Quatre Quarts Gateau

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My mother, who just turned 91, has a scale that I used to love playing with as a child. I knew it wasn’t a toy, but I just liked weighing random items and gradually adding weights until both plates balanced perfectly. I was always nerdy.

Weighing ingredients makes so much more sense than measuring to me. I’d rather weight 4 ounces of chopped nuts, than use a measuring cup, especially with a critical ingredient.

In any case, the reason I mention this ancient scale (sorry Mom!) is because this cake recipe is based on one weight alone – the weight of eggs. There are four ingredients in this cake – eggs, butter, sugar, and flour, and the weight is the same for all four ingredients. The recipe is called Quatre Quarts, meaning four quarters.

These days, digital scales make weighing ingredients a breeze. So I’m making this cake using my small kitchen scale, just like in the “old” days! It brought back wonderful memories of my mother making the cake over the years.

Quatre Quarts Gateau

4 eggs
Unsalted Butter
Sugar
Flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 F.   Butter and flour a deep 8 inch loaf pan. 

Weigh the eggs in a small bowl after you’ve removed the weight of the bowl. My eggs weighed 192 grams, or about 6.7 ounces.


Then weigh out the 192 grams of butter, sugar and flour.

Melt the butter in a sauce pan or microwave (carefully).   When it begins to melt, remove it from the heat and let it cool. 

Using an electric hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar for 5 minutes in a medium mixing bowl.

Add the flour and mix just until it’s incorporated. I also added some vanilla powder.

Then add the cooled butter. Using a rubber spatula, make sure the batter is smooth.

Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven to 300 degrees F and the timer to 45 minutes.

Turn off the oven completely and set a timer for 10 minutes.

The cake should be cooked through the middle; I always use a cake tester to make sure. But if you see a puddle of soft cake in the middle, don’t even bother opening your oven to test the cake. It needs more time.

There should be some slight browning around the edges, but not much. Remove the cake from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Then remove the cake from the loaf pan and let it cool on a rack.

You can tell the cake texture is much like a pound cake. If you prefer a lighter texture, separate the eggs and after the egg yolks have been well blended with the sugar and butter and after the flour is combined, fold in beaten egg whites.

Note: There are other options for flavoring other than vanilla extract or powder or even scraped vanilla beans. You can use an extract like sweet orange oil or lemon zest. But I wouldn’t add a liqueur or anything volume of something liquid that will offset the ratio of the ingredients.

This cake is very delicate in flavor. I’ve never toasted it but I bet that would be good, with some added butter of course.

It’s perfect for an afternoon tea-time snack, a morning treat with coffee, or even an sweet evening nibble with a glass of sherry.

Moro’s Yogurt Cake

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It’s not often when I go to the same restaurant more than once. I’m usually done, and ready to move on to the next! Like my motto – so many restaurants, so little time!

One exception was Moro, in London. I’ve been three times – once was a special celebration for my daughter’s second master’s degree, this one from Sotheby’s (please allow me a little bit of boasting).

Moro is a busy, bustling restaurant in Clerkenwell. The cuisine is North African, so you can just imagine the offerings of courses representing Morocco, Spain, Egypt, and on through the Middle East, but generally referred to as Moorish in origin.

The Moro concept was started by the husband and wife team of Samantha and Samuel Clark, who were inspired by their travels to those regions.

I have so many different food photos from my dining experiences at Moro; I will share a few. The food is vibrant, flavorful, spectacular.

A few of us on that celebratory night ordered A signature dessert to share – Yoghurt Cake with Pistachios and Pomegranate, photographed below.

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I can’t recreate that dining experience at Moro with my daughter, but I can make the cake!
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Here it is:
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Yoghurt Cake with Pistachios and Pomegranate
Adapted from recipe found online*

3 eggs, separated
70 g or 2 1/2 ounces white sugar
Seeds from 2 vanilla pods
350 g or 12 ounces yogurt
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 small orange
20 g or approximately 1 1/2 tablespoons flour, sifted
30 g or 1 ounce pistachios, roughly chopped
Handful of pomegranate seeds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees or 180 degrees Centigrade.

I used a deep-dish pie pan for this dessert, and brushed it with butter lightly.

Find a deep-sided baking tray that will fit the cake tin and you can use as a bain marie.

In a bowl, beat the egg yolks with 50 g of the sugar (I removed about 1 tablespoon for the egg whites) until thickened and pale.

Stir in the vanilla seeds, yogurt, lemon zest and juice, orange zest and flour; mix well.


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In a separate clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until you have stiff peaks, then add the remaining sugar and continue to whisk for a moment until the whitesbecome glossy.
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Gently fold the egg whites into the yogurt mix, then pour into the pie pan and place it inside the baking tray.

Bring a kettle of water to a boil and pour the water around the pie pan until it reaches halfway up the sides. Place it in the oven for 20 minutes.
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Sprinkle over the pistachios, then bake for another 20 minutes or until golden on top.

