I think I might have mentioned this to her but I can't remember. Though I had heard of Sam's blog, Love Comma Cake a few years ago, I actually learned a lot about her through a cooking school orientation I attended at the International Culinary Center in Campbell, CA. At the end of the orientation and a wonderful walk through the entire pastry school (and even attending a class), we were given a little book by the school's founder Dorothy Cann Hamilton called "Love What You Do: Building A Career in the Culinary Industry". The book is a great resources for anyone who is interested in going to culinary school and in it, you get a lot of realistic experiences (which I appreciated) shared by people who attended cooking school, the good, the bad and the ugly. I noticed a familiar name in the book, Samantha Seneviratne! Sam shares her work schedule from her time at Martha Stewart, how she starts her day, what she does and how she ends it. It was fascinating. I wanted to work with Sam, learn from her and bake with her. That didn't happen but I did get to meet Sam earlier this year at the Saveur food blog awards in Brooklyn. And she is one of the nicest and sweetest bakers you will ever meet!
A few months ago, Sam's new book The New Sugar and Spice came out. Not only is it beautiful and full of delicious desserts to prepare but it's also a keeper because the recipes work. I started to imagine myself in a patisserie baking away to my heart's content as I flipped through the pages in her book. Sam uses a wide variety of spices in her desserts but there is an exquisteness in her technique. You can feel it when you cook through her recipes and when you eat them.
I've baked a few of her desserts from her book but her take on the tres leche cake caught my eye from day one. I love it so much that I've made it three times (the third run was for work). Four parts of milk and enough blackberries, this cake is comfort sweetness at its best. Though this might not be a dessert you'd traditionally think of eating during the Christmas holidays, you should make it because you'll probably want to eat this milk drenched cake on every single day of the year!
sam's blackberry cuatro leches (from The New Sugar and Spice - Samantha Seneviratne)
yields: 12 servings
unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
12 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) fresh blackberries
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour (I used whole-wheat pastry flour in the same weight)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup + 3/4 cup whole milk
1 vanilla bean split and seeds scraped
3/4 cup condensed milk
3/4 cup evaporated milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan.
2. Cut 6 ounces of blackberries in half lengthwise and set aside.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar on medium speed until pale and thick, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in 1/3 cup of the whole milk and the vanilla seeds. Beat in the flour mixture, just until combined.
4. In a large bowl, with clean beaters, whip the egg whites until foamy and the yellowish hue has disappeared, about 1 minute. Slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar while beating and continue to beat the mixture until you have shiny, medium-stiff peaks, about 2 minutes. Stir one quarter of the egg white mixture into the flour mixture to loosen it. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold the remaining egg whites into the batter.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and scatter the halved blackberries on top. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 5 minutes.
6. Meanwhile in a medium bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 cup whole milk, the condensed milk, the evaporated milk, the heavy cream, and the vanilla extract. Cut around the edges of the cakes. With a toothpick, poke holes all over the cake and let it soak in. Then pour another 1 cup over the cake. Cover and chill the cake for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
6. Serve slices of the cake with the remaining milk mixture and remaining blackberries. Store leftovers, well-wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.