Thursday, January 17, 2008
Brown Butter Almond Cake
Anna got to choose which recipe I made Wednesday night (from a list of three from my Carole Walter Coffee Cake Book, that I knew I had the ingredients and time for) and she immediately chose this cake because she loves almonds. How great would it have been if she had actually gotten a piece? The cake didn't get done until almost 9 last night and we were all tired so we went to bed without having any. I cut two slices of it for Anna before I went to work this morning, but I put them in the microwave to keep the dogs out of them, and she never found them. When we went to bring her to the airport this afternoon, it was snowing pretty bad so I hustled her out of the house before I knew that she never found the cake. The good news is that she made her plane on time, and it took off despite the snow falling. The bad news is, no cake for her.
Which is really too bad, because it's a good cake. It's a very basic butter and almond cake that turned out moist and flavorful. The only "complicated" portion was that the butter browned first and that had to be done on top of the stove. Luckily, Chris was more than willing to supervise so that I didn't mess it up. (well, by supervise I mean that he stirred once or twice, then took over... what a nice guy...)
The recipe also calls for one or two tablespoons of rum, so we naturally used two generous tablespoons. We keep Patron's Pyrat brand rum in the house -- there are three kinds which we have, a young rum called Pistol, a15-year rum called Reserve, and a 40-year Cask rum. They are all fantastic, but for any baking where I know the flavor of the rum is going to shine through, I go with the Reserve since it's good enough to sip straight-up. The Cask is even better of course, but I'm not going to bake with a 40-year old rum... This cake was a prime candidate for the Reserve since all the flavors were very basic and the rum flavor was very pronounced. It's something that we like of course, but others might feel differently.
Notes for the recipe itself -- she has you brown the butter which gives it a great, nutty flavor, but also makes lots of dark specks. Somewhere, buried in the recipe and the instructions, she says don't strain the specks out of the butter -- but those instructions aren't clearly with the part dealing with the butter, so we missed it until after we strained it through some paper towels. I don't think it really affected the flavor, but I was a bit annoyed since we were questioning whether to strain it or not and the instructions not to strain it are buried in the middle of the recipe.
Good cake, good recipe, well worth repeating.
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 to 2 tbsp dark rum
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups strained powdered sugar
1 cup toasted slivered almonds
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
6 large egg whites
2 large eggs
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp sliced blanched almonds
Place the butter in a heavy 2-quart saucepan and melt over low heat. Continue to simmer, skimming the foam from the top as it forms; this will take 10 minutes or more, depending on the weight of the pan. The butter is finished when the color is rich golden brown and has a "nutty" fragrance. Watch carefully to avoid burning. Blend in the rum and vanilla and cool to tepid.
Heat the oven to 350. Generously butter a 10-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment.
Place the powdered sugar, slivered almonds, flour, and baking powder in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse 5 to 6 times, then process for 50 to 60 seconds, or until the mixture forms a fine meal. Set aside.
Place the egg whites, whole eggs, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Beat the eggs on medium speed until frothy. Gradually increase the speed to medium high and continue to whip for about 2 minutes, until very light and foamy. Add the superfine sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, taking about 30 seconds, then beat for 1 minute longer.
Reduce the mixer speed to medium and pour the tepid butter down the side of the bowl in a slow, steady stream, also adding the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the nut/flour mixture in three additions and mix just to combine.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top with a spatula and sprinkle with the sliced almonds. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The cake is done when the top is golden, firm to the touch and begins to release from the sides of the pan.
Remove the cake from the oven and let stand on a cooling rack for 15 minutes. Carefully release and remove the cake from the side of the pan, invert on a cooling rack and remove the bottom of the pan and the parchment paper. Cover with another rack, invert again and cool right side up.