Saturday, January 28, 2012

Daring Bakers January 2012 - Scones

This months Daring Bakers challenge was a simple yet tricky challenge. While the scones looked easy to make and had staple ingredients the technique was anything but easy. To get perfect flaky scones one has to knead the dough for the right time and with the right pressure. 

Due to time constraints I could make only one batch and they were quite good for a first timer. They were delicious hot out of the oven with some jam.   

Recipe Source: The challenge scone (biscuit) recipe has been especially formulated by Audax Artifex after a large amount of research and experimentation. It is designed to help you master the techniques involved in making scones (biscuits) exactly the way you like them.  
Blog-checking lines: Audax Artifex was our January 2012 Daring Bakers’ host. Audax worked tirelessly to master light and fluffy scones (a/k/a biscuits) to help us create delicious and perfect batches in our own kitchens!   


1 Cup (240 ml) (140 gm/5 oz) Plain (all-purpose) Flour 
2 Tsp (10 ml) (10 gm) (1/3 oz) Fresh Baking Powder 
1/4 Tsp (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) Salt 
2 Tbsp (30 gm/1 oz) Frozen Grated Butter (or a combination of lard and butter) 
Approximately 1/2 Cup (120 ml) Cold Milk
Optional 1 tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones
1. Preheat oven to very hot 475°F/240°C/gas mark 9. 
2. Triple sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. (If your room temperature is very hot refrigerate the sifted ingredients until cold.) 
3. Rub the frozen grated butter (or combination of fats) into the dry ingredients until it resembles very coarse bread crumbs with some pea-sized pieces if you want flaky scones or until it resembles coarse beach sand if you want tender scones. 
4. Add nearly all of the liquid at once into the rubbed-in flour/fat mixture and mix until it just forms a sticky dough (add the remaining liquid if needed). The wetter the dough the lighter the scones (biscuits) will be! 
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, lightly flour the top of the dough. To achieve an even homogeneous crumb to your scones knead very gently about 4 or 5 times (do not press too firmly) the dough until it is smooth. To achieve a layered effect in your scones knead very gently once (do not press too firmly) then fold and turn the kneaded dough about 3 or 4 times until the dough has formed a smooth texture. (Use a floured plastic scraper to help you knead and/or fold and turn the dough if you wish.) 
6. Pat or roll out the dough into a 6 inch by 4 inch rectangle by about ¾ inch thick (15¼ cm by 10 cm by 2 cm thick). Using a well-floured 2-inch (5 cm) scone cutter (biscuit cutter), stamp out without twisting six 2-inch (5 cm) rounds, gently reform the scraps into another ¾ inch (2 cm) layer and cut two more scones (these two scones will not raise as well as the others since the extra handling will slightly toughen the dough). Or use a well-floured sharp knife to form squares or wedges as you desire. 
7. Place the rounds just touching on a baking dish if you wish to have soft-sided scones or place the rounds spaced widely apart on the baking dish if you wish to have crisp-sided scones. Glaze the tops with milk if you want a golden colour on your scones or lightly flour if you want a more traditional look to your scones. 
8. Bake in the preheated very hot oven for about 10 minutes (check at 8 minutes since home ovens at these high temperatures are very unreliable) until the scones are well risen and are lightly coloured on the tops. The scones are ready when the sides are set. 
9. Immediately place onto cooling rack to stop the cooking process, serve while still warm.   

Happy Eating!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chewy, Fudgy Triple Chocolate Brownies

There is a great rift among people in the brownie world due to all the different types of brownies out there. Fudgy, Cakey, with nuts, without nuts, plain chocolate ones, peanut butter ones, cream cheese and on and on. Everyone has their own favorite recipe and when I started searching for a recipe that I would love I must have browsed a 100 different  ones with each blogger claiming that their version is the best. What is a girl to do in such a case? I just went with my instincts  and picked the Triple Chocolate Brownies from Annie's Eats and I sure picked a winner!

These are everything that I love in a brownie. I would describe my version as fudgy and chocolatey. (I have tried Ina's Outrageous Brownies before and they were too fudgy for me). These rose nicely in the pan even without any leaveners and had a great chocolate flavor. I did not use too much of unsweetened chocolate as I am not a fan of the flavor and made these with half dark and half milk chocolate. This ratio was perfect for me. I made half a pan with walnuts and half without and I loved both the versions. I can't wait to try this recipe with more mix ins in the future.

