December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays!!


Wishing all my friends and supporters a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year!! Cherish your times with your family and enjoy each moment of this year! And here's to wishing for another amazing, successful and joyous year -2010!!

We had a good Christmas lunch at home in the midst of an extensive snow blizzard - totally snowed in at home, so did not get to go even to church!! I will start posting the recipes soon....

Happy Holidays!! Enjoy..

November 27, 2009

Cannolipoleons with Honey-Mascarpone Filling for DB challenge!

Welcome to the revealing of the Daring Bakers challenge for the month of November!

The November 2009 Daring Bakers Challenge was chosen and hosted by Lisa Michele of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drives. She chose the Italian Pastry, Cannolo (Cannoli is plural), using the cookbooks Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich and The Sopranos Family Cookbook by Allen Rucker; recipes by Michelle Scicolone, as ingredient/direction guides. She added her own modifications/changes, so the recipe is not 100% verbatim from either book.

I was really excited about this challenge because I've heard about cannolis in the comedy sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, showcasing an Italian family and the relationship between its members!! I knew it had to be something amazing from Raymond's extreme excitement over the cannolis made by his mom!!! I managed to attempt this challenge earlier on than usual since I was alone here in the US since my family is still on a trip to India.

The dough was a breeze to prepare and it came together very well for me with the given recipe. I used Marsala cooking wine to make the dough. I made the dough with the food processor and then proceeded to knead it for a couple of minutes. I was thinking of leaving the dough overnight in the fridge but my curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to fry a couple of pieces of rolled dough just to see how it will turn out (after chilling the dough for an hour in the fridge).


My first trial was an utter failure, well maybe not that big of a failure (it was not that bad, and it was just a bit of trial dough!).... The dough puffed up completely even after docking. The fried pieces kind of felt oily to me. So I knew from the forum discussions that it could be because the oil temperature was not up to the required level.

So the next day I rolled the dough quite thin (I mean very very thin- this is key!!!!) and cut out rectangles and then rolled them even thinner, until it was almost transparent ( thanks to whoever mentioned the strudel thinness in the forum)!! The oil was also heated to a higher temperature. As soon as I dropped the pieces in, I could see them starting to show great texture on the surface with lots of bubbling. The dough pieces didnt have to be in the oil for too long, I guess they had to be flipped over and taken out of the oil in around a minute or so. This, on cooling yielded light-golden colored, beautiful looking cannolipoleons. From my experience, the temperature and the thickness of the pieces are the things to pay attention to.


I decided to do a filling of mascarpone cheese as I had some which I hadnt used for some time. I just whipped the mascarpone cheese with honey and sugar and a bit of milk until soft enough to be piped. The filling was piped only on the edges with a plain round tip so as to give a beautiful stacked finish. The top most piece was decorated with melted chocolate and chopped pistachios and allowed to set. The presentation was finished off with a few raspberries.

VERDICT:

I loved the fried dough pieces on their own when they were fried at the proper temperature. The Marsala wine gives the dough an unexplainable taste which is amazing!! I should say that the taste for mascarpone cheese is an acquired one and I realised once again that I am not a big fan of mascarpone. But the cannolipoleons were amazing and I can see why people rave about them. I am sure with a filling of cream cheese or butter cream or even whipped cream I would go crazy about these.. But to tell you the truth, I polished off the pictured cannolipoleons in one go!!! Since my family was away, I took the pictures with my cell phone, so the pictures might not be of great quality.... Next time I would like to try the cannolis with the cannoli-forms to experience it fully!!!

I sure had fun with this challenge and am satisfied with my attempt. Thank you so much Lisa, for this wonderful challenge...



CANNOLI SHELLS


2 cups (250 grams/8.82 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons(28 grams/1 ounce) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.06 ounces) unsweetened baking cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 3 grams/0.11 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (42 grams/1.5 ounces) vegetable or olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 grams/0.18 ounces) white wine vinegar
Approximately 1/2 cup (approx. 59 grams/approx. 4 fluid ounces/approx. 125 ml) sweet Marsala or any white or red wine you have on hand
1 large egg, separated (you will need the egg white but not the yolk)
Vegetable or any neutral oil for frying – about 2 quarts (8 cups/approx. 2 litres)
1/2 cup (approx. 62 grams/2 ounces) toasted, chopped pistachio nuts, mini chocolate chips/grated chocolate and/or candied or plain zests, fruits etc.. for garnish
Confectioners' sugar

Note - If you want a chocolate cannoli dough, substitute a few tablespoons of the flour (about 25%) with a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch process) and a little more wine until you have a workable dough (Thanks to Audax).

