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Posts Tagged ‘daring baker’

Pick Me Up….

Well, well, well….it’s been a while since I’ve actually been on time posting a DB challenge. I’m not too sure whether it’s cos I’m so excited about it, or whether it’s cos I really won’t get the time to do it tomorrow since I’m gonna be stuck at work all day till late at night!

If people were to ask me what my signature cake is, it’d be a really toss up between Tiramisu and Chocolate Banana Cake. Tiramisu cos I’ve become such an expert at it and after all trials and errors, have found what I think in my opinion is the best tiramisu. Chocolate Banana cos it was born of my craving for Secret Recipe’s Choc Banana Cake and over time I’ve come up with my version of which has never failed me in any event.

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

When Feb’s challenge was announced, I was like “Yes!! Something right down my alley! I should nail this with my eyes blindfolded!” Now I’m beginning to sound cocky but what-the-heck…we are all allowed to be like that once in a while! :p

Although loving my personal recipe for tiramisu, this challenge was in many ways new to me. For one, I’ve never done it the traditional way with zabaglione and marsala wine. And for another, I’ve never made my own cheese, much more mascarpone cheese! *Whee!* This is so exciting!

For those who don’t know, this Italian dessert is literally translated as “pick me up”. And this name is indeed well suited for this ever so tempting and mouth-watering wonder! I modified the recipe a little as I like my tiramisu a little bit more cheesy and definitely with more alcohol in it! I was tempted to try new flavours but in the end decided classic was definitely the way to go.

TIRAMISU

(Recipe source: Carminantonio’s Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
1.5 cups brewed espresso, warmed
1/4 cup tia maria + 1/4 cup amarula liquer
2 tbsp sugar
2/3 cup mascarpone cheese
savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting

Method:
For the zabaglione:

  • Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
  • In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
  • Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
  • Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:

  • Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
  • Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
  • Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
  • Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:

  • Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:

  • Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
  • In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.

  • Working quickly, dip the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
  • Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
  • Repeat to create 2 more layers, using as many ladyfingers as required and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
  • To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

MASCARPONE CHEESE

(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

Ingredients:
474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Method:

  • Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
  • It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
  • Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

LADYFINGERS/ SAVOIARDI BISCUITS
(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2″ to 3″ long) ladyfingers.

Ingredients:
3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner’s sugar,

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
  • Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
  • In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
  • Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5″ long and 3/4″ wide strips leaving about 1″ space in between the strips.
  • Sprinkle half the confectioner’s sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
  • Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
  • Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
  • Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
  • Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

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Yes, I do understand that once again i’m late for this month’s challenge! We were in Melbourne the last few days and only just got back so I haven’t had a chance to blog on December’s DB challenge! Sorry guys!

Well, to keep things short and sweet, the December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.

Once again, a first time for me but time constraints did not allow me the joy of decorating. I’m definitely going to have another go at it and work on my decorative skills. As for the recipe, Anna and Y did warn us that the taste was not to be expected to be exceptional seeing that the challenge was more focused on the decorations. I do however have to say I was really disappointed with how dry and tasteless my cookies were even after doubling the amount of spices in it. So aside from wanting to work on the looks, I’m also in search of a better tasting recipe.

Y‘s Recipe:
Scandinavian Gingerbread (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

Method:

1. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

2. Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.

3. Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

4. Cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Scraps were saved and rerolled at the end.

5. Preheat the oven to 375′F (190′C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm. After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Royal Icing:

Ingredients:

1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Method:

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren’t using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.


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Mac…mac…macaroon…

 

 

Yes, once again, I’m late for this month’s Daring Baker challenge!! Sorry!! I only just got back from work after 14 hours on my feet…surely that’s a good enough reason! :p

I’m gonna keep this short and sweet as I’m so tired I’m about to collapse. My bed and pillow and calling out to me with urgency! The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe. When I first read about macaroons on fellow DB’s blog – Tartelette, I’ve been wanting to make these. Sadly, mine didn’t turn out as nice as hers. Oh well, now I’ve got an excuse to try these out again! :)

Ingredients:
Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Filling: Chocolate Orange Ganache

Ingredients:
300ml thickened cream
300gms dark bittersweet chocolate
Juice of 2 orange
Brandy, to taste

Directions:

1. Place chocolate and cream in a bowl and heat over boiling water till chocolate is melted.

2. Add orange juice and brandy.

3. Allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate and allow it to thicken.

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Yes yes, I know! I’m late!! The DB challenge reveal date was yesterday and I’m exactly 24hours late! :p Oh well, better late than never! Hopefully this doesn’t get me into trouble though.