Recipe Source - Slightly Adapted from Baking Illustrated via Annie's Eats

Ingredients - Makes one 8X8 Pan of brownies.
100 Gms (approx 3.5 oz)  Dark Chocolate (70% Cocoa) (Chopped)
100 Gms (approx 3.5 oz) Milk Chocolate (Chopped)
8 Tbsp (113.4 Gms) Unsalted Butter (Cut into Quarters)
3 Tbsp Cocoa Powder
3 Large Eggs
1 1/4 Cups (8¾ oz.) Sugar
2 Tsp Vanilla Essence
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Cup (5 oz.) All Purpose Flour
1/4 Cup Chopped Toasted Walnuts (Optional)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 175° C (350° F) and line an 8 inch square baking dish (I used a 10X6 inch rectangle) with foil (Use extra foil so that it hangs out from two sides). Grease lightly and set aside.
2. Place the chocolate and butter in a microwave proof bowl and melt in the microwave in 15 second bursts, stirring after each time till completely melted and smooth. (You can also use the double boiler method on the stove). Add the cocoa powder and whisk till combined. Keep aside to cool
3. Mix together the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl for 15 seconds.
4. Pour in the warm melted chocolate mixture and mix.
5. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon until just combined. Add the walnuts if using.
6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread with a spatula to make an even layer. Place in the middle tray of your oven and bake until slightly risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, 35-40 minutes. 
7. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours.  
8. Pull the overhanging foil and remove the brownies from the pan. Transfer to a cutting board and cut as desired.  Store in an air-tight container.  

Happy Eating!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

German Chocolate Cake

This cake is not from Germany and has nothing to do with that country. Then why is it called so ? According to Joy of Baking "Richard Sax in Classic Home Desserts says this cake was being made in the 1920's and eventually became popular nationwide after a recipe appeared in a 1957 food column of a Dallas newspaper. While the name "German" Chocolate Cake seems to suggest a tie to Germany, the name refers to the type of chocolate used in the cake which, in turn, is named after the Walter Baker & Company employee, Samuel German, who developed the chocolate in 1852. German's® Sweet Chocolate is a semi sweet baking chocolate that has a mild flavor and is much sweeter than other semi sweet chocolates (it tastes like a candy bar). Baker's® sells this chocolate and it is sold on the baking isle of most grocery stores".

In Dubai I found the brand in a few supermarkets like Safest-way but it was way too expensive to justify its use in a single cake. That's where this recipe came in handy as it uses unsweetened chocolate and is very easy to make.

I must say that not everyone who ate this was a fan and that was because of the coconut in it. I am personally a coconut lover and I loved it, especially when heated a little so that the ganache is all warm and melty.

Recipe Source - David Lebovitz

Ingredients - Given as is from his website with my changes in red.

One big, tall 9-inch cake; about 16 servings

For The Cake
2 Ounces Bittersweet Or Semisweet Chocolate Chopped (I used Milk Chocolate)
2 Ounces Unsweetened Chocolate, Chopped
6 Tbsp Water
226 Grams (8 ounces/2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, At Room Temperature
1 1/4 Cup + 1/4 Cup Sugar
4 Large Eggs, Separated
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Cup Buttermilk, At Room Temperature
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
For The Filling
1 Cup Heavy Cream
1 Cup Sugar
3 Large Egg Yolks
85.05 Grams (3 Ounces) Butter, Cut Into Small Pieces
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 Cup Pecans, Toasted And Finely Chopped
1 1/3 Cups Unsweetened Coconut, Toasted
For The Syrup
1 Cup Water
3/4 Cup Sugar
2 Tbsp Dark Rum (I omitted this)
For The Chocolate Icing
8 Ounces Bittersweet Or Semisweet Chocolate, Chopped
2 Tablespoons Light Corn Syrup
42.5 Grams (1 1/2 Ounces) Unsalted Butter
1 Cup Heavy Cream

