Daring Bakers November Challenge 2012: Twelve Days of Cookies

Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us.

The challenge recipe I chose to make was the chocolate sables, recipe here.  I left out the egg yolk as I had read some other recipes on the internet that did not use it, so I thought I’d see how it went.  The cookies were delicious, crumbly with big chunks of chocolate and not too sweet.  They even seemed to get better with time!  Try them crumbled up in vanilla ice cream for an excellent version of cookies and cream.

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As my second cookie, I made Alfajores, which are South American corn starch based cookies, filled with dulce de leche.  I used the recipe from familyfoodie.com, which have a little lemon zest as well as vanilla for flavour.  Dulce de Leche, whilst readily available in Spain is quite expensive, so I made my own using the oven method, which seems a lot safer than boiling sweet and condensed milk in a pan and is also much faster.  Simply pour a can of sweetened condensed milk with a sprinkle of salt into a pyrex tray and bake at about 180 degrees until golden brown (time varies with your oven-mine took about an hour but my oven is terrible).  When it is golden whisk it up to get rid of any lumps and leave to cool and set a little before using.

The cookies were lovely and crumbly, although very sweet and with a tendency to stick your mouth together!

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 This was an excellent challenge, Ill probably make a few more cookies before Christmas hits!!

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Daring Bakers October Challenge: Mille Feuille

ImageOur October 2012 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Suz of Serenely Full. Suz challenged us to not only tackle buttery and flaky puff pastry, but then take it step further and create a sinfully delicious Mille Feuille dessert with it!

This was a tricky challenge for me, relying heavily on presentation and patience, neither of which are my strong points.  The first attempt was very tasty, but as I didn’t let it chill for long enough before cutting, it collapsed and needed to be eaten with a spoon! The second attempt stayed together much better and was delicious.

I made a traditional Mille Feuille with Creme Patiessere filling.

The puff pastry was really fun to make, although perhaps could have stayed in the oven a little longer for a crisper finish.  My feathering on top also needs a little work, and next time I would assemble right before serving so the pastry stayed a bit crisper.  However, it was delicious!  Great challenge!

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Daring Bakers Challenge June 2012: Battenberg Cake

Mandy of What The Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry’s techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.

I’m not really a fan of plain sponge cake or marzipan, so I decided to try and jazz the cakes up a little and used the chocolate plastique rather than marzipan for the covering.  For the cake I made a chocolate sponge and a cherry coconut sponge, sandwiched together with a chocolate ganache.

It was nice, but a little dry and although the chocolate plastique worked quite well as a covering, I didn’t really enjoy the taste, so next time would probably use a chocolate icing instead.

Chocolate Sponge cake and Cherry Coconut Sponge (based on Mary Berry’s Coffee Battenberg)

Ingredients
¾ cup  Unsalted Butter, softened & cut in cubes
¾ cup  Caster Sugar
1¼ cups Self-Raising Flour
3 Large Eggs, room temp
½ cup dessicated coconut
3/4 tsp / 3½ gm Baking Powder
3 tsp Milk
½ tspVanilla Extract

2 cups pitted cherries chopped
1½ tsp cocoa powder

 

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to moderate 180°C/160°C Fan Assisted
2. Grease an 8”/20cm square baking tin with butter
3. Line the tin with parchment paper, creating a divide in the middle with the parchment (or foil)

4.  Whisk together dry ingredients (except cocoa and coconut) and combine with the wet ingredients in a large bowl (except vanilla and milk) and beat together just until the ingredients are combined and the batter is smooth
6. Spoon half the mixture into a separate bowl and stir in the vanilla, 1½ teaspoons milk and cocoa
7. Spoon the cocoa mixture into the one side of the prepared baking tin
8. Add chopped cherries, coconut and the remaining 1½ teaspoon milk and add to the remaining batter, stir until just combined
9. Spoon the cherry batter into the other half of the prepared baking tin
10. Smooth the surface of the batter with a spatula, making sure batter is in each corner
11. Bake for 25-30mins until the cake is well risen, springs back when lightly touched and a
toothpick comes out clean (it should shrink away from the sides of the pan)
12. Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes before turning out to cool thoroughly on a wire rack

