Monday, April 20, 2009

A Tale Of Two Cakes – Anne Burrell’s Olive Oil Cake and Gina Neely’s Flourless Chocolate Cake

Anne Burrell’s Olive Oil Cake with Blueberries and Mascarpone
Gina Neely’s Flourless Chocolate Cake

I actually said Gina Neely in the same breath as the fabulously gifted Anne Burrell. Both made pretty rockin’ cakes this weekend on the Food Network’s Saturday lineup.

Anne Burrell’s was from her Spaghetti Carbonara show.

Anne learned how to make this cake while in cooking school in Italy. She begins by adding sugar to egg yolks. How much sugar? How many egg yolks…she doesn’t say. Anne beats her whites separately. How many? She won’t say. Oy, let me look! It’s ¾ cup of sugar and 5 yolks and SEVEN whites. That might have been worth mentioning.

She adds salt in her whites. NO! I know Ina does that and lots of other folks too. But, on this, I will have to go with Rose Levy Beranbaum, who after all, wrote The Bible on these matters. No salt with egg whites. It only dries them out.

Anne is going too fast. She zests a Meyer lemon over her egg yolk and sugar bowl. She describes it well as a lemon with the aroma of a tangerine. It’s actually a cross between a lemon and an orange. It looks like she has about a dozen egg yolks in there, but it’s only 7.

Anne beats the whites on the second speed of her KitchenAid and the yolks to ribbon-stage by hand. This is where a second mixer bowl could come in handy. She checks her whites by removing the beater and bowl from the stand. She dips the whisk straight into the whites to get some on the end of the whisk and then holds it over the bowl sideways. If the peaks keep their shape and don’t flop over, they are firm enough.

She thoroughly whisks in ¾ cup high quality olive oil and Vin Santo (or you can substitute sweet sherry) to the yolks. Anne stirs in one cup of flour and tells us we can make this in a regular cake pan, if we don’t have a spring-form one. She doesn’t tell us to be sure to line the cake pan with waxed paper or parchment, but be sure you do.

Anne folds her egg whites into the batter in 3 parts. I guess that’s her substitution for beating in a quarter of the whites at the beginning to lighten the mixture. I still would do that.

Anne is great at showing us the straight-in-and-over folding technique with the spatula and then showing us how to “draw lines” in the batter to “bust through” the egg whites. This is important.

You don’t want huge globs of egg white left in the batter. After folding for a bit, you hold the spatula straight down (as if you were inserting a skewer) and move it back and forth through the masses of whites almost in a scissoring motion. That breaks them down without deflating them.

Anne greases the pan with olive oil, which makes sense, since she’s using it in the cake. She lines the springform pan with parchment paper. How is THAT going to work? Unless she turns it over to remove the paper, you risk papery slices. So then why not just use a regular cake pan?

The batter goes into the pan and the cake gets baked at 350°F for 45 minutes…That was fast. She takes out the cake. It’s beautiful. Anne tests it with a skewer. It comes out clean, so it’s done.

For a topping, Anne rinses and goes through blueberries. They go in a pan with a cinnamon stick, sugar, ¼ cup water and the sieved juice of half a Meyer lemon. As she discards the lemon half in her garbage bowl (which bears no resemblance to this one), Anne smiles and says – to the lemon - “Thanks for coming.” She really is adorable.

The blueberries get cooked for 20 minutes. Oh, I don’t watch her enough to know that she says “Thanks for coming” to every ingredient that she’s finished wish. I love chef-to-food communication.

Anne unmolds the cake and reminds us that there’s paper on the bottom. (I still don’t get why. Just grease and flour it and it should be fine. BUT I ALWAYS line cake pans.)

The slice goes on a plate and she tops it with some berry compote. Luscious. She spoons a little mascarpone over in a quenelle shape. She practically inhales the cake. It’s pretty great and so is she.

But may I ask you a question? Would an olive oil cake ever - in a hundred years - be as good as one made with butter? This cake looks so darn good, but I’ll be honest, I kinda want to use butter. That would be sacrilegious, though, wouldn’t it?

I must have been born with butter running through my veins
, so I just can’t help thinking that I would taste this cake and think, okay, but I’d prefer butter.

But what if I kept to the spirit of the cake and used OIL, (I LOVE my carrot and apple cakes with oil), just not olive oil?

Remember, that my olive oil comes straight from Spain and, while I do use it liberally, I never use it without thought.

How about safflower oil? I’m sure that’s against the entire spirit of the recipe and I’d be excommunicated from the church of Italian Food Aficionados. Is it possible that we sometimes just have to admit, “You know what? I’m just not sure I’d love that”? But I do love everything about the recipe…except the olive oil.

Strangely enough, I had no such dilemma with this Flourless Chocolate Cake from Gina Neely. Imagine her in the same post as Anne!!! But I think this recipe could become a standard in your kitchen…and mine.

Pat chops 8 oz. semisweet chocolate while Gina melts two stick of butter on the stove. He stirs the chopped chocolate into the butter.

Do you ever really bother with chopping the chocolate? I almost never do...I find it good fun to jab a fork right into the chocolate bar in the pan. Then I stir it around the bottom, mixing it with the melting butter as I go. Yup, THAT is truly what I do for fun.

Gina beats 1 of cup sugar and 6 eggs in a mixer until light and fluffy. Pat reminds us to continually stir the chocolate.

I’m also reminded of Ina’s trick. She holds back a bit of chopped chocolate and stirs it into the melted mixture off the heat to ensure that she doesn’t overheat it.

