Thursday, 18 December 2008

Daring Bakers October Challenge: Basic Pizza dough

Better late than never, as they say! The October challenge was hosted by the lovely Rosa, who gave us a recipe from Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice." I used roasted veggies, eggplant, mushrooms, tomatoes and onions. And I swear I did toss the dough, though not with great results!

Some more pics and the recipe after the jump.

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).
2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.
3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.
4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).
NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.
5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.
NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.
6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.
7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.
9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).
NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.
10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.
11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.
12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.
13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.
NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.
If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.
14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.


Saturday, 6 December 2008

Catching up

It's been a long time since either Aamena or I posted. She has a good excuse... no oven in her new digs. I don't, since I have been baking and cooking, and even taking photos... but have just been too *busy* to post. Now I hope to make up that shortfall.
Let's begin with my first try at red velvet cake, inspired by Shirley's luscious cupcakes. I should have known better than to try a different recipe, but I didn't, and went with this one from Bon Apetit, sans the berries. It tasted great, but the red velvet cake was more a ruddy brown.

Red Velvet Cake
For the cake
2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon red food coloring (i used 1 tsp gel coloring, which is more concentrated)
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F. I used a 9x15 cake pan, but the recipe calls for 2 9-inch round pans. Butter and flour pan(s). Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl. Beat buttermilk, coloring, vinegar, and vanilla in small bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating until well blended. Beat in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 3 additions.

Divide batter between prepared pans, or pour into single sheet pan. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 27 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks; cool completely.

For frosting:
Beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until smooth. Beat in vanilla. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth.

Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on platter. Spread 1 cup frosting over top of cake. Top with second layer, flat side down. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. (Can be made a day ahead; cover and refrigerate. Let stand at room temperature for an hour before serving.)


Sunday, 31 August 2008

Daring Bakers August Challenge: Chocolate Eclairs

I've sat out the last few challenges, but this month's -- Chocolate Eclairs -- was absolutely irresistable. Thank you Meeta and Tony for the great selection, and the delectable recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé.
The challenge was perfect because I love eclairs, but my one attempt to make them was a bit of a flop and I'd shied away from pate choux since. Well now was time to conquer my fears. After reading through other Daring Bakers' experiences and plenty of tips, I finally hit the kitchen this past week. I decided to go the whole chocolate hog, making the chocolate pastry cream and the chocolate glaze.
And I'm proud to say the results were great, even if I do say so myself. Well actually, a bunch of my colleagues said so too! Truthfully I could have eaten all those eclairs by myself but I thought the better of it and took more than a dozen to work. (I made the eclairs just before I headed to work -- I start in the afternoon. So while I was able to bring in the eclairs while they were still fresh, I did have to rush to get to work on time. Hence I didn't get a chance to review my photos, otherwise I would have caught those awful fingerprints in the glaze. Oh well.)
Oh, and my super picky 4-year-old ate two. That's a success in my book!
The leftover pastry cream, glaze, not to mention sauce, means I'll be making the eclairs again sometime very soon.
Do check out other Daring Bakers' creations!

The only real issues I had were while making the pastry cream, even after straining the yolk mixture, I found some scrambled yolks at the bottom, and I ended up straining it again. And it seemed a little runny, but a few hours in the refrigerator helped it firm up. I did feel like I could taste the egg in the final cream, but I think I'm a bit oversensitive. Nobody else complained.
The other was with the actual baking. I didn't have the common deflation problem. But the eclairs seemed a bit soft, so I stuck them in the oven again for a while.
And I know lots of people commented on the number of pots and bowls needed. I was able to cut back on that slightly by using one pot to make the sauce, emptying it and making the glaze in it, and you guessed it, emptying it and making the cream in it (thought at this point I did have to rope in one more pot).

Anyway, I highly recommend this.
Here's the recipe
Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs
Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)

• Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough.
Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 41/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers.
Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

1) The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40 degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.

1) If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.

