Friday, June 4, 2010

Bill Yosses’ Orange-Glazed Olive Oil Cake with Fleur de Sel

If you had the great opportunity to create pastry and desserts for world leaders and renowned public figures every day of the week, I wonder what you would put in a cookbook for home bakers and pastry aficionados? Well, I need wonder no more. Fresh off the presses of Norton Publishing comes The Perfect Finish, a beautiful new cookbook from White House Pastry Chef Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark, writer of the New York Times column, “A Good Appetite.”

Every pastry chef follows their own unique road when it comes to developing their palate and style. In addition to the esteemed and very exciting position in the White House, Chef Yosses has had an amazing professional life working with some of the best chefs and restaurateurs in the business. He writes warmly about his memories and associations in the culinary world, which come from a distinguished career at places like Citarella, Bouley Restaurant and Bakery and a great deal of work in Europe with grand chefs like Pierre Hermé and Robert Linxe. All of these experiences surely contributed to Chef Yosses’ love of the art of pastry so plainly evident in all of his recipes. This is an enjoyable read.

The Perfect Finish is nicely laid out with lots of gorgeous full-page photos and a few process pictures to help explain technique. It contains 80 recipes separated into categories based on occasion and style. There’s “Come for Brunch” with muffins, tea breads and scones. My own particular heart beats for the Crème Fraiche Pancakes. “Pick-me-ups” is about irresistible cookies and snack items. “Straight from the Oven” presents homestyle cobblers and pie. The section on “I’ll Bring Dessert” is full of luscious jewels you can easily transport. A chapter on “Restaurant Desserts You Can Make at Home” provides the details and courage for home bakers to delve into more style and sophistication with items like his version of Îles Flottante in a spiced crème anglaise and Warm Molten Vanilla Cakes. Chef Yosses’ flair for fun and flavor is showcased in the chapter on “Birthday and Celebration Cakes.” The section on “Holiday Desserts” gives us a broad display of cookies, trifles, toffees and tarts. There is plenty of festivity throughout.

There are new ideas and interesting additions to familiar recipes as well as some intriguing new twists on conventional preparations, such as Bittersweet Chocolate Halvah Marjolaine with Sesame Halvah Cream. Once you catch a glimpse of Lemon Pound Cake Supreme, an incredible temptation that includes methods for increasing the depth of lemon flavor and moisture, you will no doubt wander directly to your kitchen and fire up your oven. I’m especially drawn to his fruit recipes but he also has a wealth of mouth-watering chocolate offerings, such as his towering Red Eye Devil’s Food Cake and his Bouley Banana Chocolate Tart, which adds an intriguing note of lime to the mix. I’m also curious about the Walnut Layer Cake with Apple-Caramel Filling and Calvados Cream Cheese Icing, a cake that would do nicely for an autumn birthday. Then there's a Peach Cobbler that includes bacon candied in brown sugar in the biscuit topping. Oh my! And lest you wonder if we are getting too serious here, there are Devil Doglets for Grown-ups and a beautiful Cupcake Tree. I can’t wait to try his Rosemary-Scented Date-Nut Bars and Blood Orange Squares, both based on shortbread. And you can bet your boots I’m going to have a go at his pie crust recipe so that I might revel in his acclaim as “The Crustmaster.”

His focus on technique, storage and transport will appeal to the novice and experienced baker alike. And what’s tremendously useful is not only does he give good explanations of basic equipment for a well-stocked kitchen, he also provides links and phone numbers for every unusual ingredient sprinkled throughout the book. So there are no stumbling blocks to engaging with his joy for unique flavor and beautiful presentation. I also love that he gives recipe measurements in volume, ounces and grams so you can choose whichever mode you’re most comfortable with in your own kitchen.

This handsome book is the work of an accomplished man with a very generous spirit. Chef Yosses perfectly illustrates the pleasure of creating and serving beautiful pastry. His vibrant personality shines through on just about every page and I find a certain elegance in everything he does. I look forward to working my way through each section. To begin, in his introduction he expresses a wish for his readers to use the book in such a way that invites lots of smudges, spills and stains on its 273 pages. Although I usually do my best to protect my cookbooks, I join him in the sentiment!

Bench notes:
- You can grab a sneak peek of The Perfect Finish at Scribd.
- As Chef Yosses reminds us, have all your ingredients at the ready before you begin preparation of any pastry or dessert. I heartily join him in that refrain. If there’s any piece of advice you’re willing to take from a pastry chef, it’s always, always, always measure out all your ingredients before jumping into mixing. This is what is known as mise en place and makes for a much more enjoyable journey.
- This cake has a gorgeous aroma, a moist spongy texture and lots of orange flavor. I especially love the playful addition of fleur de sel, which creates a nice bling of flirtation to light up your palate.
- This is a lot of cake. I made half the recipe in a 9” x 2 1/2” pan, baked for 30 to 35 minutes, and served 8. I used the full recipe for the orange glaze.

