Saturday, June 27, 2009

June DB Challenge: Is it a Tart or a Pudding??

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800's in England.

Now for the review.  I thought this came together beautifully and fairly easily.  There was some math/conversion research involved.  I don't have a scale, so I couldn't use the metric measurements.  And I don't have committed to memory how many cups of flour equals 4 ounces by weight.  But the information is widely available online, so no worries there.  I do want a scale, so this recipe gave me some incentive to finally get one....but I still haven't bit the bullet.  I'm not sure which to get. Maybe you guys can give me some recommendations.  I also need to get a 9" tart pan.  I only have an 11".  So my frangipane layer is a bit thinner than it should've been and the tart only took about 20-22 minutes, rather than the 30-35 called for in the recipe. 

Other changes: I didn't make homemade jam or curd.  I did cook down a 12 oz bag of frozen cherries into a sort of pie filling.  So my "jam" layer is a bit thicker than called for I believe and makes this dessert a bit more substantial.  I think it worked out well.  I had commercial black cherry jam I could've used.  However, I wasn't sure how sweet the frangipane layer would be and I was concerned if I used the jam the entire dessert would be too sweet.  As much as we like dessert here, we don't like an overly sweet one.  I thought a tart cherry filling would be nice against the sweet frangipane.  And it is.  I also blind baked the tart crust for about 15 minutes, just to get it set and hopefully ward off any sogginess.  It worked.  Although, it may not have gotten soggy in the first place.  Better safe, right?!

This is a keeper kids.  It's can change the flavor of the jam/curd layer with just about anything you can imagine that will go with almond.  I wonder if you can make this savory somehow.  The frangipane does have a cup of powdered sugar.  But I wonder if you spiced it up somehow you could have a savory filling.  Hmm, I'll have to file that idea away.....

Monday, June 1, 2009

May DB Strudel Update

Okay, so as promised, I tried the strudel recipe again....and again. And will likely try it again this week's really that easy to put together.

I don't have pictures to post, but if you happen to browse this blog, I wanted to give you a fair review of strudel-making for this challenge.

The first attempt below was made with AP flour, but I left out the butter and the bread crumbs. If you go to the sites of our hosts, you'll find the recipe (which I'll post tonight, because it's a bit rude not to, sorry 'bout that!). I assumed the butter and bread crumbs were part of the apple strudel recipe and therefore left it out since I made a different filling. That was a mistake. I think that's why the dough was a bit flavorless and not flaky at all. Although, I must say that when we let the strudel cool completely and tried it again, the dough improved. So my first impression was a premature one.

By suggestion from M, the second attempt was made with bread flour. That dough stretched like a dream....not a tear in sight. It was fun the first time, but the bread flour made the second attempt at stretching strudel really fun. This time, I left out the bread crumbs again, but spread the melted butter over the dough before adding the filling. I cut the stretched dough in half to make two smaller strudels. One was brie and apricot preserves, the other was cream cheese and apricot. This attempt was definitely flaky but more bread/cracker like. I wasn't impressed, but M was. Although he's a sucker for bread flour and it's merits. As always, it tasted yummy....I mean c'mon....brie - apricot. Yum!

Third attempt....yep, again. This time I went for savory. Because these hips just can't take more brie right now. ;-) Back to AP flour and I kneaded the dough a bit longer hoping that would help develop more gluten and therefore lessen the tears and allow the dough to be stretched further. I think I had more tears this time than the first. This dough seemed wetter though and indeed, I added more flour as it was kneading in the KA. And I added flour to the counter as I hand-kneaded.....for much more than two minutes. I think I could've added even more and it would've been fine. The filling was empanada filling. Although I made my own....the kind I grew up with....I have to give a nod to Jen over at Use Real Butter for the idea. It's the strudel she made for the challenge. Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE her site. Love it.

Okay, so onto the review of the third attempt. I'm getting close to cracking the code of strudel. Well, I'm at least getting some good practice in at making strudel and developing a recipe or technique to get the results that I want. So, this time it was very flaky and thin and strudel-y. Not only did I spread the melted butter over the bottom of the dough, but I added the toasted bread crumbs. AND, I buttered everything in sight. Meaning....I rolled the strudel over and buttered, rolled again, and buttered, and again....until it was all rolled up and every inch, inside and out had melted butter.

