Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes, a Trifle and some News

This week Wendy of Pink Stripes chose Dorie's Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes and as usual I tweaked the recipe. Honestly I can't remember the last time I actually made a recipe exactly as stated (apart from the Raisin Swirl Bread which was utter perfection!).

After realising these cakes were a variation on a standard pound cake I immediately thought trifle! We're not huge fans of rum (although I always have a stash for my Christmas baking) so I used just 1 ts in the batter. Surprisingly this was enough to create not only a great taste but a fabulous aroma while baking.

I made half the recipe (1 cake) and ended up with a mountain of perfect little cake cubes.

While in the past I have gone all out making a trifle, this time I went simple and no-fuss ... cake, jelly, tinned peaches and custard. I made a drenching syrup using some of the juice from my drained tin of peaches and this was a fabulous addition. I recently discovered Aeroplane jelly has a 25% reduced sugar variety with natural colours and flavours so that's what I used here in raspberry.
So regular readers may have noticed my blogging has become a little sporadic recently. I'm a little embarrassed to see just how long it has been since posting anything other than TWD, Daring Bakers or Daring Cooks.

My excuse? We've been cooking up anther little project around here. Due mid-November. Oh, and it's a boy! :-)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Daring Bakers June - Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Marscapone Mousse

Ahhh, pavlova ... the quintessential Aussie summer dessert. While I am more of a fruit and whipped cream pavlova girl, all the chocolate in this version made my husband a very happy man!

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

I have never made chocolate meringues before so this was a great challenge for me. I made 1/3 of the recipe and got 4 lovely meringues. I baked them a little differently than stated in the recipe because I wanted them to have soft and fluffy middles. 45 minutes at 130 degrees C did the trick.

The marscapone mousse was more flowing than mousse-like but was absolutely delicious anyway. The marscapone cream/creme anglaise seemed like overkill to me so I topped my meringues with sliced strawberries and grated dark chocolate. This is a VERY sweet treat but the strawberries did cut through the richness of the mousse and the plain sugariness of the meringues.

The hardest part was taking a photo without someone's little fingers getting in the way! (Normally not a problem but Oscar is dairy intolerant).

Thanks to Dawn for a choctastic challenge this month! You can download a PDF of this recipe here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake

Let me just say, I loved this cake. LOVED. So a big thank you straight off to Amy of Amy Ruth Bakes for picking it this week!

The name 'Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake' really doesn't do this cake justice. To me it was a cheat's version of a Black Forest Cake (which I adore) just without all the fuss. Ok and without all the booze too.

I made a half batch in an 8 x 4 pan and it still took 50 minutes to cook. I was glad for the chance to use my Wilton layer cake cutter but somehow still managed to end up with wonky layers. Sandwiched together with black cherry conserve, smothered in fabulous chocolate-sour cream frosting and topped with fresh cherries, it didn't matter in the slightest. This was delicious!

The cherries were a bit of an indulgence as it is definitely not cherry season here. These were imported from the USA and about $16 a kilo.

I'm so glad I only made half the recipe. As it was I ate 3 slices.

Great pick, Amy! You can find the recipe at Amy Ruth Bakes under today's date.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Daring Cooks June - Pâtés and Bread

Wow it feels like ages since I've done a Daring Cooks challenge. Actually that's not totally accurate. It's ages since I completed one on time and got around to posting it!

Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pâté recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

I didn't follow the pâté recipes provided but I hope what I've done fits within the spirit of the challenge. I made a simple salmon mousse and the sandwich bread.

Salmon Mousse

1 x 415g tin premium red salmon, drained, skin and bones removed
250g cream cheese
approx 200g smoked salmon
juice of 1 lemon
1 1/2 ts gelatine powder

Spray 4 small dariole moulds (I used plastic) with olive oil spray then line with plastic wrap. Then use the smoked salmon slices to completely line each mould, coming right to the top and ensuring there are no gaps.

Place the lemon juice in a small saucepan over low heat. Once warm sprinkle over the gelatine powder and turn off the heat. Stir until the gelatine is completely dissolved then set aside.

Place the tinned salmon and cream cheese in a food processor and process until very smooth, at least 2 minutes. With the motor running, drizzle in the lemon juice mixture and process for another minute or so until completely incorporated and smooth.

