ANOTHER MOTHER’S DAY without my mom, and I’m filled with memories. Truth be told, my mother was not famous for her baking. She had other talents. She gave up a singing career (she was a headliner at Radio City Music Hall when she was pregnant with me) to stay at home and raise us kids.
The only cake I remember my mother baking was her maple walnut cake, which she served every time she had company…or she would just bring home that iconic green box from Ebinger’s in Brooklyn with everyone’s favorite: Chocolate Blackout Cake. So when I opened “The Baker in Me” (Whitecap, $45), a luscious new cookbook by esteemed pastry chef Daphna Rabinovitch, to find a recipe for Chocolate Blackout Cake, I was smitten.
“The cake, so named after the blackout drills performed by the Civilian Defense Corps (ostensibly to prevent ships sailing at night from being detected) became famous,” she writes, “drawing other bakeries to try their hand at the three-layered cake.” Alas, the company, which had been around since 1898, went out of business in 1972. “Only Entenmann’s had a version that came close. “
This is a cake with a few moving parts, but the results are worth the effort…even if you’ve never been to Brooklyn. No matter what you’re baking, however, keep these simple rules in mind: “Baking is an exact science, and proportions matter,” Rabinovitch messengered me from her home in Canada. “That’s why you can’t throw a pinch of baking powder into a cake or cookie as you might throw a pinch of cayenne into a stew, and that’s why I always recommend doing a mise en place before you start to bake. I call this the gift of organization. If you have everything measured out and ready to go, not only will your recipe come together smoothly, but you won’t get halfway through the recipe only to discover that you’re out of baking soda or some other essential ingredient.”
She also advised using the best quality fresh ingredients you can afford. “Pretty much all ingredients have a shelf life. Milk chocolate and nuts can go rancid (unless you store the latter in the freezer), eggs age, and chocolate can bloom (discolor). And always use unsalted butter. It’s fresher, sweeter, and allows you, the baker, to be the author of how much salt will be in your recipe.”
Selecting a second recipe for this story posed a problem. So many cookies, bars, cakes, chocolates, muffins, quick breads and pastries to choose from, woven through with Rabinovitch’s confidence-building smart guides to techniques, ingredients and equipment. ”Although I completed my stage at a hotel restaurant and then moved on to be a pastry chef and then an executive pastry chef, I am, at heart, a home baker,” revealed Rabinovitch, and under her expert guidance you too can create showstoppers in your own kitchen.
I love this rustic galette, bursting with fresh peaches and blueberries. “The mechanics of the galette are pastry, fruit filling and a topping,” she noted. “This is where the creativity of baking comes in. Choose whatever fruit you like, or you can let the seasons be your muse.”
I’d like to say, in keeping with the Mother’s Day theme, that it reminds me of the pastries my mother used to make, but I’d be lying. It does, however, remind me of the huge, luscious peaches she would bring to sleep-away camp on visitors day, picked from the tree in our postage-stamp-sized backyard. Does that count? (She also would bring a three-foot Hebrew National salami and a couple of loaves of rye bread. I was very popular.)
Chocolate Blackout Cake
For the complete recipe, including the pudding filling, icing and assembly, go to www.ocjewishlife.com.
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch of salt
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup whipping cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder, sifted
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1/3 cup very hot water
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or using hand-held mixer, beat egg yolks with sugar, cornstarch and salt until lightly colored and thickened.
- Meanwhile, in saucepan over medium heat, bring water and cream to a boil. Remove from heat. Whisk about 1/3 of the hot liquid into egg mixture along with cocoa powder. Whisk another third of liquid into egg mixture. Whisk warm egg mixture into remaining liquid in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until boiling and thickened, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in melted chocolate. Stir in vanilla. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Place plastic wrap directly on surface. Refrigerate until completely chilled, about 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease bottom and sides of two 8-inch metal cake pans. Line bottoms with circle of parchment paper.
- Melt chocolate in top of double boiler over hot, not boiling, water. Set aside to cool slightly
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl, ≈ combining thoroughly.
- In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or using hand-held mixer, beat butter 1 minute. Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla, then cocoa powder and melted chocolate. Alternately, beat in flour mixture with buttermilk, in three additions of flour and two of buttermilk. Stir in hot water.
- Divide batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake in center of oven until top of cake springs back when lightly pressed, 25-30 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on wire rack 20 minutes. Run small knife around edge of pans to loosen cakes. Remove cakes from pans and cool completely on wire racks, parchment side down.
- Melt chocolates in top of double boiler over hot, not boiling water, until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter 1 minute. In three additions, add confectioners’ sugar, adding 3 tablespoons of the whipping cream between second and third addition. Beat in melted and cooled chocolate, then vanilla and remaining 1 tablespoon whipping cream.
- Remove parchment paper from cake layers. Cut each layer in half horizontally. Crumble one of the cake layers; set crumbs aside.
2/ Place one cake layer on cake plate or decorating turntable. Using long metal palette knife, spread half the pudding over cake’s surface. Top with second cake layer. Spread with remaining pudding. Top with third cake layer. Ice sides and top of cake with chocolate icing. Gently press reserved cake crumbs over sides and top of cake. Refrigerate cake about 1 hour before serving. If refrigerated longer, bring to room temperature before serving.
Peach Blueberry Gingersnap Galette
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter
1/2 cup cold cream cheese
1/4 cup cold water
2 teaspoons white vinegar
4 cups sliced fresh peaches
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons crushed gingersnap cookies
1 large egg, lightly beaten, at room temperature
- In bowl of food processor fitted with metal “S” blade, or in a large bowl, pulse or whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder until well mixed and aerated. Cut butter and cream cheese into cubes and add to food processor or bowl. Pulse in food processor or cut in with pastry cutter (or two knives) until flour resembles coarse meal, with butter the size of peas amidst a few larger pieces.
- In a 1-cup wet measure, stir together water and vinegar. Pour water mixture over flour-butter mixture. Pulse or fluff mixture until thoroughly moistened and shaggy or clumpy, but not yet formed into a ball. Dump entire mixture onto lightly floured work surface. Using palm of your hand, smear together dough along work surface until it comes together in a cohesive whole or bowl. Flatten dough into a disk. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 3 days. Bring dough to room temperature 20 minutes if refrigerated longer than 3 hours.
- Preheat oven to 400°F.
- In large bowl, toss together peaches, blueberries, sugar and flour until fruit is well coated; set aside.
- On lightly floured surface, roll out dough, making sure underside does not stick to work surface, to roughly a 15- to 16-inch circle. Roll up dough onto your rolling pin and then gently unroll it onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle gingersnap cookies into center of dough. Leaving a 3-inch border of dough uncovered, arrange peach mixture over cookie crumbs. Bring pastry up and over fruit filling, gluing pleats together with beaten egg and making sure there is an opening in the middle of the galette where fruit is exposed. Brush beaten egg all over top of pastry.
- Bake in center of oven until fruit is cooked through and pastry is crisp and golden, about 40 minutes. Let cool on pan on wire rack at least 30 minutes. Slide onto flat serving plate and serve either warm or at room temperature.
Source: “The Baker in Me” by Daphna Rabinovitch
Jlife food Editor Judy Bart Kancigor is the author of “Cooking Jewish” (Workman) and “The Perfect Passover Cookbook” (an e-book short from Workman), a columnist and feature writer for the Orange County Register and other publications and can be found on the web at www.cookingjewish.com.