Suzi's Blog

A Comforting Chocolate and Chestnut Cake from Amber Rose

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Amber Rose has just published Love Bake Nourish, a baking book that reflects a very distinctive personal nature. She’s a passionate about foods that are seasonal, organic and not processed. She loves different flours and she cannot abide processed sugar. In her career as chef and author, she has scoured for recipes, old and new, that meet her standards for superior and naturally healthy baking.

This dish is old, Italian, and a treasure. No sugar, just honey. No flour, just ground walnuts plus chestnut puree. There is a reason traditional recipes are the core of our culinary heritage. They taste good.

Amber’s recipes typically end with serving suggestions. I expected to read about whipped cream. How lovely to find she wants this dense, rich cake served with sour cream. This combination is truly self-intensifying.

And, uh, no, there is no chance of confusing this cake for a baked potato.

Addendum

Suzen made this cake for her monthly group of celiac patients from the Columbia University Center for Celiac Disease. She teaches patients and their families, not just how to get through, but how to thrive. Our pastry chef made this cake and I reminded her that it should come with sour cream. Our pastry chef is from the Caribbean and very dignified and a bit terse. “No, whipped cream,” she said. And that’s what the picture shows.

This cake is unleavened, so it is Passover ready.

A Comforting Chocolate and Chestnut Cake

Yield: serves 10-12

Ingredients:

  • 5 large free-range eggs, separated
  • ½ cup honey
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 18 ounces unsweetened chestnut puree
  • 1 ½ cups ground walnuts (or hazelnuts)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), grated or chopped

 

Preparation:

Preheat t h e oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10-inch loose-bottomed cake pan.

Mix the egg yolks and honey in a large bowl until thick and smooth, then add the butter, pureed chestnuts, walnuts, lemon zest, and chocolate, and mix thoroughly until everything is completely incorporated.

In a separate, very clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the egg whites into the cake mixture, trying not to lose the air from the mixture, and don’t bang the bowl. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the pan.

When the cake has cooled completely, turn out onto a serving plate. Serve cold with a little sour cream or crème fraiche. I like it with cherry compote.

Source: Love Bake Nourish by Amber Rose

 

Cookbook Review: Sweet by Valerie Gordon

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Blum Cake

 

Author Valerie Gordon’s earliest memories include taking baked goods on a family visit to business associates. By the time she was in the third grade, she had developed what she bravely admits was a “serious baking habit.” Today, she oversees a Los Angeles empire of sweet shops devoted to pleasing those who dine in. And pleasing those who carry her sweet goods out for visits to family or business or whomever is lucky enough to be showered with her exceptional creations. Some people just buy for themselves.

Her book, Sweet, is filled with ideas for gifts and for that personal enjoyment. The cover, as you can see, is black and gold. And this book is just that, gold. Well, more exactly, it is the perfect goldilocks book. You remember the fairy tale? Some things were not quite enough, some were too much, and then there was the one thing that was just right.

Sweet is the just right baking book for you. That makes it an important book for you to consider. Baking books come in three categories:

  • The good but low key type where the “high end” dessert is an exotic brownie
  • The exceptional but high end book, typically by someone from Paris, whose creations are astonishing and quite beyond your reach [and mine]
  • The rare but wonderful goldilocks book, one that will raise your skills and let you succeed in fashioning something exceptional.

Sweet is just that book. Valerie begins with a series of her historic recreations, dessert recipes from now shuttered institutions that offered American baking classics. That smaller picture above is for one of the gem recipes in Sweet: Blum’s Coffee Crunch Cake. A chiffon cake — like angel food but made with oil, an historical marker on its own — is layered and frosted with coffee whipped cream. The ensemble is then studded with fragments of coffee crunch candy. The cake is legendary. And you have to make it and then eat it. Right now.

The Blum’s cake is one of the first recipes in Sweet. The last recipe in the book is Tangerine Sour Cream Pound Cake, one of Valerie’s creations, not yet listed as historic but perhaps destined to be. In between the first and last recipes, the book is divided into sections for celebration desserts like Blum’s, every day cakes, pies and tarts, chocolates and confections, spoon able desserts, cookies and bars, and jams and marmalades.

While my first tendency would be to call this a baking book, that would be wrong. Those candy and jam chapters make this a comprehensive dessert resource. Brownies are included here, I should acknowledge, but why would you settle for mere browniedom when you can select from seriously wonderful concepts like:

  • Apple and Caramel Aged Gouda Crostata
  • Apricot Basil cream Galettes
  • Blueberry Vanilla Cream Hand Pies
  • Bullocks Wilshire Coconut Cream Pie
  • Chasen’s Banana Shortcake
  • Cucumber Lime and Mint Sorbet
  • Single Malt Scotch Truffles
  • White Nectarine and Lemon Verbena Jam

Sweet has been published in an over-sized format which makes the full page photos by Peden + Munk even more gallantly compelling. There is a Hazelnut Cake covered in shiny dark chocolate ganache that seems ready to ooze out of the page and onto my waiting fingertips. It makes me want to say, “Suzen, there’s something I have to show you.” I can pretty much assume that the picture will convince my wife this must be the dessert for our next dinner party.

Although, I should counter myself, Nora Ephron has called that Blum’s Cake the “greatest cake in history.” That may be the one modest drawback to Sweet: where do you begin? The answer is that with this book, any page you select is a gateway to success and enjoyment. Extravagant enjoyment.

Sweet is a book that will entertain and educate you. It was written for you, the typical cook. You don’t have to be a Parisian trained pastry chef to use this book. But you’ll have fantasies of being one.