Friday, June 17, 2011

Castella

CASTELLA!!! The dense-but-soft moist cuboids of tea-time DELICIOUSNESS. This recipe makes LOADS of castella, which is good, because there are no leavening agents so it takes FOR-FUCKING-EVER to whip all that fluffy goodness into the eggs and you never want to touch a mixer again when you're done.

One great coping mechanism, I've found, is to have a booze & BAKING PARTY!!! So you can tag-team that damned mixer with your friends while you all become increasing inebriated, such that by the end of the whipping process none of you care that you've just spent like an hour of your life making cake batter.

Check out Azuki and me not givin' a SHIT that we just made cake for hours:

We both look way better irl, believe me. This is pretty much the most terrible picture in the world.




Original recipe from Maki of JustHungry.com, rearranged and edited to make it easier to follow :)


Materials

* Granulated or cane sugar for cake pan
* 200g double-sifted all-purpose or bread flour (NOT cake flour)

~Mix A~
* 8 large eggs
* 300g granulated sugar

~Mix B~

* 100cc (about 1/2 cup) milk
* 4 Tbs. honey

~Glaze~
* 1 T. honey
* Hot water

Equipment and other supplies:

* Electric whisk
* A rectangular cake pan, or a square 25cm/8in cake pan
* A muffin tin & liners, for the extra batter that inevitably occurs
* Parchment paper
* A large mixing bowl
* A pan large enough to fit the bottom of the mixing bowl
* A hand whisk
* A spatula
* A pastry brush
* A plastic bag

Preheat the oven to 170°C / 340°F, or 150°C / 300°F if you're using a convection oven.

Fill the pan with water and bring to a boil, then turn off the heat.

Prepare Pan

Line the pan with parchment paper, folding the corners and using a bit of butter or oil to help it stick to the sides and bottom. Note: For some reason, I decided to use a loaf pan, even though I OWN a 10'' square cake pan *facepalm* Although it didn't adversely affect the castella in the end, it did take a bit longer to bake, and we ended up with SO MANY CASTELLA MUFFINS...and mini-muffins! Which were delightfully crunchy, like candy. Castella candy. Mmmmmm.

Spray the paper with non-stick spray or smear with butter or oil on a paper towel.

Sprinkle sugar to cover the bottom of the pan. The oil helps it stick and creates and even coat :)

Prepare Mix B & Flour
Mix together the milk and 4 tablespoons of honey - you may need to heat up the mixture for a few seconds in the microwave.

Double-sift the flour, if you haven't done so yet.

Prepare Mix A
Break the eggs into the bowl and whisk.

Add the sugar
.

Start whisking this while holding the bowl over the pan of hot water. As soon as the mixture feels lukewarm to the touch, take it off the water and continue whisking. If it cools down again, put it back on the hot water pan to warm it up.


Point!: The mixture thickens better if you whisk on a lower setting. It also takes FOREVER. I start on 1 or 2 and kick it up to 4-5 after the first 15 minutes. Plan 30-40 min. for whisking. The original recipe said 15 minutes. IT IS A LIE.

When you are done the batter will be thick enough to form soft peaks when you draw up your whisk. If you write your initial on the surface with the whisk, it should stay there long enough for you to read it before it disappears.

Combine Everything
Whisk in the milk and honey mixture.

Add the flour a tablespoon at a time
, beating with the HAND whisk until there are no pockets of flour.

Pour the batter into the pan up to the top.

Bake
Put in the oven and bake for about 50 minutes or until a skewer stuck in the middle comes out clean.

Glaze
In the meantime, mix together the 1 tablespoon of honey and and a little hot water to make a glaze.

As soon as the cake is out of the oven, brush the top with the honey-water mixture.

Bag
When it's cool enough to handle but still warm, lift it out of the pan, paper and all, and put into a plastic bag. Seal the bag and put into the refrigerator, for at least several hours. This step is critical to ensure the kasutera has a moist texture. If you let it cool to room temperature before putting it in the plastic bag, it will end up a bit dry.

To serve, use a very sharp knife to make clean cuts. Cut off the sides (cook's treat) and make small, neat slices - one or two per person. Serve with hot or cold unsweetened tea. It also tastes GREAT with assorted cheeses.
Castella arrangement with various cheese: (Clockwise from right) Brie, Gruyere, Smoked Gouda