Chocolate Plastique / Modelling Chocolate (From joy of baking)


Dark Chocolate Plastique
200gm /7 oz Good Quality Dark Chocolate (70% Cocoa content)
¼ cup / 60ml /2 oz Light Corn Syrup / Glucose Syrup / Golden Syrup

Directions:
1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, stir occasionally
2. Once completely melted, remove from heat and allow to cool a bit
3. Stir in corn syrup / glucose syrup / golden syrup, it will seize up almost immediately, just keep stirring until mixed and it comes away from the side of the bowl
4. Transfer chocolate into a sealable bag, spread the chocolate out then seal the bag
5. Leave overnight or refrigerate for about 2 hours until completely firm
6. Turn out from the bag and knead on a surface dusted with powdered sugar, at first it will just break , but as you knead, it will warm up and start to become pliable
7. Knead until it’s pliable enough to roll out or mould, 5 – 10mins

Chocolate Ganache

1.  Heat 200g dark chocolate in a pan with 200ml whipping cream over gentle heat until chocolate is melted.

2.  Leave to cool a little before use.

 

To make battenberg:

1.  Cut cooled cakes in half to make long rectangular pieces.

2.  Trim pieces so they are all even

3. Stick pieces together with chocolate ganache to form battenberg pattern and ice the top and sides to stick the chocolate plastique.

4.  Cover in rolled chocolate plastique and trim ends to neaten.
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Daring Bakers Challenge April 2012: Nazooks

The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.

I made the Nazook, half with the traditional vanilla filling and half with an almond meal chocolate filling.  They were both great, although I slightly preferred the chocolate (always do!).  The pastry is easy, buttery and delicious and could easily be used for a whole range of fillings, both sweet and savoury.

Nazook

approx 40 pieces

Ingredients
Pastry dough

  • 3 cups  all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
  • 2½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup softened butter (room temperature)

Vanilla Filling (makes enough to fill half the dough)

  • 3/4 cup  all-purpose (plain) flour, sifted
  • 3/4 cup  sugar
  • 1/3 cup softened butter (room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate Almond Filling (makes enough to fill the rest of the dough)

  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter softened
  • 2 teaspoon cocoa
  • pinch on salt

Wash

  • 1-2 egg yolks (for the wash; alternatively, some yogurt, egg whites, or a whole egg)

Directions:

Make the Pastry Dough
1. Place the sifted flour into a large bowl.
2. Mix in dry yeast.
3. Add the sour cream, and the softened butter.
4. Use your hands, or a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, to work it into a dough.
5. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl or your hands. If it remains very sticky, add some flour, a little at a time.
6. Cover the dough and refrigerate for 3-5 hours, or overnight if you like.

Make the filling
7. In a small bowl, mix the flour, sugar, and the softened butter in a medium bowl.
8. Add the vanilla extract.
9. Mix the filling until it looks like clumpy, damp sand. It should not take long. Set aside.

10.  In a separate bowl combine chocolate almond filling ingredients and set this aside too

Make the nazook
11. Preheat the oven to moderate 180 degrees C.
12. Cut the refrigerated dough into quarters.
13. Form one of the quarters into a ball. Dust your working surface with a little flour.
14. Roll out the dough into a large rectangle or oval. The dough should be thin, but not transparent.

15. Spread 1/4 of the filling mixture across the rolled-out dough in an even layer. Try to spread the filling as close as possible to the edges on the short sides, but keep some of pastry dough uncovered (1 inch/2.5 cm) along the long edges.
16. From one of the long sides, start slowly rolling the dough across. Be careful to make sure the filling stays evenly distributed. Roll all the way across until you have a long, thin loaf.

