Monday, December 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: French Yule Log

This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

As I casually clicked on this month's Daring Bakers challenge thread, I wasn't too concerned about what it would be. All the previous recipes that have been chosen have been a heap of fun and have proven to be a great learning experience for me, but not overtly challenging in my opinion. Well, you can imagine I nearly fell out of my chair when I read this month's challenge- French Yule Log. I was familiar with a Yule Log, but had no clue where the 'French' part came in. Basically, a French Yule Log differs to a regular Yule Log in that it is a frozen dessert, rather than a cake. Fair enough. At least being frozen, it could be made in advance- my heart palpitations slowed. That is, until I read on... six elements, never ending flavour choices, rhodoid- WHAT!? After reading all of the extremely long recipe, I freaked out. Not only because it was slightly (hell, extremely) more complicated than previous recipes, but also, I had enough on my plate with Tuesdays with Dorie and Christmas coming up. For those of you who read my previous post about Christmas 2008, you now know what the fourth dessert was that day.

The first free day I had off, I set aside for this challenge. I wanted an entire day clear to focus on this mammoth challenge. Individually, I guess each element wasn't too hard to make. Actually, who am I kidding... I can't recall how many times I swore that day. The first element I made was the dark chocolate mousse, which was relatively simple. I made a big mistake by storing the mousse in the fridge for quite a number of hours before I assembled my log, and it got quite firm, making it impossible to pipe into the mould nicely. I kind of poked and prodded it in, hoping for the best. Also, I don't know about anyone else, but I didn't have nearly enough mousse. I barely had enough for the first two layers so I had to make another batch at the last minute. The creme brulee insert was easy enough, though I was concerned about it being too frozen when served. Now... a word I never want to hear again for the rest of my life- gavottes. Naive me decided it would be 'fun' to make my own gavottes, since it seemed simple enough- wrong! Oh how those gavottes drove me insane. My first batch of batter appeared to be too thick. I tried to smear it as thin as possible, but after about 10 minutes in the oven, the outsides were black and the centre was stodgy and wet. Since it said that gavottes were oven dried crepes, I thought that my batter must have been too thick. I tried the recipe once more, leaving out some of the flour. FAIL. This did not work. Again, the outsides were black and the centre didn't get crispy. Also, it stuck to the oiled baking sheet horribly. I tried the gavottes a few times more (I was so full of rage by then, I couldn't make any rational decisions... like opting to use rice bubbles instead!). From the several batches I attempted, I was able to salvage about 30g of gavottes to use. I topped them up with lightly crushed Special K. So besides that little set back, the praline feuilette was relatively straightforward. The number one thing with this recipe is that it is incredibly time consuming. I was quite relieved when I finally got to icing the log. It came out easily from the mould and it was relatively smooth, which I was happy about. Icing it however was a nightmare... Since the icing had gelatin in it, it set quite quickly when it hit the frozen log. My first attempt at drizzling it on turned out horribly, so I smoothed it as much as I could, froze it again, and coated it with another batch of icing. It still didn't turn out very smooth but by this point in time I had been making the log for hours, so I pretended that it looked fabulous.

For my French Yule Log, I ended up doing an almond dacquoise biscuit base, dark chocolate ganache insert, dark chocolate mousse, milk chocolate praline feuilette, vanilla creme brulee insert and a milk chocolate icing. I decided to dust some gold luster dust over the whole log to give it a bit of a Christmas-y feel and a nice sheen. Unfortunately, in the heat, the condensation mixed with the luster dust and it turned more into a sheen of shimmery water all over the log. I topped the log with some Valrhona crunchy pearls. Overall, it was quite delicious and I am glad I made it. Can't say it will be making an appearance next year though...

FRENCH YULE LOG OR ENTREMETS RECIPE by Flore of Florilège Gourmand

Element #1 Dacquoise Biscuit (Almond Cake)

Preparation time: 10 mn + 15 mn for baking

Equipment: 2 mixing bowls, hand or stand mixer with whisk attachment, spatula, baking pan such as a 10”x15” jelly-roll pan, parchment paper

Note: You can use the Dacquoise for the bottom of your Yule Log only, or as bottom and top layers, or if using a Yule log mold (half-pipe) to line your entire mold with the biscuit. Take care to spread the Dacquoise accordingly. Try to bake the Dacquoise the same day you assemble the log to keep it as moist as possible.

