November 27, 2011

Daring Bakers' November 2011 Challenge - Sans Rival

Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers’ host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert – the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.

I chose to do the Sans Rival with the traditional flavouring of vanilla and cashew nuts. The details of the recipe can be found here.

The Sans Rival basically consists of two components: meringues plates filled with vanilla flavoured buttercream. Now, this is the third time I tried my hands at making meringues in one or the other form. Maybe it's the fact that meringues are not among my favourite desserts, but I wasn't surprised, when I struggled with what appeared to be a simple recipe. I baked the meringue plates according to the instructions and they turned a lovely brown, but were still quite humid and not as crispy as they should be. I left them to dry for a couple of days but when I wanted to assemble the Sans Rival, they were still gooey. So I baked them again for about an hour at about 100°C leaving the oven door slightly ajar. They turned darker, but in the end they were dry and crisp.

Even though I'd never made buttercream before, the recipe was quite straightforward and I got an excellent result.

The assembled dessert was a huge success at my friend's brunch and at my office - everybody loved it. While I also liked the taste and constancy of the Sans Rival, I found it a bit rich and heavy with all the buttercream. But the cashew nuts in the meringue added a nice contrast.

Thanks for another fun challenge - Catherine!

October 27, 2011

Daring Bakers' October 2011 Challenge - Povitica

Even my little ghost family was interested in this dessert
The Daring Baker’s October 2011 challenge was Povitica, hosted by Jenni of The Gingered Whisk. Povitica is a traditional Eastern European Dessert Bread that is as lovely to look at as it is to eat!

Povitica consists of a simple yeast dough, rolled out thinly and filled with a mix of walnuts, sugar and spices. Details and the recipe can be found here.

It is indeed a delicious recipe and also quite simple to make (I used the quarter batch measurements). The only change was to let the dough rise over night in the fridge, which worked extremely well.

Thanks for another great challenge!

September 30, 2011

Daring Bakers' September 2011 Challenge - Croissants

My first (and probably only) homemade croissants
The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

I'm horribly late posting this challenge, but I'm just glad that I made it at all. It's been busy lately... To be honest I was always a bit afraid of making my own puff pastry, but I was astonished at how well this recipe works (details can be found here). Even though I spread making the croissants over three days, they still felt, tasted and looked like real croissants. Of course the store-bought variety is a bit fluffier but they were quite good for a first try. Especially the ones with the chocolate in them... :-)

June 27, 2011

Daring Bakers' June 2011 Challenge - Baklava

Sweet, sweet Baklava
This months Daring Bakers Challenge was called "From Phyllo to Baklava". We had to prepare this turkish/moroccan/eastern european treat from scratch, the main difficulty being to roll the dough as thinly as possible.

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava. The detailed recipe can be found here.

I was amazed at how well the recipe worked. I didn't think it would be possible to make such a simple dough that can be stretched out so thinly. But it worked flawlessly. The only downside was that I had sore muscles for about three days after preparing the Baklava. First, the dough had to be kneaded for 20 minutes by hand. After letting the dough rest for a while, rolling the individual sheets took me about 1.5 hours. The next day I had sore muscles not only in my arms and shoulders, but even in my abdomen and fingers…

Techniquewise the recipe was rather simple. I more or less stuck to the suggested filling (omitting the allspice berries, because I couldn't find any) and varying a little on the weights for the various nuts. I basically tried to use up, what I already had in my cupboard. Unfortunately I can't give you the exact measurements as I'm currently on vacation in Sweden and my notes are still in my flat in Zurich, even though I knew I was going to write up this post here. I need a better checklist next time…

I might have overbaked the Baklava a little because I expected them to get a darkbrowner colour on top. This might have also been due to the fact that my oven only works with bottom heat as it is a rather old gas oven.

The other thing that went slightly wrong was the soaking in sirup. Not thinking about the whole procedure very much, I used a springform pan to bake the Baklava. Since springform pans are put together from two separate parts, they are not closely sealed and so, when I poured the sirup over the hot Baklava, it leaked from the underside of the pan… I ended up transferring the Baklava to a lower pan and soaking in in there. Of course this meant that only about the lower half of my Baklava was actually soaking in the sirup, with the upper half remaining dry. I poured some sirup over it every now and then, but obviously this never could have the same effect as soaking over night.

