Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dorie's Perfect Party Cake

It's that time of the month again! Time to showoff, uh I mean reveal, the Daring Baker's challenge. I must admit, I was giddy when I found out what this months challenge was. With last months savory French Bread challenge I was really hoping for something sweet. I also was really excited to make a cake. This challenge was also a little different in that our host, Morven, left a lot of room for personalization. I choose to stick with the recipe as written, but I could have changed anything from the filling flavor to cake flavor.

Another great thing about this months challenge is that my sister was in town. It was so much fun being able to share this challenge with her. She helped me out by zesting the lemons and starting the meringue for the buttercream. It was a fun day in the kitchen for us. Surprisingly it actually went off with out a hitch. Some DBer's had trouble with their cakes not rising. I didn't have this issue. I checked the cakes at 30 minutes and my toothpick came out clean and the cakes were springy so I took them out. I was also so impressed with how easily the buttercream came together. I'm not sure why I was expecting it to be so challenging. The recipe mentions a point where it looks like it is falling apart, and I definitely reached that point but with in seconds it came back together.

I think when I make this cake again I will try using a whipped cream icing. I liked the butter cream but, for me, it was almost a little heavy for the light delicate cake. If you'd like to see what the other DBer's have been up to check out the blogroll here. Thanks again to Morven for a WONDERFUL challenge!

Dorie's Perfect Party Cake
(Source: Baking: From My Home to Your's, Dorie Greenspan)

For the Cake

2 1/4 cups cake flour (updated 25 March)
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)
4 large egg whites
1 ½ cups sugar
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 stick (8 tablespoons or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For Finishing
2/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 ½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready
Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9 x 2 inch round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.
Put the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.
Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.
Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.
Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.
Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients.
Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.
Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean
Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.
Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream
Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.
The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.
Remove the bowl from the heat.
Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.
Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a stick at a time, beating until smooth.
Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes.
During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.
On medium speed, gradually beat in the lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.
You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake
Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.
Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper.
Spread it with one third of the preserves.
Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.
Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).
Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top.
Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Playing Around
Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Cake
If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

**Recipe Tip - To get nice clean cut layers this is what I did; First I scored the cake halfway up all the way around. Then I took a nice clean piece of fishing wire and set it in the score. Then I just pulled it across. It works wonders.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mmm, mmm, Marsala

This post has moved to the Sunny Side :) Click the link for the recipe, I promise it's worth it!

Ultra Crunchy Pork Chops

This post has moved to the Sunny Side :) Click the link for the recipe, I promise it's worth it!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Blondies

Believe it or not but I actually had NO plans for today. It is so rare that I actually have a Sunday free from any obligations that I almost (notice I say *almost*) get bored. To keep myself occupied I decided to bake. Deciding to bake is the easy part, deciding what to bake is tricky. I didn't want to make a complete mess out of my kitchen and I didn't have a lot of time to let something rise. I'm also limited by the fact that I don't really enjoy cooked fruit. You may have noticed a complete lack of any fruit pies, cobblers, filling etc. on my blog. It's something that I am working on, but I the thought of apple pie makes me gag. Sorry, maybe that was TMI. Anyway, Jesse requested that I make something with the Reese cups that we bought earlier today and I immediately thought of blondies. Lucky for me I was blog surfing and I came accross the perfect recipe!

The recipe came together pretty quickly, I was a little concerned because the dough seemed really dry and crumbly so I added just a bit more milk. But in the end it came out just fine. Rich and peanut-buttery. Just like I like my dessert.

Chocolate And Peanut Butter Filled Peanut Butter Blondies
(Source: Cooking In an Apron; Adapted from The Savory Notebook)

3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margaine, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
8-oz. pkg REESE'S Milk Chocolate Baking Pieces Filled with Peanut Butter Creme (or substitute 3/4 cup chocolate chips & 1/2 peanut butter chips)

Heat oven to 350*F.

Grease 8- or 9-inch baking pan.

Beat peanut butter, butter, and sugars in a large bowl until well blended. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; add to peanut butter mixture, beating until well blended. Mix in chocolate chips. Spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars.

About 16 bars.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Boulanger Adventurier : Pain Francais

Did my fancy French impress you? Good! ;) So it's that time of the month again, time to reveal the Daring Bakers challenge. This months challenge : French Bread. This months hosts were Mary and Sara. Thank you so much to both of them for a wonderful challenge! I'm not sure that I on my own I would have tackled this.

My first step in this process was to thouroughly read the recipe. To do this I printed it off, all 14 pages. That's not a typo, it is really 14 pages. I tried not to let the size of the recipe intimidate me (but it did). Then I started reading it. I have to say that I am a very visual person, I do much better when I can see and feel the way things are supposed to work. So the first 3 times I read the recipe I felt like all I read was the word "bread". Over and over again. And I thought, surely, there is more to this recipe than just bread. I decided that for the best first step would be to choose the shape of my bread. So I googled it. I found this wonderful little site with great pictures and suddenly the recipe seemed a little less intimidating. I decided that I would make one batard, 2 small boules and an Epi.

Ok, so I have a shape now what do I do?? Back to google. Then I saw the light. A video of Julia Child making the bread! Perfect! After watching the video 2 or 3 times I felt confident that I could do it. So for any one that is interested in attempting this recipe, you must watch this video!

So the adventure began around 11:30 on a Saturday morning. The ingredients came together pretty quickly and the first rise began. I followed the recommendation of the recipe and let it rise in my oven (which was off) with the light on. I was tickled pink when I opened the oven door a few hours later and my dough had tripled in size. The deflating and second rise also went well.

I did notice that after the "cutting and resting" my dough seemed to have formed a slight crust. It made the shaping a little tricky, but a mist of water and working it with my hands loosened it up. Very carefully I placed the shaped dough on my cloth and put it in the off oven for it's final rise. I admit that I think I stopped this final rise a little early. I think my loaves could have gotten just a touch bigger. But they were still fine.

Then came what it now my favorite part, the flipping of the dough from the cloth! I was so nervous about this part! I don't know why, it just didn't click in my head. But I watched Julia's video one extra time before tackling it and it worked! Flip, slash, slide. Once again I was tickled pink. I can't believe it but the part that turned out to be the hardest for me was the slashing. :( I think my dough formed too much of a crust so I couldn't get a nice deep slash. I even tried a razor blade. When I first cut my Epi loaf I didn't cut deep enough so it turned out kind of.....rough.

My final result was a little pale. I think it was because at first I used a brush to brush on the water, then I just used my spray bottle and misted the loaves for the last few times. I think they needed more water to brown properly. So next time I will skip the spray bottle and stick with the brush.

I am still so proud of myself for having completed this challenge. I think I did a pretty good job and I will definitely try making French bread again!

If you would like the recipe (all 14 pages) check out Breadchick's (Mary's) blog.