Archive for the ‘cake’Category

Scrigno del Duomo serves food fit for a treasury

exterior of Scrigno del Duomo in Trento
From the outside, it would be easy to think that the restaurant called Scrigno del Duomo is at least as venerable as Le Due Spade (previous post). The building dates from the 14th century and has some faded frescoes to prove it. It was built as the treasury for the cathedral across the plaza. The restaurant, however, is much more recent. It opened in 1999 and quickly became one of Trento’s favorite establishments. The strategic location on the main plaza helps, no doubt, but the kitchen stands on its own merits.

Many diners at Scrigno del Duomo opt to eat at the wine bar. The bar menu focuses on the local sausages and cheeses, as well as some small pasta dishes. The local wine list is exhaustive, but the restaurant also carries an extensive collection of fine French wines, especially Champagnes. Honestly, I’d rather drink a local sparkling wine than a Champagne with the cuisine, but Scrigno del Duomo clearly hosts many family and business celebrations.

Diners who elect a full dinner generally order from the a la carte menu. Count on spending between 35€ and 70€ per person, including two glasses of wine. Portions are modest but the flavors are sensational.

Dishes that surprise and delight


whimsical beef tartare at Scrigno del Duomo in Trento I started with one of the more inventive tartares I’ve ever encountered. When it appeared I thought the waiter had brought the wrong dish. It was smiling at me! The beef was patted into a neat block, faced on two sides by thin, lightly toasted bread. The assemblage sat on a small salad. Chef Mattia Piffer deconstructed the raw egg that customarily accompanies tartare. He dotted the dish with dabs of aioli (the egg white) and a carrot puree (with the egg yolk). When I realized that, I smiled too.

spaghetti with juniper berries and trout caviar at Scrigno del Duomo in Trento My pasta dish was also full of surprises. Simply described as “spaghetti,” it was a plate of well buttered, perfectly al dente egg noodles. They were tossed with chopped chives and trout caviar. Piffer had sauteed juniper berries in the butter before tossing the mixture with the pasta. The combination of the resinous juniper with the umami-laden caviar was truly inspired. I’m thinking that it should work equally well with smoked mackerel or fresh bluefish.

carrot cake at Scrigno del Duomo in Trento My dessert was the least unusual, but it made a nice conclusion for a light meal. Piffer served a slice of a simple olive-oil cake with a tangle of candied ribbons of carrot and a rich vanilla ice cream. It worked well with a glass of Rotari sparkling rosé.

The most prized tables at Scrigno del Duomo (Piazza Duomo 29, Trento; tel. +39 (0)461 220 030; www.scrignodelduomo.com) are outside, but the interior rooms have a lovely late medieval ambiance. Meals this good deserve to be in a treasury.

03

07 2016

Montserrat rum cake is a deep, dark mystery

Montserrat rum cake
I felt pretty certain that most of the folks on Montserrat would have given me the shirt off their backs if I had needed it. But even during the high-spirited days of the week-long St. Patrick’s Day festivities, that generosity only extended so far. No baker, it seems, is willing to part with her recipe for rum cake, the Montserrat version of the dark West Indian cake that is so different from the paler, less robust spirit-soaked fruitcakes that Europeans and Americans make.

I had my first taste of the dense, almost fudge-like treat in my hometown of Cambridge, Mass., supplied by Bernadine Greenaway, one of the many Montserratians who live at least part of the year in Boston. Bernadine makes cakes for family and community celebrations and was kind enough to bake a cake for me and my husband, David, before my first trip to Montserrat. A far cry from an English fruitcake, it was dark, sweet, fruity and filled with aromatic spices I could only guess at. One thing I knew for sure—her cake had been soaked in her family’s version of bush rum, which is a homemade rum almost as dark as molasses and redolent of such sweet Caribbean spices as allspice and clove. When I asked Bernadine for the recipe, she just smiled.

