rhubarb, vanilla and jasmine flower layer cake (a tentimestea birthday cake)

Today marks one year from my first post. It is also the first time I’ve taken photos on a different background–it required a roll of paper, a great deal of scotch tape, and slightly convoluted camera angles. For mixed results. I guess I’m still working on this aspect.

This past year has been a fun one. A year sounds longer than it feels and I suppose it is as I’ve spent half of it away from the blog. It still is technically a birthday though, and so I’ll continue my celebration regardless.

rhubarbcake

As is fitting on these sorts of occasions, I’ll start off with some requisite reflection on the past year. It has been quite a year–I think I’ve made some lovely new friends and followed even more and more lovely bloggers. And to think of all the things I’ve learned…

I learned that I actually like muesli. I learned what the texture of baked mochi is. I learned the Italian meringue method for macaron shells. I learned how to make a rolled cake that doesn’t crack. I learned that quiche is incredibly rich but also adaptable and really quite delicious. I learned that I know nothing about sourdough bread. I learned that I need to remember (i.e. bother) to proofread. I learned how to adjust the focus on my camera, finally! I learned that so many bloggers have so much to share, I learned that comments take time, but are so much fun to give and receive, and, finally, I learned how much I value this interactive aspect of blogging.

I knew this last point for a while, but just how much I value interaction only became apparent to me more recently (let me give you a sudden break in writing style so I can just launch right into an anecdote.) A month or two ago, along with a great deal more rejections, I had a couple photos accepted by foodgawker. I was very happy when the photos were accepted–I considered it, for some reason, very important validation of my blog as an actual food blog. And I watched as I had the greatest number of daily views ever on my blog which was (I think some of you may have to try not to laugh!) 65, a very considerable increase from usual.

And then that was all. After it had actually happened, I didn’t feel particularly happier or all that proud. And I realize now that an interested viewer who might interact, perhaps dropping a comment or an email, is so much more valuable to me than the quantity of page views. Immeasurably more valuable actually.

I realized that I didn’t really care about the breadth or width of the reach of tentimestea. What I really wanted was depth. I got to cohost my first Fiesta Friday and had a ridiculous amount of fun. I was on the cusp of becoming an avid depth-oriented blogger.

And then I went through this exhausting blog fatigue thing. A few weeks later, still forcing myself to oh gosh upload these photos, I’m here. One year later.

I don’t intend to make any commitments for the coming year. Though I’m sure I’ll still be around a year later, posting run on sentences and garbled recipes and an excess of dull photos on teak.

Even though I’m tired, I love having a blog. tentimestea has made me a motivated baker. I take notes, I think about what could be improved, I question why things turned out the way they did. Sometimes I’ll actually do something over if it turns out poorly. I love having a place to document what I make, the exhausting part is putting together the posts and making them even a fraction as good as I want them to be.

I won’t commit to posting more or posting less. I won’t commit to maintaining a certain standard of quality for this blog either. I don’t know what will happen, but regardless I’ll try to enjoy myself, as, even if I’m tired, I still want tentimestea to be something I love. And I wouldn’t love it as much as I do without the occasional reader and all the lovely bloggers (food and otherwise) that I’ve encountered.

Thank you for a marvellous year!

Recipe notes:

It is a very rhubarb-y cake. The cake itself has a golden hue from the spelt flour, and was meant to be flavoured with dried jasmine, which did not particularly come through. Between the layers is a very thin gloss of caramelized white chocolate ganache, a vanilla and jasmine pastry cream (which I was very fond of, but unfortunately was lacking in quantity) and roasted rhubarb. It’s then slathered with a liberal coating of butter…or rather Italian meringue buttercream beaten with rhubarb curd.

I found the cake, overall, to be too acidic. I think it could have been remedied with additional pastry cream–it was the most mellow and pleasant component of the cake, not overly tart as was the roasted rhubarb, or overly sweet as was the ganache, or both, as was the buttercream.

I did actually enjoy the buttercream though–it was rich and smooth and silky. It was quite sweet so I made an unsweetened rhubarb curd to beat into it, which resulted in an assertively tart flavour and a gentle pink colouring.

