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*July 2010 COTM - ITALIAN EASY: Sweets

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Our July cookbooks are ITALIAN EASY and ITALIAN TWO EASY, by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers.

Please use this thread to discuss recipes from the following chapters:

Italian Easy:

Fruit and Ice Cream
Italian Biscotti
Almond Cakes
Chocolate Cakes

Italian Two Easy:

Baked Fruit
Lemon Desserts
Chocolate and Coffee

The Chowhound Team has asked me to remind you that verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

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  1. The 15 minute cake is calling my name. Either that, or the nemesis cake, because, how can you not love the name?

    ~TDQ

    30 Replies
    1. re: The Dairy Queen

      OK, I was going to bake the 15 minute cake last night and noticed it called for NO sugar or sweetener of any kind. Can that be right?

      ~TDQ

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        That does seem REALLY weird. Could the chocolate possibly be enough sweetness for the cake??

        1. re: LulusMom

          Whoops, I've just run out of eggs. (Uh, I have that bad habit of putting the empty eggshells back in the carton until I can get around to composting them and, unfortunately, was fooled by them when I was counting eggs before my grocery shopping trip yesterday.) So, I won't be trying this cake, at least not today. But, I was drawn to the cake because I didn't feel like heating up my house with the oven and I thought 15 minutes didn't seem that bad.

          THEN the dark truffle cake on page 246 of IE caught my eye because it doesn't call for any eggs AND requires exactly zero time in the oven. Just a little stove top, and, later, fridge time. The dark truffle cake doesn't call for any sugar either!

          I think with the 6 eggs on the 15 minute cake and the heavy cream in the dark truffle cake, the richness of the fat offsets the need for any additional sweetener.

          I just hope I can find a 6-inch cake ring... Mine might be 8 or 10... We'll see.

          By the way, I think our gals Ruth and Rose are playing a little loose with the definition of "cake."

          ~TDQ

          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            Oh, I have my eye on that cake, can't wait to hear how it turns out. Good luck!

            1. re: LulusMom

              Dark Truffle cake, page 246 IE

              Oh dear. Well, here's the thing. I didn't have a 6 inch cake ring, so, I decided to use two English Muffin Rings, which are each about 4 inches in diameter and 1 inch high. I cut the proportions of the recipe to about 70%, to use exactly one 5.3 ounce chocolate bar.

              I used a bar of Green and Blacks organic 72%, for the record.

              I decided I could futz with the proportions because, for the very similar sounding recipe in I2E "Rum, coffee truffle cake," the authors write that the "recipe is easily adapted for any number (of guests). It is simply a flavored combination of bitter chocolate and cream"-- so, I figured that I could scale the recipe down, no problem.

              Anyway, all was well, until I needed to get the bowl of chocolate/heavy cream out of the pot of simmering water, which I could not figure out a way to do by myself without tempting fate.

              I asked a helper to come help me, who was able to lift the bowl about 4 inches out of the water, before accidentally dropping the bowl back into the water, causing an unknown quantity of water to splash into my chocolate/heavy cream mixture (up until then, it was gorgeous and shiny and perfect. wah!)

              I did what I could to stir the water into the mixture to achieve the smoothest consistency possible, but I am certain the texture is irreparably compromised.

              When we tried to pour the mixture into the English muffin rings (another two-person job), the mixture leaked out the bottom, so, there's no way it's going to look pretty. Had I realize it was going to leak like that, I would have just poured the mixture into 4-inch ramekins.

              Anyway, they are in the fridge now. I'm sure they will be delicious, but it will be interesting to see what the texture turns out to be like.

              Anyone have any brilliant hints on removing a bowl full of melted chocolate and heavy cream from a pan of simmering water? And, then, pouring said chocolate/cream mixture into a cake ring without making a mess?

              :(

              P.S. this recipe was super easy and super fast, until disaster struck. If I had enough heavy cream, I'd try this again right now.

              ~TDQ

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                "Anyone have any brilliant hints on removing a bowl full of melted chocolate and heavy cream from a pan of simmering water?"

                Double boiler?

                1. re: JoanN

                  Indeed!

                  But, what if you're cheap, like me and don't need more equipment? :).

                  ~TDQ

                  1. re: JoanN

                    Also, you do realise that bowl with the chocolate etc in it shouldn't actually be touching the simmering water? So you have to use a bowl that is bigger than the pan, which should mean that you can remove it no problem.

                    I have a very useful bowl with a long handle which is for melting chocolate etc. I got it from Ikea for a couple of pounds.

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      Oh dear: no, I didn't realize that. In fact, I was always afraid to let the bowl with the chocolate touch the pan. I thought the metal to metal contact was bad. Well, the method you and LLM describe sound MUCH easier than I was trying to do, so, it looks like I'll be switching to the proper method in the future!