2) The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Cream Puff Dough
(makes 20-24 Éclairs)
• ½ cup (125g) whole milk
• ½ cup (125g) water
• 1 stick (4 ounces; 115g) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
• ¼ teaspoon sugar
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 1 cup (140g) all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.
You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

1) Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2) You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream
• 2 cups (500g) whole milk
• 4 large egg yolks
• 6 tbsp (75g) sugar
• 3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
• 7 oz (200g) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
• 2½ tbsp (1¼ oz: 40g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

1) The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
2) In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.
3) Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze
(makes 1 cup or 300g)
• 1/3 cup (80g) heavy cream
• 3½ oz (100g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tsp (20 g) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tbsp (110 g) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

1) In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

1) If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly
 in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2) It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce
(makes 1½ cups or 525 g)
• 4½ oz (130 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup (250 g) water
• ½ cup (125 g) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
• 1/3 cup (70 g) sugar

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

1) You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
2) This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.


Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Another chiffon cake

Can you tell I've become a convert to the religion of chiffon! What amazing results and taste with such little heartache. After my first attempt convinced me it wasn't hard, I thought I'd give it another go, for dinner
with friends. I knew the kids for sure would be happy. The only problem was our water being cut off from 10 am to 4 pm... yes six whole hours while the plumbing system is overhauled in our apt complex. This is the third day it happened. What sucks is that you don't know when it might happen. You have a few days of no problems, you're complacent and the next day they hit you. Only another four weeks. *crossing fingers*
So as you might guess, I started at 4 pm. Wrong. Due to various other emergencies (DH+work) I didn't start till 6.
At which point I also got started on a chicken curry I had promised to bring to the dinner. *Sigh*. I was using a bigger, 9x15 pan, so instead of Aamena's adaption, I went with Orangette's version. I managed to get the cake into the oven within 20 minutes... Waiting for it to bake were the longest 35 minutes ever!. And then cool.

I had no patience. Instead of letting cool all the way down, I pried it out of the pan. Then I halved it down the middle since I planned to do one side with cream and strawberries and the other with cream and chocolate sauce. Then I thought if I halve the two pieces horizontally, they'd cool faster. I was right, but a thin layer got stuck to the rack. I was able to cover it with cream, and it tasted great anyway. Phew!
Oh, here's the chicken curry:


Thursday, 21 August 2008

Mango chiffon cake

So I recently made this yummy Mango chiffon cake. For a few weeks now, what with California flooded with mangoes, I'd been day-dreaming about mango cake, one that incorporates mangoes in the batter, not just as garnish or mousse, which I'd already tried. At last I put thought to action and using my Google muscles, found that those clever folks in Southeast Asia had already been there, done that. So I used this apparently tried and tested recipe that I found at Cook Bake Legacy.

I liked the result, though I think my oven was acting up and it didn't rise as well or cook through as much as it should have. But I will be making this again. I also plan to try using mango puree in place of buttermilk in a regular cake. I think the mango should provide enough acidity to replace the buttermilk and should be about the same consistency. Watch this space for updates!

Recipe and more photos after the jump.

Mango Chiffon Cake
4 large eggs
1 tsp Mango essence
1/3 cup (80 ml) vegetable oil
1/3 cup (80 ml) Whole milk
1/2 cup mango puree
1 cup sifted cake flour (110 g)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup (100 gm) sugar
1/2 tsp Cream of tartar
Method: Set oven at 350 degrees F (180 degree C)
Separate egg yolks from whites. In a bowl, beat yolks with the mango essence (I didn't have any and used vanilla)
In another bowl, mix the oil, milk and mango puree. Sift the flour and baking powder together.
In the bowl of a mixer, whip the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar until stiff peak forms. Now add the yolk mixture and beat well, then add in the oil/ puree blend and and also stir well. Fold in the flour mix gently till well blended. Pour batter into a 20 cm. chiffon cake pan. Bang the pan on a hard surface to release the bubbles. ( a step I forgot, which may have contributed to the results)
Bake for 35-40 mins. When the cake is ready, remove from the oven and give it a bang on a hard surface.Then invert the pan and cool the cake.When the cake is completely cool, remove cake from the pan.
Well here are a few pictures of how I cut the mangoes.

