Malto Mario


The Lady & Sons

1,000 Italian Recipes

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

LiveSTRONG With a Taste of Yellow Opéra Cake!

I KNOW! Leave it to me to post way late. Jebus.

DB May Opera (2)

Right off the bat, I must state how wonderful it was to work with such nice gals this month. Not only did I get the opportunity to co-host with my lovely partner in crime again, but I also got to share the honor with a gorgeous fellow Ohioan, Fran! And that sexy whisk lover, Shea! It’s been a pleasure, girls! I know I wasn’t much help – this really was Ivonne’s baby – but I sure enjoyed working with ya’ll! You did a magnificent job! :D

My main objective this month was to keep whatever we chose to make either yellow or light in color. Because May is LiveSTRONG month, we wanted to dedicate our posts to all of those out there that have been touched by cancer, but especially to Barbara. You know, I don’t know Barbara all that well, but the respect I have for her is truly heartfelt, to say the least. Barbara is unfailing in her efforts to keep awareness high when it comes to cancer prevention and living with cancer. Her annual, A Taste of Yellow, supports Lance Armstrong’s LiveSTRONG movement and is a major event in the foodie blogger’s world. And I can say I always feel proud to be a part of it. Thank you for all that you do, Barbara! You are an amazing woman.

DB May Opera (1)

Figuring out what flavor combination I was going to go with was a no-brainer. Bananas. Caramel. A whisper of cinnamon. RUM. Or, simply put.. A Bananas Foster Opéra Cake. C’mon.. ya’ll groan aloud with me.. yess yess.. feel that lil shimmy of sheer delight trickle down your spine.. Mmm hmm… now THAT’S what I’M talkin’ bout. I knew that I was going to add the cinnamon to the jaconde, that I was going to make a caramelized banana mousse in lieu of the white chocolate mousse and a caramel buttercream. Or was I? After much discussion with my BFF, I went with banana buttercream and made her toffee sauce (only mine was a drunken version complete with spiced rum hiccups!) to brush on the cake layers.. there you have it kids – all the components of a Bananas Foster Opéra Cake. squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

The Opéra cake was not as hard to make as I had thought it would be. It certainly looks like you have to pay the devil your very soul to be able to whip up the thin layers of jaconde, buttercream, ganache (or in my case, mousse) and glaze.. but you really don’t. The components of the cake can be made in advance and separately. Since my guru taught me the proper way to fold when she was up for a visit last summer, making the light and airy jaconde was a cinch. I didn’t fear the buttercream, since I’ve become a seasoned pro thanks to The Martha (God love her and damn her fakkin crepe cake) and the mousse.. well I’ve made it before. So what were my challenges? I think the biggest hurdle was layering the cake so that it didn’t look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa when I was finished. It certainly can’t be said that it was perfectly even and flat – but it did end up looking pretty good for a change. har! The second biggest hurdle was discussing with my BFF the technique to incorporate fruit into the buttercream without taking the chance of the buttercream separating. He had made his Opéra already and had created a kiwi infused buttercream. When he explained how he did it, I was flabbergasted! But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that he is just a fakkin’ genius.

DB May Opera (2)

All he did was process kiwis until they “made babyfood look chunky”, as he put it. heheee! Then he added that puree straight to the white sugar with only ¼ of the water called for in the recipe. He brought it all to a boil and up to the required 225º then drizzled it into the meringue being made in the stand mixer. Voila! Add your butter and you’ve got fruit infused buttercream that was incredibly creamy and delish. I followed his direction and used one very ripe banana.. whizzed it until it was liquid, poured it in my lil pot and boiled it up with the sugar & water.. drizzled that heavenly smelling liquid into my meringue and tossed in a couple sticks of butter.. and OHMYGOD I had the best smelling banana buttercream in ALL THE WORLD. My only regret was using just one banana.. next time two for sure.