                      In hindsight, it's amazing this recipe turned out at all, given the numerous mistakes I made.

                      ~TDQ

                  2. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Poor dear! I often use a saute pan for the boiling water and set the (smaller) pan with the choc. in that. Or, I use a metallic bowl that is actually bigger than the pot of boiling water so that it is easy to just lift with pot holders. In the first case I always use something with a handle for the chocolate.

                    Hope it manages to taste delicious.

                    1. re: LulusMom

                      Thanks for the tips, LLM.

                      Anyway, this dessert (botched dark truffle cake from IE) turned out delicious, but ugly. I don't know if it would be easier to slice and serve if we'd not botched it, but it was a little too soft to do so attractively. Fortunately, it is just the two of us tonight, so, it only needed to taste great, and it did. It reminded me a lot of chocolate pot de creme in taste and texture.

                      I will definitely try this again, either with a double-boiler or using some of LLM's hints. Super easy, super delicious. A decadent dessert that is quick and easy and does not heat up the kitchen. Hopefully it can be served more attractively when made properly.

                      Oh, I threw a small handful of fresh raspberries on each plate. Raspberry sauce would be even better, though, much less "easy."

                      ~TDQ

                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        I'm glad they turned out so well! In reading this I'm thinking "OK, HAVE to make this" and then I realized I have the same issue - no 6 inch pan. I mean, does anyone have a 6 inch cake pan? I've never even heard of that size in the US.

                        1. re: LulusMom

                          That's weird, because my recipe says to use a 25cm cake tin, which is more like ten inches.

                          And I actually do have a 6 inch cake tin, which I bought specially to make Elizabeth David's chocolate cake, which is almost flourless. And actually I made it last night so we could have a small cake for Mr GG's birthday. It's perfect for four people, and can also be dessert, as it's so rich and fudgy.

                          1. re: greedygirl

                            If I may ask, which Elizabeth David book was that cake recipe in? And if I may say, the "cake" TDQ was attempting looks more like cooled hot fudge sauce to me....

                            1. re: clamscasino

                              clamscasino, my husband, upon eating it, said, "This is just fudge."

                              ~TDQ

                              1. re: clamscasino

                                Clamcasino: it's in French Provincial Cooking.

                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  Thanks GG. Will look it up!

                            2. re: LulusMom

                              Jumping in here, just in case I might embarrass myself more (why not!), but the recipe called for a cake RING not a cake pan. http://www.bakedeco.com/static/list/c...

                              ~TDQ

                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                A 10" cake ring I have, but I'm not about to buy a 6" one for one recipe (I type, cupboards bursting). And I do love fudge, but seems like it might be easier just to make fudge! Nigella Lawson's recipe (with pistachios, although I often sub walnuts) is heavenly.

                                1. re: LulusMom

                                  Personally, (even though my husband thought so) I didn't think it had the texture of fudge, at least the way I make fudge. The IE cake was much less sweet, first of all, and had a much smoother texture. Even though it didn't have any eggs in it, I thought it was more like pots de creme.

                                  Yeah, I don't know how it would turn out in a 10'' ring, since I didn't use the 6'' ring, for comparison. My plan was to cut the recipe down, and put it in smaller rings, but I don't even really know how that would work because the actual volume of my chocolate/cream (and water) mixture is unknown. I had planned that my reduced recipe would fit in one 4-inch ring, but I needed two. Maybe the height of my English muffin rings (about an inch) is less than the height of a 6-inch cake ring?

                                  I was going to suggest that you could scale the recipe up to fit your ten inch ring. Then I remembered that the measures for the Rum, coffee truffle cake on pg 273 T2E were bigger, so, I was going to see what sized ring that called for. Six inches! How can that be?

                                  Here are the measures, for comparison:

                                  Rum, coffee truffle cake on pg 273 T2E
                                  Chocolate (70%) 1 lb 2 oz
                                  Heavy cream 2 1/2 cups
                                  Instant coffee 3 tbsp
                                  Rum 7 fl ox
                                  Unsweetened cocoa powder 3 tbsp (as this just gets sprinkled over the top, I don't think it should affect the size of the ring)
                                  6 inch cake ring

                                  Dark truffle (pg 246 IE)
                                  Chocolate (70%) 8 oz
                                  Heavy cream 1 1/4 cups
                                  Unsweetened cocoa powder 2 tbsp (as this just gets sprinkled over the top, I don't think it should affect the size of the ring)
                                  6 inch cake ring

                                  Isn't that weird? In I2E they say that "the recipe is easily adapted for any number," but doesn't it seem weird that they don't adapt the size of the cake ring for almost double the quantity of ingredients? Do you just serve skinner, taller pieces of the one rum coffee truffle cake?

                                  This seems so weird to me. I'm perplexed. Maybe there's something goofy going on with the measurements.

