Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bouchon's Almond Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote

This dessert was part of our Cooking Keller Concert in the Park Menu (see previous post, here) last Sunday, but that post was filled to the brim with our 11-course picnic and I was running out of room to share this recipe.  

These almond cakes can be served with almost any kind of compote or fruit, depending on the season.  The cakes can be stored, well-wrapped, for up to two days, and the compote will keep for at least a week.  Leftover compote is wonderful spooned over yogurt for breakfast, over ice cream as another dessert, or simply eaten by the spoonful!

Almond Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote
[Gâteau aux Amandes, Compote de Fraises et de Rhubarbe]
Adapted from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon

For the compote (makes about 4 cups)

1 pound strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed
1 lemon
3/4 cup granulated sugar

For the almond cake

Butter and flour for the pan(s)
7 ounces almond paste
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
2 tablespoons honey
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons amaretto, plus additional for brushing
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
Kosher salt


1/3 to 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Confectioners’ sugar
3/4 cup crème fraîche, whipped to soft peaks

Make the compote

1.  Select about 4 ounces of the smallest strawberries and cut lengthwise into quarters. These will be added raw to the cooked compote; set aside.

2.  Cut the remaining larger berries in halves or quarters so that the pieces are about the same size. (You should have about 2 1/2 cups.) Place them in a medium saucepan.

3.  With a paring knife, pull away and discard the strings that run the length of the rhubarb stalks. Cut the stalks into 3/4-inch pieces (you should have about 3 cups) and add to the saucepan.

4.  Use a fine grater or a Microplane to zest the lemon. Add 1 teaspoon of the zest to the pan. Squeeze 1 tablespoon of juice and add it to the pan. Add the sugar and stir to coat the fruit.

5.  Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. By the time the sugar has dissolved, the fruit will have released a lot of juice. Boil for about 4 minutes to reduce the liquid somewhat, then reduce the heat and simmer for another 2 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft. Don’t worry if some of the rhubarb falls apart.

6.  Take pan off the stove and stir in reserved strawberries. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in a covered container until cold.

Make the cake

Note:  I was unable to stretch the batter to fill 4 pans, and ended up making two batches to yield six cakes.  From the photo in Bouchon (showing one of the cakes and a pan in the background), it appears Keller's springform pans are more like 3-by-1 3/4 inches. 

1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). Butter and flour four 4-by-1 3/4-inch-high miniature springform pans or butter and flour the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan. If using the 8-inch pan, line its bottom with a circle of parchment paper; this isn’t necessary with the small pans.

2.  Place the almond paste and sugar in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in another large bowl if using a handheld mixer. Begin to cream the mixture on low speed to break up the almond paste, then increase the speed to medium for about 2 minutes, or until the paste is broken into fine particles.

3.  Add the butter and mix for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light in color and airy; stop the machine and scrape down the sides as necessary. It is important to mix long enough or the cake will have a dense texture.

4.  Mix in the honey, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until each one is fully incorporated before adding the next. Add the amaretto, flour, and a pinch of salt and mix just to combine.

5.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan(s) and smooth the top. Bake the small cakes for about 15 minutes, the large one for about 25 minutes, or until the cake is golden and springs back when pressed. Transfer to a rack to cool.  Note:  My small cakes took 20 minutes to bake.

6.  Unmold the small cakes or invert the large cake onto the rack, remove the parchment paper, and invert the cake again so that the top is once again facing upward. Brush the top of the cake(s) with amaretto and sprinkle with the toasted almonds. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.  (The large and small cakes can be stored, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 2 days.)

To serve, cut the small cakes in half or the large cake into wedges. Serve with a dollop of whipped crème fraîche and the strawberry-rhubarb compote (I used only the compote).

Oh!Nuts graciously supplied me with a pound of their Sliced Blanched Almonds.  They carry premium quality nuts, dried fruit, candy and chocolate.


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cooking Keller - Coronado Concerts in the Park

We had much to celebrate this past Sunday! Kai & Hillari have been married 12 years; it was a beautiful day at the park for the most popular summer concert of the season; and we were with friends who share our love of cooking, all culminating in an amazing Thomas Keller-inspired picnic and entertaining summer evening.

