Friday, April 27, 2018

Sakura Spring

I just got back from two weeks in Thailand, and let me tell you -- it was heaven.  Amazing, beautiful, tasty -- I can't recommend it enough.  It's been the travel experience that I recommend everyone put on his or her bucket list.  I mean, a vacation that included mouth-watering street food, $18 gourmet dinners, semi weekly massages, elephants, baby tigers, breathtaking sunsets, remote beaches. . .have I convinced you yet?  I mean, what more can you ask for?? Oh wait, I take it back.  There is something that I would change.  Namely the utter hell that it took to get there (not to mention the 52 hour trip back.)  Not that that's Thailand's fault at all.  The blame falls squarely on our inaccessible local airport (and Toronto's detestable weather.)  But every difficulty has some silver lining, and this one may just have been that, due to all the rerouting, I have been lucky enough to see the famous Japanese cherry blossom bloom twice.  Granted, the second time just happened to be from a middle seat in an airplane; but yet, even through the hazy miniature pane of reinforced glass, it was breathtaking.  Simply beautiful.  To be honest,  I think my husband was hoping that the connection from Tokyo to Bangkok would get cancelled.  He has a very special love for Japan and I swear I saw a faint spark of hope when the giggling women at the counter in Tokyo informed us that his ticket name didn't match his passport name.  (That's another something to love about Japan -- everyone is so happy that even when they're telling you that your long awaited vacation may not actually happen, you can't help but smile right along with them.) Well, anyways, back to cherry blossoms.  I was going to say that there's just something ethereal about the thousands of gravity defying clouds of tiny pink blossoms -- something that seems to inspire hope.  Just like spring itself, I suppose.  So in honor of cherry blossoms, and of spring, here is a dessert to sweep in the season of beginnings.

Almond Chiffon Layer Cake with Matcha Mousse and Candied Cherries

Almond Chiffon Cake

  • 2 1/4 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/4 cup and 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 egg yolks (large) at room temp
  • 8 egg whites (large) at room temp
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
Cooking Directions
  1. Spray a large sheet pan with cooking spray
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F
  3. Sift flour, larger portion of sugar, baking powder, and salt into large mixing bowl
  4. Beat together yolks, water, oil, and extracts in a separate bowl until well combined.
  5. Stir into the flour mixture
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Then add the cream of tartar and remaining sugar slowly until you see stiff peaks
  7. Fold a small amount of the egg whites into the larger mixture. Then fold the rest of the egg whites in gently so the mixture does not deflate
  8. Pour into sheet pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cake springs back when gently pressed.
  9. Using a large cutting board, cover the cake pan and flip the pan upside down to unmold the cake onto the cutting board.
  10. Cool, wrap, freeze

Matcha Mousse

  • 1 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 oz white chocolate chips
  • 2 medium egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp matcha powder
  • 1 1/2 cup and 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 packs powdered gelatin
  • a sweeter sake
Cooking Directions
  1. Line a 1/4 sheet pan with parchment
  2. Pour 1/4 cup +2 tbsp of sake over the powdered gelatin in a bowl and let sit for five minutes
  3. Meanwhile, heat the 1 1/4 cups of heavy cream until just barely simmering
  4. Remove from heat
  5. Beat the egg yoks and sugar until creamy and then pour into the heavy cream and mix well
  6. Heat until the mixture reaches 180 degrees F
  7. Meanwhile, place the matcha powder into a small prep bowl and add enough sake to make a thin paste when combined
  8. Add the matcha paste and the white chocolate to the egg yolk mixture and stir
  9. Heat the gelatin until melted over the stove and add, through a sieve, to the remaining mixture
  10. Stir well
  11. Whip the remaining cream until soft peaks form.
  12. Fold into the gelatin mixture
  13. Spread onto the prepared pan
  14. Freeze until firm but flexible

Whipped Cream

  • 4 cups heavywhipping cream
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tps almond extract
Cooking Directions
  1. Beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form
  2. Sprinkle in the sugar while the mixer is running at medium speed
  3. Add the extracts
  4. Beat until stiff peaks form
Cherry Filling

  • 20 Amareno or Luxardo cherries in syrup
Cooking Directions
  1. Chop the cherries finely
  2. Move into a bowl and add 1/4 cup of syrup

Putting it all together

  • Using a round biscuit/cookie cutter, cut 20 rounds of cake and 20 rounds of mousse.
  • Using a piping bag fitted with a round-ish tip, pipe a layer of whipped cream on a cake round, and top with a layer of mousse
  • Pipe another layer of whipped cream over the mousse
  • Spoon and spread about one chopped cherry on top of the whipped cream and drizzle with more juice
  • Top with a second layer of mousse
  • Pipe a layer of whipped cream and top with a second cake round
  • Repeat 9 times

  • When you have put all of the cakes together, take one cake and hold it like a hamburger with your left hand, with your thumb on the bottom, and your index or middle finger on top
  • Pipe ropes of frosting up and down the sides until you have covered the entire cake. 
  • Set on a surface where you can easily pick it up again and pipe a ring along the top outer edge, leaving room to still grip it with your fingers
  • Roll gently in a bowl of sparkling sugar by placing the cake on its side, lifting and turning it, and placing it back in the bowl until completely covered
  • Stand it up on the serving dish and pat the edges with sugar
  • Finish piping the top of the cake with cream and pour sugar on top with your fingers, dusting the excess off gently
  • Using a pastry brush, brush the excess sugar off of the dish
  • Decorate further with fondant or toppers as desired

A little bit of dust really brings the petals to life -- just like that blush of color on the real thing.

So before I break out the final pictures, I have to say that this was one of the hardest desserts that I've ever made.  And unexpectedly so!  The baking itself was time-consuming, but doable, but the decoration!!! Almost impossible.  You wouldn't think that rolling something in sugar would be difficult, but turns out when that something is multilayered, squishy, and sticky, things get a little more complicated.  So while these pictures turned out well, it's because I photographed the two cakes that turned out properly (yes -- out of ten.)  But everything tasted pretty good, and, as my mother told me when my young self complained about misshapen pancakes -- "it all gets squashed up in your stomach anyways."
  πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„ πŸ˜„
(my mom has always been really smart. . .)

So all's well that end's well!  
Happy spring to all -- hope you get to enjoy the beauty of the cherry blossoms this season!