Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Potatoes au Gratin 101

Mmmm, creamy, melt in your mouth potatoes au gratin.  In France you would be making Gratin Dauphinois, where in the French Alps (the origin of this recipe) you would be cooking the potatoes in earthenware pots on the hearth.  This is our go-to recipe for potatoes au gratin.

It comes from this cookbook that I've had for about 17 years.  It is a collection of recipes by Monique and Patrick Esquerré.  Patrick founded the la Madeleine French Bakery in Dallas in 1983 (no, the Basil Tomato Soup recipe is not in this book).  Monique is his mother and is a cookbook author in France; and these are her, and generations of her family before her, recipes.   This recipe is just one of the many reasons I love this book.  It's not only full of unbelievably fabulous recipes from the Loire Valley of France; it's also an interesting read.

Okay, I'm getting off topic here.

This past weekend Lovey and I went to my brother and sister-in-law's home for a Memorial Day celebration.  It's always fun to fellowship at Jim and Amy's.  There is always good food, good wine, and great family and friends.  The best part is sitting around their big table and eating, laughing, and telling all sorts of stories that I wish I had on tape.

But before I get to the recipe I just have to show you another reason why getting together with a lot of family is just so much fun...Babies.  And right now we have two of the cutest!


And Eva

Okay ~ now I'll get to this recipe.

One of the dishes Lovey and I brought to the celebration were these potatoes.  And let me tell ya folks, if you want people's eyes to roll back in their heads and ask who made the potatoes, just make these...but make a lot!

Here are some reasons this recipe is fun to make....

You get to use really dangerous pieces of kitchen equipment:
Slice the potatoes thin.  See how perfect mine are?  I just have this fabulous skill with knives.  Not really.  I use a mandoline; which is a very handy tool in the kitchen.  But NOT one to teach your toddler how to use.  Sacre bleu, I know adults I wouldn't allow near this piece of equipment!  It is S.H.A.R.P.

You get to slather your gratin dish or baking dish with soft butter then rub it down with sliced garlic:
And just think, these flavors will seep into the potatoes as they bake in the oven.

You get to use the too cute mini grater that's used for grating whole nutmeg and whole nutmeg only:
Christanne gave it to me.  I love it.  It even lives in the spice drawer next to the tin of nutmeg.

You get to actual BOIL milk and simmer cream:
Now, I ask many recipes actually let you to boil and then simmer the milk and cream.  And what's even better, the potatoes are slowly simmering in this heavenly concoction.

I think I've given you enough reasons to make this, just for these cooking pleasures alone.  Wait until you experience the pleasure of eating these!

Here they are on Jim and Amy's table, waiting to be devoured.  As you can see someone has been sampling before the meal got under way...that was me.  And, it was at my house way before we loaded it into the car.  I just couldn't wait.  And since I am the cook, I can do that.

Potatoes au Gratin
From From a French Country Kitchen by Monique Esquerré and Patrick Esquerré
Serves 4

1 bay leaf
1 cup of milk
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided use
Salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper to taste
Grated fresh nutmeg to taste
1 cup heavy cream
1 pound potatoes
1 clove garlic
2/3 cup grated Gruyère cheese

Mise en place:
  • measure out milk into a Dutch oven
  • peel potatoes and slice very thin
  • peel garlic and slice in half, lengthwise
  • measure out cream
  • grate cheese
Boil milk with bay leaf in saucepan, taking care not to let it boil over.  Preheat oven to 325°F

Add 3 Tbsp butter, salt, pepper, grated nutmeg, cream, and potatoes to the pan with the hot milk.  Simmer, stirring from time to time with a wooden spoon to separate potatoes.  Cook 20 minutes or until just tender.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Grease an au gratin dish with remaining 1 Tbsp. of butter.  Rub dish with cut piece of garlic.  Pour in potatoe mixture and sprinkle with grated Gruyère cheese.

Bake potatoes for 40-45 minutes.  If surface of potato mixture is not browned sufficiently, place under broiler for about 3 minutes.  Remove and let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

 A quote from the book that, I must say, Jim and Amy do very well:
French Maxim -
To invite people into your home is to take charge of their happiness during the time they are under your roof.

Thanks for such a wonderful day Jim and Amy!!