2.8 oz (3/4cup + 1Tbsp / 80g) almond meal
1.75 oz (1/2 cup / 50g) confectioner’s sugar
2Tbsp (15g) all-purpose flour
3.5oz (100g / ~100ml) about 3 medium egg whites
1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar

1. Finely mix the almond meal and the confectioner's sugar. (If you have a mixer, you can use it by pulsing the ingredients together for no longer than 30 seconds).
2. Sift the flour into the mix.
3. Beat the eggs whites, gradually adding the granulated sugar until stiff.
4. Pour the almond meal mixture into the egg whites and blend delicately with a spatula.
5. Grease a piece of parchment paper and line your baking pan with it.
6. Spread the batter on a piece of parchment paper to an area slightly larger than your desired shape (circle, long strip etc...) and to a height of 1/3 inches (8mm).
7. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for approximately 15 minutes (depends on your oven), until golden.
8. Let cool and cut to the desired shape.

Element #2 Dark Chocolate Mousse

Preparation time: 20mn

Equipment: stand or hand mixer with whisk attachment, thermometer, double boiler or equivalent, spatula

Note: You will see that a Pate a Bombe is mentioned in this recipe. A Pate a Bombe is a term used for egg yolks beaten with a sugar syrup, then aerated. It is the base used for many mousse and buttercream recipes. It makes mousses and buttercreams more stable, particularly if they are to be frozen, so that they do not melt as quickly or collapse under the weight of heavier items such as the crème brulee insert.
In the Vanilla Mousse variation, pastry cream is made to the same effect.
In the Mango Mousse variation, Italian meringue is made to the same effect. Italian meringue is a simple syrup added to egg whites as they are beaten until stiff. It has the same consistency as Swiss meringue (thick and glossy) which we have used before in challenge recipes as a base for buttercream.
The Whipped Cream option contains no gelatin, so beware of how fast it may melt.
Gelatin is the gelifying agent in all of the following recipes, but if you would like to use agar-agar, here are the equivalencies: 8g powdered gelatin = 1 (0.25 oz) envelope powdered gelatin = 1 Tbsp powdered gelatin = 1 Tbsp Agar-Agar.
1 Tbsp. of agar-agar flakes is equal to 1 tsp. of agar-agar powder.

2.5 sheets gelatin or 5g / 1 + 1/4 tsp powdered gelatin
1.5 oz (3 Tbsp / 40g) granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp (10g) glucose or thick corn syrup
0.5 oz (15g) water
50g egg yolks (about 3 medium)
6.2 oz (175g) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1.5 cups (350g) heavy cream (35% fat content)

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water. (If using powdered gelatin, follow the directions on the package.)
2. Make a Pate a Bombe: Beat the egg yolks until very light in colour (approximately 5 minutes until almost white).
2a. Cook the sugar, glucose syrup and water on medium heat for approximately 3 minutes (if you have a candy thermometer, the mixture should reach 244°F (118°C). If you do not have a candy thermometer, test the sugar temperature by dipping the tip of a knife into the syrup then into a bowl of ice water, if it forms a soft ball in the water then you have reached the correct temperature.
2b. Add the sugar syrup to the beaten yolks carefully by pouring it into the mixture in a thin stream while continuing to beat the yolks. You can do this by hand but it’s easier to do this with an electric mixer.
2c. Continue beating until cool (approximately 5 minutes). The batter should become thick and foamy.
3. In a double boiler or equivalent, heat 2 tablespoons (30g) of cream to boiling. Add the chopped chocolate and stir until melted and smooth.
4. Whip the remainder of the cream until stiff.
5. Pour the melted chocolate over the softened gelatin, mixing well. Let the gelatin and chocolate cool slightly and then stir in ½ cup (100g) of WHIPPED cream to temper. Add the Pate a Bombe.
6. Add in the rest of the WHIPPED cream (220g) mixing gently with a spatula.

Element #3 Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert

Preparation time: 10mn

Equipment: pan, whisk. If you have plunging mixer (a vertical hand mixer used to make soups and other liquids), it comes in handy.

Note: Because the ganache hardens as it cools, you should make it right before you intend to use it to facilitate piping it onto the log during assembly. Please be careful when caramelizing the sugar and then adding the cream. It may splatter and boil.

1.75 oz (4 Tbsp / 50g) granulated sugar
4.5oz (2/3 cup – 1 Tbsp/ 135g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
5 oz (135g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
3Tbsp + 1/2tsp (45g) unsalted butter softened

1. Make a caramel: Using the dry method, melt the sugar by spreading it in an even layer in a small saucepan with high sides. Heat over medium-high heat, watching it carefully as the sugar begins to melt. Never stir the mixture. As the sugar starts to melt, swirl the pan occasionally to allow the sugar to melt evenly. Cook to dark amber color (for most of you that means darker than last month’s challenge).
2. While the sugar is melting, heat the cream until boiling. Pour cream into the caramel and stir thoroughly. Be very careful as it may splatter and boil.
3. Pour the hot caramel-milk mixture over the dark chocolate. Wait 30 seconds and stir until smooth.
4. Add the softened butter and whip hard and fast (if you have a plunging mixer use it). The chocolate should be smooth and shiny.

