Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Oh My Darling, Oh My Darling Clementine

It's January, and all through the supermarkets, the Clementines are out! Known as the Christmas Orange, clementines gained popularity in 1997 in the United States after a harsh winter caused orange crops to suffer. Unlike the tangerine, clementines are naturally seedless and range from 7 to 14 segments. Did you know that clementines become seeded if a bee cross-pollinates them?!

File:Clementines whole, peeled, half and sectioned.jpg
photo from Wikipedia

I remember the first time I had a clementine. I was a freshman in high school and the girl across from me had a crate. Naturally, I thought they were tangerines but I said nothing. Then Liz asked me, "Do you want a clementine?" I had no clue what she was talking about. But then she pointed to the fruit. As I peeled it, I thought this looks like a tangerine to me... 10 years later....I love them...although I still think they taste like tangerines...

To celebrate Clementine season, here are a few recipes to try:
Picture of Clementine Cake Recipe
Picture of Clementine Cosmos Recipe

Clementine Cake
Recipe courtesy Nigella Lawson

Prep Time:10 minInactive Prep Time:--Cook Time:2 hr 40 min
1 (8-inch) cake

4 to 5 clementines (about 1 pound total weight)
6 eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 1/3 cups ground almonds
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
Put the clementines in a pot with cold water to cover, bring to the boil, and cook for 2 hours. Drain and, when cool, cut each clementine in half and remove the seeds. Then finely chop the skins, pith, and fruit in the processor (or by hand, of course).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter and line an 8-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

Beat the eggs. Add the sugar, almonds, and baking powder. Mix well, adding the chopped clementines. I don't like using the processor for this, and frankly, you can't balk at a little light stirring.

Pour the cake mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour, when a skewer will come out clean; you'll probably have to cover the cake with foil after about 40 minutes to stop the top from burning. Remove from the oven and leave to cool, in the pan on a rack. When the cake is cold, you can take it out of the pan. I think this is better a day after it's made, but I don't complain about eating it anytime.

I've also made this with an equal weight of oranges and lemons, in which case I increase the sugar to 1 1/4 cups and slightly Anglicize it, too, by adding a glaze made of confectioners' sugar mixed to a paste with lemon juice and a little water.

Clementine Cosmos
Recipe courtesy Claire Robinson

Prep Time:10 minInactive Prep Time:25 minCook Time:8 min
6 to 8 servings

3 clementines, plus 1 very thinly sliced, for garnish
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2/3 cup cranberry juice
1/3 cup lime juice
1 1/2 cups vanilla flavored vodka (recommend: Grey Goose)
Cut the clementines into quarters and squeeze their juice into a saucepan. Add the sugar, water and clementine flesh and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer the mixture for 5 minutes. Pour into a strainer set over a measuring cup, pressing on the solids to remove as much liquid as possible. Discard the solids, cool the liquid to room temperature and pour into a pitcher. Add the cranberry juice, lime juice and vodka and stir well. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Put 6 or 8 martini glasses in the freezer.

To serve, pour the mixture into an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake until very cold. Pour into the chilled martini glasses and garnish each with a clementine slice. Drink up and enjoy!

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

A New Year, A New Approach


First and foremost a Happy 2010 to you all. I realize that over the course of 2009 as the year came closer to an end, I became progressively busier and as such my blogging suffered, severely.
So, naturally, one of my 2010 resolutions is to post more regularly. I've also decided to change up the blog content a little bit.
Instead of just blogging on foods I've made, I'm going to turn this into an everything food blog. Kind of a like an online magazine. From recipes to gadgets to advice...I'll be trying to include it all. Nothing too long just short snippets to keep you entertained and educated.
I look forward to writing and I hope you all look forward to reading and commenting!

Be well and Eat great!

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Bostom Cream...PUFFS

For as long as I can remember, I've been making choux pastry. When i was 12 or 13 people were asking me to make puffs for them. While, dessert fillings are always fun, I usually made them as appetizers with savory fillings. Spicy chicken, salsa, Tuna, Salmon. Cheese. Simply delicious. For an appetizers and dessert style party I decided to make sweet Puffs. However, while I had the time to make puffs I didn't for the cream so I attempted to do a little something something with vanilla pudding. I stared at the instant pudding options for about 5 minutes. I hardly ever buy pudding and was a little befuddled by it. Fast forwad a few hours later with puffs waiting to be filled, I'm still staring at the box of pudding mix with mixed feelings.

