28 February 2012

Hazelnut Mocha Roulade

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Coo-coo for hazelnuts?  I am.

Roulades, Le Gateau Roulé, Swiss Rolls or whatever you want to call them, are easy and totally underutilized if you ask me.  Bake a thin, rectangle cake, slather it with something yummy, roll it up, glaze it or simply dust it with powdered sugar, slice and chow down.  The combinations are limitless.  I'm definitely going to add a few of these to the Fresh from the oven menu this year.

Haselnussrouladen mit Mokkacreme--this version comes from the Rick Rodgers Kaffeehaus book, of course.  It's an airy hazelnut sponge cake filled with an espresso flavored chocolate ganache garnished with whole hazelnuts.

The most challenging part of this recipe is getting the skins off the hazelnuts (blanching) after they've been toasted.  Just understand that some of the skin will always remain.  It's maddening, but true.  Funny how I know this, but still refuse to accept it when the nuts aren't perfectly naked.

I know of 3 ways to "blanch" hazelnuts:

1)  Toast them in a 350 degree oven until they almost look overdone.  The skins really protect them so it can take a bit to get the flesh golden.  Transfer the nuts to a clean kitchen towel, cover them and wait a few minutes so they can steam a little, then rub them like crazy until the skins flake away from the nut.

2)  Toast them just like in method #1, transfer them to a fine mesh strainer suspended over a bowl or the sink to catch the skins and rub the nuts against the mesh to remove the skins.  I usually resort to this method for those stubborn hazelnuts that keep their coats on even after the towel treatment.

3)  This involves 2 quarts of boiling water and 2 tablespoons of baking soda.  Bring the mixture to a boil, add the nuts, leave them for 5 minutes then drain them in a colander.  Rinse them with cool water and peel.  Once the skins are removed, toast the nuts in the oven until brown.  Don't panic or get creeped-out when the water turns black.  That's supposed to happen.  This isn't my preferred method because the nuts never seem to totally dry out afterward and I rarely plan far enough ahead to give the nuts adequate time to dry before I need them.  It does work though.

Now on to the cake.

What Happened:
Easy enough to put together.  In fact, you can get the cake mixed and baked inside of 25 minutes.  While the cake roll cools, whip up the mocha ganache.  By the time you finish that, the cake should be cool and you can unroll, slather and re-roll.

Things I Would Change:
I like a variety of texture in my desserts.  As written, this is a one-texture cake.  The one whole hazelnut on top of each slice isn't enough for me.  Not enough hazelnuttiness or crunch.
  • I suggest adding 1/2 cup of chopped toasted hazelnuts to be sprinkled over the whipped ganache before it's rolled up inside the cake.  I like the idea of boosting the nut flavor and it should add some texture too.
  • Use a combo of milk and dark chocolate for the ganache.  I think using only the darker chocolate let the ganache overpower the subtle hazelnut flavor.
There are other things you can do too, from glazing the roll with chocolate and finishing with a sprinkle of hazelnut, to skipping the ganache altogether and just filling with a hazelnut whipped cream.  Just let your love of hazelnut guide you!!

The Results:
Yummy deliciousness plain and simple which is just the way I like it.

25 February 2012

Nashville Nosh - Burgers, Fruit Tea, Fried Chicken and Goo Goo Clusters

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Some people visit family during the holidays.  Cody and I aren't most people.  We want quality time with the relatives not stressful, house-packed, near nervous breakdown visits.  Not to mention that my holiday baking brings in some $$$, so we opt to travel during the "off-season."

This is the off-season.

Nashville bound.  Music City.  Grand Ole Opry.  Home of the Goo Goo Cluster?  Yeah, I bought one.

When we go to Nashville, it's all about family.  Our choice.  We've talked about doing things like going to the Opryland Hotel (which is supposed to be impressive) every visit, but we never manage to fit anything in.

Something we did fit in this time was lunch at Gabby's.  I had just booked our rental car online when a story popped up on Yahoo! about Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys giving Bon Appetit the lowdown on where to grub in Nashville.  Now that's serendipity.

On that recommendation, Cody and I dragged his mother to this funky little burger joint called Gabby's in south Nashville.  I was hungry and craving meat.  Our timing and destination were in synch.

It was crowded and the lunch counter was full.  The menu was simple and I'd read that one must-order was the sweet potato fries.  SPF are my favorite so no arm twisting required.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned that I have a firm policy that when a menu item features a fried egg garnish, I have to order it.  That goes double for a burger joint.  Forget the cheese, bring on the rich, runny egg deliciousness.  Gabby's menu offers a fried egg topping.  Yeah, I ordered it.

This is the Seamus.  Single grass fed beef patty, fried egg, onion, lettuce tomato and chipotle mayo.  LOOK at those fries!!  Skins on.  Crispy, crunchy, crackly sticks of yum.  No, I'm not overstating the experience of those fries.  They tasted so good that my mother-in-law asked how they were made and they told her!

