Sunday, February 27, 2011

Daring Bakers Feb 2011 - Mango Panna Cotta and Florentines

Blog Checking Lines: 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.

For this months challenge we had to make two things that were complete opposites. Soft, smooth and silky panna cotta with crispy, crunchy Florentines. While I have eaten panna cotta once before I had never even heard of Florentines. Whenever we have a challenge to make something I have not eaten before I feel a little lost as I have nothing to compare my results against. Though my cookies tasted good they did not spread out into thin discs. I guess I was supposed to flatten them with a spoon before putting them in the oven. I made only a quarter of the recipe and loved the cookies.
The panna cotta was very easy and straightforward to make. I replaced the honey and added mango pulp to make mango panna cotta and added a layer of mango jelly which I made using the pulp and gelatin. I reduced the recipe by a third because I didn't want to have so much of the creamy stuff to tempt me and still got 4 servings. I loved the taste of it but hubby was not a big fan. He wanted more of a mango punch and I ended up eating all four servings! (Over a few days mind you).

Ingredients - 1/3 of the Original Recipe with my changes in Red

1/3 Cup Whole Milk (80 ml)
1 Tsp (5 ml) Unflavored Powdered Gelatin
1 Cup (240 ml) Whipping Cream (30+% butterfat)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) Honey - I used 4 Tbsp Mango Pulp
1 Tsp (5 ml) Granulated Sugar - I used 2 Tsp
Pinch of Salt

1. Pour the milk into a bowl or pot and sprinkle gelatin evenly and thinly over the milk (make sure the bowl/pot is cold by placing the bowl/pot in the refrigerator for a few minutes before you start making the Panna Cotta). Let stand for 5 minutes to soften the gelatin.
2. Pour the milk into the saucepan/pot and place over medium heat on the stove. Heat this mixture until it is hot, but not boiling, about five minutes. (I whisk it a few times at this stage).
3. Next, add the cream, honey (I added the mango pulp after the sugar), sugar, and pinch of salt. Making sure the mixture doesn't boil, continue to heat and stir occasionally until the sugar and honey have dissolved 5-7 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, allow it to sit for a few minutes to cool slightly. Then pour into the glass or ramekin.
5. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight. Add garnishes and serve.

Nestle Florentine Cookies

2/3 Cup (160 ml) (150 gm) (5.3 oz) Unsalted Butter
2 Cups (480 ml) (160 gm) (5 2/3 oz) Quick Oats

1 Cup Granulated Sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (95 gm) (3⅓ oz) All Purpose Flour (Maida)
1/4 cup (60 ml) Dark Corn Syrup - I used Lyle's Golden Syrup
1/4 Cup (60 ml) Whole Milk
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
Pinch of Salt
1½ Cups (360 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) Dark or Milk Chocolate - Prefer Semi Sweet as the cookies are quite sweet

1. Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F (190°C) (gas mark 5). Prepare your baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.
2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan, then remove from the heat.
3. To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches (75 mm) apart, onto your prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula. (Flatten well as mine didn't spread on their own)
4. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.
5. While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave (1 1/2 minutes), or stovetop (in a double boiler, or a bowl that fits atop a saucepan filled with a bit of water, being sure the water doesn't touch the bottom of the bowl).
6. Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and place face down on a wire rack set over a sheet of wax/parchment paper (to keep counters clean).
7. Spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate.

Happy Eating!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Neapolitan Layer Cake

This Feb 14th Latif and I completed three blissful years of marriage and to celebrate the day I wanted to try a new cake recipe and also try my hand at decorating. I had seen two beautiful cakes on I Am Baker and Annie's Eats and this is what I came up with. Not bad for a first try huh? Actually the frosting work on the sides was awful but it tasted great and that's all that matters right? That's what I keep saying to myself!

The various recipes are very easy to prepare and can be done one by one without too much hassle. It basically consists of three cakes of different flavours (vanilla, Chocolate and strawberry) which are torted and assembled to make one big 6 layer cake. The layers are kept together with jam and frosted with buttercream. Since I am not a big fan of the stuff I frosted mine with whipped cream. I tried my hand at making stabilized whipped cream and loved the strawberry whipped cream a lot. It was so good that I could have eaten it by the spoonful. The only thing I would change next time would be to add a little bit of whipped cream mixed with the strawberry jam between each layer to keep them moist as I thought my layers were a little hard (this was also because this cake had to be kept in the fridge at all times due to the whipped cream frosting.)
The strawberry cake tasted really good and is a big keeper. The chocolate cake recipe is from Ina Garten and is also one of my favourite recipes.

