Thursday, August 27, 2009

A lesson in Hungarian - Dobos Torte, DB August 2009

Yup, it's that time of the month again.

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.

It's been a while since I last make a layered cake, not for myself anyway, so I welcomed this month's challenge with open arms =).

This is the first time I heard about Dobos Torte. After a quick consultation with Google, I found out that Dobos Torte is Hungarian in origin and basically means a layered sponge cake with chocolate buttercream. And, not to forget, the trademark caramel glazed sponge cake layers that forms a fan-like decoration on top of the cake.

Although it is quite time consuming and quite fiddley, this recipe is quite simple. The texture of the sponge cake is one of the best I ever had. I made three mini cakes, I didn't play around with the flavours nor the presentation too much this month. I did had a bit of fun with the caramel-glazed sponge layer.

Thanks ladies for yet another tasty challenge =)

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.)

4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

A baked layer.

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.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A musical birthday

Whoa! I'm swamped with cake orders this month. Well, not really, but when you have a full time job and a dad visiting, 3 big cake orders is quite a handful for a 2 weeks span. The first one is a cupcake tower for my friend's wedding which I will blog later this week. And the second one, is a birthday cake for a special little girl who turns 14. Almost a woman =).

She loves music, so she wants a musical themed cake. At first she wanted a guitar shaped cake. But I'm pressed for time and I'm not that daring enough nor skillful enough to decorate a 3D cake just yet. So I suggested something similar. I based this design on Planet Cake's exploding star cake that I made in the Basic 101 class, but replacing the stars with a guitar and making it into a two tier cake. For an extra touch, I painted some musical notes on the cake using black food colouring.

Phew! two orders down, one more to go!

For detailed recipe on the cake and the ganache I use, please refer back to this post.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A taste of home - Nasi tim ayam jamur (Chicken rice with mushroom)

My dad is visitting for two weeks. This means a lot of eating out =). However, for his lunches, I like to cook for him so he doesn't have to end up settling with greasy chinese food most of the time since it's the easiest and closest thing from my house.

This dish was actually a request from a good friend who fell ill and crave for comforting homemade food. His girlfriend cooks to kill so these times, I gladly fill in the role of nourishing him. I've never tried making this dish before, and it is one of my childhood favourites, so when he requested, I happily obeyed it.

I didn't think that this dish was this simple to make. I usually avoids anything that requires steaming, but to my surprise, the rice is actually steamed separately from the chicken, so I can actually make the rice as per the normal way of making rice, in the rice cooker. Only this time, the rice is cooked in chicken stock, not water to achieve the fragrant and tasty chicken rice. Using homemade chicken stock takes this dish into a different level.

Nasi tim ayam jamur (Chicken rice with mushroom)

Chicken rice
2 cups of rice
250ml chicken stock (preferably homemade)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
a dash of sesame oil
1 cm ginger, crushed
2 clove of garlic, finely sliced

Wash rice and rinse thoroughly. In a rice cooker, mix chicken stock, water, soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Add cleaned rise and cook until it's done.

For the chicken

2 boneless chicken thigh fillet, remove excess fat, diced
50-80g of button mushroom or swiss brown
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
2 cm ginger, crushed
sauce (for the sauce, I didn't actually measure it, mix according to your taste, the taste you should get is a strong garlicky & gingery flavour with a sweet undertone from the soy sauce):
soy sauce, oyster sauce, ketjap manis, salt, pepper, sugar, sesame oil, chinese five spice powder, corn starch, vegetable oil

Marinate chicken pieces with a bit of dark soy, sesame oil, sugar and 1 tbsp corn starch for 1-2 hours. Saute garlic and ginger in hot oil, add chicken pieces until cooked through, add the sauce.

