Friday, December 30, 2011

...and along it a gingerbread house

I'm not sure what resulted in the gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel becoming a seasonal tradition but I've been itching to make one for years. Finally this year I'm unemployed so I had no problems investing about 8 hours in this lovely gingerbread chalet (yay?).

(I later used the same recipe with a different template to create this gingerbread village.)

For the building itself I used a simple gingerbread architecture, as I'm thoroughly inexperienced in construction, using gingerbread or otherwise. Below is the blueprint I started with. I had initially planned to use shredded wheat for the roof tile, but then decided on using biscuits. As you can see I used candy canes to provide a sturdy structure, using caramel syrup as cement, in order to protect the house against earthquakes, or in case a bad wolf tries to blow the house in (no wait, that's a different fairytale...). You could also use the icing provided by the recipe to glue the pieces together, but it's not as strong, and takes a while to set, so I thought caramel syrup was a surer option. The only disadvantage being that because the caramel hardens as soon as it cools, you'll have to keep reheating it. Some sort of fondue heater may have come in useful at this point, but I don't have one.

Using the recipe and template below you will end up with more with more dough than you need, which you can use to make an extension, 2. floor, or gingerbread men to inhabit the house. Alternatively, you can keep it spare in case you have a problem with one of the parts (one of mine broke!) and you can remake it.

For the gingerbread:

300 g butter
125 g caster sugar
125 g brown sugar
225 g honey, or golden syrup
725 g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Melt the butter, caster sugar, brown sugar and honey in a large saucepan. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon together, add the melted butter and sugar mixture and stir well until it comes together like sticky dough. If it is too crumbly add 1-2 teaspoons of water and mix it in. On a floured surface flatten the dough into a 2cm thick round, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Grease a baking tray. Cut out the templates with measurements provided above. Place a piece of greaseproof paper (of a size that would fit into the baking tray) on a work surface dust with flour and roll out a quarter of the remaining dough to 5mm thick. Place one of the paper templates on top and with a sharp knife cut around. Repeat the process with the other templates using the remaining dough and rolling up the trimmings – until you have a front and back wall, two side walls and two roof panels (you may need to use multiple pieces of greaseproof paper - I used about 4). Also cut out any other pieces you want to add e.g. I made venetian blinds and a balcony.

Carefully move the pieces on their baking parchment to baking trays and bake for 12 – 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove the trays from the oven and allow stand for a few minutes. Cut out a door on the front wall and windows on the side walls while the gingerbread is still soft and reserve the cut-out pieces for later. Place on a wire rack and allow to cool completely. 

For the icing:

1 egg white
250 g icing sugar

Place the egg whites and sift in the sugar, stir to make a thick, smooth icing. Spoon into a piping bag.

For the caramel syrup:

1 1/3 cups sugar
3/4 cup water

Bring sugar and the water to a boil in a medium saucepan; reduce heat, and simmer until thickened and light brown, about 10 minutes (I let it get to 140 degrees C on the candy thermometer).

For assemblage:

Candy canes
Biscuits with scalloped edges (I used Petit-Beurre, Leibniz-Keks are also an option)

Cut the edges of the pieces so they are all straight, then glue them together using the caramel syrup (work one by one as you will have to hold the pieces together for a bit until the caramel hardens). Cut the sides of the biscuits and glue them onto the roof (I used the icing to glue these). Use the icing to decorate.

Recipe sources: uktv, martha stewart

Monday, November 28, 2011


I was slightly shocked when I realised that my most recent post was 6 weeks ago! At the time I was optimistic that I'd have moved into my new place by now. But due to infuriating reasons beyond my control, my homelessness, and more importantly kitchenlessness, persists. So when given a baking environment recently I seized it as a challenge to make the most complicated thing I could think of to maximise my time in the kitchen. As I understand it most people aim for the opposite of this, in which case, be warned as this is not simplest thing to make. However, I would also urge you not to be put off by the fact that it appears to require 5 separate components since 3 of them are incredibly easy and quick to make.
My sister was excited when I told her the name of the cake ("Ooh is this what they eat at the opera?") but unfortunately research into its origin has proven futile. I'm sad to say that Wikipedia has failed me on this occasion. This is perhaps an etymological mystery that I'll have to solve on my own. I used Dorie Greenspan's recipe, which is a classic opera cake with 3 layers of almond joconde, 2 layers of coffee buttercream, 1 layer of chocolate ganache - all topped with chocolate glaze. I've heard of lots of variations on this traditional form, and after the success of this one, I can't wait to try some of them as well.

