March 28, 2011

Chocolate Silk Raspberry Tart

It finally feels like spring in Minnesota! I am glad that the snow showers and the extreme cold are done with atleast for a while! Now starts the time of getting together with friends and celebrating some good times before the next strike of winter, which will be here sooner than desirable in MN :-(
I am also glad its a Friday (TGIF)! - been looking forward to this break ever since Monday ;-). I thought I would also share with you a dessert that I recently tried when we had some friends over at our home. This is one delicious, smooth, creamy and rich dessert! It's relatively easy and can be prepared ahead of time. The recipe isn't as complicated as its name "Chocolate Silk Raspberry Tart". I found the recipe on Betty Crocker website. Chocolate Silk Raspberry Tart

Ingredients: 20 creme-filled golden sandwich cookies, crushed (2 cups) 1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips 2 cups whipping (heavy) cream 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened 1 cup fresh raspberries 2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam

Directions: Heat oven to 375°F. In medium bowl, mix cookie crumbs and butter. In 9- or 10-inch springform pan, press mixture in bottom and 1 inch up side. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until set. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in 1-quart saucepan, heat chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of the whipping cream over low heat, stirring frequently, until chocolate is melted. Stir in vanilla. Cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. In large bowl with electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Beat in chocolate mixture until creamy. Set aside. In another large bowl with electric mixer, beat remaining 1 1/2 cups whipping cream on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold half of whipped cream into cream cheese mixture until blended. Fold in remaining whipped cream. Spoon into cooled baked crust. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. To serve, arrange raspberries around edge of tart. In small microwavable bowl, microwave jam on High 1 to 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted; lightly brush over raspberries. Remove side of pan. Cut tart into wedges. Store in refrigerator.

MY VARIATIONS: I layered the crushed cookies on the bottom only of a springform pan and baked until golden brown and set. I made the dessert the day before and refrigerated until serving. Instead of using raspberry jam, I bought a frozen bag of raspberries. Thawed it by immersing the puch in water for 10-15 minutes. Kept the thawed raspberries refrigerated. Unmolded the tart from the springform pan and just before serving, spooned the raspberries with the juice (not heavy syrup and hence not extremely sweetened) along the sides of the tart. A few sprigs of mint and some chocolate shavings completed the decor. It sure looked and tasted amazing!

VERDICT: We really enjoyed this dessert as did our guests! They gave me rave reviews! My lil girl who isn't much receptive even to desserts, enjoyed this immensely. With the cream cheese in it, it definitely tasted a lot like cheesecake which was amazing! It sure was pure creamy dreamy heaven! The slightly tart raspberries were amazing against the sweet smooth chocolate filling. The baked crushed golden cookies added a crunch and character to the tart. I am a fan, for sure! Please do try this out and I'm sure you'll looove it!

March 27, 2011

Chocolate - Almond Yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake for DB Challenge!

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake. Here I am posting my finished product eventhough its a day late! Let me just quickly write about how much I LOVED this coffee cake! The dough was very smooth sexy and elastic, as they described it, and very easy to put together and work with. The yeast worked magic on the dough and turned it into the light and airy dough wonder which rose beautifully! The meringue was a breeze to make (I used egg whites from Crystal farms to make the meringue). I rolled out the dough to an approximate size, spread the meringue and chocolate chips with some crushed roasted almonds. The rolling part was a little tricky and messy as the meringue was trying to squish itself out of the dough roll. I managed to roll the dough and used a round condiment bowl to shape the wreath (which resulted in a bit of a lopsided wreath because the ends of the rolls were not filled, and the attachment of the ends was not perfect!). I cut the wreath using a knife deep so as to cut into a few layers, but still left the bottom layer uncut. I brushed the wreath with egg white before baking.

Baked the roll as mentioned for about 25-30 minutes until it was golden brown on the darker side. The result was an amazing and beautiful coffee cake. I didn't have the time or patience to let it cool (was baking at bedtime!). I had a 5yr old clinging to my knees begging for a taste of the coffee cake before she went to bed!! A dusting of cocoa powder and confectioner's sugar completed my coffee cake.

The cake was literally DEVOURED, once I cut into it. Did manage to salvage a few pieces for breakfast the next day and all was gone by then!! I would definitely try this again as the recipe was perfect and easy - light, not overwhelming, not extremely sweet but has all the right ingredients (if you know what I mean - sugar, chocolate and meringue!!). A perfect accompaniment to coffee, as breakfast or a snack!

