Today – a sweet day from start to finish. (And could you possibly believe that there was no chocolate involved?)
With sunlight streaming down my back and soft, spring-is-coming breeze tugging on my hair, I skipped to school. Today being February 29th, or “leap day,” I had dedicated some time this morning to leaping into full-arm balance with two legs and working on buoyant drop-backs without letting my heels lift off of the floor. The exhilaration of my morning practice along with this good weather brought about a lightness in my step. I also noticed that some of the Hubway station bikes were being re-installed around town – what great news! Passing by the fish market on Harvard St. and peering in the window to see if they were open, I met my reflection in glass. I just looked…utterly content. At that moment, I wished I could freeze the pane of glass that held my feeling of joy forever…perhaps I could Instagram it?
NOT TO MENTION, TODAY WAS CAKE DAY. I was truly looking forward to class.
Chef Janine, our wonderful baking instructor, was here with us today to teach us all about cakes. She wanted us to experience a wide variety of cake and buttercream preparations – we discussed high fat cakes, such as a pound cake and Victoria sponge, to low fat cakes, such as a chiffon and angel food. We compared mixing methods – all-in-one, creaming, sponge, etc., and what effects that these methods had on the overall crumb of the cake. Of course, we had our customary lecture on “gluten,” this time in regards to cakes – Chef Janine loves gluten and her lectures would not be complete without including a few more tidbits about the fascinating stuff.
What did we make…
Jordan Marsh Blueberry Muffins.
Before the days of Macy’s, apparently there was a large department store called Jordan Marsh, which in addition to carrying all department store type things, sold the most amazing blueberry muffins (Today is my first time hearing of this, but I find the story interesting). This recipe is a replica of these iconic muffins. They were made using the “quick bread” method, leavened by chemical agents, aka b.powda, rather than yeast. A perfect morning treat.
These were invented as a snack for the people working in the Financial district of France. Traditionally these are made in long bar shapes to look like gold bars. Today, Chef made them in mini muffin tins. With browned butter, almonds, and pistachios, these were rich, nutty, and delicious.
Oatmeal Maple Scones.
With whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, maple syrup, and a whole lot of butter, these were hearty scones! We made these using a similar technique to that used when making biscuits. Chef Janine showed us how to handle the dough as little as possible, to prevent the famous gluten from forming too much. She also pointed out that the butter should be left in pea size chunks to get nice flaky textures.
Angel Food Cake.
A cake without any fat at all, could it be? Whipped egg whites, sugar, and flour folded in gently makes this cake so light, airy, and angelic. We flavored it with orange and lemon zest, and when it came out of the oven, it smelled exactly like fruit loops. We let it hang out upside down so that it would not lose any air. Honestly, while our cake came out beautifully, I have never been a huge fan of angel food – I’d rather have something more buttery.
White Cupcakes with Swiss Buttercream.
A very classic vanilla cupcake and a light, butter frosting that we made from whipping up egg whites with sugar, butter, and more sugar. We had fun playing around with piping the icing in different ways. Chef Janine also wanted us practice our caramel making technique, as last week, most of us failed miserably – the caramel made beautiful decorations!
The cake I have been waiting to make! After listening to GBBO’s Mary Berry speak so highly of this dainty cake in her matter-of-fact British accent (as she spoons generous mouthfuls of the jam and cream), I have been often imagining what this cake must be like in real life. Queen Victoria, the brilliant lady who invented tea time, enjoyed this cake as a “sandwich” – two layers of rich vanilla cake spread with a thin layer of buttercream and raspberry jam. My team was rather generous with the filling…and it was delicious!
Things that I learned today:
- Crumb is formed by the way you mix the batter.
- Do not grease the pan for angel food cake. The egg whites need a rock wall to climb up in order to rise and butter will just make it slip down.
- Chiffon cake is like an angel food cake except with egg yolks.
- Brushing the top of dough with a wash adds a nice color. Egg yolks will create the darkest color. You can also use egg whites, whole eggs, milk, buttermilk, or cream.
- Buttering your pans with butter gives the best flavor. Obviously…
- Once you add the flour to batter, you start to enter the realm of gluten. Less mixing mean more tenderness. MIX AT YOUR OWN RISK.
- Making caramel is tricky. You must be patient, not leave it unattended, and must not stir! It gets super hot and can burn you, so no touching until it is cooled.
Overall, Chef Janine was impressed by the consistency of our bakes – we had all around success in the kitchen! Not to mention, our teamwork game was strong today – my chef family took care of each other, working swiftly and cleaning up along the way so that things weren’t piled up at the end of the night, when we were sugar crashing.
Ah cake. What a joy. Happy and a bit tired. Off to deliver Victoria sandwiches, do my inversions, and find some vegetables. And then perhaps a bit of chocolate.
No day is complete without chocolate.