The cake after taking it out. It seemed kind of OK to me, then I realized it was underdone and put it back in the oven, but evidently not long enough.


Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Bet it's a record!

So how much time did you take to make your Filbert Gateau?

I made it in a record time of four hours! (Confession: I ignored the sugar syrup and the apricot glaze).

Soon after Chris of Mele Cotte announced the challenge, I, like hundreds of other Daring Bakers took a print out. I had been planning to try the recipe for my sister's birthday, which is in mid-July. But that day we went shopping, came back after 5 p.m. and I was too tired, so I asked my brother to buy a cake. But my sis' long face at this made me change my mind, and I rolled up my sleeves.

So sometime after 6 (after having tea, I have a mental thing about tea) I started. Of course the b'day girl helped me a lot, and we somehow managed this feat!

And you can understand why I skipped the sugar syrup and glaze... I was too tired! Well, what after the praline, swiss buttercream, whipped cream, ganache, and of course the cake!

But the cake was amazing, it was air! And the whole combo, though very rich, was well worth the crazy four hours! One other change I made was that I used almonds; for two reasons: first, that's what I had at home, and second, buying hazelnuts, if available, would have meant a huge hole in my pocket.

And though I love decorating, I was running out of time, so I just spread some of the praline buttercream and sprinkled some nougat on top! I think it looked pretty.

And another thing, I just LOVE swiss meringue buttercream, it was amazing the way it incorporated the praline paste!


Friday, 18 July 2008

Plums galore!

There is so much lovely summer fruit to choose from these days. The other day I bought several pounds of plums and thought I should use them up before they got too soft. So I made this easy peasy plum tart from the Contessa herself. Her recipe called for a lot of plums, and I found I didn't have enough to get a tightly packed tart, so I added some apricots I had on hand.

Then I got my hands on some Italian prune plums, which the Contessa's recipe had called for, and I thought I should take a shot at clafouti.

Clafouti had always seemed something mysterious and unattainable for some reason. And then I read about it again recently at the LA TImes food blog. And after reading that plums are often used in clafouti, second only to cherries, I was sold. The Italian prune plums are really juicy and the flesh is a delicate green color, they reminded me of damsons that I had long long ago. IN fact they were so tasty, that by the time I got to making it the next day, I found my husband had scarfed down a pound or more. So I had to supplement the scarce fruit with strawberries.

I used this recipe from Orangette for the clafouti. It was really good, but I couldn't get my fussy 4-year-old to try any.


Friday, 11 July 2008

Very berry cake

I made this cake a few weeks ago, but never got around to posting about it. I used a victoria sponge recipe and topped it with a little leftover white chocolate ganache and lots and lots of raspberries and blackberries, to cut the cloying sweetness of the white chocolate. I always get excited when I see blackberries -- partly because the sightings are so rare and I love the fruit. But also it brings back childhood memories of a hardy little blackberry bush we had in a house we stayed in for a few years. I loved eating them half-ripe -- so tart and sweet at the same time. hmm.

My mother used to make victoria sponges every now and then, along with her staple madeiras, when we lived in England. But I hadn't made or had one in years.
Looking around for recipes, I learned that basically a victoria sponge, named for Queen Victoria, consists of equal weights of flour, eggs, sugar and butter, with eggs counting for about 2 oz each and of course baking powder as leavening. I found this recipe on the BBC, but because I was using larger tins, i went up to 6 oz of AP flour, butter and sugar, plus 2 tsp baking powder and 3 eggs. I used the creaming method, and added the eggs one at a time. And I used strawberry jam to sandwich the layers.
I liked the result, but I'm not a fan of white chocolate, and next time I'll make the classic, sandwiched with jam and dusted with confectioner's sugar.


Thursday, 10 July 2008

Chiffon cake - two halves make it whole

This is my first attempt at Chiffon cake -- I had shied away from it so far because I hate making things that require separating the egg whites and yolks, and I especially hate it if I have leftover yolks. But I finally bit the bullet, and I must say it was easy-peasy and so delicious! I am mentally kicking myself for not trying it sooner. I divvied up the cake to make two variations -- one the classic strawberries and cream, and the other with mango mousse, using a delicious ataulfo mango a friend at work brought in for me.

