Category Archives: Daring bakers

Chocolate Yule log

I wasn´t totally sure I would be able to participate in the Daring Bakers challenge this month. As I´m sure your stress levels can attest by now, December is generally a hectic month, and not just in terms of baking since I don´t bake much since it´s summer here, just in terms of organization, gifts, work, bills, and such.

But luckily for me, this month´s challenge, while very involved, didn´t require much oven time and, even better, was served frozen! Now that I can do!

If you haven´t figured it out yet after reading post after post about “French Yule log”, well, that´s what our hosts Hilda of Saffron & Blueberry and Marion of Il en faut peu pour etre heureux chose for us. My hat´s off to you, ladies, wonderful job on picking a challenging recipe, and managing to keep it fun.

So, we had different choices in terms of flavors for the different elements and the shape of the whole thing. I went against tradition and chose to make it in a springform cake pan since I would be serving it to my whole family on Christmas Eve, so it was important for it to be enough for everyone, but also to look big enough for everyone.

The elements I chose are:

1) Almond dacquoise Biscuit

2) Milk chocolate mousse

3) Dark chocolate ganache Insert

4) Praline (Crisp) Insert

5) Creme Brulee Insert

6) Dark chocolate icing

I know it looks scary, but you can make the milk chocolate mousse,  the creme brulee insert, and the crisp the day before, so you have half of the elements done already when you start working on the second day, and those last 3 elements don´t take long to make anyway.

I did the milk chocolate mousse, which is basically a whipped ganache starting with a caramel base (the only modification I made was adding cinnamon to the cream), which was both easy and absolutely delicious, so this one joins my baking repertoire from now on. That´s one of the beauties of multi-element recipes, you may not make the whole thing again, but you can fall in love with different elements and incorporate them to other recipes or use them on their own.

The dark chocolate ganache is also dreamy, and I added some cardamom and cinnamon to it to make it even better. In the case of the praline crisp, I was good and did the praline myself, but after that I felt I couldn´t possibly make an extra element from scratch, so instead of making “gavottes” from scratch, I took advantage of the options and ended up using oat square cereals, which I crushed before mixing with the chocolate.

Now, a big warning regarding the praline crisp: many people in the DB forum said that the crisp made it almost imposible for them to cut the log properly, crushing what was underneath. My crisp wasn´t particularly thin, so I decided to mess with aesthetics and chop it beforehand so I could sprinkle it on top of the mousse instead. It worked like a charm, but I basically lost a whole lot of definition in my layers. But I´m thiking that if you do it with crushed gavottes, you can get a thiner crisp, thus making it possible to cut the log without ruining the whole thing.

Last comments, I wouldn´t recommend making the creme brulee in the chocolate version, since making it vanilla (with a bit of lemon zest in my case) brings a much needed break to all that chocolate. And, even though it looks suspicious, the dark chocolate icing worked like a charm, and had a great shine to it.

For decorations, I did some chocolate triangles using Helene´s trick of pouring them on bubble wrap and sprinkling some leftover praline on the white chocolate.

Well, I don´t know about you, but I´m tired just thinking about all those steps, so I´m gonna go rest a bit before New Year´s Eve. But before you go, check out what my fellow Daring Bakers did with this recipe, you are bound to be amazed.

animal cruelty

Oh, and a belated Merry Xmas from Phoebe and me… and yes, she looks pissed off, and I think she was, with every right too, it was her birthday and I was making her wear a Santa hat!

(Recipe after the jump)

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Reinhart´s Naepolitan pizza… and a work in progress

So today is Daring Bakers´posting date and I´m running a little behind. We are doing Peter Reinhart´s Naepolitan pizza recipe, as chosen by Rosa of Rosa´s Yummy Yums. Pizza is one of my favorite foods in the whole wide world, and Peter Reinhart is a master at all things bread, and he wrote a whole book about pizza, so I was really looking forward to this one.

But being a procrastinator by nature, the month just flew by. And, as a lame excuse, I have to say I was trying to make this recipe at my parents´because they have a kick-ass bread oven with baking stones on the bottom, and the sides, and my own oven is a lame gas oven I inherited from the previous owner and I haven´t bought a baking stone yet… well, needless to say, I didn´t manage to make the schedules work, so I´m stuck baking it in my lame oven.

dough resting

As I´m writing this, the dough is resting in the fridge since last night, waiting for my friends to come over tonight to enjoy the pizza party while we watch the last episode of a lame soap opera they watch and I humor them and follow along when we get together.