I’ve been missing in action for a while. I know you guys are probably sick of hearing me say it’s cos I was too busy with work. Sadly, it’s the truth though. Although I have to add that I’ve been lazy as well. Working anywhere up to 50 hours a week, you tend to want to do nothing on your off days! That’s my life now. Sundays have been designated as my “Do Nothing” day. Guess, I’m going to need to designate one of my days as blogging day! :p

Having missed the last 2 DB challenges, it’s time I join the party once again.

The September 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Ever since I watched the Youtube video of Gordon Ramsay’s beef wellington, I’ve been wanting to make my own puff pastry. So this was my chance to experiment! Sadly, this month’s challenge was not as smooth sailing as I’d expected. With limited time, I made a batch of pastry last week and left it in the fridge with the intention of finishing it off the next day. Well, the next day become the next, followed by the next and the next. By the time I finally got around to it yesterday, the colour of the dough didn’t look right and it looked like stuff had grown on it. SO into the bin it all went! I had to rush and make a new batch this morning. Therefore explaining the reason behind the lateness of my post.

With my vols-au-vents, I decided to make a breakfast special of your classic eggs and bacon. Another mishap occurred with the eggs. For some reason, I couldn’t turn out any poached eggs at all even after 3 attempts! Oh well! I also made some filled with Tassie smoked salmon, crème fraîche, capers and dill. With the leftovers, I made Alan’s favourite – SAUSAGE ROLL!! :p

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough

From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Ingredients:
2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour
1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water
1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern. Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that’s about 1″ thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10″ square. Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with “ears,” or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don’t just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8″ square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square). Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24″ (don’t worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24″, everything else will work itself out.) With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24″ and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you’ve completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

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Hhmm…this month’s DB challenge was one interesting challenge – not just in its name but also in the combination of the dessert itself! With a base of shortcrust pastry, filled with jam and topped with a nice, spongy layer – tell me isn’t this an unusual dessert?! :)

June 2009 daring baker’s 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 back to the 1800′s in England. Some say it is a tart while some say it is a pudding…well, I’ll let you decide if it’s a tart or a pudding…my verdict is that it’s a tart but who cares! It’s the taste that matters! :)

For the jam filling, I’ve chosen to make my mum’s famous pineapple jam. As a kid, mum used to make this jam every Chinese New Year for her famous pineapple tarts. I still remember many a time where I complained about being forced to help her with this stupid task. Now, overseas and alone, one misses simple joys such as this.

Sweet shortcrust pastry

Ingredients:

225g (8oz) all purpose flour
30g (1oz) sugar
2.5ml (½ tsp) salt
110g (4oz) unsalted butter, cold (frozen is better)
2 (2) egg yolks
2.5ml (½ tsp) vanilla extract (optional)
4 tbsp cold water

Method:

  • Sift together flour, sugar and salt. Grate butter into the flour mixture, using the large hole-side of a box grater. Using your finger tips only, and working very quickly, rub the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside.
  • Lightly beat the egg yolks with the vanilla extract (if using) and quickly mix into the flour mixture. Keep mixing while dribbling in the water, only adding enough to form a cohesive and slightly sticky dough.
  • Form the dough into a disc, wrap in cling and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Frangipane

Ingredients:

125g (4.5oz) unsalted butter, softened
125g (4.5oz) icing sugar
3 (3) eggs
2.5ml (½ tsp) vanilla extract
125g (4.5oz) almond meal
30g (1oz) all purpose flour

Method:

  • Cream butter and sugar together for about a minute or until the mixture is primrose in colour and very fluffy.
  • Scrape down the side of the bowl and add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The batter may appear to curdle but don’t worry it’ll be fine.
  • After all three are in, pour in the vanilla extract and mix for about another 30 seconds and scrape down the sides again.
  • With the beaters on, spoon in the ground nuts and the flour. Mix well. The mixture will be soft, keep its slightly curdled look (mostly from the almonds) and retain its pallid yellow colour.