CANNOLI FILLING
2 lbs (approx. 3.5 cups/approx. 1 kg/32 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1 2/3 cups cup (160 grams/6 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, (more or less, depending on how sweet you want it), sifted
1/2 teaspoon (1.15 grams/0.04 ounces) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon (4 grams/0.15 ounces) pure vanilla extract or the beans from one vanilla bean
3 tablespoons (approx. 28 grams/approx. 1 ounce) finely chopped good quality chocolate of your choice
2 tablespoons (12 grams/0.42 ounces) of finely chopped, candied orange peel, or the grated zest of one small to medium orange
3 tablespoons (23 grams/0.81 ounce) toasted, finely chopped pistachios

Note - If you want chocolate ricotta filling, add a few tablespoons of dark, unsweetened cocoa powder to the above recipe, and thin it out with a few drops of warm water if too thick to pipe.

DIRECTIONS FOR SHELLS:
1. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer or food processor, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the oil, vinegar, and enough of the wine to make a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and well blended, about 2 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge from 2 hours to overnight.

2 Cut the dough into two pieces. Keep the remaining dough covered while you work. Lightly flour a large cutting or pastry board and roll the dough until super thin, about 1/16 to 1/8” thick (An area of about 13 inches by 18 inches should give you that). Cut out 3 to 5-inch circles (3-inch – small/medium; 4-inch – medium/large; 5-inch;- large. Your choice). Roll the cut out circle into an oval, rolling it larger and thinner if it’s shrunk a little.

3 Oil the outside of the cannoli tubes (You only have to do this once, as the oil from the deep fry will keep them well, uhh, oiled..lol). Roll a dough oval from the long side (If square, position like a diamond, and place tube/form on the corner closest to you, then roll) around each tube/form and dab a little egg white on the dough where the edges overlap. (Avoid getting egg white on the tube, or the pastry will stick to it.) Press well to seal. Set aside to let the egg white seal dry a little.

4. In a deep heavy saucepan, pour enough oil to reach a depth of 3 inches, or if using an electric deep-fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. Heat the oil to 375°F (190 °C) on a deep fry thermometer, or until a small piece of the dough or bread cube placed in the oil sizzles and browns in 1 minute. Have ready a tray or sheet pan lined with paper towels or paper bags.

5. Carefully lower a few of the cannoli tubes into the hot oil. Do not crowd the pan. Fry the shells until golden, about 2 minutes, turning them so that they brown evenly.

8. Lift a cannoli tube with a wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, out of the oil. Using tongs, grasp the cannoli tube at one end. Very carefully remove the cannoli tube with the open sides straight up and down so that the oil flows back into the pan. Place the tube on paper towels or bags to drain. Repeat with the remaining tubes. While they are still hot, grasp the tubes with a potholder and pull the cannoli shells off the tubes with a pair of tongs, or with your hand protected by an oven mitt or towel. Let the shells cool completely on the paper towels. Place shells on cooling rack until ready to fill.

9. Repeat making and frying the shells with the remaining dough. If you are reusing the cannoli tubes, let them cool before wrapping them in the dough.



Pasta Machine method:

1. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Starting at the middle setting, run one of the pieces of dough through the rollers of a pasta machine. Lightly dust the dough with flour as needed to keep it from sticking. Pass the dough through the machine repeatedly, until you reach the highest or second highest setting. The dough should be about 4 inches wide and thin enough to see your hand through

2. Continue rolling out the remaining dough. If you do not have enough cannoli tubes for all of the dough, lay the pieces of dough on sheets of plastic wrap and keep them covered until you are ready to use them.

3, Roll, cut out and fry the cannoli shells as according to the directions above.

For stacked cannoli:


1. Heat 2-inches of oil in a saucepan or deep sauté pan, to 350-375°F (176 - 190 °C).

2. Cut out desired shapes with cutters or a sharp knife. Deep fry until golden brown and blistered on each side, about 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oil with wire skimmer or large slotted spoon, then place on paper towels or bags until dry and grease free. If they balloon up in the hot oil, dock them lightly prior to frying. Place on cooling rack until ready to stack with filling.

DIRECTIONS FOR FILLING:


1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the ricotta in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Weight it down with a heavy can, and let the ricotta drain in the refrigerator for several hours to overnight.

2. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl and stir in chocolate, zest and nuts. Chill until firm.(The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

ASSEMBLE THE CANNOLI:
1. When ready to serve..fill a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain or star tip, or a ziplock bag, with the ricotta cream. If using a ziplock bag, cut about 1/2 inch off one corner. Insert the tip in the cannoli shell and squeeze gently until the shell is half filled. Turn the shell and fill the other side. You can also use a teaspoon to do this, although it’s messier and will take longer.