17. Pat down the loaf with your palm and fingers so that it flattens out a bit (just a bit).
18. Apply your egg yolk wash with a pastry brush.

19.  Cut into 1 inch slices and place on paper lined tray

20. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown, cool and enjoy!

Nutmeg cake to follow shortly!

Daring Bakers March Challenge – Dutch Crunch Bread

Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread!

This was a joint effort, I left the bread making to breadhead (always better, and I’ve not no patience for all the waiting and kneading), and I made the crunch topping.  We used Dan Lepards Simple Milk Loaf to make rolls, and the dutch crunch made them lovely and crusty.  The oven even decided to kick in and make them nice and crisp (perhaps a little too crisp towards the back!).

Our sandwich was whatever was in the cupboard, so went with a classic combo of tuna, mayo, avocado and tomato.  Tasty dinner!

Nice Buns!

 

Cheese, chorizo and roasted pepper sandwich

 

 

Tuna, Mayo tomato and avocado sandwich

 

 

Dutch Crunch Topping (Daring Bakers)

Servings: This recipe should make sufficient topping for two 9×5 loaves (23cmx13cm) or 12 rolls.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons (2 packets) (30 ml) (15 gm/½ oz) active dry yeast
1 cup (240 ml) warm water (105-115º F) (41-46°C)
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (30 gm/1 oz) sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (3 gm) salt
1½ cups (360 ml) (240 gm/8½ oz) rice flour (white or brown; NOT sweet or glutinous rice flour) (increase by 1 cup or more for home-made rice flour)

Directions:

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a whisk; beat hard to combine. The consistency should be like stiff royal icing – spreadable, but not too runny. If you pull some up with your whisk, as shown below, it should drip off slowly. Add more water or rice flour as necessary. Let stand 15 minutes.

2. Coat the top of each loaf or roll with a thick layer of topping. We tried coating it with a brush but it worked better just to use fingers or a spoon and kind of spread it around. You should err on the side of applying too much topping – a thin layer will not crack properly.
3. Let stand, uncovered, for any additional time your recipe recommends. With the Soft White Roll, you can place the rolls directly into the oven after applying the topping. With the Brown Rice Bread, the loaves should stand for 20 minutes with the topping before baking.
4. When baking, place pans on a rack in the center of the oven and bake your bread as you ordinarily would. The Dutch Crunch topping should crack and turn a nice golden-brown color.

Mandarin Yoghurt Cake

My third installment of February’s Daring Bakers challenge was a mandarin yoghurt cake.  Mostly because I had a lot of mandarins to use up!  To make the cake taste more strongly of mandarin, I boiled the mandarins in their skins until very soft, and then blitzed the whole lot up with the stick blender and put the lot in the cake, skins and all!

The recipe is adapted from My Fabulous Recipes

Mandarin Yoghurt Cake

2/3 cup softened butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup thick natural/Greek yoghurt
4 mandarins

2 1/2 cups plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

  1. Boil mandarins in a saucepan until soft (about 15 minutes)
  2. Cream butter and sugar until light.
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  4. Blitz boiled mandarins in food processor or with stick blender
  5. Add yogurt and mandarin to eggs and sugar
  6. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  7. Add the wet mixture and beat until smooth
  8. Pour into two medium sized  greased bread pans
  9. Bake at 180 degrees C for 45-50 minute until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean if poked in the middle of the bread.
  10. Cool for 10 minutes before cooling on a wire rack.

Serve with lemon yoghurt icing(recipe below)

Lemon Yoghurt Icing

3/4 cup natural yoghurt

2 cups icing sugar

1 tsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp butter softened

1.  Beat yogurt, butter and icing sugar until smooth.

2.  Add lemon juice and refrigerate to firm up a bit.

 

Banana Caramel Peanut Butter Loaf

This was another Daring Bakers’ Challenge quick bread recipe.  The loaf turned out more of a peanut loaf than anything else, the peanut butter and whole peanuts seemed to dominate the flavor, so you couldn’t really taste the bananas much in the end.  It may be better with a reduced amount of peanuts, or using another more subtle nut, such as the more traditional walnut-banana combo!

