Sunday, December 04, 2005

Not easy to get Smooth

Unprofessional Faubourg Pave Some time back, I had attempted my second Pierre Herme creation from his famous Chocolate Desserts - the Faubourg Pave, which should actually be baked in a loaf pan and shaped like a brick or paving stone (i.e. 'pave' in French), since the Faubourg Pave is named after the paving stones in rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, a very posh street in Paris teeming with top fashion-houses, Guy Laroche, Christian Dior, Lanvin, Hermes, Yves Saint-Laurent... you can practically smell the money on the street! But I digress...

A cake that is named after such an exclusive neighbourhood will no doubt look sophisticated, luxurious, stylish and ever-so inviting. If you have a copy of Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme, turn to page 16 and you will see this beautiful sleek oblong cake covered in glistening thick chocolate ganache garnished stylishly at one top end of the cake with a moist dried apricot (isn't that an oxymoron? - moist and dried, but that's what the pic in the book shows) topped with a sliver of gold flake (ultimate luxury). The most incredible part to me was the super-silky smoothness and evenness of the top layer ganache.

Turning to my own creation, it looked more like it's been styled after rue du 'country', a huge slab of uneven cobblestone. First and obviously, I had used a 20-cm round pan instead of a loaf pan. Second, I didn't have at hand any gold flake slivers and also didn't think anyone in my family is into gold consumption. Third, Pierre Herme's recipe for the chocolate ganache is beautiful and perfect but I do believe skill with a palette knife requires years of practice (shaky hands spell doom for smoothly even ganache topping). Not to mention, I read later on with much regret that Monsieur Herme had recommended the use of a metal spatula (provides a larger flat surface area compared to a narrow palette knife) - this is the reason why you must always read your recipes twice over with time to digest and reflect AND not at the kitchen countertop while juggling between tasks!

Inside story to the Faubourg Pave
The exterior of the cake I baked was not great-looking, but when the slices were served, the beautiful alternating layers of cake and golden apricot-specked ganache looked fantastic.
  • the chocolate cake made with Valrhona cocoa powder, cake flour, a bit of potato flour, butter, eggs yolks, whipped egg whites and sugar was light and very airy - it also produced a cocoa-dark cake - unfortunately, my photograph using flash and overhead lights depicts a much lighter-colored cake
  • the baked cake is sliced into 3 horizontal sections and each section is brushed with a layer of caramel sauce imparting moistness, apart from that caramel flavor, to the cake
  • using a mixture of Valrhona Manjari (dark bittersweet chocolate) and Valrhona Jivara (milk chocolate), sugar, unsalted butter, heavy cream and a bit of salted butter, a lovely creamy ganache frosting is created, and spread over each layer of cake and on the sides
  • in between the layers, dried apricots which have been moistened (i.e. simmered with water in a pan for a few minutes) and diced, tossed with lemon juice and ground black pepper (yes, you read right, a touch of spiciness to the sweetness is a brilliant idea from Monsieur Herme) are pressed gently into the ganache layers within the cake
It looks decadent but tastes light with the wonderful chocolate richness tempered well by the caramel and just that touch of saltiness (from the salted butter). Even if you're not a chocoholic, you'll be tempted with the first bite - now if I can only wield that palette knife / spatula like a master!

Last words - "Never judge a cake by its cover."


Blogger The UnProfessional Chef said...

This looks divine! Am sure it tasted wonderful. I know what you mean about not having the cakes look professional enough - I've been rather nervy about trying out the Pierre Herme recipes cos I doubt very much I can recreate it to the level required in the pictures. As long as it tastes good, who cares!

12/05/2005 12:08:00 PM  
Blogger Clare Eats said...

That looks fab!!!! Well done.

I know one ganache smoothong trick... a hot but dry knife. :)

12/05/2005 08:46:00 PM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

hi uchef (dun mind I shorten it-hor), yeah, all these wonderful looking cakes and pastries in cookbooks are really daunting but I've decided I've got to try, no matter the outcome!

hi clare, thanks for the tip-off - will try the next time around :)

12/05/2005 10:27:00 PM  
Blogger slurp! said...

how about DIY a "tripod" for palette knife, removed all the shakes hehehe hehehe ... =)
actually, i like the roughness on the surfaces of the cake, perhaps it will be better with more random strikes it make it even more rough randomly.
And as my imagination goes wild. toasted chopped nuts like almond, pine etc sprinkle all over the rough surfaces.
well, does that beginning to look like sand rock? hmmm ... what ever rock it is, it's going to be mighty yummy rock. That rockz!!! >D

12/05/2005 10:44:00 PM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

hi slurp - lolz, 'tripod' idea sounds good if it comes with a robotic arm... and the next time I take your advice to rough it up randomly with chopped nuts on surface passing for pebbles, I might name the cake The Changi-beach Pave!

12/05/2005 10:51:00 PM  
Anonymous pbev (Flickr) said...

Gorgeous Cake! Nice blog.

12/06/2005 07:03:00 AM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

thanks pbev and welcome!

12/06/2005 05:31:00 PM  
Blogger fooDcrazEE said...

its delish. Maybe they glaze the cake. Or u can try turning ur cake using a turning base while keeping ur palette knife steady. At least the turning will keep the ganache smooth. Ever tried pouring ganache over a cake as glaze ?

12/06/2005 06:34:00 PM  
Blogger fooDcrazEE said...

ooops! can check for recipe in pouring ganache over a cake as glaze.

12/06/2005 06:35:00 PM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

thanks, foodcrazee, just checked Jan's Kitchen and am putting her on my list of blog visits :)

12/06/2005 09:31:00 PM  
Blogger boo_licious said...

I don't care as it looks super yummy and I want some!

Thanks also for the tips. I must give this cake a try one day as it is calling me.

12/07/2005 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

And I'm sure, dear boo, that yours will look so much better than mine :)

12/07/2005 09:10:00 PM  
Blogger J said...

hi cath, looks terrific to me! perfectly smoothed ganache is tricky indeed...

12/12/2005 01:54:00 AM  
Blogger eatzycath said...

hi J, thks for the kind words, ganache in your hands would surely be a 'piece of cake' (no pun intended)!

12/13/2005 04:18:00 PM  

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