Special

LAUREN, WHAT’S THE SPECIAL?

Matt leans over the counter, pen in hand, ready to write.

I look at my almond cake, still in the pan and so hot that the cherries are on top are bubbling. And then at the clock: 20 minutes until service. The cake does not look like what I expected from the recipe, but flatter, spongier, and more difficult to unmold. And it is the moment of truth; Matt wants to print the menu.

JUST A SECOND. I MADE AN ALMOND CAKE BUT IT LOOKS LIKE IT MIGHT BE STUBBORN; LET ME SEE IF I CAN UNMOLD IT.

Matt looks a little skeptical, a tad amused, a bit annoyed, and taps his pen. I lift up the cake from the bottom, and like a dream it comes clean of the pan with such ease that I can he thinks I was spoofing at the prospect of disaster, or showing off. I was doing neither, and I am genuinely relieved. Though still flatter than expected the now compliant cake is quite lovely, soft yellow, deep red, with the scent of warm almonds.

“ALMOND CAKE WITH CHERRIES”, I say, newly confident, and cut a piece to sample.

NO, CALL IT “RUSTIC ALMOND CAKE WITH BLACK CHERRIES AND CHANTILLY CREAM”

What difference a name makes! Matt nods, and scribbles, and then reaches for the piece I set in front of him, and smiles. Then he reaches again.

***

I found this recipe on Orangette last night, and tweaked it by substituting cherries for apricots and adding almond extract to the batter. I added the extract because nothing is worse than and unalmondy almond cake and the almond flavor we have come to expect is actually a flavor component in peach pits, which the French have been adding to their almond paste for centuries and which we now know as almond. I have nothing against apricots, and had in fact planned on going down to Frank’s to get some for the recipe, but looked at the clock, my to do list, and the cherries Tim was using to make a gastrique, and decided a little switcheroo was in order. ( I stole the pitted ones when he wasn’t looking.) Tomorrow, I plan on using apricots, and carmelizing them with my blow torch when the cake comes out of the oven and, if time permits, making a reduction with sage a honey to spruce up the plate.

Preheat your oven to 350.

1/3 cup blanched almonds, ground finely.

2/3 cup flour

1t baking soda

2/3 cup sugar

pinch of salt

8 tb butter, softened

1t almond extract

2 large eggs.

Like always, mix dry ingredients, cream wet ingredients and combine the two as gently as possible. The batter is thick and covers the pan only scantly if you coax it with your fingers (which I suggest wetting slightly to keep the batter from sticking). Place whatever fruit you use cut side up so the extra juices condense and thicken rather than make a dark soggy spot on your cake. Orangette suggests wrapping the bottom of your removable 8 or 9″ pan in parchment paper, and despite my near panic, the technique does work. Every oven is different–Its done when it looks and feels done: just beginning to golden and springy to the touch. At the restaurant we use a convection oven which effectively cooks around 50 degrees hotter (due to better air circulation) than the temperature reads. Needless to say, I have burned things. Its better to get to know your oven and to trust your nose.

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~ by Beth on August 7, 2007.

One Response to “Special”

  1. It’s funny how things tend to work out:)

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