The cake was a bit of a struggle. Having only one pan, I made each layer successively and watched, sadly, as each layer became tougher and rose less. The batter ended up sitting for half an hour between each layer due to the time taken to bake the previous layer, wash the pan and prepare it. Next time I would mix together the butter ingredients and the dry ingredients, divide it into three, and mix each layer individually right before baking.

Altogether it was an alright cake, though rather horrible when it was cold as it made the cakes seem even tougher!

Rhubarb, vanilla and jasmine flower layer cake

There are a number of components, but they can certainly all be made ahead of time. I made the rhubarb juice one day, the curd, pastry cream and cakes another day, and finally the buttercream and roasted rhubarb the day I was assembling.

 

Jasmine and spelt butter cake

Makes 3 13-cm (6″) cakes. Adapted from the all-purpose yellow cake from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible. It’s not too sweet a cake as I roughly halved the sugar from the original recipe, and I think it’s quite nice this way. The spelt flour gives it a lovely golden hue, but the flavour of the jasmine flower did not particularly come through. 

1 stick butter, softened

125 g sugar

22 dried jasmine flowers

85 g egg at room temperature

200 g flour (75 g spelt and 125 g all-purpose)

13 g baking powder (or 2.5 tsp ish)

1/2 tsp salt

150 g milk at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter cake pan(s), line the bottom with buttered parchment, and dust the whole thing lightly with flour.

Cream butter until soft, add sugar, and cream until light. Crumble jasmine flowers, or quickly grind in a spice griner, and beat in. Slowly beat in egg, bit by bit.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk to the butter, mixing until only just combined. Split batter into thirds for three 13-cm cakes.

Bake around 15-20 minutes per layer.

 

Rhubarb curd

This rhubarb curd is unsweetened, and so on its own is an extremely tart and slightly bitter creamy thing.

400-500 g rhubarb

dried rose flower

1 egg + 1 egg yolk

pat of butter

Chop rhubarb, place in a saucepan along with a few dried rose petals, and cook gently until rhubarb is soft and falling apart. Pour into a jelly bag set over a sieve and allow the juice to pass through. Obtain approximately 200 mL of juice. Reduce this amount (or a bit more or a bit less) down to around 75 mL by simmering.

Remove from the heat, let cool slightly and whisk in the eggs and a bit of butter. Return to the heat and cook very gently, whisking constantly, until thickened. Press through a sieve with a rubber spatula, cover and chill.

 

Rhubarb Italian meringue buttercream

Should make 2 cups, sufficient to nicely smear on the outside of the cake. Adapted from the IMB recipe on Bakepedia. I recommend reading through the comments on this recipe as the single thing emphasized most heavily is the importance of temperature. If your buttercream is looking a bit off (a bit grainy or a bit like a puddle) playing with the temperature is apt to restore it…which does make sense as this is pretty much solid butter. There is some additional sugar as I realized that when you make a smaller quantity, you lose a greater fraction of your total sugar to surface of the saucepan (as you do not scrape the bottom or sides for fear of crystallization). I’m not sure whether that was really a necessary concern though…I found the buttercream very very sweet and so perhaps the original amount of 60 g would be sufficient.

The buttercream produced is a very, very pale pink. For a more assertive pink colour one could make hibiscus rhubarb curd and reduce the rhubarb juice.

2 egg whites – 60 g

80 g granulated sugar + a spoonful more

1.25 sticks butter at room temperature

rhubarb curd

Beat the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer until they are foamy, sprinkle in a spoonful of sugar, and then continue to beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks.

Meanwhile, place the rest of the sugar in a small saucepan, add a bit of water to help it get started, and cook until the sugar reaches 248-250F (firm ball stage).

Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, and pour the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites a bit at a time, whisking with the other hand (I poured a bit, set it down, whisked it in and then repeated. If I tried to do both at the same time, I think the bowl would fly off the counter.) Once incorporated, return to the stand mixer and beat until the meringue is completely cooled.

Continue beating, adding a small pat of butter at a time until all the butter is incorporated. Finally, add the rhubarb curd and beat until incorporated and smooth.

 

Beaten caramelized white chocolate ganache

This makes just enough to thinly spread on 2 cake layers. I would double it for it to be more noticeable. Edit (Aug 2015): I forgot to cite my source… David Lebovitz.

