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Aug 3, 2009 02:16 PM

*August 2009 COTM* OTTOLENGHI: Cakes, Muffins and Cupcakes

Our Chowhound August 2009 Cookbook of the Month is Ottolenghi: The Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi; and all online recipes by the authors.

Please post your full-length recipe reviews here for dishes from the cookbook chapter Baking and Patisserie, sections Large cakes and ,Small cakes, muffins and cupcakes and online recipes with those ingredients.

Please mention the name of the recipe you are reviewing and the page number, or include a link to the online recipe, if possible, as well as any modifications you made to the recipe. Let us know if you would like to make the recipe again, and if you would change anything in the future, too.

Please see the main Cookbook of the Month thread for some useful links.

Lists of the recipes from these book sections, along with links where applicable, and the opportunity to request paraphrases, may be found at these links:

Large cakes: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6417...

Small cakes, muffins and cupcakes: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6417...

A reminder that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Thanks for participating and enjoy!

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  1. I made the chocolate fudge cake yesterday - it is just about the chocolatiest thing I have ever confected in my life. You make a syrup of light muscovado sugar (I used half and half dark and light brown US sugar), and pour it over 2 kinds of dark chocolate - was supposed to be 52% cocoa (I used French Nestlés baking choc which is 52%) and 70% (I used TJ's which is actually 72%) with 2 sticks of butter, then let this melt in a large bowl (I jumpstarted it over hot water and shouldn't have because of the next step). You let this cool to room temp, which took about 45 mins since I had not followed instructions to the letter - I left my instant-read thermometer in the mix, held up by the tines of my whisk). You then whisk in 5 egg yolks, and fold in the whites of same, beaten to firm peaks (I added a dash of salt and 1/4 tsp cream of tartar to the egg whites, following my mother's dictum, "never sweet without salt"). I found it best to do this in 4 additions to blend in more easily. You then bake 2/3rds of the mixture in a 9" springform pan for 40 mins and let the cake cool completely. Once cool, you top it with the remainder of the batter and bake it another 20 mins (no water bath required by the way). The two textures from the two bakings are quite wonderful. I will make this again for a big party since it is incredibly rich - and would serve it with whipped cream. As it is we have enough chocolate cake to be going on with for ages (I plan to freeze half, I am sure this will be exquisite at any temperature).

    10 Replies
    1. re: buttertart

      I made the Apple Olive Oil Cake for a dinner with my cousins. It has maple cream cheese frosting and is amazing. The only trouble was the measurements. I have a scale but no volume measurement cups, spoons, etc. It's always a chore.

      In any case, this is a rich-tasting cake which has no butter in the batter. Golden Delicious and a few other apples are in season now in Califa and they were perfect for this.

      1. re: oakjoan

        Gosh, I must have passed right by this recipe. But, it sounds delicious and perfectly seasonal! Must try!


        1. re: oakjoan

          The Apple Cake is utterly delicious and comes together perfectly with the frosting. I recommend a tart apple to contrast with the cake and frosting. Please make it, but don't over bake it as I did when I made it the first time....

          1. re: oakjoan

            Apple and olive cake with maple icing p.193

            We liked this but didn't love it. It seemed rather dry, despite all the olive oil, but I may have overcooked it a bit, though I took it out the oven a couple of minutes early. If I make it again I think I'd start checking after 70 minutes as a cake baking for 90 minutes presumably has quite a bit of variation for different ovens.

            The maple icing was delicious though I wasn't at home so didn't have my stand mixer so had to mix it by hand, which meant it wasn't as smooth as I think it would have been with the paddle attachment.

          2. re: buttertart

            Wow. This sounds amazing. What were the two different textures like?

            1. re: karykat

              The whole thing is deliriously creamy and the top even more so. The best flourless chocolate cake out of the ten or more recipes I've made, ever.

            2. re: buttertart

              I made the chocolate fudge cake last night based on what I had read here from buttertart. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the recommendation - what an amazing dessert. And it survived me completely missing the stage of cooling the cake after the first baking before adding the remaining third of batter. It was still completely delicious - served it with whipped cream and raspberries. Rich, lovely texture between a mousse and a cake.