Element #4 Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert

Preparation time: 10 mn (+ optional 15mn if you make lace crepes)

Equipment: Small saucepan, baking sheet (if you make lace crepes).
Double boiler (or one small saucepan in another), wax paper, rolling pin (or I use an empty bottle of olive oil).

Note: Feuillete means layered (as in with leaves) so a Praline Feuillete is a Praline version of a delicate crisp. There are non-praline variations below. The crunch in this crisp comes from an ingredient which is called gavottes in French. Gavottes are lace-thin crepes. To our knowledge they are not available outside of France, so you have the option of making your own using the recipe below or you can simply substitute rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K for them. Special note: If you use one of the substitutes for the gavottes, you should halve the quantity stated, as in use 1oz of any of these cereals instead of 2.1oz.
If you want to make your own praline, please refer back to the Daring Baker Challenge Recipe from July 2008.

To make 2.1oz / 60g of gavottes (lace crepes - recipe by Ferich Mounia):
1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk
2/3 Tbsp (8g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup – 2tsp (35g) all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp / 0.5 oz (15g) beaten egg
1 tsp (3.5g) granulated sugar
½ tsp vegetable oil
1. Heat the milk and butter together until butter is completely melted. Remove from the heat.
2. Sift flour into milk-butter mixture while beating, add egg and granulated sugar. Make sure there are no lumps.
3. Grease a baking sheet and spread batter thinly over it.
4. Bake at 430°F (220°C) for a few minutes until the crepe is golden and crispy. Let cool.

Ingredients for the Praline Feuillete:
3.5 oz (100g) milk chocolate
1 2/3 Tbsp (25g) butter
2 Tbsp (1 oz / 30g) praline
2.1oz (60g) lace crepes(gavottes) or rice krispies or corn flakes or Special K

1. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler.
2. Add the praline and the coarsely crushed lace crepes. Mix quickly to thoroughly coat with the chocolate.
3. Spread between two sheets of wax paper to a size slightly larger than your desired shape. Refrigerate until hard.

Element #5 Vanilla Crème Brulée Insert

Preparation time: 15mn + 1h infusing + 1h baking

Equipment: Small saucepan, mixing bowl, baking mold, wax paper

Note: The vanilla crème brulée can be flavored differently by simply replacing the vanilla with something else e.g. cardamom, lavender, etc...

1/2 cup (115g) heavy cream (35% fat content)
½ cup (115g) whole milk
4 medium-sized (72g) egg yolks
0.75 oz (2 Tbsp / 25g) granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

1. Heat the milk, cream, and scraped vanilla bean to just boiling. Remove from the stove and let the vanilla infuse for about 1 hour.
2. Whisk together the sugar and egg yolks (but do not beat until white).
3. Pour the vanilla-infused milk over the sugar/yolk mixture. Mix well.
4. Wipe with a very wet cloth and then cover your baking mold (whatever shape is going to fit on the inside of your Yule log/cake) with parchment paper. Pour the cream into the mold and bake at 210°F (100°C) for about 1 hour or until firm on the edges and slightly wobbly in the center.
Tartelette says: You can bake it without a water bath since it is going to go inside the log (the aesthetics of it won't matter as much since it will be covered with other things)....BUT I would recommend a water bath for the following reasons:
- you will get a much nicer mouth feel when it is done
- you will be able to control its baking point and desired consistency much better
- it bakes for such a long time that I fear it will get overdone without a water bath
Now...since it is baked in a pan and it is sometimes difficult to find another large pan to set it in for a water bath, even a small amount of water in your water bath will help the heat be distributed evenly in the baking process. Even as little as 1 inch will help.
5. Let cool and put in the freezer for at least 1 hour to firm up and facilitate the final assembly.

Element #6 Dark Chocolate Icing

Preparation time: 25 minutes (10mn if you don’t count softening the gelatin)

Equipment: Small bowl, small saucepan

Note: Because the icing gelifies quickly, you should make it at the last minute.
For other gelatin equivalencies or gelatin to agar-agar equivalencies, look at the notes for the mousse component.