The cake:
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tablespoons (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds
2 1/4 cups (225 grams) confectioners sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
1/2 cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled briefly

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 220 degrees C. Line 3 medium sized pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter. (This is in addition to the quantity in the ingredient list.) Working in a clean dry mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the whites into another bowl.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almonds, confectioners sugar and whole eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and beat on low speed only until it disappears. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture, then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
Bake the cakes for 5 to 7 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. Put the pans on a heatproof counter, cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the cakes over and unmold. Carefully peel away the parchment, turn the parchment over and use it to cover the exposed sides of the cakes. Let the cakes come to room temperature between the parchment or wax paper sheets. (The cakes can be made up to 1 day ahead, wrapped and kept at room temperature.)

The coffee syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons (7 grams) instant espresso or coffee

Stir everything together in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Cool. (The syrup can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 week.)

The coffee buttercream:
2 tablespoons (10 grams) instant espresso or coffee
2 tablespoons (15 grams) boiling water
1 cup (100 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (30 grams) water
Pulp of 1/4 vanilla bean
1 large whole egg
1 large egg yolk
1 3/4 sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Make a coffee extract by dissolving the instant espresso in the boiling water; set aside. Bring the sugar, water and vanilla bean pulp to a boil in a small saucepan; stir just until the sugar dissolves. Continue to cook without stirring until the syrup reaches 124 degrees C, as measured on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Pull the pan from the heat.
While the sugar is heating, put the egg and the yolk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat until the eggs are pale and foamy. When the sugar is at temperature, reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly pour in the syrup. Inevitably, some syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl - don't try to stir the spatters into the eggs. Raise the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the eggs are thick, satiny and room temperature, about 5 minutes.
Working with a rubber spatula, beat the butter until it is soft and creamy but not oily. With the mixer on medium speed, steadily add the butter in 2-tablespoon (30-gram) chunks. When all the butter has been added, raise the speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thickened and satiny. Beat in the coffee extract. Chill the buttercream, stirring frequently, until it is firm enough to be spread and stay where it is spread when topped with a layer of cake, about 20 minutes. (The buttercream can be packed airtight and refrigerated for 4 days or frozen for 1 month; before using, bring it to room temperature, then beat to smooth it.)

The chocolate ganache:
8 ounces (240 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup (125 grams) whole milk
1/4 cup (30 grams) heavy cream
4 tablespoons (2 ounces; 60 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and keep it close at hand. Bring the milk and cream to a full boil, pour it over the chocolate, wait 1 minute, then stir gently until the ganache is smooth and glossy.
Beat the butter until it is smooth and creamy, then stir it into the ganache in 2 to 3 additions. Refrigerate the ganache, stirring every 5 minutes, until it thickens and is spreadable, about 20 minutes. (The ganache can be packed airtight and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for 1 month; bring to room temperature before using.)

The chocolate glaze:
5 ounces (150 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 stick (115 grams) unsalted butter

Bring the butter to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and clarify the butter by spooning off the top foam and pouring the clear yellow butter into a small bowl; discard the milky residue. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over—not touching—simmering water, then stir in the clarified butter.