I think AP flour is the better choice. But M wants me to try bread flour again with the butter onslaught and see how that comes out. I'm game. I'm also going to try playing with the amount of flour in the AP version and kneading times. I'm on a mission. And since you can fill this with absolutely anything, it doesn't have to get expensive to keep trying this over and over.

Okay, I must actually work today. So, I will post recipes and maybe a picture of the savory strudel tonight. Happy Baking!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Hey kids, it's been awhile. Life has been crazy to say the least. But, just under the wire, just in time to save my membership (i hope) I have completed the May DB Challenge! requisite verbage....

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

I did this really quickly, just to get it in. So, I am definitely doing it again so I can spend more time on it. It came together very quickly and easily. If I had known strudel was fairly easy to make, I would've made it long ago. Although, I really shouldn't speak so soon....since I had real trouble getting it to brown (45 minutes in the oven...instead of the 30 it should've taken) and the filling oozed out and I haven't actually tasted it yet since it just finished and is cooling off.

Okay, couldn't wait....cut into it....filling - what's left of it - was fabulous (cherry cream cheese, btw). The strudel It was a bit flavorless. I'm definitely trying again and maybe messing with it a bit. Go forth and bake, yo!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Holy Chocolate Batman!

Requisite wording.....
The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

This month's DB challenge was a Flourless Chocolate Cake. Every month I do a challenge, I generally do the challenge on the night before it's due to be posted. This month, I did the challenge super the first- weekend-in-February-early. And yet, here I am, posting on the day it's due. And what's more, I did it so early, I don't quite remember my thoughts or opinions on it. Yeesh!

I can say that it was extremely easy to put together. And I made the Salted Butter Caramel ice cream from David Leibovitz' site, recipe found here. That was a bit more involved. It tasted wonderful, but the end result was softer than I would've liked. But that's a result of the recipe, and David says it's because of all the caramel in it. So, I knew it going in, but in my delusional-gotta-have-caramel state, I hoped I could make it more firm. I couldn't.

The cake was very good too. I do remember that it was completely eaten....eventually. It was super rich and chocolatey and a small slice was plenty. So, try it. If you love chocolate, you'll love this. And you can play with the chocolate you use. I used bittersweet and semi-sweet, but could've easily used milk chocolate (if I like milk chocolate :D )

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Tuile we meet again...

Yep, that's right. It's DB time again! I know, I know! I swear I bake way more than this blog of mine would lead you to believe. Really. And I bake way more than the DB Challenges. But boy do I love the challenges.....even when I don't. This month however, I loved the challenge.

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angelique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.
I have to admit, I waited until the very last to do this challenge. As in, last night. But this month it wasn't because I wasn't looking forward to the challenge. I just truly did not have time. Work has been crazy and depressing (anyone looking for an accountant??), my father was in the hospital (all's well though). But M -- my love, my sweetie -- convinced me to just do it. He also offered up his well-seasoned fingertips to roll some of the tuiles.

So back to the challenge recipe. It's super simple to put together. No lie. Minutes. And tuiles are just one of those recipes you should have in your back pocket. They allow for so much creativity. There's endless variations you could do for flavor. So many things you could serve them with. Different shapes....absolutely whatever you can create a stencil for or pipe. And it's not just for desserts -- you can make them savory as well.

Now having said all that, you can tell from my pictures that I didn't get very creative. But I want to. And I will. I'm definitely making these again. And you should too!

I used the recipe below, but I posted all the recipes given to us, even a savory one.

Yields: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies are just an example)
Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones….

