This is my first post as a Daring Baker!! To be honest, I thought I’d join this group for fun – hey, I like baking bread and cookies, and I know my way around a yeasted pastry recipe. No sweat.
This month’s challenge was hosted by Chris of Mele Cotte. When Chris posted this month’s challenge, I gulped a little. She chose the Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream, from Carol Walters’ Great Cakes. As I read the recipe, I realised: I am actually a Lazy Baker. Firstly, I tend to make and remake and remake recipes that I’ve known for years. Secondly, I tend to veer towards the easiest (read one-bowl) recipes, or to tweak recipes to make them as easy as I can get away with. Now, that’s not exactly Daring! Time to let the DB crew yank me up to a new level of Daring Bakery!!
This month’s challenge was a Filbert Genoise with Praline Buttercream. It’s not a cake I would ever have chosen to make: laden with buttery icing, heavy on piping, finicky with layers. But quickly it dawned on me: this is the point of a challenge. What’s the point of an easy challenge? I had to google filbert, and then come up with a plan for how to make such a thing whilst working around a 3-month-old baby.
What I learned:
– that you can bake around a 3-month-old baby… if you do it in stages and plan it carefully
– what a genoise is, and how you make one
– how to divide a cake into layers (different techniques for slicing it)
– what buttercream is, and how to make it – and how not to make it
– a little about how sugar melts
– how to pour ganache (a skill I shall be using OFTEN from now on!)
– how to set aside my qualms about complicated recipes and unbelievable fat content, and just enjoy making and eating something complex and gorgeous!
This is how…
7 July: Take Kolya for his immunisation shots. Discover we have half an hour to kill before the appointment. Walk down to Holland and Barrett and buy a load of hazelnuts. Only discover later that Sainsbury’s have much more reasonable hazelnuts.
16 July: Toast the hazelnuts to have them ready for cake and praline making. I discover via the internet that the way to do this is to put them on a baking tray in an oven heated to 190 for about 10 to 20 minutes. Then throw the hot nuts into a teatowel and wrap them up for a couple of minutes before rubbing it all together to peel them. The best part is opening up the teatowel and rubbing hot hazelnuts between my hands to get the more stubborn skins off. Hot nut hand therapy.
17 July: Bake the genoise. Easier than I thought, and a great technique for baking a cake. I like cakes that involve melted butter. I only realise later, when the cakes are wrapped and frozen, that I was supposed to seal them with apricot glaze while they were still warm. Oh well. They’re in the freezer.
18 July: I make praline. I have difficulty not eating half of it. I can’t bring myself to blend the lovely crunchy hazelnut candy into a fine paste.
22 July: First buttercream disaster. The original recipe calls for a Swiss buttercream that needs to be beaten into meringue over bubbling water. I don’t really have the facilities for that in our tiny kitchen, so I find an alternative buttercream recipe at Zoe Bakes, a wonderful baking blog I find via the Daring Bakers Blogroll. Great texture, but it tastes like… butter. Only later, when I’m breastfeeding Kolya, do I realise that this is because I left out half the ingredients when I boiled the sugar. Instead of dissolving it with water and cream of tartar, I simply put the sugar in the pot and waited for it to boil. And am surprised when it turned into a thick toffeeish stuff that solidified on contact with the butter mixture. Oh, well, bung it in the freezer.
24 July: Second buttercream disaster. This time I make Zoe’s amazing buttercream again. This time, it tastes great, but the texture is…. cake batter. Oh well. Freezer.
26 July: Dani’s having some friends round for tea tomorrow. I’ve promised to bring a marvelous cake. I express enough breastmilk that Nik can feed Kolya all morning and all I have to do is make more buttercream and ganache and do some piping. It’s about 29 degrees Celsius outside.
This time I get the buttercream a bit more right – still not quite as glossy and stiff as I’d like, but a half hour in the fridge and more beating works a treat. Thanks to several useful videos from youtube, I have a sneaky plan for my ganache-pouring. I cover the cake in buttercream, refrigerate it, smooth the buttercream all over the place like Polyfilla, refrigerate it more. Then I flood the ganache with perfectly warm-but-not-too-hot ganache. It’s the most glorious moment.
The piping is less glorious as it starts coming out in unpredictable forms every time a bit of praline gets jammed in the piping nozzle. Sounds like most DBs had this problem, so I’m not particularly surprised, just relieved when it doesn’t make a total mess
27 July: Cake-eating day!
To my surprise the cake is delicious – not as heavy and dense as I expected, and the buttercream is lovely, not offputtingly heavy either.
The full recipe for the Hazelnut Genoise with Praline buttercream can be found here.
There were several rules about variations. For the most part I stuck with the original recipe. The combination of apricot, orange and hazelnut, with the dark chocolate ganache worked beautifully, I think. I used Cointreau instead of Grand Marnier, and as mentioned above, chose an alternate buttercream which I found at Zoe Bakes, although it was flavoured with the praline and liqueur, not with chocolate and coffee as in Zoe’s recipe.