I can’t remember the last time I made garlic bread, but it was a requested accompaniment to the birthday lasagna. If only garlic bread were as nutritious as a nice quinoa salad, I think I might indulge myself more often than whenever the last time I may have done so. It’s perfect for mopping up sauce.
The roasted garlic adds a bit of sweetness and background hum that mutes the assertive, mostly raw garlic flavor a bit. I used the tiny young garlic bulbs for this because the flavor is especially less bitter than the old, sprouting kind usually found in the supermarket. It’s almost lemony. They’re prettier too, at least before you crush them up into a paste anyway!
- 1 head garlic
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large clove garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano (not the finely powdered crap)
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 stick of good salted butter, softened
- 1 large loaf of bread, sliced in half lengthwise
- 2-3 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- Slice the top of the whole bulb of garlic, exposing the cloves. Place on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap tightly with the foil and bake in the oven for one hour, then remove and allow to cool.
- Remove the whole cloves of roasted garlic and mash to a paste with the raw garlic, oregano and a generous grinding of black pepper. Fold this, including the residual olive oil from the roasted garlic, into the softened stick of butter until everything is uniformly distributed. Spread a small amount of the butter on a piece of bread and increase the amount of garlic and salt, if desired.
- Preheat the oven broiler and position a rack 6″ from it.
- Lay the bread, cut side up on a baking sheet and spread liberally with the butter, making sure to cover all of the edges so they do not burn rapidly. Evenly distribute the Parmesan cheese on top, then place under the broiler until lightly golden. Cool slightly and slice into wedges to serve immediately.
I’ve had a bad habit lately of making poor conversions of cups to grams when it comes to baking. This is typically a minor error, actually, almost invariably looking up how much one cup of something is supposed to weigh and then dividing it in half, when what I really intended to do was find out how much a quarter cup of something weighed. The results are mostly unnoticeable, but in the case, it definitely lead to a drier cake.
I’d came up with this idea to make a light and citrusy birthday cake and, in principle, it should actually turn out quite nicely. In practice it was kind of a mess and I didn’t particularly enjoy it, but I’m still sharing it anyway because I think the cake is ridiculously funny in its gaudi 1950′s housewife cookbook kind of way and because its still fundamentally a good cake.
The cake itself is a Génoise base, which I think is a lot of fun to play with. It’s essentially a fat free cake leavened entirely with eggs whipped to a high volume over a bain marie. The base is extremely versatile, used from everything from sheet cakes rolled up to make Yule Logs to piped out ladyfingers to make tiramisu. The cake by itself tends to be fairly dry though, which is why it is typically punched with some sort of flavored syrup, which I think is a great technique for adding both pizazz and moisture to cakes. Unfortunately I didn’t make enough syrup, so I doubled the quantity for the recipe.
So here you have it — what should for all intents and purposes be a decent cake, which took a turn for the worse by my various foibles and was eventually such a disappointment that kids, moments earlier chanting, “Le gâteau! Le gâteau!!!” left their plates more or less untouched. Admire its sunken, uneven layers (they were cut to exact thickness but the bottom layers did not receive such a liberal syruping treatment and did not compress) and its ridiculous garnishes.
- 2 lemons, zested and segmented
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 oranges, zested and segmented
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cake x 2
- 3 eggs plus 3 yolks
- 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup (60g) cake or all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup (30g) cornstarch
- 375ml jar Apricot jam
Sour Cream Glaze
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 3 cups icing sugar
- To make the syrups, place the zest, flesh, juice (and water), sugar and vanilla extract into small, separate saucepans and bring to a boil. Continue to cook for a few minutes, then set aside to cool completely.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with the rack positioned in the middle. Line the bottom of a 9″ springform pan with parchment and butter the paper and the sides of the pan.
- To make the cake, bring a small pot 1/4 filled with water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Combine the eggs, sugar and a pinch of salt in a non-reactive, heat resistant bowl and place over the pot, making sure that the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Using an electric mixer, whisk until the mixture is warm (check with your finger) and has increased in volume.
- Remove the bowl from the heat and continue whisking until the bowl is cool to the touch and the mixture has tripled in volume and become pale and light.
- Sift together the flour and cornstarch, then fold 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the batter, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl and thoroughly mix. Immediately transfer to the cake pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Once it has finished baking, immediately run a knife along the edge of the pan, remove the ring and transfer the cake to a cooling rack to cool completely. This recipe is for one cake and I used two, though I only have one springform pan. The recipe will double fine if you have two pans, and is otherwise equally suited to a sheet pan, just reduce the baking time appropriately.
