Entries from February 10th, 2006

Sugar High Friday #16: Strawberry Rose Cakelets

February 10th, 2006 · 6 Comments · Cakes, Recipes

Strawberry_rose_cakelets

When I saw the theme for this month’s SHF, strawberries immediately popped into my mind.  Whether piled sweetly and innocently next to a bowl of cream or sprawled naughtily besides chocolates and champagne, strawberries almost demand to be eaten sensually.  While there are many recipes involving whole strawberries, I wanted to see if there was one that incorporated strawberries more wholly, especially given that February is not quite strawberry season yet.

When my sweetie gave me this early Valentine’s Day gift it all came together. Williams-Sonoma calls it a "Sweetheart Rose Cakelet Pan" – I can’t decide if the word "cakelet" is completely redundant in light of the perfectly cute "cupcake", or if it will eventually grow on me.  Regardless, twelve little rosebud-shaped cakes…filled with strawberry frosting…sounded like a plan!

Actually, flavoring the cakes strawberry is quite appropriate because strawberries are a member of the rose family.  And roses and strawberries are among the most recognizable of aphrodisiacs.  Some interesting facts I found:

  • The strawberry was a symbol for Venus, the goddess of love, because of its heart shape and red color.
  • There are approximately 200 seeds in the average strawberry.
  • If you find a double strawberry, break it in half and share it with someone of the opposite sex. According to legend you will soon fall in love with each other.
  • In provincial France, newlyweds were often served a strawberry soup made from sour cream, strawberries, and borage.
  • The color, shape, and of course scent of roses is intertwined with love.
  • Cleopatra scented the sails of her famous barge with the essence of Damascene rose and it announced her arrival over the water long before she could be seen.
  • I adapted a recipe found on the card with cakelet pan  – it resulted in a dense, moist cake – like a fluffier version of pound cake.  I used thawed frozen strawberries – the fresh ones at the store not really looking all that fresh – adding in the strawberries gave the batter a wonderful, delicate pink color and made it smell heavenly!  After baking the cakes were of course browned on the outside but still prettily pink inside.

    I made a strawberry buttercream to pipe inside the cakes.  However, I think the added water from the strawberries made it runnier than usual.  The result stayed quite soft even after a night in the refrigerator, and while I was able to pipe it in through the bottom of the cakes, I think the cakes would have to be stored in the refrigerator to prevent the buttercream from melting.  I did like the combination of the cake and buttercream though; the buttercream had a sweet and straightforward strawberry taste that accented the more subtle strawberry hints in the cakes.

    I finished the dessert off with a strawberry-rose coulis, really just a combination of strawberries, sugar, and rose syrup.  Rose syrup is thicker and more intense than rose water, and gave the sauce a tang that went really well with the cake.

    Strawberries and roses – just in time for Valentine’s Day!

    Strawberry Cakelets

    adapted from Williams-Sonoma

    1 1/2 cups flour

    1 tsp. baking powder

    1/4 tsp. salt

    1/3 cup milk

    1 tsp vanilla extract

    8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature

    1 cup sugar

    2 eggs, separated, at room temperature

    About 12 strawberries, cut up

    Note: You could make this just as easily in a regular muffin pan; the recipe yields enough for a regular 12 cup.  In fact, the next time I do this I might use a more cupcake-y type recipe…

    Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 12 cup bundt or muffin pan.

    Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Combine the milk and vanilla in a second bowl.

    In the electric mixer, combine the butter and 3/4 cup of the sugar and beat until fluffy, stopping the bowl occasionally to scrape down the sides. Add the egg yolks one at a time.

    Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture.  Beat each addition just until incorporated and scrape the bowl sides down as necessary. Add in the strawberries and beat until just combined.

    If you don’t have a second mixer bowl, scrape the batter out into a bowl and wash and dry the mixer bowl.  Put in the egg whites and beat them in the mixer with the whisk attachment until stiff peaks form; add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and mix until combined.

    Gently fold the egg white mixture into the batter until just combined.  Divide the batter among the pan cups and bake until tops are golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.

    Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for about 10 minutes before inverting cakes out to let cool completely.

    Strawberry Buttercream

    1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature

    1/4 cup milk

    3/4 cup sugar

    5 egg yolks

    2 tsp vanilla extract

    About 9 strawberries, cut up

    Beat the butter in a mixer bowl with the paddle until it is soft and the consistency of mayonnaise, not melted.  Transfer to another bowl and wash and dry the mixer bowl.