Alternative Baking:
Either un-glutenize the batter given substituting the flour for any nut meal or oat flour, or as an alternative use one of the following batters below:

From Michel Roux: Finest Desserts

5.1/4 cups / 500 grams sliced almonds
(or 4.1/3 cups/500 grams slivered almonds)
3.1/3 cups / 660 grams sugar
4 tbs / 60 grams butter (optional)
2 tbs oil (vegetable, sunflower, peanut)

Makes 2.3/4 lbs/1.2 kgs! (This is the yield of the recipe given in the book, feel free to downsize!)
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Preheat oven: 180C/350F

Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until lightly browned. Cook the sugar in a heavy based saucepan over low heat, stirring gently and continuously with a spatula, until it melts to a light golden caramel. Add the almonds and stir over low heat for 1 minute, then stir in the butter until completely absorbed. (This is not essential, but will give the nougat an added sheen) Pour the nougatine onto an oiled baking sheet.

Shaping: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable. Work with one piece at a time, of a size appropriate to the shape you want. Roll out each piece on a warm, lightly oiled baking sheet or lightly oiled marbled surface. It is essential to work quickly, since the nougatine rapidly becomes brittle. Heat the nougatine in a microwave oven for a few seconds only to soften it if needed.

Roll the nougatine into the appropriate thickness for your desired shape, but never thicker than 1/8 inch or 3 mm. Quickly cut out your chosen shapes using cookie cutters, or the blade or heel of a chef’s knife. To mold the nougatine, drape it very rapidly over the mold so that it follows the shape and contours. Leave until completely cold before removing from the mold.
Or, cut out and using your fingers or a knife, push into folds or pleats… use as a basket, twirl round a knitting needle..

Nougatine based shapes can be made two or three days in advance, Keep them in a very dry place and do not fill with something like a mousse more than 2 hours prior to serving.

Chocolate Tuiles
Michel Roux’s Finest Desserts
Makes 30
Preparation time: 15 minutes!

9 oz/250 grams dark or white couverture or best-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2/3 cup/75 gr slivered almonds, toasted and cooled

Temper the couverture, and stir in the toasted almonds. Place the template on a sheet of rodoïde (or use a clean sheet of sturdy plastic such as a folder) and fill with about 1 tbs of the mixture. Repeat the process a little distance away from the first one. As soon as you have 5 tuiles fit, slide them onto a mold or rolling pin (side of a glass) to curve. Let cool completely, lift tuiles off the plastic only after the chocolate has set and just before serving, so that they keep their shine.

Or…..Savoury Bakers? You want something else entirely?
Well, let’s see if there’s something to suit your palate too. Parmesan crisps, savory tuiles?
It might be difficult to think fruity with these savoury tuiles but I bet you inventive Daring Bakers can come up with something light to pair. Think salads for instance.... and use this recipe for your tuiles:

Savory tuile/cornet recipe
From Thomas Keller "the French Laundry Cookbook"

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons (65 grams/2.1/4 ounces) all purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (= 2/3 teaspoon table salt)**
8 tablespoons (114 grams/4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened but still cool to the touch
2 large egg whites, cold
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk the softened butter until it is completely smooth and mayonnaise-like in texture. Using a stiff spatula or spoon, beat the egg whites into the dry ingredients until completely incorporated and smooth. Whisk in the softened butter by thirds, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary and whisking until the batter is creamy and without any lumps. Transfer the batter to a smaller container, as it will be easier to work with.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Make a 4-inch hollow circular stencil. Place Silpat on the counter (it is easier to work on the Silpat before it is put on the sheet pan). Place the stencil in one corner of the sheet and, holding the stencil flat against the Silpat, scoop some of the batter onto the back of an offset spatula and spread it in an even layer over the stencil. Then run the spatula over the entire stencil to remove any excess batter. After baking the first batch of cornets, you will be able to judge the correct thickness. You may need a little more or less batter to adjust the thickness of the cornets.

There should not be any holes in the batter. Lift the stencil and repeat the process to make as many rounds as you have molds or to fill the Silpat, leaving about 1 1/2 inches between the cornets. Sprinkle each cornet with a pinch of black sesame seeds.

Place the Silpat on a heavy baking sheet and bake for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the batter is set and you see it rippling from the heat. The cornets may have browned in some areas, but they will not be evenly browned at this point.