              Chocolate cakes are one of my specialties and this has probably gone to the top of the list. I will definitely be making it again (and following the instructions).

              1. re: JaneEYB

                It makes me happy to hear that. I made it for an English friend as it happens and she swooned. Totally great cake. (Chocolate cakes - and brownies - are one of my specialties too. What chocs did you use?)

                1. re: buttertart

                  I was up in Vermont when I decided to make it and our local stores there do not have anything as sophisticated as 52% and 70% cocoa solids chocolate. So had to compromise with 60% Ghirardelli chocolate chips and it was still great. I'm looking forward to when I make it again with Valrhona at the proper %, and following the instructions on cooling the cake before adding the last third of batter. According to the recipe, the cake lasts up to 4 days. It didn't get beyond 2 in my house!

                  1. re: JaneEYB

                    I think you'd have to have a very fine palate indeed really to differentiate between the two percentages in this - the creaminess of the top layer is the bigger factor it seems to me. I wouldn't make it with Baker's but any reasonably good chocolate is certainly usable in it. Would be interesting to do a taste test though.

            3. Grrr. Hit post button in error, then my edits didn't take. Apologies if you wandered into my abruptly truncated post.

              I'm so ridiculously overdue in posting these reports (I made them ages ago), but better late than never!

              Having made two of the three muffin recipes, I can say that, if made as written, they make quite large, quite sweet (like cake-sweet) muffins. I prefer less-sweet muffins that are good breakfast fare, so I cut the sugar substantially in both recipes. Both of these muffins were great, and will absolutely be repeated, with minor modifications.

              Plum, marzipan and cinnamon muffins

              Excellent, excellent flavor (almonds and stone fruits are so complementary), really an elegant combination. First, a plum compote is made by roasting quartered purple plums (I cut the quarters crosswise, to make eighths) with castor sugar and a cinnamon stick. The plums and sugar make lots of nice juices in the baking pan. Dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon) are sifted, and combined with eggs, milk, melted butter, sugar (I used only about 140g), grated orange zest (which I *know* would be lovely, but I completely neglected - oops!), and grated marzipan (I used almond paste). Then some of the plum compote is added, and the muffins are baked.

              I filled the muffin cups to the top, as directed, and got 12 quite large muffins (the recipe claims to make 10-12); next time I would make them smaller. Grating the almond paste results in a nice effect: it just melts completely into the batter, so you're not aware of bits of it, but rather the whole muffin is flavored with it, without the need for creaming. I chilled the almond paste for a bit, and it grated easily with a coarse Microplane. My two issues with the recipe are first, I think that it calls for two much flour relative to the liquids. I was alarmed when I saw the volume as I weighed it, and sure enough, it made an extremely thick, almost dough-like batter, and as a result, the muffins were a tad dry even though not overbaked. Next time I will combine half the flour with the leavening and hold back the rest, then add until I get a batter with good consistency. Second, the muffins need more plums incorporated in the muffins than called for (and I actually added a bit more, but still not enough). I didn't follow the option of spooning more compote on top, as I want to be able to eat them out of hand. Next time, I'll cut the plums into even smaller pieces (for better distribution) and use lots more.

              Carrot, apple and pecan muffins

              Completely different sort of muffin (more along the rustic and hearty matrix) but also wonderful. Here flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and cinnamon are sifted and mixed with eggs, oil, sugar, grated carrots, grated tart apple, and chopped pecans. Recipe specified sunflower oil; I used grapeseed oil for half the specified amount, and substituted unsweeetened applesauce for the rest. I also used only half the called-for sugar. Again, recipe states it makes 10-12 muffins. I filled the cups less full and got 14 good-sized muffins. A topping is made from flour, rolled oats, sugar, butter, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, honey, and a teaspoon each of oil and water. (It also calls for black sesame seeds, but I made up the difference in weight with the other seeds.) Even after generously topping all my muffins, I had topping to spare, which I froze and later used on some bran muffins.

