A Childhood Dream Revisited — the BFG V2.0 (pg.143)

As a child, every time cake was mentioned (usually during a conversation about what to have for special occasion X), I would pipe in


and my mom would reply kinda like

ew. No.

So then I’d probably make a face and cross my arms and pout about how dumb it was to not want anything called Black Forest Cake.

I mean really, to a child (and especially a twisted one), the words BLACK and FOREST together conjured up the most wonderful images, specifically involving shrubs and trees alike, all black, and probably some roving ROUSes (rodents of unusual size). I didn’t care about the chocolate or the cherries. I likely neglected to notice the presence of whipped cream. All I wanted was a cake. From a forest absent of colour. I also really liked to order the ham, but this post isn’t about swine.

The Black Forest Gâteau was invented in the 16th Century in the Black Forest region of Germany. The area abounds with sour cherries, and the locals distill the cherries into a clear brandy they call Kirschwasser. The cake itself is traditionally a lot like this:

So exciting!

In school I was stoked to make this cake, because man oh man did I want to show my parents how tasty this thing could be. This is what I made:

Now that I am a grown-up and I know there are no forests made of coal, no ROUSes, that Get Smart was really racist, I understand that BFG isn’t all its name is cracked up to be, that it’s pretty boring and too often made with Maraschino cherries, waxy chocolate, and whipped topping.

Wait, I forgot!

Why do I keep calling the Black Forest Cake a BFG?

Technically, it is a Gâteau. Sure it’s a French term, but the French have their ways for a reason; although the English to French translation of cake becomes gâteau, which the English use liberally and without purpose, there is more to it. The French use the word cake. Weird, eh? I didn’t see that coming either. A cake is, well, cake, but gâteau is cake with flair, gusto, joie de vivre!

Let’s look at a drawing, since I kind of like those:

My favourite Chef from school summed it up much more simply than that drawing: A cake goes on the counter, a gâteau goes in the fridge. Because a Black Forest cake is smothered in whipped cream, it is really a gâteau, as some very unpleasant things happen to whipping cream when left on the counter.

However, I will note that this particular version is more of an Entremet.

Maybe I’ll bore you with the definition of an Entremet another time?


Devil’s Food Cake

Chocolate Mousse

Vanilla Chantilly Cream (whipped cream with a touch of sugar and vanilla)

Cherry Compote

Start by baking a chocolate cake. I know this sounds Sandra Lee instructions, but I still haven’t found one I like, so until I do you’re on your own. The closest I ever managed was a gluten-free/vegan cupcake I doctored that actually made me happy. I find the recipe for Devil’s food suggested is…boring. I’ve tried it now four times, and have been disappointed each time. I also find it is very easy to overmix, as I have overmixed the batters 50% of the time.

The Mousse though, is fucking lovely. I recommend it for most of your special occasions.

Dark Chocolate Mousse pg. 147

200g Eggs

58g Sugar

250g Chopped Dark Chocolate (64%)

Heavy Cream, whipped Medium peaks and chilled

Prepare a Bain Marie for sabayon – Whisk eggs and sugar over double boiler until 60 degrees Celsius (140F). Whip by hand or in a mixer until 35C and ribbony. Melt chocolate over hot water bath or in microwave and cool to 35C. Strain the eggs over the chocolate and whisk until homogeneous (will be thick). Start by folding half the cream into the chocolate mix, then incorporate the rest. Fill piping bag with mousse.

With the cherries, I picked up a compote of Montmorency Cherries, loosened it over heat by adding half a cup of water and some lemon juice to cut the sweetness, along with a couple glugs of Heerings Cherry Liqueur.

The vanilla chantilly is as mentioned above, slightly sweetened whipped cream with vanilla, spread on a saran lined tray, frozen, and trimmed to the size of the cake layers.  I used some left-over mousse and cream to create mounds for my forest landscape, then froze it overnight.

I finished it all up with my fav, the chocolate spray-gun, chocolate trees, and cause it’s Valentine’s Day (okay, no, because I needed some colour and visual excitement), teeny gold hearts and red sugar flakes.

I like the landscape look — I’ve been ruminating over this for many years, but this is my first execution. I think I’ll work on it some more. This isn’t perfect, but it is a good start.

Here I threw together a plated version, cheese-y tree and all. I left it “deconstructed” despite my hatred for that cliché term, only because I had to use this bowl for something. And quite frankly, often desserts must be designed around the dish available to serve it on. Oh well.

Things that start with M. Madeleines and Muffins (pgs. 88 & 90)

I’ve been putting off the Muffin post for a while now, desperately wanting to come up with something interesting to say about muffins.

