Monday, 31 August 2009

Dobos Torta? Verdict: lush

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.

This month, we Daring Bakers were set to make a cake I have never heard of - a Hungarian classic called the Dobos Torta. Layers and layers of thin sponge, sandwiched together and iced all over.

You can get the recipe here. Normally, as a new-ish DB, I tend to stick quite closely to the recipe, but this month I decided to make a few variations of my own, and presented a lovely rectangular eight layer dark-chocolate-orange-and-almond cake.

To do this, I doubled the cake mix recipe, and made 5 11-inch squares, which I later trimmed and cut in half. My filling is alternating layers of home-made orange curd (Delia's recipe), and dark chocolate ganache. The flavours go beautifully together.

In all, I am pleasantly surprised. This was a LOT of work - it took me much longer than the estimated times we were given, but I guess that's always the way with new recipes - but the finished product was very classy. A great 'posh' cake, and it definitely tastes Central European - lovely with coffee.

Not sure I would make it again, unless it was for a very special occasion (and I'd certainly drop the caramel-covered cake wedges, which were overly-hard-work and not very tasty), but it was a great challenge - I really feel like I've stretched myself on this one.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Bakewell Tart of Delight!

The June Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Jasmine of Confessions of a Cardamom Addict and Annemarie of Ambrosia and Nectar. They chose a Traditional (UK) Bakewell Tart... er... pudding that was inspired by a rich baking history dating back to the 1800s in England.

I LOVE almonds and I ADORE Bakewell Tart, so I was delighted that this is what we were to make for the Daring Bakers this month.

Despite the confusion, I'm pretty sure this is a Bakewell Tart, as opposed to a Bakewell Pudding - sweet shortcrust pastry, a think layer of jam, and lovely soft frangipane. Mmmmmmmmm.

You can see the recipe we worked to here. I used a 'posh' cherry conserve that I bought (no time to make jam this month!). I just used enough to smear over the base, which worked well - I don't think Bakewells should have too much jam if possible.

I followed it very closely, and it worked out very well indeed. The pastry was flaky and cooked through, and the almond mix was just delicious. The people I fed it to at my drama group were very pleased, and commented on how moist it was. I will definitely be making it again - it's a great 'keeper' for picnics, teas, parties etc.

I did make a couple of changes to the recipe / method:

* used one third more frangipane as I had a slightly larger tin - seemed to cook in the same time though, giver or take 5 minutes.

* blind-baked the case for 15 minutes, at 180 celsius, lined with parchment and filled with beans - I then egg-washed it and popped it back in for 2-3 minutes - this definitely stopped the pastry going soggy.

* put the butter, bowl and flour in the freezer for ten minutes before making the patry - this got me a better pastry than I have managed before.

All in all - another tasty Daring Bakers success! Yum.

Saturday, 2 May 2009


I've been a bit manic lately, and haven't had much time to blog about my baking attempts - but I just wanted to share this year's Figolli.

These are traditional Maltese cakes for Easter - a really soft biscuit dough, stuffed with a spicy almond paste, made in a variety of shapes and covered with lots of icing and a chocolate egg.

They came out beautifully this year - though my flat was literally covered with icing sugar for the weekend. I'll cut and paste the recipe later on, but they're much more simple to make than they look. And delicious!

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Daring Bakers April 2009 - Cheesecake Challenge

"The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge."

This month, the Daring Bakers set me my dream challenge - cheesecake. I ADORE cheesecake - plain, flavoured, you name it, I love it. And baked cheesecake in particular. I've made a few baked cheesecakes before - Nigella's Italian Ricotta cheesecake, and her New York one too - generally successful, but not mind-blowing.

So - we were given a simple recipe for a plain baked cheesecake, and were asked to be inspired and flavour it up. For our Easter Sunday family do, I decided on a rich Baileys cheescake - and it was FABULOUS. The recipe was simple to follow, stayed nice and stable despite my faffing about a bit with the liquid quantities to try and get a stronger Baileys flavour, and the texture was perfect. This will definitely be my cheesecake recipe of choice from now on.

You can see the basic recipe here, on Jenny's blog.

To customise it, I used double choc chip cookie crumbs for the base, replaced the lemon juice, vanilla, and 'alcohol' component with Baileys, and topped with grated chocolate. An absolute winner!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


Kwarezimal is a traditional Maltese lenten 'sweet'. It contains no dairy products, which (in the old days) used to be given up completely for Lent.

