Saturday, September 19, 2009

Experiment #3: Pastel de Tres Leches


So I’m having a party at my place. YAH. Its been a long time since I’ve hosted a party so of course, I’m going to use the opportunity to try yet another cake recipe from Tartine. Since it’s the tail end of summer (its still too hot in CA to declare it Fall), I’m going to make a refreshing Tres Leches (Three Milk) cake; one of my favorites. Amazingly moist, milky, and sweet and yet I’ve never made it before. So in preparation for my endeavor, I’ve read the recipe and associated recipes for the fillings/cake, etc. and I find it very similar to the Summer Fruit Bavarian cake I made in my first experiment. The differences are that the Tres Leches cake calls for a Chiffon cake base (instead of the génoise I made for the Bavarian cake) and a coconut syrup and optional caramel topping (uh, of COURSE I’m going to do the caramel!). Otherwise, the composition of the cake does consist of a filling made of pastry cream with the gelatin (to firm up the cream) and whip cream (to make it light and airy), just like in the Bavarian cake. This will be a good opportunity for me to practice making the pastry cream again (hopefully with a little more finesse). The cake is also topped with whipped heavy cream, which hopefully turn out better than last time now that I know that less manipulation frosting the cake = better looking cake.

I’m also going to start writing in the weights for some of the ingredients that I’ll be measuring out by weight (in metric units of course; it is the system used most commonly by chemists). At my job, it’s really routine for me to weigh things as a form of measurement. We hardly do anything my volume, except liquids, in which case, we have to usually take into account the density of the material. But solids come in all densities…think light and fluffy marshmallows versus sugar; the same volume of marshmallows will be a lot lighter than the same volume of sugar. Flour is notorious for varying in volume depending on how much air is incorporated into it while measuring; a tightly packed cup of flour can weigh several grams more than a lightly packed cup. So you just can’t measure solids by volume; it just isn’t accurate enough. For some recipes, it doesn’t really matter too much. But others such as one as important as the cake-for-my-party, it does.

One last note about the order of the experiment: since my cake base needs time to cool, I’ll make that first. Then I’ll make the coconut syrup, caramel, pastry cream (which I’ll make into the filling for the cake right away). I’ll let the assembled cake components party in the fridge overnight, then finish the cake with whipped cream and coconut (not in the recipe, but I like coconut and it’ll make it pretty) the morning of my party.

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