"Food: Science, Art, Passion, Pleasure, Adventure & Exploration"

Friday, January 1, 2010

Baking Adventure 1: Coconut Lime Cake & Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Milk Chocolate Nutella Buttercream Icing.

This is my chocolate hazelnut cake, all made from scratch (icing and batter). The flavor profile is distinctive and rich. I used extra butter in the cake batter for a moister texture.

The only pre-made item I've used in this recipe is Nutella. I used that to give the icing that "x factor". LOL!

The cake batter is a yellow cake recipe and those little dark balls that you see on the cake as decorative (although edible) items are called chocolate pearls. I get a lot of my cooking supplies and ingredients from a variety of places, but most of them come from an enchanted place in Culver City, Calif., called Surfas Restaurant Supply and Gourmet Food. They are located on Washington Blvd. in what's considered the restaurant district, in Culver City.

I tell you, the store is always a pleasure to go to! I always feel like a kid walking into a candy store! You can find nearly anything, and I think they allow you to special order some items that aren't in stock. There are rows and rows of colorful decorations for cakes and cupcakes, all sorts of raw and exotic sugars, many flavors (bubblegum, lime, pear, cotton candy), oils and extracts (lemon, lime, orange, chocolate, strawberry) and mix-ins (pralines, treacle, nut flours, ribbon candy, hazelnut sauce) for pastry recipes, LOTS of supplies for commercial kitchens (which is fantastic since domestic kitchen owners can get some cool stuff for their home use), packaging, rows of all sorts of pure, high quality chocolates in BULK (to use for cooking and baking), and much more.

The store also has its own cafe. You can get organic and gourmet food there, too. The food is a little expensive but it's very good. The cafe specializes in desserts and breads.

Surfas also has it's own commercial-grade kitchen. Customers can sign up for cooking and baking classes on the regular, which are held in that kitchen. The classes are extremely hands on and fun. I took my first baking workshop there with pastry chef/pastry expert/workshop teacher/business owner/ food business consultant, Clemence de Lutz Gossett. She is the owner of Gourmandise Desserts. I've taken several other workshops that she teaches. She's wonderful to learn from and incredibly inspiring. I'll definitely be taking more of her workshops as thew new year advances.

 Coconut Lime Cake w/ White Chocolate-Lime Buttercream Icing.

This is my coconut lime cake. This is new for me, as I've never made a coconut cake before and lime flavoring with coconut is a heavenly mix. The abundantly sweet taste of the chewy coconut with the tangy, tropical taste of "perfume limes" (as I call them) creates pure synergy.

For this cake, I made a white cake batter. I think a white cake batter goes best with this kind of cake. To make the batter extra moist and smooth in texture, I made a lot of my ingredients super fine. I sifted the flour mixture, for the cake batter, over 4 times (flour, salt, baking powder) and the flour used was cake flour, which is already finer than traditional all-purpose flour. I used baker's sugar, which is also finer than traditional sugar. I added in extra butter and made and folded in meringue, made from eggs whites, into the cake mixture. My favorite technique to use in making most of my cake batters is called the creaming method.

Instead of dumping everything all into a bowl (which does effect the outcome of the texture in a batter; you'll notice that you'll need more milk than usual or that your batter will be stiffer or drier than usual), I first cream together sugar and butter in a bowl, add in eggs one at a time after that, and then include in milk and the dry ingredients (flour mixture) alternately. I make sure not to over beat my cake mix. It's OK to leave a few lumps in a cake mix as they will bake out in the oven. Stirring cake batter too much results in a harder, less fluffier cake.

As for the buttercream icing for both cakes, my secret is that I like to use real butter (rather than shortening or vegetable oil) in my icing AND I prefer using butter milk rather than whole milk. You can certainly use whatever you want, depending on the result you desire, as I want to experiment with many types of icings over time to get a feel different flavors and textures. Some cakes are also best with a light, whipped icing or a cream cheese icing. I've especially made the latter.

For the chocolate hazelnut cake's icing, as I mentioned, I added Nutella and two types of Valrhona chocolate, some of the BEST chocolate for baking. It's is made in France. I created a chocolate ganache out of the chocolate by heating heavy cream and pouring it over the chocolate feves in a glass bowl. I let it sit for about 20 seconds and blended in the heated cream with the chocolate to create a shiny and smooth chocolate ganache that was poured into the icing mixture. I also used a chocolate extract (I love the extracts from Nielsen-Massey) to boost up the flavor of the buttercream icing and left out the vanilla flavoring so that the chocolate flavor of the icing was much stronger. There's no rule to not ever use vanilla, as you can,  vanilla is just a strong flavor that takes down the flavor of chocolate a notch.

For the coconut lime cake's icing, I made a white chocolate ganache out of Lindt coconut white chocolate bars, and added it to the icing mixture.. I love the flavor of Lindt chocolates and they have such a variety. Their coconut-flavored white chocolate was perfect for my cake recipe. I only used a small amount of cream to heat and pour over the chocolate because white chocolate becomes very bland in taste if too much cream is added. I also included lime zest, fresh lime juice and a tiny cap-full) of organic lime oil (OMG I so love the smell of lime!).

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