Bake The Cake
1. Butter two 9-inch cake pans, then line the bottoms with rounds of parchment or wax paper. Preheat the oven to 350°.
2. Melt both chocolates together with the 6 tablespoons of water. Use either a double-boiler or a microwave. Stir until smooth, then set aside until room temperature.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and 1 ¼ cup of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the melted chocolate, then the egg yolks, one at a time.
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
5. Mix in half of the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture, then the buttermilk and the vanilla extract, then the rest of the dry ingredients.
6. In a separate metal or glass bowl, beat the egg whites until they hold soft, droopy peaks. Beat in the ¼ cup of sugar until stiff.
7. Fold about one-third of the egg whites into the cake batter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining egg whites just until there’s no trace of egg white visible.
8. Divide the batter into the 2 prepared cake pans, smooth the tops, and bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool cake layers completely. While the cakes are baking and cooling, make the filling, syrup, and icing.

Make The Filling
1. Mix the cream, sugar, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan. Put the 3 ounces butter, salt, toasted coconut, and pecan pieces in a large bowl.
2. Heat the cream mixture and cook, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture begins to thicken and coats the spoon (an instant-read thermometer will read 170°.)
3. Pour the hot custard immediately into the pecan-coconut mixture and stir until the butter is melted. Cool completely to room temperature. (It will thicken.)

Make The Syrup
1. In a small saucepan, heat the sugar and water until the sugar has melted. Remove from heat and stir in the dark rum (If using)

Make The Icing
1. Place the 8 ounces of chopped chocolate in a bowl with the corn syrup and 1 ½ ounces of butter.
2. Heat the cream until it just begins to boil. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate. Let stand one minute, then stir until smooth. Let sit until room temperature.

Assemble The Cake
Remove the cake layers from the pans and cut both cake layers in half horizontally, using a serrated bread knife.
Set the first cake layer on a cake plate. Brush well with syrup. Spread ¾ cup of the coconut filling over the cake layer, making sure to reach to the edges. Set another cake layer on top.
Repeat, using the syrup to brush each cake layer, then spreading ¾ cup of the coconut filling over each layer, including the top.
Ice the sides with the chocolate icing, then pipe a decorative border of chocolate icing around the top, encircling the coconut topping.

Happy Eating!!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Boston Cream Pie

Is it a pie? Or is it a cake? Well, it is surely a cake and a fabulous one at that. I made my first ever Boston cream pie for Latifs birthday and it was absolutely delicious. The sponge was light and simple, the pastry cream was yummy and the ganache was rich and sinful.

So why is it called a pie then? A Boston Cream Pie is simply a vanilla sponge with pastry cream and chocolate ganache on top. It is said that when the cake was invented pie pans were used to bake cakes in and thus it was called a pie!

Since it was for the two of us, I made only half the recipe. But I highly recommend making the full thing as you will surely crave more (Or wait, I guess its safer to make just half of it...)

Recipe Source - Annie's Eats

Ingredients - Makes one 9 inch cake
For The Pastry Cream
2 Cups Single Cream/Half and half (I used 7/8 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon butter to make 1 Cup single cream)
1/2 Cup Sugar
Pinch Of Salt
5 Large Egg Yolks
3 Tbsp Cornflour (Cornstarch)
4 Tbsp Cold unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 ½ Tsp Vanilla Essence
For The Sponge Cake
1/2 Cup (2 oz.) Cake Flour
1/4 Cup (1.25 oz.) All-Purpose Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1/4 Tsp Salt
3 Tbsp Milk
2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
1/2 Tsp Vanilla Essence
5 Large Eggs, At Room Temperature
3/4 Cup (5.25 oz.) Sugar
For The Ganache
1 Cup Heavy Cream
1/4 Cup Light Corn Syrup
226 Grams (8 oz) Semisweet Chocolate, Finely Chopped
1/2 Tsp Vanilla Extract

Make The Pastry Cream
1. Heat the single cream, 6 tablespoons of the sugar, and the salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat until simmering, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.  
2. Combine the egg yolks and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until the sugar has begun to dissolve and the mixture is creamy, about 15 seconds.  Whisk in the cornflour until combined and the mixture is pale yellow and thick, about 30 seconds.
3. When the cream mixture has reached a simmer, slowly add it to the egg yolk mixture to temper, whisking constantly.  Return the mixture to the saucepan, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Return the mixture to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly, until a few bubbles burst on the surface and the mixture is thickened and glossy, about 30 seconds. 
4. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla.  Strain the pastry cream through a  fine mesh sieve set over a medium bowl.  Press plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and refrigerate until cold and set, at least 3 hours and up to 2 days.