Orange-Glazed Olive Oil Cake with Fleur de Sel
adapted from The Perfect Finish by Bill Yosses and Melissa Clark
Serves 8 – 10

2 navel oranges (about 11 oz or 308 g)
2 1/3 C sugar (16.3 oz or 467 g), divided
2 1/2 C flour (11.25 oz or 325 g)
2 t baking powder (4.9 g)
1 t baking soda (5 g)
6 T extra virgin olive oil (2.25 oz or 65 g)
4 large eggs (6.8 oz or 193 g) @ room temperature
1 t vanilla extract (4 g)
1/2 t fleur de sel (1.25 g)

Orange Glaze

1/2 C freshly squeezed orange juice (4.25 oz or 121 g)
1/2 C confectioner’s sugar (2 oz or 57 g)

Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Slice the tops and bottoms off the oranges and quarter them. Place the oranges in the water and bring to a boil. Remove the oranges and repeat this process twice again to remove any bitterness from the orange peel. Once you complete that process, drain the oranges and place them in a pot with 1 quart of fresh water and 1 C sugar. Bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or so until the fruit can be easily pierced with a fork.

Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Grease a 10” x 2 1/2" round cake pan.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda.

Drain the oranges from the cooking syrup and cut into chunks, removing any seeds. Place the orange chunks in a food processor and pulse until you have a chunky puree. Add the eggs, 1 1/3 C sugar, the sifted flour mixture and the vanilla to the processor and blend. Add the olive oil last and pulse until thoroughly mixed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 – 50 minutes or until a tester comes out clean and the cake is golden brown. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife or spatula around the sides of the pan and turn the cake out on a plate. Turn the cake over again so it is right side up. Cool on a wire rack for at least another 30 to 40 minutes.

For the glaze, place the orange juice and sugar in a saucepan. Simmer over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the glaze over the cake and sprinkle with fleur de sel.

And for a little extra morsel, a brief Q & A with Chef Yosses -
Pastry Studio: Chef Yosses, congratulations on the release of your beautiful new cookbook! It's brimming with personality and elegance. I'm enjoying reading about your background and am wondering how you first conceived of the content and style. Did you have the concept ruminating on the back burner for quite awhile and did that change over time or was it a matter of choosing your favorite recipes and developing the book from there? How long did the process take from start to (perfect!) finish?

Chef Yosses: I thought of the way I decide to make a dessert at home and what steps I take to get it done. Usually it is for a particular event, occasion or reason, even a casual dinner, so I decided to shape the book along those lines. For the content, I chose the recipes that I loved the most or that were a happy surprise when I discovered them. I hope the readers will find that, too. The process was interrupted several times and took about 4 years to complete.

Pastry Studio: How has the White House garden changed your approach to producing pastry for the White House? I know you likely have always had access to the best ingredients but is it different having a garden in your midst?

Chef Yosses: I have been working from a farmers market or a garden for a while, especially at the Dressing Room, the restaurant started by Michel Nischan and Paul Newman. That is where the food was made almost exclusively from local purveyors and farmers. To have a garden right outside the kitchen is an awfully nice convenience and I use it constantly. I love watering the garden, it does as much for me as it does for the garden.

Pastry Studio: You have the great privilege of creating terrific pastry and desserts for so many influential people. But if you could create a pastry or dessert as a gift for someone new, who would that be and what would you produce?

Chef Yosses: I think one of the most difficult things to do is to choose the perfect gift for someone, and some people are really geniuses at it. To chose something appropriate, personal, unique that only the recipient can appreciate takes a lot of thought, and it is an exercise I admire greatly. So if by "someone new" you mean someone I don’t know I would first try to get to know a little bit about that person and tailor the dessert to them. I do love working with seasonal fruits and using as little sweetener as possible (that does not mean the dessert can be sour or too tangy, however). Adding layers of flavor is another stylistic element that I love, so that the sweet part can be multi-faceted from honey, agave, maple, or herbal. Since the person is someone new I would make the dessert as simple as possible to appeal to a wider range of audiences. So as specific as I can get is - a small fruit dessert with impeccable lines in a simple pattern with complex layering of flavor.

Thanks to Chef Yosses and congratulations on the release of The Perfect Finish.


Barbara said...

It sounds like a lovely cookbook. All my favorite cookbooks have stained pages! I may have to order this one....

I've been wanting to make an olive oil cake and this is the second time I've seen one with orange. It really looks delicious; the color is wonderful, isn't it? Very summery.

pastry studio said...

Hello Barbara and wow, what a wonderful blog you have! I love the flavor of elderflower. I had a drink with it many years ago and have never forgotten it. I always wondered what to do with in the pastry realm and now I see you have an enticing answer. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful idea.