Recipe Source - Annie's Eats and Sweetapolita


For The Chocolate Cake
3/4 Cup plus 2 tbsp. All-purpose flour
6 Tbsp Dark Cocoa Powder
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup Vegetable Or Canola Oil
1 Large Egg
1/2 Cup Black Coffee
1/2 Cup Buttermilk
1 1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract

For The White Cake
2 Large Egg Whites
1 3/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1 1/2 Tsp Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Cup Sugar
8 Tbsp Unsalted Butter (Room Temperature)
3/4 Cup Very Cold Water
1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 Tsp Almond Extract

For The Strawberry Cake
1 1/4 Cups Plus 2 Tbsp All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 Tsp Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp Salt
1 Cup Sugar
1 1/2 oz. (42.4 Gms) Strawberry Gelatin (Strawberry Jelly/Jell-O)
8 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, At Room Temperature
2 Large Eggs
1/2 Cup Milk
11/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1/4 Cup Sweetened Strawberry Puree*

For The Filling
Whipped Cream mixed with Strawberry Jam or plain strawberry jam.

For The Whipped Cream and Strawberry Whipped Cream Frosting
2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream (Divided)
1 Tbsp Powdered Sugar
1 Tsp Unflavored Gelatin
1 Tbsp Strawberry Gelatin
2 Tbsp Cold Water

*To make the strawberry puree, process partially thawed frozen strawberries with a bit of sugar in a blender or food processor until smooth. If using sweetened frozen strawberries, no additional sugar is necessary.

Make The Chocolate Cake
1. Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees C (350 degrees F) Butter and flour the edges of a 9-inch round pan, shaking out the excess flour. Line the bottom with a round of parchment.
2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt; whisk to blend and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar, vegetable oil and egg. Beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1-2 minutes.
4.With the mixer on low speed, blend in half of the dry ingredients, beating just until incorporated.
5. Blend in the coffee, buttermilk and vanilla just until smooth. Beat in the remaining dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.
6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, then turn the cake out onto the rack and let cool completely.

Make The White Cake
1. Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees C (350 degrees F) Butter and flour the edges of a 9-inch round pan, shaking out the excess flour. Line the bottom with a round of parchment.
2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; whisk to blend and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Increase speed to medium high and continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Transfer the egg whites to another bowl and set aside.
4. In the bowl of the electric mixer now fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar and butter, and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.
5. With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Blend in the water, vanilla and almond extracts. Beat in the remaining dry ingredients just until incorporated.
6. With a silicone spatula, stir in about a quarter of the egg whites to lighten the batter. Gently fold in the remaining egg whites, until the batter is smooth and no streaks remain.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, then turn the cake out onto the rack and let cool completely.

Make The Strawberry Cake
1. Pre-heat the oven to 175 degrees C (350 degrees F) Butter and flour the edges of a 9-inch round pan, shaking out the excess flour. Line the bottom with a round of parchment.
2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; whisk to blend and set aside.
3. Combine the sugar, strawberry gelatin and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
4. Beat the eggs into the sugar mixture one at a time, mixing well after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until incorporated. Blend in the milk and vanilla extract. Add in the remaining dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated. Blend in the strawberry puree.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges, then turn the cake out onto the rack and let cool completely.

Assemble The Cake
Torte each of the cake layers horizontally into two thin halves. Place one of the chocolate layers on a cake board or cake platter. Top with a very thin layer of the whipped cream or strawberry jam. Place a layer of the strawberry cake on top. Again, cover with a thin layer of cream or strawberry jam. Top with a layer of the white cake. Cover with a thin layer of the cream or strawberry jam. Repeat the process with the remaining layers of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla cake. Frost the top and sides of the cake with the whipped cream (see below). Decorate with the strawberry whipped cream (see below).

Make The Whipped Cream and Strawberry Whipped Cream

Whipped Cream - Thoroughly chill the bowl of your electric mixer, the beaters and the cream. Place one cup of the heavy cream in the bowl of your stand mixer (or any steel bowl - make sure it is chilled). Whip the cream till it is thickened. Add the powdered sugar and whip till soft peaks form. Crumb coat the sides and top of cake. Place in fridge for 15 minutes. Remove and frost completely with remaining whipped cream.

Strawberry Whipped Cream - Pour the cold water in a small saucepan and sprinkle both the gelatins  over it. Keep for five minutes till the gelatin softens. Heat the pan over low heat till the gelatin is melted (do not bring to boil.) Keep aside to cool.
Whip the remaining 1 cup cream till soft peaks form. Add the cooled gelatin (make sure its not set) and whip till stiff peaks are formed. Transfer to pastry bag fitted with a 1 M tip. Pipe roses all over the top and sides. (See I Am Baker for the tutorial)

Happy Eating!!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

I cannot call this cake by it's real name because there is no sour cream in it. Well, the original cake does have it but I was out of sour cream (not that I ever have it in my fridge) and I didn't want to buy a tub for this. Instead  I used plain old yogurt and still got excellent results if I may say so myself. I made this cake to take to work and it was gone in 10 minutes flat! It is a very easy cake to make and definitely a crowd pleaser. I made mine in a 9X13 Inch dish as I didn't have a tube pan and this baked in 45 minutes. Many reviewers had recommended doubling the streusel recipe and that's what I did. I have used the same streusel recipe before in my banana cake and always love it. This is one of my favorite cakes and I will be making this again and again!

