THE BOOK: Chief Inspector Gamache’s family has gathered in Paris in anticipation of the birth of their daughter Annie’s second child. Instead of a peaceful family reunion, tragedy prevailed on the first night of their visit when Armand’s godfather, Stephen Horowitz, was struck by a hit and run vehicle, sending him into a drug-induced coma, and Armand into a murder investigation. One of the roadblocks he and his son-in-law, Jean Guy Beauvois, come up against is the French police’s disdain for their Canadian colleagues, dismissing them as backwater rubes.
THE BEAUTY: The locale sent Armand down memory lane as he reminisced about the trip thirty-five years prior when he brought Reine-Marie to Paris to propose marriage. He remembered the moment along the Seine at dusk, when he turned her around to catch her first glimpse of the Eiffel Tour all aglitter for its nightly light show. A beautiful and romantc memory.
THE FOOD: The hostess gift from Madame Dussault, the wife of Armand’s good friend, Claude, who happened to be the Prefect of Police, was a box bearing the logo of Patiserrie Pierre Herme. “Is it…?” queried Reine-Marie, and indeed it was! An Ispahan confection from Patisserie Pierre Herme. My version is more modest, but good. The word “ispahan” comes from a variety Damask rose, Rosa ‘Ispahan’, a type of garden rose introduced from the Middle East to Europe during the crusading 13th century. Apparently, Herme became obsessed with it, creating a recipe book full of ispahan delectables.
RASPBERRY ALMOND CAKE ISPAHAN
For the cake batter:
160 g unsalted butter, softened
110 g powdered sugar
170 g almond flour
3 large egg yolks
1 whole large egg
80 g all-purpose flour
3 large egg whites
2 ½ T granulated sugar
5 tsp whole milk
1 T rosewater or rosewater syrup
For the white chocolate and dried raspberry glaze
7 oz white chocolate
1 ½ tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 oz chopped freeze-dried raspberries
Preheat oven to 355º F. Sift almond flour and powdered sugar into a medium bowl and set aside. Sift all-purpose flour into another bowl and put aside as well.
To make the cake batter, beat softened butter and almond flour/sugar mixture 3 minutes, using an electric mixer Add a whole egg with egg yolks and whisk 2 minutes. Then add milk mixed with rosewater and beat 1 minute again. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites (not too firm), gradually adding granulated sugar. Delicately add egg whites to the cake batter, incorporating flour at the same time. Mix with a starting from the center, from bottom to top. Don’t overfold! It is better to underfold than overfold.
Butter a nonstick loaf pan and dust with flour. Garnish the cake pan with ⅓ of the almond-rose batter and smooth out. Arrange fresh raspberries away from edges. Then cover raspberries with another ⅓ of batter. Add berries again at a distance from the edges. Pour ⅓ of the remaining batter over fresh raspberries.
Lower the oven temperature to 300 ºF and bake for 1 hour 30 minutes or until a knife can be inserted and removed cleanly without streaks of batter. Unmold the cake immediately after baking and allow to cool to room temperature.
To make the white chocolate and dried raspberry glaze, melt white chocoloate in a microwave in 3 (30-second) intervals, stirring between each melt. Add grapeseed oil, chopped freeze-dried raspberries and gently mix. Let the glaze cool down to 86º F maximum, otherwise, it will be too runny to stick to the surface of the cake.
To decorate the cake, transfer the loaf to a wire rack placed on top of a tray. Pour the glaze over the cake.
Make sure that all ingredients are at room temperature. Take the butter out of the fridge two hours before you start baking.
Slightly beat egg whites (not too firm).
Use only fresh raspberries since the frozen ones are too watery to make the cake.