But being late gives me time to figure out my toppings, and assemble them beforehand, plus I figured I would take advantage of the new poll feature WordPress has added to ask your opinion on the matter.

The recipe yields six thin pizzas, so I have a lot of room to play. My first ideas are:

1. Your typical marguerita pizza: tomato sauce, mozarella, and I´ll be drizzling some pesto on top.

2. A marguerita topped with raw arugula and dried out prosciutto ham sprinkled on top.

3. A spinach pizza with roasted garlic, bechamel sauce and onions and a generous layer of cheese on top.

I´ll update with pictures and comments as things happen.

In the meantime, you can check out a thousand variations of this recipe in the Daring Bakers blogroll.

before
Before

UPDATE 1: I´ve got all my ingredients and now is on to some prep-work. First thing, I dried out the prosciutto. How, you ask? Well, I saw it on tv a while back and it´s so easy I had meant to try it ever since. Basically, you grab two porcelain or glass plates, put a paper towel on top of one plate, then arrange some slices of proscuitto over it side by side, put another paper towel and the other plate stacked on top to add some weight. Microwave it on high for one minute, then discard the paper towels and add new ones (they get soggy with the fat that cooks off), put the top plate back on and microwave again for 1 minute.

prosciutto, dried out
After

Voilá, you have proscuitto chips that you can use as they are to decorate something or chop them up as I´m planning to do and sprinkle on top of pizza or whatever your heart desires. I took some pics for you, which aren´t the best because daylight is going away fast, but at least it gives you a visual idea of what I´m talking about.

I´ll be back soon!

marguerita

UPDATE 2: Well, the pizza is mostly gone by now, and it was a success! I ended up doing 1 spinach one because I run out of spinach and I copied Tanna´s idea of adding eggs to it since I had some killer organic eggs I could use (check out how orange that yolk is), 2 arugula ones with the dried out prosciutto, and 3 marguerita with pesto, just because I run out of the other ingredients and by the 6th pizza I was a bit tired.

pizza de espinaca

rúcula

I used half all purpose and half bread flour, and added the 1/4 cup of olive oil in hopes of having the best of both worlds. And I don´t know if it was the flours, the resting time or what, but I loved working with this dough, see, I even managed to do the flipping the dough in the air action shot! haha Which also served the purpose of adding a show to the dinner party! Oh, and for those of you wondering, the final episode of the soap was craptacular, as expected.

revoleando la pizza

I have to say this recipe is definitely becoming a regular in my house. So If you want, you can check it out after the jump, with GF options included.

PS: Sorry for the crappy pictures, it was late at night and I didn´t want to take forever with the pics. I did my best “fixing” them with Picnic at Flickr, but they are still bad.

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Filed under bread, Daring bakers, food, savory, vegetables

Chocolate eclairs with dulce de leche pastry cream

Yes, it´s all about dulce de leche around here lately, but in my defense, it was too tempting not to go that route. You see, this month´s Daring Bakers challenge, as chosen by Meeta and Tony is Pierre Herme´s Chocolate Eclairs.

His are filled and glazed with chocolate, but I´ve never been one of those people who enjoy chocolate on chocolate. Maybe a chocolate cake with a ganache, but the cake has to have some extra flavor in there at least. And we were given the choice to either change the filling or the glaze, so I decided to change the filling since I figured the glaze would be straightforward enough. Wrong! I couldn´t believe my eyes when I was reading the recipe and realized that the chocolate glaze called for chocolate sauce as one of the ingredients, yes, recipe within a recipe, gotta love that.

In Herme´s defense though, that base chocolate sauce was great, very simple, and there was plenty leftover, so I got to test its awesomeness over and over again. But still, I like to keep things simple, so a simple ganache would have worked perfectly for me as a glaze for the eclairs.

But enough bitching, and let´s get down to business. For the filling, I immediately thought of dulce de leche since that´s one of the traditional fillings for cream puffs here in Argentina. And you would be right if you assume that to be over-the-top sweet. At least for me it is. But many traditional desserts with dulce de leche in Argentina are what we call “empalagoso” (meaning the kind of sweet that makes your mouth “cringe”). So you can imagine that if there´s a special word for it, there must be plenty of times when that word is necessary… even if my older brother says there is not such thing in the world as a dessert that is empalagoso, but anyways, I´m getting sidetracked here.