I've had a bash at making this before, and it came out quite hard, almost like a biscotti. This year, I decided to try again, but to try and make kwarezimal cookies, rather than the traditional, bigger log-shapes.

I tried a slightly different recipe this year, and for some reason it worked. Perhaps it was having a low oven temperature, or maybe I just managed to get the flour-water ratio right.... Not sure! However, the finished product is a chewy, spicey, subtly-orangey, almondy delight. 

Kwarezimal cookies
Makes about 30 good-sized biscuits

350g almonds, skins on, roughly ground
350g golden caster fugar
2 and a half tablespoons runny honey
4 teaspoons cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon mixed spice
Grated rind of a lemon and a clementine
200g plain flour
Pinch of salt
Juice of the clementine, with water added to make it up to 100ml
More honey and chopped nuts to decorate

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Separately, mix the honey into the 100ml of liquid.

2. Slowly add the liquid to the dry ingredients, mixing well with an electric whisk. The finished mixture should be a slightly sticky, thick gunk!

3. Leave the mixture for around 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 160C, and line a cookie sheet with parchment. Spray with vegetable oil.

4. Roll the sticky dough into balls, and squidge them flat on the tray. Mine were about 8cm across and 1cm thick. They spread quite a bit in the oven though, so leave a space.

5. Bake for 15-20 minutes. They should still be quite soft, and just starting to go deeper brown around the edges.

6. Leave to cool on the tray, but just go underneath them all with a palette knife to aid lifting them later.

7. When cool, heat some more honey in a pan. Brush each cookie with honey and sprinkle with more coarsely ground almonds.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

For the love of chocolate!

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.

We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

This is my second Daring Bakers’ challenge, and an exciting one for someone with a sweet tooth (though also, unfortunately, one requiring major self-control, due to the ongoing diet!!).

I made a rich, dark chocolate and mint valentine, and paired it with a low-fat chocolate and mint ‘ice-cream’ made from evaporated milk – tasty, and also simple (also meant I could actually eat it, which was a bonus!).

It was delicious. I decided that, given the simple pared-down ingredients, I should buy ‘the best’, and so combined some beautiful organic eggs (with fabulously intensely yellow yolks) with some great quality chocolate. I used about 2/3rds dark mint chocolate, and 1/3rd milk chocolate. The resulting flavour was dark and minty, and just sweet enough for grown-ups (I would definitely use a higher proportion of milk chocolate if I was making it for kids).

I cut most of it into little squares and took them to work – all 30-odd of them had gone in half an hour!

In all, I found this recipe very simple to follow – by turning the oven down slightly shy of the temperature, and keeping a close eye on it, I managed to avoid any texture problems.

I will, most definitely, be making it again.

Beautiful organic eggs from posh hens.

Lovely, rich melted chocolate and butter.

Cooked in its tin - didn't seem to sink!

Chocolate Valentino, inspired by Malaysia’s “most flamboyant food ambassador”, Chef Wan. Recipe comes from Sweet Treats by Chef Wan.

hocolate Valentino

Preparation Time:  20 minutes

454 grams of chocolate, roughly chopped

145 grams of unsalted butter

5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling, butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.

3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.

4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry). 

5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.

6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. 

8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 190C

9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 60C. 

Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.

10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

My first Daring Bakers challenge!..... Kannoli Tuiles!

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Baking Soda and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf.

They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

The main thing that spurred me on to start this slightly ropey food blog is having looked on in awe at the creations of the many Daring Bakers across the world. Once a month, literally hundreds of people create something from a set recipe, and all post up the pics and a little review of the process. It’s a wonderful idea, and I couldn’t resist joining in!

So, this month, along with many of my Daring Bakers sisters and brothers, I have been making Tuiles. Light, crisp biscuits that can be shaped into (more-or-less) anything to decorate a pud or a snack.

I should admit, on first seeing this month’s challenge, I was a little disappointed. I’d seen the glamorous and complex cakes they had made in the past, and I wanted to have a go at that – the recipe for tuiles seemed a bit simple.

But goodness me was I wrong! The recipe itself was quite easy to put together – my eggs split the mix a little bit, but it came back together as soon as I added the flour.

I also had to acquire some stencils to spread the mix into.... It being January, I was skint so decided to make some out of a thin, flexible card I had left from Christmas. The stencils themselves were fine, but obviously the card absorbs moisture, so they became a bit soggy after stencilling just one or two biscuits. Washing them was also not an option.

Tip one – next time I’d buy stencils, or make them out of acetate!