Here's the secret:  First you bake the whole potato for an hour.  The next day you slice the potato into fries and fry them in oil for a few minutes at 325 degrees.  When you're ready to eat, fry them again at 350 degrees to crisp and caramelize.  I think it's the combo of baking and leaving the skins on that make them awesome.

Cody went for the Gabby--basically a Double Double for you In-and-Out fans.  Cody's mom went with the Seamus, like me, although she passed on the fried egg indulgence.

So Gabby's was the second place we visited in Nashville that offered "Fruit Tea."  I passed on it the first time around because I'm more of a black tea girl--although I do like it sweet.  No Lemon.  No Arnold Palmer.  No passion fruit or peach or whatever the fruit of the day happens to be.  HOWEVER, after tasting the first fruit tea combo of tea, lemon, orange and ginger ale that Cody wisely ordered at another eatery, I didn't make the same mistake twice.  Gabby's take is tea, orange juice, sugar and pineapple juice.  The best punch ever!  This trend has taken sweet tea to a whole 'notha level.  Bravo.

For dessert--yes, we went there--they had a few of those homemade dessert bar concoctions to choose from and I grabbed two - one with peanut butter, cornflakes and peanuts on a slab of chocolate that tasted like a Butterfinger and the other was chocolate, marshmallow and pretzels all mushed together in a ridiculously thick bar.

Both desserts were a hit at home with the family--we shared.  I wanted to add a sprinkle of grey sea salt onto the chocolate, marshmallow, pretzel thing, but then I can be too fancy sometimes.

Our Gabby adventure was a total success.  Happy we took the recommendation from a fellow Ohioan.  We Buckeyes know how to eat!

The Loveless Cafe is a Nashville institution.  It's a motel and cafe that built its reputation on fried chicken and biscuits served to travelers passing by on Highway 100 as early as 1951.  The motel no longer operates but the cafe is thriving on the strength of those light and cakey biscuits.

Since Aunt Jennifer is into food and had never been to the Loveless, seven of us loaded into the car and drove out into the country south of Nashville to get some biscuits and jam and whatever else sounded good.  I should mention the Loveless doesn't take reservations for fewer than 12 people.  I should also mention this was a Saturday.

We put our name in for a table around 11ish.  There were throngs of people sitting outside the cafe in rocking chairs and at picnic tables.  Even more people milled about in the motel rooms that had been converted into gift shops selling the wares of local artisans.  They even had cornhole to pass the time.  Yeah, it was going to be a 2 hour wait?!

You could say I was heavy with guilt that day.  I hoped it was worth the wait.

After thumbing through the Cafe's dessert cookbook to pass the time and looking at all the trinkets and bobbles we finally got the call (the page actually).  They gave us a nice big table in the sunny front room of the converted country house.  It's a checkered oil tablecloth kind of place.

The most striking thing to me was that the tables weren't jammed together like they are in most restaurants.  I can only guess they thought it was worth it to give the staff enough room to safely carry gigantic trays piled high with biscuits and all the fixin's through the dining room.

I'm a bit of traditionalist so I went with their claim to fame--fried chicken and biscuits.  I had two sides to choose so I ordered southern staples, fried okra and creamed corn.

Cody chose pulled pork with fried eggs, grits and hash-brown casserole.

Truth be told, the biscuits are the whole story.

I couldn't even guess the number of buttermilk biscuits we gobbled up that day.

Jams are another Loveless specialty, but what got my attention was the sorghum - a rare find.  It was sweet and a little floral with a nice bite at the end.  Perfect on a buttered biscuit.  Sorghum is considered molasses, but it's lighter and looks more like a reddish honey.

The jams were a big hit though.  The Jam Champion at our table, by a unanimous vote, was the blackberry.  Peach took second prize, followed by the strawberry.

Wouldn't be an outing without a slice o' pie and I chose Peanut Butter.

This was an icebox pie, not the baked custard like my Grandma used to make.  At the Loveless they serve it on a chocolate crust that tasted a lot like brownie.  Sounds rich, but it was nice and light and I made sure everyone got a taste.

One of the things I came across during our wait, aside from this slice of Elvis

was a candy called, Goo Goo Cluster.  Cody snapped it off the shelf, all smiles, and told me his dad used to buy them for him all the time when he was a kid.  Sounded like a good childhood memory to me so I bought it.

Turns out the Goo Goo Cluster is a Nashville creation (one of my favorites as a kid, the Moon Pie, hails from Chattanooga).

It's a combination of caramel, peanuts and marshmallow nougat covered in milk chocolate.

I tried it.

It should be delicious.

It's definitely sweeeeet.