Some more photos after the jump.


Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Thrice as nice!

I missed my niece's first birthday coz of my darn exams... and it's not like I am going to do very well because I was good and studied... I didn't. But I just couldn't bake a cake because that was like admitting that I'm not going to study.. so I just sat and didn't bake a cake and didn't study... But you see I did not want to give myself the opportunity to say that I didn't study because I was baking! But then I scraped thru my exams somehow and I'm enjoying my holidays (:D) now and i felt it was time I put things right.

I was first planning to make a huge four-layer cake, two layers of vanilla cake and two layers of madeira. but then instead of making one huge cake that I wasn't sure what it would taste like, I changed my mind at the last moment and made two two-layer cakes hoping that at least one would taste good.

The reason behind this last-minute decision was that the vanilla cake was pretty flat. I had chosen recipe because How to Eat a Cupcake had paired her Vanilla Cupcakes with swiss meringue buttercream and I really wanted to make some swiss meringue buttercream (hehehe) -- because then I get a chance to use homemade white butter, yeah!

The recipe was a bit strange, calling for the dry ingredients and the butter to be mixed and then later incorporating the wet ones. the cake did rise, but it was dense. A lot denser than my madeira. At that time i panicked. looking back now I guess that the madeira batter gains a lot of volume during the creaming stage and also while adding the eggs. The only rise the vanilla cake got was in the oven.

Anyway at that time i was panicking, right? So I split the madeira in half, layered it with the buttercream and topped it with some milk chocolate ganache I had in the fridge (I always have some ganache in the fridge). What you see at the top is what it looked like.

Then I split the vanilla cake in half, layered it with buttercream and covered with the same and then spent sometime making it look horribly pinky and purply... well guess what, it tasted good.

And the cupcakes? I got them from the leftover madeira batter...  topped them with leftover buttercream and the leftover ganache...


Sunday, 29 June 2008

not quite danish...

Of all the crazy things I have done, this has to be the craziest. Trying my luck at danish pastry in the middle of Indian summer (did I say trying, oops, i meant pushing!). But then that's what the Daring Baker's are all about. Making you do things you won't normally even think of. I do make croissants sometimes, but never never in summer. I also happen to have bad case of hot hands. And man, did this challenge drive me up the wall or what! If the heat and humidity don't kill you, they sure can finish off your Danish.

Ok, I guess am exaggerating, but the result wasn't anywhere near perfect. But it was good. And it did fill my kitchen with a nice aroma! I used peaches instead of apples.

As soon as I braided it up, the juices started leaking, so the poor braid was in a pool of its juices, which later got burnt black in the oven.

I managed to roll up some extra pastry croissant style. Just for fun.

Thanks to Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’? for a fun and challenging challenge.


Saturday, 21 June 2008

Zebra cake

Zebra cake

So finally, here is the photo of the zebra cake I made using Farida's recipe and technique. My ladle wasn't big enough, hence the thin whispery "stripes" -- really more like veins. I will definitely be making this again soon.


Tuesday, 3 June 2008

a Birthday and an Anniversary...

My sister's anniversary and my brother's birthday fall on consecutive days in May, so I decided to make some cupcakes for my sis (as she has a small family) and a regular cake for my brother, from the same batter of Martha's One Bowl Choc Cupcakes recipe.

As you can see the cake was rather tall, because I used slighter smaller round tins, as I wanted to make the cupcakes as well. And thats Swiss Meringue Buttercream, I think am getting rather good at it, thanks to the Daring Bakers, I don't think I would have ever tried it again after my two flops.


Thursday, 29 May 2008

Daring Bakers May Challenge: Opera Cake

When I read what the Daring Bakers challenge was for this month was, I mentally said "yeah, right" and thought I'd be sitting this one out, leaving Aamena to do her creative work. But she's tied up in final exams so it fell to me.
The challenge was chosen by lovely hosts Ivonne and Lis, along with co-hosts Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie  and Shea of Whiskful.

