10 May 2011

First stop Hungary: Lúdlábtorta

First recipe, very exciting!! 

Dying to bake something from Kaffeehaus I jumped into the middle of the book going straight to the Fancy Cakes section. I could tell you I’m using my friend’s birthday as an excuse, but the truth is I don’t do well with doing what’s expected, so starting at the beginning wasn’t something I would probably do anyway. Do I need to mention I’m impulsive in addition to obsessive? For the record, birthdays are meant to be fancy.

So anyway, the “Fancy Cakes” in The Book are primarily tortes. What is a torte? Strictly speaking, it’s a type of cake made with lots of eggs and sometimes ground nuts or bread crumbs in place of or in addition to flour. It’s usually finished with a rich coating of buttercream or glaze. Generally I think of tortes as assembled sponge cakes that include at minimum 3 different elements and more often than not there’s some soaking syrup or jam layer both including alcohol. But that’s just how I file it in my head.

Flipping through the pages I landed on the Lúdlábtorta. In Hungarian, Lúdláb means “goose leg.” Don’t worry there are no goose bits involved in this recipe. Some attribute the name to the richness of the cake and others have written that it’s the cake’s triangular shape when it’s cut that evokes the goose connection. But don’t most cakes end up with a triangular shape when cut? Whatever. Let’s just accept that this cake has some mysterious connection to the goose for Hungarians and get on with our lives. In English, this is a Chocolate Mousse Cake with Cherries and to me that sounds outstanding and just right for a fancy birthday!

Now I know you’re going to kill me, but while I have pictures of the finished torte, I didn’t think to take a picture of the slices! Dumb, I know. Chalk it up to a rookie blogger mistake. In all truth, I took the camera to the party for the express purpose of snapping the cake. Cody was in charge of it and set it down somewhere. Before I knew it we were singing “Happy Birthday!” and I was dipping a knife in hot water to serve it up. Lame, yes I know that too. I’ll get better.

Let’s get on with it. 

What Happened:

I took 2 days to make this torte.  It’s not that it took an inordinate amount of time, just that I wanted it to be chilled before I coated it and I didn’t want to be rushed on the day of the party.  You could probably tackle it in 1 day, but I wouldn’t recommend it.  You would wind up stressing yourself out by trying to rush through the chilling stage and the mousse must be thoroughly chilled before you glaze.  One obvious do ahead is to bake the sponge up to a month in advance, cut it in half horizontally (that’s all you need for this recipe), wrap it thoroughly in plastic and freeze it.  Just pull it out of the freezer when you start to make the mousse.

Things I would change:
  • I didn’t want to wait until June for cherries to be in season so I used frozen black cherries.  When I make it again, I will definitely use fresh.  I think it will not only improve the taste, but the texture AND it will be much, much prettier to have the fresh cherries dancing across the smooth black ice of the chocolate glaze.
  • Use more cherry preserves.  The recipe calls for ½ cup and I would up it to ¾ cup
  • Use more cherries.  Maybe it’s because I used frozen but I would use 18 ounces of cherries next time instead of the 12 ounces recommended.
  • Chill the mousse for 20 minutes or so before attempting to spread it on the cake.  It was so loose when I did this that the cherries slid off the cake!  I screamed and scooped the mousse back into the bowl and chilled it until it was more firm.  I gathered up the cherries and rearranged them on the cake.  Once the mousse was more firm I was able to spread it onto the cake and moved forward with the recipe.  What a mess.  Don’t do this, chill the mousse first. 
  • A nice variation could be to stir in 1/3 cup chocolate shavings into the mousse to make it a chocolate chip mousse.  
The Results:
I was really happy with this cake.  It's definitely for chocolate lovers and works well with strong coffee (with a tiny cup of water!).  Someone described the taste like eating a chocolate cherry truffle.  I'd say that was close. For me it was a tiny bit lighter than that, but it gives you an idea of what to expect.

I liked the look of the cake.  It was pretty and can only get prettier each time I make it.  The glaze had a nice snap, the mousse was firm but still creamy and the cherries added impressive color and a tartness that cut through that rich chocolate and butter.  The fresh cherry garnish would have been ideal.  I didn't know how to decorate it once I had it glazed.  I like garnishes to be a clue about what you're going to eat.  I needed to do something, so I went safe and melted white chocolate and piped circles over the top--safe I know, but I didn't want to risk ruining the cake an hour before the party!

The recipe itself worked well for a first run-through.  I've made some adjustments that will help when I revisit.  I've included my changes in the recipe here.  Having experience with glazing cakes helps, but it's totally doable for first timers--just make sure the cake is chilled and have a spatula ready to go (not in the drawer!) so you can help the glaze spread and fill in the holes on the sides.

Your turn now.