Remove from the water immediately.

Eat warm or at room temperature. The consistency should be a light sponge with custard underneath.
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Sprinkle the cake with pomegranate seeds and serve with a drizzle of yogurt.
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Alternatively, I used a small dollop of marscapone.
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It was May when we shared this yoghurt cake at Moro. But what a perfect holiday dessert this is! All that red and green!
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The cake isn’t the prettiest desert; it looks like a pile of pudding on the plate. But you won’t care once you taste it!
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If you’ve had trouble in the past opening pomegranates, I learned my favorite technique from the blog Chica Andaluza. Her technique worked perfectly!
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* This recipe is in the original Moro cookbook.
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Date Nut Logs

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It’s funny how easy it is to lose a recipe. And to think I’m so organized. These date nut logs have passed through my brain from time to time, and yet I haven’t been able to locate the recipe for years.

And then a while back I got out my little book called Glorious Liqueurs, when I posted on spiced pear liqueur. Just for fun, I looked through the book to see recipes I’d bookmarked, and also recipes I’ve made. And there it was. Just in time for the holidays. Glory be.
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The book, which is available through Amazon, was published in 1991. It contains recipes for making your own liqueurs, as well as recipes utilizing the liqueurs.

The author describes these date nut logs as “halfway between a confection and a cookie.”

If you love a sweet treat, give these a try for the holidays. They have a lovely flavor with dates, pecans, and orange.
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Date Nut Logs*
from Glorious Liqueurs, by May Aurea Morris

1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (I used 1/4 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup orange liqueur
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
8 ounces pitted dates, chopped
1 cup pecans, chopped (about 3 1/2 ounces)
Powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13″ baking pan; set aside.

Onto a sheet of wax paper, sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, and salt. Set aside.

Toast the pecans in a skillet, then set them aside to cool before chopping. (The author didn’t toast her pecans.)


Combine the chopped dates and pecans in a medium bowl. I added about a tablespoon of the flour mixture and tossed it into the dates and pecans to make them less sticky and more able to separate.

In a large bowl with the electric mixer on high speed, beat the eggs until they are foamy. Gradually beat in the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is very thick and forms a ribbon when the beaters are lifted from it.
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On low speed, beat in the flour mixture just until absorbed. Beat in the liqueur and zest.

Fold in the dates and pecans. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan, smoothing the top.

Bake until the top springs back when lightly pressed with a fingertip, about 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

With a sharp knife, cut 9 lengthwise strips and 8 crosswise ones, forming 6 dozen tiny rectangles.

Sift the powdered sugar onto a sheet of wax paper. Gently roll the rectangles in the sugar, coating all sides and forming log shapes.
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The log rolling only works when the cake is still warm. If you get carried away on HOTELS.com like I did the evening I made these, just leave them in mini rectangles. No one cares what shape these are, because they’re that good. I’ve actually undercooked them before, ever so slightly, and rolled them in to balls.


Store the cookies in a tightly covered container.
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From experience, I know they freeze well in a ziplog bag or plastic ware.
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Italian Orange Cake

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Sometimes I hang on to a cookbook just because there’s one perfect recipe in it. And this is one of those recipes, although fortunately, there are plenty of other recipes in this cookbook that I love. But I’d keep the book just for this cake. Here’s the book, by Patricia Wells, published in 1993:

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I never really wanted to like Patricia Wells, probably because her life is so enviable. She never owned a restaurant or worked as a chef. In fact, she started out as a food journalist, but fell in love with the foods of France, then Italy, and then wrote about them. It’s not like she’s a Hubert Keller or Eric Ripert, but boy has she published a lot of cookbooks. And I have to say, all of the ones I own are pretty fabulous.

I heard her speak at a demonstration at an Aspen Food and Wine festival many moons ago. She seemed really snobby. I think she’s been living in France too long, with homes in both Paris and Provence.

One of Ms. Wells’ cookbooks that I own is about her home in Provence. I really didn’t want to like this book, because it showed off her beautiful 18th century stone farmhouse, and to-die-for kitchen. With a wood-fired oven. It will make you so jealous that you don’t have a farmhouse in Provence. Unless you do.

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And then there’s this book she wrote featuring Joel Rebouchon and his recipes. It’s another beautiful cookbook that I refer to often.

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Then there’s her Bistro book, which is essentially the French version of the Trattoria cookbook, focusing on regional food prepared at neighborhood restaurants throughout France.

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But I love her Trattoria cookbook because it’s about simple Italian fare; the recipes aren’t pretentious. It’s all about “healthy, simple, robust fare inspired by the small family restaurants of Italy.” Thus, the title.

Speaking of trattorias, if you ever go to Italy, be prepared that there are many different kinds of eating and dining establishments there. And each one has limited menus are are only open at specific times. Make sure to look into this before you go, or you will end up at at what you thought was a restaurant, where no food is available, or at a bar with no drinks. Or, the establishment will be closed.