4g / ½ Tbsp powdered gelatin or 2 sheets gelatin
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream (35 % fat content)
2.1 oz (5 Tbsp / 60g) granulated sugar
¼ cup (50g) water
1/3 cup (30g) unsweetened cocoa powder

1. Soften the gelatin in cold water for 15 minutes.
2. Boil the rest of the ingredients and cook an additional 3 minutes after boiling.
3. Add gelatin to the chocolate mixture. Mix well.
4. Let cool while checking the texture regularly. As soon as the mixture is smooth and coats a spoon well (it is starting to gelify), use immediately.

How To Assemble your French Yule Log

Depending on whether your mold is going to hold the assembly upside down until you unmold it or right side up, this order will be different.
You will want to tap your mold gently on the countertop after each time you pipe mousse in to get rid of any air bubbles.

1) Line your mold or pan, whatever its shape, with rhodoid (clear hard plastic, I usually use transparencies cut to the desired shape, it’s easier to find than cellulose acetate which is what rhodoid translates to in English) OR plastic film. Rhodoid will give you a smoother shape but you may have a hard time using it depending on the kind of mold you’re using.

You have two choices for Step 2, you can either have Dacquoise on the top and bottom of your log as in version A or you can have Dacquoise simply on the bottom of your log as in version B:

2A) Cut the Dacquoise into a shape fitting your mold and set it in there. If you are using an actual Yule mold which is in the shape of a half-pipe, you want the Dacquoise to cover the entire half-pipe portion of the mold.
3A) Pipe one third of the Mousse component on the Dacquoise.
4A) Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.
5A) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
6A) Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.
7A) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
8A) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
9A) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight eidge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
10A) Close with the last strip of Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.


2B) Pipe one third of the Mousse component into the mold.
3B) Take the Creme Brulee Insert out of the freezer at the last minute and set on top of the mousse. Press down gently to slightly ensconce it in the mousse.
4B) Pipe second third of the Mousse component around and on top of the Creme Brulee Insert.
5B) Cut the Praline/Crisp Insert to a size slightly smaller than your mold so that it can be surrounded by mousse. Lay it on top of the mousse you just piped into the mold.
6B) Pipe the last third of the Mousse component on top of the Praline Insert.
7B) Freeze for a few hours to set. Take out of the freezer.
8B) Pipe the Ganache Insert onto the frozen mousse leaving a slight edge so that ganache doesn’t seep out when you set the Dacquoise on top.
9B) Close with the Dacquoise.
Freeze until the next day.

If you are doing the assembly UPSIDE DOWN with TWO pieces of Dacquoise the order is:
1) Dacquoise
2) Mousse
3) Creme Brulee Insert
4) Mousse
5) Praline/Crisp Insert
6) Mousse
7) Ganache Insert
8) Dacquoise

If you are doing the assembly UPSIDE DOWN with ONE piece of Dacquoise on the BOTTOM ONLY the order is:
1) Mousse
2) Creme Brulee Insert
3) Mousse
4) Praline/Crisp Insert
5) Mousse
6) Ganache Insert
7) Dacquoise

If you are doing the assembly RIGHT SIDE UP in a springform pan the order is:
1) Dacquoise
2) Ganache Insert
3) Mousse
4) Praline/Crisp Insert
5) Mousse
6) Creme Brulee Insert
7) Mousse
8 OPTIONAL) Dacquoise

Unmold the cake/log/whatever and set on a wire rack over a shallow pan.
Cover the cake with the icing.
Let set. Return to the freezer.
You may decorate your cake however you wish. The decorations can be set in the icing after it sets but before you return the cake to the freezer or you may attach them on top using extra ganache or leftover mousse, etc...
Transfer to the refrigerator no longer than ½ hour before serving as it may start to melt quickly depending on the elements you chose.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Merry Christmas

I can't believe Christmas has come and gone for another year... time is really flying. I absolutely love Christmas. It's such a happy time of year... though somewhat stressful! This year was S and I's debut, hosting our first Christmas. Now, I may be giving us more credit than we deserve since it was just a very small Christmas- us and both of our mums. Well, it's a start isn't it?

In hindsight, we went completely over the top just for four people. We had (and still have) so much food it's not funny. Let me just say, I had four desserts lined up for the day... I know, I'm crazy! I suppose I was just so set on having a variety of different foods, which is easy to do when catering for large numbers. By the end of the night, we were all completely stuffed. The bad type of being so stuffed you just don't know if you can continue to breathe without rupturing your stomach.

I am so glad we had the chance to host Christmas though. I would definitely be up for it again, though now I have learned a few things for next time. S and I alternate each Christmas between our families- this year being my families turn (though really it turned out to be with both of our families in a way). Next year I really hope we can get a bigger crowd together. Oh and also a Christmas tree!

Christmas Day 2008

Mini caramelised onion and goats cheese tarts.
I make sour cream pastry shells for these, which is just delicious. I could seriously live off these tarts for the rest of my life.

