Musings on carrot cake and McConaughey’s teeth

We had a completely delightful weekend.

The kids spent Saturday night with Rockford’s parents so Rockford and I could go to dinner and a concert. We tried a new place for dinner, and I had the best carrot cake. The Best. They took a little disk of carrot cake, topped it with a large poof of cream cheese mousse and served it with walnut brittle. It was amazing. The plate also had a small scoop of root beer ice cream and a dusting of carrot and pineapple powder on it. The root beer ice cream was good but didn’t really match with the cake, and the powder was entirely unnecessary. The carrot cake & mousse were incredible, though, so I’m happy to overlook the superfluous additions. I’ve already found a couple of cream cheese mousse recipes to try, and I’m trying to decide what the best way to make carrot cake disks might be.

On Sunday afternoon before the kids came home, we caught a matinee of “Mud.” I liked the movie — Rockford described it as “Southern Gothic in the style of ‘Slingblade’ ” — but Matthew McConaughey’s teeth bothered me the whole time. The actor has super-straight, perfect teeth, but the character has a crooked front tooth. How do they do that? Sometimes the magic of cinema is distracting.

Monday: Breakfast for dinner

Pete wants pancakes again, but I might go with eggs & veggie sausages just to be safe.

Tuesday: Butternut squash ravioli

Poppy loves butternut squash ravioli. It’s one of the few things Pete doesn’t love. I may make some bacon to sprinkle on top of the ravioli just to lure him in.

Wednesday: Grilled cheese sandwiches

They’ll be standard-issue American cheese sandwiches.

Thursday: Cheesy curried chicken

Is this the third week this has been on the menu? I think it is.

Friday: Pizza

It’s named after the guy they quote on “Iron Chef”

The traditional Savarin is a rum-soaked, ring-shaped, yeasted cake filled with some sort of pastry cream. It’s also April’s Daring Bakers Challenge, which is why I made it. It is a labor-intensive beast of a cake, and I very likely will not make it again.

The following recipe uses a peach syrup in place of the rum. I didn’t have any peach tea on hand, though, so I made a pear-vanilla syrup using pear nectar, sugar, water and a few vanilla beans. The syrup was good, and the pastry/Chantilly cream was unbelievable.

Some Savarins (Savari?) are rather attractive, but mine was not:

Rockford & his dad said they loved it, but I was pretty disappointed with the cake overall. The first day the yeasty flavor was overpowering, but it did taste a little better the next day. Not better enough to convince me to make it again, but a little better.


2 1⁄2 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons water, lukewarm
6 large eggs at room temperature, separated
1 1⁄2 teaspoons instant yeast
4 teaspoons sugar
2/3 stick butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon orange and lemon zest (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄4 cup butter for greasing the work surface, hands, dough scraper & baking pan

Directions for sponge:
In a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons lukewarm water, 3 tablespoons flour and yeast. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 60 minutes

Directions for dough:
After 30 minutes put the egg whites in the mixer bowl and start working with the paddle at low speed, adding flour until you have a soft dough that sticks to the bowl and work until it comes together; cover with plastic wrap and let rest 30 min.

Add the sponge to the mixer bowl along with a tablespoon of flour and start mixing at low speed (if you wish to add the zests do it now). When it starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl add one yolk and as soon as the yolk is absorbed add one tablespoon of flour. Add the second yolk, the sugar and — as soon as the yolk is absorbed — add one tablespoon of flour. Raise the speed a little. Add the third yolk and the salt, and as soon as the yolk is absorbed add one tablespoon of flour. Keep adding one yolk at the time and the flour, saving a tablespoon of flour for later. Mix the dough until is elastic and makes “threads.

Add the butter at room temperature and as soon as the butter is adsorbed add the last tablespoon of flour. Keep on mixing till the dough passes the “window pane test.” Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it proof until it has tripled in volume (2 to 3 hours).

(You can prepare the Pastry cream now if you chose to use it, and refrigerate it.)

While you wait, prepare your baking pan buttering it very carefully not leaving too much
butter on it.

Grease your dough scraper, your hands and your work surface and put the dough on it and fold with the Dough Package Fold two or three times around (5 folds twice or three times). Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest 15 minutes on the counter.

Turn the dough upside down and with the help of your buttered dough scraper shape your dough into a rounded bun. Make a hole in the center with your thumb and put it in the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until the dough reaches the top of the pan (about 1 hour).

