Daring Dobos

I’m finally here with the Daring Baker Challenge for August, the Dobos Torta. It has an interesting history as a cake invented for keeping longer than other pastries of its era.  The recipe was k ept secret until it’s inventor, Jozsef C. Dobos, retired and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners’ and Gingerbread Makers’ Chamber of Industry, provided every member of the chamber could use it freely. I’ll bet he would have a food blog if he hadn’t retired in 1906.

I had intended to make this as a birthday cake for my MIL who just arrived this weekend, but it didn’t quite work out that way. Still, we enjoyed the cake together.

The sponge cake and the buttercream are just sort of ‘meh’ in my opinion.  We’ve had buttercream similar to this before, and while I understand their utility and place in the realm of desserts, it’s just not my personal favorite. The cake layers were very easy to make and baked quickly as they were so thin.

I think the thin layers look just fabulous with the thin layers of buttercream. I really like the way the buttercream holds its shape and firms up in the fridge, making for easy cutting. The real highlight of this challenge for me was the caramel. I think I didn’t get it as hot as I was supposed to, because mine came out softer than I had expected it to. Still, this was greater success than I have managed before with sugar play and I was able to make a few interesting shapes with it and twist some to drape around the cake. It drooped easily if it warmed at all, but it was cute while it lasted. I wish I would have had some hazelnuts to prop up the caramel cake wedges on the top, because I love that look.

Thanks to Lorraine and Angela for a fun 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.


Daring Copy Cats

I’m trying to get back in the blogging groove after a summer of very little baking and I have to say that I’ve missed participating in the Daring Bakers, Sugar High Friday, and Hay, Hay It’s Donna Day events the last couple of months. Unfortunately, I’m still a couple of days late putting this one up, but here I am, finally, with the copy cat cookies that were this months DB challenge.

First I did the Milans, thinking I might only do those and not both, but I really did want to try making marshmallows. Despite warnings that the Milan cookies spread, I wasn’t prepared for just *how much*! We’re talking s-p-r-e-a-d, and maybe we’ll just skip the comparisons to hips.

Also, while the batter sat waiting for the next sheet to bake, the cookies developed a lot more air bubbles. I was trying to aim for a crisp cookie that didn’t brown too much, but I never achieved that. Part of the cookies sat out overnight sandwiched with the filling (I chose to flavor mine with raspberry extract/flavor rather than orange zest), and part of them I put in a zip bag to play with the next day. The ones in the zip bag retained some crispness, but those that sat with the filling were chewy and not at all the texture of a Pepperidge Farms Milan. So for future reference, I would probably bake the cookies in advance and fill them not long before serving them. The girls absolute LOVED these cookies and declared them not *good*, but wonderful, the best cookies ever, and absolutely delicious. WIN!

The marshmallow was interesting to make. And very sticky. I didn’t make the cookie base for these, but rather used graham crackers and piped the marshmallow on top (which, when covered with chocolate, gives them an unfortunate shape).   😛  I was glad to use a disposable decorator’s bag with no tip so I could just throw out the sticky mess when I was done. I made the mistake of placing some of the cookies too close together, so that when I went to pick them up to put them in the chocolate coating a few hours later, the neighboring marshmallows clung to my fingers like little octopi. But they were good.  And did I mention, sticky?  The chocolate melts on your hands very easily, so these are best stored in the fridge.  I served both of these cookies for dessert when we had friends over for homemade pizza and there were none left. Thanks, Nicole, for a great challenge.

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.

Recipes after the jump.

Continue reading

Cherry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I periodically buy packages of Welch’s Dried Cherries for a snacking treat or to make a super quick and easy dessert. But ever since I first bought a package, with a recipe on the back for Cherry Oatmeal Cookies, I’ve thought it would be really tasty to make cherry chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Since the recipe on the back of the package only made 18 cookies, I decided to come up with something different.

One thing I really wish I would have done, however, is to chop up the cherries. They make delightful lumps in the cookies, but there aren’t enough in a 5.5 oz package to get much cherry in each cookie and I didn’t want to make the cookies outrageously expensive by using several packages. Too bad I was too lazy to chop them! These cookies are really tasty and I will definitely make these again.

Cherry Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar

2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3 cups quick cooking oatmeal

1 (5.5 oz) package dried cherries, chopped
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Beat butter and sugars together until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla.