Home made bread rolls with Lescure sea salt flake butter.
Unfortunately we didn't end up eating these because they just weren't right. My bad.

Goose with pear and cranberry stuffing.
Since watching Heston Blumenthal's Christmas special on TV, S was absolutely set on making goose this year- a very uncommon meat in Australia. I have to say that it was quite delicious, even though I am not a huge fan of gamey meats.

Goose leg with garlic string beans, maple roasted parsnips, roast potatoes and goose gravy.

Absolutely perfect roast potatoes.
My god these were delicious! I like to think of myself as a bit of a potato connoisseur. Though, if you have high cholesterol, give these a miss. They were cooked in a dish of goose fat!

Washed down with a bottle of champagne.

S and I came up with this trifle recipe together. I made lady finger biscuits for the base, which we broke into small pieces and tossed with a sugar syrup mixed with Pedro Ximenez sherry. Next we had a layer of home made raspberry jelly I made from raspberry compote and gelatin sheets. Then we put strawberries around the sides of the glass and filled the middle with a mixture of blueberries, boysenberries and blackberries. This was topped with home made vanilla bean custard. For texture, we placed a circle of crispy puff pastry on the custard and topped it with a mascarpone mousse. Finally we dusted on some cocoa powder and stuck in a lady finger.

Home made chocolate truffles.
I had issues with the ganache, but in the end they turned out nicely. I will be making home made truffles more often from now on. I rolled some plain dark chocolate truffles in pistachios and some in hazelnuts. The last truffle is dark chocolate with Cointreau, and I dusted these in Valrhona cocoa powder.

My first Christmas pudding with home made vanilla bean custard.
8 hours cooking time in total seemed excessive to me, but the end result is worth it. This pudding is so deliciously rich it scares me.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie 23: Buttery Jam Cookies

This week's recipe was chosen by Heather of Randomosity and the Girl. I know they have the words 'buttery' and 'jam' in their name, but to be honest, they were neither of these! I really enjoyed them, but found the name of the cookie misleading. I was expecting something quite crispy, with a meltingly delicious butteryness to them. I also thought the jam would be a more prominent flavour.

I think these cookies would be perfect for afternoon tea- they are almost like little tea cakes, texture wise. They aren't too sweet or to flavoursome- I could get really carried away eating too many of them before I knew it. Lookswise, they are quite bland. They need an extra something to make them look more appetising. Once I had beaten the jam (I used raspberry) into the batter, I could tell the flavour would be very subtle, so I swirled a big dollop of raspberry jam through the batter with a knife at the very end. Next time I might swirl in a bit more jam so that the cookies have a nice jam ripple through them.

Overall, I did like these cookies and I will be making them again with different flavours. My biggest concern in using other jams is that the cookie takes on the colour very easily. I know some have mentioned that they used blackberry jam and were left with grey coloured cookies. They would look really cute stored in a glass jar, as when they bake, they form little domes that look like soft pillows.

Have a look at the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie gang for more flavour inspirations!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie 22: Grandma's All-Occasion Sugar Cookies

I know the sugar cookie is a classic American cookie, but to be honest, here in Australia it isn't very prominent. I'd like to think that we all know what a sugar cookie is though. This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was chosen by Ulrike of Kuchenlatein; perfect for the Christmas season.

Of course I had all these grand plans of making batches of home made goods for family and friends, but I'm running a bit behind. I know it isn't too late to start now, but I just feel so frazzled about everything that needs to be done for Christmas that I don't know where to start! For instance, today I went searching for a Santa cookie cutter, but do you think I could find one? I thought it was a common shape. Anyway, my current cookie cutter collection only consists of a star, a christmas tree, a flower (see previous post about Linzer Sables) and various sizes of hearts. You can probably tell that I don't do cut out cookies very often. But there is something about the Christmas season that calls for decorated cookies.

For this batch of sugar cookies, I decided to go with a simple heart shape, decorated with plain sugar and also cinnamon sugar. I wasn't too sure if sugar cookies were meant to be really crispy, or slightly chewy. Mine were slightly chewy, but I think i'll cook them a little longer next time to get more of a crispy texture that won't go too soft once iced. It was good to trial the recipe before I start baking them for Christmas though.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A Birthday Treat For S...

The funny thing about S, is that each time I bake something, he declares it his new favourite treat. It doesn't matter whether it's an elaborate cake or a simple cookie, it always seems to outshine the last in his eyes. For his birthday last month, I had all intentions of baking him this spectacular looking birthday cake he had chosen months ago. Unfortunate for S, his birthday falls in exam block every year. Even more unfortunate this year, his birthday fell on an exam day... at 8am! So a combination of the fact we were both in exams, we left for our holiday the day after exams finished, I had 3 Tuesdays with Dorie recipes to bake and also a Daring Bakers one... well, needless to say his birthday cake kept getting pushed to the bottom of the list of things to do.

