Long time no see! Okay, onward.
I thought I’d give you a glimpse of my crazy food brain. I was relaying some of this to Justin, and he was interested to see the path of my food thoughts. I’ve gone through this with Caramel Slice and Numasan. Today’s case in point: Cake Salé.
WARNING: This is very, very long. :)
I’m breezing through Snapchat bits and come across this lovely photo on the Sweet channel. The photo is nice, but really, I just love that the place is called Brunette Wine Bar, so I decide to look it up.
I’m scanning through the menu, thinking that I’d probably order the Rkatsiteli, because I’ve never had a wine from Georgia before, and it has a cool name. Under the Snacks, I see Cake Salé. It sounds vaguely familiar, and I think of a book I brought back from Paris. I read the description: Savory Quick Bread with Ham, Gruyere, Thyme. Now I’m sure I’ve seen this before.
I ransack my cookbook shelves to find the cookbook: Recettes des 3 Sœurs Pour Petites Festins entre Amis. And there it is, savory quick bread with a variety of ingredients. The book doesn’t refer to it as cake salé, so I have no idea why I recognized that name, but whatever.
I love this book. Everything is hand-illustrated. There are three cake salé recipes: Cake Bollywood, Cake Kamikaze, and Cake Luigi, all listed under the Picnic section. What a great picnic snack!
I check out the 3 Sœurs website and find an entire post on the mistakes/omissions from their most recent book. They are very clever in providing illustrations to glue into your book for each correction, but it makes me nervous to follow a baking recipe from their book.
It’s time to scour the internet. What is this thing? Why is it not on menus? What recipes can I find? I come across this NY Times article from 2010. Turns out cake salé is a humble bread. Something you’d serve at family gatherings (or picnics), not something that you’d find in a restaurant. My favorite line:
“Cake salé is like a homey and crumbly equivalent of the delicate cheese puffs gougères: a salty, cheesy excuse to open a bottle of wine.”
I’ve found tons of recipes for “Sophie Cake.” I read over them, translate into English, and compare ingredients and methods. I find recipes on French blogs and links on Pinterest. (This leads to a Pinterest spiral of recipe —> look at blog post —> check out the rest of the blog —> add the cool ones to my Feedly. Then back to the task at hand.) I realize that this is basically like a cheese bread, though most recipes I’ve seen call for yeast.
I decide on a few basic recipes I want to merge and play with. In translating, there are a few odd things to figure out. For example:
- One recipe calls for levure (yeast), but I know it’s a quick bread, and others have called for levure chimique (baking powder), so I decide on baking powder.
- One recipe calls for 1 scht of baking powder. Commence web search for what the heck a scht is: it’s short for sachet. 1 sachet = 10g = a little over 2 teaspoons. However, teaspoons are referred to as a cuillère à café, which is a coffee spoon. A bit of research shows that a coffee spoon may be a bit smaller than a teaspoon, but that generally, it’s about 5 ml. I settle on about 2 teaspoons, because I can imagine that a French grandma would just grab a coffee spoon from the drawer and call it a day. Close enough.
- As with any foreign recipe I’m trying, I need to convert centiliters to ounces, though I leave all gram measurements as is, since I can use my kitchen scale.
I want to make this thing. I head to the kitchen to see what ingredients I have on hand. I have a hard time choosing between ham, bacon, or venison sausage (which my brother-in-law gave me from his recent hunts). A lot of the recipes I found were ham-cheese-olive, but we only have sliced ham, so meh. I know that if I use frozen meat, I’ll have leftovers of it, so I start thinking about how to use up the rest. If I cook bacon, I could use it for dinner over a broccoli-cheese-rice gratin mash up. In the end, I decide to use the sausage and cook the remainder in a pasta-sausage-broccoli dish. I remember that I have some frozen green chiles and tomatoes I can add, so I thaw that out, too.
I turn on the music and get cooking. I follow the basic recipe, which is really weird in that you whisk together the eggs and flour first, then add hot milk and oil. I add the cooked sausage, cheese, and some green chiles that I’ve wrung out as dry as possible. Bake. (In the meantime, I doctor up the remaining green chiles to make my mom’s salsa recipe.)
I pull the bread out early because it looks done and a toothpick comes out clean. It’s not very tall, but it looks pretty. It cools on the counter and falls into a flat weird loaf. Sadness at the way it looks. I slice it open and taste it, and it’s heaven. It just looks weird. Commence research on why it didn’t rise. Probably not baked long enough, possibly old baking powder, possibly too little baking powder. I think of how Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would shake their heads and say, “Such a shame. The flavors are there, but this is just not a good bake.” We still devour it.
And there you have it, an obsessive person’s Sunday baking project. I’ll definitely make cake salé again, bake it longer, maybe replace my baking powder, add a bit more, stir a bit less, add different fillings. And then on to the next project. Possibly soup dumplings. :)