- To assemble the cake, once the cakes have cooled, carefully slice each of them in half with a large serrated knife. Remove the parchment paper and choose the half with the smoothest bottom. This surface will be the top of the cake, the other flat piece will be the bottom. Using a brush, distribute the lemon into both halves of one of the cakes and the orange syrup into the other. Arrange the bottom on a flat plate (to prevent sinking in the middle) and spread 1/3 of the apricot jam on top. Add an alternate flavor of cake on top, and spread another 1/3 of the apricot jam. Repeat with the remaining layers of cake and jam and finish with the smooth top.
- To make the glaze, whip together the butter, sour cream, vanilla and lemon, then gradually whip in all of the icing sugar until you have a stiff glaze. Using an offset spatula, distribute the glaze over the outside of the cake to coat.
I don’t know why you’d want to completely emulate this monstrosity, but you can use this recipe with orange food coloring and orange zest and pipe with a small rosette tip to make the meringues. To make the candied blood orange slices, thinly slice a blood orange with a mandolin, place in a small saucepan covered with sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until the sugar just starts to caramelize, then quickly transfer the slices to a piece of parchment paper to cool.
I make lasagna once, maybe twice a year. It’s not a particularly difficult undertaking, but it does take up a fair amount of time with all the sauce simmering and pasta rolling. Which is why I typically only do it for significant occasions, in this case, a birthday dinner.
I bought a, what do you call it, crinkle edged (?) pastry wheel the other day specfically for making pastas and pies and I haven’t made a point of using it, so even though all of the fluted edges of the lasagna noodles are completely hidden underneath all the sauce, at least I knew they were there.
This isn’t technically a traditional Bolognese sauce because it’s missing celery and pancetta and is spiced up a bit, but the hallmarks of such a sauce, the minimal tomato, the milk to tenderize the meat, is there. I prefer this kind of sauce for lasagna because there’s no assertive tomato flavor that covers up the bechamel, ricotta or spinach, which are just as important to me.
Lasagna is always better the next day, when things have had a chance to settle and meld and everything slices more uniformly into neat little squares, freshly cut from the refridgerator… which is why I’m glad that we pilfered all the leftovers.
- 1 1/2 pounds ground veal
- 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 glass (4 ounces) dry white wine
- 3 ounces tomato paste
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 cup beef stock
- 1 medium carrot, peeled
- salt and sugar to taste
- 300g frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
- 500ml whole milk ricotta
- 3 cups (or so) all purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 4 cups whole milk, warmed
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
- salt to taste
- Heat a large pot over medium heat. Brown the ground veal and beef in batches and set aside, draining and discarding the fat after each batch.
- Add the olive oil, minced onion, chili flakes, nutmeg, rosemary and bay leaves to the pot with a pinch of salt. Cook until the onion is softened, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching.
- Add the wine and stir any residual bits from the bottom of the pot, then reduce until nearly evaporated. Stir in the tomato paste, milk and stock, then return the meat to the pot with the whole carrot.
- Cover the pot and simmer the sauce for several hours, then discard the carrot, bay leaves and rosemary sprig. Season to taste with salt and a pinch of sugar if the tomato is particularly acidic. Allow to cool before assembling the lasagna.
- Meanwhile, combine the spinach and ricotta in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to assemble the lasagna.
- To make the fresh pasta, place the flour in a bowl and make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the center and whisk with a fork to break apart. Incorporate the flour with the fork until you have a messy, but manageable mass of dough, then lightly flour a counter top and knead for several minutes until smooth and elastic. Wrap tightly and set aside to rest.
- To make the bechamel, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once it has melted and the bubbles subside, add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until it becomes a smooth, pale yellow paste. Gradually whisk in the milk a cup at a time until the sauce is smooth. Cook for several minutes, stirring often to prevent scorching, then add the nutmeg, Parmesan and season to taste with salt.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
- To assemble the lasagna, first start by rolling out the pasta sheets. Divide the dough into four equal portions, take one and wrap the others. Lightly flour the pasta machine and pass the dough through it. Fold the dough in half and pass it through a few more times until it has a cohesive shape and texture. Continue to pass the dough through the machine in incrementally lower settings until about 1/16″ thick. Repeat with the remaining dough, then trim the sheets to fit a 9×13″ lasagna pan.
- Place a little bit of the sauce in the bottom of the lasagna pan to start, then alternate layers of sauce and pasta, with the spinach and ricotta filling in the middle. Finish with pasta on the top and cover with the bechamel, straining if you wish.
- Place a layer of parchment paper directly against the bechamel, then wrap tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 35-40 minutes, then remove the foil and parchment paper and bake until the bechamel is a deep and bubbly golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to rest and cool for at least 20 minutes to make slicing cleaner and easier.