2. Press or dip cannoli in chopped pistachios, grated chocolate/mini chocolate chips, candied fruit or zest into the cream at each end. Dust with confectioner’s sugar and/or drizzles of melted chocolate if desired.

PUMPKIN FILLING
1/2 cup (123 grams/4.34 ounces) ricotta cheese, drained
1/2 cup (113 grams/4.04 ounces) mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (122.5 grams/4.32 ounces) canned pumpkin, drained like ricotta
3/4 cup (75 grams/2.65 ounces) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/2 to 1 teaspoon (approx. 1.7 grams/approx. 0.06 ounces) pumpkin pie spice (taste)
1/2 teaspoon (approx. 2 grams/approx. 0.08 ounces) pure vanilla extract
6-8 cannoli shells

1. In a bowl with electric mixer, beat ricotta and mascarpone until smooth and creamy. Beat in confectioner’s sugar, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla and blend until smooth. Transfer to another bowl, cover and chill until it firms up a bit. (The filling can be made up to 24 hours prior to filling the shells. Just cover and keep refrigerated).

2. Fill the shells as directed above. I dipped the ends of the shells in caramelized sugar and rolled them in toasted, chopped pecans.



TIPS AND NOTES:


- Dough must be stiff and well kneaded

- Rolling the dough to paper thinness, using either a rolling pin or pasta machine, is very important. If the dough is not rolled thin enough, it will not blister, and good cannoli should have a blistered surface.

- Initially, this dough is VERY stubborn, but keep rolling, it eventually gives in. Before cutting the shapes, let the dough rest a bit, covered, as it tends to spring back into a smaller shapes once cut. Then again, you can also roll circles larger after they’re cut, and/or into ovals, which gives you more space for filling.

- Your basic set of round cutters usually doesn’t contain a 5-inch cutter. Try a plastic container top, bowl etc, or just roll each circle to 5 inches. There will always be something in your kitchen that’s round and 5-inches if you want large cannoli.

- Oil should be at least 3 inches deep and hot – 360°F-375°F, or you’ll end up with greasy shells. I prefer 350°F - 360°F because I felt the shells darkened too quickly at 375°F.

- If using the cannoli forms, when you drop the dough on the form into the oil, they tend to sink to the bottom, resulting in one side darkening more. Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to gently lift and roll them while frying.

- DO NOT crowd the pan. Cannoli should be fried 2-4 at a time, depending on the width of your saucepan or deep fryer. Turn them once, and lift them out gently with a slotted spoon/wire skimmer and tongs. Just use a wire strainer or slotted spoon for flat cannoli shapes.

- When the cannoli turns light brown - uniform in color, watch it closely or remove it. If it’s already a deep brown when you remove it, you might end up with a really dark or slightly burnt shell.

- Depending on how much scrap you have left after cutting out all of your cannoli shapes, you can either fry them up and sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar for a crispy treat, or let the scraps rest under plastic wrap and a towel, then re-roll and cut more cannoli shapes.

- Push forms out of cannoli very gently, being careful not to break the shells as they are very delicate. DO NOT let the cannoli cool on the form, or you may never get it off without it breaking. Try to take it off while still hot. Hold it with a cloth in the center, and push the form out with a butter knife or the back of a spoon.

- When adding the confectioner’s sugar to the filling..TASTE. You may like it sweeter than what the recipe calls for, or less sweet, so add in increments.

- Fill cannoli right before serving! If you fill them an hour or so prior, you’ll end up with soggy cannoli shells.

- If you want to prepare the shells ahead of time, store them in an airtight container, then re-crisp in a 350°F (176 °C) oven for a few minutes, before filling.

- Practice makes perfect. My first batch of shells came out less than spectacular, and that’s an understatement. As you go along, you’ll see what will make them more aesthetically pleasing, and adjust accordingly when rolling. My next several batches turned out great. Don’t give up!!


Hope you had fun going through my post of making the cannolipoleons! Check out all my previous Daring bakers challenges here. Do visit me again for more interesting culinary attempts..

Hope that you all had a great thanksgiving!! Enjoy your weekend....

November 7, 2009

French Macaroons - a re-trial

Hi and welcome back to Tasty treats!! After my epic failure (just in the looks, that is!!) with french macaroons for the Daring Baker challenge, I was determined to make some "good-looking macaroons which can be seen all over the blogosphere - those cute, little, round, puffed-up thingies with cute lil "feet". I should say again that the DB recipe yielded deelicious results, but the looks didnt work out for me, neither did the absence of feet!


