Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Daring Bakers: Dobos Torte

The deadline was the 27th of the month. Truth is, every 27th is the deadline- the Daring Bakers deadline. Every month a new baking challenge is posted for the brave of heart, the group that calls themselves the Daring Bakers. I did not feel like I was up to the challenge of creating something so fancy this month- in fact, the fanciest baking I do is a chocolate cake- but I got a little push, and after ducking out last month I decided it was time to take on the challenge.

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

A few things went wrong- I only had medium sized eggs, so the cake didnt turn out to be as high as I would have liked, the layers were hard to peel off of the parchment, I didn't let the caramel cook enough, and I totally forgot about the hazlenuts. Either way, I'm mighty pleased. If anyones in the area, you should stop by for cake! I may not be a food photographer, but I am now a daring baker.

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

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

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 3/4cup 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.
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.
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.

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)

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. 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

Finishing touches
a 7” cardboard round
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

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.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pictures of August from Outside my Window

There's a week and a half left of August- so here you go: watermelon, my beautiful niece, clean whites on the line outside, the view from my bedroom window. Enjoy the last stretch of summer- eat as much watermelon as you can, go to the beach, revel in the sun! Happy August!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Orange Fennel Salad

I'm distracting myself with salad.
It was either make salad, or go out buy chocolate and make eclairs. Now that's not to say that I won't be making eclairs tomorrow- I've just staved off the eclair crazies for today. And so- onwards to salad!

Orange Fennel Salad
1 large fennel bulb
2 oranges, cut into segments
juice from the cut up oranges
2 T Balsamic Vinegar or Red Wine Vinegar
2 T Olive Oil
pinch of sugar (optional)
Segment oranges and cut the segments in half. Add the extra juice from the sliced oranges into a bowl with the orange segments. Slice the fennel, add to the bowl. Add the vinegar, oil and salt, and sugar (if using). Toss and serve.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Mint Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt

My freezer is PACKED. Loaves of leftover bread started tumbling out as I maneuvered cold plastic containers around to make room for yet another dessert, which our household of two (la maman and myself), would prefer not to consume in one sitting.

The combination of bread overload (even for me there is a limit of how much toast I can eat, and I love toast), and summer heat has led me to a bread-baking hiatus. Last week I made vanilla ice cream. It was a big hit, but all tasters agreed that it was too rich to enjoy guilt-free. So, I decided to try my hand at fro-yo.
I trolled the internet and found that most recipes for frozen yogurt call for Greek yogurt. I know that it's supposed to be thicker than regular yogurt, but it's impossible to find in supermarkets here. I also read that you can strain regular yogurt to make it thicker, so I got my strainer out, and dumped a few containers of yogurt in it. Most of the yogurt fell through to the other side, a lot fell onto the container, and some onto the side of the bowl.... next time I'll go with cheese cloth. Either way, the final product was delish- exactly what I wanted. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed!

Mint Chocolate Chip Frozen Yogurt
This recipe is based on David Lebovitz's recipe for vanilla ice cream, and my sister's Philadelphia-Style Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream:
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 c. yogurt (strained or Greek if you like it thicker)
  • 1 bar of good bittersweet chocolate
  • green food colouring (optional)
Heat milk, extracts, sugar and salt in a saucepan until warm. While whisking the egg yolks, slowly pour in a bit of the milk mixture. Now pour the egg yolk mixture into the milk slowly while whisking the milk. Heat the mixture, while stirring, until the mixture coats the back of the whisk. Strain the thickened mixture into the yogurt. Mix well, and chill (either in the fridge or over an ice bath). Put a deep baking dish, or bowl made of plastic, stainless steel or something durable in the freezer, and pour your custard mixture into it.

After forty-five minutes, open the door and check it. As it starts to freeze near the edges, remove it from the freezer and stir it vigorously with a spatula or whisk. Really beat it up and break up any frozen sections. Return to freezer.

Continue to check the mixture every 30 minutes, stirring vigorously as it's freezing. If you have one, you can use a hand-held mixer for best results, or use a stick blender. You can also use just a spatula or a sturdy whisk along with some modest physical effort.

Keep checking periodically and stirring while it freezes (by hand or with the electric mixer) until the ice cream is frozen. (It will likely take 2-3 hours to be ready).

