Saturday, January 31, 2009

'The Wiggles' Cocoa-Buttermilk Birthday Cake

S and I's nephew recently celebrated his 2nd birthday (which I can't believe mind you- time flies). The party had a Wiggle theme, since he is absolutely obsessed with them. It's rather cute watching him 'sing' and dance. The birthday boy dressed up as Captain Feathersword which was really adorable as well. Even one of the adults came as Dorothy the Dinosaur!

Ideally, I would have loved to make him a 3D Big Red Car cake, but to be honest, I don't think my skills on 3D cakes are up there enough to pull it off. I ended up going with a simple chocolate cake with a vanilla frosting. I also bought a Wiggles edible cake topper and made coloured musical notes (the colours of the Wiggles) from royal icing to decorate.

In the past I haven't had much success making cakes that impress children, as I opt to use an Italian meringue buttercream. Mostly I get comments from children such as 'I hate this icing' or 'This is gross'! So lesson learnt- I went with an extremely simple (and extremely sweet might I add) frosting made from icing sugar, butter, vanilla extract and milk. I was actually very happy with how easy it was to work with. It was a good option too since it was extremely hot and humid that day. Needless to say, the kids loved the cake with that frosting, so I was happy.

Next year it's the big 3!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Daring Bakers 5: Tuiles

Surprised? Yes! I did manage to complete this month's Daring Bakers challenge. What with these new rules and all- the pressure is on! Especially since each month's recipe tends to either be: simple, but time consuming, or, the most torturous day of your life. I am surprised that the group still has such a strong membership, but really, that's what we love about it right?

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

Tuiles eh? I never really thought of them as a dessert as such. A decorative component, yes, but certainly not the highlight. Maybe I just haven't encountered enough tuiles to really see their full potential? I certainly never thought to make them at home- then I am not really the decorative type. I like my desserts simple and clean. Occasionally I will embellish them, but rarely. I suppose it could be seen as a sign of laziness, but honestly, it's not! I really like the focus to be on the main components of the dessert. I also avoid decorating with items that aren't edible, or that don't really 'add' anything to the dish, other than visually. Well, I suppose it's good luck that we made tuiles this month as they are both an edible decoration, as well as one that can add to the flavour.

This month's challenge actually reminded me of a dessert in Gordon Ramsay's Three Star Chef cookbook. I had admired it from afar, but hadn't planned on attempting it anytime soon... anytime in my life actually. Part of the challenge was to pair the tuiles with something light. Right. Another arrow pointing to Gordon Ramsay's tuile dessert. His chocolate tuiles are paired with a lemon and basil mousse, and also a raspberry mousse, which is presented as a millefeuille. This fit the challenge perfectly, but in the end, I had to compromise. I decided to go with chocolate tuiles and pair them with a lemon mousse recipe I found over at Tartlette. Simple and delicious. I would have loved to use the mousse flavours in Gordon Ramsay's recipe, but I was only making such a small portion (as S is away) that it seemed a little extravagent. Maybe next time.

The tuile making itself, I found, came under the categorie of 'the most torturous day of your life'. The actual preparation of the batter was a breeze, but shaping it was another story. I had planned on using the same shape Gordon Ramsay's recipe used, but do you think it worked? Hell no! First my batter wasn't cooked enough so it never turned crispy enough to hold its shape. Then I baked them too much, that when I tried to shape them, they had already set before I could blink. This really wasn't looking good for me and my batter was starting to run out. So, I ended up going with a vary simple shape... a circle! As soon as the batter came out of the oven, I cut out circles with a glass. Unfortunately, these did not bake long enough either and they never turned crispy. So I ended up with a slightly chewy tuile. Not good. At least a tuile's crispness cannot be determined through a lense.


Yields: 20 small butterflies/6 large (butterflies are just an example)
Preparation time batter 10 minutes, waiting time 30 minutes, baking time: 5-10 minutes per batch

65 grams / ¼ cup / 2.3 ounces softened butter (not melted but soft)
60 grams / ½ cup / 2.1 ounces sifted confectioner’s sugar
1 sachet vanilla sugar (7 grams or substitute with a dash of vanilla extract)
2 large egg whites (slightly whisked with a fork)
65 grams / 1/2 cup / 2.3 ounces sifted all purpose flour
1 table spoon cocoa powder/or food coloring of choice
Butter/spray to grease baking sheet

Oven: 180C / 350F

Using a hand whisk or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle (low speed) and cream butter, sugar and vanilla to a paste. Keep stirring while you gradually add the egg whites. Continue to add the flour in small batches and stir to achieve a homogeneous and smooth batter/paste. Be careful to not overmix.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to firm up. (This batter will keep in the fridge for up to a week, take it out 30 minutes before you plan to use it).