250 ml chicken stock
1 cm ginger, crushed
1 clove of garlic, crushed
salt & pepper to taste
1 tbsp of soy sauce
dash of sesame oil

In a heavy based saucepan, saute garlic and ginger with a bit of oil. Pour in the stock and cook until boiling. Season with soy sauce, salt & pepper to taste.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Quince & Apple Crisps with Rum Raisin

I have a friend that is obsessed with apple crumble. She can skip meals when she knows I'm making apple crumble just so she have enough room in her stomach for my crumble. She can easily polish off one whole pan of apple crumble by herself in one seating. That actually what she did last year when I made her a big pan of apple crumble for her birthday.

Sadly, this year, her birthday falls the day before my exam, so eventhough it's already a month late, she still demands her birthday apple crumble. I usually use my ex housemate's recipe where she used canned apple and muesli and desiccated coconut in the crust. But eversince I encounter this recipe in the Bon Appetit special thanksgiving issue more than 2 years ago, I never look back. It is definitely requires a lot more work and time consuming. But if you plan your meals cleverly, this dish can actually be done in steps over a couple of days. No shortcuts here either. I love the combination of quince and apple. It gives an interesting texture to the dish. The rum raisin gives an extra punch too.

The recipe actually produce quite a lot of stuffing. I love a thick layer of crust, so when making this, I always double the crust topping quantity, and bake it in individual ramekins for late night snacks for me =). I usually serve this with store bought pouring custard, but after I gave the whole bottle to my friend, I left with none for me. So I made my own vanilla custard from scratch. A good way to use up the dying bottle of milk I have in the fridge.

Apple and Quince Crisp with Rum Raisins

Bon Appétit | November 2007

Rum Raisins:
  • 1 1/2 cups raisins
  • 1 cup dark rum

Crisp Topping:
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 4 cups water
  • 3 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 pounds quinces (about 5 medium), peeled, quartered, cored
  • 4 large Gala apples, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

For rum raisins:
Simmer raisins and rum in small saucepan 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Ignite with match; let flames burn out, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer 2 tablespoons liquid to small bowl for crisp topping.

For crisp topping:
Melt butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Simmer until butter is golden brown, about 6 minutes. Cool.

Mix flour, sugar, nutmeg, and salt in medium bowl. Add browned butter and 2 tablespoons reserved liquid from rum raisins; stir until moist clumps form. DO AHEAD: Raisins and topping can be made 1 day ahead. Cover each; chill.

For filling:
Combine 4 cups water and 3 cups sugar in large saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Add quinces; simmer until tender, 15 minutes. Remove from syrup; cool. Reserve syrup for another use. Cut quinces into 1-inch cubes. Transfer to large bowl. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add apples, lemon juice, flour, salt, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and rum raisin mixture to bowl with quinces; toss to blend. Transfer to baking dish. Crumble topping over.

Bake apple and quince crisp until golden and bubbling, about 55 minutes. Cool at least 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with softly whipped cream or ice cream.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Fish for dinner - whole baked salmon en papillote with Lemon & fennel

I've been a bad bad blogger. Lately my entries usually comprise of daring baker challenges and that's about it. I used to be able to blame uni studies, but now that it's over, I'm running out of excuses. I guess the old excuse of "life just gets in the way" is the best one I can think of. My kitchen is busy as always though. Busier than ever actually. I have been baking and cooking like crazy to contemplate all those times consumed with study and assignments. I just didn't find the time, energy, nor the inspiration to blog.

Lately, my thoughts are consumed with this huge decision I'm about to make. Perhaps one of the biggest decision in my life. I think I mentioned somewhere before that I planned to move back to Indonesia this year. But I put that aside to focus on my study, now, it's getting closer and closer to becoming a reality. No dates has been set yet. And there's still a lot of details that I need to figure out. Breaking the news to my boss has been the first step. It's so overwhelming!!! Just the thought of packing 7 years of my life and saying goodbye to this beautiful city where I basically spent most of my adult life is extremely hard and very daunting. What most daunting for me is saying goodbye to M. We decided to try a long distance relationship for the time being and see how we go from there. Having coming out of a 4 years relationship where the 3 years out of it are spent apart, I'm certainly not looking forward to relive the experience. It's just something we have to do. If it's meant to be, there will be a way.