In a separate bowl, blend together flour, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Add to butter mixture, mixing well. Add oatmeal. Fold in cherries and chocolate chips.

Chill dough for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Drop the dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a greased or parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 7-9 min or until slightly under done. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 1 minute on baking sheet before removing to cooling rack.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies, which still won’t be enough. 😉

American Black Forest Cake

I always thought Black Forest Cake had to have kirsch to be ‘real’ but learned today that it is common in America to leave it out and still call it by the same name. An example of ‘lost in translation’? At any rate, I wanted to make a chocolate layer cake and loved the idea of using cherries, but I didn’t have kirsch and thought it might turn off some of our Easter guests anyway. So while I called it a Black Forest-esque cake, presently I learn that it is simply the American version.

The chocolate cake wasn’t quite as dark as I thought it would be, but with the whipped cream as frosting rather than decorator’s frosting, the flavor of the cake comes through and isn’t squelched in a sugar bath. After smoothing the whipped cream on top of the cake, I wanted to give a hint of the chocolate lying underneath, so I sprinkled the top with shaved chocolate. The cake was hugely popular and will definitely be repeated, although I’d like to make it with kirsch next time. 😉

American Black Forest Cake

Dark Chocolate Cake (from Betty Crocker’s Chocolate Cookbook, 1985)

2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter (recipe calls for shortening)
3/4 c. water
3/4 c. buttermilk (I soured the milk with lemon juice)
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. baking powder
2 eggs
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled

Heat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour 2 round 9-inch pans. (I also use parchment paper on the bottom of the pan).

Beat all ingredients on low speed, scraping bowl constantly, 30 seconds. Beat on high speed, scraping bowl occasionally, 3 minutes. Pour into pans.

Bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 minutes or so. Cool cake 10 minutes; remove from pans.

1 pint whipping cream, whipped with 1 t. almond extract
1 can cherry pie filling

Fold the pie filling into the whipped cream.

1 pint whipping cream (may need another 1-2 c. for decorating, if piping is desired)
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. almond extract

Whip ingredients together until stiff.

Slice the cooled cakes in two, as evenly as possibly. Place one cake layer on the plate, spread with filling. Repeat with two more layers. Top with final cake layer. Frost with sweetened whipped cream and garnish as desired.

My Daring Valentino

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.

I made the flourless chocolate cake part of the challenge twice. The first time, I used Nestle milk chocolate chips and baked them as cupcakes to be served alongside the gluten free cupcakes for Tartlet 4’s preschool party. They were very good, despite lacking the strong chocolate flavor. I piped a little whipped cream in the center and topped them with the same orange buttercream frosting I used for the other cupcakes. They were quite popular.

The second time around I used Scharffen Berger chocolate, combining 62% and 70% cacao, and I baked these in heart shaped molds. I think I overbaked this batch slight as they were a little drier than I would have liked, but the flavor was very good.

The second part of the challenge was a bit more involved for us. And here I include The Husband.  Last fall he went to an auction and picked up an ice cream maker for $1, more interested in the motor the guy had innovatively installed than in the ice cream maker itself. It is a White Mountain 6 qt hand crank but had been left in a garage for years, leaving the bucket quite dry. It leaked like a sieve so The Husband sat outside cranking that thing for 2 hrs, eventually putting on his insulated coveralls when the snow flurries started. It still wasn’t solid, so we left it outside overnight (25 F) and the next morning he and Tartlet 1 put it in containers to freeze. After a few hours in the freezer, it became firm.

Because I was using a 6 qt freezer, I didn’t follow either of the recipes given in the challenge but modified one I found online. It is soooo rich and creamy! The Tartlets are certain we should never buy ice cream again but only make it. The good news is the bucket finally seems to have absorbed enough water to no longer leak so it should work faster next time! 😉

Thanks to Wendy and Dharm for a fun and tasty challenge! Recipes after the jump. Continue reading

Chocolate Pecan Pie

I’ve been in a chocolate mood lately. It’s not all bad. 😉 Lately I’ve been baking a few repeats, such as mint brownies, but Saturday night I made this chocolate pecan pie. It wasn’t as popular with the Tartlets as the apple pie, but that’s not all bad, either! I’ve made this before and added a few tablespoons of Grand Marnier or Cointreau to the batter and that’s a very good variation.