Gina whisks in ½ cup of cocoa, vanilla and 1/3 cup of brandy to the egg mixture. Pat’s deep blue polo shirt matches the deep blue mixing bowls that Gina was using earlier.

Gina lines her springform pan with parchment paper. Too? What’s going on here? Am I completely out of it?

THEN Gina sprays the pan with Pam. Never! Not with this cake. Butter and flour the pan properly. Pat pours the melted butter and chocolate into the batter and Gina mixes it together. Pat pours it into the lazily prepared pan. It bakes at 350°F for 50 minutes.

Gina tells us to have the bowl and beaters cold as she beats 1 cup of cream. See, Gina? You don’t need Cool Whip! She beats in ¼ cup of powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon of brandy. Gina cuts a piece, then tops it with the whipped cream and then some raspberries.

This is a really nice serviceable recipe and it would freeze beautifully too. You could also top it differently. How about chocolate whipped cream spread over the top and chocolate shavings to finish it off? Or a raspberry sauce with Grand Marnier garnished with rosettes of Grand Marnier-spiked whipped cream and fresh raspberries? Or top it with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. Ooh la la! OR just a bit of powdered sugar. You could also cut it into rounds and make little individual cakes. Those trimmings would have to be disposed of somehow…I guess.

Anyway, Gina did good and I HAD to acknowledge it.


Sheila said...

I missed Gina's flourless cake. I always switch the channel when they're on. IMO they're pretty annoying and she's so squealy. I'd love to make that cake though! I haven't made a flourless cake since Home Ec in Junior High... I bet this one is WAY better.

Glossy Luxe said...

I totally understand your dilemma with the olive oil vs. butter situation. As much as I love Anne Burrell and trust her direction in the kitchen, I was skeptical at first about how successful all that olive oil flavor would be in a cake. But I have to tell you, the olive oil and sugar create a great balance of sweet and savory that's very light but not creamy tasting at all. Every time I taste a cake like this with olive oil it sort of shocks my senses, but in two bites I love it. I say play on: this is a sometimes approach and when you use it every so often it's really nice.

Tom said...

Hi Sue,

I have to say I'm a butter guy myself. But give the olive oil cake a try. If you think your olive oil is too flavorful, use up to half vegetable oil. I guarantee you'll like it! Glossy Luxe is right, the interplay between the savory olive oil and the sugar is phenomenal. The only thing that would make this better is some cornmeal along with the flour to give it a little crunchy texture, also traditional in Italy.

I have been playing around with different oils when cakes call for them, and discovered that carrot cake is phenomenal if you use toasted walnut oil to replace about a third of the vegetable oil. Trish Boyle (in Diner Desserts) has a fabulous chocolate cake that uses butter and corn oil (the corn oil and chocolate together are really excellent), and I once tried it with some hazelnut oil and it was magnificent.

And as for the beater bowl dilemma: do the egg whites first and put them in another bowl, then do the rest of the cake -- no need to clean the mixer bowl and beaters.


Sue said...

Hi Sheila,
This recipe probably IS your Home Ec recipe and that's why it's a classic.

Welcome GL!
I really DO have to try this cake after your comment. I certainly trust Anne's culinary instincts. I just have to override my this case.

That's an excellent idea to cut my fancy stuff with a more flavorless oil. And you are so right about the cornmeal. I can absolutely see that texture with the olive oil.

Just as I was reading the beginning of your next paragraph, I was thinking Walnut Oil in Carrot Cake. We must share a brain! I will definitely try that.

The egg white thing? Yeah...that's the way to proceed. I don't even like washing a bowl AFTER I've finished cooking, much less midway through the recipe.

Kate said...

I have to confess that when I was little, my Mum and I used to blow kisses and say, "Cook well," to everything we put in the oven ... (in fact, I still do, and so do my children!). Did you notice what sizes the cake pans were (I've got 7", 8" and 9" springforms)?

Sue said...

Hi Kate,
That is adorable! And it makes a little more sense than talking to vegetable peelings or used lemon halves...

They both made their cakes in 9" springform pans.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

The concept of olive oil cake does weird me out a bit. I saw the end of that episode and saw her take the cake out of the oven and wondered what kind it was. Then I heard olive oil. I know she's not the only one to do this, but I was still thinking, "WHAT?"

You don't chop chocolate? Now I don't feel so bad that I often don't either.

So Pat Neely is the new Sandra Lee matching his outfit to the kitchen?

Phyllis said...

I love watching Anne Burrell cook -her comments and all the little noises she makes are hilarious! And I know what you mean about the butter but I just had an olive oil cake last week at Scarpetta that was divine (even converted my chocoholic hubby).

Emily said...

I agree! Butter is better. I would love to taste an olive oil based cake, but I don't have enough nerve to bake one. Why do that when you have sweet, creamy, delicious butter?!

Heyyy what if you made a cake out of hazelnut oil? And butter.

Sue said...

Yeah, the olive oil just doesn’t really appeal to me, but I should try it.

I just don’t see the point of chopping it when you’re melting it over heat. Making a ganache is perhaps another thing.

OMG, I didn’t even think of Sandy. I guess there’s actually something to be grateful to Gina Neely for – that she doesn’t coordinate her outfits and table to match her café curtains and cocktails.

Hi Phyllis,
I just read what you had to say on your blog about the olive oil cake and it does sound fantastic.

YOU don’t have enough nerve to bake an olive oil cake?!! What hope is there for the rest of us?

Tom, in his comment above, said hazelnut oil is great in a cake. How could it be bad to mix that with butter?

Memória said...

Why is such a big deal to mention both people in the same post? I don't understand. I guess I'm out of the loop. Is it because one is a chef, and the other one isn't? *scratches head*