Friday, 27 March 2009

Daring Bakers: Lasagna!


The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

We got to make our own spinach pasta (a first for me!) choose a tomato sauce (as i am veggie and the posted recipe seemed to have about 6 kinds of meat in it (slight exageration)

So first the pasta- I ended up using quite a few eggs as the measurements were tricky - in total about 4 bantam eggs, then i ended up adding more flour as well as things weren't coming together correctly. I made all my dough in the kenwood chef, as yes, I'm a bit lazy and that's what the machine is for!

Rolling out it seemed very hard to get to translucent, and I'm pleased with the final product, (not sure if it was too thick or not)

In any case I was very inventive in my pasta drying rack as you can see in the pics below!

Trying to show the translucence here. Ok yeah making your own pasta and sauce and bechmel isin't alot of work if you are only making one that day, but all three and it truly is daring!

I had to make some extra bechemel sauce as mine didn't last to make a nice topping but other than that the recipes were pretty easy to follow.

For my ragu, I made a modified version of this (for what I had on hand)

puy lentil and mushroom ragu (serves 8-10)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
300g chestnut mushrooms, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
250g puy lentils - I just dropped in the last~100g of green lentils I had
150ml red wine
1 tablespoon tomato puree
800g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 litre vegetable stock (i make mine with marigold bouillon powder)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
salt & pepper
2 tablespoons chopped basil
heat the olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the carrot and onion until they begin to soften. add the mushrooms and garlic, cooking until the mushrooms are cooked through and starting to release their liquid.
add the puy lentils, red wine and tomato puree. stir well and let it simmer for a few minutes. add the tinned tomatoes, stock and herbs and simmer for 25-35 minutes, until the lentils are cooked and your ragu is nice and thick (you may need to add extra stock/ boil away any excess depending how long it takes the lentils to soften). season to taste and add the fresh basil.

This was delicious and really made for a special dinner (and lunch and dinner and lunch) for the two of us! I relaly reccommend trying it out yourself!

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Thursday, 26 March 2009

Assembly of the Cake!

The Wedding Cake!!(Trial run)

Ah.. its a sigh of relief I have now that I have finished the trial wedding cake. I got loads of compliments and I've decided that yes I will make my own. I will have my mother and at least one bridesmaid (who are equally competent as me in the kitchen) to help and a solid 4 days before the friday night rehearsal to get things done. Here are my pics and comments on the process. I baked the final tier on thursday night and made the fillings and assembled the cake during the day friday to take to my orchestra rehearsal friday night.

First things I took the cakes out of the freezer the night before, leaving them in their plastic wrap to come to room temperature.

Here you can see the freshly baked (night before) pumpkin chocolate chip top tier layers (which I didn't have room to freeze)

I also made all the chocolate faux bois planks the night before. My wood grain came out much better this time and I also reversed the colors to make one white chocolate cover for the vanilla/middle tier.

I had a bit of a problem with some of the largest 12" planks being a bit warped and cracking, but otherwise it was pretty simple!-- next time I will have to make some extra to replace any breakages.

I started out filling and icing the bottom tier (chocolate with praline) I didn't really have enough icing, only making a 1/2 recipe (6 cups), so next time I will make the full recipe so I have enough to do a crumb and then final coat.

I just barely managed to squeeze this 12" tier into my little British fridge!

Next up I needed to make the frosting for the top tier. I decided on a cream cheese frosting to go with the pumpkin. Unfortunately the recipe I choose from the sky high cakes book just did not perform. I had to stick it in the freezer to get a consistency unlike cake batter! It started out well with a separate mixture of butter, cream cheese and icing sugar.

This was then added to a very similar egg white, sugar syrup akin to the Italian Meringue in the Silk Praline buttercream.

Unfortunately the end result looked like cake batter and did not hold up at all! Here it is in the fridge, look how thin it is covering this cake (and its not because I ran out of frosting!) this was another time I was happy that all the outside of the cake will be covered with chocolate faux bois so not really an issue.-- Anyone have a good stiff cream cheese frosting recipe for me?