Make The Cake
1. Grease and flour the sides of two 9 inch round pans and line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper. Preheat the oven to 175 ° C (350 ° F ).
2. Whisk together the cake flour, all purpose flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.
3. In a small saucepan, combine the milk and butter over medium low heat till the butter melts. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Keep aside.
4. Separate 3 eggs and place the whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and the yolks with the remaining 2 whole eggs in a separate bowl. Beat the whites until light and foamy on low. Increase the speed to medium and gradually add 6 Tbsp of sugar. Continue beating till the whites form soft moist peaks. Transfer the whites to a clean bowl and add the yolk and whole egg mixture to the stand mixer bowl. Beat with the remaining 6 Tbsp of sugar until thick and pale yellow in color (about 5 minutes).
5. Add the beaten eggs to the bowl with the egg whites.  Sprinkle the flour mixture over the beaten eggs and whites.  Fold in very gently with a spatula, about 12 strokes.  Make a well in one side of the batter and pour the milk-butter mixture into the well.  Continue folding until the batter shows no trace of flour and the eggs are evenly mixed.
6. Immediately divide the batter between the prepared cake pans.  Bake until the tops are light brown and spring back when touched, about 16 minutes.  Immediately run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cakes.  Place one pan on a towel and cover the pan with a plate.  Invert the pan so that the cake is upside down on the plate.  Peel off the wax paper and re invert the cake onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Repeat with the second cake layer.

Make The Ganache
1. Combine the heavy cream and corn syrup in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer.  Remove from the heat and add the chocolate; cover and let stand for 8 minutes.  (If the chocolate has not completely melted, return the saucepan to low heat and stir constantly until melted.) 
2. Stir in the vanilla extract very gently until smooth.  Cool the glaze until tepid so that a spoonful drizzled back into the pan mounds slightly.  (You can refrigerate the glaze to speed up this process, stirring every few minutes to ensure even cooling.)

Assemble The Cake
1. Place one layer of the sponge on a cake board (dab a smear of the glaze on the bottom so that it does not move). Place the cake board on a wire rack with a tray underneath to catch the excess ganache.
2. Spread the pastry cream evenly over the cake  (You can reserve a little for decoration).
3. Place the other layer on top and press gently.
4. Pour the glaze slowly over the entire cake making sure it flows down the sides and covers evenly. Let it stand for some time till the glaze harden (Place in fridge to speed up the process if needed). Serve at room temperature, best eaten the same day (It still tasted great the next day!)

Happy Eating!!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Wilton Course 1 - Class 3 and 4

I completed my Wilton course 1 last week and am happy that I don't have to make any more batches of Crisco butter cream!! Jokes aside, I have really learnt a lot of techniques from this class. Since I am left handed and write in a very weird way (for others) I have a lot of difficulty in holding the piping bag in the correct position. After this class I have learnt all the correct positions and the hands on experience has been really great.

In the third class we were asked to bring 6 un iced cupcakes, a filling and the usual batches of butter cream in different colours. We then learnt how to use different tips and make different flowers like the drop flowers, pom poms, shaggy mums etc. We also learned how  to fill cupcakes using a piping bag and tip (can't remember the name). We then learnt the Wilton swirl with the 1M tip (which I have done a million times before) and proceeded to decorate our cupcakes as we pleased.

 In the last class we were asked to bring an iced cake, prepped and ready to be decorated along with butter cream. We spent the whole class learning how to make a ribbon rose and it was a great challenge for me. The trick here is to hold the piping bag in the exact right position and you will get beautiful roses. If not, you are done for. I had to sacrifice a lot of roses in order to get a few right. We then decorated our cakes with the roses and did whatever we wanted for the borders. Since I was already using the petal tip, I wanted to do a ruffle cake. It took some time but it was worth it. The ruffles would look even prettier with a smoother icing.

We received our certificates at the end of the class and left with happy faces and lovely cakes!

Check out the review of day 1 and 2 here...

Happy Decorating!!