Thursday, March 13, 2014
Daylight savings time and I’m back to stargazing when I take Nelly outside to do her morning business. Predawn hammering has commenced on a neighbor’s metal chimney, and I have to think serious thoughts to suppress my un-neighborly grin. (Maybe too much Woody Woodpecker when I was a kid?) Last spring they turned on their fireplace to stop the flicker's efforts, but warm feet weren’t a deterrent. Soon enough, I’m sure, he’ll find a wife, and go on his way. Camellia petals and cherry blossoms carpet everything. I never get used to petal snow, spring's opiate. I saw my first camellia when I went to college. We called spring “break up” in Alaska; everything was blanketed in slushy, melting snow.
A year ago, Alexi and I were in New York for my sister’s surprise 40th birthday party. My brother-in-law went all out, booking the private room at Per Se, and the night was everything you’d expect it to be. Well after midnight, sated and woozy, we were sent out into the night with party favors: tins of cookies and chocolate confections; a cookbook by Thomas Keller, owner of the restaurant.
I made last Easter’s meal entirely with recipes from the gifted book, Ad Hoc at Home. After cooking my way through it I bought Bouchon Bakery, another of Keller’s books; I knew it would also be full of good ideas. It is. Like this cake I baked in honor of my sister's 41st birthday. It tastes like the Caribbean; like warm sand underfoot, clear green water, the sound of distant guitar chords.
Adapted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel
468 grams (16.5 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature, plus additional for the pan
562 grams (2 ¾ cups + 1 tablespoon) granulated sugar, plus additional for the pan
468 grams (4 cups + 3 tablespoons) almond flour/meal
150 grams (1 cup + 1 tablespoon) all-purpose flour
75 grams (1/3 cup) plus 50 grams (3 tablespoons) Myer’s dark rum
50 grams (3 tablespoons) Simple Syrup
Rum Icing (recipe follows)
Brush a 15 cup (10 ½ inch) Bundt pan with room temperature butter. Put the pan in the refrigerator or freezer to harden the butter, so that it can be coated with an even layer of sugar.
Preheat the oven to 325F convection, or 350F standard. (Convection works best for this recipe, if you have it.)
Place the almond flour into a large bowl and run your fingers through it to ensure there are no lumps. Add the all-purpose flour, and whisk to combine.
Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. On medium-low speed, cream the butter until it has the consistency of mayonnaise and holds a peak when the paddle is lifted. Add the sugar and mix for 7 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.
Turn the mixer on low and add three of the eggs, mixing until just combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides, add three more eggs, and then mix to combine. Scrape down the sides, add the four remaining eggs, and mix for another 10 seconds.
On low speed, add the flour mixture one-third at a time, mixing for about 15 seconds after each addition. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients that may have settled there.
Transfer 1 cup of the batter to a small bowl and stir in the 75 grams (1/3 cup) rum until combined. Fold this into the remaining batter, combining it thoroughly.
Take the Bundt pan out of the refrigerator and add a large spoonful of sugar to the pan, rotating and tapping it to cover the surface evenly. Invert the pan and tap lightly to remove any excess sugar.
With a spatula, gently scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Tap the bottom of the pan against the work surface and rotate it back and forth to distribute the batter evenly. Bake for 55-65 minutes in a convection oven, 65-70 minutes in a standard oven, until the cake is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool for 10 minutes.
Mix the remaining 50 grams (3 tablespoons) rum with the simple syrup. Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet and unmold the cake onto it. Cool for about 10 minutes, then brush the cake evenly with the rum mixture. Let cool completely.
Drizzle the rum icing (recipe below) over the top of the cake with a spoon, letting it run down the sides.
IMPORTANT: The cake is best when made a day ahead (store in a covered container at room temperature). It will keep well for about three days.
180 grams (1 ½ cups + 1 tablespoon) powdered sugar
15 grams (1 tablespoon) Myer’s dark rum
15 grams (1 tablespoon) water
Sift the powdered sugar into a small bowl. Stir in the rum and water until smooth, adding more water as necessary. The icing should be used immediately.
Yield: 10 to 12 servings