Something tells me that changing manufacturing needs have cost the Goo Goo some flavor somewhere since its 1912 debut.  I can't help but think that if I tried to make it myself it would be an outstanding indulgence.  I just enjoyed getting to taste something I'd never heard of that put a smile on my hubby's face as a kid.

I like family time that doesn't involve the holidays.  Much more fun and adventure to be had.

06 February 2012

Beerenschaumschnitten (?) Gesundheit!! (Berry Meringue Slices)



It was coming from the dark recesses of my cookbook cupboard.  Had to be The Book.  It's been a while.  I've been knee-deep in hearts and testing out bite-sized bites with no time for my usual Central Europe baking excursions. 

Or Berry Meringue Slices.

What could be better than cake, blueberries and meringue?  Sold and Sold.

Basically these slices are lemon-scented butter cakes topped with fresh blueberries blanketed with lightly toasted and billowy meringue.  Terrific for this spring-like "winter" we're having.  Besides, I had cute little lemons, our first, from my little lemon tree, another first, that needed a special place to make their debut.

I'm so proud of these lemons.

See, this little lemon tree used to live with a celebrity along with a few of its siblings, but things weren't really working out.  Leaves were dropping from every tree in this tree family which made the celebrity sad.  Soon the celebrity got other ideas for his yard so he split up the lemon clan and as luck would have it, a friend brought one of the sad little trees to us.

We tried to nurse it back to health, but it just got more and more limp.  We used a beat-up old skateboard to move the 2-ton potted citrus across our lawn to what we hoped would be a better spot.  It wasn't.  I thought it was a goner.  I was going to throw it away if I could only figure out how to get it into the trash.  That's when I decided to use the skateboard again to try one last spot and I pruned the hell out of it just so it wouldn't look so...dead (the dead-look made me sad too!).

It grew!?  I couldn't believe it.  Then it fruited.

We now have 6 (well, 4 now) of the cutest little lemons on this tree I call, Lazarus.  May not seem like much, but we also have a 3 1/2 foot tall orange tree that hasn't grown in height in the 3 years we've lived here and we got all of 2 oranges from it this year.  They were the size of softballs, but 2???  Come on!!

The moral of the story?  I don't know.  I'm just happy to have lemons hanging on a tree!

Back to the Berry Meringue Slices. 

Apparently, these can be found at Cafe Diglas in Vienna.  When I was there last year all that seemed to be on the menu was a variety of poppy seed pastries.  I wish there had been something creamy and light and full of blueberries!

Cafe Diglas' Poppy Pastry Spread

What Happened:
I decided that Cody and I didn't really need 16 slices of delicious cake in the house tempting us, so I cut the recipe in half.  Unless you're having a big party or you're the Duggars, maybe this would work for you too?

It's really quick and simple to put together.  The whole thing came together in under an hour including the post-bake cooling.  Aside from the berries, it's a total pantry recipe.  And you're not locked into blueberries either--raspberries, strawberries, blackberries--I even think peaches or apricots in season would be tasty.

Things I Would Change:
  • I already mentioned only making half the original recipe so that would be my first edit.
  • I also added parchment to the baking pan so the cake could be removed as a whole.  Rick Rodgers recommends serving from the pan and I'm a self-confessed snob about these things so I made that change too.
    So sexy--and a little too sweet
  • Sweetness--when I read the recipe the amount of sugar called for in the meringue struck me as being a lot.  I was right.  I don't want sugar to mask the flavor of the fruit or the lemony-cake and that's kinda what happened.  When I checked out other recipes  for meringue I discovered that I should have followed my instinct.  The most sugar I found in a soft meringue like this one that called for 3 egg whites was 1/4 cup.  This recipe called for 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon!  I also reduced the powdered sugar used on the blueberries too.  The powdered sugar is primarily there to help the meringue stick to the berries--the cornstarch is what does it.  You could use flour, but you run the risk (albeit small) of getting a bitter taste from any flour that goes unabsorbed.  The sweetness of the powdered sugar solves that, but no need to use more than what will coat.
  • Increase the amount of berries.  I believe every inch of cake should be covered in berries before the meringue is added and 1 pint wasn't enough to do the job so I upped the amount to 2 cups.  Use your judgement--how many berries do I need to cover an 8x8 cake and go with that.

    The Result:
    It was a little sweet, but so pretty and light and satisfying.  And versatile.

    After his second bite, Cody waxed poetic, complete with Victorianesque hand gestures, about the uniqueness of the combination of cake with meringue!  I couldn't help but laugh.  I've created a monster food critic!

    It's a great dessert--easy, quick and fancy-ish.  AAAND (I know you were waiting for this one) the fruit is not cooked!!

    I'm toying with baking it in muffin tins or mini cheesecake molds to get individual servings that come out picture perfect.

    This one is a keeper.