What I was pointing towards with this little detour of mine is that, at least for my taste, the filling couldn´t be just dulce de leche, straight up. So I decided to do a little experimentation and create a dulce de leche pastry cream. What I did is just using a regular pastry cream recipe (Dorie Greenspan´s to be precise), and adding 1/2 cup of dulce de leche to each cup of room temperature pastry cream. So I did half of that, and I used the other half of the pastry cream I had prepared as a lemon-infused filling, by adding tons of lemon zest to the half of the pastry cream I was using for this as soon as I took if off the heat (of course, if you are doing it all lemon, you can add the zest to the milk from the beginning). Another good choice for a dulce de leche filling would be to mix whipped cream with dulce de leche and use that as a filling. I personally liked the pastry cream version better for this, but the other one is still great, and it is faster, so I won´t judge you if you go that route.

Overall, the recipe wasn´t too difficult, just a little fuzzy. But it did have the unpleasant side effect of wrecking havoc in my poor little kitchen… I swear, every little thing in there was covered in chocolate.

Oh, and another thing, beware of the recipe layout, it can make you a little dizzy, like when it tells you to use the cream puff dough while it´s warm, but you had forgotten to preheat the oven early enough because it must have said that in the first page, leading to a nice freakout, and a not-hot-enough oven. And you want a hot oven when it comes to eclairs.

Don´t get me wrong, though, I did enjoy the results, oh, yes I did!

And for a thousand ideas for eclair fillings and toppings, check out what the other Daring Bakers did with this recipe.

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A cake to celebrate

When the lovely Chris of Mele Cotte announced the Daring Bakers July challenge was announced, a shudder went down my spine. Nuts, and lots of them, and hazelnuts, which I´m not really a fan of. I don´t know what happens in the rest of the world, but almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts have been getting more expensive around these parts. As in, 6 pesos for 100 grams, as in, I never eat nuts.

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But I decided the recipe sounded tempting enough to go for it, especially if I managed to find a birthday to justify baking the most expensive cake ever. And I found the perfect birthday boy, my cousin and godson Martín.

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Doesn´t he look adorable? Well, he actually is, in between hyperactive fits. And he truly has a life worth celebrating, since his heart gave him trouble from the moment he was born. Fortunately, he´s perfectly fine now, and he is one of my favorite people on earth. It´s no secret I like unusual people, and Martín gives me plenty to love. Even before he was able to speak, he would crack jokes only he would understand while playing with his toys and started laughing. And he has some peculiar sense of humor… I don´t really know how to describe it exactly, but he likes to play with words and to exploit the ridiculous side of life.

And the morbid side every once in a while too. Like the time he was about 4 and he was asking everyone how old they were, so when he got to our mutual grandpa and he said “82”, so Martín said, as if he was stating the most obvious fact ever, “oh, so you are the one that´s going to die first then.” haha Ok, it´s funnier if you are not my grandpa, of course.

But I´m getting sidetracked here by Martín´s awesomeness, since we are here to talk cake, people. So, after having shelled out those precious pesos for the almonds and the chocolate. I set about to make the cake, which let me tell you, isn´t too bad if you do some things ahead of time, tedious things like peel almonds.

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And making caramel to make praline and fancy decorations.

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And then you make the cake, fill it up with whipped cream or buttercream with the praline paste you made before. Cover it up with a ganache, whipped cream or buttercream, your fancy caramel thingies, and voilá… easy, right?

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Ok, maybe not particularly fast or straight-forward, but I have to say this probably was one of the best cakes I´ve ever made. It was very moist and it tasted amazing, if I may say so myself.

So if you ever want to honor someone special and have some time to spare… or find a good bunch of almonds or hazelnuts on sale, I´d say this is the cake to make.

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And for a thousand other takes on this recipe, check out what my fellow Daring Bakers did.

Recipe after the jump

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Sneezing my way through Denmark

It´s Daring Bakers´ time, people! Yep, I´m back. This month, our gracious hosts are Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben of What´s cooking, and they chose a great recipe that lends itself to make shapes and fillings: Danish braid with a wonderfully aromatic cardamom-orange flavored dough.

Danish braid

We were given the chance to do whichever filling we wanted and even play with the shapes once we had done a braid since the recipe shields two big braids. I was planning on doing just that yet the flu caught up with me.

And to make matters worse for me, I was doing the braids for Father´s day, so I was going to have to suck it up and get the recipe done. So I divided the recipe in two days and baked at my “high” moment, meaning those few hours when the flu meds did the trick and I felt somewhat normal.

Since I had seen fresh quinces around, I chose to do a quince compote and apple filling. And since many people are still unfamiliar with quinces, I did a little step-by-step photo shoot to show you the progress from fruit to compote since the change in color itself can be quite confusing.