Nevertheless, I opened the box and did some of my own tweaking to make it at least a bit more custard like..and ended up with...pudding. So, rather than offering up cream puffs, I added some melted chocolate and called it Bostom Cream Puffs. Disaster avoided.

I was a little nervous about taking them, but they were also welcomed by the party guests. Just word to the wise, these things are high milk, egg, custard content (the filling) and so must be refrigerated as the hostess did not realize. And let me tell you they are DEFINITELY not appetizing a mere 15 hours later.

BOTTOM LINE: I will be making my puffs again. I will probably not be making dessert puffs again. Although I am tempted to play around with pastry creme by Julia Child. I encourage everyone to make these puffs and fill them with your fave filling. They are a great way to class up anything from tuna to sloppy joe to emphasize the elegance of a pate foi gras for example. Bon Appetit!

Boston Cream Puffs

1/2 pint water - 1 cup.

4 ounces lard or butter - 1/2 cup.

4 ounces flour - 1 cup.

6 eggs.

Little salt when lard is used.

Set the water on to boil with the lard in it. Put in the flour dry as it Is and all at once, and stir the mixture over the fire about five minutes or until it has become a smooth, well cooked paste. Take it off and add the eggs one at a time and beat in each one well before adding the next. Give the paste a thorough beating against the side of the pan for finish.

Drop portions size of an egg on baking pans very slightly greased and bake at 450 degrees F for about 20 minutes. Then drop temp to 350 for 30 minutes. Let the puffs bake slowly at last and dry so they will not fall when taken out. Cut a slit, in the side and fill with pastry cream by means of a teaspoon

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Nanaimo Bars... one point for the Canucks.

Peanut butter, Chocolate, Graham crackers, Coconut, Hazelnut, Pecans, Almonds. These bars are not for your nut allergist! Talk about layers of decadence and uber-richness! I have to cut these squares in 1/2 by 1/2 inch squares because they are that indulgent.

Nanaimo Bars are I've realized are a Canadian Dessert. It is basically chalked up to a no-bake square, named after the West-Coast city of Nanaimo, British Columbia. Won't lie, the Canadians surprised me with this recipe, I was impressed. Because I live in America and have family in Canada, I have to give the Canucks a hard time.

The first time I made these was for a trip to visit some friends. I'd found the recipe on
FoodNetwork while looking at other recipes and mentally bookmarked it to try some time. I am always nervous about making/trying new recipes for a crowd if I don't know what to expect. Individually, these ingredients sounded delicious it was just a matter of how they would taste mixed together. And of course I rarely follow a recipe to the T, which adds to the risk factor. But, I made them and took them and by the end of the weekend, they were gone! My friends looked for any excuse to eat them. They were so rich that it was only 1 or 2 squares at a time but they were consumed about every half hour or so. We realized they taste better frozen as the peanut butter melts at room temperature so the freezer was always being opened and closed.

I've made these twice now, each time altering the recipe. The first time I doubled up on the peanut butter. The only caution I have is to watch the saltiness as you add more peanut butter (unless you use a low or no salt kind). Everyone enjoyed them but I personally could taste the salt factor. The second time, I stuck to the recommended amount of PB but wasn't too pleased with that taste either, it was sweeter than peanut-ty. Also, I'd run out of almonds for the graham layer so ground up some pecans as well. And in both trials, rather than put peanuts on the top, I added hazelnuts.
BOTTOM LINE: I really like this recipe. It has definitely been added as a go-to for entertaining. Only downside is you have to plan ahead if you want to make them as it takes some refrigeration. The steps are crazy easy though and make up for the refrigeration time. I'd be interested in playing around with the layers and flavors. Coffee, Mocha, Mint, Caramel, etc. Can't wait to try it out with my younger bro and his friends.


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
1 large egg, beaten
1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped blanched almonds
Peanut Butter Filling:

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
Chocolate Glaze:

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Line an 8 by 8-inch baking pan or casserole with aluminum foil, with long flaps hanging over each edge.

For the cookie: Put the butter in a heatproof medium bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer over medium-low heat. Set the bowl over, but not touching, the water. Once the butter is melted, add the sugar and cocoa, and stir to combine. Add the egg and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until warm to the touch and slightly thickened (it should be about the consistency of hot fudge), about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in graham crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press the dough firmly into the prepared pan. (Save the pan of water for melting the chocolate.)