Open the oven door and place the baking sheet on the door.*** This will help keep the cornets warm as you roll them and prevent them from becoming too stiff to roll. Flip a cornet over on the sheet pan, sesame seed side down and place 4-1/2 inch cornet mold at the bottom of the round. If you are right-handed, you will want the pointed end on your left and the open end on your right. The tip of the mold should touch the lower left edge (at about 7 o'clock on a clock face) of the cornet.

Fold the bottom of the cornet and around the mold; it should remain on the sheet pan as you roll. Leave the cornet wrapped around the mold and continue to roll the cornets around molds; as you proceed, arrange the rolled cornets, seams side down, on the sheet pan so they lean against each other, to prevent from rolling.

When all the cornets are rolled, return them to the oven shelf, close the door, and bake for an additional 3 to 4 minutes to set the seams and color the cornets a golden brown. If the color is uneven, stand the cornets on end for a minute or so more, until the color is even. Remove the cornets from the oven and allow to cool just slightly, 30 seconds or so.
Gently remove the cornets from the molds and cool for several minutes on paper towels. Remove the Silpat from the baking sheet, wipe the excess butter from it, and allow it to cool down before spreading the next batch. Store the cornets for up to 2 days (for maximum flavor) in an airtight container.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

And now for the review.....

eh. that's right -- just eh. That's being nice. I had a much stronger reaction to this dessert the more I thought about it. It looks good. It looks yummy actually. And since it looks so yummy, my low expectations rose to about middling. But that was unfounded. It just wasn't that tasty for all the work and time and money that went into making this yule log.

I think certain elements were good --the dark chocolate mousse was very good. Although I don't know how that happened. The recipe I posted below isn't the one I used. Since I wanted to have chocolate and raspberry to cut the chocolate in the final dessert, I used the vanilla mousse recipe, halved it and added melted chocolate to one half and raspberry puree to the other. The raspberry mousse wouldn't set up and turned icy, while the chocolate stayed creamy. Go figure.

The praline crisp - I made the chocolate one with Vanilla Almond Special K and coconut - was good and added a nice contrast in texture, but the flavor was lost in all the chocolate.

The creme brulee was just a block of ice. It didn't setup all that well, although I only had a minimum of trouble getting it into the mold.

The ganache layer was good, but could've been thinner. As much as I love chocolate, there was a bit too much of it for even me.

The dacquoise was very good - on it's own. I don't think it added anything to the dessert though.

I may rant a bit here, so be forewarned. I'm tossed about this challenge. I think that the recipes may not have been the best and I think the instructions were vague and not nearly as descriptive as they needed to be. Now, I am fully allowing for the fact that my execution of the recipes wasn't what it could have been. If I had the time, I could've researched elements to make sure I knew what I was shooting for. I hadn't made a dacquoise before, so although it was golden....was it supposed to be crispy? It was on the edges and that was very good. But the center was chewy, which was still good, but I had no idea if I should bake it longer to hopefully get it more crispy in the center or if chewy was what I needed. I did try to do some research on this, but there was nothing definitive.

Since I started this so late and we had the 3-day window to post, I had the benefit of reading other blogs. Well, it wasn't a benefit per se, since I had already made most of the elements. But it did prepare me for what was going to go wrong. I read Hilda-our host's post about the yule log. In her post she talks about the need for high fat content in the cream and milk for the creme brulee. The fat is what keeps it from being icy. That would've been nice to know prior to making this dessert. That isn't a dig on Hilda, really. But after reading that, I knew my creme brulee would be icy. I used 2% milk because that's what I have here. And it's been used in creme brulee to beautiful results before. If I had given it some thought, I too might have realized that would be an issue and compensated with more heavy cream. Or I might not have, so a little note stating what may be the obvious would've been helpful.

I think that given all the elements, all the ingredients ($$), time and effort that is required in this dessert, more description and clearer instructions were needed. I'm tempted to make this again, just to get it right. But ultimately, I don't go ga-ga over frozen desserts. So, rather than make this again, I will take what I've learned and move on to the next challenge. But I encourage anyone reading this to absolutely try this for yourselves. I'm sure you will have different, and probably better, results. And you will learn, which is just as important as having a fabulous end result. So, go forth and bake kids!