My only disappointment was not being able to see swirls in the cut piece. A dusting of cocoa or cinnamon over the spread meringue or rolled out dough should do the trick. I will definitely try doing that the next time. I would also like to add some chopped dry fruits to the chocolate chip-nut mixture next time! All in all, I absolutely LOVED this challenge and I did complete it on time eventhough posting a day later!!


Makes 2 round coffee cakes, each approximately 10 inches in diameter. The recipe can easily be halved to make one round coffee cake


For the yeast coffee cake dough:

4 cups (600 g / 1.5 lbs.) flour
¼ cup (55 g / 2 oz.) sugar
¾ teaspoon (5 g / ¼ oz.) salt
1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons / 7 g / less than an ounce) active dried yeast
¾ cup (180 ml / 6 fl. oz.) whole milk ¼ cup (60 ml / 2 fl. oz. water (doesn’t matter what temperature)
½ cup (135 g / 4.75 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature 2 large eggs at room temperature 10 strands saffron for Ria’s version (Saffron might be hard to find and it’s expensive, so you can substitute with ½ - 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom or ground nutmeg. Or simply leave it plain like Jamie’s version)

For the meringue: 3 large egg whites at room temperature ¼ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon vanilla ½ cup (110 g / 4 oz.) sugar

For the filling: Jamie’s version: 1 cup (110 g / 4 oz.) chopped pecans or walnuts 2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon 1 cup (170 g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips or coarsely chopped chocolate

Ria’s version: 1 cup (130 g / 5 oz.) chopped cashew nuts 2 Tablespoons (30 g / 1 oz.) granulated sugar ½ teaspoon garam masala (You can make it at home – recipe below - or buy from any Asian/Indian grocery store) 1 cup (170g / 6 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips ( I used Ghirardelli)

Egg wash: 1 beaten egg
Cocoa powder (optional) and confectioner’s sugar (powdered/icing sugar) for dusting cakes

Directions: Prepare the dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 ½ cups (230 g) of the flour, the sugar, salt and yeast. In a saucepan, combine the milk, water and butter and heat over medium heat until warm and the butter is just melted.

Ria’s version: add the 10 saffron threads to the warmed liquid and allow to steep off of the heat for 10 minutes. This will give the mixture a distinct aroma and flavor and a yellowish-orange hue. With an electric mixer on low speed, gradually add the warm liquid to the flour/yeast mixture, beating until well blended. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes. Add the eggs and 1 cup (150 g) flour and beat for 2 more minutes.

Using a wooden spoon, stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that holds together. Turn out onto a floured surface (use any of the 1 ½ cups of flour remaining) and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes until the dough is soft, smooth, sexy and elastic, keeping the work surface floured and adding extra flour as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly greased (I use vegetable oil) bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise until double in bulk, 45 – 60 minutes. The rising time will depend on the type of yeast you use.

Prepare your filling: In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar for the filling if using. You can add the chopped nuts to this if you like, but I find it easier to sprinkle on both the nuts and the chocolate separately.

Once the dough has doubled, make the meringue: In a clean mixing bowl – ideally a plastic or metal bowl so the egg whites adhere to the side (they slip on glass) and you don’t end up with liquid remaining in the bottom – beat the egg whites with the salt, first on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high and continue beating until foamy and opaque. Add the vanilla then start adding the ½ cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time as you beat, until very stiff, glossy peaks form.

Assemble the Coffee Cakes: Line 2 baking/cookie sheets with parchment paper. Punch down the dough and divide in half. On a lightly floured surface, working one piece of the dough at a time (keep the other half of the dough wrapped in plastic), roll out the dough into a 20 x 10-inch (about 51 x 25 ½ cm) rectangle.

Spread half of the meringue evenly over the rectangle up to about 1/2-inch (3/4 cm) from the edges. Sprinkle half of your filling of choice evenly over the meringue (ex: half of the cinnamon-sugar followed by half the chopped nuts and half of the chocolate chips/chopped chocolate).

Now, roll up the dough jellyroll style, from the long side. Pinch the seam closed to seal. Very carefully transfer the filled log to one of the lined cookie sheets, seam side down. Bring the ends of the log around and seal the ends together, forming a ring, tucking one end into the other and pinching to seal.

Using kitchen scissors or a sharp knife (although scissors are easier), make cuts along the outside edge at 1-inch (2 ½ cm) intervals. Make them as shallow or as deep as desired but don’t be afraid to cut deep into the ring.

Repeat with the remaining dough, meringue and fillings. Cover the 2 coffee cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to rise again for 45 to 60 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Brush the tops of the coffee cakes with the egg wash. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until risen and golden brown.

