Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A fond farewell to the blueberries....

I guess the blueberries have been going strong for more than a month now, but still, I am sad to see the end of the run! I wanted to create a big blueberry finale, so I bought what will probably be my last pint for the season while at Samascott Orchards in Kinderhook, NY the weekend before last. Cyd had been bugging me to try to replicate the fantastic blueberry torte that she had from Rainbow Sweets last year in Marshfield, VT. I think the cake turned out well enough, though not exactly like the prototype, I'll admit.

The torte at Rainbow Sweets, as best as we both could remember and/or tell from the picture, was one split cake layer filled and topped with pastry cream, with whipped cream on top of that, and then TONS of fresh, juicy blueberries to garnish. So I started with a basic (white) genoise from baking god, Nick Malgieri's definitive How to Bake. It came together easily and baked up beautifully; it was fluffy and tall, with an even texture and perfect golden brown color. However, it was nearly twice as high and airier than the cake at Rainbow Sweets. I was also worried that it was going to be on the dry side, as the cake had no fats in it, other than additional egg yolks. So I decided since it was a sponge cake after all (sing it: "It's a sponge cake after all, it's a sponge cake after all, it's a sponge cake after all, it's a spongy, spongy cake!") that I might do well to soak it with a simple syrup before layering on the pastry cream. And even though the original cake had only vanilla flavors (which Cyd prefers, truth be told), that a lemony syrup might be just the ticket. I LOVE lemon and blueberry together--they're MFEO (movie reference anyone?). So that's what I did, but I still found it a bit too dry for my liking, though I should tell you that it definitely improved with an additional day of rest in the fridge. Still, next time, I will try a different cake recipe, something denser with butter in it, I feel, and then perhaps no need for the simple syrup. I must consult with some of my cake-baking mentors. (Keith, you reading this? Jen, my Bakerina, any ideas?) Or maybe I'll ask one of my colleagues at school in the Financial Aid Office who makes professional-level cakes on the side. (Keri, you there? Holla!)

I also used Malgieri's pastry cream recipe which was very good. The only change I made was to add an additional teaspoon of vanilla bean paste to fleck the custard with vanilla seeds...so pretty! Then, I frosted the whole shebang with whipped cream (mind you, Mr. Rainbow Sweets only put cream on the top and left the sides of his cake bare--ppphhhffft!). Now I knew we couldn't eat the whole big cake by ourselves, so I gave nearly half of it away to my trivia team, as I am wont to do. But I knew it was still going to sit in the fridge for a few days, so I chose a recipe for a stabilized whipped cream that would also work better for piping. Most stabilized whipped creams use plain gelatin to give them more body, but the recipe I used has start by cooking some of the cream with corn starch until thickened, and then whipping that mixture with the rest of the cream. Worked great, tasted great, and it is a technique I anticipate using often in the future. Finally, I dumped most of the berries on top of the cake for dramatic effect and a few around the bottom to give it a finished look, and that was it. When I make this again, I think I would prefer to put some of the berries in the middle layer of the cake, but I was trying to replicate the Rainbow Sweets version, so I put them all on top this time. Of course, you can do as you like if you choose to attempt this confection. Here's what the cake looked like when cut, and as always, the recipes follow. If you still have access to blueberries where you live, get 'em before they're gone for good (well, at least until next year...sniff)!

Plain or White Genoise
(Source: Nick Malgieri's
How to Bake)

1/2 cup cake flour
1/4 cup corn starch
3 eggs
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
pinch salt
optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment or waxed paper.

Combine the flour and cornstarch in a bowl. Sift once and set aside. Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to the simmer. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs and yolks. Stream in the sugar and then the salt. Place over the simmering water and heat, whisking frequently, until just lukewarm. Take off the heat and whip by machine on high speed until it triples in volume and forms a ribbon when the whip is lifted. (Beat in the vanilla if using.)

Sift 1/3 of the flour mixture over the whipped eggs and fold in gently. Repeat twice more. Gently pour into prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula.

Bake about 25 minutes or until firm and golden. Using a knife to loosen the sides, unmold immediately onto a rack and re-invert so it's right-side up. Peel the paper off when cool. Then for the blueberry torte, use a large serrated knife to split the cake into two even layers.

Very Lemony Simple Syrup

6 tablespoons granulated sugar
juice of 3 lemons
6 tablespoons water

Bring the ingredients to a boil for two minutes (I throw the rinds in there, too, for good measure), stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and becomes syrupy. Remove from heat, fish out the lemon rinds and discard, and then cool the syrup. Using a pastry brush, liberally soak both cut halves of the cake with every last bit of the syrup.

Pastry Cream
(Source: Nick Malgiere's
How to Bake)

2 cups milk
2/3 cup sugar, divided
6 egg yolks
3 cup flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I added one more teaspoon of vanilla bean paste--never too much vanilla!)

1. In a large saucepan. bring milk and half of the sugar to a boil over medium heat. In a mixing bowl whisk egg yolks, salt, and remaining sugar; sift in flour and whisk to combine.
2. Slowly whisk half of the boiling milk mixture into the egg mixture. Return remaining milk to a boil and slowly whisk in milk in egg and milk mixture. Continue to whisk, especially in the corners of the saucepan, until mixture thickens and comes to a boil. Once mixture boils, whisk 1 minute. Remove saucepan from heat.
3. Whisk in vanilla extract. Scrape pastry cream into a shallow glass or stainless steel bowl, press plastic wrap directly against the surface, and chill at least 1 hour.

Use a little more than half of the pastry cream between the two layers of cake, and the rest on top. Smooth evenly with a spatula.

Stabilized Whipped Cream
(Source: Rose Levy Beranbaum's
Cake Bible)

1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 cups cream (I used heavy cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Chill mixing bowl and beaters for at least 15 minutes, preferably in the freezer. In a small sauce pan, combine the powdered sugar and corn starch and gradually stir in 1/2 cup of the cream. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and simmer for just a few seconds (until the liquid is thickened like pudding). Scrape mixture into a small bowl and cool to room temperature. Add the vanilla.*

Beat the remaining 1 1/2 cups cream just until traces of the beater marks begin to show distinctly. Add the cooled corn starch mixture and continue beating until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised.

**Make sure the cornstarch mixture is cooled completely ( to room temp.) before adding to the whipped cream.

Use the stabilized whipped cream to frost the top (carefully over the pastry cream!) and sides of the cake, then garnish as you please with an entire lovely pint of the summer's best blueberries. Chill thoroughly before slicing and serving.

1 comment:

Randi said...

That is a gorgeous cake!!