From now on, I'll be busy cramming as much as "melbourne experience" as I can. So I can bottle up enough memories of this city to last me till the next visit. But hey, coming home to the love of your family and childhood friends sort of make all this 'separation' worth doing. And I won't know what the future holds for me. I can easily end up back in Melbourne in a couple years time. For now, I need to go back home and start taking care of my parents.

This is why I've been cooking lots of comfort food. My mind just needs to be soothed from all this as well as the freezing weather Melbourne has delivered this couple of weeks.

I'm trying a new technique to cook this beautiful whole trout I got from the market. The term 'en papillote means 'in parchment' in french. It's a technique of cooking fish or meat in their own juice inside a parcel made out of aluminium foil or baking paper. The parcel traps the heat and steam and gently cooks the meat and infuse it with flavour. I love this technique as it gives a very strong infusion to the meat while keeping it moist and juicy. I never cook with fennel before, but it goes beautifully with the trout. I serve this fish with a rich and creamy baked potatoes. The tanginess and freshness of the fish marries perfectly with the richness and creaminess of the potatoes. Definitely a perfect comfort food for a chilly night with a tall glass of white wine.

Baked whole trout en papillote with lemon and fennel
Original recipe can be found at the Times Online October 3, 2007

1 whole trout, cleaned and gutted
1 tbsp classic vinaigrette
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 bulbs of fennel, tough core removed and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
4 slices of lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
60-70ml dry white wine

1 Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6, or light the barbecue.
2 Place the trout on a clean chopping board and make 3-4 deep slices in each side of the fish, then season well with salt and pepper.
3 Take four large pieces of tin foil and brush the surface with olive oil
4 Fill the cavity of each trout with the fennel and garlic and place the fish inside the foil. Place the slices of lemon confit on top of the fish, carefully pull the foil up to create a parcel, then pour over the wine.
5 Scrunch the top of the foil together to form a nice, tight parcel.
6 Place in the preheated oven or barbecue and cook for 10-15 minutes.
7 Transfer the fish in the foil to the serving plates, then open up the foil parcels - eat straight from the foil if you like.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lemon sable cookies with Yuzu lemon curd

I have some Yuzu lemon curd leftover from the bakewell tart that is last month's daring bakers challenge (I actually made this cookies about 1 month or so ago, and no, I don't use a month old curd), after making lemon meringue tart, I ran out of ideas of the things to use this curd with. So I bake some of Dorie Greenspan's Sable au Citron which I've been wanting to try ever since I read it in her Paris Sweets book.

A couple of friends come over to my place so we have these cookies with a cup of 'teh gopek', Indonesian black tea in my new moroccan tea set. They're just lovely.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Marshmallowy goodness - DB July 09

I'm late, yet again.
My timing is just wayyyy off lately.

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.

Hope this post will still make the cut of July's DB challenge.
I only made the mallows, since I'm not that fond of milano cookies nor do I have the time and energy to do two kinds.

I made marshmallows before, and they are super easy and way better than the store bought one. So when I see this month (last month's I mean) challenge, I was quite excited. My boss was too, because I've been raving about homemade marshmallow to her but never had the chance to actually made one for her.

This time, I made strawberry marshmallow to go with the cinnamon cookies. The cookies was amazing by the way, and a breeze to whip up. I sprinkle the marshmallow with strawberry powder to intensify the strawberry flavour even further. After dipping the mallows in chocolate, I sprinkle pink glitter and put edible gold leaves on top. They look just adorable.

I made PLENTY of marshmallow. After giving some to my boss, I took the rest to the snow with me. Just picture a steaming hot choco with these babies while it's pouring snow outside.. Pure bliss. It even made me forgot how lousy the weather was all weekend at Mt. Buller.

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 here
• 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.

For the homemade marshmallow, I used Nightscotman's strawberry marshmallow which are a variation of Martha Stewart's vanilla marshmallow found here

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.