Quinces

Danish braid

I love how it turned out and the dough is quite versatile so I see myself playing with this again, you know, when I´m not with the flu and I have the uncontrollable urge to fold and turn, then chill, and then fold and turn again.

Danish braid
If you want to check out endless, and I´m sure endlessly creative, variations of this recipe, check out what my fellow Daring Bakers did this month.

Oh, and let me know if you are interested in the quince compote recipe because I´m lazy when it comes to typing up recipes, but you know I´d do anything for you, my dears 😉

UPDATED WITH POACHED QUINCES RECIPE AFTER THE JUMP

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Not so perfect

To keep the birthday theme going for yet another post, this month Daring Baker challenge chosen by Morven was Dorie Greenspan´s Perfect Party Cake, which made the perfect choice for one of my birthday cakes.

with caramel sauce

Yet even though it turned out delicious, it was one of those near disaster stories. As wise people know, it´s not… well, wise, to bake when you are tired, in a hurry, and have a massive headache from the previous night´s festivities.

But the clock was ticking and it was my one opportunity to make the challenge, so I forged ahead. And I had a few problems: first of all, the cakes were quite flat (it might be the lack of cake flour in Argentina, so I had to use all purpose minus 2 tablespoons per cup), which had me rushing to make a third cake to create more height, but said cake broke into pieces when trying to unmold it, so I had to make do with a 2 layer cake instead of a 4 layer cake because I didn´t dare splitting my thin cakes into 2.

my cousin Martin

I had earlier on decided to skip the buttercream and use flavored whipped cream instead because I´m not a big fan of buttercream and I think I mentioned I was a BIT stressed out, so the simpler, the better. So my flavor combo was coconut whipped cream + dulce de leche, just because dulce de leche and coconut are those flavor combos destined to live happily ever after.

dripping

Another problem I had was not having two cake pans of the exact same size and not having enough time to make two batches, hence the irregular shape of my so-not-perfect cake.

Once assembled, the cake looked a bit blah, so I drizzled some of the leftover caramel sauce I had from this other cake, and it improved quite a bit.

all-white version

And, stress and all, everyone raved about the flavor of the cake. The lemon zest in the cake (I didn´t use the lemon extract because I´m not too fond of extracts) was the perfect complement to the sweetness of the dulce de leche and the coconut. And the texture of the cake was delightfully spongy even though it hadn´t risen much. So this one might call for a repeat performance.

If you want to see much more polished versions of this cake, check out the creations of the rest of the Daring Bakers. And if you don´t have time to see them all, at least check out Helene´s version, it´s so chic it hurts.

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Paris je t´aime

So here we are again, it´s Daring Baker time, but for this challenge, you´ll only need a handful of ingredients, one of them being patience of course, because this month we are making French bread!

the good life

French bread

I was very glad when I saw what Sara and Mary had chosen for us this month… though I have to admit the thought of using the oven in the middle of summer wasn´t particularly appealing, but it was a bread I hadn´t tried before and by someone who seems to be a legend between US bloggers: Julia Child.

No, we didn´t grow up watching Julia Child cook around here, we had our very own Doña Petrona, who seems to have had the same grandmotherly feel to her. You know, the type of books you go back to again and again. And that´s why I was interested in trying a recipe by Julia Child, someone as beloved and classic as that couldn´t steer me in the wrong direction.

But she could give directions, tons and tons of them, 8 pages in this recipe alone! But it´s the sort of recipe that´s good for someone who hasn´t made bread before and might be a little freaked out by the whole thing, so I won´t blame her for it.

epi

French bread

The recipe itself was quite easy (but beware that you have to find a way to enjoy sticky hands if you are doing all the kneading by hand like me). Oh, and I did sort of make it twice since the first time when I was about to give the dough its first rise I realized the flour I was using had long passed its sell-by date, which meant quickly throwing it in the trash, and when I took out the trash the next night, I had a huge monster dough that had been happily fermenting away, yuck!

So anyways, while I waited for the (second and not rotten) dough to rise I turned to Peter Reinhart to find some photos of different bread shapes I could play with. And I settled for a baghette (which I can´t really call that since my cuts and the shape itself needs some work), an epi (sheaf of wheat), a tabatiere (pouch), and a dinner roll with a spiky top made with sharp scissors.

French bread, second proofing

As for the veredict: the bread was delicious and the texture was quite impressive, so I´m planning on making it again during the winter. I served it quite simply with good olive oil, homegrown tomatoes and basil, and some smoked ham. Sometimes it doesn´t take expensive or exotic ingredients to create a remarkable meal, give me simple Mediterranean any day!

French bread

baghette

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