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease with either butter/spray and chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes. This will help spread the batter more easily if using a stencil/cardboard template such as the butterfly. Press the stencil on the bakingsheet and use an off sided spatula to spread batter. Leave some room in between your shapes. Mix a small part of the batter with the cocoa and a few drops of warm water until evenly colored. Use this colored batter in a paper piping bag and proceed to pipe decorations on the wings and body of the butterfly.

Bake butterflies in a preheated oven (180C/350F) for about 5-10 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Immediately release from bakingsheet and proceed to shape/bend the cookies in the desired shape. These cookies have to be shaped when still warm, you might want to bake a small amount at a time or maybe put them in the oven to warm them up again. (Haven’t tried that). Or: place a bakingsheet toward the front of the warm oven, leaving the door half open. The warmth will keep the cookies malleable.

Lemon Mousse:
from Tartlette

1 1/2 teaspoons (3 sheets) gelatin
2 tablespoons (30ml) cold water
1 1/4 (310ml) whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped (throw the seeds in the pot with the milk)
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (50 grams)sugar
1/4 cup (40 gr)cornstarch
1/4 cup (62.5ml) lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest
1 cup (250ml) heavy cream

In a ramekin, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand until you prepare the cream. In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar and egg yolks together, add the cornstarch mixing until you get a smooth paste. Set aside.

Meanwhile in a saucepan combine the milk and vanilla bean on medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat and add slowly to egg mixture, whisking constantly to prevent curdling, (pour through a strainer if this happens). Remove vanilla bean. Place the egg mixture back into a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Add the lemon juice and zest, cook another 30 seconds and remove from the heat. Immediately add in the gelatin and stir until completely dissolved. Place a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the cream so that it does not develop a skin as it cools to room temperature.

Whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form and gently fold it into the pastry cream. Pipe or spoon the mousse immediately in the cake rings, level the top with an offset spatula and refrigerate. If you have any leftover, spoon into dessert dishes or glasses for quick snack.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie 27: Fresh Ginger and Chocolate Gingerbread

I must say that it feels great to be back on track with Tuesdays with Dorie. While technically I only missed one week, it feels like forever since I've posted on here. Hopefully in the next few months I can really get on track and post much more frequently. I seem to always be baking something of some sort, but taking the time out to photograph them, then blog, is quite another story.

This week's recipe, chosen by Heather of Sherry Trifle, was the perfect way for me to ease myself back in. It is simple, but more importantly, delicious. Ginger is not something I really look for in a dessert, so I was a little apprehensive about this cake. I had actually planned on baking this early and giving it to my mum since she absolutely loves ginger, but I didn't get time (due to an upcoming post). Luckily, Dorie says that this cake freezes well, even after being iced. My mum has a nice little surprise when she next visits... unless I can't help myself.

I was really quite surprised at how much I enjoyed this cake. It is incredibly soft and moist, and the spices add a subtle warmth. The cake itself is so spectacular that in future, I will probably skip the icing all together. Icings made mostly from icing sugar do not really do much for me- besides, by itself, this cake tricks you into thinking it's not that bad for the hips.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie

Melbourne, Australia

I know, I know! I am so naughty for missing the last TWO Tuesdays with Dorie. In my defense, I actually did bake the Savoury Corn Muffins, I just didn't get to photograph them because I was in Melbourne. Going on a holiday always throws Tuesdays with Dorie out of whack for me. I usually like to plan ahead, but this time I didn't. I really do want to make the Berry Surprise Cake, so hopefully I'll get around to it one of these days. I will definitely be back with the group next week!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie 26: French Pear Tart

This week's recipe was chosen by America's Queen of baking herself: Dorie Greenspan! How fantastic to bake one of Dorie's personal favourites. I have to say, that within our little baking community, Dorie has been an amazing support to all of us. I think it's safe to say, that seeing Dorie comment on your blog makes you squeal with happiness (actually I was literally stunned... STUNNED!). A few text messages to friends later, and I had settled down (slightly). She is also very interactive on the Tuesdays with Dorie website, offering help if we have questions or don't quite understand something about the recipes. Fabulous.

After baking this tart, I know why it is a favourite. It really is delicious. Rich, buttery, chewy, soft and sweet goodness. Personally, I served mine with a dollop of vanilla ice cream, which helped with the butteryness of the tart. I opted for mini tarts, but can only imagine how stunning this tart would look in a 9-inch pan.