Some of the recipes in Trattoria might not be terribly inspiring to those expertly familiar with Italian cuisine, but the book certainly has its place, especially to home cooks like myself. There are many recipes in it to which I still use, like this cake, which is Tuscan in origin, according to Ms. Wells.

Here’s her website, in case you want to check her out. She’s really quite accomplished. I’m just a little jealous of her life!

Fragrant Orange and Lemon Cake
Torta di Arancio e Limone

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup whole milk
16 tablespoons, or 8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Evenly coat the interior of a 9″ springform pan with butter. Dust lightly with flour, shaking out the excess flour. Set aside.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl.
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Measure out the milk and place it in a small bowl. Add the orange juice and zest as well as the lemon juice and zest. Give it a little stir and set aside to “sour.”
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Place the softened butter and sugar in a large bowl.
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Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about two minutes.
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Crack each egg individually and place in a small bowl to avoid shells. Add the vanilla extract to the eggs.
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While beating, add one egg at a time, beating well after each addition.
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Continue until the eggs are all gone.
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Then beat in about 1/3 of curdled milk mixture and then 1/3 of the sifted dry ingredients, alternating and just beating until smooth.
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The batter will be nice and smooth at this point.
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Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan.
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Bake for approximately 50 minutes; a cake tester should come out clean when inserted in the middle of the cake.
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Remove the side of the pan, and let the cake cool for about 30 minutes. Then remove the bottom of the springform pan using a long knife held parallel to the bottom.
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Slice the cake in wedges when still warm, or at room temperature.
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I served mine with raspberries and slightly sweetened whipped cream.
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I also served this cake with Quady Red Electra, which is a red Moscato. It’s wonderful with desserts, but also perfect to sweeten sangria.
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But an Auslese, a port, sherry, or some Tuscan Vin Santo would pair nicely as well.

This cake is just as delicious as I remember it from the last time I made it about ten years ago. It’s not a dry cake, presuming it’s not overcooked. It’s dense, in fact, and has an interesting crumb to it. I could have sprinkled the cake with some confectioner’s sugar as well, but I like the fact that this cake has no icing, and doesn’t need any. It would also be fabulous for breakfast or brunch.

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note: There are two major differences between this recipe and the original one from the cookbook. First of all, Ms. Wells uses a 10″ Bundt pan for this recipe, cooking it at 350 degrees for 45 to 55 minutes. Also, she uses vanilla sugar instead of white sugar – sugar in which a vanilla bean pod has been added. I simply added vanilla extract to the recipe.

Buttermilk could probably be substituted for the milk in this recipe, given the additions of lemon and orange juices, but I really like the idea of the milk mixing with the juices and zest for a time before being used in the recipe.

Lemon Pudding Cake

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Rarely have I made dessert for my family, unless it’s a special occasion. I have nothing against desserts, but to me, they’re not part of a daily meal plan. I believe everyday food should be nourishing, so I save cakes and pies for celebrations.

However, when I was a private cook for a family, I made a lot of desserts. These desserts weren’t necessarily fancy; my people just felt like a meal wasn’t complete without dessert. So that’s when I bought a lot of dessert cookbooks.

Before I owned the book Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax, I’d never heard of a pudding cake. But after I made one, I was hooked.

What is it you might ask? Well, it is a pudding-y cake. That probably doesn’t help much. You prepare a cake batter that is very thin and cook it in a bain marie. I’ve also made some pudding cakes where the recipe states that you pour boiling water into the batter before baking.

Now a pudding cake isn’t something I’d prepare for a fancy meal, because it’s essentially a softer gooeyer version of a brownie. It’s pretty enough, but more preferable for a casual get together or late night snack. Trust me. I’ve made a chocolate pudding cake….

So here’s Richard Sax’s recipe. And by the way, although this book was published in 1994, it is so full of fascinating information from the author who was definitely an authority on desserts. I just discovered that a newer version, complete with a James Beard award, was printed in 2001.

Lemon Pudding Cake
serves 4

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F, with a rack in the center. Butter a 1-to 1 1/2-quart shallow baking dish, such as a 9-inch oval gratin dish or an 8-inch square baking dish; set aside.

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In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, and salt. In another bowl, beat the egg yolks, milk, lemon zest and lemon juice; pour the milk mixture over the flour mixture and stir until blended.

Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer at high-high speed until they form soft peaks. Fold a little of the egg whites into the lemon mixture; gently fold in the remainder.
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Pour the batter into the buttered baking dish. Place the baking dish in a slightly larger roasting pan; set on the center rack of the oven. Pour in enough hot tap water to reach about halfway up the sides of the baking dish.

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Bake until the surface of the pudding is lightly golden, about 35 minutes. (The bottom layer will still be quite liquid.) Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 30 minutes.

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Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.

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You can tell how tender this cake is, and see the pudding-like layer on the bottom.

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I serve this pudding cake with a few blackberries and some powdered sugar. It would definitely benefit from some slightly sweetened whipped cream as well.

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