Friday, November 12, 2010

FFwD: Caramel-topped Semolina Cake

Like the Vietnamese soup we made last month, this week's French Friday's with Dorie recipe is a recipe I wouldn't have ever tried unless dared to. I wasn't a bit scared this week, though, since that soup was the best soup I've ever made. If you haven't made it yet for yourself, would you please go out and buy Dorie's book and make that soup? Thank you.

Essentially, a semolina cake is a cross between a flan and something else--maybe a bread pudding as someone else suggested? It's moist and it's eggy, and just the tiniest bit rubbery.

Or maybe that was just mine. This dessert was not a stellar success. As much as I love Dorie, and as much time as I've spent captivated by this book, I'm beginning to notice the flaws. Now, don't get me wrong! Flaws are the mother of uniqueness, and there isn't anything creepier in my mind than an air-brushed makeup model in bigger-than-life size on the back of a magazine. I relish the flaws in my life--maybe even more-so than the perfections at times. But, that doesn't mean they don't exasperate me as well!

So, the instructions for this recipe call for the addition of Cream of Wheat cereal to hot milk, and cooking until thickened. Anyone knows, or at least anyone who's ever made cooked cereal knows, that the process starts as a liquid and can be taken all the way to a solid.


At what point is it "thickened?" I wish the book contained more clarity in its instructions, especially in recipes that are most likely unfamiliar with her audience. Do I stop cooking the cereal when it still pours off the spoon, or when it sticks to the spoon, or when the cereal will support the spoon standing straight up out of the pot?

Here's where I stopped:

This cake has a caramel top. Rather, this cake has a caramel bottom. Wait. This cake is baked with caramel on the bottom, but is flipped over for presentation, so the top is caramel.

Duck's Ditty! How'd that go? Ducks' tails, drakes' tails, yellow feet a quiver, yellow bills all out of sight, busy in the river... Something like that? Good ol' Grahame!

To ease the dispersal of the caramel evenly over the entire bottom of the pan, the pan is first heated in the oven. This idea is so brilliant. I could have used this idea before, and will definitely use it again.

(Sticky buns, I'm talking to you!)

The batter is dumped over-top the caramel, and the whole mess baked about a half hour.

Not the most stellar-looking dessert ever... and not the tastiest dessert ever.

Somehow, though, I'm a bit inspired to try it again. I'd like to see the difference between the regular sugar version and a brown sugar version. I also think a bit of orange flavor would help a lot. I see this recipe heading in a lot of directions, but the first stop ought to be a re-write of it's own directions.

Next week's challenge is Potato Gratin. A dish I'm more familiar with, a dish where the vagaries are old friends. I can't wait!


  1. This recipe actually won me over even though I was very reluctant to make it. I agree with you - I love the tip about warming it in the oven to make swirling the caramel easier. I will definitely remember that one. I'm sorry you didn't have a good experience making it, but I am glad that you want to try it again. I think trying it with brown sugar is an excellent idea!

  2. "Flaws are the mother of uniqueness" - Wonderful!

    I love messy desserts, and would love to try this. I like your ideas about brown sugar and orange too.

  3. I grew up in New Mexico but could never really get behind flan. Fried ice cream? Now that's a whole other story - yum! I've been eyeing a semolina cake recipe but since JD can't have much in the way of sweets, I'm not sure when I'll try it.

    Thanks for checking in, btw. I just haven't been inspired to write much lately. The blah of a PNW fall has me in it's grip. Hope you and yours are well!

  4. One of the reasons that I enjoyed cooking from the Bread Bakers Apprentice was that I was never confused as to the directions.

    I am not going to make this cake, it does not appeal to me, except for the caramel.