I don’t really care for muffins. That’s not to say I haven’t eaten my fair share, but how many of those muffins did I enjoy? Few.

What’s the difference between a muffin and a cupcake?

Frills? This would have been easier to answer in the ‘80s when muffins had giant crowns, were flavoured with blueberries, bran, or chocolate chips, and cupcakes were only available in chocolate or vanilla and hardly ever contained bits. Now, the line between the two is almost blurred since muffins are now sweeter and people (including myself) are loading cupcakes with all kinds of bits sweet and savoury.  And considering the muffins in The Modern Café, which are very sweet and glazed (!), I can now only assume the difference is the mixing method.

Where did they originate?

The Joy of Cooking, with it’s often tremendously elaborate descriptions and histories, let me down with a simple, almost curt explanation of a quick bread and the mixing method. On Food and Cooking had a brief distinction between the two batter types (thin and thick) and why muffins turn blue (too much baking soda/powder) but doesn’t offer a fix without reducing the leavening (more acid). My last resort (Wikipedia) implied a vague American origin, despite the word being British, and then described them as fitting “in to the palm of an adult hand” and “to be consumed by an individual in a single sitting.” Not useful.

But wait, What’s a Madeleine?

A cake that is eaten like a cookie. Yeah, confusing. Larousse Gastronomique says the Madeleine was created by Chef Avice who worked for Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1st PM of France). I guess he decided, probably because he had some sponge batter left over, to pipe it into aspic moulds. But it also says that the cake could go as far back as 1755, where a peasant woman in the town of Commercy baked the cakes for the Duke and…he loved them.  End of story.

I won’t hide my surprise when I read both of these recipes. The pumpkin muffins are glazed (again, !) and packed with sugar, and the Madeleines are…a pound cake?!

Madeleines are made with eggs whipped well with sugar or honey, a dash of milk, folding in of the flour, and finished with some melted butter. Sure the flavour occasionally varies; usually it contains lemon and/or orange zest, vanilla or orange blossom water. Some people make chocolate madeleines. Variances I don’t much mind, but I was uncomfortable making them with a pound cake method, because it goes against what is French tradition, but also (perhaps more so) that I am bad at making pound cake. It’s not funny and I don’t want to get into it.

And so I followed the instructions, I made the pound cake as carefully as I could, but as always, half way through the egg additions, the batter broke, I became furious, and I started to plan the next batch of proper Madeleines.

I had some cherries lying around waiting to be included in a Black Forest cake, so I looked up Cherry in The Flavour Thesaurus.  Niki Segnit, under the suggestion of Cherry & Coffee made a direct reference to the abundance of cherry pie and cups of coffee Agent Dale Cooper consumed through the two seasons of Twin Peaks and I fell in love with her instantly.  Then I dumped coffee grinds into the madeleine dry mix. The addition of coffee was somewhat satisfying, since a search for Madeleines will always, inevitably, come with two words: Proust and Tea.  Feel free to replace the coffee with Chai or matcha if coffee doesn’t course through your veins.

Cherry and Coffee Madeleines

130g Sugar

2 Eggs

35ml Milk (room temp)

160g Flour

7g Baking Powder

85g Butter (melted & cooled)

50g Dried Sour Cherries (chopped)

5g Coffee (medium grind)

8g Cherry liqueur

Icing sugar

Extra milk

Oven at 400F for conventional, 375F for convection.

Melt butter. I added some extra coffee to infuse for a richer flavour, but that step is up to you. Whisk eggs and sugar until fluffy and white, add milk. Sift together flour and baking powder, then add cherries and coffee grinds and give it a toss. Stir into the egg mixture until just incorporated. Spoon out some batter and whisk into the butter, then fold the butter into the batter. Chill the mixture for at least 1 hour, then pipe or spoon into the shell mould (if you have a tin, which will give you a crisper shell, more moist interior, and an even browning, have it buttered and floured twice — a silicone mould doesn’t require this step). Be sure to fill the moulds just over 3/4 of the way, or they won’t rise properly. Bake until done, between 7 and 15 minutes.

Traditionally they are dusted with Icing Sugar, but after reading David Lebovitz raving about the blé sucré Madeleines, I decided to glaze them with the cherry liqueur, which turned out to be a delicious idea*

Pumpkin Muffins (Without Cranberry Glaze) Adapted from The Modern Café pg.90

3 Eggs

125g Canola Oil

330g Pumpkin Purée

7g Baking Soda

349g Flour (Gluten Free: 40g Teff, 85g Brown Rice, 105g Potato Starch, 95g Tapioca, 1tsp Xantam Gum)

5g Cinnamon

3g Nutmeg, Clove, Allspice

300g Sugar

Whisk eggs, emulsify with Canola Oil by drizzling oil in while whisking, add pumpkin purée.  Sift flours, b.soda, and spices, then add sugar and gently whisk into liquid until almost combined (can be a bit lumpy or streaked). Bake at 350 in a preheated oven. Makes 9-12 muffins, depending on the size.