That was the typical response on Montserrat as well, where rum cakes were for sale as part of the St. Patrick’s celebration. Finally, someone gave me a hint that the cake is very similar to a cake made at Christmas and I was able to adapt a recipe to approximate—but not equal—Bernadine’s version.

MONTSERRAT RUM CAKE


Bush rum is hard to lay your hands on without a connection. A good, dark Angostura rum will do for the recipe. For dark treacle, substitute blackstrap molasses.

Ingredients

12 ounces plain flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon mixed spice (nutmeg, allspice, cloves)
4 ounces candied peel
2 pounds dried fruit—preferably one pound currants, 8 ounces sultanas, and 8 ounces raisins
4 ounces blanched almonds, chopped finely
grated rind of one lemon
4 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup bush rum
8 ounces margarine or butter
8 ounces Demerara sugar
1 tablespoon black treacle (blackstrap molasses may be substituted)
1 cup bush rum for finishing

Directions

Line a 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pan with double thickness of greased paper around the sides of the interior and greased waxed paper or parchment at the bottom. Tie a double band of brown paper around the outside of tin, standing well above the top of it.

Set oven at 325°F.

Sieve together flour, cinnamon, salt, and mixed spice. Set aside.

In another bowl, mix peel, fruit, chopped almonds, and lemon rind. Whisk in eggs, milk, and 1/2 cup bush rum.

In a third bowl, cream margarine or butter, then beat in sugar and black treacle.

Add flour and egg mixtures alternately to the creamed butter and sugar. Do not over beat when mixing.

Place mixture into prepared cake pan (see above). Put in middle of 325°F oven. Bake 1 1/2 hours, then turn down to 300°F and continue baking another 1 3/4 to 2 hours until firm.

Remove from oven and cool on rack. When cool, prick top all over with fork and pour on 1 cup bush rum. When cake has drained, wrap in plastic wrap or rum-soaked linen towel.

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13

05 2016

Say cheesecake in Kaimuki

cheesecake
With its bright red and yellow exterior, Otto Cake (1127 12th Ave., Honolulu; 808-834-6886; ottocake.com) is one of the most colorful storefronts in Kaimuki—and proprietor Otto is easily one of the neighborhood’s more colorful characters. Otto, who uses only one name (“like Sting,” he says), plays bass in the band 86 List and is a cheesecake maker extraordinaire. He opened his shop in Kaimuki in 2013 and tempts customers with nine different flavors per day from a total of 270 that he has developed.

cheesecake with otto On any given day he might draw from the flavors of the island for haupia (coconut milk) or lilikoi (passionfruit) cheesecakes or for a combination such as macadamia-pineapple-coconut. Less subtle choices might include chocolate peanut butter, orange chocolate chip or Chinese almond cookie. He also delights in finding just the right crust to complement the flavors of the filling. He uses an orange cookie crust for the lilikoi cheesecake and pairs a cinnamon crust with a Mexican chocolate filling.

Otto declined to share a recipe. But he did offer a few tips to help home bakers avoid some of the most common mistakes in making cheesecake. To begin with, he says, all ingredients should be mixed by hand to avoid over-emulsified, pasty results. And neither the crust nor the filling should be overly sweet. If you are using ingredients that have a lot of natural sugar, he says, cut down on the amount of added sugar.

“Timing in the oven is the most important thing,” he says, noting that most people overcook their cheesecake. If your cakes tend to be crumbly, that’s probably why. Finally, he says, “do not use a water bath.” That might be fine for a pudding, but not for a cake.

And, it almost goes without saying: Have fun!

25

02 2016

Exploring KY cooking with top Lex chef Phil Dunn

Phil Dunn offers min Hot Brown in cooking class When England’s horse-loving Queen Elizabeth first visited Lexington, her personal chef was Phil Dunn. We don’t know what dishes he served to the Queen, but we do know that Dunn favors gourmet meals and enjoys exploring international flavors. He’s particularly fond of making European pastries—and anything with pasta.