I was determined to try Helen's recipe which gave success to a lot of Daring Bakers after their failure with the challenge recipe. I also came across Bonbini! another awesome blog which featured tons of different french macaroons. So I decided to go with her recipe which seemed really simple and straight forward without scaring an amateur like me! Read on to know more about my attempt.



I decided to use "Egg beaters 100% egg whites" for my french macaroon trials. I test whipped some cold egg whites and even those whipped up beautifully. So I left the required amount of egg whites uncovered, at room temperature, overnight. The almond flour was ground at home with blanched almond slivers in a food processor with the specified amount of sugar so that the almonds dont get moist. The flour was sifted so as to make sure that the flour was really fine.

I followed all the recipe instructions. I tinted the batter pink and didnt add any food flavoring.
The italian meringue technique by making the sugar syrup was also not complicated. But I didnt have a candy thermometer so I just went with an approximate time. The actual mistake that I made probably was that I didnt add the slightly cooled syrup slowly, but added them more or less altogether. So it took me a long time to whip the egg whites back to soft peak stage. Even after whipping for a long time I couldnt bring the egg whites to a confident soft peak stage. (I am thinking its either because I didnt use the thermometer, maybe I didnt give enough time for the syrup to cook into a more concentrated form or because I didnt add the syrup slow enough).

But still the whites whipped up to kind of a soft peak stage (was gradually getting to the whipped stage). So I decided not to add the whole meringue, but added half of the meringue to the almond flour "mass". The final texture of the batter was just as described in the DB challenge. When I piped the batter, it didnt spread out (as it had happened to me in the challenge) and I knew probably I am on the right path!!

Well, I guee everything turned out fine and these are what I ended up with. The cute lil feet, the smooth and shiny top and the crisp on the outside - chewy on the inside cookies!! Finally I get what all the rave is about!! This recipe gave me the confidence to tackle more french macaroon recipes! I am really thankful to Thip of Bonbini for sharing her recipe with us.....



VERDICT:

The recipe was really easy to follow. The taste was amazing, the texture and looks matching the description of succesful french macaroons!!! I sandwiched a few of them with chocolate ganache. But honestly, they are amazing on their own. The filling would make them a little more sweet than I would prefer. Next time I would like to make macaroons that are a little bit smaller (diameter), so that they will look like cute little colored puffy balls!!!


Guess what, I also baked the whipped Italian meringue without the almond flour "mass" and made these melt in your mouth meringue rounds/cookies!! They were delicious and literally melted in our mouths!!

I am really happy that I decided to attempt the French Macaroons again! Try these out and I am sure you wouldnt be disappointed. Thank you for visiting Tasty treats!!
Have a great week!

October 27, 2009

Failed French Macaroons aka Awesome Meringue Cookies!!

Finally, the long awaited moment is here.. revealing the DB challenge for the month of October - French Macaroons!! I was really excited about the challenge because once again, this was a first for me. I have seen all these cute pictures of macaroons all over the blogosphere, but I had never dared to attempt them, ever..... But I only got a chance to try the DB recipe out over the last wekeend.

I attempted the recipe once on Saturday. I made 3/5 of the recipe (with 3 egg whites). The eggs were left at room temperature overnight and I followed the recipe to my knowledge. But as I was piping the macaroons I knew they were not the right consistency because the meringue was spreading too much. So I ended up with a lot of flat delicious thin cookies, rather than macaroons. But they didnt sit out for too long, as lil LM and I stuffed them in our mouths, moments after they were taken out of the oven.

The second attempt was on Sunday. Once again I made 3/5 of the recipe, and didnt overfold the batter. The pipings were kind of thick, but still spread a bit. But once again the baked products was cake-like, kind of flat and crisp on the sides and chewy in the middle. I had to resign to the fact that this recipe was not going to work for me. But I decided that I will post this attempt anyways because I tried this out twice and nevertheless, the results were quite delicious!! I was really happy that my lil girl who doesnt like most of the stuff, loved these!

I sandwiched them with chocolate ganache and drizzled a bit of ganache on top to make these really awesome meringue cookies. They were really delicious, kind of chewy and really sweet!! I really doubt I will make this recipe again, but I definitely would try to make Tartelette's macaroons, as suggested by many of the DB members, sometime soon!! Thanks Ami for choosing these macaroons for the challenge, but unfortunately they didnt work for me.

VERDICT:

The recipe didnt work for me, but the results were really delicious. The components that go into the recipe really works well together. I believe my meringue and macaroon making skills need a lot of polishing. Either my technique of folding the macaroons were wrong or my proportions in reducing the recipe was off. I bet that this recipe would give good results for experienced macaroon makers, but for a novice like me, it didnt yield good results. I would like to try a sure-bet recipe soon and feature that recipe on Tasty treats!!