Now, I can hear little gasps of horror. Of course I didn't let the poor thing go without! I managed to make him miniature versions of his all time favourite dessert (note above paragraph). When I hear S exclaim he has a new favourite treat, I always know that he means a second favourite treat. If faced with the (horrifying) decision of choosing one dessert to eat for the rest of his life, I'm sure S wouldn't hesitate.

Unfortunate for me, the process of making lemon meringue tart is extremely long, yet S always requests it in a 'surely you can just whip one up' tone. Happy Birthday S.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie 21: Linzer Sables

Noskos of Living the Life chose this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, and I'm so glad! After the cookie onslaught a few months ago, I was quite sick of baking them, but it was great to get into it again- especially with Christmas around the corner.

I've always known what a linzer sable was, but I don't think I have ever tasted one. Cookies sandwiched with jam sounded very promising though. I actually only got back from my holiday yesterday and one of the first things I did (even before unpacking) was make my linzer sables! After 3 weeks of not baking, I was starting to feel the itch. Now, I didn't have a linzer cookie cutter, so we quickly rushed to the shops before they closed to buy one. Once I got there, there were 2 cookie cutters that were quite similar and I got confused which one it was. As it were, I chose the wrong one! Now I think about it, it is quite obviously a flower! My cookie cutter had 6 petals whereas the linzer one had 7. I still think they turned out cute though and funnily enough, I don't have a flower cookie cutter so I'm sure it will come in handy.

My first batch got terribly burnt! I didn't even forget about them or anything... my dough must have been rolled thinner than Dorie recommended. All the proceeding batches cooked in 9-10 minutes. I'm a bit unsure on whether I like the texture of the sable. I guess I'll have to eat another one just to make sure...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie 20: Thanksgiving Twofer Pie

What the?

That was my initial reaction when I found out this weeks recipe! Of course I know what Thanksgiving is, but what is a twofer pie? To be honest I'm still not 100% sure... Just a pumpkin pie with pecans? I know that pecan pie and pumpkin pie are quite popular for Thanksgiving, so maybe someone created this super pie by combing the two? Anyway, thanks to Vibi of La casserole carree for choosing this recipe; both for its relevance to the current season and also for expanding my knowledge!

Pretty much this pie turned out to be a disaster for me. I am currently on a 3 week holiday, so before I left, I was rushing around baking like a mad woman. Unfortunately I didn't get to time to complete Daring Bakers which is a shame. I managed to do all the upcoming Tuesdays with Dorie (plus a birthday treat for S- more to come on that later), so overall I was pretty impressed with myself as I had also just finished exams and was also packing for the trip! I decided to post this weeks recipe anyway, even though it is quite an eyesore... I can't stand to miss a week. I'm not even sure what a twofer pie is supposed to look like, but I assume it's nothing like mine turned out! I was even so pressed for time that I half baked the pie and finished off baking it later that night (don't think that was a very good idea...). S also had to take the photos at about midnight, so there wasn't any light. Luckily for him, I've bought him a flash for his birthday!

I am in a bit of a rush this morning, so you'll just have to trust me that it was a nightmare to make! Don't forget to check out the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie gang.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie 19: Arborio Rice Pudding (Black and White)

This week's recipe was chosen by Isabelle of Les gourmandises d'Isa, and what a great week it was! I have always thought I didn't like rice pudding, but it turns out I do! The rice puddings I have eaten before have usually been hot ones, but I really loved eating this cold. It reminded me of those Le Rice puddings I used to eat when I was little.

I found I had to cook the pudding for quite a bit longer than Dorie suggested in order to thicken it. Then, since I had decided to do half chocolate and half vanilla, I divided the pudding between two bowls. Unfortunately I wasn't paying much attention and the first bowl had most of the liquid in it, while the second just had rice with no liquid. Hence one of my puddings (the vanilla) turned out quite liquidy, while the chocolate was quite stodgy! Lesson learnt and I look forward to trying this recipe again. Next time I think I will use vanilla beans instead of vanilla extract though. I found the chocolate one quite rich too so I might even reduced the amount of chocolate next time.

Don't forget to have a look at the rest of the Tuesdays with Dorie gang!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie 18: Kugelhopf

This week's recipe was chosen by Yolanda of The All-purpose Girl, so don't forget to check out her blog for the recipe.