To assemble the cake:
Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Working with one sheet of cake at a time, trim the cake so that they are all the same size (I cut mine using a round cake pan). Place one piece of cake on the parchment and moisten the layer with coffee syrup. Spread about three-quarters of the coffee buttercream evenly over the cake. (If the buttercream is soft, put the cake in the freezer for about 10 minutes before proceeding.) Top with another piece of cake and moisten with syrup. Spread the ganache over the surface, top with the last cake layer, moisten, then chill the cake in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Cover the top of the cake with a thin layer of coffee buttercream. (This is to smooth the top and ready it for the glaze - so go easy.) Refrigerate the cake for at least 1 hour or for up to 6 hours; it should be cold when you pour over the glaze. (If you're in a hurry, pop the cake into the freezer for about 20 minutes, then continue.) Lift the chilled cake off the parchment-lined pan and place it on a rack. Put the rack over the parchment-lined pan and pour over the glaze, using a long offset spatula to help smooth it evenly across the top. Slide the cake into the refrigerator to set the glaze and chill the cake, which should be served slightly chilled. At serving time, use a long thin knife, dipped in hot water and wiped dry, to carefully trim the sides of the cake so that the drips of glaze are removed and the layers revealed (mine was round, so difficult to trim. I would advise those of you using a round cake pan for assemblage to line the sides first so that the layers do not meld into each other when you are pulling the cake out).

Each element of the cake can be made ahead, as can the assembled cake. The cake can be kept in the refrigerator, away from foods with strong odors, for 1 day, or you can freeze the cake, wrap it airtight once it is frozen, and keep it frozen for 1 month; defrost, still wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Macarons in every colour (sort of)

I'm currently somewhat homeless, crashing at the houses of various family members and friends, which is making it very difficult to bake, and therefore driving me crazy. I keep going to kitchen goods stores and picking out items for the new kitchen I will have soon (hopefully). The last thing I made was this box of macarons, which included chocolate, pistachio and coffee. In the meantime I've amassed a list of things that I want to make as soon as I move into my place, including 3-4 new macaron flavours...

Pistachio macarons

For the shells:
90 gr egg whites - preferably separated the night before
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr icing sugar
55 gr almonds
55 gr raw pistachios
green food coloring

Whisk the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Add the food colouring and continue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be dry. Put the icing sugar, pistachios and almonds through a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Sift them into the meringue, give it a quick fold initially to get it mixed and then start folding carefully until you obtain a batter that smooths itself after about 15 seconds. 
Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Note: if the mixture flattens too quickly you've over-mixed it.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe small rounds of the batter (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. Let the macarons sit out for 45 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool before you remove them from the tray.

For the pistachio buttercream:
55g pistachios
225g icing sugar
250g unsalted butter, softened

Blend the pistachios to a fine powder, then blend again with the icing sugar until you have a pale green powder. Beat the butter until soft and fluffy then beat in the pistachio icing sugar. You can add 1-2 tablespoons of milk, or more icing sugar, to achieve the consistency you like.

Coffee macarons

For the shells:
90 gr egg whites - preferably separated the night before
30 gr granulated sugar
200 gr icing sugar
110 gr almonds
1 teaspoon espresso powder

Whisk the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Add the food colouring and continue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be dry. Put the icing sugar, coffee and almonds through a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Sift them into the meringue, give it a quick fold initially to get it mixed and then start folding carefully until you obtain a batter that smooths itself after about 15 seconds. 
Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Note: if the mixture flattens too quickly you've over-mixed it.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe small rounds of the batter (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. Let the macarons sit out for 45 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool before you remove them from the tray.

For the coffee buttercream:
113g soft butter
230g icing sugar
Coffee extract (dissolve 2 teaspoons of best quality instant coffee granules in 2 tablespoons boiling water, then cool)

Beat the butter until soft and fluffy then beat in the coffee extract and icing sugar. You can add 1-2 tablespoons of milk, or more icing sugar, to achieve the consistency you like.

Source: recipe for shells from Tartelette

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Banana and passion fruit pavlova

I recently tried this and it was so delicious that I just had to recreate it. I definitely prefer the taste of bananas and passion fruit with pavlova to summer berries. Also, while making the dessert I ended up researching why it is called passion fruit, and apparently it has nothing to do with it containing or inducing passion, but rather is a reference to Christian theology. Anyways, I ramble - enjoy!

For the pavlova:
4 large (120 grams) egg whites
1 cup (200 grams) superfine (castor) sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch (corn flour)

Preheat oven to 125 degrees C and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 18 cm circle on the paper. Turn the parchment paper over so the circle is on the reverse side.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Start adding the sugar, a tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat, on high speed, until the meringue holds very stiff and shiny peaks. (Test to see if the sugar is fully dissolved by rubbing a little of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. The meringue should feel smooth, not gritty. If it feels gritty the sugar has not fully dissolved so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers). Beat in the vanilla extract. Sprinkle the vinegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and, with a rubber spatula, gently fold in. Spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the edges, making sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. (You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit.)