              The topping is quite sweet, so I'm glad I dialed back the sugar in the muffins themselves. As I made them, both recipes had the perfect amount of sweetness for breakfast muffins, in my book. (I am not a fan of very-sweet sweets, however.) I froze somw of each recipe, and while the plum muffins were still about the same a couple of weeks later, these were a tad drier, perhaps due to my lower-fat sub. I shared a few of these with a friend, who immediately began asking me, "When are you going to make those again?" Sorry, Karla! Too many other recipes to try, so I haven't gotten around to it, but I'll be sure to call you next time...

              1. I made the Hazelnut Cupcakes, p. 214. The recipe calls for hazelnut oil, which I don't have and didn't really want to buy. I do have Walnut oil, so they became Walnut Cupcakes.

                I really liked these cupcakes and I will definitely be trying them again in their hazelnut form. The walnut flavor came through but I imagine that hazelnuts would have a more substantial flavor.

                Some members of the family weren't thrilled with them because they aren't very sweet, but even those people loved the frosting which is made by combining cream cheese, mascarpone, butter and sugar.

                Now to find a small bottle of hazelnut oil.

                3 Replies
                1. re: mirage

                  Once you find the hazelnut oil, be sure to make the haricot vert recipe from the same book. Absolutely fabulous.

                  1. re: smtucker

                    Oh, good - that makes me feel better about doling out the money for yet another container of oil!

                  2. re: mirage

                    I tweaked these to increase the hazelnutiness (how's that for a word?). The recipe only calls for 1 T hazelnut oil, but instead I used 4 T and decreased the butter to 115g (4 oz/1 stick). I also used 65g ground hazelnuts rather than 45g. The recipe calls for small eggs, but since I used (USDA standard) large, which is what I always have, I didn't decrease the flour to compensate for the increase in hazelnuts, and the batter came out fine. No vanilla is called for, but I included the scraped insides of a vanilla bean. Also, instead of the cream cheese/mascarpone icing, I made the icing from the chocolate cupcakes on the facing page, a simple dark chocolate/cream/butter ganache, but used Frangelico in place of the amaretto.

                    Results: Wonderful!

                  3. Caramel and macadamia cheesecake


                    A friend asked me to bring a cheesecake to a party she's having and so I road tested this one last Sunday, when I had friends coming to lunch. It's a bit of a faff, as you have to make two kinds of caramel, one for the nuts, which is just melted sugar, and one for the topping, which is butter, sugar and double cream. Amazingly I didn't burn either of them!

                    The actuall cake is pretty straightforward - a base of crushed biscuits (I used hob nobs as suggested) and melted butter, pressed into a lined springform tin in the usual way. The cheesecake bit is cream cheese, sugar, eggs, vanilla and sour cream. You bake your cheesecake in a lowish oven for an hour - the first one I made cracked, the second one (for the party) didn't, but shrank a bit at the edges. Not sure why. Baking is weird!

                    While the cake is chilling, you toast macadamias and toss them in the caramel made with melted sugar. Leave to cool, while you make caramel sauce by melting butter and sugar, cooking until a deep golden colour, and carefully adding double cream. Allow to cool, then pour over the prepared cheesecake. Top with the caramelised macadamias, which you've chopped.

                    This is luscious and rich and I could only manage half a slice. I don't have much of a sweet tooth and am not really a cheesecake lover though - one of my friends had seconds and then took the leftovers home! If you love cheesecake, you should make this as it got rave reviews.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: greedygirl

                      I don't have much of a sweet tooth either, but I do like cheesecake, and this sounds incredible.

                    2. Chocolate Cupcakes, p. 215

                      I was attracted to this recipe in part because it includes ground almonds, but they ultimately had less presence than I anticipated because the cupcakes are so very chocolaty. They're very easy to mix up, requiring only a whisk and a spoon. The batter includes sour cream, a combination of sunflower oil and melted butter, black treacle (I used molasses) and both caster and light muscovado (I used regular brown) sugars, all of which serves to make them nice and moist. There's cocoa in the batter along with the flour and ground almonds, and at the end, a whole lot of chopped dark chocolate is folded in. The chocolate mostly melts into the batter, making it intensely chocolaty. I did find that, following the instructions to fill the muffin cups to the top, the yield was less than stated; I made a recipe and a half and got 15 rather than 18. I used a different icing than the one in the book.