This recipe is great. I’ve made these several times, kept the batter in the fridge and baked one off in the morning, which only takes 15-20 minutes. I usually fold in some diced apples, either raw or quickly browned in a dab of butter in a hot frying pan. For these photos, I gave them a light drizzle of caramel, but a streusel of equal parts butter, flour, sugar, and oats adds texture.

I tried the glaze. The glaze and I did not get along, as it is made mostly of icing sugar and I don’t like my food to taste like sweet starch. Also, I don’t think muffins should be glazed, but that’s me. If you want to glaze them, sift some icing sugar (like, 2 cups), and add cranberry juice, a tablespoon or so at a time, while whisking. The glaze should be loose but thick enough to coat your finger.

*Generally, if I decide to do something like this, which is to say add a sweet component to something that is already sweet, I reduce the sugar. I found these were plenty sweet when I gave the sponge only 100g of sugar and left the rest to the coating. I will never serve Madeleines without a glaze again — when glazed just out of the oven, the moisture is locked into the cake, a bonus considering how quickly these dry out.

Chocolate Chunk Cookie Tangent.

I already covered Migoya’s cookies, which were very good — soft on the inside, crisp on the outside, like a French baguette.

When I was in Toronto in November, I was sucked in to William-Sonoma, which we don’t have where I live, I’m sure that’s for the best.  I had heard very positive reviews online about Thomas Kellar’s line of Bouchon Gluten-free products.  They sell regular mixes as well as the gluten-free variety which is made with their Cup-4-Cup flour.  While tasting the Ad Hoc chocolate frosting was tempting ($29 for enough to frost one 9” cake, Yowza)

I bought the cookie mix instead ($29 for twelve cookies and I supply the butter and egg — at least it came with Callebaut chocolate).

I’ve been staring at the box, wondering how they would taste, waiting for the perfect time to make them.  I had a week off between xmas and new years, and I needed a serious break, so I promised myself I would not make anything for a week.  My therapist’s response to this was: Why would you do that to yourself? Um, is she enabling me? Anyway, not baking was difficult but I had the entire Six Feet Under series to keep me preoccupied.  This is the first time in at least 3 years I’ve gone more than 3 days without baking.  It’s also been the first time in 9 years I have had vacation time and not gone anywhere.  Sitting around, “relaxing” is not my strong suit, but apparently when I’m bound and determined, I can squeeze 56 hours of quality HBO programming into one week of gymming and socializing.

Anyway, I made these as a baby step back into, you know, the thing that encompasses my life.

This is what I saw when I opened the box:

This is about as unromantic as homemade cookies can get.  I should have looked in the box when I got it, so I could have known if I payed for chocolate that had already melted down and regenerated into a bag of bloomy crumble. It’s winter, a warm one yes, but I didn’t store the cookie mix on my heater.  Disappointment #1.

I chopped up some 55% chocolate and used that instead, I wanted Chocolate Chunk cookies, not Chocolate Crumbs and Flecks cookies.

I looked at the ingredients.  They used soybean oil to keep the sugar soft.

The flour mix contains: Rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, potato flour, tapioca starch, milk powder, vanilla powder, baking soda.

The addition of the milk powder really brings out the buttery flavour of the dough, and helps to add moisture. However… my palate is not particularly fabu, but I do tend to be overly sensitive to some ingredients, the two big ones are baking powder and milk powder (because of this sensitivity, I do not understand why people love Crack Pie; tastes like Milk Powder Pie to me). I found these cookies were gross raw (not something I look for in a cookie) and baked had a very subtle aftertaste due to the inclusion of milk powder. However, the more cookies I consumed, the less I noticed the off taste.

The first time I baked them, they did not look like the box photo:

The instructions indicate to chill for 30 minutes, which I did. But when I chilled them for 5 days (since my disappointment lead me to wrap the dough I didn’t bake and throw them into the pastry cemetery that is my fridge), they came out like this:

I prefer the latter.

My first reaction was that they weren’t bad.  I didn’t care for how sweet they were, but the fact that the chocolate it came with was a combo of 55% and 70% would have balanced the sweetness out a bit. The texture was nice.  Not grainy, not starchy. And the guests I had that prompted me to bake the last of the dough couldn’t tell they were gluten-free.

Yes, these were very good. However, they cost about $2.80 each (not including the cost of replacing the useless chocolate) to make, which is crazy expensive. But I don’t blame Thomas Kellar for that.