I next moved on to the final filling, white chocolate ganche for the middle tier of vanilla butter cake. Look at all the white chocolate here its about 1400g!

The ganache was simple to make and my biggest mistake was being impatient in waiting for the ganache to set up, so the filling is not quite as thick as I'd like it (oh yeah there is also some raspberry jam between the layers!

Here is the middle tier covered with white ganache, in its box with the above tier supports (straws) to take the top pumpkin layer cake tier.-- mental note to get cake boxes that are slightly bigger than the cake, so the sides don't touch/mess up the frosting!

Here's another view of the final cake assembled. I served it to my 60 person orchestra (I'm going for 80 guests) and cut extremely large slices. I had tons left so I'm thinking to perhaps scale back the size of the layers. (12-9 and 6?)

I also realized that its good to have a bit more straw poking above the surface of the cake, as most of the top of the bottom tier was stuck to the board below! (didn't happen on the middle tier though..)

And finally I wasn't happy with the size of the planks, true if I had been in a kitchen, or had more time to check I could of taken a hot knife or something to cut them to the size of the cake!

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Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Project Wedding Cake: Silk Merangue Praline buttercream (for tier 1)

Silk Meringue Praline Buttercream - From the Cake Bible, Rose Levy Beranbaum (Makes 13 cups)

This delicious buttercream is so light and at the same time rich that it pairs brilliantly with chocolate butter cake. As with most things that taste unbeliveably good its complex to make with a first step for creme anglaise (custard), then italian merangue

So for the creme anglaise you need:

3/4 c sugar

15 egg yolks

3 large vanilla pods (split lengthwise)

12 fluid ounces of milk

In a medium saucepan compine the sugar, yoks and vanilla pod. In a small sauce pan bring the milk to boilingn point. Add 2 1/2 fluid ounces to the yolk mixture, stirring constantly. Gradually add the remaining milk, stirring and cook over med low heat stirring constantly until just before boiling point. The temp will be 170F and with steam slightly. Do not go past this or you will get disgusting scrambled eggs and not custard (I did this the first time!) Immediately pour this
mixture into seive over a bowl scraping any clinging to the pan. Put in the fridge to cool while you start the Italian Merangue.

Italian Meringue:

1 cup + 5 T sugar

2.5 fluid ounces water

6 eggwhites

3/4 tsp cream of tartar

In a mixing bowl beat the egg whites in a bowl until foamy, then add the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the 5 T sugar until stiff peaks form.

In a small heavy saucepan stir together 1 cup sugar and water. Heat stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling. Boil until the temperture is 248 to 250F. With the mixer on high speed, beat the syrup into the whites in a steady stream. Do not allow the syrup to fall on the beaters of it will spin on to the sides of the bowl. Beat at low speed until cool.

To assemble the butter cream you need 6 cups/ 1360g unsalted butter and 1.5 cups of praline paste (I ordered mine online from a chocolate supply shop)

Place the buttter in a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed for 30 seconds. Gradually beat in the creame anglasi and praline paste until smooth (add vanilla extract now if using instead of pods)

Add the Italian meringue in four batches, beating breifly until just incorportated. If the mixture looks curdeld instead of silken smooth it is too cold.

This can be kept up to a week refrigerator (allow to come to room temperture-- i left mine out overnight) before rebeating. Keeps 6 hours at room temp.

Velvety smooth and ohhhh sooo yummy!

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Tuesday, 17 March 2009

TWD:French Yogurt Cake with Marmelade Glaze

I just barely made this weeks TWD in time (for my yogurt that is) seems the stuff was ready to go off! I'm knee deep in cake making for my trial wedding cake at the moment, but as this seemed so nice and my fiance has been looking very hurt at all the baking and no cake for him to eat ;) I decide to give this a go!.
It was a cinch to make, but I was worried about the darkness of the top. Well despite its color it was not crisp or burned tasting. I found my cooking time was almost an additional 15 minutes the max recommended
I had no trouble finding some lemon marmelade to use for the glaze and it was delicious! I also increased the lemon in the batter with a good tsp of lemon extract in addition to the zest.

