Monday, August 31, 2009

Lavender and Meyer Lemon Sablés (Shortbreads)

My friend Annie gave me a delightful little tin of Dean & Deluca Lavender Flowers that she brought back from her trip to America just for me. Thank you, Annie. I have been meaning to make lavender biscuits for some time so this was the perfect excuse.

These lovely Lavender and Meyer Lemon Butter Sablés (Shortbreads) has been adapted from a recipe that I found on the 'Milk and Cookies' blog. A sablé is a classic French cookie (we call cookies biscuits in Australia) originating from Normandy. Sablé is the French word for 'sand' and it refers to the sandy texture of these delicate little cookies.

The lavender and lemon have a lovely affinity with each other and the aroma while the cookies are baking is divine. The cookies are lovely and tender as they use confectioners' sugar instead of granulated sugar.

Lavender and Meyer Lemon Sablés (Shortbreads)

(makes 50 small cookies)

225g plain (all-purpose) flour

25g cornflour

1 tablespoon dried lavender

200g unsalted butter, cut into 1" (2.5cm) squares (room temperature)

100g icing (confectioner’s) sugar

2 egg yolks

pinch of salt

2-4 tsp finely grated lemon zest (to taste)

Sift the flour and cornflour and place in to the food processor. Stir in the dried lavender and lemon zest.
Add diced butter and sugar to the flour mixture. 
Pulse for a few seconds to mix. 
Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and continue to pulse the dough until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide into two pieces. Roll each piece out into a log. Roll in coffee sugar crystals, then wrap in parchment paper. 
Refrigerate for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 170°C. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper
Remove 1 log from the fridge and cut the dough into 6mm rounds, lightly kneading the dough so that the rounds stay together. 
Place on baking sheet spaced 1-ince apart and bake for 10-12 minutes until just lightly browned on the edges. 
Transfer sables onto a wire rack to cool.
Repeat with second log.


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Macarons - A Mac with the Lot

I have just completed a day at Savour Chocolate & Patisserie School in Melbourne with the extremely talented Paul Kennedy.

This what you would I call a 'Mac with the lot' - a 7 cm citrus macaron with sesame seed decoration, with chocolate mint ganache, lemon mint chocolate (cheese), sliced strawberry, kiwi fruit and fresh mint leaves designed by Paul Kennedy.

This was a great class with only 5 students. We were shown three techniques for making macarons (French, Italian and Spanish) and four steps to the perfect macaron.

During the class we made:

Chocolate macarons with chocolate mint ganache

Raspberry macarons with raspberry confiture

Fidel Castor macarons (chilli) with chocolate tequila cream

Citrus macarons with lime curd

Caramel macarons with caramel cream and butterscotch schnapps

Chocolate Coriander with coriander milk chocolate ganache

Best of all, we made macarons with shiny shells, crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside and they all rose with tiny cute little feet.

The French method is the traditional way and hardest to do as it cracks if not done properly. Egg whites are whipped until they are stiff and then the almond/sugar mixture is added into the meringue giving a fairly stiff meringue.

The Italian method is used the most commercially but is difficult. A hot sugar syrup is poured into the whipped egg whites and then cooled while whipping further. The dry ingredients are first mixed with a small portion of unwhipped egg white to form a paste and then the whipped egg whites are folded into the paste.

The Spanish technique is considered the best method as it gives a better structure, although it has a tendency to get air bubbles. The Tant Pour Tant (half almond/half castor sugar) is sifted with icing sugar giving a higher sugar content, the egg whites are whisked and the caster sugar is added in three batches, then mixed until the stiff peak stage.

Piping takes some practice, but you get better as you do more. You have to keep the bag at a 90 degree angle with the bag straight up, perpendicular to the mat. The mixture is dropped rather than piped using little pressure. To move to the next macaron, release pressure, use a quick flick of the tip of the pastry tube and move to the next position.

The information given to me by Savour is copyright so I am not able to replicate class notes here. In future blogs, I will give my own recipes as I experiment with different recipes.

Macaron on Foodista

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fresh from the Oven - English Muffins

This months Fresh from the oven challenge was hosted by Claire from Purely Food. She chosen a recipe for English Muffins from the River Cottage Handbook - Bread by Daniel Stevens (published by Bloomsbury).