The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Mandatory:

-Make Claudia Fleming’s recipe for macaroons
-Fill and sandwich the macaroons

Optional:
-Flavor variations and decoration
-If you have a nut allergy, find a good nutless meringue cookie recipe but you must make them into cookie sandwiches with some kind of filling

If you are vegan, I don’t know what you can use as an egg substitute. Suggestions are welcome.

Preparation time: Not taking into account the amount of time it takes for you to bring your egg whites to room temperature, the whole baking process, including making the batter, piping and baking will probably take you about an hour to an hour and a half. How long it takes to make your filling is dependent on what you choose to make.

Actual baking time: 12 minutes total, plus a few minutes to get your oven from 200°F to 375°F.

Equipment required:
• Electric mixer, preferably a stand mixer with a whisk attachment
• Rubber spatula
• Baking sheets
• Parchment paper or nonstick liners
• Pastry bag (can be disposable)
• Plain half-inch pastry bag tip
• Sifter or sieve
• If you don’t have a pastry bag and/or tips, you can use a Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off
• Oven
• Cooling rack
• Thin-bladed spatula for removing the macaroons from the baking sheets
• Food processor or nut grinder, if grinding your own nuts (ouch!)



Ingredients

Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.



5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Yield: 10 dozen. Ami's note: My yield was much smaller than this. I produced about two dozen filled macaroons.


Thank you for visiting Tasty treats! Check out all my previous successful Daring Bakers Challenge here. Do check out the awesome french macaroons by other DBers here.

September 27, 2009

Vols-au-Vent with Home-made Puff Pastry for DB challenge


Once again its time for all of the Daring Bakers across the world to reveal our challenge for the month of September.

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.

Eventhough I was a little scared thinking that this would be a lot of work, I was encouraged and excited by the wonderful photos that Steph had posted in our forum on challenge reveal post!! I knew I wanted to attempt this challenge, but like the last few months, I wasnt sure if I would actually get to do it because of time constraints.

Mandatory parts of the challenge: You must make Michel Richard’s recipe for puff pastry (as seen below), and form at least part of it into vols-au-vent.

Optional parts of the challenge: You may make your vols-au-vent large or small, and may fill them with whatever you choose (savory or sweet).



I finally got to start my challenge yesterday!! I halved the recipe because the thought of using a pound of butter on the same day, almost made me faint! I started at around 8.00 am and finished all of my six turns of dough by about 10.00 am. Working with the dough was so easy and everything went smooth, but still a bit of butter leaked here and there, once in a while. But I was really surprised at how quickly I finished my turns without major problems.

I was thinking of completing the baking in the evening, but couldnt' wait to see if my pastry would rise or not. So I cut the dough in half, rolled it out and cut out floral shapes to form my savory vols-au-vents. By the time I finished cutting them out, I think the butter was softened, so it was hard to align two floral cutouts to form the shell. So my initial shells turned out a bit lopsided or uneven.

The savory shells were filled with chilled chicken salad with chopped cooked chicken, celery, onion, mayo and salt. The sweet version was kept simple with whipped cream, chopped strawberries and grated chocolate.



VERDICT:


I really really loved the home-made puff pastry!! I am so excited because I never thought I could make a supposedly hard dough of puff pastry at home, ever! It was really amazing to me how fast I got done with preparing the dough! The pastry puffed up nicely when baked and was crisp, flaky and delicious! The chicken salad was perfect on the pastry shells. Yes, for the first time ever, I loved the savory version more than the sweet version (probably because the dough had salt which went well with the mayo and the salad). The sweet version was kept simple because I just didnt have any time, though I thought about a filling of mango mousse or vanilla mousse. I bet it would be awesome fillings for a more elegant dessert version! JM and even lil LM loved the chicken salad version. I would love to make the puff pastry again and maybe make some meat puffs and some sweet versions of vols-au-vent! Thanks Steph, for this wonderful choice...


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. http://video.pbs.org/video/1174110297/search/Pastry

Ingredients:
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 above 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).

Steph’s extra tips:

-While this is not included in the original recipe we are using (and I did not do this in my own trials), many puff pastry recipes use a teaspoon or two of white vinegar or lemon juice, added to the ice water, in the détrempe dough. This adds acidity, which relaxes the gluten in the dough by breaking down the proteins, making rolling easier. You are welcome to try this if you wish.

-Keep things cool by using the refrigerator as your friend! If you see any butter starting to leak through the dough during the turning process, rub a little flour on the exposed dough and chill straight away. Although you should certainly chill the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns, if you feel the dough getting to soft or hard to work with at any point, pop in the fridge for a rest.

