Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sweet and Salty Raspberry Cake

The finished (salvaged) product
So, I'm not what you might call "detail oriented" or "organized". I believe I've mentioned this before. D is continually amazed by the things that I lose in plain sight, drop on my shirt while eating, or don't notice that I've dropped on the floor. He's also amazed (or maybe more annoyed now that he's spent a while living with me) at my ability to sweep the floor but get distracted before sweeping the debris into a dustpan and throwing it away or my ability to take the garbage out of the garbage can and put the bag by the door, but not manage to take it downstairs before I go to work. I knew it was bad--I'm the kind of person who loses pens because I've tucked them behind my ear; my mom loves to tell the story about how I never managed to kick a soccer ball my entire first year on the town's girl's soccer league because I was too busy standing at mid-field staring off into space and chewing on my ponytail (which is why, after a while, the coach insisted that my mother french braid my hair). But it's really starting to get out of control. It's affecting dessert. And that is just not OK. Luckily, dessert was not a total failure. It was just an, um,  interesting experience.

Let me start off by saying that my philosophy on baking is much different than my philosophy on cooking: cooking is art, baking is science. D even bought me an apron that says so, breaking his "gifts do not make economic sense" rule. With cooking you can add and subtract ingredients and substitute at will. Your final product might be slightly different from what the recipe intended, but if you're using what you know about ingredients and your senses of taste and smell, it's hard to go wrong. But baking--it's all chemistry. Baking soda reacts with buttermilk to make soda bread. The ratio of flour, sugar, fat and liquid means the difference between a muffin, a scone, and a cake. A slight miscalculation can lead to a disaster. Sure, after a while you learn how to swap one type of flour for another, or to dial back the sugar in recipes you find too sweet, or to change spices, or to swap the fruit in the recipe for one that's in season right then. You don't, however, make substantial changes to the nuts and bolts of a recipe.

As much as I describe myself as a bit of a scatterbrained dreamer, there is also a part of me that really enjoys working within a structure and having everything be precise and measured and scientific. That's why I like baking. Making exact measurements, adding ingredients in the correct order, using the right amount of heat for the right amount of time to turn a mixture of flour, sugar, fat and eggs into gooey chocolate chip cookies. Sometimes, however, my distractiblity gets in the way. Like last night. When I attempted to make this cake.

I called my sister before hand. I read through the recipe three times. I visualized the process and the outcome. I had all of my ingredients ready. I did everything Michael Ruhlman said to. I even called my sister to see if my instincts for what size pan to use if I decided to only make half the recipe. Well, I did almost everything the Ruhlman says to do. I didn't trust my instincts. This is where my philosophy of baking vs cooking becomes a problem. If the recipe says to add it, I do. If if sounds like the recipe calls for too much of something (or what I think I read in the recipe is too much of something), I just go ahead and add it. Even when my common sense is saying: "Gee, this seems like a lot of salt."

Here's what happened: I made the cake. Everything was going fine. Until the last step. Sprinkle the top with both coarse sugar and coarse sea salt. So, long story short, I sprinkled the sugar. Ok so far. I sprinkled the salt. I seem to still be sprinkling salt, though the cake seemed pretty well covered. I took a picture. I put the cake in the oven. I sat down with a glass of water and suddenly thought: I should check the recipe. When I looked at the recipe I saw that it clearly said "1 teaspoon salt" not TABLESPOON. Teaspoon.
See--that looks like WAY too much salt
I rushed to the oven, which, thankfully, as we like in an apartment, was not far away, and proceeded to brush salt from the top of the cake. First with my fingers and then with a paper towel. I got quite a bit of it off. And then, in a desperate attempt to salvage the cake and at the juicy red raspberries, I added a bit more sugar. I popped the cake back in the oven and hoped for the best.

Thankfully, it all turned out OK. I would make this cake again (with the proper amount of salt). It was tender and the raspberries got kind of jammy on the top. And it made the apartment smell wonderful. Adding a bit of freshly whipped cream to the top helped cut the saltiness as well. If I get more raspberries in next week's distribution, this will definitely be on the menu for our 4th of July roof-top party.

Sweet and Salty Raspberry Cake
Adapted from Heidi Swanson's recipe found here

3/4 c apf
3/4 c spelt flour
1/2 T baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 egg
a scant 1/2 cup yogurt, thinned with milk until you reach the 1/2 c mark on your measuring cup (or just use buttermilk like the recipe says)
2 T butter, melted and cooled
zest of 1 lemon
3/4 c raspberries
1 1/2 T large grain raw sugar (I used demerara)
1/2 teaspoon large grain sea salt

Preheat oven to 400. Grease and flour an 8x8 baking pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl whisk together the yogurt and egg, then mix in the melted butter and lemon zest. Pour the yogurt mixture over the dry ingredients and mix until just combined, being careful not to over-mix.

Press the mixture into the prepared pan, making sure it goes all the way into the corners. Add the raspberries one at a time, crushing them a bit between your fingers. Sprinkle the top with salt and sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Allow to cool and cut into squares. Serve topped with freshly whipped cream.

1 comment:

  1. Sweet and salty with raspberries! I like that idea. I just made sweet and salty cookies (dishtell.com) .... it's the BEST combination! Thanks for sharing!


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