35 g white chocolate

2 tbsp heavy cream

Preheat oven to 250 F.

Chop the white chocolate and spread out over a parchment lined baking pan. Bake, stirring every half hour, until deep golden brown (a couple hours).

Heat the cream until steaming in a glass bowl. Add the white chocolate, whisk until smooth. Continue whisking (and whisking…) until the ganache becomes slightly lighter in colour and thickened. Set it in a bowl of ice water and whisk until the ganache is set and thick.

 

Vanilla and jasmine flower pastry cream

Adapted from numerous sources and from what I’ve done the past couple times. The main inspiration was the pastry cream recipe from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel.

110 mL milk

40 mL heavy cream

1-cm length of vanilla bean

4 dried jasmine flowers

1 egg

13 g cornstarch

1.5 tbsp sugar

Heat the milk and cream together in a small saucepan until steaming. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds, pod and jasmine flowers to the milk, cover and let steep for 20 minutes or longer.

Whisk the egg with the cornstarch and sugar until smooth. Start reheating the milk, removing the vanilla bean pod and the jasmine flowers. Whisk in the egg mixture and gently cook while whisking constantly until the pastry cream is well-thickened.

Cover and chill.

 

Roasted rhubarb

4 large stalks rhubarb

a few generous spoonfuls sugar

grated lemon zest

a few black cherries to help with colour

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cut each rhubarb stalk in half, separating the red end and green end. Chop all the red ends and pile them together on one side of the baking tray. Chop all the green ends and pile them together on the other side. Toss both with sugar and lemon zest.

Pit the cherries, quarter, and toss with the red ends of the rhubarb.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until rhubarb is tender but not quite mush.

Reserve a small bowl of the red ends to top the cake with. The rest can be mixed together to fill the cake layers.

 

To assemble

The buttercream and ganache should be at room temperature or not too cold.

Trim the rounded top off each cake layer (except for the top layer if you like) until they are level. Spread a thin layer of caramelized white chocolate ganache on top of the cake, followed by the pastry cream, then a pile of the roasted rhubarb. Repeat. Place the third layer on top and cover the whole cake with icing.

Place in the refrigerator until the icing is firm. Dip an offset spatula in steaming water and dry it. Smooth down the icing. Pile the red roasted rhubarb on top.

It is best served at around room temperature.

chive and aged gouda gougeres

This, I believe, may be the first pâte à choux post on this blog. (I know, actually!) But that’s all the excitement that there is to these. My understanding of choux has since, minimally, improved. Looking back, I think I may have made the pastry a bit too soupy and loose here. Or maybe now I just like to make thicker pastry? The thicker pastry would hold its shape much better though.

Also, not too long ago the lovely Lina from Lin’s Recipes nominated me for the Liebster Award! (If you have not already been reading her story, the 5 to 9 Chef, you my dear have been missing out! It seamlessly pulls together romcom fiction and delicious recipes in a fun and creative format. This link here links to the first 8 chapters compiled in a single post.) I’ve gone through the nomination process previously so this time I’m just planning to answer the questions.

1. Your signature dish?

I don’t think I make anything well enough for it to be my signature. Hmm, poor unpredictable results is my signature!

2. Will you choose strawberries over mangoes or vice-versa?

I want to choose both!

3. Books or movies?

I’m cheating, but it’s difficult to choose…

4. Favourite genre of books?

I don’t read a particular genre and very genre-oriented books (mystery or horror or high fantasy and the like) usually don’t appeal to me too much. So I suppose I would have to say General Fiction, a suitably general genre for my very general answer.

4. Favourite Chef?

My mother will always make the best food of course! But I do love Ottolenghi books…

5. An impossible dream if you have one?

To be able to have a career that allows me to do exactly and only what I want to do and enjoy every minute of it. Oh that sounds rather impossible, but that would be rather nice…

6. What do you do when you want a break?

I like to read the news (which I don’t read enough) or read food blogs (of course!)

7. What does happiness mean to you?

Many things. Sometimes it means spending time with family, or eating lunch with friends or baking something on my own.