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the outside is dry and is a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool completely in the oven. (The outside of the meringue will feel firm to the touch, if gently pressed, but as it cools you will get a little cracking and you will see that the inside is soft and marshmallowy.)

The cooled meringue can be made and stored in a cool dry place, in an airtight container, for a few days.

For the topping:
1 cup (240 ml) double cream
1 1/2 tablespoons (20 grams) granulated white sugar (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 bananas, sliced
4 large passion fruits, sliced and scraped

Just before serving gently place the meringue onto a serving plate. Whip the cream in your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, until soft peaks form. Sweeten with the sugar and vanilla and then mound the softly whipped cream into the center of the meringue. Arrange the bananas on top of the cream, and top with the passion fruit. Serve immediately as this dessert does not hold for more than a few hours.

Source: Pavlova recipe from joyofbaking

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Spiced Apple Cupcakes with Vanilla Frosting

So I'm finishing off my dissertation, spending the next two weeks at a course, then packing off my stuff moving to a different country - so what do I do? Cupcakes. In my defense, I've at least chosen a method of procrastination that has delicious results. These cupcakes reminded me carrot cake (which I love) because of the taste of cinnamon and mixed spice added to the apple. You could easily make them cream cheese frosting instead of vanilla. 

For the cupcakes:

2-3 medium apples, peeled then coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup caster sugar
60g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarb soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp all spice
1 tsp pure vanilla essence
1 egg

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F) and line a cupcake tin with papers. Mix together flour, bicarb, salt, cinnamon and all spice in a bowl and set aside. Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy in a large mixing bowl, about 5 minutes. Continue beating on high speed and add vanilla and the egg, beating until combined. Beat in grated apple, don't freak out at this point if the mixture looks slight weird and curdled. With your mixer on low speed, gradually add flour mixture until just combined. Spoon mixture into lined tin, filling papers 3/4 full. Bake in the oven for 18-20 mins, or until cupcakes are cooked through (test with a skewer) and brown on top. Remove from the oven and cool in tin for 5 minutes, then remove from tin and cool completely on a wire rack.

For the frosting:

2 cups (230 grams) icing sugar, sifted
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk or light cream

In an electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, cream the butter until smooth and well blended. Add the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low speed, gradually beat in the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the milk and beat on high speed until frosting is light and fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Add a little more milk or sugar, if needed (I ended up adding more icing sugar until it was the right piping consistency).

sources: raspberri cupcakes, joyofbaking

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Classic White Bread

I don't know what it is about dough that makes it so lovable. It's just so soft and smooth that I can hardly bear to put it in the oven. Anyway, suffice it to say I'll be making bread a lot more often from now on.

500g white flour (preferably bread flour) , plus extra for dusting
1 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
7g sachet fast-action yeast
3 tbsp olive oil
300ml warm water

Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Dissolve the honey in the warm water. Make a well in the centre, then add the oil and water, and mix well. If the dough seems a little stiff, add 1-2 tbsp water, mix well then tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Once the dough is perfectly smooth, place it in a lightly oiled bowl. Leave to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size or place in the fridge overnight.
Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Knock back the dough to let the air out of it, then gently mould the dough into a ball. Place it on the baking parchment to prove for a further hour until doubled in size.

before final proofing

after final proofing

In the meantime, preheat oven to 220 degrees C. Dust the loaf with flour and cut a cross about 6cm long into the top of the loaf with a sharp knife. Reduce the oven temperature to 200 degrees C and bake for 25-30 mins until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.

source: bbc goodfood

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Raspberry roulade

This is the softest sponge cake ever. This is a result of the fact that the egg whites and yolks are whisked separately, then gently folded together (to avoid the batter deflating). This soft and light texture also makes it super easy to roll. Love it!