Ah well, the end result was pretty tasty anyway and everybody at work loved it!

Thanks for another exciting challenge, Erica!

May 27, 2011

Daring Bakers' May 2011 Challenge - Chocolate Marquise

The May 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

Doesn't it look great when all components come together?
And what a challenge this was! Each single part was not too difficult to master, but the complete dessert consisted of several components and handling the frozen chocolate mousse was no easy task. But it was all worth it for such a plate of dessert.

I was very excited that this month's challenge included torched meringue because this was an excellent opportunity to break in my brand new blowtorch. Yay! :-)

The chocolate mousse obviously was the star of this plate. It tasted great and while preparing it, I realised how easy it is to modify it with different spices. And while I cut it into classical cube shapes for this challenge, it would be a cute idea to use cookie cutters to serve it in other shapes. As far as I could see, some of my fellow Daring Bakers already did this. The taste and consistency of the mousse was simply delicious: rich, dark and not too sweet - just the way I like my chocolate mousse.

The caramel sauce was maybe my favourite part of this challenge. I'm not very experienced with caramel and was amazed at how easy this recipe was. I love the slight bitter taste (maybe I burnt the caramel a bit?) together with the salt and rum (which I substituted for the tequila). There's still some sauce left in my fridge and I'm already planning on what to do with it. Maybe I could use it to bake some special cupcakes? Or I'll just eat it with a spoon…

My first plating. Well, the first that was worthy to be photographed, anyway...
Loved the spiced almonds! This is also a great snack that can be varied with all different kinds of spices and flavors. Unfortunately, I misunderstood the recipe (memo to self: "whisk egg white until frothy and thick" does not equal "whisk until stiff") and overbeat the egg white. After baking the almonds, I had to break them out of the egg white casing. The taste was still great, although I suspect that some of that spicy flavour  was lost in the discarded egg white… I'll definitely try this recipe again!

Plating was no easy feat. The cubes were quite difficult to handle if they should stay neat and the cocoa powder seemed to go everywhere. On the pictures you can see two different platings, but I used up several more plates until I was satisfied with the result. Also, I cheated and put the chocolate mousse on the plate while it was still frozen, because obviously for the picture it did not have to be thawed. Until I was finished with taking pictures and started eating my plate, the mousse had the exact right temperature and consistency :-)

Details of the recipes can be found here. I made only half of the chocolate mousse and used rum instead of tequila and maple sirup instead of light corn sirup. In the caramel sauce I also substituted the tequila with rum. For the spiced almonds I picked several spices from my spice cupboard (coriander seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, nutmeg, clove and salt).

My favourite plating
Thanks for a great challenge Emma and Jenny!

May 17, 2011

White Chocolate Tart with Raspberries

Basically, this is a simple tart with very straightforward flavours. But I was intrigued by the idea of subtly changing these flavours with the use of differently flavoured chocolates. The original recipe uses pears and a chocolate flavoured with pears. I decided to use raspberries as fruit and cranberry flavoured chocolate. You could use many different combinations of fruit and flavours. You could even start to play with flavoured yoghurt.

A word on the dough: I was confused at first that there was no sugar added according to the recipe. But it turned out that the filling with all the chocolate is quite sweet, so the neutral dough gives a nice contrast.

The recipe is quite easy. It requires a lot of cooling time, though. But the result is worth it. The combination of flaky dough, creamy filling and fruit is great!