8. What is the thing that you really cannot tolerate?

I hate it when I’m sloppy. I hate it when I make a mistake not because I don’t know better, but just because I’m being sloppy. It’s the worst and I don’t know how to improve.

9. How much do you respect everybody’s opinion on a decision?

Equally, I hope!

(The fact that I left the plastic wrapping on the cheese in bothering me a bit in these photos!)

I’d also like to say a late happy Fiesta Friday(Yes, it is Monday, but this is a long party–useful as I’m sometimes a tad late.) This week is a quieter one, with no designated cohosts and no feature posts. I think this only emphasizes how much the Fiesta Friday community comes through for each other–this party is always a pleasure for the food but mostly for the people. I hope to take some time to visit everyone and drop a few comments here and there!

Chive and aged gouda gougeres

Adapted from David Lebovitz‘s chouquette recipe. Makes 10 small gougeres.

1/4 c water

23 g butter

very small pinch salt

34 g flour

1 large egg

10 g aged gouda, finely grated (I used “1000 day” which makes it sound a bit older than it actually is)

a few chives, minced

Preheat oven to 425F.

In a small saucepan, heat the water, salt and butter until it comes to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the flour, and beat with a wooden spoon until the batter comes together into one smooth ball of dough.

Beat the egg in a small bowl. Add a quarter of the beaten egg to the flour mixture and beat until combined. Repeat until all egg is incorporated and dough is softer and stickier (mine I think was perhaps a tad bit too wet…then again, I don’t really know).

Mix in the aged gouda and chives. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a wide, circular tip. Pipe 10 small mounds of pastry onto a sheet of parchment paper.

Place in the oven and bake for around 25 minutes or until well-browned and puffed.

Poke a hole in the bottom of each one with the tip of a knife to let the steam escape. Let cool on a wire rack.

four-ish 20% red fife breads (& experiments with la cloche)

When it comes to bread, I go in rather blind and haphazardly and emerge just about the same. So I thought that perhaps being a bit more systematic – i.e. making the same bread slightly differently, a number of times, might give me some insight.

Did it? Well, possibly. Yes, I used (errr sometimes…) the same formula, but even if I disregard deviations in ambient conditions and the liveliness of my starter and the rising times, there so many sources of inconsistency: irregular and poor boule shaping, lazy folding and turning of the dough, and ability to crush all the air out when I score.

I certainly wouldn’t claim that these are a set of well-controlled trials…and perhaps I shouldn’t even hope that my results are even the slightest bit comparable between loaves. I think the solution would be for me to do a lot a lot of trials. But I have no idea how all that bread would get eaten!

Bread #1:

Bread #1:

20% red fife bread

100% flour (20% red fife, 80% all purpose)

75% water

2% salt

20% starter

1.5% wheat gluten

The dough was a tad bit too stiff and dry; it appeared to have a pleasant rise, but the crumb remained consistently denser. I preheated the cloche to 500F and then dropped the dough inside.

Bread #2:

Bread #2:

I added just a bit extra water, and got a slightly looser crumb. I also ended up spraying the top of the bread liberally with water to try to encourage more steam and oven spring. However the act of dropping the bread into the bottom of the cloche seemed to really deflate (or at least deform) the dough, and the water on the crust only seemed to made the bread a bit sloppy.

Bread #3:

Bread #3:

Ran out of red fife and so I used spelt instead. This time I put a baking stone in the oven instead of the cloche base and slid the dough onto that. I also let the dough rise in a 1 kg banneton instead of a towel-lined bowl (and only used around 4/5 of the dough–less than 1 kg, but it seemed to fit better). It didn’t seem as though there was much ovenspring, but the crumb was much much improved, with a bit of craggyness from the occasional loose hole. But then I got confused. I changed a few too many variables at once to identify the difference maker.

Bread #4:

Bread #4:

This time I went right ahead and made a 4/5 of the original amount of dough, and the size was much better for the banneton, and I was able to be considerably more gentle when handling the dough. I did not spray the top of the loaf with as much water (which was a better choice I think–the last loaf of bread had an odd sort of mottled crust and a weird spring to some of the scoring) and mostly sprayed the parchment paper around the loaf in hopes of generating some steam inside of the cloche. Again I slid the loaf onto a stone instead of dropping it into the base of la cloche and that also seemed to be much better. I think there was a decent amount of ovenspring.

