Monday, October 15, 2012
Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques by Shauna Sever - Cookbook Review
About the Book:
About the Author:
SHAUNA SEVER is the author of Marshmallow Madness! (Quirk, 2011). She writes the popular dessert blog Piece of Cake and is a host and reporter for food-related television, including “The Best of the Bay” for KRON4 in San Francisco. Her work has been published in Huffington Post Food, Working Mother, Food52, and more. She also runs Bake Sale Bakery, a dessert catering business in San Francisco, where she lives with her husband and daughter
This is a book that celebrates chocolate's alter-ego. As I have grown older I have come to appreciate the taste of vanilla. Good vanilla. In fact, I keep vanilla beans in my freezer so I always have them on hand. I make my own vanilla extract because it's cheaper and far, far better than the stuff you buy in the store. The only thing this book used that I didn't have on hand was vanilla paste and you can bet your last bean that I'm going to buy some the next time I place my big flour order. I am very intrigued...
For bakers that don't have a ready supply of beans on hand there is a conversion chart so you can still indulge in the delicious recipes using pure vanilla extract which is readily available in stores. Please, PLEASE use PURE extract. The artificial stuff will just ruin a good recipe and when your treat is all about the vanilla you want the flavor to be true. It is worth the money to buy as good as you can afford so that your baked goods sing with real vanilla flavor.
The book is broken down into sensible chapters with recipes therein using all of the vanilla products. Ms. Sever first explains vanilla, its origins and the reasonings behind using each vanilla enhancement. The recipes are well thought out and easy to follow. I can see myself turning to this book over and over again for baked goods to complement chocolate offerings on dessert buffets. It's a great book to add to a baker's cookbook library.
You can purchase Pure Vanilla: Irresistible Recipes and Essential Techniques on Amazon.com
A Recipe: Twinkie Bundt Cake
I needed a dish to take to a potluck and since I'm the "dessert girl" around these parts I looked through this book and found several that I wanted to try but I finally settled on the Twinkie Bundt Cake.
It involved my utilizing another cookbook by Ms. Sever that I'll be reviewing soon, Marshmallow Madness so you get double recipes here.
For the Cake:
3 cups cake flour
1 TBSP baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
6 TBSP unsalted butter at room temperature
1 TBSP pure vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs plus 4 large egg yolks at room temperature (the hens are laying a mix of large and small eggs right now so I had to adjust for this in my mise en place. Just don't count my eggs, OK?)
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
For the Cream Filling:
1 7.5 oz jar marshmallow creme
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
confectioner's sugar for dusting
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°. Coat a 12 cup Bundt pan with nonstick cooking spray and dust it lightly with flour*
*I read recently that the best way to get a bundt cake out of a bundt pan whole was to brush melted butter over the pan and then dust it with flour. I tried this and for the first time I unmolded a PERFECT bundt cake. Just sayin'
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and vanilla extract on medium speed until smooth and creamy. (I thought this was NEVER going to happen but it finally did. Be patient with the ugly mess that it is until it comes together.)
Add sugar and beat until evenly mixed, about 1 minute. Slowly pour in oil. Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. (I got caught up and forgot to take photos. *sigh*)
Reduce mixer speed to low. Stir in flour mixture and buttermilk in three alternating additions, ending with the buttermilk, and continue to mix on low speed until batter is smooth and no lumps remain.
Turn off mixer and fold batter several times by hand to ensure everything is well incorporated, and then pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 60 - 70 minutes until the cake is golden, the top springs back when lightly pressed and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. (Mine took 60 minutes). Place pan on a wire rack and let cool completely, about 2 hours.
While the cake was baking I made my own marshmallow creme - just because. I needed to make two batches to make enough to have 7.5 ounces. One batch was around 5 ounces so there was some leftover for snacking. It is like eating vanilla air.
You will need:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/8 tsp salt
2 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Stir together the sugar, light corn syrup water and salt in a small saucepan over high heat. Boil, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 240°F.
Place the egg whites and the cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the wire whisk attached. Start whipping the whites to soft peaks at medium speed.
The goal is to have the egg whites whipped and ready, waiting for your syrup to be drizzled in. If they're whipping faster than your syrup is coming to temperature, just stop the mixer until the syrup is ready.
When the syrup reaches 240°F, set the mixer to low and slowly drizzle a tiny bit of syrup, a couple of tablespoon's worth, into the egg whites to warm them. (If you add too much they will cook and you will have one big mess). Slowly drizzle in the rest of the syrup and then increase the speed to medium high. Beat until the marshmallow creme is stiff and glossy, 7 - 9 minutes (I have made marshmallow creme many a time and I have never had it take this long. Usually for me it is around 4 minutes. I don't know if it's altitude or what); toward the end of the beating time beat in the vanilla. (I could not take photos in the middle of all that - near to boiling sugar and all.)
Use immediately or store in an airtight container.
Now, back to the cake.
To make the filling:
Beat together the marshmallow cream, softened butter and vanilla until well mixed. If you thought the marshmallow cream was heaven on a spoon, wait 'til you taste this. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a large, round hole.
With the cake still in the pan, use a paring knife or an apple corer to cut 6 or 7 deep holes into the bottom of the cake, each about 3/4 of an inch in diameter; be careful not to cut through the top of the cake. Discard (ie: nibble) the cake scraps.
With your fingers, gently burrow a horizontal tunnel around the center of the cake (I got a touch confused here. I have trouble with instructions like this as you will see. I am thinking it was not supposed to look like this, but it worked out in the end.) connecting the vertical holes.
Insert the tip of the pastry bag and squeeze in filling, tilting pastry bag back and forth as you work to encourage filling into the horizontal tunnel through the cake. When cake is filled, use a spatula to scrape away excess filling from the bottom of the cake. (I forgot to take a picture of the filling. I covered the filling with cake scraps 'cause I thought I should since I really think I screwed up the whole tunnel thing.)
Quickly and carefully invert cake onto a serving platter, Dust with confections' sugar.
The cake was seriously yummy.
It just about disappeared and there were quite a few dessert options.
I will most definitely be making this again.
Despite my somewhat lengthy post it was quite easy to make and you don't have to make your own marshmallow creme. I'm just crazy like that.
I'll be showing another delicious vanilla recipe when I bake for the firemen later this week plus I'll be playing with marshmallows.
Oh, I'm in sugar heaven!
Disclosure: I received a copy of Pure Vanilla from Quirk Book gratis. Any opinions expressed are my honest opinions and were not impacted by my receipt of the free cookbook. I received no monetary compensation for this post.