Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July Daring Bakers Challenge

First, lets say Woohoo! I completed my first daring baker’s challenge. Second, lets be real! This was so difficult. Honestly, I have seen the previous challenges. They did not look easy, but they looked manageable. Then after I sign up for the challenges, there is a heck-of-a challenge. If it was not for my mother visiting me and pushing me to take on the challenge, I would have been defeated before even starting. So, BIG thanks to MOMMY!

Now, about actually making the cake. It was fun and not as overwhelming as I thought. My favorite part of this cake- Praline Swiss Butter cream. Out of everything I made for this cake, the Butter cream will be the only recipe I foresee using again. It is unbelievably tasty and no too sweet like an ordinary butter cream. And that is from the girl who does not like ordinary butter cream at all.

Lastly, were my recipe deviates from the challenge recipe:
1. I used almonds instead of filberts.
2. The cake is suppose to be 3 layers. I halved the recipe however, and used a pan slightly too large for the half recipe. So, my cakes is only 2 layers.
3. Other substitutions might have been made based on my ingredient preference or realizing I did not purchase the necessary ingredient and I was mid-recipe. :-) All changes have been annotated.


(Almond) Gateau with Praline Buttercream
Adapted From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

All the parts needed to assemble the cake:
1 Almond Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with Grand Mariner
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Peach Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
Toasted, slivered almonds to garnish

Almond Genoise
1/2 cups almond meal/ flour
1/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. all purpose flour
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, divided 1/8 & 3/8 cups
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. grated lemon rind
3 lg. egg whites
1/8 cup warm, baking margerine

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 8" X 3" inch round cake pan.

Mix together almond meal, cake flour, and all purpose flour. Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add 3/8 cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining 1/8 cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another 30 seconds.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Pour the warm margarine in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected margerine remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You'll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.

Sugar Syrup
1/2 cup water
1/8 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.

Praline Butter cream
1 recipe Swiss Butter cream
1/3 cup praline paste

Blend 1/2 cup butter cream into the paste, then add to the remaining butter cream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine.

Swiss Butter cream
2 lg. egg whites
3/8 cup sugar
6 Tbsp. margarine, slightly firm
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not over beat*. Set aside.

Place the margarine in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the margarine at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not over beat or the margarine will become too soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Praline Paste
1/2 cup almonds
1/3 cup Sugar (I used 1/4 cup by accident)
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.

Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Peach Glaze
1/3 cup thick peach preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze
3 oz. (good) semisweet chocolate
3/8 cup heavy cream
1/2 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1/2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier
3/8 tsp. vanilla

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn't thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn't get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Divide the cake into 2 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline butter cream and set aside.

Spread the peach glaze over the bottom layer. Next, spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining butter cream. Moisten the cut side of the top layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes while you prepare the ganache.

Place parchment paper sheets under the side of the cake, ensuring that the cake board is adequately covered. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake's center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing. Remove the parchment paper sheets from under the cake.

To garnish, take a #32 decorating tip with the Praline Swiss Butter cream and equally space rosettes around the exterior of the cake. Place a sliver of toasted almond in the center of each rosette. Using the same tip place a star boarder around the bottom of the cake. In the center pipe a flower and fill in with left over almond praline paste.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Red “as soft as Velvet and as smooth as Cream Cheese” Cupcakes

After the recent failures, I wanted to redeem myself. Of course, I am not the one to just throw together any old thing. So, I decided to take on the red velvet cake I have been planning to make for months.

After a long day, I was tired and though I wanted to make the cake, I did not feel like waiting for the cupcakes to cool completely to ice them. Not to mention, I did not want to pull out the hand mixer to make the icing. Then I thought what if I baked the “icing” right into the cupcake. I had momentary flashbacks to an episode of I Love Lucy where Fred made a seven-layer cake and icing all in one pan and it came out flat as a pancake. I decided to treat the red velvet cupcakes like the black bottom cupcakes I made in the past. The results were fabulous, if I do say so myself!

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Cupcakes

Cake Batter
- 1/2 cup margarine (or butter) @ room temperature
- 1 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup apple sauce
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 bottle red food coloring (about 1/2 ounce)
- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 5 tbs unsweetened natural cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon vinegar

Mix together the dry ingredients- flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Cream together the margarine and sugar. Once creamy beat in the apple sauce and eggs. Lastly, add the vanilla, food coloring, and vinegar to the wet mixture.

Into the wet mixture- Add in about 1/3 of the flour mixture and whisk until combined. Add in about 1/2 of the buttermilk and whisk until combine. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture whisk until combined. Add the last 1/2 buttermilk whisk until combined. Finally, add the remaining flour mixture and which until combined. Set aside the red velvet cake batter.

Cream Cheese Filling
- 8oz cream cheese
- 1/3 cup of sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla

Warm the cream cheese in the microwave to soften. It should be soft and easily stirred with a fork, but not runny. Add the egg and vanilla and beat together. Lastly add in the sugar.


Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 full with the red velvet cake batter. Then spoon on (or pout) the cream cheese filling until the enter top of the red velvet batter is covered. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for nearly 40-45 minutes. When a toothpick is inserted in the center and comes out clean the cupcakes are finished. Also, the cream cheese will began to take on a slightly light brown color. Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, drizzle melted white chocolate across the top for an added touch of sweetness and d├ęcor.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

When Bad Baking Happens to Usually Good Bakers

Lately, my baking has been one disaster after another… Hence no post. However, I decided to at least let you in on the failed concoctions, but they did not last long enough to even show you visual evidence… So, sorry no picture.