One deviance from the procedure was that I forgot and incorporated the red fife in during the main dough instead of the sponge. I’m not certain whether that would be significant to create any issues–did it encourage or did it reduce the amount of gluten formation? I could somehow rationalize it going either way, which indicates I really have no idea.

Concluding thoughts:

I think I actually had a consistent trend of improvement across these four breads which is something that never happens. Now if only I can keep that up.

Some pointers:

  • Gluten formation is very good. During the first proof you can stretch the dough around in the bowl (a few turns) to help. Or you could knead. The choice is yours.
  • Shape very gently–after the first proof, you want to retain a fair amount of that air. There are various videos on forming boules to which I intend to one day pay more attention so I can have a better grasp of it.
  • Slide the bread, don’t drop the bread. Yes, yes, yes!
  • Don’t overproof–this was something I learned quite a while ago, and now also facilitates my impatience. I tend to have better ovenspring when the bread is slightly underproofed than when it is overproofed. So then it’s just a matter of finding the right balance–underproof means less initial holes, but more ovenspring; overproof means more initial holes, but less ovenspring. I prefer more ovenspring because it’s exciting, and I think it may help encourage the formation of a loose crumb.
  • Steam…how? Steam is important. I know that. But it’s more difficult when you’re baking in a small closed space such as la cloche–you can’t spray water into the oven or rely on a pan of steaming water on the bottom rack. My compromise (though I’ve no idea whether it’s actually helping) is to spray the parchment around the bread with water–then some steam should be formed inside la cloche.
  • Let the bread cool completely. I usually let it cool overnight because I bake in the evenings. Though I do always get very curious about what the crumb is like, I try to resist. I find when I cut into warm bread, the crumb gets a bit mushy and soft and crumbly, as though it hasn’t finished cooking; something that I seem to be able to avoid when I let the bread cool overnight.
  • Have you got any more to add to the list?

By the way…it’s already Saturday, so happy Fiesta FridayAngie‘s lovely party this week is being co-hosted by Josette, the Brook Cook and Julie, the Hostess at Heart. And did you hear that Dini at the Flavour Bender has started a Saucy Saturday linkup party? I’ll see whether I can get a post together for that one as well.

20% red fife wheat bread

I add some additional wheat gluten to the dough because I’m not using bread flour. Start the night before, make the bread the next day, and eat it the day after.

Sponge:

80 g red fife

80 g starter

80 g water

Dough

320 g flour

228 g water

7 g salt

5 g wheat gluten

Mix sponge, let ferment overnight.

Combine all ingredients to form a loose dough. Let proof for an hour, turning intermittently. Then let rise until doubled.

Dust a banneton generously with flour OR dust a tea towel with rice flour and use that to line a bowl.

Gently scrape dough out onto a floured surface. Form into a tight boule as gently as possible. Place seam side up in the banneton/bowl, cover, and let rise.

Preheat the oven to 500F, with the top of the la cloche resting on top of a baking stone. If you have enough room, shift the stone to one corner and the top of la cloche to the other corner–this way when you remove la cloche during the baking you can leave it in the oven and avoid any potential of heat shock (which I am very afraid of, but it is probably not an issue actually).

Once it is well risen, but not quite doubled, gently invert onto a rimless tray (or an upside down jelly roll pan) lined with parchment. Score.

Lift up the top of la cloche with one hand and slide the bread from the tray onto the stone with the other hand. Put the top in place and bake for 25 minutes. Remove top, bake for 15 minutes.

Let cool completely (i.e possibly overnight) on a wire rack before cutting into the bread.

roasted black plum and rhubarb pavlova

Well it’s Canada Day and I just happen to have a red and white-themed draft lying around. At first I was just going to post it with little else other than some musing on how much sugar I should put into the meringue.

As this is a food blog, I don’t really go into issues or politics or anything much other than food (if every blog touched on everything then things would be pretty confusing!). And sometimes this is because I never know as much as I should know on a matter, and these things can be pretty inflammatory–and before I’m going to be inflammatory, I really should be, at the very least, well-researched.