The last hurdle was what to glaze my cake with as I cannot tolerate white chocolate. I was going to melt down some pineapple preserves I had recently purchased and just poured it over the cake.. but again, brainstorming with my BFF.. we started discussing banana jam. Homemade banana jam. I found a recipe.. it was too easy to NOT make.. so I did. And let me tell you.. if you’ve never had banana jam and you like bananas.. you MUST make this stuff. Dear sweet Jebus. YUM! Especially spread thinly on a cracker with a slice of a semi-soft cheese on top.. HEAVEN. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that fantastic on the Opéra cake. It was too dark and pinkish – I KNOW WTF?? - I have no idea why it turned pink.. maybe something to do with whatever it is that turns quince pink when you cook it?? And it was a little too strong for such a delicate cake. So I scraped it all off and went back to my original idea of the melted pineapple preserves and was quite happy with the results. The pineapple actually brought out the banana taste and didn’t take away from it at all.. I still had my Bananas Foster Opéra cake. :)

DB May Opera

what did I think about my very first Opéra cake? Well.. it looked quite pretty, but unfortunately it wasn’t my cup of tea. I wasn’t fond of the texture of the jaconde. I couldn’t taste the most magnificent caramel/toffee/spiced rum sauce that I had brushed the layers with. And it was sweeeeetttttt. Ohhh my goodnassss it was sweet. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.. but I think I prefer my Bananas Foster warm and my banana cakes slathered in chocolate. hehee Will I make it again? Yes and no. I’m definitely trying the traditional version, but I doubt I’d ever make the light version again. I also purchased 2 lbs of dry roasted pistachios.. so next time it will have a pistachio jaconde and then the traditional flavors of coffee and chocolate for the buttercream and ganache. I look forward!

My advice to you would be to go stretch your legs and maybe use one of those eyeball washer thingies to rinse out your peepers after reading this long winded post of mine. Then grab your favorite beverage and start clickin’ on the Daring Baker Blogroll because just from the few I got sneak peeks of earlier this month, you will be AMAZED! and AWED! at the gorgeous cakes that are floating all over the blogosphere today!


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Sunday, May 18, 2008

What Happens When a Bakeanista Crosses a Geoduck and a Flaccid uhh..


Well she gets the best damn cheesy bread she's ever had.. YES you heard me, PANERA. It blows your Asiago bread right outta the water!

Crusty Gruyere Stuffed Bread

Last weekend, in between our monthly trip to the West Side Market and Trader Joe's, plus a jaunt to the local greenhouse for the biggest basket of purple & white petunias we could find for Mommie's Day.. was a late blooming starter, lots of flour and even more CHEESE.

The newly named "Bakeanistas" got together again for a day of baking and chit chatting on Skype. Wondering who the Bakeanistas are? Just a fantabulous group of sexy women including Mary, Sara, Ivonne, Helene, Laura Rebecca, Kelly and Stephanie - oh and me!

Wondering what cheesy bread it was that we baked? Check out this step by step tutorial for Gruyère-Stuffed Crusty Loaves and the recipe can be found here.

Knowing full well that this recipe called for a starter that was to be made the night before, I sent out a call for help from my other Bakeanista sisters - "SOMEONE PLEASE REMIND ME TO MAKE MY STARTER ON FRIDAY NIGHT!!" I knew damn well that without a reminder, I'd completely forget to make it. And because these ladies are AWESOME, I received, not one but TWO reminders on Friday to make my starter that night. PHEW! Thank goodness for reminders!

Have I ever told ya'll about the two month period last year that I left Nigel at home on his grooming days? If I did tell ya'll that story - do you remember how I stuck post-it notes on the front door, the door to the kennel that Nigel and his sister, Chloe, sleep in during the mornings AND the post-it I stuck on the inside of my car windshield? Okay well, admittedly, I didn't stick the post it on the windshield until the 2nd month, since I had forgotten him the prior month.

And do ya'll remember how I got 3/4's of the way to work when I realized that my goreous son was still sitting at home wondering WTF? Mmm hmm..

I woke up Saturday morning - BAKING MORNING - like I normally do (at the butt-crack of dawn), made my coffee, let the kids out for their morning constitutional, filled up assorted doggie and kitty food & water bowls, sat down at the PC with lists upon lists of things that needed to be taken care of.. and promptly blowing said lists off so I could read new email.. when at six bells this shudder of terror crept down my spine.


Crusty Gruyere Stuffed Bread

Thank God, Thank God, Thank God, and Hail Mary, I knew I couldn't start baking until later than the rest of the gals because of the monthly grocery shopping extravaganza. So I bound down the hallway, bouncing off walls, to the kitchen and slapped that shite together. I noticed how dry it was and was kinda taken aback, as every starter I've had to make (hehe every.. like I've made TWO now and one of those died a horrible death that I try not to think about) has been spongy and wet. But oh well.. no time to dwell! I put her in a warm place and went about my usual morning routine and then left for shopping with Hubbs.