Potato Stuffed Puff Pastry Squares

If you are looking for a nice side dish, especially for a chicken entree, I think you will like this one.  It would also be nice for brunch served alongside a tossed salad.

It's seasoned to pair well with poultry, it's not difficult to prepare and can be prepared ahead of time, it's filling, and will give your plate an elegant flare.

This clipping was pulled from a Winter of 1997 Penzey's spice catalogue.  The ingredients call for Italian Herb Mix.  If you don't have one already you can always make your own.  You have a wide choice of herbs to pick from; oregano, basil, marjoram, thyme, sage, and rosemary.  You don't have to have all of those in your blend; in fact, for this particular recipe, if your rosemary is not finely ground I would omit rosemary from your blend.  There just isn't enough cooking time and moisture in this to soften the rosemary; you don't want to bite into what feels like tough pieces  of grass.  It's a texture thing with me.

One suggestion might be 2 tsp. each of basil, marjoram and oregano and 1 tsp. of sage.  Blend that together and you'll use 2 tsp. of the blend in the recipe.

A very important step in this recipe is to eliminate the moisture from the potato and broccoli mixture once they are tender.  The last thing you want is an overly moist, runny stuffing.

There are leeks and mushrooms that nicely flavor the stuffing.

Throw the leek & mushrooms in with the potato/broccoli mixture along with the herbs, part of the milk & Parmesan cheese.

Grab a potato masher and take your pent up frustrations out on your stuffing.  I like it somewhat chunky but you can make it as smooth as you like.

Placing the stuffing and fontina on the pastry squares

 Sealed, painted with the egg-milk mixture and ready for the oven.

See how I shaped the mounds of stuffing into a round mound?  You can also make them square.

I had a good 1/2 cup of filling left over.  I could have used a little more in each square but the recipe suggested to err on the side of too little stuffing.  So I erred.

I was afraid the filling was going to be too dry, but the fontina added just the right amount of moisture and flavor.

Make only what you need.  Puff pastry is just not the same as a leftover.

Potato Stuffed Puff Pastry Squares
Adapted from Penzey's
Serves 4

1 lb. (2 sheets) puff pastry, frozen
1 medium potato
1/2 cup broccoli stems
2 tsp. Italian herb mix
1/2 tsp. granulated garlic
1 Tbsp. water
1/4 lb. mushrooms (a large handful)
1 regular-sized leek
2 tsp. olive oil
4 Tbsp. milk, divided
2 Tbsp. Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 lb. fontina cheese
1 egg

Mise en place:
  • remove puff pastry sheets from the box and inner bag, let thaw at room temperature while preparing stuffing
  • peel & quarter potatoes
  • peel the stems (also known as 'trunks' when I was a wee lass) of the broccoli and chop into small pieces
  • combine the herb mix, garlic & water and set aside
  • with a paper towel, wipe mushrooms clean and roughly chop
  • slice the leek in half lengthwise.  Peeling back layers, rinse thoroughly to remove any sand.  Slice white part only into thin slices
  • measure out 2 Tbsp. milk
  • grate Parmesan cheese
  • slice fontina in 1/4" thick slices
  • beat egg in small dish with remaining 2 Tbsp. milk
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Cook potato in boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes.  Toss the broccoli pieces in with the potatoes during the last 5 minutes of the potato's cooking time.

In a large fry pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and leeks.  Cook, stirring, until the mushrooms and leeks are soft and just a bit golden, (about 4 minutes), remove from heat.

Drain the water from the potato and broccoli.  Cover pan with a lid and let dry over low heat for a minute.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Add the mushroom/leek mixture, the 2 Tbsp. reserved milk, Parmesan cheese, the herb mixture, salt & pepper.

Mash with a hand masher until the desired consistency is reached (a little chunky is nice, but you can make it totally creamy if you like).  Let cool a bit.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper so the pastries don't stick during baking.

Lightly flour a work surface large enough to spread out the two sheets of puff pastry.  Lay the pastry out, sprinkle with flour and roll lightly with a rolling pin just to even out the creases.  Turn the pastries over, sprinkling a bit more flour on the work surface if the dough seems to be sticking.  Divide each large square into four equal smaller squares.

Place a large spoonful of the stuffing mixture in the middle of four of the pastry squares, leaving the outer inch of pastry bare.  Top each mound of stuffing with two slices of fontina cheese each.