Chocolate Mousse Cake with Cherries
adapted from Kaffeehaus by Rick Rodgers
serves 12

Chocolate Sponge Cake

3 T       milk
3 T       vegetable oil
½ t       vanilla
4          eggs, room temperature
¾ c      sugar
2/3 c    cake flour (AP flour ok too – just makes a firmer sponge)
¼ c      cocoa powder
1/8 t     salt

1. Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9-inch springform pan (regular cake pan will work) and line the bottom with a round of parchment or wax paper.  Dust the pan with flour and tap out the excess.

2. In the microwave or a small saucepan, heat the milk and vegetable oil until hot to the touch (not boiling).  Let it cool a little while the eggs whip then add vanilla.

3. Whisk eggs and sugar together in the bowl of your mixer.  Place the bowl over a medium saucepan of simmering water over medium heat (the water should not touch the bowl).  Continue to whisk until the eggs are warm to the touch and the sugar is dissolved (rub a bit between your fingers to feel for graininess).  Put the whisk attachment on your mixer and beat on medium-high until the eggs are light, fluffy and tripled in volume.  You’re looking for ribbon stage and it should take about 3 minutes.

4. Sift together the dry ingredients.  Then sift half the dry mixture over the eggs.  Using a large balloon whisk or rubber spatula fold it in.  Repeat with the remaining dry mixture.

5. Whisk in a large dollop of the egg batter into the milk and fold this back into the batter.

6. Pour batter into the pan and smooth the top.

7. Bake until the top springs back when touched and the sides have started to pull away from the pan, about 30 minutes.  Cool on a rack for 5 minutes before removing from the pan to cool completely.

Chocolate Mousse and Fruit Filling

1 ½ c   milk, divided
1/3 c    cocoa powder
1/2 c    sugar
2          yolks
2 T       cornstarch
3 oz     semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 T       kirsch, optional
1 ½ c   unsalted butter, at cool room temp

¾ c      cherry preserves
18 oz   sweet cherries, pitted or thawed frozen cherries

1. Heat ½ cup milk in the microwave (or on the stove).  Combine the cocoa and sugar in a medium saucepan.  Gradually whisk in the hot milk to dissolve the cocoa.  Add the yolks and whisk well.

2. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the remaining 1 cup of milk and whisk to dissolve.  Add to the saucepan.  Whisk often bringing the mixture to a full boil over medium heat.  It will get very thick.  Remove from the heat and add the chocolate.  Let it stand for a minute to soften the chocolate, then whisk until it’s all melted.  Strain into the bowl of your mixer and set the bowl in a water bath to cool the pudding.  Add kirsch if using. Whisk occasionally until cool.

3. Using the whisk attachment, set the mixer on medium-high speed adding the butter a tablespoon at a time.  Occasionally turn the mixer up to make sure you get a smooth mousse.  It should be smooth and fluffy when you’re done.

4.  Chill the mousse for 10 minutes or so in the fridge until it’s stiff, but spreadable.  Meanwhile, cut the cake in half horizontally.  Reserve one half for another use.  Place a dab of the mousse on an 8-inch cake round and place the cake cut side up on the round.

5.  Bring the cherry preserves to a boil in a small saucepan.  Strain into a small bowl, rubbing the cherry pieces through.  Spread all the warm preserves over the cake. 

6. Remove the chilled mousse from the fridge and spread a thin layer over the preserves.  Arrange the cherries in concentric circles on top of the mousse.  Chill the cake and the mousse for another 10 – 15 minutes unless you think the cake is firm enough to hold the mousse.  Then proceed to step 7.

7. Spread almost all of the remaining mousse over the cherries (this is the height of your torte) and use the rest to frost the sides of the cake.  Make the top as level as possible.  It won’t be perfect, but you will be able to smooth the top later after it’s chilled.

8. Chill the cake uncovered for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Chocolate Glaze and Garnish

½ c      heavy cream
4 oz     semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
12        sweet cherries, stems attached

1. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over high heat.  Place the chocolate in a bowl or large measuring cup.  Add the hot cream, let stand 1  minute then stir slowly, not adding too much air, until smooth.  Let stand until cool, but still pourable, about 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, pull the cake from the fridge and smooth the mousse with a metal spatula that has been rinsed under hot water.  Make sure to give it an even shape.

3. Place the cake on a wire rack over a sheet pan or parchment.  Pour the glaze over the entire cake.  Use an offset metal spatula to smooth and coax the glaze over the top of the cake letting the glaze run down the sides.  Use the spatula to gather the glaze on the sheet to patch bare spots.  You need to move quickly during this step before the glaze starts to set on the chilled cake.

4. Place the cherries along the top edge of the cake as a garnish.  Refrigerate until the glaze sets, at least 20 minutes.  It will keep in the refrigerator about 2 days.

5. To serve, slice with a sharp knife dipped in a glass of hot water.  Serve chilled. 

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous13 May, 2011

    have really been enjoying your blog...