                                  ~TDQ

                                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                    Seems like there HAS to be, doesn't there?? Pots de creme ... I think there is a recipe in Hopkinson that I still haven't tried for that. I love pots de creme.

                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                      That Hopkinson recipe is really good. But, it does require turning on your oven!

                                      You know, I notice some of these cake rings are up to 3'' tall. So maybe they assume you are using a tall cake ring and one of their recipes goes, say, half way up the cake ring and the other goes all the way to the top. Just a deeper cake of the same diameter. Since there is no baking involved, it's easy to do since you don't have to tweak baking times.

                                      My English muffin rings are only an inch high...

                                      ~TDQ

                                    2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      No, the truffle "cake" doesn't look like fudge - it's essentially just ganache allowed to set up, i.e., the inside of a truffle! If you scooped it up and rolled it into balls, and rolled those in cocoa powder (or dipped them in chocolate), you'd have classic bittersweet chocolate truffles.

                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                        Maybe that's what I should do with them, turn them into chocolate truffles, since the "cake" didn't set very nicely. It is delicious!

                                        ~TDQ

                                    3. re: LulusMom

                                      Aieeee! Any talk of fudge reminds me of my sister and myself attempting to make fudge when our parents went out for the evening and left us alone. Fools!!!

                                      We must have tried it 6 times and only succeeded once. My sister actually found a pan full of one of our unsuccessful attempts in the bottom drawer of her dresser months later. It was all dried out. We were really lucky it didn't attract a swarm of ants!

                                      Since then, I've never attempted fudge.

                                    4. re: The Dairy Queen

                                      Are you sure? My recipe for the Dark Truffle Cake says to use a 25cm cake mould/tin. The Rum, Coffee, Truffle Cake in Italian Two Easy uses a 15cm (ie 6 inch)n cake ring. Have you conflated the two?

                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                        I am absolutely certain BOTH recipes call for a 6 inch cake ring. In fact, I just had my husband double-check for me to make sure I'm not missing something. But, now I have to ask--do you have the rings reversed? Why would the dark truffle cake (which has about half the volume of ingredients) call for the large (25cm) mould, while the rum/coffee cake calls for only a 15cm ring?

                                        I'm so confused!

                                        ~TDQ

                                        1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                          Dark truffle (IE, p246) = 25cm cake mould or tin.
                                          Rum, coffee truffle cake (I2E, p273) - 15cm cake mould

                                          I'm baffled too.

                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                            Huh. Maybe if you are worried about tin size, you could (as Caitlin says) just roll it into balls and make truffles! One of the books (IE?) does have a truffle recipe. I guess you could use that technique.

                                            ~TDQ

                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                        You're just going to have to take one for the team, TDQ, and let us know!

                    2. Raspberries with ricotta, IE, page 218

                      Super simple, just lemon zest mixed with superfine sugar (I just used regular granulated sugar--superfine would have def. been better), sprinkled over dollops of soft ricotta (I used part-skim, but I'll bet the beautiful freshly-made full-fat ricotta I saw--and was so tempted by--at the market would have been amazing) and fresh raspberries.

                      It was pretty good. I actually wanted to mix the lemon zest/sugar into the the ricotta as I found the sugar/zest mixture too sweet and the ricotta a little bland, but it certainly would not have been as pretty my way. Also, mixing them together may not have been necessary had I used the top notch ingredients the recipe called for. I'd probably make this again. Easy, healthful, doesn't heat up the kitchen. If you wanted to do this for the Fourth of July you could sprinkle a few blueberries in, too.

                      EDIT: P.S. I wouldn't necessarily recommend the substitutions I made on the basis of deliciousness, and I wouldn't serve it to company that way, but for my purposes, I'm entirely fine with shaving a few calories.

                      ~TDQ

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        TDQ: If it makes you feel any better, my aunts always mixed sugar and zest into the ricotta when using it in desserts. And... my mother always used "part skim" ricotta and we never felt deprived.

                        FWIW, when I need super fine sugar I simply grind granulated sugar in my dedicated coffee grinder.

                        1. re: Gio

                          Thanks for all of that, Gio.

                          ~TDQ

                      2. Pine Nut (cake), IE, p 242
                        Speaking of taking one for the team, made this last night and I can't figure out where I went wrong. Or where they went wrong. Everything seemed to be going fine, but after the recommended 1 hour of baking, it was firm to the touch, but glistening & bubbling in butter on the sides & bottom. I left it a few more minutes, took it out and cooled it, there was a pool of butter at the bottom of the pan, the top was nice and crispy (fried in it's butter coating) but it was greasy/heavy/not cake-like inside. The flavor was great- lemony, nutty, with salted pine nuts on top- and it was still tasty in the way that buttery heavy nut pasty things are, but definitely not the way it was meant to be if i use either the photo in the book or my reasonably extensive experience with cake making as a guide. So, i reread the recipe about 7 times, and wondered about it to my dinner guests more than was probably at all interesting for them and still turned up no explanation. So, i can't wait for someone else to try it to find out if you have the same problem. 2 1/4 sticks of butter against only 3/4 cup of flour (supplemented by 1 cup ground almonds) would seem like a possible problem, but that is what it clearly calls for.