Working with one square at a time, brush a bit of the egg-milk mix around the outside edge of the dough (using a pastry brush), and place another square on top, gently molding the square around the top and base of the stuffing.  Run your finger around the outside edge to seal the two pieces of dough together.  The object is to have as much stuffing on the inside as possible, without having so much that you can't get a good seal on the dough and the filling oozes out during cooking.

After filling, topping, and lightly sealing the edges of all four squares, press for tines around the edges in a nice pattern, making a good seal.  Poke a hole in the top with the fork, then brush the entire top sheet with the egg-milk mixture.

Using a spatula, place the pastries on the baking sheet and into the oven for about fifteen minutes, until golden brown.

Remove the pan from the oven and the pastries from the pan, using a spatula, then let cool for a few minutes before serving.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Roasted Baby Beets

Beets don't usually receive many popularity votes in the vegetable world.  Chef Tyler Brown of the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville could very well change someone's opinion after they taste these baby beets.
I was only able to find golden beets in the baby variety.  The dish would be extra attractive with a combination of the golden and deep purple babies.  But at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter what color these tasty little tidbits are; they're just darn good.

This is all you need for this easy to prepare side dish

After cleaning and trimming the tops and bottoms of the beets place them in a baking dish.  Dot the beets with the butter, pour your liquid mixture over it all, toss the herbs in and cover tightly with foil.

You'll bake these for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.

The beets get a little sauté, then the reserved pan juices are added and will thicken up nicely.

Garnish with a little chopped parsley, chopped roasted hazelnuts & crumbled ricotta salata cheese.  Brilliant.

I nicked a bite of beet directly out of the oven and the broth mixture they cooked in flavored them so nicely.  I could have eaten them straight from the baking dish.

Roasted Baby Beets
Adapted from Southern Living recipe by Chef Tyler Brown - Oct. 2011
Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds baby beets
4 Tbsp. butter, cut into pieces
1 cup vegetable broth - I made from Knorr broth cubes
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
3 fresh thyme sprigs
3 fresh parsley sprigs
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Toppings:  chopped roasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped fresh parsley, crumbled ricotta salata cheese

Mise en place:
  • if using for topping, roast hazelnuts in oven and let cool completely, then roughly chop
  • remove tops and ends of beets; wash beets
  • make vegetable broth
  • measure out honey
  • measure out vinegar
  • wash and dry herbs
  • cut up butter
  • measure out olive oil into large skillet
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Place cleaned beets in an 11 x 7-inch baking dish.  dot with butter.  Stir together broth and next 6 ingredients; pour over beets.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil.  Bake 1 hour and 15 minutes or until tender.  Remove beets, reserving 1/4 cup of the pan juices.  Cool beets for about 15 minutes;  peel and quarter (note:  the baby golden beets did not need peeling).

Cook beets in hot oil in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly browned.  Pour reserved pan juices over beets; increase heat to medium-high.  Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until liquid is reduced to about 1 Tbsp.

Serve with desired toppings.

Ingredient information:  Ricotta salata is made from fresh Ricotta that has been pressed, salted and aged for about 3 months.  It's dryness, saltiness and the way it crumbles reminds me of an Italian version of Feta

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Roast Chicken 101

Mmmmm....such a heavenly meal to make.  Easy, scrumptious and an essential for every cook's repertoire.  Oven roasted chicken is slightly different each time it is made in our house.  After understanding and learning the basic techniques to properly roast the chicken, the world is your oyster as far as all the different takes on it.  My 'take' is determined by what mood I'm in and whatever is in the pantry and refrigerator at the time I'm preparing it.

This, like a pot roast, is a dish that becomes your own.  This is the way I do it; today anyway.

The primary ingredient, quite obviously, is your chicken.  Select a whole chicken by weight according to how many people you are wanting to feed and also keep in mind how many leftovers you would like to have.  I happened to buy a six pounder for today's chicken.  After our evening meal Lovey and I will have some nice leftovers.

Remove the giblets from the body cavity and under very hot water quickly rinse the chicken, inside and out.  Set aside and dry the bird inside and out with paper towels.