A gorgeous display kitchen at Architectural Kitchens & Baths (345 Lafayette Ave., www.akandb.com) is the perfect setting for Dunn’s popular half-day cooking classes. We attended a recent session and learned that Dunn is equally comfortable with down-home Kentucky cooking. He makes familiar dishes his own through refined technique and a penchant for turning larger plates into finger food—perfect for parties in this most social of cities.

Dunn makes a spicy version of Kentucky Beer Cheese (a cracker spread) that has a thick, rich texture. “You must use flat beer,” he told us. “It’s too fluffy if you use carbonated beer.” He also cautions against over-pulsing in the food processer. “It should be a little chunky.”

He also showed us how to make mini versions of Kentucky’s iconic Hot Brown open-face sandwich by layering Mornay sauce, slices of turkey, bacon, and tomato on slices of baguette. That’s Phil above handing one over to a hungry onlooker.

But we were most taken with his bite-size Bourbon Cakes, a clever use of Kentucky’s signature spirit to round out a meal. He soon had us dipping one-inch squares of firm vanilla cake into a warm bourbon mixture and then rolling them in ground vanilla wafers and chopped walnuts. It took a couple of tries to get the rhythm of wet hand for the bourbon and dry hand for the crumbs, but we were soon on a roll. The little bites are addictive, but if you have any left over, Dunn claims that they will keep for three to four months in the freezer. For information about classes, send an email to phildunn1948@gmail.com.

KENTUCKY BEER CHEESE

Phil Dunn makes Kentucky Beer Cheese
1 cup beer
1 lb. extra-sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Pour beer into a mixing bowl and whisk until it loses its carbonation. Place in food processor, add remaining ingredients, and process until well-mixed but still slightly chunky. Adjust seasoning to taste and refrigerate before serving.

PHIL DUNN’S BOURBON CAKES


Makes 200 squares bourbon cakes by Phil Dunn

For the cake
6 oz. (1 1/2 sticks) softened unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
8 egg yolks
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine butter and sugar in mixer and blend well. Add egg yolks and blend well. Sift dry ingredients together and add mixture alternately with milk and vanilla extract. Beat until batter is very smooth. It will be thick. Spray a half sheet pan (18×13 inches) with cooking oil and spread batter evenly with a metal spatula.

Bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes until cake is golden brown. Cool completely. Cut into one-inch squares.

For the soaking liquid and coating
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups bourbon (Dunn used Very Old Barton)
2 lb. confectioners sugar
12 oz. vanilla wafers, ground
2 cups walnuts, finely chopped

Combine melted butter with bourbon and confectioners sugar. Combine vanilla wafers with walnuts.

Dip cake squares in warm bourbon mixture. (Do not let it cool.) Quickly drain cake squares, then roll them in vanilla wafer-walnut mixture.

23

08 2015

King Cake for Easter

king cake top
If Mardi Gras has a signature food, it has to be the king cake, which is actually more like a big, braided cinnamon roll than a cake. It’s topped with white icing and dusted with colored sugar, usually in the traditional Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold. The cake was originally served at Epiphany, but was so tasty that cooks kept making it through Mardi Gras.

I found a knockout version this year at Sweet Olive Bakery (251-990-8883; sweetolive.org), a European-style artisanal bakery in Fairhope, Alabama. It’s located in the Windmill Market (85 N. Bancroft St.), an old car dealership and service garage that has found new life as a foodie destination (other occupants include a great barbecue joint and a locavore market). The Windmill is only 18 miles from Mobile, where the first Mardi Gras in America was celebrated in 1703. Mobile still puts on a great party with 65 balls and 35 parades in a three-week period.

I have no idea how many king cakes are consumed during that time, but many of them are made by Jennifer Haffner, the owner and head baker at Sweet Olive. She was kind enough to share her recipe and since I don’t want to wait a year to try it, I thought that a king cake would add a perfect festive note for Easter brunch.

