2.28.2009

Daring Bakers February Challenge


Flourless Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

This months Challenge was a flourless chocolate cake, inspired by Malaysia’s “most flamboyant food ambassador”, Chef Wan. As an additional Challenge, we were asked to pair up the cake with our own home-made ice cream. For the cake I used 72% cocoa dark chocolate. The preparation of the cake didn't pose much of a problem. About an hour after I started, I could unmould a fragrant cake from the half-sized spring-form. It was dense, chocolaty and a pleasure to eat. (which you should do on the day you make the cake, as it will start to become dry from the second day on). BUT the real superstar, the king of the hill, the queen of the light of dawn of this Challenge was the home-made ice cream. This tasted sooo very good. One wonders, how it is possible to have lived without it. Shortly after Christmas I actually got myself an ice cream maker at an end-of-season clearout sale, and this Challenge gave me the final nudge to take it out of the box. There clearly will be made many batches of ice cream in my kitchen this summer. And of course I could use the half hour churning time to whip out some cinnamon tuiles to use as spoons. :)

Should you not have an ice cream maker and still need some time until seeing the light and buy one, here are some tips by David Lebovitz for making do without or you can check Dharms post at the link given above.

A big Thank You to Wendy and Dharm for hosting this fun Challenge. Have a look at the cakes with ice cream of my fellow Daring Bakers at the blogroll.

Dinner and a Movie - Chocolat

Three-shredded Salad





Susan from Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy and Marc from No Recipes have set up a new blog event called Dinner and a movie. Each month a food-related movie is announced and to participate, you have to watch the movie, let yourself be inspired to make a dish somehow related to the movie or its theme and blog about it on the last Saturday of the month. As the inaugural movie Susan and Marc chose "Chocolat", starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp.

To reflect the theme of Lent and the austere dishes which are served to the Comte in his study I made a three-shredded salad from Cecilia Chiangs The Seventh Daughter. This may actually look like a very frugal meal, but for the incredible dressing. Man, this tasted really, really good. I'm not much of a salad guy, but the combination of vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil had me liking my plate clean. In the picture for the original recipe all three vegetables are julienned, but I thought it would look more interesting to dice the cucumber and to cut half-moon slices from the carrots and full circles from the horseradish.

Three-Shredded Salad (leng ban san si)
Source: The Seventh Daughter by Cecilia Chiang

2 Tblsp premium soy sauce
2 Tblsp Chinkiang black vinegar or balsamic vinegar
2 Tblsp rice vinegar *
1 1/2 Tblsp Asian sesame oil
1 1/4 tsp sugar
2 cups peeled and julienned carrots
2 cups peeled and julienned daikon radish **
2 cups peeled and julienned cucumber

Mix liquid ingredients and sugar in a small bowl.
Toss vegetables with dressing.

* aka mirin in Japanese cuisine, if I'm not mistaken
** I used horseradish, as neither daikon nor ordinary radish were available.

And this could have been the end of this post, but of course, if the movie of the month is a romantic movie actually called Chocolat, you can't just write a short post about some shredded veggies and simply walk away. ;) Let's face it, something chocolaty needed to be put on the table. At first I wanted to make a chocolat soufle, because I had never tasted one and because soufles have aquired something of a reputation for being difficult and fussy to prepare and I wanted to see if I could do it. But due to the hefty amounts of chocolate and eggs involved and with the chocolate-rich DB February Challenge looming ahead, I chickened out at the last moment. Instead I settled for maybe the most French cookies there are, chocolate madeleines, for which I found a recipe by Dorie Greenspan on the web. I will just quote the section about the madeleines here, as i didn't bother to fill and coat them. The madeleines turned out pretty nice. Chocolaty in taste and good for dunking in my morning coffee from the second day on. The dough was a bit difficult to work with. I tried to form single portions for the madeleine moulds with two tea spoons, as you would for Gnocchi. But the little buggers put up quite a fight, sticking alternatively to each of the spoons but not to the moulds. I will get back to making madeleines sometime, maybe with a different recipe.

