Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart

Boy it's been a pastry filled month around the food.baby household! While it hasn't been great for my waistline, between the turnovers, pufflets, vols-au-vent and now this tart, I can say I have well and truly conquered my fear of making pastry. Woo hoo!

I have been eyeing off the Chocolate-Crunched Caramel Tart since I first flicked through Baking, and yes, it was every bit as good (and as rich) as it looks!

I searched high and low (well on high shelves and low shelves in woolies) for honey roasted peanuts without success. Just as I'd given up we walked past the Christmas section and noticed some honey roasted cashews. Sold! I'm trying to ignore the fact there are Christmassy foods out already.

The pastry came together beautifully. I probably overcooked it slightly but it was still tender and crumbly and shortbready. Even the caramel behaved as it should (I added an extra pinch of sea salt along with the salted butter). My only issue was with the ganache.

Note to self - do not store chocolate on top of the oven. For any reason. Even if only for a few minutes while you wipe down the bench because you WILL forget to remove it. And then your husband will cook lunch in that oven without realising there is chocolate on top.

Exhibit A - my lovely block of Green & Blacks 70% ...

This happened the day before I was planning on making the tart, so rather than have to remelt it the next day and hope that it survived the process, I made the ganache and refrigerated it overnight.

I poured the warm cream over the chocolate and got a smooth, luscious looking ganache. Then I added the butter and got an oil slick. I think butter really has no place in ganache. I stirred it through as best I could but the next morning I got this ...

Exhibit B - ewwwwww

I scraped the butter off the top and it was exactly the amount I added in. I'm never adding butter to ganache again. After nuking my ganache was back to delicious.

The taste test ...

Wow. Seriously, wow. I just wish I'd been able to get a decent photo (my camera is in being repaired and the focus on my phone sucks). It sliced beautifully, the layers were really pretty and the taste was sensational. We will definitely be making this again.

Thanks to Carla of Chocolate Moosey (love that name!) for choosing this week's recipe. Make sure you visit her blog for the recipe along with the TWD blogroll to see much better photos than mine!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers September: Vols-au-Vent

Wow, this month's DB challenge was awesome! When I started my blog last year it was because I was inspired by all the amazing things the Daring Bakers (and TWDers) were turning out. At that point I didn't even realise it was possible to make puff pastry at home, let alone good puff pastry! So for me this challenge marks a real turning point. After all, if I can make puff pastry and vols-au-vent then I am up for the challenge of just about anything!

The official line - 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.

As my husband was heading to Adelaide for a conference and would be away for a few days, I decided to make these for his going away lunch the day before. With the weather being so warm, it was an easy decision to have a cold filling.

The puff pastry was actually surprisingly easy to make. The instructions were clear and it all worked really well. I did have to pop the dough back in the fridge a few times though as it started to ooze.

I used half the dough (froze the rest) and cut 6 discs using a 4 1/2" cutter.

The finished product was puffed and golden and so exciting to see! I found they needed a little longer than stated to cook, and even then the insides were a little underdone. I think this was probably because I pushed them down with spoon during the cooking a little too often, and it stopped the layers separating.

I made a cold prawn and avocado salad for the filling with diced avocado, celery, spanish onion, lemon and prawns in a light cream dressing. Delicious!

I used the caps of the vols-au-vent to top the Eton Mess I made for dessert. This is a scrummy mixture of whipped cream, fresh strawberries and crushed meringue.

(my very messy presentation - but very yummy!)

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough
From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan
Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Pastry 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.

Thank you Steph for a wonderful challenge this month! I feel very proud of myself :-)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Cottage Cheese Pufflets

TWD time again! Jacque of Daisy Lane Cakes chose Dorie's Cottage Cheese Pufflets this week.

First thought ... what on earth is a pufflet!?? Second thought ... what on earth are they going to look like? Despite reading through the recipe several times I still had no real idea of how these were going to turn out. And now after making them I'm still not sure!

It seems a pufflet is a teeny tiny jam-filled pastry, made from a dough that is quite similar to last week's turnover dough. The main difference was that this dough was the softest, stickiest dough I have ever made! Despite multiple chills in the fridge between every stage it was really hard to manage. I rolled it out between sheets of baking paper and had to freeze it in order to peel off the top layer of paper. After cutting I then had to scrape each piece off the paper with a knife.

End result?

Tasty but definitely not puffy. I will call them flatlets instead. The boysenberry jam I used was brilliant. I only rolled about 1/6th of the dough (the rest is frozen) and I got 7 flatlets. I think I will roll them a bit thicker next time and will make them at night when it is (slightly) cooler.

Thanks for picking the pufflets Jacque! You can find the recipe at Daisy Lane Cakes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Flaky Apple Turnovers

This week Jules of Someone's in the Kitchen chose Dorie's Flaky Apple Turnovers and boy was I worried. Pastry and I are very rarely on speaking terms. Don't get me wrong, I love eating it, it's just making it that drives me crazy. In fact whenever there is pastry to be made, N conveniently makes himself scarce! But ...

This was without doubt, the best pastry I have ever made. EVER!

I had the same issue as a lot of others with my mix being quite dry and crumbly but after its rest it came together beautifully. And it was even delicious raw, I kept snagging pieces as I worked.