    In a saucepan, heat the milk and 1/4 cup sugar until small bubbles appear around the edges.

    In the mixer, beat the egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar together with the whisk until pale and thick.  Reduce speed to low and add the hot milk mixture, then pour the entire mix back into the saucepan and return to stove. Wash and dry the mixer bowl.

    Heat the egg mixture until it reads 170 degrees F on the thermometer, then transfer the egg mixture back to the mixture bowl and whisk until cool, about 10 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.  Beat in the butter in four additions. Add the strawberries and mix until combined.

    Note: If the buttercream seems to curdle, you can try to fix it by running a kitchen torch around the side while it is mixing to heat up and melt some of the components – let it keep whipping and it will eventually come together.  Or, it has turned into a soup, let it chill in the refrigerator to let it solidify before you re-whip it.  I’ve had buttercream break on me before but it usually can be saved!

    Spoon the buttercream into a pastry cream and pipe into the strawberry cakes.  You may need to cut out a "plug" from the cake so you can fill it and then cover it up.

    Strawberry-Rose Coulis

    6 strawberries

    Sugar to taste

    2 Tbsp rose syrup (can be found at Indian groceries)

    Put strawberries in food processor and puree into sauce.  Add sugar to taste, and about 2 Tbsp of rose syrup (I didn’t measure, add to your taste).

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    Bittersweet Chocolate Cafe

    February 3rd, 2006 · No Comments · Chocolate, Sweet Spots

    Tucked away on College Avenue in Rockridge,Oakland is Bittersweet, a rustic little cafe devoted entirely to chocolate.  The first time I stumbled onto this place was when I was going to dinner at the wonderful Soi 4 Thai restaurant next door (the particular stretch of College Avenue around Rockridge boasts a marvelous conglomeration of eccentric boutiques, cozy eateries, and unique little shops like Bittersweet – making for a wonderful stroll on lazy Sunday mornings) and saw this sign dangling temptingly before my eyes:

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    Inside your eyes are immediately drawn to the racks on the right wall, filled with dozens of colorful little rectangles that look like books – but are actually bars of chocolate from around the world.  The founders of Bittersweet Cafe have made it their mission to introduce the US to chocolate life beyond Hershey’s, See’s, and even Scharffen Berger.  There is a dazzlingly array of brands and types of bars from all over the globe, from Cluziel to Amedei to Pralus, as well as some wonderful US-made creations like Dagoba and Vosges.  There are super-dark-bitter varieties for the purist, milk and white confections, and most exciting for me, a rainbow of "concept-type" bars.

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    While I am usually not a big fan of nuts, fruit, and other bits in my chocolate, some recent tastings have led me to partially reconsider.  Chocolate makers are infusing their bars with some intriguing and unexpected flavors and essences that make you reconsider what chocolate should – or can- taste like.  Dagoba’s Xocalatl (74% cocoa)is a spirited take on the increasingly popular chili-and-chocolate combo: the bar starts with a creamy vanilla and nutmeg overtones and it isn’t until you’re about to swallow that the spice kicks in – a pleasant parting fillip. I also love NewTree‘s Renew Dark Chocolate (73% cocoa) – it’s flavored with blackcurrant and grape and taste wonderfully of berries. There are so many to try at Bittersweet – return visits are a given! On my last visit I picked up a box of Fran‘s Gray Sea Salt Caramels – sweet buttery caramel in dark chocolate, topped with sea salt from Brittany. The caramel is chewy-soft, and mixes perfectly with the tang of the salt.

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    Bittersweet Cafe also offers cute little chocolates and cupcakes, and they serve coffee and chocolate drinks – what’s a cafe without drinks?  I am most fond of their Classic – a big cup of hot, dark chocolate with some milk mixed in.  Their Bittersweet, which is supposed to be all chocolate, is just too thick and bitter for me – I guess I’m not as hard-core a chocoholic as I thought!

    This little slice of chocolate heaven is just one more reason for me to frequent College Avenue.  However, for those San Francisco city folk who refuse to make the trip across to Oakland, a Bittersweet Cafe has opened up on Fillmore – no reason now not to get your chocolate fix!

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