Kai reminded us it was two years ago to the day that he and Hill dined at The French Laundry in Napa for their 10th wedding anniversary. Most of us have a few of Keller's cookbooks, and it was definitely time for John and I to try a few more recipes from our complete collection.

Coronado Concert in the Park
"Cooking Keller" Menu

Cream of Cauliflower Soup with Red Beet Chips

Iceberg Lettuce Slices
with blue cheese dressing, oven-roasted tomatoes, bacon, and brioche croutons

Fall Salad, in Summer
Baby lettuce, leeks, Parmesan, Mango, Pine nuts, Prosciutto

Pork and Beans

Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs
with olives, lemon, and fennel

Creamed Baby Spinach

Potato Pavé

Chicken Pot Pie

Spanglish Sandwich

Almond Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote
Gateau Aux Amandes, Compote de Fraises et de Rubarbe

Apple Fritters

Entertainment by Rockola

My Cream of Cauliflower Soup, with Red and Golden Beet Chips, and Rustic Country Bread Croutons, from Ad Hoc at Home

John's Iceberg Lettuce Slices, Keller's gourmet version of Wedge Salad was wonderful with homemade blue cheese dressing, sweet oven-roasted tomatoes, bacon lardons, and brioche croutons. This recipe was also from Ad Hoc at Home, but Food & Wine has published a simplified version of the recipe, here

Brad popped in about noon, with a print out of Fall Salad, from Eating/sf blog, inquiring about persimmons and where to find them.  I saw the title of the recipe and commented that he may have a difficult time finding them during the summer.  We looked up substitutes, which included mango, so Bradley got to work on his Fall Salad, in summer. He proudly blanched his leeks and toasted his pine nuts - it was quite nice.

Kai planned ahead early in the week and ordered heirloom Borlotti beans for his dish from Keller's source, Rancho Gordo.  After tasting Kai's Pork & Beans, I now understand the all the fuss about these beans and I will be ordering some soon! Keller's Pork & Beans recipe was featured in the latest issue of Men's Journal.

Alec & Nina have been cooking quite a bit from their Ad Hoc at Home. Alec prepared Crispy Braised Chicken Thighs with Olives, Lemon and Fennel, and Nina complemented the dish with Creamed Spinach. Oh my!  I'm making this Chicken dish, pronto!  Carolyn Jung, over at Food Gal, describes this dish with such artful precision, I won't even attempt it!  She also provides the recipe.

Brandon is in town for a few weeks visiting Sparks, and he stepped right up to the plate with Potatoes Pave and Chicken Pot Pie.  

Jack and Sandra discovered the recipe for Keller's Spanglish, created for the movie of the same name, and presented a platter of at least a dozen Splanglish sandwiches! However, as J.J. Schnebel explains, Keller did not simply take a BLT sandwich and add cheese and a fried egg to it. It's all about the placement of the bacon and, of course, the egg must be just runny enough so that the yolk is almost a sauce spilling over and through the toasted pain de campagne bread. Schneble's article and the Spanglish recipe can be found here, but don't look at the calories and fat grams!

For dessert, mom commissioned me to prepare Almond Cake with Strawberry-Rhubarb Compote, from Bouchon.  I've created a second post, here, dedicated to these very almondy-Amaretto enhanced cakes, including the recipe.

Our second dessert, from Ad Hoc at Home, Dean's Apple Fritters

After dinner and dessert, we continued drinking wine, of course, and danced the night away...

Thomas Keller Cookbooks:

Links to a few other Thomas Keller recipes/links on There's a Newf in My Soup!

Ben & Jerry are Dressed to Impress in this Espresso & Cream Swiss Roll Ensemble - Quite the Bombe!

The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

For the Swiss Roll Cake, I adapted Chocolate & Zucchini's Matcha and Azuki Cake Roll, substituting espresso powder for the Matcha. I liked the look of Clotilde's Swiss Roll, and the fact that it called for Almond Butter (which I had left over from my Daring Cooks' Challenge). I increased the quantities of the ingredients by 25% due to my larger sized baking pan. For the filling, I used a mixture of fresh whipped cream and coffee yogurt.