By the way, tradition calls for inserting a small plastic baby (representing the Baby Jesus) into the cooked cake. Whoever gets that slice has to host next year’s party—or at least bring the king cake!

KING CAKE

Jennifer’s recipe makes three cakes. She stresses that all the ingredients must be cold since the mix time for brioche is quite long. Be sure to start this recipe far ahead to allow for the dough to rise.

king cake jenniferCake
1 1/2 cups butter
5 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cold water
6 cold eggs
1 tablespoon salt
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Filling
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Glaze
1 lb. confectioner’s sugar
5 tablespoons milk

1. Flatten the butter with a rolling pin until it is pliable and place it in the refrigerator until needed.

2. Place all ingredients for the cake except the butter into the bowl of an electric mixer. Begin mixing on lowest speed until the ingredients are just barely incorporated. Turn the mixer up slightly and mix for 5 to 7 minutes, until the dough is well developed.

3. Add the butter in pieces, while the machine is mixing, until all the butter is incorporated. Mix for an additional 8 to 10 minutes.

4. Place dough in a bowl lightly sprayed with oil or pan spray. Cover dough with plastic wrap, tucking the plastic around the dough. Let it stand at room temperature for an hour. Fold the dough over on itself, cover bowl with plastic wrap, refrigerate at least 4 hours.

5. Divide the dough into 3 pieces.

6. Using 1 piece of dough, roll into a rectangle about a quarter inch thick. Brush the dough with egg wash. Combine cinnamon and sugar for filling in a small bowl. Sprinkle the mixture over the dough.

7. Cut the rectangle into 3 long strips. Braid the 3 strips and attach the ends to form an oval. Spray with oil or pan spray and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

8. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden. Let sit until completely cool.

9. Put confectioner’s sugar in a small bowl and add milk a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency. Glaze should be thick but should drizzle easily off a spoon. Drizzle glaze over cooled cake and decorate with colored sprinkles of your choice.

15

04 2014

PEI potatoes make rich cake for dessert

root beer chocolate cakeMy gastronomic adventures on Prince Edward Island were not limited to shellfish. PEI is famous for its potatoes — the tiny island grows more than a quarter of the entire Canadian crop.

PotatoesChef Ilona Daniel of the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown consults for the potato board, which was handing out all kinds of recipes at the PEI Internaional Shellfish Festival. Most of them were predictable — potato gnocchi, potato pancakes, potato pizza, etc. But Daniel came up with this delicious cake that uses mashed potatoes and Greek yogurt to create a dense, moist texture that keeps for days. She was giving away samples, and once I tasted it, I knew I had to get the recipe. I cut the recipe to one-quarter of the one given here, and cooked it in a 6-inch springform pan (see photo above). The results were identical.

CHEF ILONA’S ROOTBEER CHOCOLATE PEI POTATO CAKE

Ingredients

1 cup mashed and hot PEI Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 cup water, warm
1 cup full-fat (9%) Greek yogurt
2/3 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon root beer extract
4 large eggs
1 cup cocoa
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chocolate chunks

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9x13x2-inch baking pan using butter or non-stick oil spray, and dust with cocoa powder. Remove excess cocoa powder and set aside.

2. Whisk mashed potatoes, water, and yogurt until a smooth mixture is formed.

3. Beat butter, brown sugar and root beer extract for 4-5 minutes with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

4. Add 2 eggs and mix until blended, scrape down sides of bowl; add remaining eggs and continue mixing until well blended.

5. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir to combine.

6. At low speed, alternate adding the sifted dry ingredients with the potato mixture into the egg mixture until just incorporated. ****DO NOT OVERMIX. Fold in chocolate chips.

7. Place batter into the prepared pan; smooth out top. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until cake springs back when pressed lightly and begins to move away from the sides of the pan.

8. Cool in the pan on a cooling rack. Sift confectioners’ sugar over the cake or drizzle with an icing of your choice.

9. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days in an airtight container. Cake also freezes well

04

10 2013