White Chocolate Tart with Raspberries
Original recipe found on the webpage of Saisonküche, one of my favourite food magazines. Here's a translation:

250g flour
2 pinches of salt
150g cold butter
1 egg

40g dark chocolate (I used Cranberry Intense of the Excellence line of Lindt

3 leaves of gelatin
250g white chocolate (I used the Crema Catalana of the Supreme line of Chocolat Frey
2dl cream
150g non-flavoured yoghurt
300g raspberries

Combine flour and salt in a bowl. Cut butter into little cubes and add to the flour. Using your fingers, rub the butter and the flour together until you get a coarse mix resembling grated cheese. Work quickly to avoid the butter melting. Add the lightly beaten egg and assemble everything into a firm dough. Leave it to cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Prepare a round baking tray (roughly 28cm in diameter) with a sheet of parchment paper. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thickness. Place the dough into the baking tray, cut off the excess dough and punch some holes into the dough using a fork. Cover the dough with another sheet of parchment paper and add some baking weights to blind-bake the dough (I usually use dry beans). Bake for about 10 minutes, then remove the baking weights and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes, then let it cool completely.

Melt the dark chocolate over a water bath and apply a thin layer to the cooled and baked dough. This will insulate the dough from the moist filling and keep it nice and crispy.

Soak the gelatin in some cold water. Heat the cream in a pan (it does not need to cook). Remove from the stove and add the roughly chopped white chocolate. Squeeze the water from the gelatin and add it to the cream as well. Stir until the gelatin and the chocolate have melted completely, then add the yoghurt. Cool in the fridge for a few minutes until the mix starts to set around the edge. In the meantime sprinkle the raspberries on the dough, then add the cream-chocolate mix. Let the tart set in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

May 03, 2011

Williams Crown and My First Blogging-Anniversary

Wow - it has already been a year since I started this blog! Time really does fly…

I've decided to celebrate this anniversary by pouring myself a cocktail. And not just any cocktail, but the Williams Crown!

Great cocktail - even without foam...
A few weeks ago I spent a weekend with a friend in the beautiful Hotel Post in Tyrol. Apart from enjoying some relaxing SPA-treatments, we also discovered a great new cocktail. While chatting to the Chef de Bar Oliver, he mentioned he had created his own cocktail recently. Obviously, we had to try it, especially since it contained Williams, one of my favourite spirits. The cocktail was delicious with an intense fruity smell and taste despite being light in texture - very drinkable (read "dangerous")!

Oliver was kind enough to share the recipe with us, so I can share it with you. It contains to the Fizz-family. To accommodate modern restaurant hygiene regulations it is made with soda water only, leaving out the raw egg white that would traditionally be included. The raw egg white does not alter the taste of the drink, but makes sure that there is a nice foam on top of the drink. To be honest, Oliver's version had a nice foam layer on top even without the egg white, unlike mine - maybe the soda water I used did not contain enough carbon dioxide. But enough moaning about no-foams, here is the recipe:

4cl Williams (since this component gives the main flavour, it is advisable to use a decent brand)
2.5cl Pear Juice
dash Soda Water (I used ca. 4cl)
dash Sugar Sirup (recipe can be found here, I used ca. 2cl)
dash Lemon Juice (I used ca. 2cl)

Shake everything hard for about 30s in your shaker with ice and strain into nice glass decorated with a slice of pear. To get all the flavour into the drink, pour some additional soda water (I used ca. 4cl again) into the shaker to rinse it and to get the rest of the aroma into the glass.

Cheers! To another year of blogging!

April 27, 2011

Daring Bakers' April 2011 Challenge - Maple Mousse in Tuile Basket with Sugar Cage

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!

Yay - Sugar cage :-)
The recipe for the maple mousse and some suggestions for edible containers can be found here.

While I personally was intrigued by the idea of combining the maple mousse with bacon I quickly realised that I would not find many willing guinea pigs to help me eat this dessert. So I decided to stick to something more traditional and made tuile baskets. Tuiles were on my to-bake-list for a while now so I was happy to finally have a reason to try them out. I used this recipe and was surprised at how quick and easy it was. Ok, my tuiles were not browned evenly, but I blame this on my oven (yes, I do this a lot) and my impatience when trying to spread the dough on the sheet. But I still got some nice baskets to serve the mousse in.

The maple mousse itself had a great taste and everybody loved it. I used 4 sheets of gelatine (could not find powdered gelatine) but would reduce this to 3 sheets the next time. The mousse was fine and had the ideal consistency to spoon it into the tuile baskets and take nice pictures, but to eat it prefer a softer texture.