After salting the cavity these are what's going inside the cavity today.  This is one area that you can get creative.  Put anything you want in there.  I just happen to have a lime, garlic and some oregano from the garden.

A little off-topic for a moment if I may....have you noticed how Jamie Oliver, Lorraine Pascale, and Nigella Lawson pronounce oregano?  They say oregano accenting the 3rd syllable, whereas we, on this side of the pond, put the emphasis on the 2nd syllable pronouncing it oregano.  I love putting the accent on the 3rd syllable.  It makes it a fun word to say.

When it comes to trussing the bird I normally tuck the wings underneath the chicken (if you're a wrestler think half nelson) and then just tie the legs together.  This chicken had its elbows clipped so there was nothing to tuck under; and that necessitated a more complete truss.

I started with about 5 feet of kitchen twine.  Place the twine across the top of the breast, bringing it down over the wings that are lying up against the side of the bird.

Turn the bird over and twist the twine

and turn the bird back over bringing the string back around to the top and bring it forward, drawing the string into the crevice between the leg and the body.

Now, take the twine under the ends of the legs and twist around a couple of times until tight and knot off.

If you don't have a rack to place in the bottom of your roasting pan you can make one by using your aromatics; slice your onions thick, surround with carrots and celery then plop your chicken right on top.  I have a rack so I placed my aromatics all around the bird.  This time around I used onion, garlic, celery, carrots,

Massage the bird with a tablespoon of softened butter or olive oil and she's ready to go!  Sometimes I pour a little white wine or broth in the bottom of the pan; sometimes I don't.  It's that mood thing again.

One of the nice conveniences about roasting a chicken is that you can prepare it ahead of time up to this point .  Cover it with foil and stick in the refrigerator until you are ready to pop in the oven.

Place your chicken in the oven that has been preheated to 425°F.  Brown for 15 minutes then turn the oven to 350°F for the remaining of your cooking time.

Some chickens, like this one, came with a built-in thermometer but I don't rely on them because half the time they never pop up at all (which it didn't this time).  A good rule of thumb on cooking time is 20 to 25 minutes per pound.   You can always use your own thermometer, checking the temperature to around 165°F and see if the juices run clear.  I stick the thermometer into the thigh, making sure the thermometer is not touching bone.

During your cooking time, baste the breast occasionally with butter, wine, broth, or juices from the pan.  Your call on this as well.  If your chicken is getting to dark yet still has quite a bit of cooking time to go, tent the pan with foil.

When the chicken is done let it rest at least 10 minutes before snipping of the trussing and carving.

Oh, and please allow the cook to take a photo of the finished product before slicing up your dinner.  Thank you.

Roast Chicken

1 whole roasting chicken
lemon or lime
fresh herbs
butter or olive oil (about a Tbsp + some if using for basting as well)

Mise en place:
  • rinse and pat dry the chicken, inside and out
  • Peel and cut onion
  • peel and slice carrots
  • slice celery stalks
  • poke citrus with a fork several times
  • peel and smash garlic cloves
Salt inside of bird cavity and place citrus, garlic and herbs inside.  Truss bird and place on rack in a large roasting pan, breast side up.  Place onion, carrots, celery, garlic and herbs all around the chicken.  Message the soft butter or olive oil all over the top and sides of the chicken.

Roast in a 425°F oven for 15 minutes.  Turn heat to 350°F and roast 20 to 25 minutes per pound (my 6 pounder took a little over 2 hours).  Baste frequently and tent with foil if the bird is getting too brown.

When a thermometer stuck into the thigh of the bird reads 165°F and the juices run clear, remove from oven and let rest 10 to 15 minutes before carving.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Pastel de Tres Leches - Celebration Cake

Pastel de Tres Leches - the cake of three milks.  I have never been a big fan of Tres Leches cake.  I never heard of it until I moved to Texas and I've only had it a couple of times.  My issue with it has always been that the prominent taste is sweetened condensed milk; which I'm not super crazy about.

Also called Celebration Cake as it is, according to Rick Bayless, "..the special-occasion cake in Mexico". And what better reason to celebrate than Mother's Day? I'd say that's a pretty special occasion wouldn't you? It's also "For Mom" week at I Heart Cooking Clubs

I was intrigued by Rick Bayless' version that uses "cajeta" instead of sweetened condensed milk.  Never heard of cajeta before?  Neither had I.  It's goat-milk caramel.  And it's wonderful.  And it's sweet.  And it's easy to make at home.  Evidently, you can purchase it at the store, but I enjoy making ingredients myself.

