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Baby Cakes {CtBF}

I have mixed feelings about French desserts.  Tarts I adore, but I’m indifferent to many of the pastries. Maybe it’s because I’m not a big fan of pastry cream and whipped cream.  There are plenty of French sweets I’d never met before.  Over the past couple of years, making more French recipes, I’ve started to have a new appreciation for little French cakes.

The past two challenges for Cook the Book Fridays have been for little cakes.  Both are rich from butter, but in counterpoint, are not too sweet.

The first one, financiers, are little almond cakes with browned butter.  They taste nutty from almond flour and the browned butter.  The French have a special mold for baking these, but I used mini-muffin pans.  These baby cakes are simple to mix up and are a good way to use up extra egg whites.  And they taste good too!

Is my browned butter too brown?

The other little cakes I made were madeleines.  The batter is also simple to make, but these require a special pan.  I had more trouble with these.  In the past, I’ve chilled the batter, but this time, the recipe just said to let it rest (at room temperature, I assumed).  The molds are supposed to be filled just three-quarters.  The imprints are so shallow, it’s hard to judge.  I used my smallest cookie scoop, but it was a bit too much.  The cakes rose and touched their neighbors.  Not the way it’s supposed to work.  There was some extra batter, so I chilled it overnight, and tried again.

Round 2, I was more careful about filling the molds, erring on the side of underfilled.  That worked much better, though my pan-buttering technique had some shortcomings.  The cakes stayed inside the expected boundaries, but most of them stuck to the pan.  When they finally came out, they were NOT pretty.  I had brushed the mold with melted butter, but I think I should have smeared it around with a paper towel for better coverage.

Even though their appearance was lacking, these baby cakes tasted lovely.  I liked the subtle flavor of honey – just a touch, not cloying at all.

I’d be confident in whipping up some financiers any time, but the madeleines will need more practice.

If you want to try yourself, you’ll find the recipe for financiers on page 268 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen and the recipe for madeleines on page 274.  My friends’ reviews for financiers can be found here and for madeleines here.

Boston people: I have something you must check out this month.  Last week I went with some friends to check out some of Fujiko Nakaya’s fog sculptures on the Emerald Necklace. At 5 different locations, special misting nozzles create fog that rolls through the landscape.  It’s hard to describe, but it’s quite magical.  Fog x FLO is a special exhibit in honor of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy’s 20th anniversary.  It runs through the end of October. Find all the details here.

A friend and I wander through the fog at the Arnold Arboretum
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Le Grand Aioli {CtBF}

I love the name of this meal.  Le Grand Aioli!  It sounds so important.  In actuality, it’s a somewhat humble feast of seasonal vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, and sometimes fish, that accompany the star of the show, the garlicky mayonnaise known as aioli.  I’ve made this a few times in the past.  It’s the perfect meal for the peak of summer when produce is at its very best.  When it came up as the weekly challenge recipe for Cook the Book Fridays I was fully on board.

First up is the central component of the spread, the aioli.  I’ve made mayonnaise many times and have no fear, except on hot and humid days.  On the card for the mayonnaise recipe I usually use, I’ve written as reminder “Do not make when it is hot and humid.”  Earlier in the day, it was in the 90s, but a rainstorm brought the temperature down about twenty degrees, so I thought I’d be OK.  Not so fast…

Because I’m lazy, I was making aioli in the food processor.  I chopped the garlic and add the egg yolk and salt.  Then, I slowly drizzled in the oil and… nothing happened.  It did NOT emulsify.  I tried two “fixes” that the Internet recommends.  First adding another egg yolk, then adding some commercial mayonnaise.  It didn’t even thicken; never mind the emulsification I was expecting.  Frustrated, I dumped le grand failure and simply minced more garlic and stirred it into commercial mayonnaise thinned with lemon juice.  Not as good as homemade, but certainly guaranteed success!

My accompaniments were from my backyard garden or local farms, my favorite kind of summer meal.  Cherry tomatoes and green beans that I grew myself!  Carrots, potatoes, beets, and eggs from local farms.  I love beets, though not raw, so I roasted the beets.  I didn’t include any fish (or chicken), feeling that the eggs draped with anchovy were enough choice for our meal for two.

Le Grand Aioli is the perfect showcase for the summer’s latest yield.  I’ve only made this in the summer but could imagine a similarly enticing platter with roasted winter squash and some other root vegetables as fall arrives.

You should try this before summer ends.  The recipe can be found on page 145 of David Lebovitz’s My Paris Kitchen.  Other reviews of this recipe from my friends from Cook the Book Fridays can be found here.

Bon Appetit!