14 April 2010

One Kilo of Sweet Relief

Quatre quarts. It's French for "four quarters."  Alannah decided this past weekend that she'd bake a quatre-quarts cake, and when I finished sorting through a year's worth of papers to prepare for doing our taxes last night, we decided to celebrate by doing it. Making the cake, that is.

Tonight, after finishing the US portion of our taxes, we ate it.

No, I don't know why we have to file for and pay taxes in the US when we no longer live there, and likely will not get any American benefit unless I bake roofie-cupcakes for a 13 year-old and have to hide from extradition, Polanski-style.

Quatre-quarts cake with strawberry, mango and crème fraîche.
You may be looking at that picture and saying, "That looks like poundcake!" And you'd be mostly right. Except it's a kilo, dammit. Whereas a poundcake takes a pound of each ingredient, a quatre-quarts involves a quarter kilo (250g) each of flour, sugar and butter, and 3 eggs. (Large French eggs weigh in at around 80g, for a total of 240g, but since we buy ours more or less out of the chicken's butt, there's a ~15g margin of error. Not a big deal.)

But is it poundcake with the same ratio but a different base amount?  Not quite.

'Cuz it's metric.

That and for a quart-quarts, you're going to separate your eggs first. The yolks get mixed in with the butter and the flour to form a pretty heavy paste.

The whites must be whipped 'til fluffy, forming stiff peaks. The eggs are then whisked (or rather, beaten, as it's not a delicate receiver) into the rest of the batter. This seems bass-ackward and pointless when doing it.

It'd probably be much easier with a stand mixer, but you don't wanna know how much a KitchenAid Pro costs around here... Maybe if we get a good tax refund?

Then, as with a poundcake, you pour it into a loaf pan, but – one more difference – you pop it into a hotter (200ºc/400ºF) oven for less time (40-45 minutes). The outside will (alarmingly) brown and turn crispy, while the cake inside will be much lighter and airier than that of a poundcake.

In fact, the poundcake and quatre-quarts serve as a perfect analogy for American vs. French. One is generally pale and heavy, while the other is much lighter but often sports an (alarmingly) accelerated tan.

We chose to have our overly-bronzed blonde with fresh strawberries and mango, with even fresher crème fraîche from our local cheesemonger/milkmaid.

Fluffing egg whites by hand and then incorporating them into a thick dough wasn't easy, but take our word, it's much more fun – and worthwhile – than trying to figure out your Foreign Income Alternative Minimum Tax For Stimulus Credit... or whatever the hell it is we just did.

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