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Monday, January 12, 2015

Recipe: Lemon Thyme Apricot Cake



Recipe: Lemon Thyme Apricot Cake



The Tortoise revisited...

I enjoyed the original version of "The Tortoise" so much (and I know many others did too), that I couldn't bring myself to completely abandon that recipe. So many aspects worked so incredibly well. Most importantly, the combination of apricot, lemon thyme and pecan praline was an undeniable hit. Certain things are sacrosanct.

But there's always room for improvement...


Lemon Thyme Apricot Cake


The new version of the pastry, which I had previously described as a biscuit/cookie, is now much more of a traditional cake. The recipe still uses a hybrid mixing method, combining the cut-in-butter method with a separated egg foam. However, those procedures have been revised to make the mixing process more efficient (putting that culinary school knowledge to good use).

The new format for the pastry is perhaps the biggest change. It's now much more of a mini-cake, something that could even be served as a plated dessert. That makes this cake a bit more refined. But no one is going to stand in judgement if you pick it up with both hand and tackle it like a giant cookie. Or, at least I won't.... because I did that too.


What's new?

  • Less flour, baking soda and baking powder: Looking to achieve more of a coffeecake consistency, the balance of dry and wet ingredients needed to change. Part of adjustment involved reducing the amount of flour. The baking soda and baking powder were cut accordingly, providing the same amount of leavening strength to the smaller quantity of flour.
  • More sugar: Looking back, I realized the original recipe was surprisingly light on sugar (even if you accounted for that praline glaze). Even at these slightly increased levels, there's still far less sugar in this recipe than in most cakes.
  • More buttermilk: As part of the rebalancing of dry and wet ingredients, the amount of buttermilk was increased. It not only provides more moisture, but it also increases the fat and milk solids content, adding to the tenderness and depth of flavor of the cake.
  • More eggs: An additional whole egg adds to the richness (the yolk) and structure (the white) of the cake.
  • Longer bake time at a lower temperature: The new recipe calls for baking the cake as a single sheet tray rather than as individual cookies or biscuits. Lowering the oven temperature and increasing the bake time makes for an evenly baked cake.
  • ...and a little extra spice: Well actually, coffee. While the tart apricot and savory lemon thyme made for a pretty amazing pair, some ground coffee has been added as a complementary flavor. 




Lemon Thyme Apricot Cake:

Yield: One Half Sheet Tray (18"x13") - Eight 3" Mini Cakes

Ingredients:
  • All Purpose Flour: 300g
  • Sugar: 100g
  • Baking Powder: 10g
  • Baking Soda: 2g
  • Salt: 6g
  • Coffee, finely ground: 1 Tbls
  • Lemon Thyme, minced: 1 Tbls
  • Cinnamon: 0.5 Tbls
  • Nutmeg: 1 Tsp
  • Butter, cold: 170g
  • Egg Whites: 3x
  • Sugar: 100g
  • Egg Yolks: 3x
  • Buttermilk: 200g
  • Apricots, small diced: 250g
  • Apricot Jam: for finishing
  • Pecans: for finishing
  • Praline Glaze: recipe below

Directions:

1. Sift together the dry ingredients: flour, sugar (100g), baking powder, baking soda, salt, coffee, lemon thyme, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Chop the butter into 1/4" pieces. "Sablage" the butter into the dry ingredients using an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on low speed. Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl and store it in the refrigerator to keep the butter cold.

Chef's Note: The butter and dry ingredient mixture should take on a sandy appearance. There should be no large pieces of butter; however, the butter should remain solid, and there should be no clumps of dough forming. 


Cake Dry Ingredients

Sablaged Dough


2. Make a French meringue. Start by whipping the egg whites on an electric mixer at low speed. Continue to whip the whites until they create a completely opaque foam. Increase the mixer speed to medium and slowly stream in the sugar (100g). Continue whipping the meringue until it forms stiff peaks.

Chef's Note: Do not add the sugar before the whites are foamy in appearance. The meringue will not form correctly. Also, avoid the temptation to whip the eggs at high speed. A stable meringue needs to be formed from small air bubbles which are created through lower-speed whipping.  

French Meringue: Egg Whites Beginning to Foam

French Meringue: Egg Whites Turning Opaque

French Meringue: Egg Whites Whipping with Sugar

Finished French Meringue


3. While the meringue is whipping, briefly whip the yolks and buttermilk by hand until well combined. Stir in the diced apricots.

4. Gently fold the meringue into the yolk mixture in two additions (light ingredients are folded into heavy ingredients). Fold in the second addition while the mixture is still streaky. 

5. Fold the dry ingredients into the meringue mixture in three additions (dry ingredients are folded into wet ingredients). Fold in each addition while the mixture is still streaky. In the end, the batter should be thick but well combined. 

6. Spread the batter evenly onto a parchment lined half sheet tray. 

Chef's Note: Spray the half sheet tray with non-stick spray to get the underside of the parchment to stay in place. This makes it easier to spread the batter onto the parchment.


Batter in Sheet Tray


7. Bake the cake in a conventional oven at 350F for 20-25 minutes. Rotate the sheet tray halfway through baking. 

Chef's Note: The cake should be lightly brown in color and starting to pull away from the edges of the sheet tray when it is done baking.


Baked Cake Cooling


8. Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the sheet tray for 5 minutes. Release the cake from the edges of the sheet tray using a spatula and invert the cake onto a clean piece of parchment. Peel the parchment from the underside of the cake to allow excess moisture to escape.

9. Once the cake has fully cooled, use a 3" circular cake or biscuit cutter to punch individual pieces of cake. You should be able to cut about 16 circles.

Chef's Note: You can easily make larger or smaller cakes... it's a matter of preference.


Punched Cake


10. Spread a thin layer of apricot jam on top of half of the cake circles. Create a second layer to the cakes using the remaining circles. In preparation for glazing, place the double-layered cakes onto a cooling rack over a clean sheet tray.


Cakes with Layer of Apricot Jam

Double Layered Cakes


11. Make the praline glaze. While the glaze is still hot, pour it over the cakes. Be generous while pouring in order to completely enrobe the cakes. Place a whole pecan at the center of each cake and let them cool.

Chef's Note: The excess glaze that drips onto the clean sheet tray can be saved and reheated for future glazing. It's also a great ice cream topping!


Overhead of Finished Lemon Thyme Apricot Cake

Side View of Finished Lemon Thyme Apricot Cake

Finished Lemon Thyme Apricot Cake

Finished Lemon Thyme Apricot Cake

Finished Lemon Thyme Apricot Cake



Praline Glaze:

YieldAbout 2.5 cups (enough to glaze one batch of cakes)

Ingredients:
  • Sugar: 300g
  • Brown Sugar: 150g
  • Buttermilk: 120g
  • Butter: 85g
  • Vanilla: 1 tsp

1. Place all of the ingredients except the vanilla in a medium sauce pot with a wide and heavy bottom. Heat the mixture on medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Heat the mixture to 245F-250F. 

Chef's Note: When making caramel, stirring is usually discouraged as it can lead to crystallization. With this praline glaze, crystallization is desirable, as the final product should have a matte appearance, which is caused by crystallization.


Praline Glaze Ingredients

Soft Ball Stage


2. Remove the mixture from the heat and whisk actively for 2-3 minutes. Add the vanilla after the first minute of whisking.

3. Once the mixture has started to cool and thicken, pour it generously over the cakes. If the glaze thickens before you are finished coating the cakes, add a little water (1 Tbls at a time) and return the pot to low heat, stirring until the glaze is liquid enough to use.




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