S is away for six weeks at the moment, and I feel bad that he couldn't eat this tart! I know he would have absolutely loved it, so I will have to make it again when he comes back. For now though, the photos can taunt him! Speaking of photos, as some of you know, S takes all of the photos on my blog... but this time it was up to me. Very intimidating since I really have no idea how to work the camera. Actually, to be honest, S was freaking out about it! Well I hope I didn't disappoint him.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Graduation Cake

Oh how I wish it were me that had graduated and received a cake (tune in, in one years time), but it was in fact S. I try not to think about how quickly the years fly by. It wasn't long ago that we both ventured to the 'big smoke', away from the safety and comfort of our childhood homes, to start our first year at University. Thinking back over the past five years is like watching your life flash before your eyes. So much has happened, yet it seems as though so little has changed. I can't believe it has taken us five years to sort out where our lives are headed. Luckily for S, he happened to stumble into his chosen career (which turned out to be so different that he had thought it would be), and loved it. As for me, well, after a few changes here and there, I too feel as though I have finally steered onto the right course. Such a milestone surely deserves a grand reward (S takes payment in cakes and pastries of course), and what could be more grand (and time consuming and aggravating- in a good way) than a Pierre Herme recipe!? I had actually intended on baking S a cake he had chosen from Dorie Greenspans book; Baking: from my home to yours, for his birthday, but that never happened. Then I decided all was not lost and I would make it for his graduation (only a couple of weeks after his birthday), but I thought that I really needed to utilise special occasions for really special recipes. Poor S though- I'm not sure when he will ever get to eat the Dorie Greenspan cake, even though he requested it months ago. I guess we will have to wait for someone to choose it for Tuesdays with Dorie.

On to the cake! Really, the cake was not hard to make. There are quite a few elements and it is quite time consuming, but if you organise everything in advance, it should be relatively stress free. The cake I chose was a Blueberry and Marscarpone Mousse Charlotte. I adore the look of Charlottes, but was never quite sure what all the different elements of the cake consisted of. From what I gather, the lady finger borders are usually filled with a mousse of some sort. Either way, this cake was magnificent! It consisted of lady finger biscuits, a mascarpone mousse filling with fresh blueberries layered inside, italian meringue for the topping, and also a dollop of blueberry compote. I can only imagine the possibilities, flavour wise.

After his graduation ceremony, we were all supposed to come back to our house to have a piece of cake with coffee. Unfortunately we ran out of time and had to rush immediately to the restaurant we had booked at. We decided to skip dessert, so that we could have a piece of cake instead. By that time, it was well and truly night time, so it was difficult to take photos.

S is jumping for joy, not because he graduated, but because he will be taking up post graduate studies this year- yes, that means another grand cake for S at the end of the year... not to mention mine as well.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie 25: Tall and Creamy Cheesecake

Ahhh, yes- I missed last week's Tuesdays with Dorie (Real Butterscotch Pudding), but to be honest, I just didn't have the time! It really upsets me when I have to miss a Tuesdays with Dorie (or Daring Bakers), but as you all know, this time of year is just insane.

To top it off... I am posting this week's Tuesdays with Dorie, two days late! Obviously, this time of year really affects my organisational skills. I actually made this recipe weeks ago, so it wasn't a case of not having the goods to show. We went away for a few days, for New Years Eve celebrations, and I didn't bother to bring my laptop. It wasn't until the Wednesday that I realised I had forgotten (by realised, I mean that I saw heaps of tall and creamy cheesecakes pop up on tastespotting). Well, it's a new year, and I hope to be a little more organised for it.

I'm personally not a fan of cheesecake. I'm not really into cream cheese frosting either. So I really avoid making them at all costs- even though S absolutely loves himself a good baked cheesecake. The one cheesecake I quite liked was one that I made from Marcus Wareing's How to Cook the Perfect... After making Dorie's, I still prefer the one from Marcus' book. I actually quite liked the taste of Dorie's (I made a lemon cheesecake, in an effort to conceal the 'cheese' flavour), but I really disliked the texture. It gives me the chills just thinking about it... Also my other complaint is that there is not enough base- I would double the recipe for the base next time. I also found that the biscuit sides did not get crunchy- it was a soggy mess. S really loved this cheesecake though, so I would feel slightly evil if I denied him from ever eating it again. Maybe with some minor adjustments, I too would like it.

Thanks to Anne of AnneStrawberry for choosing this week's recipe. You can find the recipe on her website. Don't forget to check out all the other TWD gang too.