Saturday, January 30, 2010

Gateau A L'Orange Et Aux Amandes, or Orange and Almond Spongecake with an Apricot Glaze

When I woke up today, it was snowing. Again.

Despite the fact that I had made a tart the day before, I decided to make a cake because it's a nice snow day activity. Break out the fat pants.

I realized that I hadn't yet made anything from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and I had liked the look of some of the cakes in that book. I sure am making a lot of baked goods considering how much I whined about how many the random number generator picked for me, aren't I?

I wanted something relatively simple, for which I didn't have to buy many ingredients. Flipping through, I noticed the orange almond sponge cake and remembered that I have clementines in the fridge, and I had ground up some almonds for yesterday's tart.

Casting an apprehensive glance at the snow, I preheated the oven. I like what Heather said one day about the snow: "When you can stay home, it's all Winter Wonderland-y, but when you have to go out in it, it's like The Shining." Exactly.

I was thinking along the lines of The Shining, because I had to go to work in a few hours. The fact that I was going to work, though, was one of the reasons I was inclined to make this cake--because I had a way to get rid of it. Did you see how much of that lemon tart I ate? Yeah, this cake was so not staying in the house.

Speaking of snow, when it's snowing and you're a nurse, it's a lot like what Garrett and I said in the previous post about being on call. Before I was a nurse, I used to think that it was kind of cool and exciting that you have to get to work no matter what's happening outside. People will even pick you up! Who cares if they're some potential psycho who randomly volunteers for the job and drops you off with no means of getting home? Cool!

Actually, it's not cool, so while I watched the forecasted 1-2 inches of snow become 4, then 6 inches, I just told myself that if I got stranded in a ditch somewhere on the way to work, at least I wouldn't starve.

I mentioned that I had some ground almonds left over. Of course, it wasn't enough, so I had to make more.

Then it was time to zest some oranges.

Okay, I used clementines, but that's close enough, right? I'm crazy for clementines, but I was worried that these little guys would go to waste.

Next it was time to separate some eggs.
I was supposed to combine the egg yolks and the sugar and beat them until they reached the ribbon stage. I did this yesterday, so when Julia included a reference to instructions for this technique in the recipe, I thought that I was too cool to read that part.

Or even if you do hold on to the little bowl, you'll end up with splatters in your hair, on the fridge, and plastered to the dishwasher?

So the egg yolks and sugar went back into the big bowl. Finally, I gave up. Something was not right here. Maybe I should read Julia's instructions. Ooohhh...You add the sugar gradually, and then mix it only to a certain point, or the yolks will get grainy. Ooohh.
Obviously, I did that part over.

To the properly beaten egg yolks, I added the lemon zest, lemon juice, and some almond extract.

Then the ground almonds, followed by the flour.
So far, no more mishaps. I mixed in some melted butter with no catastrophic results, so it was time to whip some egg whites to stiff peaks.

Again, I did this yesterday, so no problem, right? Well, I do sometimes learn from my mistakes, so I read Julia's directions this time, and I think I got it right.

The egg whites were then folded into the batter, and poured into the prepped cake pan.

The cake cooked in far less time than Julia said it would, but luckily I noticed and took it out in time. You're probably thinking that my oven was the wrong temperature, right? Well, it might have been, because I do have an oven thermometer just like I'm supposed to, but I think it's wrong. It's all good, though, because I didn't overcook the cake.

The cake cooled for 10 minutes, and just like Julia told me to, I took a sharp knife, ran it around the edge, and turned the cake out. Or part of the cake.
I pried the rest out and kind of smooshed the pieces together, but I was so distracted by this that I forgot to flip the cake over. That means that the finished cake has some really appealing cooling rack lines running across the top.

I liked the idea of an apricot glaze, and I just happened to have exactly the needed amount of apricot jam in the fridge. This was combined with sugar and cooked in a sauce pan until it reached 225 degrees. I think. I was too lazy to take pictures at this point, so I was definitely too lazy to get out the thermometer. I'm pretty sure it was right, though.

The finished cake was flipped over ("crap!"), smooshed together again, and glazed. It actually doesn't look that bad.

Or didn't. I was so worried that I'd be late to work because of the snow that I managed to put my lunch box and
my bag on top of the cake and the tart. The cake should still taste pretty good, though. Before I smashed it, it was light and moist, and both the citrus and the almond flavors are noticeable without being cloying or overwhelming.

I had been worried that the glaze wouldn't work, but it's actually perfect. It isn't too sweet, and it is quite nice with the other flavors. You can get bites with the glaze, and bites without the glaze, so the variety keeps the relatively simple cake interesting. Overall it is subtly, Frenchily delicious. And I won't be eating any more of it. I swear.

Gateau A L'Orange Et Aux Amandes
(Orange and Almond Spongecake,
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking)

  • 1/4 pound butter
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • the grated rind of 1 orange
  • 1/3 cup strained orange juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup (4 ounces) pulverized almonds (you can use a food processor to do this, just be sure not to process the almonds too long and make almond butter)
  • 1/2 cup cake flour, turned into a sifter
  • 3 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • Optional: Apricot Glaze (below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Butter and flour the cake pan, and measure out all of the ingredients.

Melt the butter and set aside.
Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating until the mixture is a thick, pale yellow, and forms a ribbon when the beaters are lifted out of the mix. Add the grated orange rind, orange juice, and almond extract. Beat for a moment or two until the mixture is light and foamy. Then beat in the almonds, and finally the flour.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the cool, melted butter into the cake batter, omitting milky residue at the bottom of the butter pan. Stir one fourth of the egg whites into the batter, delicately fold in the rest.

Immediately turn into prepared cake pan and run the batter up to the rim all around. Bake in middle level of preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes. Note: I find that the cakes in this book tend to be done way before the indicated time, so keep a close eye on things. The cake is done when it has puffed, browned lightly, top is springy when pressed, and a needle plunged into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from oven and let stand for about 10 minutes, until cake begins to shrink from the edges of the pan. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and reverse the cake on the rack, giving it a small, sharp, downward jerk to dislodge it from the pan. If it is not to be iced, reverse the cake immediately so it will cool puffed-side up. Allow to cool for an hour or two.

Can be served with powdered sugar, or with apricot glaze (below). You can also use a buttercream frosting.

Apricot Glaze

  • 1/2 cup apricot preserves, forced through a sieve if lumpy
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Stir the strained apricot preserves with the sugar over moderately high heat for 2 to 3 minutes until thick enough to coat a spoon with a light film, and the last drops are sticky as they fall from the spoon (225 to 228 degrees on a candy thermometer). Do not boil beyond this point or the glaze will become brittle when it cools.

Apply the glaze while it is still warm. Brush any crumbs off the top of the cake, and using a pastry brush, the back of a spoon, or a wide, flat knife, spread the glaze around the top of the cake. Unused glaze will keep indefinitely in a screw-topped jar. Reheat again before using.

So I broke out the mixer and mixed. And mixed. And mixed. This wasn't working. Okay, I'll put it in a smaller bowl, and maybe it will mix up more effectively.

Did you know that if you put something in a little bowl and try to use the hand-held mixer without holding on to the bowl, the bowl spins around right along with its contents and sprays stuff everywhere?

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