Be sure to check out the rest of the TWD blogroll to see how everyone else got on with their cakes!
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Monday, 16 March 2009

Wedding Cake: tier 1 and 2

Project Wedding Cake: It starts!

If you have read my blog before you'll know I somewhat foolishly? decided to bake my own wedding cake. I'm doing a full trial run before committing to do this for the wedding and decided that the only place I could possibly offload that much cake would be my next orchestra dress rehearsal (how's that for a Friday night surprise!). This deadline sort of snuck up on me and last Friday I realized I needed to get busy baking.

I've decided on 3 tiers and the largest 12" will be chocolate ,then 10" vanilla then 8" pumpkin chocolate chip.

I started with the chocolate. I've never made a 12" cake. I learned alot the hard way such as:

  • dividing the recipe into at least 2 batches for my mixer

  • making and using my own homemade cake/magic strips really makes a difference

  • the idea of a transformer, bake multiple sizes from one pan is a good, one but batter does tend to leak through (see vanilla cake pic) -- and no magic strips around that configuration unless I chop them to fit especially

  • make sure you have something larger than 12" (preferably two somethings) to help turn out the cakes!

  • substituting cake flour for AP less 2 TBs plus 2 TBS cornflower seems to work fine

  • a carrier bag makes a great disposable mixer bowl cover for those tricky moments when you first add liquid and they want to slosh all out of the bowl and onto the window, the egg rack etc etc

Here are the remnants of the first layer of the first tier of chocolate cake.. i tried to invert it from its pan and hold together two (too small) cooling racks... they of course split and chopped the cake as I inverted.. leaving crumbs.. BOO!

An action shot of me mixing up the vanilla cake batter

Below you see my pan with my 'homemade' magic strips..

A final parting shot.. one of these cakes was not baked with magic strips.. wonder which it could be?!

I've now got to wait to make the last tier as there isin't anymore room in my freezer! I've already make the most complicated frosting on Sunday so that just leaves the top tier, cream cheese frosting, white ganache and all the chocolate plank coverings!

Oh yeah and figuring out how to transport it and set it up..(at the moment I thinking I can fill and ice each tier and put into separate cake boxes.. have the planks ready and maybe make a little bit of chocolate ganache adhesive to stick on!

I also thought perhaps I could mark out (using outlines of pans) where each tier should go on the one below it and pre-drill/place my straws to support
All suggestions and tips welcome!

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Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Armagnac Cake

Chocolate Amagnac Cake.. aka the cake that got Dori Fired!

I almost didn't make this weeks recipe as we are not really fans of alcohol-ly desserts (and a bottle of Armagnac was £15!), but with some friends leaving town and donating their cooking Brandy to the cause I gave it a try. I mean this cake got someone fired so it must be a wicked little piece of cake.

I've never flambe anything before either, so being the pyro that I am I was psyched to get to light things on fire in the house!

I tried to get some pics of the flaming prunes, but alas you can just see some wierd red halo on the pic below. I was really suprised just how long these flamed for!

The cake baked up just perfect for the minimum stated time. I've had quite a few baking flops recently so it was nice that this one came out so pretty! (no sinking or undercooked middle!)

I must of taken the chocolate glaze off the heat too soon, as mine was always a frosting consistency. But it was damn tasty and it almost looks as pretty as the one in the book!

This was a very sophisticated chocolate cake. Very moist with a complex flavor (should be for using so many mixing bowls!). If I made it again the only change I'd make to the recipe is to sift the confectioners sugar before adding as it gave some tiny lumps!

YUM! Be sure to check out the rest of the TWD bloggers efforts!

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