Oh how we have been neglecting this blog. You have a very good reason -- being the newest toast of NYC's downtown theatre scene for your beautiful play - closes June 30!! - does take a leetle precedence - even for us! - over kitchen and restaurant capers.
I too have a reason too for my long silence. I am currently Walking Through the Valley of the Shadow Between Acting Jobs - or maybe the 100-Degree Humidity Of Unemployment? I dunno -- which would seem to suggest that I have plenty of blogging time. And maybe I do ... but the thing is, I haven't jumped in to post something sooner because:
I was waiting for ingredients to come in the mail.
L to R: Almond Flour, Rose Extract, Rose Syrup, all courtesy of Amazon.com
So I know that my last few posts have had an astrological bent, but that's just because A) come on! there has been SO MUCH going on in the skies of late!! it can't be ignored! and B) I'm always looking for new and indirect ways to talk about life.
So let's just say that in the last month or so, the SuperMoon came and went, as did the summer solstice. The partial lunar eclipse partially eclipsed, Venus (the planet of love and relationships) went into retrograde AND did a newsworthy once-in-a-lifetime 48-hour trot across the Sun, my show closed, some other things closed, yada yada yada, and THEN I fell in love ...
... with a cake.
Specifically, the "Ispahan Loaf Cake" from Dorie Greenspan's "Around My French Table", which Mrs. BFF (formerly 'Mrs. Lawyer', a handle that got bad reviews) gave me for Xmas this past year.
So, I ... made it for myself! Whoo hoo!
I bought new utensils for this cake!!
Honestly, I don't know who was more whipped, me or the egg whites.
I fell hard - HARD - for this cake, before I had ever so much as tasted it! Just reading the recipe --well, you know I'm a sucker for a well-turrned ingredient list, and this one had me at "rose extract". Boo, I argued with myself, calm down. You're in a vulnerable place. You don't even know if you LIKE rose flavor, and the syrup Dorie recommends is only available in a, well, giant bottle. A giant expensive bottle. Well, Dorie says it's expensive but it keeps a long time and you'll want to make the cake "many times thereafter", so that's ok, right? Oh, Boo, you sucker! Almond flour? You don't like any dessert in the almond family! You JUST had a conversation YESTERDAY about how almond croissants are a waste of croissants. Also, who is going to eat this cake? You don't know anyone who likes this kind of thing. Also, it's going to be, like, 100 degrees out the day you decide to bake! You don't know that part yet, but it's what's going to happen!
I felt like one of those old cartoons with the angel and the devil on opposite shoulders, arguing. The thing is, they were both Dorie Greenspan, so ... she won.
What do two tablespoons of whole milk look like when mixed with 2 tablespoons of Rose Syrup?
SO PRETTY, that's what.
I was smitten, I tell you. Smitten. I didn't even know what "Ispahan" meant - I had to have it. Of course, I know now, because Dorie explains it: it's the name of a kind of "profoundly fragrant rose" and also "the once-capital of Persia". (Yes, Mouse, from memory.) It also seems to have become the name for a potent flavor combination - rose, raspberry, and lychee - unleashed upon France by pastry chef Pierre Herme some time ago, and now so popular that it's available in almost every dessert form including supermarket yogurt. Here in the States, however, it's remained pretty much unknown ... until now. (You're welcome.)
No lychees in this one, but it still counts.
The moral of the story is that there are times in life when you just have to do something that seems crazy, when you just have to follow your heart, even when a whole planet seems to be turned against you. I baked my Ispahan confection in near-100 heat, the air conditioner losing to the oven, with kind of not enough time before having to leave for Penn Station. I was determined. I whipped and folded and measured and placed raspberries in fussy triple rows, pouring batter over them. I waited patiently for 65 minutes, looking at my large bottle of Monin Rose Syrup and thinking what have I done, maybe. And when I tasted it ...I had to sit down. I think I actually said, "Wow". And then I ate two pieces.
Simple yet maddeningly complex in flavor. Innocent and fresh and not-too sweet, yet intoxicatingly perfumed and studded with just-cooked raspberries. Dense and almondy but not heavy or particularly rich. You could dress it up with whipped cream, or a raspberry coulis, garnish it with rose petals or raspberries. Or you could have it plain and warm with a no-nonsense mug of strong coffee or tea. It is, like a great love affair, provocative, complex, mysterious yet profoundly innocent at the same time. And certainly worth waiting (3-5 days standard shipping) for.
I hung a chunk of the cake on your doorknob, and tucked the rest snugly in my weekend bag for the the BFF Family in NJ. I wasn't sure if the kids would go for it. When the 5-year old tasted it, he shouted "I LOVE IT!" and immediately crawled under the table and proceeded to remove his pants. If that's not a rave review, I don't know what is.
And Venus Retrograde ends on Wednesday.
Love and Roses,
(From Dorie Greenspan's "Ispahan Loaf Cake" recipe in 'Around my French Table')
Note: This cake calls for Rose Syrup, NOT Rose Water!!! I believe this is the difference between an enchanted, subtly floral confection and a cake that tastes like Chanel No. 5. Also, i THINK Almond Flour is NOT the same as Almond Meal? I'm not 100% on that. (PS. Later note: Oh it probably doesn't matter. 9/5/12)
2.5 tbsp Rose Syrup
2 tbsp whole milk
2 C almond flour
1 C confectioner's sugar
3 large eggs, separated, plus 1 large egg at room temp
2.5 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 tsp rose extract
1/2 C plus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 pint raspberries (but I didn't use that many)
Center a rack in oven, preheat to 350. Butter a 9x5 loaf pan and dust with flour.
Stir rose syrup into milk.
Put almond flour and confectioner's sugar in a sieve set over a bowl and stir to pass them through. Or, if you're me, just put them in a bowl. Whisk together.
Beat egg whites in another bowl until they start to hold their shape, then gradually add the sugar, beating until the whites hold "firm, glossy peaks". Slide the egg whites into another bowl (and don't worry about cleaning the mixing bowl before carrying on).
Put almond-flour mixture and butter into mixer bowl and beat for 3 minutes or until very smooth.
Working at med speed, add egg yolks one at a time, beating for a minute after each. Then beat in whole egg.
Add rose-flavored milk and rose extract and beat one more minute.
Give the egg whites a quick whisk and stir 1/4 - 1/3 of them into the batter. With a spatula, and a "light touch", alternately fold in remaining whites and all-purpose flour into batter, "as quickly and gently as you can, folding in flour in 3 additions and whites in 2".
Scrape 1/3 of batter into prepared loaf pan, spread to even it.
Make 3 rows of raspberries down the length of the pan - dont let berries touch the sides - and then cover with half the remaining batter.
Make 3 more rows of berries, top with last of batter.
Lower oven to 300 and bake for 55-65 min or until a knife comes out clean.
Transfer to cooling rack, let rest 3 min. Unmold, invert, let cool to room temp.