I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Few of my Favourite Things

I adore libraries. Where else can you have access to an entire bookshop, FOR FREE, which has a great returns policy, doesn't mind if you dog-ear the pages (although courtesy dictates you shouldn't), has books on every topic you're interested in, stocks best-sellers, has back issues of all the magazines you can't justify buying, and these days has high speed Internet access? Libraries totally rock. I don't love the whole shhhhhh! have to be vewwy vewwy qwiet thing, but I cope because I am among paper. With words. You know my whole M n' M procedure? I've got one for library books, too. Best I not go into that or you'll start to believe the rumours about me.

Most often I stick to the fiction section, but sitting in the "readers recommend" shelf (eg the stuff the librarians can't be bothered to put away) was a baking book - Sue Lawrence's Book of Baking. I opened it to have a look and the first recipe I came to was the one which said, "take this book home!" It incorporated 3 of my favourite pastry things - chocolate, meringue and lemon. Now I don't usually like all three together, and I'm definetly not sure about the lemon and chocolate thing, but finding this recipe first was kismet.

Chocolate Meringue Cake
115g / 4 oz unsalted butter, softened
115g / 4 oz golden caster sugar*
3 large eggs
55g / 2 oz cocoa powder
100g / 3.5 oz self raising flour
50ml / 2 fl oz milk

For the meringue:
3 large egg whites (saved from above)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
140g/ 5 oz golden caster sugar

For the lemon curd cream**:
2 heaped tablespoons (homemade) lemon curd
200g / 7oz creme fraiche

* I didn't have golden caster sugar, so I just used standard (in the US: Superfine) caster sugar and added 2 T of golden syrup. I don't really see why the golden version is necessary in the first place, so feel free to enlighten me if you know.

** I was lucky enough to have my SIL's lemon curd in the fridge. I used DOUBLE the amount of curd, and straight cream instead of creme fraiche.

1. Preheat the oven to 170C / 325F and grease two 20cm/8 inch cake tins (do not use deep ones).
2. Beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add the yolks, one at a time, beating well between each. Gradually sift in the cocoa, flour and a pinch of salt. Pour in the milk and mix lightly until smooth. Spoon half into each of the prepared tins, smoothing out to the edges.
4. For the meringue, beat the whites with a pinch of salt and the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Then gradually add sugar and continue whisking until thick and shiny.
5. Spoon the meringue gently over both cakes and bake for 20 minutes or until meringue is golden. Cool completely in the tins.
6. Carefully remove from the tins and place one cake, meringue side up, on a plate. Beat together the lemon curd and creme fraiche and spread over the top of the meringue. Put the second cake over this, meringue side up. Eat on the day.

...and here's the review, in pictures:

This mixture was a bit of a nightmare. It was really thick, really dense, and quite bitter - seems like a LOT of cocoa for such a small amount of batter. It took a fair amount of patient pallet knife action to get it to the edges of the tins.

I got all excited by this sight in my oven - bubbly, gorgeous craters of meringue. It didn't last.

Within mere seconds of the cakes (gently, gently) coming out of the oven, the meringue had collapsed spectacularly. Which, going by the picture in the book, is meant to happen. I was still sad about it though!

Having followed the rest of the procedure, the finished product looked precisely as it does in the book (note background below), even with decorative lemon curd dripping...

As a cake though - it sucked. I like the idea of this, but the recipe in this case failed me. The cake itself was really not sweet at all, and really dry. The curd thing worked, but only because I used loads more curd than was required - and if I'd used the creme fraiche, there again would be not much sweetness. The meringue, although sweet, squashes down to hardly anything so it's not adding a lot in the taste stakes either. I also assumed that the meringue would somehow "stick" to the cake...and it didn't, really. Well, let's just say Kiki and I managed to easily peel it off the top when we got sick of eating dry cake! Overall not a fabulous cake, but I've already thought of how to re-construct this to make it better. Stay turned for the emzee version of this flavour combo...experiments await.

No comments: