Sunday, June 29, 2008

I'm a Daring Baker!

I'm no longer a Daring Baker virgin!

I was hoping for my first challenge to be something easy to gradually ween myself into the Daring Bakers' club. Imagine my distress, when I saw those two words: Danish Braid. Laminated dough . . . . Surprisingly, it was much easier than I had anticipated, and I'll definitely be making Danish's more often in the future. A big thanks to Kelly and Ben; at first I thought you were crazy, but thanks to you, I've added a formidable new genre to my repertoire. And I suppose that's what the Daring Bakers is all about!

I found that the hardest part of this challenge was just finding the time to do everything, because it's such a long process. As the end of the month was fast approaching, I decided I had to get a move on and start the dough. I'll admit that I was a little concerned about including cardamom and orange zest in the dough, as I thought the flavours might overpower the delicate nature of the dough. But how wrong I was! The cardamom added a lovely, subtle spiciness and aroma (almost a savouriness to the sweet filling) that I would not have liked to have gone without. The process of making the dough was quite simple, just lengthy.

I decided to go with the apple filling, recommended by Kelly and Ben, and using Fuji apples was a revelation! They were soft and fully cooked, but remained as perfectly formed little cubes; I'll be using them more often from now on. I found the apple filling to be pretty sweet, but this was balanced out by the savouriness of the cardomom et al. in the dough. I also made a vanilla bean Creme Patisserie, sourced from Gordon Ramsay's brilliant book, Just Desserts. It provided a beautiful, rich, but neutral creaminess, to perfectly counteract the intense sweetness of the apples. All in all, a perfect combination.

First, I made the dough, as instructed. I followed in the (initially bizarre) footsteps of Beatrice Ojakangas, by using a tape measure to ensure a perfectly formed braid. Her use of a pizza cutter also proved instructive. Filled with the apple and Creme Patisserie, I began the process of braiding. My next concern was temperature control, as it's currently Winter in Australia. Knowing it wouldn't rise properly at the ambient temperature of around 20 deg C., I decided to enlist the help of our reverse cycle air conditioner, creating a perfect temperature that a proofing Danish Braid could only dream of!


After proofing, and a liberal lashing of egg wash, the braid went into the oven. And out came my little baby!

We ate this straight out of the oven, which in my mind is the best time to eat it. Once cooled, the pastry begins to deteriorate immediately. I certainly wouldn't want to eat it the next day (but that didn't stop S!).

I had a little dough leftover, and decided to try out some traditional Danish windmills, which were really cute!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Souffle: 1 ; B: 1

The other night I finally decided to bite the bullet; I made my first ever souffle! And yes, it was as terrifying as they say.

A souffle to me, is something that I would always order in a restaurant, but never actually attempt myself. Soupy, stodgy, floppy souffles are the things of nightmares, so naturally I've always avoided them.

Round One. . . B. vs. Toffee Souffle

Let's just say it's not a good idea to attempt your first ever souffle on a whim. I adapted Gordon Ramsay's recipe for a Toffee Souffle from his 3-Star Chef book - on first inspection, I thought that it would be a piece of cake (not literally).

And at first, it seemed as though I had conquered . . .

But then it grew . . .

and grew . . .

and then it mutated so hideously that we couldn't bear to take a photo . . .

It was like a mushroom cloud rising from a nuclear blast. Suffice to say, I used too many egg whites (on S's insistence (!)). The flavour was amazing; like delicious homemade caramel. But it didn't cook in the centre, and was far too 'eggy'. The overly large ramekins wouldn't have helped either (they hold the equivalent of 3 normal portions (!)). Souffle: 1, B.: 0.

Round Two. . . B. vs. Chocolate Souffle

After the other night's disaster, my wounds had barely healed and I wasn't ready to attempt another potential disaster. S, unfazed by the first attempt, insisted that we try again. And since we had leftover creme patisserie in the fridge (from this month's Daring Baker's challenge), I had nothing to lose (certainly not my pride, which had been destroyed two night's previous). And now I'm glad we had another go. This time 'round, it just seemed 'right'.

Voila! Success! A combination of less egg whites (1 egg white : 150mL Creme Pattiserie) and smaller ramekins proved to be a winner. Using just 75g of 70% Valrhona chocolate (the Guanaja Feves variety), it was luciously rich, not too sweet, and light and fluffy (like eating clouds). In the end, not as hard as I'd originally thought. Souffle: 1, B.: 1.

Monday, June 16, 2008

You Did What?

Being my stubborn self, on the rare occasion I'll deny S any baked treats. Not because he's in trouble (though sometimes that's the case), but because frankly I can't be bothered! His favourite and most requested cake is a Madeira cake- which doesn't really tickle my fancy. Now if he was requesting any form of chocolate cake, I'm sure he'd get one every time.

Getting to the point, he'd asked for one and I was not in the mood. I was surprised when he announced that he didn't need me and that he was going to make it himself! S is a great cook but doesn't dabble in baking... ever. Unfortunately for him, reverse psychology (thinking I'd get territorial) didn't work and he actually went through with it.

After the cakes success he announced to me "I don't need to worry if you ever leave me because now I know I can make the cake myself"! Obviously he doesn't recall all the other goodies I make for him.

The proof....

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Short and Sweet

I've been making excuses for far too long, so it's about time I just bit the bullet and officially christened my blog.  As the title suggests this will be very short and of course, sweet.  

After constant nagging from S, I caved in (as usual) and whipped up some individual tarts.  His request (what, you thought I would have a say?) was a medley of custard tarts, and chocolate ganache and hazelnut filled tarts.  The custard tart recipe comes from Marcus Wareing's book, How To Cook The Perfect..., and for the chocolate hazelnut tarts I just made that up myself; the inspiration was this delicious tart from Chouquette that S loves.