                        26 Replies
                        1. re: balabanian

                          What a bummer. That cake looked so appealing.

                          I'm not much of a baker, though, and now --based on your experience and gg's caution below--I'm a little nervous. I hope gg has better luck with it than you did and can shed some light!

                          ~TDQ

                          1. re: balabanian

                            It might be interesting if greedygirl posted the ingredients as they are listed in the UK edition of the book. I doubt the original recipes called for sugar and flour in cup measurements and wonder if there might have been a slip of some sort in Americanizing the ingredient measurements for the North American edition.

                            1. re: JoanN

                              Interesting theory, JoanN! I, too, wonder what the original proportions were.

                              ~TDQ

                              1. re: JoanN

                                250g unsalted butter
                                2 vanilla pods
                                2 lemons
                                6 tbs pine nuts
                                220g caster sugar
                                4 eggs
                                100g plain flour
                                120 ground almonds
                                1/4 tsp salt

                                1. re: greedygirl

                                  Thanks, gg. Haven't spent a whole lot of time with this. I'll use your numbers if I ever decide to make the cake. But just quickly, I would figure 100 grams of flour to be somewhere between 7/8 and 1 cup of flour rather than 3/4 of a cup. I can't find any reliable numbers for the conversion of caster sugar, but 220 grams of regular sugar would be less than a cup; maybe that does translate to 1-1/4 cups of superfine.

                                  Anyway, given that you say the baking recipes are known to be difficult and that we here in North America are dealing with numbers once removed from the original, to say nothing of baking being the most precise of the kitchen arts, it might be prudent for those of us planning to try some of the baked goods to be prepared to be flexible.

                                  1. re: JoanN

                                    I just noticed that in a thread from Breakfast, Lunch and Tea COTM, TDQ listed the ingredients for a recipe, giving the book's measures, which are both weight and volume. That had 100g flour as 2/3 cup, which seems too low. 100g is just shy of 4 ounces, and I generally see equivalents given as 1 cup AP flour weighing 4.5 to 5.5 oz., depending on how it's measured.

                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                      I notice Ottolenghi give both volume and weights, also. I wish they'd do more weights in these books because it also saves you the problem of trying to figure out what a "large" vs. "small potato is, etc. And, my scale has both grams and ounces on it.

                                      ~TDQ

                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                        Yes, Rose Levy Berenbaum has AP flour at anywhere from 114 to 148 grams per cup depending on whether the flour is bleached or unbleached, sifted, spooned, or dipped and swept. As TDQ says, why the hell don't they just give us the weight and be done with it. (Actually, having been in the business, I know why. But it doesn't mean I have to accept it. Arrrgh!)

                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          I'm curious, why don't more cookbooks give weights? Heavy pressure from measuring cup manufacturers?

                                          ~TDQ

                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                            I think the conventional wisdom is that, when it comes to baking, Americans aren't willing to mess with/don't have/are intimidated by kitchen scales. If the assumption is that books that give ingredients in weight won't sell, I don't see the harm in giving both weight and volume measurements. As it is, it seems mostly to be done in the US in baking books that are technique-heavy and have an air of seriousness, like some bread books and Rose Levy Beranbaum's books.

                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                              Too bad. I love the weights.

                                              ~TDQ

                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                TDQ, et al. I think that weighing ingredients just takes too much more time that cup/spoon, etc. measurements. That's my only gripe. I have a good scale with a tare feature (allowing one to put whatever in a container and the container's weight won't show.

                                                However, I always spill some flour or sugar onto the scale. It's just more messy.

                                                1. re: oakjoan

                                                  I learned the hard way by spending a long time getting the crevice between the platform and the works on my Salter clean to drape the whole thing with plastic wrap before putting whatever I'm measuring on it, either directly or in a receptacle. How's that for a run-on sentence.

                                              2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                It's been a while since I sat in on a marketing meeting for a cookbook, but you're right, Caitlin, in saying there was a perception that giving measurements in weights would not allow a book the widest possible market. As for including both sets of measurements, many thought that it made for an ugly or confusing design or that it would take up too much space thus increasing the cost of producing the book.

                                                It's important to keep in mind, too, that very few US authors insist on it or, for that matter, deliver their manuscripts written that way. To ask an author who has tested a manuscript using cups to go back and restest the recipe to provide the measurement in grams could cause a mutiny.