Recipe Source - Barefoot Contessa Via Brown Eyed Baker

Ingredients - My changes in red

12 Tablespoons (11/2 Sticks) Unsalted Butter At Room Temperature
11/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
3 Extra-Large Eggs At Room Temperature - I used 4 large Eggs
11/2 Teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
1¼ Cups Sour Cream - I used equal amount full cream yogurt
21/2 Cups Cake Flour (Not Self-Rising)
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
For The Streusel: I doubled the quantities below
1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar, Packed
1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
11/2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Tsp Salt
3 Tbsp Cold Unsalted Butter, Cut Into Pieces
3/4 Cup Chopped Walnuts, Optional

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan. I used a 9X13 inch pan
2. Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs 1 at a time, and then add the vanilla and sour cream.
3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.
4. For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, and butter in a bowl and pinch together with your fingers until it forms a crumble. Mix in the walnuts, if desired.
5. Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel. Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.
6. Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate.
Happy Eating!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Celebrating a 100th Post with Marshmallow Fondant!

My 100th post! Can you believe it? It's already been a year since I started blogging and now I have reached the century mark. I started this blog on a whim, on a lazy day. I am an avid blog reader and seeing so much good food everyday I was itching to share what I made with someone other than my hubby and sisters. So, I googled "how to start a blog" and voila! There I was with my spanky new blog with nothing to write. I thought a lot about what to write as my first post and finally wrote whatever flew from the top of my head. A 100 posts later I am so glad I did this.

Compare my pixie looking Ben 10 with the original below. LOL!

To celebrate my 100th post I decided to tackle something completely new to me. Fondant! I have never eaten fondant in my life and from what I have heard, the stuff tastes awful. But, they say, Marshmallow Fondant is something completely different and nice. Of course it doesn't have the same properties as regular fondant, but as long as I am able to cover cakes and decorate I am happy. There are a lot (and I mean a lot!) of tutorials out there for this and I have listed some of them below. Please check out Peggy Weavers page as there is a lot of detailed info and pictures on the subject and this helped me a lot. I made a Ben 10 cake for my nephew's birthday and I am happy with the results even though there were a lot of mistakes. I know the cake looks very amateurish but this was my first attempt and I was not sure what would be the end result. I just wish I had those Americolor food markers with thin tips. I ordered mine from ebay (Wilton) as we don't get them in Dubai and the tips are quite fat. I made this in my cousins kitchen and didn't have access to all my stuff so I had to improvise on a few things (the hair is colored brown with cocoa powder).
BTW I hate marshmallows. They have this weird texture and feel slimey in my mouth. But this fondant tastes nice and not sticky!

Recipe Source - Adapted from Peggy Weaver's Baking Corner

Ingredients - Makes enough to cover and decorate a 9X13 inch cake

250 Gms Mini Marshmallows (Use a good quality brand)
1 Tbsp Water
450 Gms Icing Sugar
1/2 Tsp Clear Vanilla Essence
1/2 Cup Shortening

1. Grease a large microwave-safe bowl, the bowl of the stand mixer, a spoon, and the dough hook generously with the shortening. Place the shortening in a bowl on the counter so that it is easily accessible.
2. Put the marshmallows and water in the greased microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 60 seconds. Remove and stir with the greased spoon. Microwave again for 30 seconds till all of them are fully melted.
Add the vanilla essence to the bowl. If you want only one coloured fondant you can add the food colour at this stage.
3. Keep aside about 1 cup of the icing sugar and add the rest to the bowl of the stand mixer, along with the salt. Create a well in the center. Pour the melted marshmallow into the well and turn the mixer on to the lowest setting. When the mixer sounds strained, turn the speed up one setting. Turn off the mixer once all the sugar has been incorporated. If the fondant is sticky, add the reserved sugar 1/4 cup at a time until it is no longer sticky.
4. Grease the counter and your hands with shortening. Pour out the contents of the mixer bowl and knead till the fondant becomes a smooth dough adding more sugar if needed.
Grease the outside of the fondant ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Place in a Ziploc bag and let it rest overnight.

To Use Fondant
When ready to use, microwave for 10 - 20 seconds to soften and divide in portions as desired. Colour as needed and keep the unused fondant covered in plastic wrap. 
Generously sprinkle cornflour on counter and roll out dough to 1/8th of an inch. Make cut outs or cover cake fully, just have fun with it!

Useful links

Happy Eating!