Thursday, 27 August 2009

A Daring Challenge

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful
of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos
Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite
Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

If you spend as much time as I do searching the Internet for ideas and recipes for lovely things to bake, you have no doubt come across some mention of the Daring Bakers. At first these posts and mentions only slightly tickled my curiosity, but I never thought to look into it any further. Then a few months back my sister introduced me to the amazing blogs of Tartlette and Canelle et Vanille. These two awe-inspiring bloggers both posted monthly about their Daring Bakers challenges and this got me even more intrigued, pushed me to look into it a bit more. However, the final push for me was when my sister told me that she had signed up to be a Daring Baker, and I knew that I had to do the same. There's nothing quite like a bit of healthy competition, right?

So, after filling in the required form and waiting (im)patiently for the website to update with the months challenge, I was finally a daring Baker too:) These bakers definitely mean it when they refer to themselves as daring, this challenge was not for the faint hearted. It was to be a six layered Dobos Torte, complete with an egg based butter cream and a caramel top. I have to admit that I was slightly disheartened at first when I saw that I will have to use melted chocolate for this creation (as mentioned before, I try and avoid this when not at work), but then decided to embrace all of the new things that I will try my hand at when making this cake.

Luckily for me it was my brother-in-law's 30th birthday this month and my husband's entire family were visiting us for a few weeks. This meant that I had the perfect occasion to bake this wow-factor cake for and that none of my hard work will go to waste. Knowing that this was not going to be a quick and easy job, I set aside the entire day for this project and got to work early in the morning. I started by making the six sponge cake layers, each one carefully spread into the circle drawn onto baking parchment and given a quick blast in the hot oven. While these golden discs were cooling all over the kitchen, I got started on the butter cream. I have never liked the idea of using whole eggs in icings, as I don't consider the eggs to be cooked enough for my taste. However, this was after all about trying new things and pushing my boundaries and in the end I was very pleased that I did not stray from the recipe, as I was rewarded with a luxuriously rich and velvety smooth butter cream.

The last and possibly most intimidating step was making the caramel layer. I have not worked with sugar that much before and the few times I did venture into this area I have always ended up with a bit of a disaster. Determined not to fail on what was undoubtedly the crowning glory of this cake, I googled my way through to a couple of informative websites on the matter. My worries and doubts were soon forgotten as the sweet, lemony scent wafted up from the liquid amber in the saucepan and I managed to pull of an almost perfect caramel on my first try. I strayed slightly from the recipe here and cut this layer into seven pieces instead of the recommended twelve, as I thought the latter was slightly too skimpy on size.

After a full day of baking, mixing and creating, I finally assembled the cake, sprinkled on the slivers of almonds and carefully placed the caramel pieces on-top. This truly is a spectacular cake and after a rather precarious car journey across London with the it balanced on my lap, it definitely was the star of the birthday dinner.

I probably won't be baking this cake again in a hurry as it is both costly and time consuming, but it was worth the effort as I can now truly say that I too am a Daring Baker :)

Monday, 24 August 2009

A nutty choice

Once in a while, my husband Paul will find one of my recently perused Foodie magazines lying around the house, and will take it upon himself to find the most unusual recipe in it and then set me the task of creating the dish. This month was no different, and when I saw him walking towards me with the new WFI in his hands, I steeled myself for what was coming. For a few seconds I thought that I would have it easy this time round as he pointed out an ice-cream recipe, but he did not disappoint when I realised that this is no ordinary ice-cream flavour. In fact even the author of the recipe admitted that when she serves this to her guests, she does not immediately reveal the main ingredient to the unsuspecting diners. Instead she lets them have a guess at what it might be while they enjoy the ice-cream without any prejudice. So what is this mystery ingredient, I hear you ask? Well, believe it or not, Paul's choice was, a Nutty Brown Bread ice-cream.

Amazingly, this is not a new idea, and dates as far back as the Victorian period. Obviously back then it was no more than frozen cream with stale bread crumbs stirred through. For us in the 21st century, things are a bit more complicated and thankfully a lot more appetising. Using malted brown bread, hazelnuts and light muscovado sugar to create a golden, crunchy, almost caramelised mixture to stir through the rich, vanilla flecked custard base, you will not turn your nose up at a couple of scoops of this ice-cream.

Having had a busy few weeks with my parents-in-law visiting and some big developments happening at work, I jumped at the chance to spend some quality time in my kitchen and eagerly set about making the ice-cream. Quickly the delicious smell of toasting bread and nuts were wafting through the flat and the eggy custard was thickening on the stove. As the finished mixture was left to cool before churning, I used the left over egg whites to whip up a batch of rose-water meringues to slowly dry-out in the cool oven and washed and sliced a couple of ripe peaches to lightly caramelise once the ice-cream was frozen and ready ro serve.

When Paul came home from work after another gloriously hot and sunny day, he happily tucked into a big bowl of the dessert, feeling rather pleased with himself for picking out such a wonderful recipe, sure to become a family favourite :)

If you want to try this amazing ice-cream for yourself, you can find the recipe here