                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                  I hate the whole cups thing, I have to say. Especially when baking. Also, it doesn't make sense to me to measure carrots, say, or butter like that. Lots of books in the UK give measurements in both metric and imperial, although increasingly they're in metric only.

                                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                                    I completely agree with you. I'm used to it, it's how I learned to cook, but I don't really like it.

                                                    I think publishers in the UK, because they have a smaller domestic market, have, at least historically, tried harder than we to produce books with international appeal. And let's not pretend there's no xenophobia regarding metric on this side of the pond. But you didn't hear me say that.

                                                    1. re: JoanN

                                                      There seems to be a resistance to using scales in the US, even among experienced cooks, which I don't really understand. It makes life so much easier, imho.

                                                      Also, we are officially supposed to be metric these days, although lots of people still operate in imperial. We're a bit schizophrenic - we still measure distance in miles, height in feet and inches, generally, but buy flour and sugar in kilos.

                                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                                        And then there's the "I put on half a stone over the holidays" comment that always has me running to the conversion charts. I NEVER can remember whether that means his belt is a bit tight or we're going to be eating an awful lot of lettuce for an awfully long time.

                                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                                          gg: I am totally serious about this question. How do you feel that using scales makes life so much easier? It seems a total contradiction to me.

                                                          Scenario A: 1 cup of flour...go to flour bin, scoop up the flour using your 1 cup measuring cup swipe a knife across (or your finger) to level the top.and you're done.

                                                          Using a scale one has to scoop up x amount of flour into a vessel of some kind and then take some out or put some in according to the weight that shows up on the scale. I also never do this without spilling flour onto the counter and the scale.

                                                          1. re: oakjoan

                                                            I use electric scales. Put my mixing bowl on there and measure flour or whatever. Reset to zero, add sugar etc. It really couldn't be easier.

                                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                                              I use electric scales as well...well, actually battery-operated scales. As I said, it has a tare function and so I can also measure without the vessel getting added.

                                                              It just seems that I always spill some of whatever it is I'm measuring onto the scale or the floor. Maybe because I'm resistant to the idea and am subconsciously screwing up so I can say "HA! This doesn't work!!"

                                                              Will try to put aside my fears/irritations/prejudices and give it another go.

                                                            2. re: oakjoan

                                                              I do the same thing. And sometimes I'll just put the mixing bowl on the scale and tare after each ingredient. Of course, you have to be careful not to put too much of an ingredient in if you already have one in the bowl, but I find it works really well to do this. Fewer measuring implements to wash too!

                                                      2. re: JoanN

                                                        Interesting. Thank you Caitlin and JoanN. I'm becoming more in favor of "multiple" measurements in recipes. I was looking at a bead pudding recipe the other day and they said only, X ounces of cinnamon bread. Well, who thinks of bread in ounces? It would also be nice if they said, (about 5 slices or about 1/3 loaf...)

                                                        Or 1/2 cup chopped this or that vegetable. Again, an additional measurement in ounces or even "about 2 small carrots" would be helpful. Otherwise, when you're at the grocery store, it's hard to know how much of something to buy unless you're pretty good with measurements to begin with.

                                                        I guess I can understand the practical problems, including the problem of cookbook authors not turning their recipes in that way. If most people don't think of using these kinds of measures, they probably don't think to write their recipes that way, either. But, I also wonder the number of wasted ingredients or poor outcomes people end up with that could have been avoided with more informative/precisely-written recipes.

                                                        ~TDQ

                                        2. re: balabanian

                                          An update on this cake- it has sat on my counter, covered, for two days now, and i must say it's getting better with time. When it was hot, the butter was shimmery and melted and it just seemed greasy and unappealing, but now that it's cool, it's tasty, dense, very moist, not as pasty or oily. I'm still not sure it's right, but it's gotten much better with time. Also, I googled the recipe and found some comments on Serious Eats about it, and several mention the extreme greasiness as well, so it may just be the way it is:
                                          http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

                                          1. re: balabanian

                                            I made this cake a couple of years ago and the exact same thing happened to me, with the melted butter oozing out in a deep puddle right after I'd taken it out of the oven. But, after it cooled off (about 1 hour) all the butter had absorbed and I found the cake moist and delicious. Loved the salted pine nuts.

                                          2. re: balabanian

                                            balabanian: I seems to me that all you need is a better class of dinner guests if they're not interested in hashing over recipe problems!

                                            I have made a couple of cakes from the Breakfast Lunch Tea Rose Bakery Cookbook that called for what I thought were disproportionately large quatities of butter. They were also greasy looking and I worried about them. The next day, however, they were great.

                                            Of course, when one eats that amount of butter, one must be prepared to be rushed to the emergency room.