To decorate the mousse I tried my hands at a caramel cage. It actually worked better than I imagined. I actually managed to produce a little cage that did not break when plating the mousse... Also, the little sugar web underneath the tuile adds a nice contrast to the white plate (although, when looking at the finished plate, I realized, that I could have achieved the same effect with a maple sirup design, ah well...). All in all I again enjoyed this challenge. Now go check out the amazing creations of the other Daring Bakers and vote for your favourite edible container on The Daring Kitchen.

March 27, 2011

Daring Bakers' March 2011 Challenge - Meringue Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

Details to the recipe can be found here. I pretty much stuck to their suggestions, because chocolate and nuts is a great combination - no need to change anything… Well, ok, I used hazelnuts instead of walnuts, left out the cinnamon and used fresh yeast instead of dried yeast. But for the rest of the recipe I followed their suggestions and I'm really glad that I did because the dough turned out beautiful - very soft, silky and smooth. The taste of the finished cake was great as well. The cake was firm, but still soft and moist from the meringue. It wasn't too sweet - which I liked - and the chocolate chips and hazelnuts added a nice contrast.

It's a great cake for Sunday brunch or afternoon coffee and it's not complicated to make. I'll definitely have to put it on my list to bake again!

February 28, 2011

Daring Bakers' February 2011 Challenge - Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen.  She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

All the information about the challenge can be found here.

I felt neither too creative nor too adventurous this month. Also, March 1 is the birthday of a close friend and his favourite dessert is the classical panna cotta, so I decided to stick with the basic recipe for vanilla panna cotta and raspberry gelée. I couldn't obtain powdered gelatin so I used sheet gelatin instead. Here's my recipe variation:

1st Layer of Panna Cotta

120ml of whole milk
360ml of whipping cream
20ml of honey
1 tbsp of sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean
4 sheets of gelatin

2nd Layer of Panna Cotta

120ml of whole milk
360ml of whipping cream
40ml of honey
1 tsp of sugar
1 vanilla bean
4 sheets of gelatin

I let the sheet gelatin soak in cold water while preparing the rest of the panna cotta. In a pan I combined the milk, cream, honey, sugar and salt. I added the seed from the vanilla bean and the empty vanilla bean and let everything simmer for 15min while whisking frequently. I removed the pan from the heat and added the gelatin after squeezing the water from it. Then I strained it to remove the vanilla beans and other vanilla bean particles and poured the panna cotta into prepared glasses. For the second layer I let the panna cotta cool to room temperature before layering it on top of the raspberry gelée.

Raspberry Gelée

250g of frozen raspberries
60ml of freshly squeezed orange juice
60g of brown sugar
2 sheets of gelatin

I let the gelatin soak in cold water. The raspberries, orange juice and sugar were puréed in a blender. Since the raspberries were not completely defrosted yet, I had to warm up the fruit purée in a pan to bring it to room temperature. I squeezed the gelatin and let it melt in a little pan before adding it to the raspberry purée and layering everything on top of the panna cotta.

I liked the end result. Although, for my taste, the panna cotta should have had a softer texture. While preparing the raspberry gelée, I had the impression, that I didn't use enough gelatin. It took a long time for the gelée to set and I was relieved that pouring a second layer of panna cotta onto the gelée was possible without any trouble. But when I sampled the end result I was delighted to find that the gelée almost turned into a purée again, therefore mixing all the better with the panna cotta.

For the Florentine Cookies I tried to stick to Mallory's suggested recipe but could not find dark corn syrup, so I used half honey, half molasses instead. Also, I reduced the sugar to 130g because some other Daring Bakers mentioned in the forums that they were quite sweet. I loved the chewy texture and the caramel flavour of the cookies. To coat them with chocolate, I poured a spoonful of chocolate on a parchment paper and pressed a cookie with the flat side down onto the chocolate. Unfortunately, the caramel flavour was a bit overpowered by the chocolate, but I still liked the cookies. 

Oh, and in case you are wondering about the decoration in the background of the picture: carnival season is about to start in Switzerland :-)