One of the most pungently tasty items I've learned to make in the last year or two, hands down, is fruit curd. Fruit curd is a rich substance, cooked on the stove with egg yolks and butter, and can be used in much the same ways you'd use a really good jam. We make it now and then in pastry classes at school, and it's often a predictable citrus flavor--lemon, lime, or orange.
But last week, browsing through cookbooks at home, I found a recipe for a simple genoise layer cake that included a passion-fruit curd filling, with the curd being made from frozen passion fruit puree. Serendipitously, I happened to have a package of passion fruit pulp in my freezer, and it was getting antsy to be used. Frozen fruit pulp, which I've sung the praises of before, can be remarkably inexpensive. It's not to be confused with the shockingly costly, concentrated fruit purees that professional pastry chefs buy in quantity to have on hand in their enormous freezers. Those purees are of exceptional quality, no doubt about it, but they're another animal altogether. For those of us with no access to wholesale prices on those sorts of goods, we'd easily have to pay $15 to $20 for a 1-kilo container.Yeah, I know. Not bloody likely, right?
The type of fruit pulp that I'm talking about is often found in Hispanic food markets, but it can increasingly be found in mainstream grocery stores, gourmet markets, and even health food stores. Brace yourself for the price I paid for one package of this gorgeous, golden, passion fruit pulp: $2.05. That's right. Two bucks and minimal change. Unbelievable, isn't it? You've gotta get some. Granted, it's not high-brow, but it's still pretty darn good.
Besides loving the pulp itself, which comes in several flavors--some of them quite exotic to a Midwestern girl like me (eg., lulo,mamey, soursop)--I love the flat plastic bags in which this stuff is packaged. You can lay lots of these in your freezer and they'll take up almost no space at all. It's the best thing since sliced bread (or maybe I should say sliced fruit).
About this recipe . . .
I have to tell you at the outset that my favorite thing about this recipe was the curd and, given what I just said above, that's surely not a surprise. But, the fact is, I am not a huge fan of genoise in general. In terms of flavor, it's an eggy cake--one of the classic "foam" cakes similar to a basic sponge--that certainly has its place in the pastry pantheon, but I am not sure it complements this curd in the very best way. And I have always been hypersensitive to anything that's overtly eggy tasting. 'Course, that's just me.
Were I to make this particular cake again, I think I'd use only one layer of the genoise and split it in half horizontally, rather than using two thick layers, which seemed to be overkill. I might also consider brushing the layers with a simple sugar syrup to combat any latent egginess. But you, fellow bakers, should follow your heart. Perhaps you adore genoise? Then by all means use both full layers. In any event, I can strongly endorse this recipe for the passion fruit curd alone. And, who doesn't love whipped cream? We all love whipped cream, don't we? Of course we do. So use that, too.
This dessert hails from the pleasing little book, Luscious Creamy Desserts, by Lori Longbotham. The only change I made to this formula was to add some powdered sugar to the whipping cream, and to reword the instructions, reflecting exactly what I did.
Ingredients for the fruit curd:
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
yolks from 5 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup frozen passion fruit pulp/puree, thawed
1 pinch of salt
2 tsp. fresh lime juice
To make the curd:
Place a fine mesh strainer over a medium-size glass bowl. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a heavy, medium-sized, saucepan over a medium-low flame. Take the pan off the heat and, whisking constantly, pour in the sugar, fruit pulp/puree, yolks, and salt. Put the pan back on the stove over medium heat. Begin by whisking frequently, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly for the last few minutes as the mixture thickens. It should seem thicker than gravy but still be easily pourable.
Take the pan off the stove and immediately pour the curd into the strainer over the bowl, encouraging it through with a spoon or flexible spatula.
Whisk in the lime juice. Cool to room temperature. Cover the bowl securely with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface of the curd, to help prevent a skin from forming as it cools. Refrigerate the curd for about 2 hours, until completely chilled.
Ingredients for the cake layers:
1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 unsalted butter, melted
To make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides of two 8" round cake pans. Cut a parchment paper circle to fit onto the bottom of each pan.
Sift the flour three times onto a sheet of parchment or wax paper.
Beat the eggs and sugar in the large bowl of your mixer, using the paddle attachment, for up to 10 minutes, until the volume has increased at least three times. The mixture should look thick, pale yellow, and bubbly.
Take the bowl off of the mixer. Sprinkle in half of the flour, folding it in with a hand-whisk just until combined; repeat with the rest of the flour.
Drizzle in the melted butter and whisk only until combined.
Divide the batter equally between the prepared cake pans.
Bake the layers for 20 to 25 minutes, until the cakes begin to pull away slightly from the sides of the pan. Cool the layers for 10 minutes before removing them from the pans. Peel off the parchment circles and let the layers cool completely before assembling the cake.
For the whipped cream filling:
1 cup whipping cream, very cold
1/2 sifted confectioners' sugar
Whip the cream until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in the confectioners' sugar and whip until stiffer peaks begin to form. Keep the whipped cream cold until you're ready to spread it on the cake.
To assemble the cake:
Place one cake layer on your serving plate. Spread about a cup of the curd evenly atop that.
Spread a thick layer of the sweetened whipped cream over that.
Sandwich the other cake layer on top. Using a fine mesh sieve, sprinkle another tablespoon or two of confectioners' sugar over the filled cake.
Keep the cake refrigerated if you won't be serving it right away.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
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JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
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