Pineapple Jam

Ingredients:

2 pineapples
4 cloves
Raw sugar, to taste (approximately 2-3cups, I didn’t measure)

Method:

  • Clean and peel pineapple. Cut into chunks.
  • Place pineapple into a blender and add some water. Blend it but don’t overdo it as you want the pineapple pulp.
  • Run it through a sift but not till juice is fully drained. Leave a little juice with the pulp.
  • Heat a non-stick pan or pot on medium heat. Add a little bit of oil followed by pineapple pulp.
  • Add sugar and stir it well. You’ll most likely have to adjust sweetness later so don’t add too much sugar at early stage.
  • Allow it to slowly cook over low-medium heat. Give it a stir every 10-15 minutes just to make sure it doesn’t burn.
  • Jam will slowly thicken and turn a nice golden brown colour. Add sugar to taste. If you want it drier then cook a bit longer. If not, remove from heat and allow to cool when it is sticky and semi-dry.
  • Refrigerate when cool. Store in an airtight container.

Assembling the tart:

  • Place the chilled dough disc on a lightly floured surface. If it’s overly cold, you will need to let it become acclimatised for about 15 minutes before you roll it out.
  • Flour the rolling pin and roll the pastry to 5mm (1/4”) thickness, by rolling in one direction only (start from the centre and roll away from you), and turning the disc a quarter turn after each roll.
  • When the pastry is to the desired size and thickness, transfer it to the tart pan, press in and trim the excess dough. Patch any holes, fissures or tears with trimmed bits. Chill in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
  • Remove shell from freezer, spread as even a layer as you can of jam onto the pastry base.
  • Top with frangipane, spreading to cover the entire surface of the tart. Smooth the top and pop into the oven for 30 minutes.
  • The finished tart will have a golden crust and the frangipane will be tanned, poofy and a bit spongy-looking. Remove from the oven and cool on the counter. Serve warm, with crème fraîche, whipped cream or custard sauce if you wish.
  • When you slice into the tart, the almond paste will be firm, but slightly squidgy and the crust should be crisp but not tough.

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I know I’ve no reason to go missing now that I’ve settled in to Sydney. However….remember how I said Sydney has not treated me well?! Sighz…since coming here, we’ve had nothing but bad luck one after another. The last misfortune to befall upon me (hopefully it’s the last), is the crash of my hardrive! I lost EVERYTHING in my hardrive! All my photos, my recipes, my documents – EVERYTHING!! As a result, I had nothing for me to blog on as all my food pictures died with it! 

Thankfully I’ve still got the DB-ers to fall back on! If it wasn’t for the fact that I’d joined this group, with my crazy lifestyle here, I’ve not had time to cook a decent meal in a long time. So it is with great honour and joy for me to announce this month’s DB challenge. The May 09 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of “make life sweeter! ” and Courtney of “Coco Cooks“. They’ve chosen Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

 

As with many of the previous challenges, this was my first strudel and with it came all the excitement of making something new! I thought I’d try a classic apple strudel, a savoury chicken and mushroom strudel and something with a bit of a twist – strawberry and ricotta strudel. I’m not sure whether it’s cos I kneaded my dough too much, or if I didn’t roll it out thinly enough, but my strudel didn’t come out as flaky and thinly layered as it should be. Hhmm…it looked and tasted more of a cross between a puff pastry and shortcrust pastry. Oh well, at least the filling was nice. I’ll definitely attempt the recipe again – perhaps with a mango filling! Mmmm…yum! :)

Recipe

Preparation time
Total: 2 hours 15 minutes – 3 hours 30 minutes

15-20 min to make dough
30-90 min to let dough rest/to prepare the filling
20-30 min to roll out and stretch dough
10 min to fill and roll dough
30 min to bake
30 min to cool

Strudel Dough:
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Dig a hole in the middle of flour, add the water/oil mixture to the flour and mix with a wooden spoon. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.

2. Continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.

3. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

4. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

5. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it’s about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Note: I used canola oil as I didn’t have vegetable oil at home. Instead of cider vinegar, I used white wine vinegar. As for the table cloth, I used bedsheet! :)

Apple Filling:

4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
About 8-10 tbsp of raw sugar
3/4 cups raisins
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 – 2 tbsp apple mead

1. Cut apple into chunks. Place all ingredients except for mead into a large saucepan and cook over medium heat. 

2. Allow it to simmer slowly and soften, approximately 10 minutes. 

3. Turn off the heat and add the mead. Stir it in well and leave it to cool. 

Chicken and Mushroom Filling:

2 pieces chicken breast fillet
10 swiss brown mushrooms
A handful of fresh sage
1/2 tin campbell’s chicken and mushroom soup
A block of camembert cheese

1. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add chicken and salt and allow it to boil. 

2. In the meantime, slice mushrooms and place into a large bowl. Once chicken is cooked, shred it into thick, chunky slices and add to mushrooms.

3. Add sage and chicken and mushroom soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

Strawberry and Ricotta Filling:

1 punnet strawberries, washed and halved
About 8-10 tbsp of raw sugar
1 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp strawberry liquer
Ricotta cheese

1. Place strawberries and sugar into a saucepan and cook over medium heat. 

2. Allow strawberries to soften and sugar to caramelize. Add in brandy and liquer and just simmer briefly.

3. Pour into a bowl and allow it to cool.

Assembling – Apple and Chicken&Mushroom:

1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.

2. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper). Make the strudel dough as described above. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands). Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs. 

3. Spread the filling about 3 inches from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch wide strip. For chicken, top filling with cheese. 

4. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.

5. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

Assembling – Strawberries and Ricotta:

1. Cut dough into square pieces. You’ll find that when you lift it up with your hands, it doesn’t hold its shape as the dough’s really thin.

2. Melt some butter in a pan. Lightly brown dough and drain on kitchen towel.

3. Layer with strawberries, a dollop of ricotta. Top with vanilla ice cream and drizzle with some sauce from strawberry filling. 

Note: While typing out this post, I realised why my strudel wasn’t flaky. I missed out the most important step – the spreading of the butter and breadcrumbs! Darn! Guess now I’ve got the perfect excuse to make a mango strudel! :)

 

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Well, well, well….another month has passed and once again I bring to you this month’s DB challenge. We have gone back to the good, old classic – everyone’s (or nearly everyone’s) favourite – cheesecake. The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes and she has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. The DB-ers had the freedom to do anything they wanted with this cake – flavours, decoration – everything entirely up to you – basically the sky is your limit! 

 

I’ve probably mentioned before that Alan’s favourite dessert is cheesecake. If he could, he’d have cheesecake and only cheesecake for his 3 meals! However, he’s a really classic and traditional eater so in order to ensure someone finishes this cake, I had no choice but to succumb to his classic tastes. :( In the end, I decided on passionfruit and lime – something to celebrate the near end to fresh summer fruits. 

 

 

Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake:

Ingredients:

Crust:
2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs

1 stick / 4 oz butter, melted

2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Cheesecake:
3 sticks of cream cheese, 8 oz each (total of 24 oz) room temperature

1 cup / 210 g sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream

1 tbsp. vanilla extract (or the innards of a vanilla bean)

2 fresh limes – juice and zest

4 fresh passionfruit

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.

2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too – baker’s choice. Set crust aside.

3. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. Add heavy cream, vanilla, lime juice, lime zest and passionfruit and blend until smooth and creamy.

4. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.

5. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done – this can be hard to judge, but you’re looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don’t want it to be completely firm at this stage. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won’t crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Prep notes: While the actual making of this cheesecake is a minimal time commitment, it does need to bake for almost an hour, cool in the oven for an hour, and chill overnight before it is served. Please plan accordingly!

 

 

 

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