For the filling: Beat the butter, peanut butter and confectioners' sugar together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until light. Spread over the cookie and freeze while you prepare the chocolate glaze.

For the glaze: Put the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl, and set over the barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. (Alternatively, put the chocolate and butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Melt at 50 percent power in the microwave until soft, about 1 minute. Stir, and continue to heat until completely melted, about 1 minute more.). When cool but still runny, pour the chocolate layer over the chilled peanut butter layer and carefully smooth out with an offset spatula. Freeze 30 minutes.

To serve, remove from the freezer and let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Pull out of the pan using the foil flaps and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 1-inch squares with a sharp knife. Serve cool or at room temperature.

Busy baker's tips: Finished bars can be wrapped in the pan in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and frozen for up to 1 month.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Vols-Au-Vent..Coucher Avec Moi?

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan. ALSO, be sure to check out the blog of my fellow Daring Baker, Delicious Creation-Maker, Jess.

What was for many females (and males alike) of our past a duty, a chore, a necessity baking is also truly an art and a science. The chemistry of butter to flour, rest to rise, egg ratios, bake time, resulting in golden layers of perfection, spongy, fluffy and light tufts of cake, and other morsels of decadence. I wonder if the pioneers of the baking world understood the science behind baking as they produced heavenly cakes, tarts, pudding, and other desserts galore.

All while I was completing this month's challenge, puff pastry, my mind continued to return the aforementioned thoughts and pondering. How did these creators of puff pastry figure out that layers of cold butter produced these light, airy layers. How did they know about these turns and rest times. Like the potato chip, was it a mistake? Wikipedia attributes the puff pastry creation to Claude Gellee, like most culinary delights, other people in other regions were doing the same things as well just calling it different names (puff pastry = phyllo in the Middle East). Regardless of its origin or its intent, puff pastry has withstood the test of time and is still indulged upon. And yes, I say indulged because after you learn the amount of butter that goes into making them, each bite is an indulgence.

It's for this exact indulgent code that stear clear from phyllo dough at the supermarket and/or recipes that involve it granted I've never done the same when phyllo dough foods show up at dinner parties! I've entertained the idea of baklava or spanokopita but just turned away from the butter process. But, when DB comes a-knocking you can't turn away from the challenge.

Rolling and Turning
The ingredients and instructions truly were easy enough to find and put together. I think where mistakes lie waiting to be made, which I feel is common with French cuisine, is in technique. And so much of technique is perception and judgement call. I made sure my dough felt like play-doh and that the butter was more than just cold. But then what really is the "right" play-doh texture? What is the right "cold butter" feel. Or the right texture and mound and dimensions for the butter to fit into the dough and how was to know what size ears/flaps I really wanted on my dough. All things that stress me out in my strive for perfection and the dread of having unpuffed puffed pastry. But still I persevered. I chilled in between every fold for 20-30 minutes, I had sheet pans waiting in the freezer just in case. I was ready. And I was tired! My schedule and life demanded that I do this toward the night and there I was up until 2 or 3 waiting to complete my turns.

I went to bed though terrified and dreading the next morning where cutting and baking and puffing or nonpuffing would happen. See, I turned this day of baking into a dining event where I invited a few friends over to eat my creations as I realized I would have a lot of puffs. And I didn't want to sit and consume lots of butter and flour on my own. So, Puff Pastry/ Vols Au Vents was the theme.

Rolling, Cutting, Shaping and Baking
I actually did not enjoy the cutting part of this project as it took so much darn time, cutting, egg washing etc. After a bout of round cutting I realized I would get more if I did rectangles with knife so I did that. I was going for 3 shells/person for entree as well as 2 shells/person for dessert.

For me, the shells cooked faster than I anticipated though it looked done well before it actually was (the insides were still gooey) . Oh yes and my kitchen started to smoke and sizzle at oozing butter, setting off the fire alarm. Grand ole time. I was a little disappointed at the puff level but as I observed further I realized that given the height that I rolled it out to, I got major puffing!

While I won't be posting the recipes for the filling I'll quickly name what I did. They were no recipes used, just a little of this and that.