-Not to sound contradictory, but if you chill your paton longer than the recommended time between turns, the butter can firm up too much. If this seems to be the case, I advise letting it sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes to give it a chance to soften before proceeding to roll. You don't want the hard butter to separate into chuncks or break through the dough...you want it to roll evenly, in a continuous layer.

-Roll the puff pastry gently but firmly, and don’t roll your pin over the edges, which will prevent them from rising properly. Don't roll your puff thinner than about about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick, or you will not get the rise you are looking for.

-Try to keep “neat” edges and corners during the rolling and turning process, so the layers are properly aligned. Give the edges of the paton a scooch with your rolling pin or a bench scraper to keep straight edges and 90-degree corners.

-Brush off excess flour before turning dough and after rolling.

-Make clean cuts. Don’t drag your knife through the puff or twist your cutters too much, which can inhibit rise.

-When egg washing puff pastry, try not to let extra egg wash drip down the cut edges, which can also inhibit rise.

-Extra puff pastry dough freezes beautifully. It’s best to roll it into a sheet about 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick (similar to store-bought puff) and freeze firm on a lined baking sheet. Then you can easily wrap the sheet in plastic, then foil (and if you have a sealable plastic bag big enough, place the wrapped dough inside) and return to the freezer for up to a few months. Defrost in the refrigerator when ready to use.

-You can also freeze well-wrapped, unbaked cut and shaped puff pastry (i.e., unbaked vols-au-vent shells). Bake from frozen, without thawing first.

-Homemade puff pastry is precious stuff, so save any clean scraps. Stack or overlap them, rather than balling them up, to help keep the integrity of the layers. Then give them a singe “turn” and gently re-roll. Scrap puff can be used for applications where a super-high rise is not necessary (such as palmiers, cheese straws, napoleons, or even the bottom bases for your vols-au-vent).

Thank you so much for visiting me today!! Have a great week ahead! Check out the work of other DBers here.


September 11, 2009

Raspberry Fool and some fun pictures!!


Welcome back to Tasty treats! I have great news to share with you all today! Finally, I mean FINALLY, I am employed!! I am going to start my job next week. Totally excited and nervous at the same time, but since I have been volunteering at the same place for the last three months, I am familiar with my work and colleagues. I got the work visa and papers a couple of days ago and is currently busy with getting everything in order before I start my work. But I will definitely maintain this blog, and will continue to share with you all wonderful recipes and stories that I come across.



Now, about this recipe - We went to a "raspberry and apple picking excursion" last weekend. We all love raspberries here, but I seldom buy them from the grocers because they are really expensive! So when we went to the orchard, I made sure to pick raspberries to my hearts fill so that I can make use of it in a couple of good simple recipes. We had so much fun at the orchard and since lil LM is almost 4 yrs now, she had tons of fun, especially looking under the leaves for bright red ripe raspberries! We had a couple of casualties, yes, when we came back home, both of us had bee-stings on our arms, serves us right for sticking our hands onto their faces!! But nevertheless, LM had great fun riding on the cow-ride, picking the raspberries and eating apples picked straight from the tree, which made us parents reeeeeally happy!


A fruit fool is a dessert made by mixing fruit puree, whipped cream, sugar and flavorings like rose water or extracts (wiki). This is one of the simplest recipes ever and gives you great flavoring options along with a great choice of the primary fruit. It hardly takes 15 minutes to prepare but is such an amazing and light dessert. If using fresh fruit that is not very sweet, make sure to add sugar to the whipping cream so that the dessert has a balance of sweetness and tartness. I actually halved the recipe and used fresh raspberries instead of frozen raspberries in syrup. So I added a bit of sugar to the whipping cream before beating. I had posted a recipe for Mango-Lime Fool earlier.

I loved the raspberry fool, it was light and airy, could have been a bit more sweet. It was a bit tart because I didnt use raspberries in syrup. It was a pleasure taking pictures of this blushed dessert, it simply was beautiful on a white background!! JM would have given it 5 stars if it were a bit more sweet. LM enjoyed her share, after all the waiting while the photo-shoot was going on! I garnished mine with grated chocolate, fresh raspberries and mint leaves.

Be sure to check out our pictures at the end of this post!! Feel free to let me know if you enjoyed my post.

Recipe (Makes 4 servings) :

Frozen quick-thaw raspberries in light syrup - 1 (10 oz) package, thawed

Heavy or whipping cream - 1 cup
Almond extract - 1/8 tsp

Raspberries and mint leaves - for garnish


Method:

Press and scrape thawed raspberries with their syrup firmly against a medium-mesh sieve, over a large bowl, with the back of a spoon, to separate seeds from pulp.