For the Sponge Cake:

4 large eggs
1 large (20 grams) egg yolk
1/3 cup (35 grams) sifted plain flour
3 tablespoons (30 grams) cornstarch (corn flour)
1/2 cup (100 grams) plus 1 tablespoon (15 grams) granulated white sugar (divided)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) and place oven rack in the center of the oven. Butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable spray, a 17x12 inch (43x30 cm) baking pan, line it with parchment paper, and then butter and flour the paper (or spray with a nonstick vegetable/flour spray).
While the eggs are still cold separate two of the eggs, placing the yolks in one bowl and the whites in another bowl. To the yolks, add the additional yolk, and the two remaining eggs. Cover bowls with plastic wrap and allow the eggs to come to room temperature (about 30 minutes). Meanwhile, in a small bowl whisk the flour with the cornstarch.
Place the egg yolks and whole eggs, along with 1/2 cup (100 grams) of the sugar, in your electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed for five minutes, or until thick, pale yellow, and fluffy. (When you slowly raise the beaters the batter will fall back into the bowl in slow ribbons.) Then beat in the vanilla extract. Sift half the flour mixture over the beaten egg mixture and fold in gently with a rubber spatula, just until the flour is incorporated. Sift the remaining flour mixture into the batter and fold in.
In a clean bowl, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the lemon juice and continue beating until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in the remaining one tablespoon sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold a little of the whites into the batter to lighten it, and then add the rest of the whites. Pour the batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly with an offset spatula or spoon. Bake for about 6-8 minutes or until golden brown and when lightly pressed, springs back. Immediately upon removing the cake from the oven sprinkle with confectioners sugar and then invert the cake onto a clean dish towel. Remove the parchment paper, sprinkle with confectioners sugar, and roll up the sponge, with the towel. Place on a wire rack to cool.

For Raspberry Whipped Cream:

1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream (double cream) (35-40% butterfat)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 - 2 tablespoons (15-30 grams) granulated white sugar
Small box of raspberries

Place your mixing bowl and whisk attachment in the freezer for 15 minutes. Then place the whipping cream, vanilla extract, and sugar into the bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Puree the raspberries in a blender (leaving a few behind for decoration) and mix in to the cream.

Source: joy of baking

Monday, August 15, 2011

Chocolate macarons

These were specially requested by a friend so glad they turned out well. The chocolate ganache recipe makes about double the necessary amount, so I would recommend halving it, or else using the ganache for cake or to make truffles.
Warning: the macarons disappear almost instantly after making.

For the shells:
2 egg whites - preferably separated the night before
65g sugar
100g icing sugar
50g almonds
25g cocoa powder

Whisk the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be dry. Put the icing sugar, cocoa powder and almonds through a food processor until the nuts are finely ground. Sift them into the meringue, give it a quick fold initially to get it mixed and then start folding carefully until you obtain a batter that smooths itself after about 15 seconds. 
Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. Note: if the mixture flattens too quickly you've over-mixed it.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip and pipe small rounds of the batter (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. Let the macarons sit out for 45 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit and bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool before you remove them from the tray.

For the chocolate ganache filling:
½ cup (125 ml) heavy cream
2 teaspoons golden syrup (corn syrup) or honey
120g bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon (15g) butter, cut into small pieces

Heat the cream in a small saucepan with the golden syrup or honey. When the cream just begins to boil at the edges, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute, then stir until smooth. Stir in the pieces of butter. Let cool completely before using (I recommend you refrigerate).

Source: David Lebovitz

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Black Forest Gateau

This is a German cake, named after a special liquor made in the Black Forest region of Germany. I have to admit I omitted this apparently key ingredient. It's a basic chocolate genoise cake, filled and covered with whipped cream. I used sour cherries for the middle and glacé cherries for the top, although it's up to you which type of cherries you want to use.

For the chocolate genoise:
42 grams hot melted unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (65 grams) cake flour
1/3 cup (30 grams) unsweetened regular or Dutch-processed cocoa powder
4 large eggs
2/3 cup (135 grams) granulated white sugar

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. Butter, or spray with a vegetable spray, a 23 cm round cake pan and then line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine the melted unsalted butter with the vanilla extract. Keep this mixture warm. If needed, re-warm for a few seconds just before using.