                                          3. Hmm. Some of the River Cafés dessert recipes are famously temperamental - the Chocolate Nemesis in the original River Café cookbook is notorious for not turning out well for lots of people. But my friend made it once many years ago and it turned out fine, and was sinfully delicious. I had troubles when I tried it, but it was a long time ago and before I was a particularly experienced cook.

                                            I've had this down on my list of things to try, so I'll let you know how I get on!

                                            5 Replies
                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                              Is this maybe how the cake got its name?

                                              1. re: LulusMom

                                                Lol. This cake really is heavenly, done right. Maybe I'll gird my loins and try again!

                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                  <"gird my loins">
                                                  LOL... I haven't heard That in ages.
                                                  Your turn to Take One for the Team??

                                                  1. re: Gio

                                                    Maybe! But I'll have to have a dinner party because the original version feeds an army. Maybe I'll try the Easy Nemesis instead.

                                                    BTW, my first attempt at Chocolate Nemesis was for my friend's birthday dinner at his house. I had a complete nightmare with it - couldn't get the eggs to quadruple in volume, couldn't get it to set. Finally gave up and bunged it in the freezer for half an hour in the hope it would somehow set. I ended up in a taxi, with a still-warm, not very set cake balanced on the dashboard, and a chair, because I'd been asked to bring one. The driver clearly thought I was bonkers. So much so, that several months later he was still telling the story - I know this because I happened to be driven home by him again. He didn't realise that I was the mad woman he was referring to!

                                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                                      What a wonderful Chow story! It would make a great thread on it's own....

                                            2. Peaches in Pinot Nero, IE pg 216

                                              So, I prepared a half recipe of this, which calls for slicing peaches 1/4 inch thick, cover with caster sugar (I used Gio's recommendation of putting regular sugar in my reserved-for-spices coffee grinder and overdid it a bit and got something a little closer to powdered sugar; I'll try not to go so overboard next time), pour in wine, and add shavings of lemon peel (just the outer yellow part), and marinate for an hour or so. Liquor stores are closed today, so, my choices were Cabernet or Merlot; I opted for the latter.

                                              This was interesting, basically just a bowl of fresh fruit, made a little fruitier and dessertier by the added wine and sugar. I'm not sure I liked it enough to try it again--it was maybe just a little too simple for me, but I suppose it's a good dessert for someone who is trying to be super careful with his or her calorie intake. Very light for a hot, hot summer day, too.

                                              A bit too boozy for children, though.

                                              So, thank you to Gio for the tip on turning granulated sugar into superfine sugar in the coffee grinder. I do have a coffee grinder reserved for spices (and have had to mark it so that my husband accidentally doesn't put coffee beans in it, which has happened, sadly), and I've "cleaned" it by running a piece of white bread in it. But, it is still fragrant with the scent of star anise from several uses ago. How do it get it completely "free" of previous scent? I've been reluctant to use it for sugar because I didn't want to get star anise in it.

                                              ~TDQ

                                              24 Replies
                                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                You're Welcome TDQ. In all good conscience I cannot take credit for the idea of blitzing granulated sugar into caster sugar. That's something I read here ages ago and adopted.

                                                About the peaches in red wine... I do have history with that. It was my mother's very favorite thing to do with peaches which grew in her amazing garden. After her peach chutney that is. I don't remember her using sugar, though. Basically the peaches were sliced and placed into a large-ish cocktail glass and the wine was poured over to cover. While I don't know what wine she used the combination tasted slightly sweet. Sometimes she used champagne. I was allowed to have a glass when I was in my teens. Very forward thinking was my mother.

                                                1. re: Gio

                                                  Oh! I'd love to try it with champagne! Gio, you seem to have some fond memories of your mother and aunt's cooking. Maybe you could write a BAY'A style cookbook?

                                                  ~TDQ

                                                2. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                  I find that rice works better than bread for cleaning out previous inhabitants of the spice grinder. But star anise is pretty powerful. Might take a couple of run-throughs of rice. (Great way to use up leftover bits of that specialized rice that's always hanging around that's never enough for a recipe but too much to throw out.)

                                                  1. re: JoanN

                                                    Good suggestion--I'll try that with the rice. Thank you!

                                                    ~TDQ

                                                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                      Yes, thanks for the rice tip, JoanN! For a while all my dishes tasted of curry powder because I made a big batch in the spice grinder and it permeated even the lid. Now I have 3 spice grinders...well 3 old coffee grinders actually, and reserve one for less strongly flavored ingredients.

                                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                                        Three spice grinders? You win.

                                                        1. re: Gio

                                                          HA! It's a great idea, though. I don't know if I need 3, maybe two would do, but heck, they are smallish and only $10. With all the money we spend on high-quality ingredients and, um, cookbooks, why not buy another grinder if it's going to keep everything from tasting like curry powder when it's not supposed to?