Eileen @ Passions to Pastry said...

This sounds just wonderful. Thank you for the recipe. Great post!

Pauline said...

That looks gorgeous. I love the vibrant orange color and the golden brown top. It's tempting me to make it right now!! But it seems like a very sweet cake with 2 1/2 cups of sugar. Do you think we can reduce the amount of sugar without affecting the cake much? And if we do reduce it to, say, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, do we have to reduce the amount of liquid as well?

pastry studio said...

Hi Pauline. Don't forget that 1 cup of that sugar goes into a boiling water mixture with the oranges. That syrup is not used in the cake mixture. The cake has 1 1/2 cups of sugar. And like I mentioned, I cut the recipe in half, so the sugar level was 3/4 C. I don't think the cake is too sweet.

I hope this helps!

Bryan said...

wow, great interview :P !
very cool.

Yosses' palate dovetails nicely with California's approach to fruit-centric desserts.
it's a beautiful aesthetic.
the book looks good. i'm glad he included ingredient weights. omg metric!

and there's lovely cakes like this one.
a tangy orange might be nice to use.

thank you for this post!

pastry studio said...

Correction! The cake has 1 1/3 cups of sugar, half of which is 1/2 cup + 2 T + 2 t.

pastry studio said...

Hi Bryan! It was a lot of fun working on this.

I was so curious to see what his book would be like. I wondered if his style would be formal and architectural or more rustic and natural. I'm delighted that it's the latter. You really get a sense of his love of ingredients and fresh flavor from most of his recipes. There's a photo of a Stone Fruit Galette that is just stunning in its beauty and simplicity.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, great review (I WANT this book now!), congratulations on your interview with Chef Yosses!

>^..^< Kathleen

=^..^= said...

Beautiful post! I look forward to reading Chef Yosses's book.

Congratulations on the interview, as well!


Tara Barker said...

Thanks for the great introduction to a wonderful-sounding new pastry book! It's going right to the top of my Must Get list. I made my first olive oil cake earlier this year, and was immediately won over by the flavor and texture the oil lends. I can't wait to try converting this recipe to gluten-free!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations and thank you Pastry Studio for your wonderful interview with Chef Yosses! It sounds like a must-have cookbook!


FOODESSA said...

I do love most citrus based desserts. Now adding 'la fleur de sel' and olive got my attention. I can also see myself separating this wonderful cake in two and adding a luscious layer of orange based 'chantilly' cream. How 'cochon' would that be?
Thanks for highlighting a chef I new very little about ;o)
Flavourful wishes, Claudia

Victoria said...

Every time I make a resolution to put a moratorium on cookbooks, a great cookbook is released.

Maybe I can be like Cecily Brownstone and leave my collection to some worthy institution.

Once again, a bewitching post. I love orange-scented cakes, especially with strawberries alongside. What do you think?

pastry studio said...

Thank you, Victoria. That's a very interesting idea about the strawberries. I wish I could test that flavor combination right now. It might be an interesting surprise. The little accent of salt makes me think of apricots or maybe to think about!

Lucie said...

You just made me want to go ahead and buy the book right this second! It sounds great. And that olive oil cake...yummy!

Bryan said...

and, until i get the book, i tried his Butterscotch-Dulce de Leche pudding recipe in the preview!

the base is delicious, the dulce de leche is a great addition.
but i may have miscalculated, it didnt set completely.
so, with the addition of cream and a spin in my machine, now it's ice cream.
perfect for this hot weather (and breakfast).

pastry studio said...

B- Nice save! That sounds like it would be totally delicious as an ice cream.

Bryan said...

[though Yosses' double-chocolate cookies are perfect as-is. shiny with just-crisp edges. so good. haha!]

pastry studio said...

Oh, I see you're way ahead of me! Ha, it's fun to work on these things, isn't it?!

Anonymous said...

Have you ever made the blood orange squares? I made it but the shortbread went very very soggy. Usually I just bake the shortbread and make the curd separately to spoon on top? Any advice?
I realize your post is about the olive orange cake but I thought, just in case.

pastry studio said...

foodieinberlin, I just looked at the recipe and I do think it's not a very conventional method. The ingredients for the shortbread base look right, so that should have baked off well. But the blood orange curd is mixed and not cooked on the stove top prior to baking, which is not how a conventional curd bar like this is made. I do find it odd and that may account for why the finished product was soggy.

I think it might also benefit from a couple more eggs because there is so much liquid. If you care to try again, cook the blood orange mixture like a lemon curd on the stove. I would also be tempted to add a couple of ounces of butter once it's off the heat. When you have the curd cooked, then spread and bake as you've likely done before. You may also want to contact Melissa Clark, who is the co-author of the book. She has a website and should be able to give you specific guidance.

Hope this helps!