1. An Autumn Vol au Vent - Butternut Squash Spiced with Nutmeg and Caramelized Onions
2. The Frenchy Vol au Vent - Sauteed Green Beans, Mushrooms, Garlic, Onions with a Bechamel Sauce
3. The TexMex - Spicy Chicken, Spinach, Monterey and Colby Cheeses, topped with an Avocado Mousse and Tomato
4. Strawberries and Cream - Fresh Whipped Cream with Strawberries
5. ChocoCream - Chocolate Buttercream topped with Fresh Whipped Cream and Chocolate Chips
BOTTOM LINE: I'm not fazed by making this pastry. It's really quite easy, albeit time-consuming. The one thing that would keep me from making it is just the butter content. I had four people over, I had four sticks of butter. There were 2 or so shells left over. We each ate almost a stick of butter each! Not cool. Delicious, but not cool. Wonder if the pioneers thought about cholesterol along with baking science...

-food processor (will make mixing dough easy, but I imagine this can be done by hand as well)
-rolling pin
-pastry brush
-metal bench scraper (optional, but recommended)
-plastic wrap
-baking sheet
-parchment paper
-silicone baking mat (optional, but recommended)
-set of round cutters (optional, but recommended)
-sharp chef’s knife
-cooling rack

Prep Times:
-about 4-5 hours to prepare the puff pastry dough (much of this time is inactive, while you wait for the dough to chill between turns…it can be stretched out over an even longer period of time if that better suits your schedule)
-about 1.5 hours to shape, chill and bake the vols-au-vent after your puff pastry dough is complete

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Steph’s note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book.

2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent

Yield: 1/3 of the puff pastry recipe below will yield about 8-10 1.5” vols-au-vent or 4 4” vols-au-vent

In addition to the equipment listed above, you will need:
-well-chilled puff pastry dough (recipe below)
-egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water)
-your filling of choice

Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces. Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage. See the “Tips” section below for more storage info.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting.

(This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.) For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles. Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly. Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent. If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.

Fill and serve.

*For additional rise on the larger-sized vols-au-vents, you can stack one or two additional ring layers on top of each other (using egg wash to "glue"). This will give higher sides to larger vols-au-vents, but is not advisable for the smaller ones, whose bases may not be large enough to support the extra weight.

*Although they are at their best filled and eaten soon after baking, baked vols-au-vent shells can be stored airtight for a day.

*Shaped, unbaked vols-au-vent can be wrapped and frozen for up to a month (bake from frozen, egg-washing them first).

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Kinda Sorta a Dobos Torta/e- DB Challenge

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Toyota has Lexus, Honda has Acura, Nissan has Infiniti, and now Sponge Cake has the Dobos Torte. The Dobos Torte brings forth the fundamentals of sponge cake with the cake, buttercream, and topping, much like the luxury classes fundamentally have the same chassis, drive train, etc as their "generic" brands. But in terms of add-ons and quality, the term luxury describes both the cars and this cake.

Sponge Cake
Whereas, a normal sponge cake would either be one layer or one cake cut into layers, that would doesn't fly with this Dobos. Nope. Each layer was individually baked at around 5 or fewer minutes and then assembled. Doesn't that scream luxury?
The ingredient list was rather common, while the technique was complex, but nothing daunting. My only complaint being in the recipe saying to spoon out 3/4 cups of batter at a time and then being left with a lot more at the end. Enough to make a thicker 5th layer and then a thin 6th layer. I think moving forward I'll make slightly thicker layers as the cake was so good.

Chocolate Buttercream. Now this buttercream is a prime, prime prime example of that luxury I'm talking about. In normal cakes, the tendency is to do a quick buttercream, confectioners' sugar, butter and whatever flavor, which I HATE. DETEST. Hence, I was a bit hesitant to waste time and effort making this boiled buttercream, since I hate all things buttercream. I'd heard and read about them but just steered clear of it thinking it would be like all the rest. Further, normally a huge fan of dark, dark chocolate, I opted to use semi-sweet in this recipe because I didn't want to waste my good dark chocolate should I not like the outcome. Clearly, I needed to be dipping into the luxury pot because this buttercream was fantabulous! FAN-TAB-U-LOUS. Light, fluffy, silky, chocolatey and most importantly not too sweet. Delicious. The only downside to it was the amount of butter that went into it. Overall, worth the time, the double-boilering, the whipping, etc. I can't wait to try out other boiled buttercream versions. Oh and I TOTALLY forgot to take a photos. Whoops.

