I began this exploration with a question. “What is the difference between sticky and regular gingerbread?” Put another way, “What makes sticky gingerbread, well, sticky?” A couple of rounds of baking later, I had identified the differences. Namely, sticky gingerbread starts with a fluid, molasses-heavy batter, which, if not over baked, creates a beautifully moist cake, which if wrapped and refrigerated for a day or two and then brought back to room temperature, has a dense, chewy, somewhat sticky texture.
I know, I know! Molten Chocolate Cake, or Lava Cake, as it is sometimes called, is so YESTERDAY. I am almost perturbed today when I see one on a dessert menu.
I mean, really, can’t the pastry chef think of SOMETHING ELSE? Haven’t we moved beyond warm, fragrant, oozing, fudgy chocolate soufflé cakes and their requisite ice cream accompaniments?
It’s All Chocolate! All Month! in the LunaCafe OtherWorldly Kitchen. As usual during the Month of Love, I am covered in chocolate: milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, white chocolate, and unsweetened cocoa powder. All in an effort to come up with the most delectable, memorable Valentine’s Day dessert ever.
Clafouti (pronounced klah-foo-tee), a simple French custard-cake, is the perfect foil for the fresh fruit and berries of summer. Formulas vary wildly from one end of the spectrum (custard) to the other (cake). I love trying them all, and I’ve shared two of them with you already. What I am sharing with you today is a chewy, cake-style clafouti with a sweet-tart topping of lime and vanilla-scented fresh rhubarb.
When I happened upon the inspiration for this cake (Gourmet Traveler Magazine, Yoghurt & Almond Cake with Orange-Caramel Peaches & Vanilla Yoghurt), I puzzled over the ingredient proportions and procedure. Was there enough fat to produce a moist cake? Was there enough flour to produce a cake that could carry its own weight? Was the egg proportion too high?
It never fails. When the temperature drops like a rock and snow is in the air, I start craving gingerbread cake. It’s one of those ultra-comforting sweets that has so sparked bakers’ creativity over the years that it now boasts hundreds of variations. Maybe thousands. Look at the lineup of gingerbread cakes on TasteSpotting.
However, for gingerbread inspiration this year, I had only to open the new Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Café cookbook by Harvard educated mathematician turned professional baker, Joanne Chang. I scored the cookbook earlier this fall while at the South End location of Joanne’s Flour Bakery in Boston.
I ran into an interesting clafouti (pronounced klah-foo-tee) formula in an old magazine in a box in the garage recently and almost dismissed it because there can be no better clafouti than Fresh Apricot Ginger Peasant Cake.
As you may recall from that post, clafouti, an earthy cake from the region of Limousin in France, is comprised of a layer of cake-custard, topped with a layer of juicy fruit. The result can be rather more like cake or rather more like custard, depending on the proportions in the batter.
Bless your heart if you are actually reading this post rather than running for cover to another food blog. Yes, I know this combination sounds a tad bit unusual, but I assure you it is Pure Genius.
Lest you think I’m being immodest here, the idea is not mine. The combination was recently featured in Gourmet Traveler, and that’s where I first encountered it.
A few weeks ago, I posted a story on Metrovino’s Parmesan Pound Cake (Portland, Oregon), which I hope you had a chance to read. It’s all about my adventures with this extraordinary cake (the creation of Metrovino Executive Chef Gregory Denton and Chef de Cuisine Gabrielle Quiñónez), both in the restaurant and in the OtherWorldly testing kitchen.
Nearly a year ago, at the newly opened Metrovino restaurant in Portland, Oregon’s Pearl district, I spied a dessert on the menu that sounded so implausible that I was honestly expecting NOT to like it. I mean seriously, parmesan cheese in a pound cake? I had never heard of, much less tasted, such a combination–even though I have a library full of dessert cookbooks and am always on the lookout for creative, out of the ordinary flavor combinations.
There is a simple, earthy cake in the French culinary repertoire, from the region of Limousin, called clafouti (pronounced klah-foo-tee), which is an especially delicious way to treat fresh fruit and berries in summer. My version is more cake-like than custard-like. In fact, it contains no eggs and yet has a decidedly chewy texture, which everyone who tastes it loves. I don’t recall where I stumbled on the unusual formula here, but I have not encountered it anywhere since.