Discard the seeds.


In a small bowl, beat heavy or whipping cream and almond extract until stiff peaks form, on medium speed.

With a rubber spatula or wire whisk, fold the whipped cream mixture into the raspberry puree.


Garnish with raspberries and mint leaves, chill and enjoy!!


Source: The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Desserts.

Tips:
  1. I halved the recipe and used fresh raspberries.
  2. Since the raspberry juice was a bit tart, I added 1 tbsp of sugar while whipping the cream. Next time, I would probably add 4 tbsp.
  3. I also added rose water instead of almond extract which gave the raspberry fool a wonderful exotic aroma and flavor.
  4. Check out the mango-lime fool that I had posted earlier.


The pictures above are a few from our fun trip to an orchard where we picked raspberries and apples!! It sure was a memorable trip which lil LM enjoyed a lot. JM was busy taking pictures including the ones of a grasshopper and a cute lil lady bug! I was obviously busy picking 2 cartons of raspberries for us to enjoy!! So hold on, a couple more of raspberry recipes will be coming up soon on Tasty treats....

Thanks for visiting me today!! Have a great weekend....

August 27, 2009

Dobos Torte - A Hungarian treat!

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.

So, what is the Dobos Torta (or Torte) ? The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. (You may come across recipes which have anywhere between six and 12 layers of cake; there are numerous family variations!) It was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties. The recipe was a secret until Dobos retired in 1906 and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners' and Gingerbread Makers' Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.



I was really excited about this challenge and attempted it early in the month. Once again, because of time constraints, I decided to go with individual servings of the cake. I halved the cake recipe and the buttercream recipe in half. The individual layers were baked separately. I marked 10 circles on parchment paper using a 2 1/2" round cookie cutter. About 1/4 cup of cake batter was spread on the parchment paper a bit larger than the cookie cutter outline. The cake circles were baked until they turned golden brown along the edges. The excess batter was spread as a rectangle for the cake-topper cutouts. Once the cake circles were baked and cooled, they were cut-out into uniform circles using the 2 1/2" cookie cutter so that the circles were uniform and even.

The preparation of buttercream went well, but I felt that the buttercream was a bit too thin (liquid-y). I refrigerated the buttercream for quite a bit before spreading. The circles were stacked on top of each other with a layer of buttercream icing in between. Because the buttercream was so soft it was tough holding the stacks together. I put the cake stacks in the freezer for a while. Once they were manageable, I put a toothpick through the center to hold the layers together.

The cake was frozen most of the time before it was eaten. I could really make the buttercream smooth and beautiful while decorating but I decided to put a ribbon around the cake just for presentation purposes. One of the stacks were done with a ribbon around it, and the other was done with two thin strips of ribbons.

I wanted the caramel coated cake piece to be stiff so that it would stand up on top of the cake. Instead of the caramel covered cake wedges, I cut out a piece of cake from the rectangle cake made from the excess batter and coated in caramel. The caramel was made by heating sugar with a bit of water until the melted sugar turned dark brown. The caramel was poured on top of the cake cut-out and allowed to harden.

The cakes were decorated with the caramel cake cut-out, chocolate pipings, chopped and whole hazelnuts and chopped almonds.

VERDICT:

We really enjoyed the Dobos torte, it was amazing!! They were actually fun to assemble, except for the fact that the buttercream was a little too soft. But it was sooooo delicious. This is the first time that I made buttercream icing with eggs. The flavors went well together especially the buttercream and the hazelnut combo. JM mentioned that he wouldve loved a bit of chopped hazelnuts between each cake layer. The whole thing was so delicious, our individual cakes disappeared in a couple of minutes. My only suggestion would be to moisten the cake layers with a flavored syrup/juice before stacking, as I found them a little chewy and dry. But all in all, the textures and the flavors went extremely well together especially the toasted hazelnuts with the buttercream icing. One more amazing challenge that I am happy about!!

I had some buttercream icing left over which LM really enjoyed the nest day as an awesome bread-spread, yes a spread for bread!! Actually I enjoyed the sandwich just as much as lil LM.


Equipment

  • 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

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 3/4 cup 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.)


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.

Storage

I (Angela) am quite happy to store this cake at room temperature under a glass dome, but your mileage may vary. If you do decide to chill it, then I would advise also using a glass dome if you have done. I should also note that the cake will cut more cleanly when chilled.


Variations

Shape: The traditional shape of a Dobos Torta is a circular cake, but you can vary the shape and size if you want. Sherry Yard in Desserts By The Yard makes a skyscraper Dobos by cutting a full-size cake into four wedges and stacking them to create a tall, sail-shaped cake. Mini Dobos would be very cute, and you could perch a little disc of caramel on top.

