Daring Bakers and Pierre Herme’s Chocolate!

Eclair

This is going to be short and sweet! Meeta from the blog What's for Lunch Honey and Tony Tahhan, chose Pierre Herme's eclairs for the challenge this month. Eclairs are in the same family as cream puffs and gougeres as they come from the same incarnation of pate a choux. I did not have a pastry tip large enough to pipe the eclairs so I just snipped the tip of my pastry bag. I am curious why my first tray of eclairs did not have a pocket and the second did and they were from the same batter! Maybe my oven was not preheated enough the first time and I should have cooked the first tray longer?

Anyway, for me the chocolate pastry cream was the best I've tasted and will be including it in my repertoire. I was afraid I would have eaten all of it before I could fill my eclairs.

So Meeta , thanks for this fantastic challenge from our Sugar Daddy!

How I got a non-cake eater to eat cake…

Wholecake


It’s been a while since I made a Daring Baker challenge. I’ve been busy with the business – good, and with my day job –bad. Everyday I wished there were more hours to a day.  How I dream to have 1 uninterrupted week of just baking/cooking in the kitchen. No errands, no “day” job…just me and the kitchen…and of course the “Hungry” Hubby to polish off whatever comes out of the oven.


But until that day comes, I will content myself with carving out hours in a day to reestablish my Daring Baker mettle. This month’s round is hosted by Chris of Mele Cotte – the Filbert Gateau with Buttercream!  One recipe, hundreds of results.


I finally saw an opportunity to do this on the third week of July. I could first make my filbert gateux, freeze it and then do the rest on the weekend. My order load for macarons was pretty light so I could squeeze in more buttercream-making in between.


I don’t bake cakes much unless it is for an order like cupcakes because the “Hungry” Hubby dislikes them (and that’s putting it mildly – he also detests whipped cream and custards-no kidding!) HH can easily get saturated by most types of sweets (except macarons and ice cream which he has been known to finish 2 kilos of in one sitting). When I have him taste my cake-based experiments he usually can take only a bite or two. But when he really likes it like the crème brulee-filled almond tea cake, that means that the creation can satisfy even the pickiest eater (and that one contained a custard so go figure).


I groaned at first when I saw that this month’s challenge was a cake. HH will not be happy. But when I saw that it involved hazelnuts, which he is obsessive about  – I knew he would be more than interested. Of course, I did not tell him tell him that I had to fill it with buttercream.


You see, I need to tread lightly here; I finally got him to eat buttercream when I made the espresso-flavored ones for the macarons, only then that he decided that he could potentially like buttercream.  I knew the hazelnut praline would only make the buttercream sweeter, so I looked in my pantry to see if I could use something else. I had forgotten that I had hazelnut paste; the only problem was the paste had separated and hardened from the oil, but I could probably mix it back.


            The only problem I had with making the cake part, which I filled into two 6-inch round cake pans, was that I under-baked one of them. I was also confused with the steps on when to add the butter and the nuts. But after re-reading the instructions a couple of times – I should not have had the caipirinha prior to baking – I realized that I had to add the nuts to the egg-mixture slowly and then when I had all but 2 tbs. left of nuts add the butter mixture and finish off with the last of the nuts.


            I set aside one morning to finish the cake. Syrup – check, apricot glaze – check; now for the buttercream. It was different from how I made egg-white-based buttercreams before but I decided to follow through with the instructions. I was not thrilled that I had to use two mixing bowls. The buttercream came together without issue and was nice and fluffy. The butter needs to be soft but not too much which would make your buttercream greasy. I find that a temperature of 65F for the butter works pretty well.


Now it was time to incorporate my hazelnut paste. I tried to emulsify oil back into the hazelnut paste but I ended up splashing oil all over myself the counter and the floor. Grrrr! Now what? I needed to put some flavor of hazelnut into the buttercream or HH was never going to eat it. Then I saw my unopened canister of Gianduja paste – what better than chocolate and hazelnut huh?


            All done with the buttercream, it was time to cut the layers. The cake was a bit sticky so I put parchment on top of the cake as I twirled it around my rotating cake stand to get the layers I needed. I like using an offset serrated knife for cutting layered cakes – makes the job easier. I ended up with four layers because I used 1 good layer from the undercooked cake. I probably should have stopped at three because the 4th layer, which became layer three, didn’t quite match the rest of the cake and ended up making the slices slightly lop-sided.


            For the chocolate glaze I mixed a 61% “extra bitter” chocolate with a 66% chocolate and this was by far my favorite part of the cake.