                                                          ~TDQ

                                                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                            My spice grinders are all cheap coffee grinders and they're all verrrrry old. One plastic top is permanently yellow due to the pulverizing of turmeric in hundreds of Indian spice mixes. This yellow cast persists no matter how long I soak the tops in boiling water and soap. No tastes rub off onto other mixes because of this soaking and cleaning.

                                                            As of now, however, all 3 have pristine grinding areas and blades due to my grinding of rice to clean them.

                                                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                              Enough about spice grinders! I made the Plum and Orange Cake on p. 238 of Easy.

                                                              This is a bit time consuming to make, but not too bad. It's a combo of wheat flour and ground almonds (I used a package of almond meal I buy at Berkeley Bowl and keep in the freezer).

                                                              I did overlook the baking pan prep, however, which resulted in a cake that was difficult to dislodge from the spring form pan. I finally got it loose, however, and gave it a taste. This is a real keeper. A wonderful combo of almonds and plums with some orange zest and juice thrown in.

                                                              You start off by baking plums (cut in half and pitted) over which you've poured some orange juice, some sugar and a vanilla bean for 20 minutes. Cool the plums while making the cake.

                                                              It's a pretty straightforward cake - creamed butter and sugar, eggs added, then flour, baking powder and almond meal are folded into the butter mixture

                                                              The cooled plums are pressed into the batter along with their juices. It's then baked in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes and then taken out so that the topping (sliced almonds, juice of an orange, unsalted butter and turbinado sugar (they call for muscovado, but I didn't have any) can be sprinkled over the top. Mine was too liquidy to actually sprinkle, but I spooned it over as evenly as I could.

                                                              The heat is then lowered to 325 and the cake is baked for an hour.

                                                              This is a very rich cake - lots of butter. I tasted a small slice and it was just great. The plums I bought were very flavorful and sort of melted into the cake. They don't say the plums should be peeled and that makes it a bit tedious to cut, but it's certainly not a big problem

                                                              Highly recommended. Absolutely delicious. I am VERY glad that my husband is taking it to his office tomorrow so that I don't wolf down the whole thing.

                                                              Oh, and it looks pretty great, too, with bits of deep red plum peeking out of the browned almond topping.

                                                              1. re: oakjoan

                                                                Finally, an unqualified successful dessert recipe! Sounds fantastic!

                                                                ~TDQ

                                                                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                                  Well, I wouldn't go quite that far. The cake gets more moist as the plum juice and orange juice soak into it overnight. It still tastes fantastic and my husband even likes what it turns into as much as the original cake.

                                                                  I must admit that I do really like it, too, but it took a bit of getting used to. It has now been two whole days and it hasn't gotten any more pudding-y.

                                                                  It's still a terrific dessert. It may be that, since the recipe doesn't call for any size of plums, that mine were a bit too big and thus soaked the surrounding cake more than usual. It just calls for a pound of plums.

                                                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                                                    Were they thinking Italian plums, maybe? They're not as juicy as the regular ones. Could you possibly just post the quantities of ingredients? This sounds like a good cake for other summer fruit. Thanks!

                                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                                      I actually asked about the Italian cooking plums at the market and they said they weren't in yet. I guess here in the SFBayarea their season is closer to September.

                                                                      The recipe also calls only for 1 lb. of "plums". My plums were what I'd call smallish-medium in size. I wouldn't use very large ones as there will be too much juice and it'll get even more soggy. As I said, however, it is truly delicious even when it's a bit soggy.

                                                                      It's called "Plum and Orange". Here's the recipe

                                                                      1 lb ripe plums
                                                                      1 orange (suqeezed of juice and zested)
                                                                      1/4 cup superfine sugar
                                                                      1 vanilla bean

                                                                      Halve and pit the plums and put in baking dish with sugar, orange juice and orange zest. Split vanilla bean and add. Bake for 20 minutes in 350 degree oven.

                                                                      Cool this mixture and then split vanilla bean and scrape seeds into the mixture.

                                                                      Cake batter:

                                                                      2/3 cup blanched almonds (I used an almond meal I get at my local grocery.

                                                                      1 1/4 sticks butter (softened)

                                                                      3/4 cup superfine sugar

                                                                      2 eggs

                                                                      2/3 cup all-purpose flour

                                                                      1 1/4 baking powder.

                                                                      Grease 10 inch springform pan, "line with baking parchment" (NOTE: I don't know if they mean to line the sides as well as the bottom. I just did the bottom.

                                                                      Grind almonds in food processor if you don't have almond meal. Soften butter and beat with sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one, beating to incorporate. Fold in flour, baking powder and ground almonds

                                                                      Pour the batter into the prepped pan and then push the cooked (and cooled) plums into the cake and pour the juices over. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

                                                                      While it's baking, make the topping:

                                                                      1 orange
                                                                      2 tbsp unsalted butter
                                                                      2 tsp Muscovado sugar (I used Turbinado)
                                                                      1/2 cup slivered almonds.

