Saturday, May 30, 2015

Almond Tea Cake with Almond Toffee Topping

So it happened like this: I was offered a slice of Basque Cake. I like to never turn down a dessert I've not previously tried. It was at MFK, a delightful lunch spot (I'm sure it's wonderful for dinner but I've only been for lunch), and yes, it was awesome. It was a simple cake, tho unlike others - it had this gooey thing going on in the middle, a delicate crumb and a meringue-like crunch part on the top. And it wasn't too sweet, which is something I'm always yammering about. I like to taste flavor in a dessert, and appreciate texture, and often the two are lost in an emulsion of sugar.

I wanted to make one! I haven't done much baking this year, save a batch of sour cherry doughnuts on Christmas morning. Those were awesome, but I digress. I searched though all my cookbooks and trolled a variety of websites and learned a bit about the cake, but not enough to feel confident I was going to reproduce the marvel that was MFK's. Baking may be like riding a bike in that you won't forget how but it won't necessarily be pretty. As I was heading over to friends' home and didn't want to show up with a failed experiment, I decided to go with an old standard. I added the topping just for grins, and loved it so much I'm making it again for a party tonite.

For those of you whose interest is piqued by the Basque Cake, try this from Lottie + Doof but don't say I didn't say I didn't warn you: it's not for the impatient baker. Follow the link below for my Almond Tea Cake recipe. Almond paste is sold in the baking aisle in an 8oz can or small box.

Almond Tea Cake with Almond Toffee Topping
Print recipe only here

8 oz almond paste
10 oz unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
5 eggs
1 t vanilla
2 cups AP flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

3 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 T AP flour
1 T heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350. Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit an 8-inch round cake pan. I use a 3-inch tall cake pan for this cake. You can also use a 9-inch by 2-inch tall pan. Spray the cake pan with baking spray or grease with butter, and fit the parchment round onto the base. Reserve.

Sift the dry ingredients together and reserve. Crack the eggs into a measuring cup (one with a spout for pouring) and add the vanilla extract.

In a stand mixer (or hand mixer) cream together the butter and almond paste for 1-2 minutes. Slowly add the sugar, creaming well over about 3-4 minutes.

Lower the mixer speed to medium and pour in one eggs at a time, mixing well between additions. Add the flour in 3 additions, mixing slowly and just barely between additions. Don't overmix! Transfer batter into prepared pan and bake for about 50-55 minutes.

After about 50 minutes of baking, prepare the topping - don't do it earlier than that because it will harden. In a small saucepan, melt the butter, add the sugar and stir to combine. Add remaining ingredients and reserve.

When the cake has about 5-10 minutes left of baking (like when the toothpick had a few tacky crumbs stuck on it), remove from the oven and carefully spoon topping over the entire surface, being careful not to disrupt the cake. Return to the oven and bake for 5-8 minutes, or until the cake is cooked thru.

Remove from oven and run a knife around edge of cake, as if you were going to release it. Let cool for about 15-20 minutes, then carefully invert onto a plate and then invert again so that the almond topping is on top. Serve and enjoy!

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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Thai Celery Salad and the Importance of Fish Sauce

I've been making this Thai Celery Salad, courtesy of the good folks at Bon Appetit, for a few months now. It, as they say, is Super Good. There are just a handful of ingredients and they some together for a delightfully clean and crunchy side salad.

It's one of several menu items that contain fish sauce, a condiment I now always have on hand. In my early days experimenting with fish sauce I bought the small glass bottles produced by Thai Kitchen. Now that I use it more frequently (fish sauce also goes into my Cauliflower Curry and Pad Thai) I've graduated to larger bottles sourced in the Thai market on Broadway or in the well-stocked isles of Treasure Island. Lately I've been using Tiparos which comes in a plastic bottle, but I prefer big glass bottles, tho lately they're hard to source.

I'm going to lose some of you here with this fact: Fish sauce is anchovy. And yes, I'm a huge fan of the anchovy, but I really don't think that drives my fondness for the sauce. It's an integral flavor in Thai cooking, and one almost singlehandedly makes whatever you're preparing taste like Thai food. What I'm saying is this, if you like Thai food and are interesting in adding some Thai recipes to your repertoire - don't let being an Anchovy Hater hold you back. Here's that recipe:

6-8 stalks celery, trimmed, washed and sliced on a diagonal 3 green onions, thinly sliced on a diagonal
1 cup cilantro, chopped
3 T canola oil
2 T lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 T fish sauce
Fresh ground pepper 1/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped

Chop celery, green onion and cilantro and add to a small mixing bowl. Add fish sauce, lime juice, canola oil and a few turns of pepper and mix to combine. Let sit about 15 minutes to marinate. Transfer to a serving bowl. Top with chopped peanuts and serve.

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