Norwegian Rhubarb Cake

I have to be honest, I don’t really know a lot about Norwegian cooking as of yet. Since food history is always top priority for me, I seem to find my way into every country at some point. You might have known, another rhubarb recipe would catch my eye.

This one is a very traditional summer cake, more of an everyday cake as opposed to a party cake. It seems Norwegians prefer creamy cakes for parties instead of light fruity ones. Many old Norwegian cookbooks and newspapers featured rhubarb cake on their weekly menus. Nothing fancy or anything that requires an extra step or two. No layers of cream, custard or crumble on top. Just merely a simple and incredibly delicate cake with a bit of tang from the rhubarb.

You don’t need to make these little cakes inverted. If you prefer, place the rhubarb on top of the batter instead. Using pure vanilla gave such amazing flavor and the incredible texture of the cake is provided by the addition of sour cream. I’m sure this recipe has been updated from the original but it is certainly good.

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Norwegian Rhubarb Cake
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter bottom & sides of 4 (1-cup) mini bundt cake pans.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together 1 1/4 cups flour, baking powder & salt. In a larger bowl, cream together butter & 3/4 cup sugar for about 2 minutes until light & fluffy. Add eggs & pure vanilla extract; stir to combine.
  3. Alternately stir flour mixture & sour cream into the butter mixture, beginning & ending with the flour mixture, stirring well after each addition. Toss chopped rhubarb with remaining tablespoons of flour & sugar. Divide rhubarb evenly between the 4 mini bundt pans. Top evenly with cake batter
  4. Bake cakes about 20 -25 minutes until golden & a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven & invert on a cooling rack for a few minutes. Remove pans, replacing any of the rhubarb that has stuck to the pans.
  5. Serve warm or cold with whipped topping or just a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

Peach Melba Ginger Cakes

For those unfamiliar with Peach Melba, it is a classic dessert that was invented around the late 1800’s in honor of an Australian soprano opera singer named Nellie Melba. The flavors are always raspberry and peach and was traditionally served with vanilla ice cream. Melba is actually the nickname for Melbourne, her Australian hometown. Her real name was Helene ‘Nellie” Porter Mitchell but everyone called her Melba. She was internationally famous for her remarkable ‘crystal’ voice.

French chef, Georges Auguste Escoffier, not only created this special dessert but also developed what is known as the ‘kitchen brigade’ system or ‘Brigade de Cuisine’.

The next time you enjoy an elaborate meal in a hotel dining room (on a special occasion) that is perfectly executed, don’t presume this was just by accident. The brigade system revolutionized the way diners eat, allowing people to have meals, whatever their order, arrive at the table at the same time. This system was instituted to streamline and simplify work in hotel kitchens. It served to eliminate the chaos and duplication of effort that could result when kitchen staff did not have clear-cut responsibilities.

Today, most restaurants use some simplified variation of Escoffier’s original system. It is this foundation of kitchen organization that made way for the ‘a la carte menu’ we know so well today.

I have added a chart at the end of the blog showing the basic hierarchy of authority in this kind of system. I realize I got a bit removed from my peach melba dessert but — . Having spent so many years in the commercial world of cooking, I have a great appreciation for this gifted chef’s contribution to the food industry.

I decided to use the classic peach and raspberry ingredients in some mini upside down bundt cakes. The ginger spice adds a bit of unexpected ‘zing’ to its flavor.

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Peach Melba Ginger Cakes
Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Ginger Cakes
Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Ginger Cakes
Instructions
Raspberry Coulis
  1. In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar & cornstarch. Add raspberries & water; cook over medium-high heat until thickened & clear. Remove from stove & press through a wire mesh to make a puree. Discard seeds. Add extract if using. Set aside.
Peach Sauce
  1. Drain peach juice into a measuring cup. Set peaches aside. In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp peach juice, sugar & cornstarch. Cook, stirring, until thick & bubbly. Add the peaches & vanilla. Stir to blend, set aside until ready to use.
Ginger Cakes
  1. Preheat over to 375 F. Butter 4-5 mini bundt pans. In a bowl, combine all cake ingredients & beat only until smooth. Divide between bundt pans. Place pans on a baking sheet & bake for 15 minutes or until cakes have risen & test done with a toothpick is inserted. Remove from oven, cool for a few minutes then turn over on serving plates. Top with warm peach sauce & raspberry coulis. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you wish.

Madeleine Cookies

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY!

Valentines day is a romantic occasion which calls for special meals and desserts. Quite a while back I saw a very unique idea for some ‘Madeleine’ cookies. It looked to me like it had valentines dessert written all over it.  Before I get into the actual recipe, I thought it might be nice to share a little food history on this unofficial national cookie of France.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to try them yet, they are a little cake-like cookie, baked in a shell-shaped mold. The first recipe for the cookie in France with the name Madeleine, appeared around 1758. People began using metal molds to bake Madeleine’s during the 18th century, however, these molds and cookies did not receive commercial success until the 19th century, when culinary writers began mentioning them in cookbooks.

There are several legends that exist in regards to the creation of the Madeleine cookies. In one version, Madeleine was a young servant girl who had been requested to create a special treat for the deposed king of Poland who had sought refuge in France. In another version, a different Madeleine created the special cookies in the shape of a scallop  to feed the pilgrims making their way to Saint Jacques burial site. The scallop shell was a sign of protection which has long been associated with St. Jacques of France.

Madeleine’s have always been associated with the little French town of Commercy, whose baker’s were said to have paid a very large sum for the recipe. Nuns in 18th century France frequently supported themselves and their schools by making and selling the particular sweets. Commercy once had a convent dedicated to St. Mary Magdelen. Historians believe that when all the convents and monasteries of France were abolished during the French Revolution, the nuns sold the recipe to the bakers.

In any case, no matter who created the first Madeleine, it was a great idea as their popularity has only increased over the centuries. Today, this unique tea cake/cookie is sold in bakeries and cafe shops around the world. 

The original basic ingredients consisted of eggs, flour, butter and sugar. Over the years, Madeleine’s have been elevated into the realm of gourmet delights. It has become very common to customize the recipe to include nuts, lemon zest, chocolate, citrus juice and sprinkle them with powdered sugar.

For my valentine dessert, I’m making some very petite ‘shells’, filling them with sweetened cream cheese and decorated with ‘edible pearls’. They make such an elegant presentation for the occasion.


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Madeleine Cookies

Servings


Ingredients
Cream Cheese Filling

Servings


Ingredients
Cream Cheese Filling


Instructions
Madeleine Cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, cream together butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Add the egg & vanilla; combine then stir in flour & dry pudding mix. Blend well but DO NOT over mix.

  2. Using non-stick, petite Madeleine shell cookie pans, fill each 'shell' level with cookie dough. Bake for about 5-6 minutes. When baked, Madeleines should be only have a hint of golden color. Remove from oven; allow to sit for a few minutes. Carefully remove cookies from pans. Cool completely before filling.

Cream Cheese Filling
  1. In a bowl, beat cream cheese, milk & pudding mix until smooth. Using a piping bag with a 'flower' tip nozzle, place a small amount of filling on half of the cookies. Top with remaining cookies & decorate with pearl candies if you wish. (Fill only the amount of cookies you need at the time. Keep extra filling & cookies refrigerated in closed containers for later in the week).