We were in the midst of moving furniture the day I made these so while I made a full batch of dough, I only rolled 4 turnovers plus a mini apple pie and froze the rest. I got a little impatient with the rolling out (ie. my arms got sore). So I cut out 3" rounds from the dough and rolled each one out to 4 1/2" individually. Much easier!

The taste test ...

Fantastic! This was the pastry so many recipes had promised but none had ever delivered. Crisp, flaky and delicious. I used a mixture of fuji apples, slivered almonds and raisins to fill these but you really could use anything you liked. The perfect afternoon or anytime treat. I think this will be my go-to pastry from now on. Thanks Jules!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Daring Cooks September - Indian Dosas

Our host this month is Debyi from the Healthy Vegan Kitchen. She has chosen Indian Dosas from the reFresh cookbook by Ruth Tal.

I love Indian food but have never made or even eaten dosas before so this was a great challenge. It was made more challenging by also being a vegan recipe. While I think I could go vegetarian quite easily, I do love my eggs and cheese a bit too much to go vegan for any length of time!

A dosa is essentially an indian pancake, and very similar to a French crepe in many respects. I used atta (chickpea) flour for the dosas and also subbed garam masala for the curry powder. For the filling I went with curried potatoes from our fave Indian cookbook, A Taste of India. This was a heady mixture of potatoes with onions, garlic, chili and mustard seeds. I think the mustard seeds must pack a lot of heat because even my chilli loving husband thought it was a bit too spicy!

Dosa Pancakes
1 cup (120gm) spelt flour (or all-purpose, gluten free flour)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp curry powder
½ cup (125ml) almond milk (or soy, or rice, etc.)
¾ cup (175ml) water
cooking spray, if needed

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, slowly adding the almond milk and water, whisking until smooth. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spray your pan with a thin layer of cooking spray, if needed (I found the spray prevented the dosa mix from spreading around the pan). Ladle 2 tablespoons of batter into the center of your pan in a circular motion until it is a thin, round pancake. When bubbles appear on the surface and it no longer looks wet, flip it over and cook for a few seconds. Remove from heat and repeat with remaining batter. Makes 8 pancakes.

The taste test ...

The dosas themselves were fantastic. If you like pancakes you'll love these! I probably wouldn't make the potato filling again without major changes to the recipe. It was just too spicy and I felt it needed a fuller flavour. I would have added in some coconut milk to cut through the heat but unfortunately we'd run out. I would love to experiment with different vegan fillings and I also think the dosas would be the perfect accompaniment to a curry just on their own.

Thanks for a great challenge Debyi! Looking forward to next month!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jaffa Cheesecake for Father's Day

My very savvy grandfather purchased a unit at Burleigh on the Gold Coast back in the 70s, before the Gold Coast had really become the place to be. Since then that unit has become the gathering point for our whole family and I can remember many happy christmases with aunts and uncles and my 4 cousins. Now we are all grown up and between us my cousins and I have 6 kids of our own.

This past father's day we all (18 of us) gathered again at the park over the road from our grandparent's unit (and right next to the beach). It was N's first father's day and a really special day all round.

Being the cheesecake queen I of course made a cheesecake to share. N wanted a jaffa cheesecake (choc-orange) and I was happy to oblige. I started with Dorie's Tall and Creamy Cheesecake and added the zest and juice of 1 orange to the filling, a chocolate biscuit base and decorated with whipped cream and jaffas. I totally forgot to take any pics on the day so I dressed up the mini I made with the leftovers. Yum!

I am such a fan of this particular recipe. Despite loads of cream cheese (4 packs!) it makes a soft, fluffy and somehow light cheesecake that doesn't weigh you down.

And for the all-important father's day pressie ...

Oscar and I had a fun afternoon at Inky Feet where we ended up with some lovely keepsakes including mugs, wall tiles and a clock. Lucky we didn't leave it any later than 3 months because his feet would have been too big. They only just made it as it was! Grandpa got a mug with red feet and they were each filled to the brim with homemade Espresso Chocolate Truffles.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Chocolate Souffle

Is it just me or is it really hard to photograph a souffle?? Nevermind, this was my first time making one and I'm more excited by the fact that it actually worked!

Souffles have always seemed really daunting and the sort of thing you would only ever order in a restaurant. I made a half recipe and that gave us 4 good servings. It puffed up beautifully but I think it would have looked more souffle-ish if I had collared the dish. Next time.

The taste test ...

Yum! Light, sweet, intensely chocolatey and definitely moreish. Next time I will try individual souffles and now that I have mastered the technique I would love to try a savoury version as well. Watch this space!

Thanks to Susan of She's Becoming DoughMessTic for a great pick this week. I probably wouldn't have made it on my own. You can find the recipe on her blog.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Tuesdays with Dorie: Espresso Cheesecake Brownies

Being on a bit of a brownie bender at the moment I was happy to see another brownie pick this week. And the fact that these were cheesecake brownies was just another reason to smile! I seem to be leaving TWD to the very last minute these days. I whipped them up about 2pm today and got my photo out on the verandah in the last few moments of daylight.

The taste test ...

Boy, these were rich! A big thumbs up from my number one taste tester but he's right, you definitely can't have more than 1 piece at a time. I did make the sour cream topping intending to serve it on the side but to be honest they don't need anything else.

Thanks to Melissa of Life in a Peanutshell for this week's pick. Make sure you vist her blog for the recipe and some gorgeous pics!
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