Friday, December 30, 2011

Amandine, take 1 (and 2)

Amandine.  One of the first words I picked up. It is a delicious and decadent rum soaked chocolate cake layered with a chocolate cream and almonds, topped with a chocolate glaze/ganache.

I spent several hours yesterday looking up recipes, translating the few words I know (which thankfully are things like butter, eggs, chocolate, oil, sugar, flour - I figure pretty soon I'd be able to make my way around a grocery store, as long as i don't have to talk to anyone) and converting measurements.  I started with this because we have some in the freezer, so I had something to compare it to.

First attempt:  Delicious, but not quite right.  The recipe I used is here, but it omitted not only ingredients I know to be in the cake, but also omitted adding ingredients in the directions that are actually in the ingredient list.  This is my slightly modified version:

For the cake
6 eggs, separated
200 grams sugar
40ml water
40 ml oil (I used sunflower as stated in the original recipe)
3T cocoa
1t baking powder
200g flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In one bowl, beat egg yolks while slowly adding oil to make a mayonnaise like mixture.  Mix in the cocoa powder, flour, water and baking powder and set aside.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites to form stiff peaks, then add sugar and beat until combined.  Fold in the yolk/cocoa mixture.  Spread batter on a oiled/floured (or parchment covered) jelly roll or similar pan.  Bake about 10 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Once cool, cut into layers (I baked this in a sheet pan and cut small 6 layers - enough to make two 3-layer cakes)

Chocolate cream
3 egg yolks
150g powdered sugar
250g butter
4T cocoa
Rum (the original recipe calls for rum extract, but I prefer the real thing)

Beat butter, sugar, cocoa and yolks together with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy.  I added quite a bit extra sugar (about 150g more) - I generally love a very dark chocolate cream, but the amandine does not have a very dark cream and this needed more sugar.  I also chopped up about 3/4 cup almonds and added that to the chocolate cream.  In going back and forth between this cream and the cream in the amandine in my freezer, I also added a little almond extract (a very small amount)

Rum syrup

The original recipe had measurements for this (500ml water, 100g sugar) but I found it to be far too watery and not at all syrupy as it should be so I tossed out the first attempt and just boiled a little water with about 150g of sugar until the sugar dissolved, then removed it from the heat and added a shot of rum.  Drench each layer of cake with the syrup before assembling.

Once the layers are drenched, use a large spatula to arrange a layer on your plate.  Cover with a thick layer of chocolate cream.  Repeat with a second layer of cake and cream and finish with a third layer of cake.  Refrigerate to firm up.

Finish with a chocolate glaze on top - I melted 7 ounces of chocolate (I used 60% dark) with 50g butter and 50g cream (by this time I was using two separate recipes and combining the two).  Spread over the top and sides of the cake.  Finish with almonds on the sides (I ran out).

Second attempt: Also very good, but still not right.  Since I made extra layers in the original cake recipe, I used those with the chocolate cream from another recipe

Chocolate cream
3 sticks butter
4 eggs
2 1/2 T cocoa
200g sugar

Mix the eggs and sugar in a large bowl over boiling water.  Add 1T of the cocoa and mix well.  Remove and cool.  In another bowl, cream butter and remaining 1 1/2 T cocoa, then combine with the chilled egg/sugar/cocoa mixture.  Whip until creamy.   Again here I added about 3/4c chopped almonds to the cream. 

Picture is of the cake with the second chocolate cream (and not enough time firming up in the fridge before A got home for dinner!).

The verdict?

Delicious cakes in their own right.  Not what I was going for however.  Needs more rum syrup, which was my fault because I was afraid to really drench it because I still had to assemble it and sponge cake is notoriously unstable to begin with (unless making a buche de noel and rolling it in a towel right away).  Next time I will really drench it.  More time in the refrigerator to firm up.  The chocolate glaze needs to be harder, less of a soft, pliable glaze and more of a shell.  The cake needs more cocoa and should be a little sturdier than a sponge.  The texture of the first chocolate cream was good - but there is something missing.  Something fragrant, as A says, which usually means almond extract, but he doesn't think that's what it is (and I did add a little to that cream).  The second cream was too light in texture, too fluffy, and also too buttery, and was also missing that something that we can't put our finger on yet ...

Back to the drawing board. I know what I'll be doing this weekend! Amandine take 3 for New Year's Eve, anyone?

My first meal

I spent the day researching traditional dishes and came up with this: pui cu smantana si mamaliga. 

Polenta/mamaliga and I do not get along - at some point, I will master the fine art of boiling water with cornmeal in it, but apparently not today.   I've made it several times and it is never quite the right texture/consistency.

The chicken was wonderful.  I served it to A (the kids had eaten plain chicken and pineapple earlier for their dinner - they won't eat sour cream) with high hopes.  Was I on the right track? Are the spices right? Does it taste like it should? He's never had it before.  Figures. 

The recipe I used was from Tasty Kitchen, of all places.  I know, very traditional. There are only so many words I can translate myself (most of which are foods), so I am a bit limited.  We have several cookbooks in the kitchen, but only one is in English (the translations crack me up - the running joke at the moment is that I will be making "apples on the sofa" very soon), and not everything is the way he remembers. 

Overall, I am happy with this as a first meal.  I wish I could have gotten some actual feedback on it, but there was no way I was cooking for A's parents when that was the first meal I've made myself. 

Becoming ...

I am a seamstress.  a mother.  a writer.  a baker.  a knitter.  a sister, a daughter, niece, a cousin, a friend. 

I am passionate.  opinionated.  creative.  rational.  independent.  natural.  slightly more traditional than average.

I am Italian.  Scotch-Irish.  brunette, brown eyes.  short.  thin. 

and now I am finding myself, after a long and winding and bumpy road, heading a very traditional Romanian family. 

I do not speak the language.  I do not know the foods and customs.  I am learning.  and this is my journey.