Sunday, June 30, 2013

Summit Avenue

St. Paul's Summit Avenue is the longest stretch of Gilded-Age mansions in the country. It is known for having a number of historic houses, churches, synagogues, and schools. The street starts just west of downtown Saint Paul and continues four and a half miles west to the Mississippi River where Saint Paul meets Minneapolis. The avenue is noted for its well-preserved examples of more than 370 of the Gilded-Age mansions on a Victorian residential boulevard. More than a dozen different architectural styles still remain today.

On weekends the historical society gives walking tours on a section of Summit Avenue to discuss the history of early St. Paul and the architecture and historic preservation of the homes.
It was an informative tour of homes that I have driven by numerous times but really never gave these mansions my full attention. Note walking by is a whole lot different than driving by.

It was interesting to note that some of the issues facing Summit Avenue include the challenges of maintenance and preservation of the mansions and carriage houses, proposals to convert mansions into town homes, condos, apartments, bed and breakfast hotels and restaurants and college expansion.

The next group of pictures were an experiment. I wanted to try using black and white since the history of Summit Avenue dates back to the early 1850's. These mansions were starting to appear on the top of hill is the earliest days of the city. The one side of the avenue that sits high on the bluffs has sweeping vistas of the city landscapes.

The tour ended with the Cathedral of St. Paul where Summit Avenue begins. The building is majestic and mammoth in size as it sits high up on the bluffs overlooking downtown St. Paul.
After a 90 minute walking tour we were able to justify the calories for this shared decadent chocolate dessert at a local restaurant. 
I have made a similar recipe to this one in the photo. The recipe below comes from a Pillsbury Bake-Off book circa 80's. It is a fudge cake with creme anglaise and a raspberry sauce swirled in the cream mixture. The challenge for me were the swirls so I just put the raspberry sauce on  top of the cake when I served it. This decadent cake is so well worth the effort.
Hazelnut Au Chocolat
  • 7 squares semi-sweet chocolate cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup butter (I used half margarine and half butter)
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 5 large eggs separated
  • 1 cup ground hazelnuts( can substitute walnuts or almonds)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 TB. sugar
  • 2 TB. Amaretto (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 250
  • Grease and dust with cocoa the bottom of a 9-1/2 spring form pan
  • In a saucepan over low heat melt chocolate and butter/margarine stirring constantly
  • Stir in sugar and mix till well dissolved
  • In small bowl beat 5 egg yolks at high speed 2-3 minutes
  • Blend a small amount of chocolate into yolks, then blend yolk mixture into chocolate cook slowly over low heat till slightly thickened 
  • Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, 2 TB. Amaretto and ground nuts-set aside
  • Beat 5 egg whites with 1/2 tsp. creme of tartar and gradually add in 2 TB. sugar
  • Beat until stiff peaks form
  • Fold egg whites into slightly cooled chocolate mixture and bake at 250 for about 1 hour and 20 minutes (the original recipe called for two hours) the recipe also states a standard toothpick is not necessarily a test of doneness for this recipe-look for edges pulling away from sides and slightly firm to the touch  
Do not over bake -when cake is cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve
Cook's notes:
The raspberry sauce can be made a day ahead, refrigerate but served at room temperature. Note the cake does not have flour as an ingredient 
Raspberry Sauce
  • 1-10 oz. frozen raspberries thawed and drained
  • 1/4 cup raspberry jam
  • 1 TB. cherry flavored liqueur
  • 1 TB. cornstarch
  • In blender puree raspberries and strain to remove seeds 
  • Add this mixture to saucepan with jam 
  • Mix 1/3 cup cold water with cornstarch use a whisk (I did have some cherry juice to use instead of water) cook on low heat till thick
  • Stir in liqueur and refrigerate-serve at room temperature over the cake
Creme Anglaise
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • In a small bowl combine 2 egg yolks and1/3 cup sugar
  • Bring cream to boil
  • Blend a small amount of cream to yolk mixture, then add yolk mixture to cream and cook on low heat 8 minutes or until custard coats a wooden stirring spoon
  • Do not let mixture boil, cool to room temperature and refrigerate till ready to use 

cake cooked in spring form pan

In this photo I skipped adding creme anglaise underneath the dessert, added strawberries to the raspberry sauce and served it over the cake.

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