But because it’s Canada Day, it’s the sort of the day that I want to say something more. I’m very happy and very grateful to live where I do, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. However, I get a bit nervous about expressing this one-sided applause because sometimes I worry patriotism causes us to cover up and ignore our country’s faults and flaws and issues. I’m not sure whether it does, but I hope it doesn’t. I hope that extolling how multicultural Canada is doesn’t dampen the call to address the inequality that most definitely still exists. Nor that congratulating ourselves on being a stable democracy allows us to ignore the senate spending scandals or the fact that we perhaps sorely needed the recently passed Reform Act.

(Though it is unlikely that we’ll ever overlook spending scandals–squandering taxpayer money does tend to generate quite a bit of outrage.)

When I think about what I love about Canada, I also inevitably think about our issues and failings. Three that come to mind: the missing and murdered aboriginal women deemed not a “sociological phenomenon” and for which an inquiry still has yet to be commissioned. Canada’s rigid and resolute policies on solitary confinement. The rising toll of fatal overdoses from the “king of all opiates.” I think part of nationalism is to appreciate what is good about your country and to acknowledge its shortcomings so we can think about how to make it a better country in the future. The point is, on these days, or any days for that matter, it’s fine not to artificially separate what you love about something from what you don’t.

So happy Canada Day: a time to celebrate what is good and to continue the conversation and debate on what could be better.

(Did I just restate the same thing three times in slightly different forms? Probably, but I’ll leave it all in so the point is reinforced.)

(One more point, an addendum after a quick proofread and realization: is it incredibly privileged and narrow-sighted of me to complain about where I live when it is really such a safe and tolerant place? Yes, absolutely. As I mentioned, I’m very grateful for this fact, but I also want to acknowledge that Canada has its own inequalities and issues.)

(And, um, have I covered all my bases yet? Good.)

But now, for the musing on how much sugar I should put into the meringue:

I think a certain amount of sugar is necessary to ensure you have a thick, glossy meringue, but I always find the meringue in the pavlova too sweet. My solution was to cover the meringue with unsweetened whipped cream and to use a more sour combination of fruit. The end result was that I found the fruit too sour and the meringue still to sweet and I guess it sort of did balance out, but not as seamlessly as I had hoped.

I started off by garnishing with a pile of edible flowers but I thought it was perhaps turning out a bit excessive (and revealing a bit too much of my edible flower enthusiasm!). So instead I decided to go the more focused and minimalistic direction by using another calendula.

Once I cut up the pavlova it became quite an incredible mess, and so that’s when I brought the rest of the flowers back to bury it under a slightly aggressive sprinkle of colourful petals.

Roasted black plum and rhubarb pavlova

I found it made enough to serve 6 people quite well. 

Lavender and calendula meringue

2 large egg whites (60 g)

1/3 c sugar

a few large sprigs lavender (I only used leaves)

1 calendula flower

Whip the egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the sugar and continue to beat until thick, stiff and glossy. Pick the lavender leaves from the stem, and the calendula petals from the flower. Fold the lavender and calendula into the meringue.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Spread the meringue into a circle approximately 15-cm in diameter.

Bake at 225F for 2 1/2 hours.

 

Roasted black plum and rhubarb with orange

7-8 stalks rhubarb

4 black plums

3 tbsp butter

3 tbsp – 1/4 c sugar

grated zest of 1 orange

Preheat oven to 375F.

Chop the rhubarb stalks into small pieces, and the plums into similarly sized dice. Place it all in a large bowl.

Heat the butter in a small pan until browned. Pour over the fruit and toss to coat. Sprinkle the sugar and orange zest over top and toss until completely mixed. Let the mixture sit and hmm…would you say meld? for 10 minutes.

Pour the mixture into a pan lined with parchment (there will be some juice so choose a large pan or one with taller sides).

Bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes or until rhubarb is tender and plenty of juices have been released.

 

Assembly

100 mL heavy cream

calendula and other edible flowers if desired

Whip the cream until thick. Spread the cream overtop of the meringue, follow with some generous scoops of the rhubarb and plum (still warm or at room temperature). Garnish with flowers.