When the mixture is mostly frozen, melt a bar of good bitterweet chocolate in a double boiler. Drizzle the melted chocolate over the fro-yo, and place back in the freezer. About half an hour later, take out and break up the chocolate pieces and stir into the fro-yo. Freeze a bit longer until firm, and serve!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vanilla Ice Cream

My sister R told me last week, in the name of constructive criticism, that I have too many pictures of "brown foods" on my blog. It's true. I bake bread, almost obsessively. I counted yesterday, and in the past week I've made at least twelve loaves. Bread is pretty much always brown. So, in response to Riv's comment about switching-it-up, and the ever-present summer heat, I decided to make this ice cream. The process is suprisingly simple: you put together a custard-based mixture, throw it in the freezer, and blend it every 45 minutes.
Side note: Half way through the process it hit me. The ice cream making process is eerily similiar to bread baking- you throw together the basic ingredients, wait a bit, mix it, wait a bit, mix it, wait a bit, and ta da! Final product. Looks like however hard I try I can't get away from that bread baking mentality!
After I was done taking pics, I realized that vanilla ice cream is white. Not so different from brown- pretty neutral still. At least I didn't make chocolate.....

The ice cream was delicious, and well worth the effort. I will definitely try to make ice cream again with different flavours. The recipe below is a combination of David Lebovitz's recipe and his instructions on how to make ice cream without an ice cream maker.

    Vanilla Ice Cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 cup heavy cream
  • A few drops of vanilla extract
  1. Heat the milk, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the milk with the tip of a paring knife. Add the bean pod to the milk.

  2. Stir together the egg yolks in a bowl and gradually add some of the warmed milk, stirring constantly as you pour. Pour the warmed yolks back into the saucepan.

  3. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Rinse the vanilla bean and put it back into the custard and cream to continue steeping. Chill thoroughly, then remove the vanilla bean

  4. Chill the mixture over an ice bath.

  5. Put a deep baking dish, or bowl made of plastic, stainless steel or something durable in the freezer, and pour your custard mixture into it.

  6. After forty-five minutes, open the door and check it.
    As it starts to freeze near the edges, remove it from the freezer and stir it vigorously with a spatula or whisk. Really beat it up and break up any frozen sections. Return to freezer.

  7. Continue to check the mixture every 30 minutes, stirring vigorously as it's freezing. If you have one, you can use a hand-held mixer for best results, or use a stick blender or hand-held mixer.You can also use just a spatula or a sturdy whisk along with some modest physical effort.

  8. Keep checking periodically and stirring while it freezes (by hand or with the electric mixer) until the ice cream is frozen. It will likely take 2-3 hours to be ready.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sunflower Millet Bread

I went to the beach yesterday and it was amazing. I've wanted to go to the beach for about three months but have been so busy studying that I haven't made it. There is just nothing like that blissed-out feeling that you get after sitting in the sun and the sand for hours. Salty water, good company, and a good book. And the sea.... Lately sunset has been conspicuously earlier than when it was only a few short weeks ago. It seems as if summer is starting to slowly creep away.... I suppose I shouldn't worry about it too much as the temperature here is still well over thirty degrees every day. Still, I can't help the feeling that fall will be upon us before we know it.

Part of the reason why I wanted to make this bread is because when I first read the recipe I thought it was called "sunny" millet bread. It was only later that I realized that the sunny was referring to the sunflower seeds. Really though, who wouldn't want to bake a loaf which promises sun in a bread? And even though I got it wrong, If there's any bread that would offer sunshine, this would be it.

The bread was delicious and a bit crunchy. I ran out of sunflower seeds and so I replaced some if them with wheat groats to fill the half cup. The dough was really wet at the beginning so I added some more flour and did two or three "stretch and folds" at twenty minute intervals. I put the formed loaves in my fridge overnight. The two loaves that I made ended up being a bit denser than I would have liked but still delicious. I highly recommend the recipe!

I'm submitting this post to yeastspotting.

Sunflower-Millet Bread-recipe courtesy of Pamela from TFL.

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup whole hulled millet
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour, approximately
  • 3 tablesploons light oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

  1. In a large mixing bowl combine the yeast and water, stirring until dissolved. Blend in the honey, seeds, and millet. Beat in 2 cups flour until smooth. Cover the bowl with a towel and let proof about 30 minutes, or until the mixture becomes a light, bubbly sponge.
  2. Stir down the sponge and blend in the oil and salt. Gradually add sufficient flour to make a soft, workable dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and resilient. Cover with a towel and let rest 30 minutes.
  3. Butter two 8 1/2-inch loaf pans. Divide dough in half, shape into loaves, and place in the pans. Cover an let rise 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bake the loaves about 40 mintues, or until golden brown. Remove the pans and let cool and wire racks.
    Makes 2 loaves.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Chewy Ginger Cookies

This weekend I was asked to bring dessert and challah to both my shabbat meals. Being a little less adventurous than my older sister R, whose delicious blueberry-lime mousse pie is sitting happily in my stomach (can I have the recipe, Rivka?), I opted for cookies. Easy to walk over to my very special meals, and easy to consume.

I decided to cut down on the sugar as I'm finding a lot of baking too sweet lately. I also decided NOT to roll the cookies in sugar (snickerdoodle-style) before baking, and it was not missed at all. They're just good cookies.