            I also did not have a big leaf tip, only round ones. I originally wanted to sprinkle roughly-ground hazelnut but decided against it when I thought some gold flakes would look elegant against the buttercream decoration and chocolate.


Goldflakes


            I am no decorator of cakes. I could pipe macarons and cupcake frostings in my sleep but do not ask me to decorate a cake.  My buttercream hardened too much and I ended up getting tips on the dots – not the effect I wanted. A solution to this was to wait for the buttercream to soften a bit longer and whisk the buttercream until it becomes pipepable but I was running out of time and had other things to attend to.        


Assembling the cake was a non-event. My worst nightmare of dropping the cake on the way to the refrigerator never happened.


            Overall, the cake was pretty good, I liked the hazelnut genoise but I was not too fond of the buttercream.  I have other tried and tested buttercream recipes I use but I always like to experiment with different methods and this was the perfect opportunity.


I normally use Alice Medrich’s Sarah Bernhardt’s glaze for the poured chocolate effect but this was a welcome ganache alternative.      


            But best of all, everyone who tasted the cake loved it including the HH. So in my case, my picky eater really just needed to be told that hazelnuts were involved (or coffee) and that should not be too difficult to peak his interest in whatever was baking in the oven.


 


Slice

Cheesecake on a stick

Cheesepops

Now how perfect does that sound? This challenge is hosted by Elle of Feeding my Enthusiasms and Deborah of Taste and Tell . The recipe was pretty straight-forward, I did have some difficulty getting the chocolate to cover the entire pop especially close to the stick. The hardest part was deciding what to use as topping. I decided on Virginia lightly-salted peanuts. I always loved something salty with cheesecake and have been known to eat potato chips with it. This was a big hit when I brought it into the office. How can one resist a cheesecake on a stick and chocolate-covered too!

Please go check the fabulous creations of my fellow daring bakers here.

Small, Medium,Large

Frenchoven

At least that was what happened to my challenge for this month which is hosted by my dear friend Mary of the The Sourdough and Sara of I like to cook. The theme was French bread and just not any French bread but the recipe by the French Chef herself – the lovable Julia Child!

           The making of the bread itself was not hard – especially since I used my trusty kitchen aid -and  no I did not drop the whisk into it this time. But it does take a while to complete so you need to plan your day around it. For example, I made my dough early in the morning and went shopping afterwards – how neat is that? When I came back with a couple of bags from Sur La Table, I deflated my growing blob and got it ready for its second rise. Then I started dinner which was chicken bouillabaisse (okay I know you purists are going to slam me) and also prepared some garlic aioli (watch for the recipes in my next post- my hubby was happy that real food was back on the table.)

I did run into a problem with shaping the dough. There was no way I could form baguettes with it – it kept springing back. What did I do wrong, Mary? Too much gluten?

Anyway, when I was partitioning my dough I was fresh from a bout with the whisk trying to make aioli the second time – so I was bit tired and frustrated (never make aoili and french bread on the same day). And as I shaped my bread I knew that I made them in different sizes as in small, medium , large!

Oh well. The bread tasted yummy specially smeared with the garlic aioli and dipped in some of the saffron scented broth of the bouillabaisse and that was all that mattered!

I strongly recommend that you go visit the great aroma of bread wafting from my other co-daring bakers blogs.

And my thanks to Mary and Sarah for this great challenge!

Frenchbread

Pink_sil_small_2

Mini Lemon Meringue Pies

Creampie1

I have so neglected my blog lately. I couldn’t even think of a creative title for this month’s Daring Baker’s Challenge hosted by Jen of The Canadian Baker . I was quite busy at work as well as on an exciting project which I shall reveal in my next post. I really did not think I would be able to complete this month’s challenge but I have Helen to thank for the encouragement she gave me to give it a shot. She said I could knock it out in one night… and guess what – she was right! I did have to finish the meringue the next morning for photography purposes . The pie needs to be eaten within 6 hours because the bottom crust will start to get soggy.

I did have my doubts at first about the recipe because of the amount of  cornstarch involved. The crust was on the wet side and I was afraid I measured the ingredients wrong but in the end it did not present much of a problem. The highlight was in making the lemon curd. I was stirring along quite nonchalantly when suddenly the mixture thickened alarmingly fast. However, after I mixed it with the egg yolks it regained a bit of fluidity.

The pie was quite delicious and though it did not compare to an all yolk curd in creaminess, it was a great recipe to try. I was glad I made minis so to exercise automatic portion control ;). Don’t forget to check out the other renditions of the other Daring Bakers , link on the side bar.

