So yeah, it happened. I fell into the hole that is now The Pantry. What can I say besides that I’m sorry? You see, the thing is, I LOVE my new hole. I obsess. I make spreadsheets. I organize. I reorganize my spreadsheets. Owning a business has been amazing (how did I ever have a boss?), but I think it is fair to say that I am getting my butt kicked. In a masochistic kind of way. In fact, if we’re being honest, the only reason I am here, writing this very post, is because I’m fighting off a cold that is forcing me to remain horizontal, wrapped up in a down comforter, watching episode after episode of Glee, with a sprinkling of a good documentary to break up all that nauseatingly addictive singing (did you know that the Mormon church bankrolled Prop. 8? And that becoming a Green Beret is quite torturous?) Anyhoo, either way, here I am. Oh yeah, and I got this comment on my blog a week or two ago:
“I aM DELETING YOU FROM MY FAVORTIES. u r BORING AND DO NOT POST ON YOUR BLOG. YOU SHOULD NOT HAVE A BLOG!!!!!”
While I admit that this one had me chuckling for a few hours (boring? really?), it did remind me that I have been sorely neglecting my blog. I thought about posting an apology, including an adorable picture of Bean to make you all forget my negligence.
But that didn’t feel right. Not there’s anything wrong with cute cat pictures, I just promised myself when I started this whole blogging hobby that I wouldn’t post unless I had something that I’m really proud of. There has been some great cooking, but unfortunately no time to document. I’ve always felt this to be a blog more about technique than recipes, so I didn’t want to just throw a recipe at you without really digging in. But I can see now that those days of spending many hours meticulously collecting photos of every step of super-elaborate recipes are getting fewer and farther between.
So I’m here with a compromise. I’m short on process photos, but I’m making up for it with a recipe that I firmly believe will knock your socks off. It’s a maple walnut trifle, and I seriously think about it nonstop. Think toasted walnut cake, cut into bite-sized cubes. A creamy and intense maple fluff. Crunchy candied walnuts and Maldon sea salt. It is my personal bowl of heaven. I developed it, along with Stephanie, my pastry chef in training, for the dessert menu at Delancey. We hosted a dinner for Sam Mogannam to celebrate his new book, and we served it family-style in giant trifle dishes (I later found out that Sam is allergic to walnuts and yes, I cried a little on the inside). I suspect that I will be serving it at Christmas dinner this year. It is that good.
Quick note: Sheet gelatin can be tricky to find, but it’s available online. I dramatically prefer it to powdered gelatin.
Maple Walnut Trifle
Toasted Walnut Cake:
4 ounces walnuts
4 ounces brown sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
4 ounces cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons maple syrup
4 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
– Preheat the oven to 350º. Butter an 8″ cake pan and line with parchment. Set aside.
– Spread the walnuts on a sheet tray and bake until lightly toasted. Cool completely.
– In a small bowl, rub the seeds from the vanilla bean into the brown sugar. Set aside.
– In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Sift and set aside.
– In a small bowl whisk together canola oil, maple syrup and milk. Set aside.
– Place the cooled, toasted walnuts in a food processor and grind until they are the size of bread crumbs. Do not pulse them into a paste.
– Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the brown sugar. Cream the mixture on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly before adding the next and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Beat for another minute. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and add the ground walnuts.
– With the mixer running on low, add a third of the flour mixture. Mix until just combined and then add half of the milk mixture. Repeat with another third of the flour, then with the rest of the milk mixture, ending with the rest of the flour mixture.
– Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake until done. The baked surface will spring back slightly when touched in the center and the sides will begin to contract from the pan. Remove the cake from the oven, and let cool before removing from the pan.
14 ounces grade B maple syrup
5 1/2 gelatin sheets
16 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups heavy cream
– In a medium saucepan, reduce the maple syrup by 25% over med-high heat for 5-7 minutes (it will bubble a lot). The resulting weight should be approximately 11 ounces. Set aside to cool.
– Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a simmer.
– Place the sheet gelatin in cold water until it is completely squishy, about 5 minutes. Remove from the water and shake off the excess liquid. Set aside.
– Whisk together the cooled maple syrup, salt and egg yolks in a metal bowl. Cook over the pot of simmering water, whisking constantly until the mixture registers 165º F. Remove the bowl from simmering water and stir in the drained, bloomed gelatin sheets. Pour the mixture through a fine mash strainer, into a clean medium bowl. Set aside to cool, whisking every few minutes. You can either place the mixture over an ice bath, or pop it in the fridge. It is very important to check in with a stir every few minutes, to keep the edges from setting to quickly. The goal is to have the mixture set to being equal in stiffness to whipped cream.
– Beat the cream to stiff peaks. Fold in a third of the cream into the cooled maple mixture, to lighten it. Gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream until just barely mixed. Pour into a container and refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.
Assembling the Trifle:
– Cut the cake into large cubes and fill the bottom of a trifle dish. Just before serving, pour on the maple mousse.
– Top with candied walnuts, a drizzle of maple syrup and some maldon sea salt. Enjoy.