Failure #1: On the food network, I saw a cookie challenge show and one of the contestants made a chocolate chip cookie with caramel Hershey’s kisses. I decided to recreate (or destroy) her cookie. Even though all the kisses were fully intact when they hit the oven, the caramel melted and oozed out all over the pan, making it one big sheet cookie of a mess. They actually tasted okay, but they did not look edible.

Failure #2: I wanted a simplified chocolate moose, more like a chocolate whipped cream. I found simple directions on-line. Melt the chocolate and fold into the whip cream with sugar if desired. Easy enough, right? Nevertheless, not within the bounds of common sense. Chocolate has a solidifying point of about anything under 93ish degrees. The whipped cream was fresh, just whipped from cold cream out of the fridge. Warm chocolate + cold chip cream= Whip cream with little solidified chocolate pieces in it. Not creamy, chocolaty goodness!

Failure #3: I made some homemade cherry preserves over the weekend and I wanted to wait for just the right dish to showcase them. I wanted to make cherry shortbread bars. All the recipes I found, called for grating the dough to make light bars. I don’t have an appropriate size grater, so I found a recipe that did not call for a grater and used almond meal as well. After I used all the margarine I have in my house and exchanged a little more almond meal for all-purpose flour then the recipe called for, I ended up with a big oily mess! Almond meal does not absorb oil the same way flour does, so by increasing the almond meal I made it impossible for my bars to absorb the margarine called for.

So, what have I learned from this experience- I have wasted 1 pint of whipping cream, 4 cups of brown and white sugar, 1.5 pounds of margarine, 5 cups of flour, and 4 evenings after work over the last two weeks- I should have just went to bed!

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Best Way to Eat a Vegetable

The best way to eat a carrot is in cake!

Carrot (Cake) Cupcakes
3 cups all purpose flour
4 medium-large finely grated carrots
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp allspice
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 salt
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/8 cup applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together dry ingredients- flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt. Toss carrots in dry mixture until they are well coated (this will keep the carrots suspended in the batter and disperse them evenly throughout the cake).

In a different bowl cream together the sugars, eggs, and ricotta cheese. Add applesauce and oil, mixing until all ingredients are smooth and combined.

Add the wet mixture to the carrot mixture and fold until the ingredients are combined. Do not over mix.

Fill each cupcake liner 3/4 full. Depending on the size, they will need about 20-25 minutes to cook. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. Cream Cheese
1 stick margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 box powdered sugar

Cream together cream cheese and margarine. Add in vanilla. Shift in powder sugar and beat until smooth. Refrigerate the icing for better spreading or piping.

Using a giant Texas size muffin pan, I baked 10 cupcakes.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Just had to have the Almond Paste

I have been trying to expand my culinary repertoire. I have been using ingredients I am not familiar with and trying different combinations of food that I would not have combined on my own. Usually, there is something that just doesn't go right. Case in point, the cupcakes. I decided that I wanted to do almond cake. Almond extract was no good enough for me; I just had to go hardcore with the almond paste. I wanted authentic almond flavor.

Side note: Because I am in school and planning on returning home in less than a year, I refuse to purchase too many unnecessary or duplicate kitchen appliances. Therefore, I do not have a food processor or stand up mixture.

I cut the almond paste into large square pieces and use my hand mixer to break up the pieces per the instructions. Well, that was a fiasco. What little bit I did manage to break up keep flying out of the bowl. I am assuming this process would have been easier with a food processor or stand-up mixer. With traditional cake making logic, I kid you now, I though all I need is some liquid to break down the paste. After I added the sugar- not liquid- I added the ricotta, still lumpy; added the room temperature butter, still lumpy; added the eggs, still lumpy. Wet ingredients finished and I had a mixture that was the consistency of split pea soup (before it is strained). I used the hand mixer to beat the mixture as much as it could stand, but to no success. There were still a lot of small pebble size almond paste lumps in the batter.

I was hoping that the paste pebbles would dissipate as it cooked, like flour clumps usually do. The cupcakes came out fantastic, with little undetectable almond nuggets through out. So, it worked in the end. But I advise you to use a stand-mixer or food processor when preparing this recipe.

Raspberry Almond Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

- 8 ounces almond paste
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese (I used part skim)
- 1 stick butter
- 4 eggs @ room temperature
- 1/2 tsp. almond extract
- 2/3 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/8 tsp. salt
- 1 cup raspberry

Beat almond paste at low speed to loosen it up, then gradually add sugar. After beating for 1 minute add ricotta cheese and beat to combine. Continuing beating adding butter 1 tbs. at a time. Continue to beat for 2 minutes until fluffy, scrape down the side of the bowl when necessary. Add eggs one at a time and then almond extract. Continuing beating for another 2 minutes. Add flour, salt, and baking powder into the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth. With a rubber spatula fold in raspberries. Scope batter into cupcake liners, filling to about ¾ full. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Icing

- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 1 stick margarine
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 box powdered sugar

Cream together cream cheese and margarine. Add vanilla. Add powdered sugar. Beat until creamy and smooth.

Once cupcakes are completely cool, frost with cream cheese icing. Enjoy!