Creampie2

My first Yule Log

Yule01

       I’m late. Time does get away from you during this Holiday season rush. I can’t believe its Christmas Eve already. Was it not too long ago that it was the first of December? I’ve lost my perception of time and mailed the last Christmas packages this Saturday. There were still some long lines at the post office so I was glad I was not alone in my tardiness.

This month’s challenge was one I have wanted to try for the longest time: Buche de Noel.  First time I have seen this made was in one of Julia Child’s French Chef DVDs.

       Part of the recipe we used was from Nick Malgieri who I had the opportunity to watch in action 2 years ago at a Sur la Table Chocolate class. He was the consummate teacher and was a hoot to watch. In fact he demoed a Praline roll and taught us how to handle and roll it. Wish I took notes…that time he made it look so easy which was not the case when I made mine.

      First, I was not sure what side I was supposed to put my pastry cream filling on – and the printout of the instructions mysteriously disappeared. So I picked one side, rolled it using parchment paper and was horrified to see my log crack on both sides. Okaay! Guess I need that buttercream to cover this snafu.

        I finally found my instructions and it said to refrigerate the cake for several hours. I already made my coffee buttercream which was so damn tasty – even the hubby who never liked this type of icing thought it was delicious. I had him brew me a concentrated espresso which I mixed with Jamaican rum and that combination gave the buttercream a true coffee taste – almost like espresso ice cream. Since I was afraid that the buttercream was going to melt while I waited for the roll to be ready, I refrigerated it and figured I would just beat it up if it gets too hard.

         Well time came to use it. I let it warm up a little and beat it with the Kitchen Aid. I couldn’t believe my eyes as the buttercream curdled and the espresso-rum puddled in the bottom of the bowl.

         WTF?!

         Frustration was etched on my face as I stomped off to the refrigerator to check if I had any butter left to make the buttercream again. The “Hungry” Hubby said maybe it was too cold and needed to warm up as he surveyed the ugly mess in the mixer bowl. Hmm… he might be on to something. As hopeless as my mixture looked I do recall that when I made Sherry Yard’s Swiss buttercream sometime ago she mentioned that if it curdled to just continue whisking it and it would eventually smoothen out. She used the whisk attachment of the KA in her recipe though, so I decided to use that to see if I could rescue my frosting.

         With nothing to lose, I gave it a try. At first it looked like the buttercream was a lost cause spinning around with the puddle of espresso-rum slapping against the bowl. After about 10 minutes, I saw the buttercream begin to come together and in like 15 minutes it was back to form although a bit greasier than its original incarnation. Yipee! We were back in business! What would I do without the HH in his infinite wisdom?

         I had the most fun making the meringue mushrooms. It definitely is better to attach the caps to the stems as soon as possible. I left some of them to attach after dinner and the caps cracked too easily – I lost a lot of those sugar fungi.

Yule03_2

        And of course I had to decorate my Yule log with some Christmas macarons – it would never be complete without my new found obsession!

        Thank you Lis and Ivonne for choosing this wonderful challenge! And to Helen who is the pastry guru of the group, you did an amazing job keeping everyone sane by providing such timely answers to our baking questions.

         And most of all have a Merry Christmas everyone and feast your eyes on more Yule Logs here.

Yule02

The aroma of bread …

… was wafting from my kitchen as I was finishing up this month’s Daring Baker’s challenge . With the weather chilly outside, this was just what the home needed to make it cozy. Our wonderful hostess Tanna of the delicious blog My Kitchen in half cups picked Potato bread as the theme of the month. I must admit that I am not used to baking bread, so I was a bit daunted about this task and we were required to knead it by hand . What !? no help from my trusty KitchenAid? But upon hearing such rave reviews from other Daring Bakers who had done the challenge early, I gained more courage by the day.

Loaf

The dough was pretty sticky but that was expected. I really enjoyed the kneading process – quite therapeautic really. It was also a soft type of dough which I found hard to shape into dinner rolls which kinda explained my flattish ones as seen below.

Rolls

My resulting bread had a thick crisp crust with a soft tasty interior. I found the bread quite heavy, I could only eat one slice at a time. I do really like the idea of adding potato to bread. I think this is an awesome idea that could be applied to different types of bread like brioche maybe.

My thanks to Tanna for a great challenge. I needed to work on my bread-making skills and this provided the much needed practice. Besides, I was able to use the "proof" mode in my oven for the first time!

Please visit the other creative interpretations by my fellow Daring Bakers, I’m sure they have wonderful stories to tell.