Making the cake (la génoise) 

Whisk together egg yolks, almond butter and sugar

Sift together flour, cornstarch and espresso powder

Stir the flour mixture into the egg yolk mixture

Whisk egg whites until stiff

Stir in 1/3 of the egg whites into the batter

Gently fold in the rest, leaving as much air in the batter as possible

Pour batter into prepared pan

After baking

Cake is then flipped and parchment paper peeled off so the spongiest side is now facing up

Spread filling and roll up (I rolled with the long side closest to me in order to obtain more slices)

Once the roll rested and firmed up overnight in the refrigerator, I forced myself to continue on with the Challenge.  Quite frankly, I would have been happy slicing the roll and serving it with a scoop of ice cream on the side.

After being sick with a nasty flu all week, I wasn't up to making two different batches of ice cream, and one batch of fudge sauce, to complete the finished dessert.  I just didn't have the time, energy or desire.  We've also made homemade ice cream and various dessert sauces before, so I didn't feel the need to practice these skills. 

Therefore, I took the liberty of a few shortcuts, with Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia and Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, which I felt would complement the espresso cake perfectly. I considered making brandied cherries for the center (even bought a bag of fresh cherries), but gave in to another shortcut with Hershey's Fudge Topping.  I was at the point of just wanting to get this thing finished. As we speak, I still have to go home tonight, remove my creation from the freezer, cut out a piece to reveal the ice cream and fudge layers beneath, take photographs, and post by tomorrow's deadline.

Home now.  Here's the big reveal...melting rapidly....

And here's the piece I was forced to eat, thereby ruining my dinner.  Since it had a cool zebra-ish design, I used my favorite Call of the Wild looking plate.  The oozing fudge in the center is a nice element to this cake.  All in all, with my ice cream selections, it was quite nice.

Even without making homemade ice cream and fudge sauce, preparing and assembling all of the components of this dessert required too many steps for me (sick or not), including waiting time while freezing each layer before the next could be added.  It does make a nice presentation, and would be fun for a children's birthday party or other special occasion.

Please visit The Daring Kitchen recipe archive for the complete challenge recipes and links, and visit the Daring Bakers' blogroll to check out some of the other creations this month!

Thank you, Sunita, for hosting this're the bombe!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Our Turkish Table, Yet Another Coronado Concerts in the Park Culinary Challenge

When we decided on Turkish Cuisine for our last Concert in the Park Culinary Challenge, I had a difficult time deciding what to try. I went to the bookstore at lunch one day, browsed through three cookbooks, and came home with Turkish Cooking: Classic traditions, Fresh ingredients, Authentic flavours, Aromatic recipes. That same day, the new issue of Fine Cooking hit the stands and I got excited about a few more recipes.

The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefslists the following under Turkish Cuisine: beef, chicken, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, dill, eggplant, fish, garlic, goat/sheep cheese, honey, lamb, lemon, mint, nutmeg, olive oil, onions, paprika, parsley, pepper, phyllo dough, rice, sesame seeds, spinach, tomatoes, walnuts and yogurt.

Fine Cooking's Rustic Fig and Raspberry Mini Crostatas called out to me, especially with figs in season. Although probably more Italian-inspired than Turkish, the recipe does contain honey and cinnamon. So, let's start with dessert!

Rustic Fig and Raspberry Mini Crostatas
Slightly adapted from Fine Cooking #106
(Yields 8)


1 2/3 cup (7.5 oz.) unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (3/4 oz.) whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (9 oz.) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces


3/4 pound small, fresh figs (8-10 figs), stems removed and quartered
2 cups fresh raspberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling
3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
8 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs 
2 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into 8 thin slices
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Combine the flours, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse in short pulses until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 3 tablespoons cold water and pulse. If mixture seems dry, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, and pulse until mixture just begins to come together. Do not over mix.  Dump the dough out on clean work surface, gather it together and portion it into 8 rounds (about 2.5 oz. each). Flatten each round into a disk and wrap individually in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Assembly and Baking

When ready to bake, position racks in the bottom and top thirds of the oven. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.

