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.

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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

Daring With Sugar

Lots and LOTS of sugar!

It’s time for the monthly Daring Bakers Challenge. This month’s hostess, Delores of Culinary Curiosity, and co-hosts Alex (Brownie of the Blondie and Brownie duo) and Jenny of Foray into Food selected Shuna Fish Lydon’s (of Eggbeater) Caramel Cake (as posted on Bay Area Bites). It’s helpful to remember that these are baking challenges, not competitions. And if I already knew how to make all the pieces parts, then it wouldn’t be much of a challenge, would it?!

I’ve attempted caramelized sugar a couple of times in the past and have always ended up with a pan of burnt sugar and needed the hood fan on for a few hours to clean the kitchen of the stench. This time I’m happy to report I was far more successful. Still, the first time I worked on the caramel syrup, I thought about stopping and spread some of the syrup out on parchment paper to cool so I could test for ‘stickiness’ (?? It’s sugar syrup, of course it’s sticky!) and decided to let it go a couple of more minutes and that ruined it. Just a short while later if you looked at the globs on the parchment paper, the early part was nice and clear and shiny and the later stuff was cloudy and dull. I still used that in the cake rather than making new, so it was less syrupy and more sludgy.

For the frosting I decided I wanted to try again with the syrup and this time I wanted to try to make some sugar ‘art’ before I stopped the caramelizing process. The first few bits worked well and I think my biggest mistake was in putting my spoon back in the pan — I think it would have turned out better had I used a fresh utensil, but I’m not sure.  Also, I need to figure out how to keep the temp constant without the sugar continuing to darken.  I have a lot to learn about working with sugar but this little bit of success makes me want to try again soon. After all, desserts just cry out for that ‘Look, honey, fishing line on the cake’ look. 😉 Maybe with practice it will look less like a tangled fishing line mess and more like an intended shape!

I followed the recipe for the cake as given with no flavor additions or changes. For the frosting, I added the seeds from a vanilla bean (I like the little black specks!) and a splash of vanilla extract. I’ve never made browned butter frosting before. I can see why people like it on spice cakes, but it probably won’t become a regular feature in my desserts. I added chocolate to the decorating because all the beige was too blah and I like chocolate with caramel.

The cake is dense and moist with a nice caramel flavor.  The nice thing about the cake and frosting is that it could be casual or fancy, depending on how you decorate your final product.  Delores, Alex, and Jenny — thank you for a fun challenge and the inspiration to work with sugar shapes again!

Recipe after the jump Continue reading

Daring Bakers Puff With Pierre

It’s that time again!  After missing two challenges this summer, I wasn’t about to pass up this.  This month’s hosts Meeta and Tony selected a recipe from Pierre Herme and a cookbook which is going to be on my Christmas wish list, I think.  In the past when I’ve made both plain and chocolate cream puffs, the recipes I have followed called only for water, no milk. Pierre’s recipe is different and I have to say that I’m not sure I’ll ever go back. The milk makes a much softer texture and gives a much richer flavor. Of course, chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate adds a lot too!  😉

I found piping the dough awkward, because I had difficulty loading my bag and had pastry dough all over my hands. I used a disposable bag with the tip cut a little larger than I would for a regular decorating tip but with no tip in the bag.  Most of them I was able to pipe out smoothly but the ends would make a curly tail that I smoothed with my finger.  I piped mine about 3-3/12 inches long, shorter than the recipe calls for, but it made a nice size dessert.  I’d like to try this again and play with it a little. I would love to make these with a raspberry cream filling and the chocolate glaze on top. While this recipe won’t exactly break the bank like a few other fancy schmancy desserts, it may cause the dishwasher to go on strike!

Thank you, Meeta and Tony for a great challenge and for some fun in the kitchen!  If you’d like to see the other bazillion eclairs made this month, head over to the Daring Baker Blogroll and click away!

Recipe after the jump.

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Chocolate Rebellion

When the opera cake challenge was announced, the hostesses kindly gave some links to some lovely chocolate versions that instigated an incredible craving for me. So I followed the rules with half of the cake and saved the other half for my rebellious plans with dark chocolate ganache.

The joconde is the same and I used the same almond flavored syrup on the cake layers. Even the buttercream fit in with the original limitations — it’s the same recipe (although this batch was the one I had the worst trouble with candy-coated scrambled eggs and my butter was softer and never seemed to firm up as much as the first batch) but this time I used white chocolate and some seedless red raspberry preserves to flavor it. For the mousse layer I departed from the instructions by making mine with whipping cream, 2 oz melted Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate (oh, yum!), and raspberry syrup I made from frozen raspberries, sugar, and a splash of lemon juice. While the raspberry flavor came out nicely in the buttercream, I was disappointed that neither the raspberry nor the chocolate flavor seemed particularly strong in the mousse layer. Finally, I covered it with a glaze of ganache (just cream and chocolate).

In order to get the sides straight and to slice the individual servings, I used a very hot knife to slice the cake, which melted the glaze and smeared it across the mousse. I think next time I would stick to just raspberry in the mousse so it would be a little more intense next to the chocolate glaze. Either that or just go for more chocolate through the whole thing. I think it is dramatic with alternating almond cake and chocolate.

DB Challenge: It’s Not Over Until The Fat Lady Bakes

. . . or something like that. Anyone with internet access and an interest in food blogs knows by now that the Daring Baker Challenge for the month of May, and posted by all the prompt bakers last week, was the Opera Cake in a whiter shade of pale. While opera cake is typically dark with coffee and chocolate, our hostesses and DB administrators extraordinaire, Lis and Ivonne, along with co-hosts Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea of Whiskful, chose lighter colors in honor of Barbara and the LiveSTRONG campaign (she’s also the genius behind Hay, Hay, It’s Donna Day!). In that vein, I chose mango for the flavor of my mousse and used almond in the cake and again with white chocolate in the buttercream.

Part of the reason you could hit the high notes with this cake is the cost of the ingredients. I bought a bag of almond meal for this project and it was nearly $15 and I don’t think there’s enough in it for a second full batch! That makes it even more expensive than my Turtle Cheesecake. Yikes! Of course, for me, it also involved some tragedy. This was a new way of making buttercream and I have to say I wasn’t all that thrilled. When I added the hot sugar syrup to the eggs, I ended up with some long strands of candy coated scrambled eggs in the frosting and it is very delicate (very soft at summer room temp), so if I wanted the creamy smoothness of buttercream with egg, I’d go the meringue route again. For the mousse, I combined elements of the recipe given by our hosts with the mango mousse I made last spring. I melted some white chocolate and stirred it into a mixture of mango, sugar, and gelatine that had been pureed and heated (and then cooled). This mixture I added to the whipped cream. It was still rather soft mousse but held up to the white chocolate glaze because I left it in the fridge for a few hours and the glaze was cool when I spread it over the mousse. The final result is very sweet, strongly flavored with white chocolate, but overall good. Definitely keep it chilled until just before serving it. Would I do it again? Probably not just like this.

Actually, I chose to only make half the recipe this way . . . stay tuned for what I did with the other jelly roll pan of joconde! Until then, go visit other Daring Bakers to see what flavor combos they used.

Challenge Recipe, without my modifications noted (sorry!), after the jump.

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