The dough should sound hollow when tapped. Remove from the oven and slide the parchment paper off the cookie sheets onto the table. Very gently loosen the coffee cakes from the paper with a large spatula and carefully slide the cakes off onto cooling racks. Allow to cool. Just before serving, dust the tops of the coffee cakes with confectioner’s sugar as well as cocoa powder if using chocolate in the filling. These are best eaten fresh, the same day or the next day.

Look at how airy and the light the cake looks! Yeast works magic on the dough! All in all the result was just beautiful - well risen, baked to the right golden brown perfection...

March 21, 2011

Exciting new hobby!!

Hi All... I have a fun new exciting high- making birthday cakes!! Thanks to my friends Leslie and Sus, who trusted me enough to ask me to bake their daughters' birthday cakes! I had made a castle cake (made with 6 cakes) for my lil girl's birthday last year! I got very positive reviews after that but I wasn't bold enough to take any orders for the cake. But my friend Leslie thought that I should be able to make one for her lil girl who was turning 5 this month.

The first birthday girl wanted a princess with pink gown. I decided to do a yellow cake with strawberry preserves for the doll and a black forest cake with fondant (Wilton) covering to resemble a wrapped present, with the doll standing on top. The present cake was covered with a pastel pink fondant with bows, crullers and ribbon made out of white fondant. And thus my first ever doll and present cake was born! It turned out really well, and the guests were amazed and were kind enough to appreciate me!

The inspiration for the ruffled layers in the front of the doll came from a video of a cake on youtube and I searched for tutorials. Finally when I figured it out, I realised that it was a relatively easy and quick to master technique and yet gave breathtakingly beautiful and professional looking results!

For the crullers (fondant springs): Roll the fondant thin and make very thin long ribbons with a kinife. Drape the ribbon around the handle of a wooden spatula and allow to dry slightly. Slide the crullers off the handle gently and allow to harden completely.

I grew confident and I decided that I could accept a second cake order within a couple of weeks! Sus really liked pictures of the first cake and wanted a doll cake for her daughter too! But I changed the bottom of the second cake by covering it with buttercream (Wilton decorator's icing)icing with pink shells on the border and two toned roses.

The second doll was done pretty much similar to the first one except that the gown was of a slightly diferent pattern. I also tried using pearl dust (pink) on the gown and thats my new favorite cake decorating accessory!! The pearl dust gave such a beautiful sheen to the dress, I loved it! Its pretty easy to use - just mix with some vanilla extract and paint on! Pearls coated with shimmer dust also adorned the gown.

For the irrgeular green stringy leaves, pipe green tinted buttercream through a small round tip and allow to drop naturally on the cake. For two toned roses, apply gel coloring to the inside of the piping bag (on the narrow petal tip side of the bag). Pipe buttercream roses with icing tinted to a color lighter than the gel applied to the inside of the bag. I have sprinkled pink decoraring sugar on the cake. Also, put tiny drops of piping gel on the roses to resemble water drops.

Since I didnt take any pictures of how to make the ruffles during my first try, I took some this time. Hopefully someone else will find it useful! Please follow the basics of working with fondant - dust the work surface with confectioner's sugar, keeping the unused fondant covered. I did all my fondant work on a silpat mat.

Make crinkle cut outs from fondant. Cut the center of the cut outs using a smaller plain round cutter.

Take a tooth pick and press at the petal part of the cut out and roll it back and forth to thin out the area. Repeat through all the petals of the cut outs. Cut the ruffle ring along one petal and stretch to linearize.

Stick the ruffle to a crumb coated doll figurine. If attaching to a fondant covered surface, use little water to stick the ruffle to the fondant. I attached three of such ruffles to make the lowest layer of ruffle. Attach the second layer of ruffles overlapping the first (bottom). Repeat to cover the entire front of the doll. I did the next couple of layers with one ruffle each and then towards the top of the doll, one ruffle ring can be cut into two and stretched to make the top ruffle layers. Drape another layer of rolled fondant over the ruffles so as to cover the ends of the ruffles and make the gown.Decorate/punch designs on the drape before applying onto the cake.

I hand painted each star on the draped gown with the pearl dust, and also the ruffles. I am extremely happy with the results considering this is only my second doll cake!

I know I haven't covered everything in this post. So feel free to ask any questions that you might have, I would be happy to respond. Please do let me know your thoughts and suggestions on how I did!

Once again I am toasting to my new hobby! I just hope I would get enough time to be able to continue with it.... Cheers!!!