In a medium bowl sift together the flour and cocoa powder. Set aside.

In a large heatproof bowl whisk together the eggs and sugar. Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Whisking constantly, heat the eggs and sugar until lukewarm to the touch (this will take approximately 5 minutes depending on the temperature of the eggs and the simmering water). Remove from heat and transfer the egg mixture to the bowl of your electric mixer. Beat on high speed until the egg mixture has cooled, tripled in volume, and looks like softly whipped cream. This will take approximately 5 minutes and the batter is beaten sufficiently when the batter falls back into the bowl in a ribbon-like pattern.

Then sift about one-third of the flour mixture over the whipped eggs and fold in using a large rubber spatula or whisk. Fold in half of the remaining flour, and then fold in the rest. Do not over mix or you will deflate the batter. Then take about 1 cup of the batter and fold it into the hot butter mixture with a small spatula. (This will lighten the butter mixture and make it easier to incorporate into the egg batter without deflating it.) When completely combined, use a spatula to fold the butter mixture completely into the rest of the egg batter. Pour the batter into your prepared pan, smoothing the top.

Bake until the cake shrinks slightly from the edges of the pan and the top springs back when lightly pressed (about 20 - 25 minutes). Cool on a metal rack. When the cake has cooled completely, run a small knife or spatula around the edges to release the cake.

For the whipped cream filling:
3 cups (600ml) whipping cream
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix the cream, sugar and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Whisk with an electronic whisk until you get stiff peaks (it will be piping consistency).

For the filling/topping:
1/2 cup black/sour cherries in syrup
Glacé cherries to top
75 grams plain chocolate

Melt the chocolate over a pan of boiling water. Spread over a piece of parchment paper, then top with another piece of parchment paper. Roll and put in the freezer for 20 mins, or refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Unroll swiftly to release the chocolate shards.

When the genoise has cooled, split and fill with whipped cream and cherries.

Decorate with whipped cream, glacé cherries and chocolate shards.

Source: Genoise from Joy of baking

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I felt after all the croissants and macarons, I should return to my Turkish roots with baklava. You can actually make this with ready-made filo pastry, but I think it's brilliant when handmade. And it's somewhat fun the roll out the tissue-thin pastry. For a truly Turkish experience, enjoy with tea and moustache.

For the filo pastry:
(this will fill a 12x20cm pan)

185gm all purpose {plain} flour
pinch of salt
1/2 cup less 1 tbsp water, plus more if needed
2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
Wheat starch, to roll out dough

In the bowl of your stand mixer combine flour and salt. Mix with paddle attachment.Combine water, oil and vinegar in a small bowl.Add water & oil mixture with mixer on low speed, mix until you get a soft dough, if it appears dry add a little more water. Change to the dough hook and let knead approximately 10 minutes. You will end up with beautiful smooth dough. If you are kneading by hand, knead approx. 20 minutes. 

Remove the dough from mixer and continue to knead for 2 more minutes. Pick up the dough and through it down hard on the counter a few times during the kneading process. Shape the dough into a ball and lightly cover with oil. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and let rest 2 hours at least.

Unwrap your dough and cut off a chunk slightly smaller than a golf ball. While you are rolling be sure to keep the other dough covered so it doesn’t dry out. Starch your hands, rolling pin and counter. As you roll you will need to keep adding, don’t worry, you can’t over-starch. 

When you get it as thin as you can with the rolling pin, carefully pick it up with well floured hands and stretch it on the backs of your hands as you would a pizza dough, just helps make it that much thinner. Roll out your dough until it is transparent. Set aside on a well-starched surface. Repeat the process until your dough is used up.

For the syrup:

(make this ahead of time so that is has cooled down by the time the dough is done)

1 cups cold water
1.5 cups sugar
2 tbsp lemon juice

Combine the cold water with the sugar in a medium-size saucepan. Boil the mixture for 5 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 15-30 minutes. The syrup is ready when it is light yellow, and when a small spoonful dropped onto a wooden surface is tacky when cooled.  Once ready, stir in the lemon juice into the syrup and set it aside to cool.

