Quick and Easy Genoise

Raising a cake to its full potential at high altitude is a difficult project. I want to be able to make my own cakes, because I believe you can have dessert but only if you make it yourself.

Just for fun I asked a calorie counting program what a piece of sponge cake with no frosting cost s — in calories — about 200.  This cake, with a chocolate ganache, is less than the glass of wine I had with it.

I’ve made this cake about once a week since the beginning of 2018. It started out like most of my previous cakes and had a nice sturdy holdability but no loft.  Then I made it in Dallas with the aid of a Kitchen Aid and I knew where I needed to be.   Now,  finely-adjusted, it works at altitude.  Plus, I did need to buy a hand mixer.  My very productive whisk just doesn’t whip the eggs to the ribbon.

Mile High Genoise Cake with Ganache

4 eggs

90 grams of turbinado sugar that has been stored with a vanilla bean

125 grams of all-purpose flour.

Grease an 8-inch spring form pan and cut out a disk of parchment for the bottom if you like how easy it is to remove stuff and clean up later when baked on parchment.  Preheat oven to 360 degrees F, and use the convecting fan.  If your oven, like mine, ratchets down the heat when you turn on fan mode, turn it up until it reads a good 360.

Break the eggs into a heat-proof bowl that you like for mixing. Beat slightly. Add the sugar and place over a pan of simmering water.  Beat until the sugar dissolves.  (You can feel it with your fingers or teeth when sugar is still solid).

At this point the bowl can come off the heat, and you must continue to beat the mixture until the batter comes to ‘the ribbon’ and the batter nearly white.

Use a strainer to sift the flour onto the batter and fold it in careful to deflate the eggs as little as possible.  Pour mixture into the prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes.  At this time test for doneness with a toothpick and if it comes out clean, cake is done. Place on a rack to cool.

Ovens have been the greatest variable for me in this test baking, so make a note of the total baking time you used and adjust if needed, for example: position in oven differently, higher or lower,  bake on a cookie sheet if bottom isn’t done but the rest of the cake is, turn up or down the heat and alternatively adjust the time.

All the cakes I’ve made with this process have been tasty, so you won’t toss it out, but you may want to go again if your first one isn’t perfect. And by the time you have perfected your oven and egg beating, you’ll have the recipe memorized.  I’ve got the whole process down to about 30 minutes.  Less time than a trip to the store.

While this cake was baking, I put a 2 oz. block of very good Callebaut semi-sweet 70% chocolate in a heavy pan with 2 T of whole milk on my lowest burner.  When the timer went off telling me the cake might be done, the chocolate had melted. I mixed it with a whisk and voila – ganache.  Cake was set in the cool night air coming through the windows, and within 10 minutes was lifted from the spring form pan.  Ganache was kept warm on the store from residual oven heat and poured right onto the top of the cake.

Almond Lemon Gluten-Free Olive Oil Cake

birthday cake

After a big meal this light cake still disappeared easily. If you don’t have spelt flour and you don’t mind having a little gluten, substitute cake flour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Separate 6 eggs.
Beat yolks for a minute.
Add 1/3 (to 1/2, depending on your taste) cup sugar, and 3 Tbls. powdered sugar
Add the zest of one lemon
Juice of that lemon
3/4 cup mild olive oil.
Mix together, and use the residue of olive oil in your measuring cup to grease a 9-inch (24-cm) spring-form pan.

1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup almond flour

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks are formed, and minimally fold them into the batter.

Peel a tangerine and place it under a glass placed lip down on the bottom of the pan. Pour all the finished batter around the glass. Remove glass. Bake in prepared oven for 45 minutes.  Turn off oven, open door and let cake cool completely.  You may glaze the cake when you serve it, but it’s not necessary.

Quick Moules

Mussels are an inexpensive way to get a lot of seafood taste. With about $5, you’ll get a pound, and can over-serve two people. And just a few minutes of preparation.

Rinse the mussels. If you purchase these in a grocery store they will already be cleaned several times and not still have dirt and sand in them. If you’ve found them yourself, you will need to do this yourself. In a very large pot, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil. Saute a small onion in the oil. Add about 1 cup of dry white wine. When the wine comes to a boil toss in the washed mussels. When the first shell opens toss in the chopped tomato and basil. Give them all another minute on the heat and serve.

A warm crusty bread is an excellent accompaniment. Because there will be nice broth left in your bowl after eating all the mussels. Above we added some peppers from the garden and a garnish of green onions. And served them as is traditional in France – with French Fries.