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

  • 2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 3/4 c. butter or margarine
  • 1 c. sugar (scant!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c. molasses
  • 2 T sugar (optional)
  1. In a medium bowl combine the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter well. Beat in the one cup sugar. Add egg and molasses; beat well. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture.
  3. Shape dough into 1 1/2 inch balls, using about one heaping tablespoon dough each.
  4. If coating in sugar, roll balls in the two tablespoons of sugar to coat.
  5. Place balls about 2 1/2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about ten minutes, por until light brown and puffy. Cool cookies on a cookie rack.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Seeded Sourdough

The idea to put seeds on my bread came from this lovely thread on TFL. Unfortunately, I didn't think about how I would actually get the seeds on the bread. Minor oversight. At first I considered rolling the plain dough in a mixture of seeds. Didn't work so well, as I had floured the dough in order to roll the batards up, and the seeds didn't stick. I tried eggwashing the dough and then sprinkling the seeds, but I didn't get enough seeds on the loaf- not exactly what I was looking for. The only minor disaster occured when I spilled half an egg on my seedy, floury counter, and tried to roll a "batard" in it. Bad idea. Do not try that at home- learn from my mistakes!

This is how you succesfuly seed a batard: roll it out into a batard shape. (I can't say that I have this down perfectly yet, but practice makes perfect!) Next step, put a mixture of seeds on the counter above your batard. I used sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame, and poppy. Egg wash the top of your batard, and tip it over onto the seeds. Roll. Repeat for the bottom half of the bread. This should be really simple, but it took me a bit to figure out.

I haven't actually tried the bread yet, I gave the first loaf that came out of the oven to my sister and brother in law- but it seems like they liked it from their text messages to me: "Damn good", and "Yumm, smiley face". Guess its a winner. I'll have to make it again!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Sourdough Bread

I'm sick. I suppose it's one of life's little ironies that on my first day of vacation, my first study-free day in about three months, I got sick. Maybe it's all the stress, maybe it's because I've been hanging out with my sick (adorable) two-year-old niece, I don't know. Either way, my big beach plans and long list of things to bake has to wait now. So, no Boston Cream Pie, no airy ciabatta. No iced sugar cookies, no ice cream. Wow, just writing this makes me depressed. Either way, I searched through the freezer yesterday for some toast - staple sick food, and found to my surprise that thanks to my year-round toast-consuming habit, I was actually out of bread - just when I needed it the most. Another one of life's ironies, I suppose.
I decided that I needed to drag myself away from the couch, wash my hands really well, and start making bread. That's really the only way to go from toast-free to toast-full. I chose Susan's Norwich Sourdough (from I tried following the recipe exactly, but ended up replacing some of the flour (about 150 grams) with whole wheat flour (I ran out of all-purpose).
The loaves turned out beautifully. I'm really happy with my first real sourdough attempt - in fact, so happy that I'm making more - most of the bread has already been eaten! Thanks for the recipe, Susan! You can find the recipe over here, over at

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

A few months ago I went to an engagement party of a good friend of mine. There were these oatmeal chocolate chip cookies on a plate with other food- now I can pretty much resist the temptation of chocolate chip cookies. But a good oatmeal chocolate chip cookie- the kind that goes perfectly with a cup of strong black coffee... ok pretty much anything goes well with a cup of strong black coffee in my mind.... ah coffee.... sorry, I ran out of coffee this morning, I'm getting a bit distracted.....

Anyways, the cookies were delicious and I had more than my fair share. I asked for the recipe and my friend Rachel graciously supplied it. The cookies were easy to put together. I used about half of the sugar called for in the recipe below, and added only a handful of chocolate chips. Also, I melted the margarine for convenience, although I am sure that this changes the texture of the cookie- one day I'll try an experiment and post the results.

The cookies were great, though not as chewy as I remember them to be. I rolled some of them and some I dropped by teaspoonfuls. I definitely preferred the texture of the rolled cookies over the dropped ones.

Anyways I have to go take a nap- this caffeine-withdrawal is giving me a headache...

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
  • 1 cup raisins or craisins
  • 3/4 cup margarine
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2/3 c all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups quick cooking oats
  • 6 ounces chocolate chips
  1. preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. soak raisins in water to cover in a small bowl. let stand 10 minutes, drain
  3. beat margarine until fluffy, gradually add sugars, beating well. add egg, water, vanilla, beating until well blended.
  4. combine flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. add to margarine mixture, beating at low speed until well blended. combine raisins, oats, and chocolate, fold into batter. drop cookies by rounded teaspoonfuls on greased baking sheets.
  5. bake for 10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown.
  6. yield- 6 dozen