I'll start by saying that this recipe was a real pain! From what I have read on the Tuesdays with Dorie blog, a lot of people had trouble with it- including myself. I actually ended up making this twice because I really wasn't satisfied with the first one; it didn't rise at all, didn't really pick up the shape of the mould and was almost black on the outside! Poor S was freaking out a bit because I left the baking part all up to him. I had to go to work and left him detailed instructions on what to do, including the time he had to do them. Of course you would all know that time is really just a reference in baking since there are so many factors that can affect it. Anyway it really wasn't S's fault- I blame the overnight rest in the fridge. The next morning when I took the dough out, it was extremely firm (but had been almost runny the day before), making it difficult to fill the mould with it. The dough also didn't rise enough, due to being so cold straight out of the fridge. I told S to let it rise for 2-3 hours but of course, you really need to see it to know when it was ready, which I couldn't do being at work and all. So consequently, my first Kugelhopf was quite stubby.

After the first disaster I was determined to try it again with some modifications. Instead of resting the dough in the fridge for 2 hours (deflating it every half hour), I probably only left it in the fridge for about 30-45 minutes, deflating it once. Then I put it into the mould and let it rise near the warm oven for about 2 hours. By this time it was extremely puffy and had risen almost to the top of the mould. S told me that when he did it, it did not rise that high, so I felt I had started on a high note. Well, everything went so smoothly and the Kugelhopf turned out perfect! Needless to say I was extremely relieved because I really didn't feel like making it again (and I only made it this morning so I was pressed for time). The Kugelhopf is only slightly sweet, but it is delicious. It is unbelievably soft. I used raisins as Dorie suggested, which add a touch more sweetness.

Unfortunately the cake doesn't last long as it dries out quickly- but I am looking forward to eating this toasted with jam for breakfast tomorrow. Don't forget to check out the other Tuesdays with Dorie crew. Oh, forgot to mention that I bought a Kugelhopf tin especially for today's post!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie 17: Rugelach

Well, here's my Tuesdays with Dorie post... finally! I feel really guilty about not posting on time, but life has been hectic, and don't get me started on the weather! Thanks to Piggy of Piggy's Cooking Journal for choosing this weeks recipe.

I had seen the picture of these in Baking: from my home to yours, but I could never quite figure out what they were- except that they looked like little croissants! That's what I love about this book; I keep learning about all these bakery goods I never knew existed. I had so much fun making these too. Dorie recommends quite a bit of chocolate in the recipe, but I probably almost halved it as I could just picture these melted pools of chocolate sitting on my baking tray. I'm glad I did too because it was just the right amount of chocolate for me. I was also sparing with the jam for the same reasons. I know it seems like I reduced everything, but I would actually increase the amount of pecans next time. These are the types of cookies you always want to have in your freezer for unexpected guests.

I am also eager to try these with different fillings, including savoury ones! I've already thought up a bunch of ideas. They would be great as finger food for a party; make them ahead of time and freeze them, then all you need to do is bake them as you need. I'm thinking of making these for Christmas this year as to me, they were quite reminiscent of fruit mince pies... (kind of).

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie...

I just wanted to say that I did do this weeks Tuesdays with Dorie challenge. Unfortunately it has been so rainy and dreary here, it would be impossible to take any photos... damn rainy season. Anyway, I plan to have my post up in the next couple of days hopefully, but definitely before next Tuesday. I'm not too sure the Rugelach will last long enough for the photos though... S will be happy if I have to make more.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie 16: Chocolate-Chocolate Cupcakes

Chocolate-Chocolate cupcakes? A fantastic choice of recipe by Clara of I Heart Food 4 Thought. I suppose you're thinking 'chocolate cupcakes? boring!', but it's such a perfect morsel to eat. I love a chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate frosting- no fancy mixes of flavours; just pure chocolatey goodness. I'm one of those people who never find a chocolate cake too rich- not that this cupcake was rich, it was actually quite light with a fine crumb. I didn't have very high expectations for this cupcake recipe as I had read a lot of bad reviews on it. Maybe it's got something to do with being on the other side of the world, but this recipe worked for me- in a big way. S was over the moon with the results. He has even gone as far as to say that this is the best cupcake he has ever eaten. While I'm not sure I agree with him, it is delicious.

