Welcome to the February Cookbook Review. This month I am featuring "Rose's Heavenly Cakes" by Rose Levy Beranbaum.
I am a big fan of Rose Levy Beranbaum. She was my first professional pastry mentor; I have mentioned in a previous post that I made my sister's wedding cake by following Rose's impeccable recipes and instructions in "The Cake Bible". Ms. Beranbaum is the author of nine cookbooks, several of them award-winners, and she is a contributor to numerous food and life-style magazines. This most recent book is another masterpiece. There are one hundred recipes in total, all with beautiful photographs, and Rose's signature instructional style. The book is organized as follows: Rose's Rules of Cake Baking, Butter and Oil Cakes, Sponge Cakes, Mostly Flourless Cakes and Cheesecakes, Baby Cakes, and Wedding Cakes. This is followed at the last by numerous pages of additional hints and advice about technique, ingredients, and equipment( along with sources for each of these). Each recipe is presented in volume, weight and metric measures. The instructions are clear and concise, almost like the author is standing next to you as you work. At the end of many of these wonderful recipes is a segment called "Highlights for Success". These hints describe how one can make modifications or substitutions within the recipe and still achieve a successful outcome. What I appreciate from this volume is how Ms. Beranbaum has adapted some of her signature recipes from "The Cake Bible", and made them smaller and simpler to execute. Sometimes all you need is a single cake layer, frosted judiciously, to serve a smaller group. There is a chocolate streusel coffee cake that can be baked in a small (six cup) bundt pan or made into a dozen cupcakes. The Golden Lemon Almond Cake can be made in either a ten cup or six cup bundt pan (Rose refers to the smaller cake as "Golden Gift Lemon Almond Cake). In the section called "Baby Cakes" there are cupcakes, individual pound cakes, whoopie pies, and a dazzling rendition of Boston cream pie in a cocktail glass dubbed "The Bostini". If you love to bake, give this book a place in your collection, you won't regret it.
Apple Upside-Down Cake from "Rose's Heavenly Cakes"
serves 8 to10
Baking Time: 35 to 45 minutes
Apple and Walnut Topping
1 1/4 pounds apples(about 2 large), peeled, cored, and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
2/3 cup walnut halves
Special Equipment: One 9 by 2-inch cake pan, encircled with a cake strip**, bottom coated with shortening, topped with a parchment round.
Preheat the Oven: Twenty minutes or more before baking, set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
Make the Apple Topping: In a medium bowl, toss together the apples, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 1/2 hours. Drain the apples, reserving their liquid. In a small heavy saucepan, preferably nonstick, melt the butter. Use about 1 tablespoon to coat the parchment-lined bottom and sides of the cake pan. Add the remaining brown sugar and the reserved liquid that has drained from the apples to the butter remaining in the saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a light-colored silicone spatula, then stop stirring, but leave the spatula in place to judge the color, and simmer for about 3 minutes, until bubbling thickly and deep amber in color. Pour this mixture (do not scrape) into the prepared cake pan, tilting to coat the entire bottom. Don't worry if the mixture hardens; it will melt during baking. Place the apple slices, overlapping slightly, on the bottom and around the sides of the pan. Set aside.
Toast the Walnuts: Spread the walnuts evenly on a baking sheet and bake for about 7 minutes to enhance their flavor. Stir once or twice to ensure even toasting and avoid over-browning. Cool completely. Chop coarsely and set aside.
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, divided
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
3/4 cup superfine sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, (65 to 75F/19 to 23C)
Mix the liquid ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk the yolks, 2 tablespoons of the sour cream, and the vanilla just until combined.
Make the Batter: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt on low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and the remaining sour cream. Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened. Raise the speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Starting on medium-low speed, gradually add the egg mixture to the batter in two parts, beating on medium speed for 30 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredients and strengthen the structure. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Using a silicone spatula, drop the batter in big blobs on top of the apples. Then smooth the surface evenly with a small offset spatula while keeping the apples in an attractive pattern.
Bake the Cake: Place the pan in the oven. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown, a wire cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.
Unmold and Cool the Cake: Run a small metal spatula between the sides of the pan and the cake, pressing firmly against the side of the pan, and invert the cake at once onto a serving plate. Leave the pan in place for 1 to 2 minutes before lifting it off. If any apple slices have stuck to the pan, use a small metal spatula to place them back on the cake. Scatter the toasted walnuts on top. Serve warm or at room temperature. Rose suggests a bourbon-flavored whipped cream as an accompaniment. We like dulce de leche ice cream.
