5:00 am.  I work an odd schedule and generally get every other Friday off.  This is usually my baking day or I bake after work during the week.  I always try to have the weeks baking project finished by Saturday so that I have time to get all the rest of the chores and errands completed and still manage to have a bit of time to myself.  Thus I post on Sunday morning as Sunday evenings are usually a madhouse getting ready for the coming week and if I waited until 4:00 am on Monday I would totally forget about posting all together.  So, there you have it.  The mystery of my Sunday morning posts.  I hope that my posting early hasn’t caused any problems for the rest of the Heavenly Bakers.

Next Up: Sicilian Pistachio Cake