Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hazelnut Dacquois, Julia Child, and a Happyish Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. I celebrated by spending the morning at the pediatrician's office for a well baby check. My darling princess has her fifth ear infection in her right ear in five months. I know it's completely irrational, but I feel like a bad mommy that I can't seem to protect her from these ear infections. And I am starting to think that we just aren't getting rid of the ear infection and that this has been one long ear infection. Which makes me feel worse. Fortunately, the princess had an all time happy day other than the pesky irritation of having to take a nap. And while she napped I made a big birthday dinner for myself. Thank God she's a long napper! (Once she finally goes down!)

Amusing herself while waiting for the latest prescription!
I decided to tackle one of my Julia Child cookbooks for my birthday dinner. I tried the recipe for casserole roasted pork. It was fairly easy and really delicious. I was also impressed that the whole thing, including the gravy was completely gluten free. My sister is gluten intolerant so I try to pay attention to that kind of thing despite the fact that she lives in Baltimore and can't come to dinner. I think of her frequently when I'm cooking though and it's nice to know that if she came to visit (and wasn't a pescaterian) that I made something she could eat. (HAHAHAHAA spell check says that I meant to write Presbyterian instead of pescaterian! She's not a Presbyterian she just a vegetarian that also eats fish!) Anyhow, back to the pork. The recipe just has  the vegetables and pan drippings and bouquet garni deglazed with some white wine and reduced. I don't usually like gravy, but it was super good!

Julia's garlic mashed potatoes were a different story. They were extremely labor intensive. I had to boil about 30 cloves of garlic, and then peel them (ouch! hot on my fingers!) Then I had to slowly cook them in butter (without browning them? That was challenging.) Then I had to add flour (so... not gluten free here) and let the flour foam. Then I had to add boiling milk and cook. Then I had to puree. This was like pureeing wallpaper paste. My immersion blender wasn't doing it and I thought about putting it through the Vitamix, but then I questioned whether I'd be able to get the sauce out. I finally settled on pressing it through a sieve as Julia suggests. Then I had to rice the potatoes. And after it was all done, I was not impressed. The princess tried to throw hers on the floor. (This was not a critique of the food. Every meal has about a 70% chance of getting thrown to the dog.) Today the potatoes had a very garlic-y flavor to them and they are much better in very small doses. Perhaps the dinner itself was richer than I'm used to.
Oh yumminess!

And then we got to the birthday cake. I have this cookbook called Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri. I like this cookbook. I have made several cakes out of it and they have all been delicious. But I've only tried fairly easy cakes. I made the Irish Currant and Raisin Cake, the High Ratio Pound Cake (Lemon variation), the High Ratio Fresh Ginger Pound Cake with Lemon Glaze, and the Coconut Raspberry Layer Cake (easy because I already knew how to make a buttercream. I've made this one twice.) I frequently look at the pictures of the fancier cakes and mentally think about making them, but then I get intimidated and put the book away. Yesterday, though, I decided to be daring. Yeah, I miss the Daring Bakers and Lis. And I decided I would give one of the "scary" ones a try. I decided to try a meringue cake. Actually there's a picture of the Hazelnut Dacquois at the beginning of the meringue cakes chapter so I had a rough idea of what it was supposed to look like. 

My only troubles with the recipe were "user error" type personal problems. They were that I could not find whole hazelnuts at the local Walmart and with sick baby I'm not traveling to the next county to look for hazelnuts (rural life problem anyhow). And the chopped hazelnuts were not skinned. This was not as big of an issue, I think, as it sounds. Maybe they weren't as pretty? Maybe they added a little bitterness? The other issue I had is that I think I don't know how to fold right. My egg whites got really deflated when I added the nuts and I had tons of Japonais batter left over. (It was delicious and I made little rounds and ate them. So I'm not really complaining about that!) I also somehow managed to undercook the Japonais layers. I think it had something to do with running out of parchment paper and wanting to get the roast in the oven. Also, my espresso powder was kind of old and when I mixed it with hot water it sort of smelled like beef bullion. It was fine when I added it to the buttercream. I just kept reminding myself of the Daring Baker challenges and how they didn't always go 100% perfectly. 
Very rich so cut small slices. 

Anyhow, I persevered. And this cake is super delicious! Like whoa! I think now that I've had some experience with the whole Japonais thing and now that I know this type of cake is not one I can fly through making while worrying about the napping princess, the next cake I make like this will be much better. Interestingly, while I was thinking about my sister because this was another gluten free recipe, I was also thinking about my brother. My brother's son is allergic to nuts and every time I make something with nuts I think about him. It is kind of nice that cooking makes me think about my family. I think about my mom every time I make pot roast too (but that's sort of a family joke.) 

This is seriously one of the best specialty cookbooks I've got.  I'm happy I stepped out of my comfort zone and made this cake. I'm also happy that it's in the back of my car being chilled by the second coming of the polar vortex and that I can take it in to work and leave it in the teacher's lounge. Otherwise, I could (and would) eat the whole thing.

1 comment:

Peggy said...

Okay, so I am not the best cook. I notice the princess is wearing the yellow dress I knitted.