An Opera Cake consists of the joconde - an almond sponge; the syrup, to wet the cake, buttercream, ganache (optional) and a final glaze. I'm not good at complicated things, so I read the recipe about five times, but I only made it today because I was away for a week visiting in-laws. I only got back yesterday, and I was too tired to even think about making even the base. So I had to do everything today. A recipe for disaster, or at least some last minute problems. Like the store being out of blanched almond meal, so you end up using unblanched. And not finding the right size jelly roll tins and not having any two of the same size at home.

A Taste of Light: Opera Cake

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.

(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) blanched almond meal
2 cups icing sugar, sifted (220 gm)
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.
2. Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).
3. Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
4. Beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until stiff and glossy. Set aside.
5. In another bowl, beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
6. Add the flour and beat until just combined (do not overmix).
7. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg white into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly.
8. Bake until light brown and springy to the touch, 5 to 9 minutes.
9. Run a sharp knife along the edges of the cakes to loosen. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.
10. Peel off the parchment, then turn the paper over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of a flavoring of your choice (I used lemon zest)

1. Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water
seeds of one vanilla bean or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (I used a vanilla bean paste I found at Surfas)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Flavoring of your choice (I used lemon zest)

1. Combine the sugar, water and vanilla in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
2. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) Remove the syrup from the heat.
3. While the syrup is heating, whisk the egg and egg yolk at high speed until pale and foamy.
4. Reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin very slowly pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment.
5. Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).
6. In a bowl, mash the softened butter in a bowl with a spatula. 
7. Add the butter in 2-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been added, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.
8. Add flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.
9. Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

White chocolate ganache/mousse (this step is optional – I skipped it)
7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liqueur of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)

1. Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2. Stir and add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5. If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable and you're ready to use it.
6. If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

The glaze
(Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)
14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.
Obviously, I didn't need to to do this, since I used 9-inch round tins.
Step A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):

Moisten a layer of the cake with the flavoured syrup.

Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square, or whatever shape. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.

Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

As is clear from the long instructions, this is was quite a challenge. But truthfully each step went quite smoothly. My only problem was was that the buttercream was a bit runny, after I put on the glaze, the top layer of buttercream started to slip a bit. And the layers of joconde are a bit thick, I wish i had had a fourth 9 inch tin to make thinner layers.


Sunday, 18 May 2008

Lemon tea cakes

Lemon tea cakes, originally uploaded by khangengis.

A friend at work brought on little lemon tea cakes a few weeks ago, and I thought immediately that they'd be great for my daughter's preschool bake sale. She brought in the recipe, and kindly lent me her tea cake pan too. The only change I made was to add baking powder, because I wanted a lighter texture. These little beauties are addictive! My daughters chowed them down like grapes, so though the recipe made 108, yes, that's right 108 cakes, they're really not that much! But I've pared it down by 1/3, to keep it manageable. If you'd like, you can find the original recipe here.

Lemon tea cakes, originally uploaded by khangengis.

Lemon Tea Cakes
from Taste of Home magazine Feb-March 2002,
a recipe from Charlene Crump of Montgomery, Alabama
Makes six dozen

1 cup butter, softened
5 1/2  oz cream cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tbsp lemon juice
11/2 tsp lemon extract
1 tsp lemon zest
2 cups flour (10 oz)
2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven at 325 degrees, and prepare all the mini muffin tins or tea cake pans you have! I used baking spray with flour. And I only had two 12-cup mini muffin pans and the tea cake mold which makes 30. So I made it in batches, without any problem.

Sift the flour with the baking powder. Cream the butter, cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one. Add the lemon juice, lemon and vanilla extracts and lemon zest. Fold in the flour (I found it easier to do a third at a time) until just combined.

Fill mini-muffin tins about two-thirds full (about 1 heaping teaspoon). Bake at 325° for 10-15 minutes or so. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Meanwhile prepare a glaze: 3 cups confectioner's sugar, 1/4 milk, 2 tsp lemon extract. 
When the cakes are cool, dip the tops in the glaze, and let it set for five minutes or so.