Banana Caramel Peanut Butter Loaf (adapted from Dan Lepard’s Butterscotch Banana Cake.)

250g caster sugar

250g banana flesh, chopped into 2cm pieces

1 tbsp butter

2 tsp vanilla extract

175ml sunflower oil

2 large eggs

150g plain flour

75g  wholemeal flour

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

2 level tsp baking powder

½ level tsp bicarbonate of soda

50ml plain yoghurt

1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter

1/4 cup whole salted peanuts

1 cup chopped dates

1.  Grease a 20cm square tin and line the base with non-stick baking paper.

2. Put 150g of the caster sugar into a frying pan with 25ml water, bring to the boil, then cook over a high heat until the sugar caramelizes.

3.  Add the banana pieces, butter and vanilla, and simmer until the bananas break up in the caramel and the mixture is thick.

4.  Leave to cool on a plate.

5.  Beat the remaining 100g sugar with the oil and eggs until thick

6.  Then beat in the bananas, peanut butter and the yoghurt.

7.  Sift the flours, spice, baking powder and soda together two or three times (throwing the bran back in), then fold this through the banana mixture.  .

8.  Fold in whole peanuts and chopped dates.

9.Spoon the mixture into the tin, heat the oven to 180C (160C fan-assisted) and bake for about 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Serve with salted caramel whipped cream (recipe below)

Salted Caramel Whipped Cream

1 cup whipped cream

1 Tbsp Dulce de Leche

1/2 tsp salt

Combine ingredients and serve. 

Daring Bakers’ February Challenge- Quick Breads

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

I couldn’t decide on just one quick bread for this challenge, so I made a few!  The first was a banana peanut caramel loaf, which was nice, but very heavy, probably due to too many peanuts, which tended to dominate the flavor.  It was really more like peanut loaf.

Banana peanut caramel quick bread

a caramalized onion and chorizo bread

and a mandarin yoghurt cake

Recipes to follow….

Daring Bakers January 2012 Challenge- Scones

Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Aud worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!

I stuck with the plain scones as I just can’t go back a plain scone with jam and cream.  These scones were very tasty and light.  I really liked the layers that the folding technique produced, but unfortunately mine didn’t rise very much (probably due to old baking powder), and they were a little heavy because of this.

I would definitely make this recipe again if I was looking for a non-sweet scone.  However, I personally like my scones a little sweet, and although it’s probably cheating a bit , I love a nice lemonade cream scone.  The best part is you just lob everything in, the gas in the lemonade makes it rise well and it always works!  (recipe to come).

Basic Scones (a.k.a. Basic Biscuits)
Servings: about eight 2-inch (5 cm) scones or five 3-inch (7½ cm) scones
Recipe can be doubled

Ingredients:
1 cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) fresh baking powder
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) frozen grated butter (or a combination of lard and butter)
approximately ½ cup (120 ml) cold milk
optional 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9.
2. Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.)
3. Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones.
4. Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be!
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.)
6. Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick (15¼ cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch (2 cm) layer and cut two more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire.
7. Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones.
8. Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set.
9. Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.

Daring Bakers November Challenge – Sans Rival Cake

This was my first Daring Bakers Challenge and I will definitely be back for more.  Not only has it opened my eyes to a whole new cultural cuisine, but also introduced me to new baking techniques and skills.    Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake!  This is made up of crunchy layers of dacquoise (meringue with crushed nuts- traditionally cashews), sandwiched together with layers of smooth French butter cream.