The second ‘issue’ I faced was spreading the batter. How thick? After trying again and again (I had to make two batches), I worked out that the key is to have a cold batter, a cold tray and to spread THINLY! When I had made them thicker they came out too cake-y, and wouldn’t really hold their shape.

The only problem I faced here was again a matter of equipment – my cookie sheet is seriously old, and a bit knobbly, so getting the tuiles off was hard to do when they were spread as thinly as they needed to be.

Tip two – cold batter, cold tray, nice smooth cookie sheet!

Cooking the tuiles was quite easy. My oven’s a bit ropey, so I turned it down a couple of notches and just checked the biscuits very regularly. By the time I made my last tuile, I seemed to have the nack of spreading them thinly and evenly enough that when they were cooked I didn’t have too much brown-ness round the edges.

Finally – shaping!! The more thinly the batter had been spread, the easier they were to shape. They seemed so soft and malleable on the tray, that it was surprising just how quickly they firmed up. Like lots of people, I found popping the tray half-in, half-out of the oven to keep them soft, and doing the shaping by the oven door was an effective way of doing it. Not sure this would have worked if I had been making more than three or four on a tray though!

Tip three – do the shaping close to the oven, and keep the biscuits half-in, half-out of the oven to keep them soft on the tray.

Our challenge was not just to make the tuiles – we also had to shape them, and combine them with something light... So, my tuiles became kannoli! I LOVE kannoli, and you can’t really get them in the UK, so if we want them we are forced to make them. My Grandma has tried with softened brandy snaps before, and somewhere in a cupboard I have a set of the metal tubes, but I’ve never felt like getting to grips with the deep-frying. So tuiles seemed like an opportunity to make a crisp tube shell without all the faff and grease of deep-frying, and without the strong flavour of the brandy-snaps.

And it worked! I beat some ricotta with a little bit of sieved icing sugar and piped it in (I don’t like it too sweet or chocolatey – it should taste of cheese!). I served it with a really simple raspberry coulis to cut through the rich filling. And the verdict? YUM! I will definitely be doing this again.

Following is a recipe taken from a book called “The Chocolate Book”, written by female Dutch Master chef Angélique Schmeinck.

Yield: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies are just an example).

Preparation time: batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes.

Baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch.

65 grams softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams sieved icing sugar
7 grams caster sugar

Dash of vanilla extract
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams sieved plain flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C (I put mine at 160C)

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

If you don’t want to do stencil shapes, you might want to transfer the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small plain tip. Pipe the desired shapes and bake. Shape immediately after baking using for instance a rolling pin, a broom handle, cups, cones….

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Inauguration Cake!

If anything is deserving of a cake, it's Obama's inauguration this week. It all kicks off at 4pm UK time, so it'll be perfect time to stop work for tea, cake and television. 

This is the tallest cake I've ever made! It's two chocolate-cola sponges (a la the Hairy Bikers), and I think it's around 8 inches tall, and 10 inches in diameter. I've not tasted it, as it's resting in my fridge until Tuesday, but the crumbs of cake that I tried were lovely!

It's iced and filled with a white chocolate buttercream. Just hoping I can get it to work (on the train!) in one piece now!

Thursday, 8 January 2009

New Year, New Diet, New Dense Chocolate Cupcakes...

Naturally, I am on a diet (being a girl, and it being January). Thus far it's going quite well - lots of soup, lots of salad-y side dishes - I've been eating well and also eating very healthily. However, tomorrow it's my mum's birthday party, so some form of cake is essential...

Mother's on the diet too, so I tried to come up with a solution that allowed us both (and all her dinner guests) a bit of indulgence, without the temptation to eat half a cake.... The result? Chocolate cupcakes! Yum, lovely rich ingredients, but guaranteed portion control. It might be naughty, but it's only a couple of bites!

These lovelies are Dense Chocolate Cupcakes, from Nigella's Domestic Goddess, and they're iced with her suggested chocolate ganache and topped with a minstrel. I've yet to try them (obviously saving my calories for tomorrow), but they look stunning. Happy birthday mum!

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Mmmmmm, pizza

Yesterday I bought one of those wheelie pizza cutter thingies, so it seemed only polite to make some dough today in its honour. Pizza has to be my favourite thing to eat, and I love making it myself as I can attempt to keep it fairly healthy (not too much cheese or oil, cutting the salami really thin etc).

This one's made from the same recipe as the focaccia below, and the toppings are my version of an American Hot - salami, green chilies, mushrooms, red onions. Mmmmmmm!