Flavour: While we both love the dark chocolate buttercream and this is traditional, we think it would be fun to see what fun buttercreams you all come up with! So, go wild! Or, you could brush each layer with a flavoured syrup if you just want a hint of a second flavour. Cointreau syrup would be divine!

Nuts: These are optional for decoration, so no worries if you're allergic to them. If you don't like hazelnuts, then substitute for another variety that you like.

Egg concerns

The cooking process for the buttercream will produce lightly cooked eggs. If you fall into a vulnerable health group then you may wish to use an egg-less buttercream.

Hope you all liked my version of Dobos torte. If you would like to see how I did in my previous DB challenges, click here. Please do take a moment to go through some of the fellow DB members blogs.

Thank you for visiting me today. Have a great day!!


August 14, 2009

Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto - A first on Tasty treats!!


Today I have a new recipe for you - a Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto which is a first on Tasty treats. Read through the post to know about my interest in risotto.

After watching Hell's Kitchen for a couple of seasons, I was fixated by Gordon Ramsey's obsession with risotto and its preparation!! Having never tasted a risotto before, I was wondering why he is so particular on its texture and outcome. Anyways, it is not such a presentable dish at all, even if a five star chef prepares it, so what could be so hard in preparing the seemingly mushy rice dish!? But I just couldn't be far from wrong! I learned it the hard way, I prepared my own risotto at home, without a tried or tested recipe. The result was so good, sooooo good!! I have a new-found respect for risotto, its texture and the flavor combination that goes into it. So trust me, don't judge a book by its cover and don't judge a risotto by its looks!! I accomplished a couple of firsts - my first risotto and my first asparagus dish at home.


I found a recipe on Martha Stewart website and decided to adapt it to what I had at home. Sure, I tweaked the recipe to include some Italian seasoning, played with the proportion of ingredients a bit. The veggies I used were white button mushrooms and about 1/2 a bunch of asparagus (I guess my bunch was relatively huge). I also added a unique ingredient - a pinch of saffron- to the risotto. We are absolutely clueless about wines, so JM just grabbed a bottle of Pinot Grigio from the wine shop. I enjoyed the flavor of this particular wine, a lot. I also followed another advice on the internet - I used fresh Parmesan cheese grated just before use from a wedge of Culinary Circle Parmesan Cheese. The risotto turned so creamy and delicious as the cheese melted into the rice.


Recipe (Serves 3-4):

Arborio rice - 2 cups
White button mushrooms - 8oz, chopped into chunks

Asparagus - 3/4 bundle
Onion - 1 large, chopped
Garlic clove - 1 large, chopped
Italian seasoning - 1/2 tsp
Dry white wine - 1/2 cup + 1/4 cup
Vegetable broth - 1 can
Water - 3 cans (or as needed)
Extra virgin olive oil -4 tbsp, divided
Pepper - to season
Salt - to season
Parmesan cheese (culinary circle) - 3/4 cup
Butter - 3 tbsp
Saffron - a big pinch


Method:

Wash the asparagus stems and cut the tips off from about 2" from the top. Cut the rest of the stems cross-wise into small pieces.

Boil water and salt in a saucepan and cook the asparagus stems for about 2 minutes until they are tender crisp. Drain and keep aside.

Repeat with the asparagus tips and keep aside.

In a large skillet/pan, heat about 2 tbsp olive oil.

Saute the chopped garlic and onions until translucent and soft.

Toss in the rice and saute for a minute.

Add 1/2 cup white wine and reduce until the wine has almost evaporated.

Pour vegetable broth and wait until the broth is completely absorbed.

Repeat twice more.

Add a pinch of saffron and mix well.

In another skillet, heat olive oil and add the chopped mushrooms.

Season slightly with Italian seasoning.

Make the asparagus tips crisper in the skillet and keep aside for topping the risotto.

Crisp the asparagus stems slightly in the skillet and keep aside.

Toss in 2/3 of the sauteed mushrooms into the rice.

Add more vegetable broth or water as needed.

When the rice is 3/4 cooked, add about 1/4 cup of wine and allow to be absorbed by the rice.

Once the rice is al dente (or cooked to your liking), add the cooked asparagus stems.

Season with pepper and salt as needed.

Stir in the butter and cheese and mix well until melted.

Serve the risotto hot with the reserved mushrooms and asparagus tips on top.

Garnish with grated Parmesan cheese.

Inspired from: Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto on Martha Stewart website.

Hope you all enjoyed this delicious post. See you soon with another tasty treat!! Take a moment to check out the latest floral pictures from MN on "Through the looking glass".

Have a great day!!