It's made with goat milk, corn syrup, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda and cream sherry.

Trying my hand at making cajeta was not the only reason I chose to make this cake.  There are wonderful things Rick did with this cake like use roasted almonds to add texture to the sponge cake; giving the 3-milk mixture a bit of a custardiness by using heavy cream in place of the standard whole milk; frosting it with whipped cream; and, perfuming everything with orange.

When you read through the directions for this recipe it can be overwhelming because there are so many facets within the recipe; there is the cake, the flavoring and the frosting.  There are a lot of things that can be done ahead for this cake and that would certainly make it easier.  Such was the case with me.

One evening I made the cajeta.

The cajeta takes the place of the sweetened condensed milk.  You can use whole milk to make this sweet reduction too but it just isn't the same as using goat's milk.  The reduction becomes this wonderfully sweet, thick caramel sauce.

After bringing the milk, sugar, corn syrup and cinnamon stick to a boil you add the baking soda that's been dissolved with a little bit of water.  The mixture is then returned to the heat to simmer until reduced to a caramel brown syrup.  There's a lot of stirring but it will be well worth it.

Your next step is to strain it into a large measuring cup. 

After it cools down a bit add your cream sherry, brandy or rum.

You should have 1-1/2 cups of the milky, syrupy concoction that you can put into a Mason jar and store in the refrigerator.  Cajeta will keep a month or more when refrigerated.

The next night I roasted the almonds.  Once they were cooled I processed them with the cake flour until they were finely pulverized.

The next evening I made the cake. 

One of the first things you'll do is to brown your butter.  And before I go any further, when I opened my box of butter I actually was taken a-back by these cute little things that fell out of the box.  They are 4 tablespoon half sticks.  I personally don't see the purpose but they're cute aren't they? 

OK, back to the browning the butter you are adding some really special flavor to the sponge cake.  Rick credits this sponge cake method to Rose Levy Beranbaum in her book The Cake Bible.  (If you want to really learn how to learn any and all things about cake baking I recommend this book---it is one that I reference all the time).

After your butter browns and it cools a bit, add the vanilla and set aside.

Bring the 1" of water in the bottom of your double boiler to a simmer and whisk the eggs, part of the sugar and the orange zest until they are foamy and very warm.  At that point, transfer to the bowl of your electric mixer and beat for a full 5 minutes.

When the egg mixture is very thick turn the mixer to the lowest speed and add 2 tablespoons of the flour-almond mixture at a time and mix until just incorporated until all the flour-almond mixture is added.

Add a good 1/4 cup of the batter to the cooled butter and whisk until completely incorporated.

Next you'll pour the butter mixture into the batter in two additions, folding each addition with a whisk.  Pour it into your prepared cake pan.  Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is springy and the sides begin to pull away from the pan.

While the cake is baking, mix up your 3-milk mixture and stick it in the fridge.  Tres Leches !!!!!  Can you roll the 'r'?  I don't do it very well.

Cool for 10 minutes in the pan then turn out onto a cooling rack.

Once the cake has cooled completely, and is still upside down on the cooling rack, slowly brush or spoon 1/2 of the 3-milk mixture onto the cake.  It's a slow process so be patient.  Let each addition soak in before you add more.  It is amazing how this sponge cake soaks up this mixture! 

When the cake has absorbed 1/2 of the mixture, place your serving plate over the cake and carefully turn over.  Now you can slowly apply the remaining milk mixture to the top of the cake.

Prepare your frosting by beating the heavy cream, sugar and orange liqueur (I used Cointreau) until very stiff.

Spread the frosting over the cake.  If you like, pipe some of it through a decorative tube.  I didn't because I took it to work and frosted it there.

Lovey and I can’t eat a whole cake and we really don’t eat a lot of sweets anyway. I can always count on my co-workers to take care of anything I bring to office for them to eat.  Not only are they brave to try something I've never tasted myself, I appreciate their feed back.

This is a cake where you will really thank the Lord above if you practice the mise en place method. It will be so wild if you don't. It's one of those recipes that benefits from reading through several times and having everything ready to go.