Pour the mousse mixture into each mould, tapping the mould on the bench to remove any air bubbles. Cover the tops with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

To serve, gently ease each mousse out of the mould and remove the plastic wrap. Garnish with sprigs of fresh dill. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving with fresh baguette or toast slices.

This mousse is intensely salmon flavoured but the lemon cuts through the richness. A perfect dinner party entrée.

Sandwich Loaf/Baguettes

3 tsp (15 ml) active dry yeast
2 2/3 cups (600 ml) whole milk (3.25 per cent fat), warmed to a temperature of 97ºF (36ºC)
2 1/2 tsp (12.5 ml) salt
2 tsp (10 ml) butter, melted
5 1/3 cups (750g) unbleached white bread flour, + 1/2 cup (75g), for working the dough
2 tbsp (30 ml) butter, for the loaf pan

To make loaves:

In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast and warm milk, and whisk to dissolve. Whisk in the salt and the melted butter. Gradually sprinkle in the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon.

When the dough becomes too thick to stir, knead it with your hands, for about 5 minutes, until you obtain a smooth, homogeneous dough that is soft and a little sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.

Knead the dough 20 strokes (still in the bowl), cover again, and let rest for 1.5 hours.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and divide in two. Form each half into a sausage. Transfer the dough to a greased baking sheet. Cover lightly and let rise in a draft-free area for 60 minutes, or until doubled in volume.

Fill a large baking pan with hot water (simmering is fine) and place in the oven. Preheat oven to 450ºF (240ºC). Using a very sharp knife cut 3 slits into the top of each loaf. Spritz the loaves with warm water and sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds (optional).

Put the loaves in then oven and bake for 10 minutes. Do not open the oven door during this time.

After 10 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 400ºF (200ºC) and continue baking for about 25 minutes, or until the loaves are nicely golden. Unmould and let cool on a rack.

Next time I would love to try the proper french bread recipe. It's been on my to-do list for ages but I just ran out of time. I was also worried how my starter would fare overnight considering how cold it has been lately.

TIP: I have always struggled with getting my dough to prove/rise well, especially in winter. But for this challenge I used a tip from Chocolatchic to proof the dough in the car! This worked spectacularly well and I think I will do it every time from now on.

Thanks for a great challenge!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Tuesday with Dorie: Raisin Swirl Bread

First of all, woo-hoo! I had figured it would be my turn to pick sometime this year but getting Laurie's email for June was a huge surprise. I spent a harried 24 hours or so flicking back and forth between recipes, trying to select something that I would not only love to bake but that said something about me.

My very first TWD post was for the Chocolate Puddings back on 15 July 2008. I wasn't even an official member at that stage but was playing along at home until I could order my copy of Baking. My blog was only a few days old and it was less than a month since my mum passed away. Baking and blogging seemed like a wonderful distraction at a really difficult time. Since then I have gotten married, had a baby and reached the 200 post mark.

All of this brings me to my reason for choosing the Raisin Swirl Bread this week. Baking bread is such a comforting, homey thing to do. There's nothing quite like the smell or taste of your own fresh bread and it is something I hope my kids remember from their childhood as I do.

I loved this bread and I hope anyone who was scared of yeast (or raisins!) had a go and was happy with the results!

Raisin Swirl Bread
pp 59-60 of Baking: From My Home to Yours

For the bread:
1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar, plus a pinch
1 1/4 cups just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons or 60g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
Grated zest of 1/2 orange (optional)
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
3 3/4 to 4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour

For the swirl:
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
3 tablespoons (45 grams) unsalted butter, softened to a spreadable consistency

To make the bread:
Put the yeast in a small bowl, toss in the pinch of sugar and stir in 1/4 cup of the warm milk. Let rest for 3 minutes, then stir - the yeast may not have dissolved completely and it may not have bubbled, but it should be soft.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the remaining 1 cup of milk, the butter and the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and mix for a minute or two. Add the salt, egg and vanilla, if you are using it, as well as the zest and nutmeg, if you're using them, and mix for a minute. In all likelihood, the mixture will look unpleasantly curdly (it will look even worse when you add the yeast). Add the yeast mixture and beat on low-medium speed for 1 minute more.