It tastes as good as it sounds, really delicious!  Super rich and sweet as you can imagine from the ingredients list, so a small piece does the job, but  it had great flavour and textures.  I made a chocolate butter cream for the outside and vanilla for the filling, with a chocolate meringue with almond meal as that was the easiest to find!  I think in the future I would grind the nuts myself, leaving bigger pieces, as I think even more crunch and texture would be better.

I was really impressed with the French butter cream, having only ever made it the quick icing sugar and butter blend it all up way.  The French version, with  sugar syrup, did take a lot longer and was more labour intensive, but the finished product was far superior with a richer and creamier taste, and smoother texture.  I’ll definitely be using it as my staple butter cream if I have a bit of time in the future! I did run out of butter cream in this recipe and had to make a second half quantity, so I recommend doing this from the start as it’s quite time consuming.

Making meringue was  a bit of a gamble, as my oven is far from reliable and doesn’t actually seem to cook from the top.  However, as the oven also doesn’t seem to ever get really hot it was actually quite good for meringue, although it still took two hours to get crispy layers.  As presentation is never my strong point, I coated the sides with white and dark chocolate shards to hide uneven edges!

A Filipino friend said it tasted as it was meant to, so I was pretty satisfied.  I am also inspired to try more Filipino food, as I’ve never really investigated or tried to cook it before.  If it’s all as good as this cake, I think I’ll be cooking a lot in the future!

Sans Rival:
Serves 12-20 (depends how much you can eat, It’s pretty rich!!)

Ingredients
10 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon  cream of tartar ( I didn’t have this so substituted 1 tsp white wine vinegar)
¼ cup  cocoa (optional and not traditional)
1 cup chopped, toasted almonds coarsely chopped (for topping)

1 cup almond meal or finely crushed almonds.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to moderate 160°C
2. Line cake pan bottoms with parchment paper and butter and flour the sides  well, it sticks!.
3. In a large clean, dry glass or metal mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy (2 mins.). Sprinkle with cream of tartar or vinegar. Gradually add sugar, a couple of tablespoons at a time, continuing to beat now at high speed until stiff shiny peaks form. (about 7-10 mins.)

4. Fold in finely crushed  nuts, reserving enough to use for decoration.

5.Divide meringue into four equal parts. Spread in pans, evenly to edges.

6. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove the meringue from the baking pans while still hot; allow to cool slightly. Peel off the parchment paper while it is still warm, it is difficult to remove sometimes when they have completely cooled.

7. When cool, trim edges so that all 4 meringue layers are uniformly shaped. Set aside.

French Buttercream: ( quantities are for 1 1/2 times original recipe to give plenty to cover and fill cake)

Ingredients
8 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
3/4cup water
2 cup  unsalted butter, room temperature

50g dark chocolate melted to flavour

1 tsp vanilla essence to flavour
Directions:

1. Put the egg yolks in a mixing bowl. Beat at high speed until the yolks have doubled in volume and are a lemon yellow.
2. Put the sugar and water in a heavy pan and cook over medium heat, stirring the sides down only until all the sugar is dissolved and the syrup reaches 112°C (or thread stage).
3. With the mixer on high, very slowly pour the syrup down the sides of the bowl, until all has been added. Be careful!

4.Continue beating on high until the mixture is ROOM TEMPERATURE (about 15 mins).

5. Still on high, beat in the soft, room temperature butter a tablespoon at a time.

6. Divide in half and add melted chocolate to one half and vanilla essence to the other half.

7.  Refrigerate the buttercream for at least an hour, and whip it smooth just before you use it.
Assembly:
Set bottom meringue on cake board with a dab of butter cream to hold it in place. Spread a thin layer of buttercream and then place another meringue on top. Repeat with a thin layer of buttercream, meringue, thin layer of buttercream, meringue, and finally buttercream the top and sides. Decorate with coarse nuts and chocolate shards if you’re a little untidy!

Refrigerate until ready to serve, as this makes it much easier to cut.  May freeze.