One of the things I like the best about food blogging is the challenge. It forces me to avoid repetition and to think outside the box as much as possible. The sense of community and the chance to meet wonderful people from around the world is definitely high up there as well.
So when I first read the exploits of the lovely cooking group known as the Daring Bakers, I was immediately hooked. They were making croissants that time around, so it was quite an impressive affair, and the email exchange one of the girls posted had me giggling all the way.
This is all to explain why I´m so honored and thrilled to be part of the group, and boy was it a big challenge indeed! The comments and exchanges alone made it worth the effort and near-tears of frustration!
Brilynn chose this month´s recipe, which is a chocolate crepe cake with hazelnut cream by none other than Martha Stewart. I had heard some complaints about her recipes not working… and if I have to make a judgement based on this cake, especially the crepe part, I would have to agree.
You see, I was trying to be a good girl and started practising the crepes a week before I was planning to make the cake, but the crepe batter was terrible to work with… so very frail that after my first try with just a small percentage of the recipe, I didn´t end up with a single whole crepe… yes, what you would call a true success story.
But I was determined not to fail on my first challenge as a Daring Baker, so a week after that, I gave it another go doing the full amount of the recipe and armed with my grandma´s crepe pan (she has done thousands of crepes for caneloni using that pan, so it definitely had the good karma part down.)
The first few crepes were still troublesome, but I had got the hang of it by the 4th crepe or so and I couldn´t be happier, the cake was actually going to happen… which might not seem like a lot to hope for, but trust me, given the circumstances, getting a cake, or anything resembling a cake was quite a feat!
After the crepes were done, I ordered in some pizza because I had friends for dinner and gathered some extra energy to complete the rest of the cake the very next morning.
And, luckily for my poor tormented baking soul, the rest of the recipe wasn´t problematic at all… well, actually, it was very problematic in the moderated-amounts-of-butter department. You see, this cake has looooooooads of butter, and when I say loads, I mean it, a bit over 1 pound over all PLUS some cream to top it all off.
Don´t get me wrong, I can accept normal amounts of butter in recipes, and brownies are my thing, and as you know, that sort of thing requires a healthy amount of butter (please, don´t take the word “healthy” too literally), but this recipe made me shudder!
We were allowed to change the filling, but, having no allergies and this being my first challenge, I decided to go all out, or, as Brilynn would say, “go big or go home”.
I used Nutella because that´s the only hazelnut cream I could find and I used 1/2 cup less sugar in the filling because Nutella is quite sweet in itself, but that´s all I changed, and the result, while good, certainly didn´t justify THAT much butter.
But luckily for my cooking ego and for my thighs, everyone seemed to enjoy it tremendously so it disappeared quickly, which is a lot to say since a tiny slice of it was strong enough to fill you up for a few hours.
The moral of this story is definitely to avoid Martha recipes as much as possible and to stay away from recipes with ridiculous amounts of butter. In fact, I´ll be happy if I never see another crepe for the rest of my life… actually, I´m ok with the seeing part, just don´t ask me to make you one, at least, lets say, for a year or so, thank you very much.
Still, I´m really, and I mean REALLY happy I was able to complete this challenge. It definitely put my patience to test and made me reach beyond my comfort zone. I can´t wait to see what next month brings… hopefully, the Martha will stay the hell away from us this time, either that or I´m calling the Donald to stage an attack against her… don´t dare say I didn´t warn you, Martha!
For the rest of the girls´take on this monster, see here.
Darkest Chocolate Crepe Cake
3/4 Cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus melted for pan
8 Ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/3 Cup sugar
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 1/2 Cups whole milk, room temperature
6 large eggs, room temperature
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1. Bring 1/4 cup water to a rolling boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking to combine after each addition. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate until completely melted. Set aside.
2. Whisk together flour, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla in another medium bowl. Gradually add milk mixture to flour mixture, whisking until smooth. Add chocolate-butter mixture, whisking until smooth. Pour through a fine sieve into an airtight container; discard lumps. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
3. Lightly coat an 8-inch crepe pan or nonstick skillet with melted butter. Heat over medium heat until just starting to smoke. Remove pan from heat; pour about 2 tablespoons batter into pan, swirling to cover bottom. Reduce heat to medium-low; return pan to heat. Cook, flipping once, until edges are golden and center is dry, about 30 seconds per side.
4. Slide crepe onto a plate. Repeat process with remaining batter, coating pan with butter as needed. Crepes can be refrigerated, covered, up to 1 day.
5. Place a crepe on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Spread with about 3 tablespoons hazelnut filling. Top with another crepe. Continue layering with hazelnut filling and crepes, using about 32 crepes and ending with a crepe on top. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
6. Spoon 1/2 cup glaze on top of the cake, spreading to edges. Spread remaining glaze around sides of cake, coating completely. Refrigerate until glaze is firm and set, about 20 minutes. Cake can be refrigerated up to 3 days. Garnish with toasted and candied hazelnuts.
Serving: Makes about 8 cups
2/3 Cup heavy cream
6 large egg whites
1 2/3 Cups sugar (I used around 1 cup because the Nutella is sweetened.)
1 3/4 Cups (3 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, softened
1 Teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 Cup hazelnut cream, (I used Nutella)
Put cream into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Refrigerate 1 hour.
Whisk egg whites and sugar in the clean bowl of mixer set over a pan of simmering water until sugar has dissolved and mixture registers 160 degrees;, 2 to 3 minutes.
Attach bowl to mixer fitted with the clean whisk attachment; beat on high speed until slightly cooled and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 5 minutes.
Fit mixer with paddle attachment. With mixer on medium-low speed, add butter, several pieces at a time, mixing well after each addition (meringue will deflate slightly as butter is added). Add vanilla, hazelnut cream, and salt; mix until mixture comes together, 3 to 5 minutes. Fold in whipped cream with a rubber spatula. Use immediately.
Serving: Makes about 2 cups
1 1/4 Cups heavy cream
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup (I used maple syrup instead because it was what I had on hand.)
1 teaspoon salt
10 Ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Bring cream, corn syrup, and salt to a boil in a medium, heavy saucepan over medium- medium-high heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate; swirl pan to cover completely with cream. Let stand about 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Let cool completely.