For the filling:

1 cup nuts (I used hazelnut, but you can also use pistachios or walnuts)
125g unsalted butter

Place the nuts and sugar in a food processor and process until medium to finely ground (but not too fine!). Set aside.
In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter. It will separate into 3 layers: a foamy froth on top, a clear liquid in the middle and a white solid at the bottom. When the butter is heated through and no more foam is developing, remove from heat. Remove the foam with a spoon. You want to keep the yellow liquid. You can save it by decanting it from the saucepan without disturbing the milk solids, or strain it through a cheesecloth-lined strainer.

Brush the inside of a 12x20cm baking pan (if your phyllo dough is bigger than your pan, let it hang over and trim it off at the end to fit) with a little bit of the clarified butter. Place 1 sheet of phyllo dough in the pan. With a wide pastry brush or paper towel, lightly brush the dough with the clarified butter. Continue layering the dough and brushing with butter until one package of dough is used.

Spread the nuts over the dough and lightly sprinkle it with water – a plant mister is best- to help the dough adhere to the nuts where the next layer is added. Using the second package of phyllo dough, layer the dough over the nuts, brushing each sheet with clarified butter. Trim the pastry edges to fit neatly within the baking pan. Brush the top layer and the edges with clarified butter.

Using a sharp knife dipped in hot water, cut through the dough halfway down the height of the pan to make small pieces.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Bake the baklava in the centre of the oven for 10-15 minutes. Lower the heat to 150 degrees C and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes until the top is lightly golden. Remove the baklava from the oven and let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Recut the pastries along the lines, all the way to the bottom of the baking pan. Pour the cold syrup evenly over the cut lines. Sprinkle the baklava with chopped nuts, if so desired, and let it cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

Source: Passionate about baking, tastespace

Friday, July 29, 2011

Almond croissants

I used the same basic recipe for this as I did for the chocolate croissants, however, I wasn't entirely happy with the results last time, so I made some adjustments to the recipe. These were definitely much better. I also added some process photos as it's quite difficult to actually visualise some of the steps.

For the dough:
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour; more for rolling 
140ml cold water 
140ml whole milk 
55 grams granulated sugar 
40 grams soft unsalted butter 
1 Tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp. instant yeast 
2 1/4 tsp. table salt 

For the butter layer:
280 cold unsalted butter 

For the top:
1 large egg 

Flaked almonds

For the almond crème:
100g sugar
100g ground almonds
a pinch of salt
100g unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs

Make the dough: Combine all of the dough ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the mixing bowl once if necessary. Mix on medium speed for 3 minutes. If the dough is too try add another tablespoon of milk, the dough should be soft, smooth and non-sticky. Lightly flour the top of the dough and wrap well with plastic so it doesn’t dry out. Refrigerate overnight.
Make the butter layer: The next day, cut the cold butter lengthwise into 1.5cm-thick slabs. Arrange the pieces on a piece of parchment or waxed paper to form a 15cm square, cutting the butter crosswise as necessary to fit. Top with another piece of parchment or waxed paper. With a rolling pin, pound the butter with light, even strokes. As the pieces begin to adhere, use more force. Pound the butter until it’s about 20cm square and then trim the edges of the butter. Put the trimmings on top of the square and pound them in lightly with the rolling pin. Refrigerate while you roll out the dough.

Make the almond crème: Cream the butter with an electric mixer. Add the dry ingredients and continue mixing. Add the eggs one by one, beating after each addition, until you achieve a creamy mixture.
Laminate the dough:  Unwrap and lay the dough on a lightly floured work surface. Roll into a 25cm square. Brush excess flour off the dough. Remove the butter from the refrigerator—it should be pliable but cold. If not, refrigerate a bit longer. Unwrap and place the butter on the dough so that the points of the butter square are centered along the sides of the dough (i.e. there should be a triangle of dough exposed at each side of the butter square). 

Fold one flap of dough over the butter toward you, stretching it slightly so that the point just reaches the center of the butter. Repeat with the other flaps. Then press the edges together to completely seal the butter inside the dough. (It should look like a square envelope.)

Lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. With the rolling pin, firmly press the dough to elongate it slightly and then begin rolling instead of pressing, focusing on lengthening rather than widening the dough and keeping the edges straight.
Roll the dough until it’s 20x30cm, then put on a baking sheet, cover with cling film so no part is exposed, and refrigerate for 2 hours (this is to harden the butter so it doesn’t seep out).

First turn: Roll the dough until it’s 20x60cm. If the ends lose their square shape, gently reshape the corners with your hands. Brush any flour off the dough. Fold the dough into itself like a book. This is the famous double turn, also known as “the wallet”. Put the dough on a baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 25 minutes to relax and chill the dough.
the double turn
Second turn: Repeat the rolling and folding, this time rolling in the direction of the two open ends until the dough is about 20x60cm. Do another double turn, brushing off excess flour. Cover and freeze for another 25 minutes.
Third turn: This time do a single roll - pick up one short end of the dough and fold it back over the dough, leaving one-third of the other end of dough exposed. Then fold over the exposed side. Put the dough on the baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap, tucking the plastic under all four sides. Refrigerate for 2 hours..
the single turn
Divide the dough: Unwrap and lightly flour the top and bottom of the dough. Cut the dough horizontally into two pieces; chill one piece in the fridge. 
the horizontal cut
Roll the other piece of dough into a long and narrow strip, 20x50cm. The dough may stick as you roll so keep flouring it (flip it over once in a while so that the bottom doesn't stick to the surface). Once the dough is about half to two-thirds of its final length, it may start to resist rolling and even shrink back. If this happens, fold the dough in thirds, cover, and refrigerate for about 10 minutes; then unfold the dough and finish rolling. Lift the dough an inch or so off the table at its midpoint and allow it to shrink from both sides—this helps prevent the dough from shrinking when it’s cut. Check that there’s enough excess dough on either end to allow you to trim the ends so they’re straight and the strip of dough is 42cm long. Trim the dough.
Lay a large ruler or tape measure lengthwise along the top of the dough. With a knife, mark the top of the dough at 12cm intervals along the length. Position the ruler along the bottom of the dough. Make a mark 6cm in from the end of the dough. Make marks at 12cm intervals from this point all along the bottom of the dough.

Make diagonal cuts by positioning the ruler at the top corner and the first bottom mark. With a knife or pizza wheel, cut the dough along this line. Repeat along the entire length of dough. You’ll end up with 6 full triangles and a small scrap of dough at each end.
Repeat with the other half of dough in the fridge.

Shape the croissants: Working one-by-one, widen the base of each triangle by stretching slightly, then hold the base in one hand, and hand the other hand to the point of the triangle to elongate it (you should pull it to twice its length). Lay the croissant on the work surface so its pointing towards you. Put a dollop of almond crème at the base of the triangle and with one hand on each side, begin to roll the dough towards you (towards the pointed end).
Flare your hands outward as you roll so that the “legs” become longer. Press down on the dough with enough force to make the layers stick together, but avoid excess compression, which could smear the layers. Roll the dough all the way down its length until the pointed end of the triangle is directly underneath the croissant.
Arrange them on two large parchment-lined rimmed baking sheets. Keep as much space as possible between them, as they will rise during the final proofing and again when baked.
before proofing
Proof the croissants: Make the egg wash by whisking the egg with 1 tsp. water in a small bowl until very smooth. Lightly brush it on each croissant.
Put the croissants in a draft-free spot at about 25 degrees C. Wherever you proof them, be sure the temperature is not so warm that the butter melts out of the dough. I proofed them in the oven with a bowl of boiling water at the bottom of the oven. They will take 1-1/2 to 2 hours to fully proof. You’ll know they’re ready if you can see the layers of dough when the croissants are viewed from the side, and if you shake the sheets, the croissants will wiggle. Finally, the croissants will be distinctly larger (though not doubled) than they were when first shaped.

Lightly brush each croissant with egg wash again, and top with flaked almonds.
Bake the croissants: Shortly before the croissants are fully proofed heat it to 200° degrees C. Put the sheet in the oven. After 10 minutes, rotate the sheet. Continue baking until the bottoms are an even brown, the tops richly browned, and the edges show signs of coloring, another 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets on a rack.