Pre-heat oven to 340 degrees. Bake the Savarin for about 40 minutes until the top is golden brown. Meanwhile, prepare the Syrup.

When the Savarin is done take it out of the oven and let it cool. You have two choices now: you can immerse it in syrup right now or you can let it dry out (so it will lose some of its moisture that will be replaced by the syrup) and soak it later on.

To immerse it in syrup, it is a good idea to place it in the mold you baked it in and keep adding ladles of syrup until you see it along the rim of the pan. Or you can just soak it in a big bowl keeping your ladle on top of it so it doesn’t float. Once the Savarin is really well soaked carefully move it on a cooling rack positioned over a pan to let the excess syrup drip.

Whatever you decide, the day you want to serve it glaze it and fill the hole with pastry cream. You can serve the Savarin with some filling on the side.

Peach Syrup

1 1⁄2 cups peach tea
1 1⁄2 cups peach juice
1 1⁄2 cups water
1 cup sugar
zest of one lemon
one cinnamon stick

Combine tea, water, sugar, lemon zest and cinnamon stick and bring to a boil. Let boil 5 minutes and remove from the stove. When cooled a bit, add the peach juice.


2 tablespoons apricot jam
2 tablespoons water

In a saucepan, mix jam and water and warm up. When the savarin is cool and soaked, brush it with the glaze. 

Pastry Cream and Chantilly

2 cups milk
1⁄4 cup sugar
zest of one lemon
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1⁄4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream

Bring milk and sugar to a boil in a saucepan.

Whisk together egg yolks, egg, cornstarch and sugar in a bowl.

Add the hot milk to the eggs one tablespoon at the time to temper it. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When the cream thickens, remove the mixture from the stove. Cover it with plastic wrap with the plastic touching the surface and let cool.

Pour 1 cup cold heavy cream in mixer bowl with the whisk attachment and beat until whipped. Combine with the cooled pastry cream, adding a tablespoon at the time of whipped cream until it gets to the right consistency.

Natalia of Gatti Fili e Farina challenges us to make a traditional Savarin, complete with soaking syrup and cream filling! We were to follow the Savarin recipe but were allowed to be creative with the soaking syrup and filling, allowing us to come up with some very delicious cakes!

The Terribly Tardy Bakers Challenge

I’ve been doing the Daring Bakers Kitchen challenges on and off (OK, mostly off) since 2008, starting that October when I made pizza dough and it was delicious. Between October 2008 and the middle of 2009 I tackled the unbearably delicious Caramel Cake with Caramelized Butter Frosting in November 2008; the complicated-but-worth-it buche de noel in December 2008; the Tuile cookies that didn’t quite work in January 2009; the crazy-rich chocolate Valentino in February 2009; a fantastic cheesecake in April 2009; Apple strudel in May 2009; and a terrible Bakewell tart in June 2009. I don’t remember exactly what happened, but it looks like the Bakewell tart was so terrible it made me not want to participate for the next two years.

That’s a pretty awful tart.

Once I recovered from the Bakewell, I made: Biscuits in January 2012; Dutch crunch rolls in March 2012 (and I put bacon and avocado on them, which was a good idea); a dreadful Battenburg cake in June 2012; some cream puffs so good I couldn’t believe I’d made them in August 2012; and an enormous empanada in September 2012.

And then there was another Challenge Drought from October 2012 until this month, when I finally did another challenge. (Tune in for that post on Saturday, because that’s the Official Daring Bakers Challenge Posting Day.)

After I made this month’s challenge recipe, I started to wonder about all of the months I hadn’t participated. So I looked them all up, and then I decided I’m going to retroactively participate in a few of them. Which means that I’ll make the things and post about them here at my leisure. We’ll call it the Terribly Tardy Bakers Challenge. Or something.

I’m aiming to finish around 2021. And here are the things I’m going to make:

  1. Dobos torte
  2. Macarons (Done! And written about at “For some reason I keep singing “macaron” to the tune of Bush’s hit tune “Glycerine.”)
  3. Cannoli
  4. Tiramisu
  5. Piece Montee (Croquembouche)
  6. Baked Alaska or ice cream petit fours
  7. Chocolate Marquise
  8. Baklava with homemade phyllo
  9. Mille Feuille

Would any of you care to join me? Either for the making-and-then-writing-about-it part or for the eating part. Either or both is fine with me!