Caramel Topping. From all the comments about how people messed this up, I was a little terrified. On top of that, I wasn't quite sure, what it was supposed to be. When I think of caramel I think of those little cubes of creaminess or I think of dulce de leche but not this syrup which I liken closer to a burned sugar syrup, with it's dark taste. I chose to cut the pieces apart first rather than score and then cut. So, eventually the syrup was ready and I poured away. Wow, it was like scary magic with the sizzling and the thickening. But I managed to spread and coat all my pieces. If I had to pick a trouble spot it would with having cut the pieces completely. It allows the syrup to get on the bottom of your cake layer and harden thus adhering it to the wax paper which was practically impossible to peel off. So I assembled my cake with some of the paper still on it with an "Eater Beware" disclaimer. Overall however, I think I succeeded in this element because my caramel layer was soft and pliable and moist.

BOTTOM LINE: Like a luxury class car, this cake is not for every palate and ever purpose. Just as you would never want to drive your Lexus IS F on a rural, muddy road you shouldn't think plan to make this cake for your child's 10th birthday or serve it after Sloppy Joe or Mac n' Cheese night. I think the dimensions, flavors, textures would get lost. Further, with its distinct caramel/burnt sugar topping, it's not a cake everyone will love. Many will like, a few will rave about it but not everyone will be sold. In my opinion, you have to have that top layer because it adds that defining dimension, separating it from just an ordinary sponge cake. That's not to say I wouldn't try a different type of topping. Further, like luxury cars, this cake has lots of room for customization and extra options. I would definitely make this cake again.
*** To check out another delicious version of this cake as well as other culinary creations, visit Chubb Kitchen, featuring Dr. Jess in the Kitchen! How she manages to chef and doctor, amazes me***


2 baking sheets
9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
a sieve
a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
a small saucepan
a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or stand mixer will make life much easier)
metal offset spatula
sharp knife
a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round, or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin.
piping bag and tip, optional

Prep times
Sponge layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes

Ingredients (by cake step)

Sponge cake layers:
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream:
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping:
1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches:
a 7” cardboard round
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:
NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).
2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.)
3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Lorraine's note: If you're in Winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Male sure the butter is of a very soft texture I.e. running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you'll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Angela's note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

DB Challenge: Chocolate Covered Marsh Mallow Cookies.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

This month’s challenge serves as yet another example of how great DB is. For as long as I could remember I’ve always loved to cook and bake. For as long as I could remember I’ve always loved to make unique recipes. Yet with life’s demands and daily routines, seeking out new recipes often are replaced by the need for the quick and easy dishes and desserts.

What a great recipe this was in terms of its many facets. The cookie, the mallow, the chocolate dipping, the eating. Lots of layers, textures, tastes that when combine contribute to a different taste all together. Be sure to check out the blog of Baker-in-Crime, Jess, where she cooks and bakes up a delicious storm as well.

The shortbread-esque cookie was delicious by itself. One thing my family and friends and I really liked about this cookie was that it wasn’t too sweet. It had a good balance of sweet yet buttery.

My favorite part of this recipe was making the marshmallow. In my opinion this should have been a mandatory element. HOW FUN! I actually don’t like marshmallow unless it is in a S’more but I was intrigued to make them and see how it comes together. How incredibly fun! Talk about science in action (sorry, nerd moment). 

The dipping, albeit beautiful, was MESSY. Normally a fan of mess masterpieces, given the time restraints I was under, it annoyed me a tad. Also, I think you needed more chocolate than was stated in the recipe, which I was afraid I would run out of. In fact I did and ended up drizzling a few naked cookies.

I think a key thing to have in making this recipe is time. Which I underestimated. The recipe did not say that the dough would have to sit or the such until you actually started doing and so I thought it would be faster than the Milano. As a result, I had to rush the chilling of the dough and the mallow. As a result the mallow melted on some of the cookies as I started to dip.

BOTTOM LINE: My family and friends really enjoyed this cookie. As did I. The soft cookie, the chocolate and the not too sweet marshmallow was really comforting. Coupled with some ice cream of a glass of milk and you are talking great snack. I would make this recipe again but only if I had an entire afternoon or such. Until I do it a few more times, I think I’ll keep it for when guests are coming over and then maybe I’ll take it with me to gatherings.

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

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