Now -- with all of this information overload on how I made Pastel de Tres Leches, I give you Rick's recipe.  Own it.

Cajeta - Goat Milk Caramel
Adapted from Rick Bayless' Mexican Kitchen
Makes 1-1/2 cups

1 quart goat's milk
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 inch cinnamon stick (preferably Mexican canela)
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp cream sherry, brandy or rum

Mise en place
  • Measure out milk, sugar, corn syrup and cinnamon into a 4 quart heavy pot or Dutch oven
  • Measure out baking soda and mix with 1 Tbsp of water
  • Measure out liquor or your choice
Stir together your milk, sugar corn syrup and cinnamon stick in a medium-size (4 quart) heavy pot or Dutch oven.  Bring to a boil.  Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the baking soda mixture, having a spoon ready to stir the mixture down if it bubbles up.  Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until the mixture thickens into a pale-gold syrup, about 25 minutes.  At this point, begin stirring very frequently as the mixture thickens into a caramel-brown syrup that's the consistency of maple syrup, about 10 minutes longer.

Strain the cajeta through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large measuring cup.  Let cool for a few minutes, then stir in the sherry, rum or brandy (plus a little water, if necessary, to bring it to 1-1/2 cups).  Refrigerate covered.  When coled, the cajeta should have the consistency of thin corn syrup.

Celebration Cake - Pastel de Tres Leches
Adapted from Rick Bayless' Mexican Kitchen
Serves 12 - 15

For the Cake -
3/4 cup (about 3 ounces) whole blanched almonds
1 cup (3-1/2 ounces) cake flour, sifted before measuring
10 Tbsp (5 ounces) unsalted butter
1-1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
finely grated zest (colored rind only) of 1 orange

For the Flavoring -
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2/3 cup cajeta

For the Frosting -
1-1/4 cups heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup orange liqueur

Mise en place:
  • preheat oven to 325°F. 
  • prepare the cake pan
  • measure out almonds
  • sift flour & measure out into food processor bowl
  • cut butter up and place in small saucepan
  • measure out vanilla
  • crack eggs into a bowl
  • measure out sugar
  • zest the orange
  • fill bottom of double boiler with 1" of water
  • mix all ingredients for the flavoring in small bowl and store in refrigerator
  • measure ingredients for frosting
Grease a 2-inch deep, 10-inch round cake pan or springform pan.  Line the bottom with a round of parchment paper, then grease the paper and flour it all - pan and paper.  Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven, stirring them occasionally, for about 12 minutes, until aromatic and golden.  Cool, then transfer to a food processor along with the flour.  run the machine until the nuts are pulverized.
In a small pan, melt the butter over medium heat, stirring and swirling until nut brown, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat, cool a little, then stir in the vanilla.  Raise the temperature of the oven to 350°F.
Bring the water in the bottom of the double boiler to a simmer.  Combine the eggs, sugar and the orange zest in the top of a double boiler (you'll need to regulate the heat so the water no more than simmers), and whisk for several minutes, until the mixture is very warm to the touch and foamy, and the sugar is completely dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat for a full 5 minutes (the mixture will be as thick as whipped cream that almost holds peaks). 
With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the almond-flour mixture a couple of spoonfuls at a time, letting one addition just disappear before adding the next.
Thoroughly mix 1/4 cup of the cake batter into the butter mixture.  Then, in 2 additions, use a whisk to fold the butter mixture into the remaining cake batter.
Immediately and gently scoop the mixture into the prepared pan and bake until the cake feels slightly springy on top and the sides just begin to pull away from the pan, about 35 minutes.  Cool 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.
Remove the bowl of the three milk mixture from the refrigerator and slowly brush or spoon half of the mixture over the cake while it is still on the cooling rack.  Carefully invert your serving plate over the cake and flip the two.  Remove the cooling rack from what is now the top and slowly brush or spoon on the remaining mixture.  (Soaking the cake will take 10 to 15 minutes, letting each addition soak in before adding more.)
With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the 1-1/4 cups of the whipping cream, 2 Tbsp sugar and the orange liqueur until very stiff.  Spread the whipped cream over the sides and top of the cake.  Save a little to pip a border around the top and bottom edges of the cake.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
I'm sharing this at IHCC