Turn the mixer off and add 2 3/4 cups of the flour. Mix on low speed just until you work the flour into the liquids - you'll have a sticky mix. If you've got a dough hook, switch to it now. Add another 1 cup of flour, increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the dough for a couple of minutes. If the dough does not come together and almost clean the sides of the bowl, add up to 1/4 cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Keep the mixer speed at medium and knead the dough for about 3 minutes, or until it is smooth and has a lovely buttery sheen. The dough will be very soft, much too soft to knead by hand.

Butter a large bowl, turn the dough into a bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Put the bowl in a warm place and let the dough rise until it is doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Scrape the dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap, wrap it and put it in the freezer for 30 minutes to firm enough to be rolled easily. (At this point, you can instead refrigerate the dough overnight if that is more convenient).

To make the swirl and shape the loaf:
Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

Whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and cocoa, if you're using it. Check that the raisins are nice and moist; if they're not, steam them for a minute, then dry them well.

Put the dough on a large work surface lightly dusted with flour, lightly dust the top of the dough and roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 x 18 inches.

Gently smear 2 tablespoons of the butter over the surface of the dough - this is most easily done with your fingers. Sprinkle over the sugar mixture and scatter over the raisins. Starting from a short side of the dough, roll the dough up jelly-roll fashion, making sure to roll the dough snugly. Fit the dough into the buttered pan, seam side down, and tuck the ends under the loaf.

Cover the pan loosely with wax paper and set in a warm place; let the dough rise until it comes just a little above the edges of the pan, about 45 minutes.

Getting ready to bake:
When the dough has almost fully risen, centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees Celsius). Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter, and brush the top of the loaf with the butter. Put the pan on the baking sheet and bake the bread for about 20 minutes. Cover loosely with a foil tent and bake for another 25 minutes or so, until the bread is golden and sounds hollow when the bottom of the pan is tapped. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes, then unmold. Invert the bread and cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.

I have to confess to slicing my bread while it was still warm and I ended up with raisins scattered everywhere. But it was totally worth it ... it is sensational straight from the oven!

Oh and it also makes spectacular cinnamon toast the next day!

Thank you in advance to everyone who baked along with me this week and huge thanks to Laurie for creating such a wonderful group and Dorie for her fabulous book! :-)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: Strawberry Shortcakes

So this week Cathy of The Tortefeasor chose Dorie's Tender Shortcakes. I, having no real idea what a shortcake was, wasn't particularly enthused. Till I figured out they were big, buttery scones covered with cream and berries!

These are incredibly quick to make but just as with the Sweet Cream Biscuits from a few weeks ago, the amount of liquid/cream in the recipe was woefully inadequate. I had to add a full 1/4 cup extra to get something even resembling a crumbly, scone dough. Certainly nothing like a soft dough that you scoop out and plop on the baking tray.

No matter. These baked up buttery, golden and melt-in-the-mouth tender. Smothered with diced strawberries and a big dollop of sweetened whipped cream, you have something truly sensational!

I made just a half batch and got 7 gigantic shortcakes. Some are headed straight for the freezer.

You will find the recipe at The Tortefeasor under today's date. Thanks for a great pick Cathy!

Next week we have Raisin Swirl Bread chosen by ... ME!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Tuesdays with Dorie: White Chocolate Brownies

This week's pick was Dorie's White Chocolate Brownies, as chosen by delightful Marthe of Culinary Delights. Now certain people have been waiting for these brownies to be chosen forever, so I hope everyone else enjoyed them as much as I did!

You'll notice my brownies are naked. I just wasn't up for meringue this week and I was sure that it would make them too sweet for me anyway. As it was, I could have easily devoured my half batch in one sitting!

I used frozen raspberries here (the fresh ones are ridiculously expensive even in season) and had no problems. Knowing they tended to underbake, I cooked mine for 30 minutes (I used and 8 x 8 pan) and they were perfect.

Thanks for a fabulous pick, Marthe! The white chocolate, raspberries and orange flavours were a match made in baking heaven. I will definitely be making these again!
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