Fudgy Pecan Pie

9-inch pie pastry, I used my usual recipe

1/3 c. butter
1/3 c. cocoa

2/3 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
3 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 c. light corn syrup

1 c. chopped pecans

1 c. pecan halves

Prepare pastry shell. Set aside. Heat oven to 375 degrees.

In medium saucepan over low heat melt butter, add cocoa and stir until mixture is smooth. Then remove from heat. Cool slightly. Stir in sugar, salt, eggs and corn syrup. Blend thoroughly. Stir in chopped nuts.

Pour into pastry shell. Place pecan halves on top. Bake 40-45 minutes. Cool. Garnish with whipped cream, if desired. Serves 8.

Sugar High Friday: Childhood Delights

I grew up in a ‘homemade house’. In large part because we were poor, but also because I was born into a rural heritage of ‘make it do or do without’. My mom sewed most of my clothes, something I didn’t mind when I was smaller, but by high school it was definitely not as cool as Jordache or Gloria Vanderbilt jeans (with the comb stuck in the back pocket, of course!), so I resorted to selecting patterns from Evan-Picone (I’ll bet my mom still has a pattern like this in her vast collection). Although you might not guess we were poor when you considered our menu (broiled lamb chops for Sunday breakfast, anyone?), it was because we grew most of our food and it was abundant. So I came to think that anything ‘store-bought’ or that came in a box was inherently better, sweeter with the magic aura of rarity.  I didn’t recognize it was actually the high fructose corn syrup and preservatives. 😉 This is also why I am not insulted when the Tartlets ask for store-bought birthday cakes. I understand why they’re ‘better’.

I don’t actually remember many sweet treats from my childhood, although I’m sure they were plentiful. I remember each year ordering large tins (like 20 lb or something) of frozen cherries from Agway and how, when I was sent to get some meat or vegetables from the basement freezer, I would sneak them, one at time, from the tin and let it slowly thaw in my mouth but chewing it up quickly before I got to the top of the stairs.  No one would ever know! (Why do kids believe that?!)  I remember when my mom started taking cake decorating classes and we ate pretty cakes. I remember ice cream — homemade, from Brownlee’s stand, or Wiencek’s Dairy Bar (dipped in chocolate or cherry). But, with a look at that tag cloud, are you surprised that one of my favorites was the Pillsbury Chocolate Macaroon Bundt cake mix, with it’s separate packages for cake, filling, and frosting? I mean . . . chocolate. cake. Says it all, right? Pillsbury discontinued their Bundt mixes many years ago but, if you are willing to pay for the memory, Nordic Ware offers a gourmet cake mix line at $11/box. I decided to play with making my own.

My first attempt, pictured above, was with a finely shredded coconut and for the center I first beat two egg whites to a stiff peak, added some sugar and almond extract, and folded in the coconut. While it yielded the picture-perfect tunnel, my coconut was freezer burnt (BLECH!) and the texture was far too dry and flaky. The second time I switched methods and used sweetened condensed milk with a couple of egg whites (not beaten) and the extract and coconut. While the second attempt gave a very good texture and taste, it did not form the pretty tunnel. I actually plan to experiment with this a third time.

For this walk down memory lane, I thank Rachel of Vampituity who is our creative hostess for this round of Sugar High Friday, created by Jennifer, the Domestic Goddess.

Chocolate Macaroon Cake

1 box dark chocolate cake mix
1 small pkg instant chocolate fudge pudding mix
1 1/4 c. water
1/3 c. oil
2 eggs
2 egg yolks

1 1/2 c. coconut
2 egg whites
1/2 c. sweetened condensed milk
1/2 t. almond extract
2 Tbsp. flour

1 Tbsp. melted butter
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. milk
1/2 t. almond or vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour Bundt or other tube pan and set aside.

Beat together cake ingredients for 2-3 minutes, until smooth and thick, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Spread 1/3 of the cake batter into the prepared pan.

Stir together filling until well mixed. Carefully spoon the filling on top of the cake batter, keeping it away from the edges and center of the pan. Spread the remaining batter over the filling.

Bake for 35-45 min or until done. Cool for 10 minutes then invert on rack and cool completely.

Stir together frosting ingredients, adjusting consistency with milk or sugar. Drizzle over cake.