                                                                      finely grate the orange peel, melt butter and stir in sugar, peel and slivered almonds. Scatter over the cake, lower the oven heat to 325 and bake the cake for 1 hour. Cool in pan.

                                                                      This cake is also fun because the plums disappear into the batter and don't appear until you cut the cake.

                                                                      It is, as I've said in an earlier post, a bit gooey. It's delicious anyway.

                                                                      1. re: oakjoan

                                                                        How much almond meal did you use in place of the 2/3 cup whole almonds, OJ?

                                                                        And can greedygirl or anyone else with the British edition say what weight in almonds it calls for, please?

                                                                        1. re: oakjoan

                                                                          Sounds very good - the prune plums are in later here too, but I bet that is what they meant. Must try. (Thanks for not pointing out that your local grocery is the Berkeley Bowl, sigh...)

                                                                          1. re: buttertart

                                                                            I know, I have been trying not to mention Berk. Bowl. It's very hard not to crow, and it's strange that, after all these years, I''m not tired of it at all.

                                                                            Caitlin: I used a little more than 2/3 cup. Maybe I should have used more, but I didn't feature grinding up a bunch of almonds just to check that out.

                                                                            Another thing, since the recipe called for 1 lb of plums, it should be about the same for any size plum...of course you wouldn't want just 2 plums weighing a pound because then there'd be large areas of the cake sans plums.

                                                                            1. re: oakjoan

                                                                              The prune plums are a lot firmer and drier than Santa Rosas or the other soft-fleshed plums.
                                                                              By the way, by this time of the year markets here are usually awash in pluots from CA - and they're not - has there been a problem with the crop,do you know?
                                                                              Ah...Bowl...I miss you.

                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                Fairway (UWS) had a good supply of pluots over the weekend.

                                                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                                                  Hmm, must go. There haven't been any to speak of in Chinatown - where there usually are in season - so was extrapolating a problem from that.

                                                                                2. re: buttertart

                                                                                  buttertart: There seem to be fewer pluots even at the Bowl so far. There are 2 or 3 kinds, but you're right, there are usually many more. Maybe it's because we've had a bunch of lower than usual temps. in Califa this summer...so far anyway.

                                                                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                    Hmm, thanks for telling me. Chinatown vendors buy cheap to sell cheap, there must not be as many in the supply chain and they must be more $$$. I thought something had to be up. (Fruit at Fairway - our wannabe Bowl-ish store chain - is reasonable but not cheap. CT vendors have had them at 3 or more for a buck in the past.)

                                                                            2. re: oakjoan

                                                                              I've now made it again, with smaller plums. It turned out really well but it was different from the first cake I made. This one rose less than the first one. It's also absolutely delicious, though. I think it was a little less than 2 inches high.

                                                                              My husband took it to work after we served it to dinner guests last night, and it received rave reviews. I love this cake and am adding it to my repertoire.

                                                                              1. re: oakjoan

                                                                                Someone is going to be unloading lots of plums from her tree on me shortly. I will definitely be using some in this cake. Plums and almonds are so good together. If you like the combination as much as I do, I also recommend the easy plum and almond tart in Pure Dessert (that's it in my avatar) and the plum and marzipan muffins in Ottolenghi (see my report on them in the Ottolenghi COTM thread on cakes for details).

                                                                          2. re: oakjoan

                                                                            This sounds similar to a cake I've been making for the past couple of years... using all kinds of berries, apples, peaches... any fruit actually. I found it at a blog site, Everybody Likes Sandwiches. In fact I made it last night with blueberries.
                                                                            http://everybodylikessandwiches.com/2...

                                                                            Easiest Cake Ever:
                                                                            flour
                                                                            baking powder
                                                                            lemon zest
                                                                            sugar
                                                                            eggs
                                                                            canola oil
                                                                            vanilla
                                                                            strawberries (or any soft fruit
                                                                            ) raw sugar
                                                                            Preheat oven to 350F. Mix 1st 7 ingredients in bowl, prep a 9" pan, spread batter in pan, top with fruit, sprinkle with sugar. Bake about 50 min or a little more.
                                                                            You could easily sub orange zest for lemon...

                                                                            I'm inclined to agree with Buttertart about the small Italian plums.

                                                          2. "Black fig, almond" p. 234, Italian Two Easy was a bit disappointing. Roasting the figs in a 300 degree F oven just didn't do much for them after fifteen minutes. I left them in nearly another five, until they started to give off more juices. Still, meh. I'd rather eat fresh figs with creme fraiche and some toasted almonds. Sorry, and these were great figs, too, ripe and gorgeous. I have no doubt this method works great with under ripe grocery store apricots, however.