**Cake strips are strips of oven mitt-like material that are moistened with water and wrapped around the outside of the pan. (You can see one in the picture above of the cake pan full of apples). I use Magi-Cake strips, which I have owned for many years. The strips insulate the sides of the pan so that the oven heat penetrates more evenly, resulting in a cake with a less domed top. This makes stacking and decorating cake layers much easier; you do not have to trim the domed tops, which often results in crumbs finding their way into the frosting. Rose has developed a silicone version of the cake strip. They are sold by La Prima Shops. If you want to find out more about Rose she writes a blog; visit her at realbakingwithrose.com.
Just in time for the end of January: the first monthly cookbook review at Devil's Food Advocate. Today I am featuring "Tender: a cook and his vegetable patch" by Nigel Slater. Mr. Slater is a British writer and author of such classics as "The Kitchen Diaries", "Eating for England", "Toast", and "Real Fast Food". He has written a column for The Observer for seventeen years. "Tender" is the story of the garden that Mr. Slater imagined, designed, and built in the back yard of his London home. It is a large book, just over six hundred pages, and beautifully illustrated. In the introduction the author goes into loving detail as to how he made his vision come to life, complete with photos of a very orderly raised-bed garden. There is information about soil, seeds, composting, pest control, and garden tools. The book is arranged alphabetically, beginning with asparagus and ending with zucchini. Each entry follows an orderly progression; for example beets: first, a photo and a story, then "a beet in the garden", which describes the planting and growing , followed by "varieties", and on to "a beet in the kitchen". This is a description of the many ways to use beets. Then it's on to "seasoning your beets" for a list of beet-friendly accompaniments. Next is "And", more information about cooking, serving, and enjoying beets. Finally come the recipes, some with additional photographs, all written in the author's friendly, easy-going style. It is one of the most comprehensive vegetable cookbooks I have ever read. We have enjoyed all three of the recipes I've cooked so far and I know I will be coming back to this book again and again. I highly recommend "Peppers with Pork and Rosemary", "A Casserole of Artichokes and Pork for Deepest Winter" (made with Jerusalem artichokes), and "Lentil Soup with Lemon, Pancetta, and Mint". As for sweets, I do intend to try "An Extremely Moist Chocolate-Beet Cake". But for now here is the recipe for the previously mentioned lentil soup.
Lentil Soup with Lemon, Pancetta, and Mint from "Tender" by Nigel Slater
enough for 4
onions-2 small or 1 large
garlic-3 or 4 cloves, sliced
unsmoked bacon or pancetta- a good handful, diced
flat-leaf parsley- a small bunch
French or Castellucio lentils- 1 1/4 cups (250 g)
stock or, at a push, water- 4 cups (a liter)
spinach- 2 large handfuls
mint- a small bunch, leaves torn
Peel the onions and chop them finely, cook them over medium to low heat with a little olive oil, the sliced garlic, and the diced bacon. It should all be golden and fragrant. Chop the parsley and stir it in. Wash the lentils thoroughly, then stir them into the onions and bacon. Pour over the stock or water and bring to a boil, skimming off any froth that comes to the surface. You can add a bay leaf or two if you like. Decrease the heat so that the lentils simmer merrily, then almost cover the pot with a lid and leave them until they are tender but far from collapse- about thirty minutes, depending on your lentils. Wash the spinach thoroughly and tear it up a bit. While it is still wet and dripping, put it into a shallow pan over high heat and shut the lid tightly- you need to cook it in its own steam. After a minute or two it will be limp and bright emerald green. Lift it out, squeeze it dry, then divide it among four warm bowls. Season the soup with salt, black pepper, lemon juice, and the torn mint leaves, tasting as you go. Ladle the hot soup on top of the spinach and serve with more lemon and mint for those who want it.
This is a satisfying soup in that it has the mellowness of the onions, the meatiness of the bacon and the bright flavors of the lemon and mint. It is a perfect dinner for a chilly winter night. Here are more images from "Tender".
**The recipes in the American edition of the book have been published in familiar measurements, as well as metric measures. Also, in the vegetable varieties section, "U.S.-friendly cultivars are denoted with asterisks".