I didn't get to participate in much chit chat this month, which was a bummer because I missed all talk of vajayjays, exploding mammories and other unsavory topics that usually trip my trigger. Dammit. So in between TJ's and the greenhouse, we stopped home to unload the car and I made the dough. Left it to rise while we visited my mommie and when I got home I rolled it out and filled it with cheese, then rolled it up into a considerably long log. Another hour or so later, I cut the log up into 4 "mini" loaves (so not mini!) and pulled apart the outer layers so the cheesy goodness would have plenty of room to bubble up and out like the most delicious lava from a volcano I've ever seen.

Into the oven they went and back to the office I went to chat with Kelly and Mary for a bit.. I was also doing something else, but I can't recall what it was at this moment. Regardless of what it was, it wasn't too long after my cheesy volcanos went into the oven that I started to smell an all too familiar scent when I'm baking bread.. smoke. Dear sweet jebus the smoke alarm went off next. Gah.

Crusty Gruyere Stuffed Bread

I ran to the kitchen to find puffs of billowy black smoke emerging from the back of my oven - WHAT THE FUCK, BAKING GODS??? CAN YOU GIVE ME A BREAK JUST ONCE???? I took the loaves out and was more than alarmed to see that they had morphed into what can only be explained as a cross between a geoduck and a man's flaccid hoo-haw. I KID YOU NOT, kids. The Baking Gods were having another belly bustin laugh spree at my expense ONCE AGAIN. Helene's vajayjay-looking bread had nothing on these pornographic sea monsters. Oh hells no.

I ran back down the hallway in a frightened panic (you always know when I've been baking - that frightened panic takes over) and pounded out the words on my keyboard to Mary.. "OHMYGOD THERE'S SMOKE EVERYWHERE AND MY BREAD LOOKS LIKES LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF DEBBIE DOES DALLAS - HELP!!!" Mary calmly asked how high my oven was (425º as per instructions) and then recalled that I had a hot spot in my oven from when she was here back in October of 2007 - so she advised me to turn down the oven to 375º, and put them back in. They might take longer to bake, but at least they'd stop smoking. And the funny thing was.. the loaves, other than their embarrassing appearance, weren't burning.. nor was the cheese erupting from them like.. well.. GAH we will not discuss what the oozing cheese looked like - but the oven itself was smoking. So I did as she said and by the time I got back to the office, she and Kelly and I think Helene was there at that point, came up with a couple conclusions.. I had sprayed cooking spray on the parchment paper (no, didn't do that) - my oven was smoking because it might have just been cleaned and the heat was causing the residual cleaner to smoke (BINGO!). These gals are so smuckin' fart! :D

Hubbs had cleaned the oven out with soap and water a couple days before and it looked as if a lil soap residue was still there. PHEW. The rest of the baking process went beautifully - it did take an extra 10 minutes for them to bake through, but I was rewarded with the most AWESOME tasting cheesy bread that I've ever had. The outside had just the right crispiness, the inside was soft and gooey and the flavor.. ohhhh the flavor! Gruyère is the BEST cheese to bake with, in my humble opinion.

Crusty Gruyere Stuffed Bread

This is one of those recipes that I can not recommend enough. The dough was a snap to make and very easy to work with.. not sticky at all and it rolled out beautifully. Now it might not be the prettiest loaf of cheesy bread ever, but that just adds to the rustic charm of it. We (and by "we" I mean ME) inhaled the first loaf that afternoon.. I shared the 2nd loaf with him the following day and froze the other two.. they did not last longer than a week as I just toasted up the last of it this past Monday. My only advice to you would be to either double - nay triple - this recipe so you've got plenty in the freezer to get you through until next cheesy bread baking day. ;)

Thanks so much to my sexy bread bakin' mamas - I can't wait for the next Bakeanistas adventure! Love you all SO MUCH! :)


PS - Sorry that my post is a couple days late.. but the good news is I can sit for almost an hour now without having to request help to get outta my chair! hahahaa! Fakkin' sciatica. Gah. xoxo

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