AUGUST 20, 2012

MEET THE SOUS CHEF

MARJORIE MEEK-BRADLEY, CHEF DE CUISINE, GRAFFIATO

Perhaps it was her father’s Top Ramen Surprise that compelled Marjorie Meek-Bradley to become a chef. Dad’s creation--a stir-fry made with noodles, leftover meat and vegetables, an egg, and the contents of the ramen-seasoning packet--is one of the Graffiato chef de cuisine’s favorite food memories.

Born and raised in Ukiah, California, Meek-Bradley has lived in New York, Sweden and Napa, and now calls Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood home. At Graffiato, she works with longtime friend (and former Top Chef hopeful) Mike Isabella, whom she met when they were both cooking at Marcus Samuelsson’s Washington Square restaurant in Philadelphia.

Meek-Bradley’s early formal culinary training was in baking and pastry, a foundation that has served her well. Graffiato has no pastry chef, so it’s Meek-Bradley’s job to create the dessert recipes in addition to the savory dishes. For Sous Chef Series, she made a sponge cake topped with roasted peaches, the ultimate summer dessert.

TRACK THIS CHEF

Marjorie Meek-Bradley's:
See Recipe See the recipe for Marjorie Meek-Bradley's Roasted Peach Sponge Cake with Cardamom-Whipped Mascarpone

DAY IN THE LIFE

TIPS & TECHNIQUES

Egg Advice

Meek-Bradley advises baking with room-temperature eggs, particularly when making desserts like sponge cakes, soufflés or meringues. Her reasoning: Not only are room-temperature eggs easier to separate, but they also beat up fluffier, and in less time.

Grease-Free

When making her sponge cake, Meek-Bradley doesn’t grease the pan, which could cause the cake batter to deflate. Batter clings to the walls of an ungreased pan, climbing higher, ultimately resulting in a fluffy, airy cake. But for beginning bakers, using a nonstick cake pan (or lightly greasing it, as we recommend in the recipe) provides extra insurance against sticking.

MAKE THE
Roasted Peach Sponge Cake with Cardamom-Whipped Mascarpone

YIELD

One 9-inch cake

INGREDIENTS

Cake

Unsalted butter, 3½ tablespoons at room temperature

Large egg yolks, 12

Large eggs, 4

Granulated sugar, 1½ cups

Cake flour, 1½ cups plus 1½ tablespoons

Ripe peaches, 3 (halved and pitted)

Dark brown sugar, ⅔ lightly packed cup

Water, ¼ cup

Frosting

Mascarpone cheese, ¾ cup

Heavy cream, 1½ cups

Ground cardamom, 2¼ teaspoons

EQUIPMENT

Two round or square 9-inch cake pans

Parchment paper

Scissors

Chef’s knife or a paring knife

Stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment

Mixing bowls

Measuring cups and spoons

Fine-mesh sieve

Whisk

Rubber spatula

Cake tester or toothpick

Oven mitts

Wire cooling rack

Small plate

Cutting board

Large skillet

Wooden spoon

Metal spatula

Cake plate or a large rimless plate for the cake

Offset metal spatula or butter knife

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Place a cake pan on top of a sheet of parchment paper and trace around its edge to make a parchment circle. Cut the circle out and set aside. Repeat so you have 2 paper circles. Lightly grease the cake pans with

  • 2 tablespoons butter (1 tablespoon per pan)

Fit 1 parchment circle into each cake pan, then turn the paper over so the greased side faces up. Set the pans aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, place the

  • Egg yolks
  • Whole eggs

Beat on medium, and in a slow and steady stream, add

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar

Increase mixer speed to high, and whip until the eggs are thick and pale, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the bowl from the stand and place on your work surface. To a fine-mesh sieve, add

  • 1½ cups cake flour

Use the whisk to fold it into the egg mixture until no dry streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans using the rubber spatula and smooth out the top so the batter is even. Bake until golden and the cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven using oven mitts and set aside to cool for 10 minutes before turning the cake onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

3. On the small plate, place the remaining

  • 1½ tablespoons flour

Into the flour, dip the cut side of each

  • Peach

Set the peaches on a plate, floured side up. Heat the large skillet over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Add the

  • Dark brown sugar
  • Water

Stir occasionally with the wooden spoon, and once the sugar is dissolved, stir in the remaining

  • 1½ tablespoons butter

Place the peaches in the pan floured side down and cook until the sauce begins to thicken and pool around the peaches, about 5 minutes. Use the metal spatula to turn the peaches over and cook the other side until the bubbles around the peaches begin to burst and the syrupy mixture smells toasty, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer the peaches back to the plate and set aside to cool, then cut each half into 5 slices. Set the syrup aside for finishing the cake.

4. Make the frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, place the

  • Mascarpone cheese

Beat on medium speed, and in a slow, steady stream, add the

  • Heavy cream

Once the cream is incorporated, add the

  • Remaining ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • Ground cardamom

Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the mixture forms medium-stiff peaks, about 3 to 5 minutes.

5. Place 1 cake layer on a cake plate. Arrange the peaches evenly over the cake, then set the second cake layer on top of the peaches. Use the offset metal spatula or butter knife to frost the top and sides of the cake with the mascarpone frosting. Drizzle with the reserved peach syrup and refrigerate until serving.

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