On a lightly floured surface, with a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each dough disk into a 6 inch round. Put 4 rounds on each baking sheet.

Prepare the filling in a medium bowl by combining the figs, raspberries, 1/3 cup sugar, honey, thyme, and orange zest. Fold very gently until combined.

Sprinkle each round of dough 1 tablespoon of graham cracker crumbs around the center portion of each dough round, leaving a 1/2 inch border. Mound the filling into the center of each dough round, trying to evenly distribute the fruit so you have about 4 fig quarters and 4 raspberries in each). Top each crostata with a butter slice.

Fold the edges of the dough over some of the fruit to create a 1 inch rim, leaving the center exposed. Work your way around, pleating the dough as you go. With a pastry brush, brush the crusts with cream and sprinkle the crusts and filling with the remaining sugar.

Bake until the crostatas are golden-brown, 30-35 minutes, swapping and rotating the baking sheets' positions half way through baking.   Transfer baking sheets to racks to cool for 5 minutes. Gently loosen crostatas with a spatula and then let cool completely on baking sheets. The crostatas are best served the day they are made.

Not too sweet, with a light flaky crust, and a rustic, beautiful result...

Next up, from my new Turkish Cooking cookbook, I chose Deep-Fried Mussels in Beer Batter with Garlic-Flavoured Walnut Sauce, using half mussels and half calamari. It was a bit challenging deep-frying at the park, but I wanted to recreate what is very much part of the street-food scene. This is also one of the popular hot meze dishes in fish restaurants.  And, I'm on a mussel kick lately!

Deep-Fried Mussels and Calamari in Beer Batter, with Garlic-Flavored Walnut Sauce

Canola or Safflower oil for deep frying
*50 fresh mussels, cleaned, shelled and patted dry (steam the mussels open for 3-4 minutes and then remove the mussel meat from the shells)
*I used a combination of 2 pounds fresh mussels and about 1/2 pound calamari (bodies cut into rings) and tentacles 


1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 egg yolks
1 cup beer or lager

Sift the flour, salt and baking soda into a bowl. Make a well in the middle and drop in the egg yolks. Using a wooden spoon, slowly beat in the beer and draw in the flour from the edges of the well until a smooth, thick batter is formed. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Walnut-Garlic Sauce

1/2 cup shelled walnuts
2 slices day old bread, crusts removed, sprinkled with water and left for a few minutes, then squeezed dry
2-3 garlic cloves
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
dash of white wine vinegar
salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Pound the walnuts to a paste using a mortar and pestle, or whiz them in a blender. Add the bread and garlic, and pound again to into a paste. Drizzle in the olive oil, stirring all the time, and beat in the lemon juice and vinegar. The sauce should be smooth, with the consistency of thick double cream. If it is too dry, stir in a little water. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.  (Note: I was unable to get the right consistency, and ended up adding a little sour cream. I also added a pinch of cayenne and paprika).


Heat enough oil for deep-frying in a wok or other deep-sided pan. Using your fingers, dip each mussel into the batter and drop into the hot oil. Fry in batches for a minute or two until golden brown. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on a couple paper towels. Serve hot, accompanied by the sauce.


Also, from Turkish Cooking, John made Potatoes Baked with Tomatoes, Olives, Feta and Oregano (second collage, bottom right). You can see from the photo collages below, we had quite a Turkish table featuring meze and salads, meat, fish, kabobs, pilaf, and desserts.  Chris, just back from vacation in Turkey, grilled beef and chicken kabobs to go with the pilaf.  Kai put together a huge meze platter of assorted Turkish nibbles, and Carmen made three dishes:  Lamb with Grape Leaves, Feta Cheese Bread, and a Quince and Nuts baked dessert.

We had a big crowd, and I'm so excited everyone is getting into these challenges with such gusto!

Next week, for the biggest concert of of summer, with Rockola, break out Thomas Keller's The French Laundry CookbookAd Hoc at Home,  Bouchon or Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide.  And you better start cooking now!