Tomato Breakfast

tomatoes2011Once, in Spain, we were having breakfast and the guy next to us started rubbing big, hunking tomato quarters all over his toast, rubbing them until the skin came off in his hand. Then, he dumped salt, pepper and olive oil on the mash and ate it.

Later, we went out for tapas, and the whole table next to us started smearing tomatoes onto bread. We’ll have one of those we said, of course, and soon my entire family was squeezing the meat out of the tomatoes with the help of the nap of the crusty bread.

If the skins won’t come off — meaning the tomatoes are old and not very good — this isn’t the method. But with my summer crop of tomatoes hanging so alluringly on the vine, they and great olive oil are the perfect candidates to go on my Seeduction bread, toasted.

This year we grew six different types of tomatoes. Eating one type per piece of bread really helps clarify the taste memory of each of these. Pictured are the small SubArtic Plenty, a small breed that does alright in cool temperatures and flourished through our cold July. They have never gotten very big for me, and aren’t true early tomatoes so they are not my favorites for practical reasons, but their taste is clean, clear and sweet with just a hint of tart.

Thumbnail image for FiorentinoTomato.jpgThe heavy ribbed tomato on the left is a Costoluto Fiorentino, with a very sweet and very tart taste. Very meaty and the skin comes off nicely even when tucked in crevices. I didn’t give these plants enough of a sunny home, so the ones that are ripe now are smaller than I hoped. Some more promising fruit is still on the vine.

To the right is the Black Russian that has produced so well for me this year. They riped with a purplish top on the green fruit then turn a deep violet red. The meat is equally saturated with color. The taste is sweet, only slightly tart, with a meatiness that hits the top back arch of the mouth like a steak does.

Hot Days filled with Too Much Fun to Cook

BikeSpeerColfax.jpgHot days. So many tomatoes.

I picked the first few plum tomatoes. We have nine (4 SanMarzano Redorta; 5 Opalka) plants in all and we hope they will make enough paste to last us all year. We’ve never grown the Redorta, and the Opalka were grown from seeds I saved from last year, so I wanted to try them before I bothered to store the lot. This first batch of plums, I made into gazpacho.

Sunday afternoon gazpacho for after the U.S. Pro Cycling finale in Denver August 28 – a perfect excuse.

We’d had a few Sierra Nevada beers up at the race finish, but were all pretty hungry after riding around to find the best race viewing positions. The food at the event looked good, but there wasn’t that much shade, and besides I had the gazpacho made.

gazpachoMeal.jpgHere’s what I did on the day before: dropped six tomatoes in boiling water. Turned the heat off below them, and pulled them out one at a time. Removed the skin, which I put in a stainer over a bowl. Then, I opened the tomatoes and scooped out the seeds, which I also put in the stainer. I cut the meat into bite-sized pieces and put them in a bowls with a chopped green (somewhat spicy) pepper, a garden-fresh cucumber diced, a red onion, a few tablespoons of basil, 3 small minced garlic. The tomatoes were making a juice while all the other chopping was going on, and I went out to the garden to see if there was something else.

chinesecucumber.pngFound a Chinese cucumber that is a cross between a zucchini and a cucumber. (This vegetable must be peeled because it has a fussy skin of little hairs all over it’s exterior. My friend Sandy brought these seeds back from Chinatown last winter.  We grew them not knowing what they would turn out to be.)

To all the chopped vegetables I added about ¼ cup of olive oil, 1 cup water, 2 Tbs of dry white vermouth and the water that the tomato seed and peel made.  Just before I served it I added about a dozen ice cubes and let the gazpacho sit out at room temperature.

Martha was assigned the wine for this afternoon, after-race meal, and found that gazpacho is the wine pairer’s nightmare. She brought a couple of Spanish reds (a Rioja and its cousin, a Tempranillo) and they were perfect.

CherryPeppers.jpgWe started with some previously marinated eggplant (with parsley/garlic/red pepper) and some green bean marinated in rice wine vinegar.

We bought a pizza crust from a local pizzeria, Abo’s, on the ride home. Stretched it into several pieces and grilled them. First on one side, then flipping them, and adding some chopped garlic, basil and rosemary from the yard. Then we grilled some eggplant rounds. When they were marked well on both sides we piled on cheese and a tomato slice. These were the garnish in the gazpacho that we served with the grilled pizza crust. Enough for six people. There were six of us and we had to share two pieces of leftover piece of semifreddo. It was cold and very frozen, and felt great on this hot afternoon.