English Muffins

Makes 9
  • 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 5g powdered dried yeast
  • 10g fine salt
  • 325ml warm water
  • a drizzle of sunflower oil (plus extra for coating)
  • a handful of semolina flour (for coating)

To knead by hand: mix the flour, yeast, salt and water in a bowl to form a sticky dough. Add the oil, mix it in, then turn the dough out on to a clean work surface. Knead until smooth and silky.

Alternatively, as this dough is soft, you may prefer to use a mixer. Fit the dough hook and add the flour, yeast, salt and water to the mixer bowl. Mix on low speed until combined, then add the oil and leave to knead for 10 minutes, until smooth and silky.

Shape the dough into a round, coat with a little extra oil and place in a clean bowl. Leave to rise, covered with a plastic bag until doubled in size ( I actually left it in the refrigerator overnight then brought it back to room temperature next morning to enhance the flavour).

Tip the dough out on to the work surface and press all over to deflate. Divide into 9 pieces, shape each into a round and flatten to about 1-2cm. Dust them all over with semolina flour; this gives a lovely texture to the crust. Leave to prove on a linen cloth or wooden board, covered with a plastic bag, until doubled in size.

Heat a couple of large heavy-based frying pans over a medium heat. Lay the muffins in the pans and cook for a minute or so, then turn them over gently. Cook slowly for a further 10 minutes, turning every now and then. You may need to adjust the heat if they are colouring too fast, or not fast enough. Alternatively, if you are using an Aga, cook the muffins directly on the warm plate for up to 15 minutes, give them a quick blast on the hot side at the end, if you think they need it.

Leave to cool on a wire rack. These English muffins were lovely when fresh but the next day they were not as good.

Fresh from the oven - Baking one loaf at a time.

Fresh from the oven is a monthly bread baking group started by Brooke from the edandbrooke blogspot (Brooke's first baby is due next month - good luck Brooke) that is now being organised by Claire from Purely Food and Jules from Domestic Goddess in Training. Challenges are announced on our private blog on the first of each month and then on the 28th of the month each member posts their bread on their blog. Why not follow us on twitter ( Feel free to start following us. View our public blog at showcases all our efforts or email us to join at freshfromtheoven AT hotmail DOT co DOT uk.

Dobos Torte

The August 2009 Baker’s 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 Caffe’s of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Thank you Angela and Lorraine for a fantastic challenge. My husband was born in Hungary and is delighted with your choice.

The Dobos Torte was created in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian master chef. He had his own pavilion at her first General National Exhibition in Budapest. The Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph I an his wife Elizabeth visited the pavilion and were taken by the delightful delicacy. This apparently started the Dobos fever. THE REST IN HISTORY!!!!!

Traditionally, the Dobos Torte has 5 sponge layers that are filled with chocolate buttercream. A sixth layer is glazed with crisp caramel, cut into wedges that are tilted, and then arrange to give a fan effect on top of the torte. The sides of the cake is also covered with buttercream and can be decorated with cake crumbs, slivered or ground almonds, or ground hazelnuts. This is a wonderful rich, moist and delicious cake. The synergy of the flavours is amazing. The lemon in the caramel layer adds a nice bittersweet note.

Here is the recipe and requirements as given by Angela and Lorraine:

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 sprinform tin.
piping bag and tip, optional
Prep times
Sponge layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes

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
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.
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)
Finishing touches
a 7” cardboard round
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts
Directions for the sponge layers:

NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight. You can also brush rum flavoured simple sugar syrup on the layers to be covered with buttercream to help them stay moist. Make sure you bring the top layer to room temperature before you add the caramel as it sets very quickly and you won’t be able to cut it to make the wedges.

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven an
d 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.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

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

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.

Lorraine's note: If you're in Winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Male sure the butter is of a very soft texture I.e. running a knife through it will provide little res
istance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you'll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!
Directions for the caramel topping:

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. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. 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.

Angela's note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

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 la
yer. 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. The cake will cut more cleanly when chilled.

Don't forget to check out the other Daring Bakers and the recipe archives for and all the lovely Dobos Tortes.