This cupcake recipe called for a ganache style topping, which is something I don't really ever use. I am an Italian buttercream girl through and through (though I have been having trouble with it lately?). I do think that this topping (melted chocolate, butter and icing sugar) works well with the cupcake- nice and simple. Some people said their cupcakes turned out really dry, so I kept a close eye on my cupcakes while they were baking. I can't be certain, but I think I took them out about 5-8 minutes earlier than Dorie recommends. I suppose it depends on so many factors: oven temperature differences, how much you fill up the case, how much your flour absorbs liquids... I'm quite relieved mine turned out so well on the first go. The recipe made 12 cupcakes exactly and I froze 6 (with topping on), so I will be VERY interested to see how that goes. I am aprehensive, but Dorie said it was fine so I guess we will see. One thing I found is that the cupcake does dry out quite quickly- they are definitely best eaten on the day they are made (didn't stop S though did it?).

When I first started Tuesdays with Dorie, I could never wait until it was time to bake the next recipe. These days it's hard to find the time! I'm going on holidays soon so i'll be baking like mad in the next week or so, so that I can still post on Tuesdays while I'm away.

Don't forget to check out all the other Tuesdays with Dorie posts!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie 15: Pumpkin Muffins

Even though I love pumpkin scones, I was completely uninterested in this weeks recipe. I had it in my mind that they were going to be too 'healthy' tasting to be nice. How wrong I was! This is probably one of my favourite recipes yet from Baking: from my home to yours.

To me, the pecans took it to that next level. I don't think I would have enjoyed it as much without them. Instead of golden raisins, I just used normal ones as that's all I had. In Australia, it doesn't seem we have canned pumpkin puree. I looked at both of our major supermarkets and found nothing. We pretty much have everything else under the sun canned, but not pumpkin! I was actually surprised at some of the things available. The only reason I went looking for the canned pumpkin, is that I liked to stick as close to the original recipe as possible. I know Dorie encourages us to 'play around' but I always like to make the original recipe first, then tweak it the next time. In the end, I just made my own pumpkin puree. I don't think it was as smooth as the kind you could get in a tin, but it really didn't make a difference. I expected my muffins to not have quite as orange a colour as those made with the tinned pumpkin variety, but mine came out so very yellow/orange.

I only made a half batch because since there is only two of us, the muffins would be stale before we got to eat them all. In hindesight, I think I could have made the whole batch because these muffins are so moist (from the addition of the pumpkin). I was really surprised at how moist they were- so I could see these muffins lasting a few days really. I'm not a big breakfast person, but I could happily eat one of these everyday for breakfast and be very happy. I think that because they are pumpkin muffins, I assume they are healthier... they are relatively healthy compared to other baked goods I guess. I would love it if the recipes had all the nutritional information and kilojoule content included.

Anyway, I will definitely be making these again- on a frequent basis actually! A really big thanks to Kelly of Sounding my Barbaric Gulp- I probably would never have baked these otherwise. Also check out the other Tuesdays with Dorie members too.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie 14: Lenox Almond and Sweet Cherry Biscotti

Bischetti? Bruschetta? Biscerti? No one seemed to know what biscotti was. I thought it was a fairly common type of biscuit, but it appears not. I'm sure though, that after tasting this delicious biscuit, everybody would be wanting to get to know biscotti. I admit that I haven't really eaten much biscotti in my life- only the pre packaged type. Like Dorie, I now want to have this stocked up permanantely in my house. I love that it's so easy to make and that it lasts a relatively long time. Most crunchy biscuits go soggy the day after baking, but these stayed crisp until the very last one was eaten (1 week later). So a big thanks to Gretchen of Canela & Comino who chose this weeks recipe.

I ran into trouble with my first batch of biscotti- I didn't cook it long enough in the first bake. When I cut it into 'soldiers', the inside batter was still runny and flowed out, making for a rather stumpy looking biscotti (like the body of a lizard). The first batch was only a half batch but after tasting some of the discarded first batch, I promptly decided to make a full batch next. In addition to the almonds, I added in some dried sweet cherries which turned out so delicious. I spotted various types of dried berries while at the markets the other day and I just had to make something with them. I'll definitely be going back to try out the blueberries and raspberries (not to mention more sweet cherries). Instead of almond extract I added in vanilla- purely because I had no almond on hand. Next time we visit S's sister, we will be taking a batch of macadamia and sweet cherry biscotti for sure- yum!

The addition of the cornmeal made for a very interesting texture. At first I was unsure if I liked it, but by the end, I loved it! I'm really trying not to eat much of my baking as it's no good for the hips, so S happily devoured the majority of the biscotti. A full batch yielded quite a few biscotti (maybe 20 or so) and of that, I only ate one and gave 3 to my mum... I've learnt my lesson now and will only be making very small batches in future because S can't be trusted! He loved these so much that I had to resort to counting them before I left the house to make sure he wasn't eating too many per day!

As usual, I am sure all the Tuesdays with Dorie gang have come up with delicious and interesting variations for biscotti, so check them out!