Chocolate Madeleines

Fluff-Filled Chocolate Madeleines

Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours
- makes 12 cookies -

Ingredients

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Procedure

To make the madeleines: Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt together. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until they are pale and slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract, switch to a large rubber spatula and gently fold in the sifted dry ingredients, followed by the melted butter. Put a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface of the batter and refrigerate it for at least 3 hours or for up to 2 days. Chilling the batter gives you a better chance of getting the characteristic bump on the back of the cookies.

Getting ready to bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Generously butter 12 full-size madeleine molds, dust the insides with flour and tap out the excess. Butter and flour the pan even if it is nonstick; you can skip this step if you are using silicone pans. Place the pan on a baking sheet. Spoon the batter into the molds. Place the pan in the oven and immediately lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Bake the cookies for 13 to 15 minutes, or until they feel springy to the touch. Remove the pan from the oven and rap one side of the madeleine pan against the counter – the plump little cakes should come tumbling out. Gently pry any reluctant cookies out with your fingers or a butter knife. Cool to room temperature on a rack.


Thank you, Susan and Marc for starting this exciting blog event. I hope there will be many more movies to watch and cook along with. Here's a link to what is (I think) the overall round-up page.





2.25.2009

Es muy facil, el duderino.

Hibiscus Granita

As you can see from the (oh, so not up-to-date) link list on the right, I frequently read the Alinea at Home blog by Carol Blymire. I even got me the Alinea book as a Christmas present for reading along, but haven't yet found much time to do so. (Something I really should work on. I mean, "pliable chocolate ganache"? (p.210) Sounds like "Lego" with some typing mistakes to me. :) ) In her latest post Carol presents the recipe "Tripod, hibiscus" and because it's so easy (f-ing easy, to be more precise; not my choice of words ;) ) she asked her readers to give it a try and come up with their own version.

So, here goes. The recipe basically consists of a strong infusion of dried hibiscus flowers, frozen into (I presume hollow) spheres, which are put onto a wire stand or "tripod" for prettification. (Actually, the pictures of these tripods reminded me somehow of making horses from chestnusts as a kid. To illustrate what I'm trying to say, some random Google hit.) Sounds easy enough, right? Since I had recently made a granita for the Daring Bakers (technique from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz) , I quartered the original recipe, poured the infusion in a shallow plastic tray and whisked around the edges with a fork every half hour for the rest of the evening to loosen the ice crystals.

I found Carols description of hibiscus taste very fitting. It has a "bounty of summer" fruityness but also a lemony acidity. Today, there was already a little spring in the air, so this little espresso cup of granita was the perfect lunch dessert.

Hibiscus infusion
Source: Alinea Cookbook, p. 215

500 ml water
50 g sugar
1 g salt
40 g dried hibiscus flowers

- Bring water, sugar and salt to a boil over medium heat. Switch off heat.
- Add flowers. Stir. Let cool to room temperature. (about 30 min)
- Strain mixture.

2.24.2009

Bread Baking Day 17

Rustic potatoe bread


BreadBakingDay #17, last day of submission March 1
I did attempt to bake a bread (just flour, yeast and some water) from a cooking magazine last fall and got a bit mixed results. For a first try it wasn't a complete disaster, but the bread didn't rise very much and had a pretty dense crumb. I thought this might be due to some rookie mistakes made by me like not allowing not enough time to rise, letting the dough rise on the cool workbench instead of someplace warm etc.. So, when a new Bread Baking Day was anounced I decided to give it another go. This months Bread Baking Day is hosted by Notitie van Lien and has the theme Bread and Potatoes.

I chose a recipe for rustic potatoe bread collected by Petra Holzapfel, who blogs at Chili und Ciabatta. This time I successfully avoided all the above mistakes, but still the bread didn't get a soft airy crumb (compared to the reference pictures at the source link given below) and a kind of leathery crust. The latter is probably due to not enough moisture/steam in the oven. The potatoe bread was quite moist and together with some air-dried Bratwurst from a local butcher made for a hearty snack.
Concerning the crumb issue, I'm at a bit of a loss. My new favourite suspects are the yeast (which still had a Best-Before Date late in 2010) and the flour. I've done some reading on the web, and there are some favourable mentions of flour produced by the Adlermühle in Balingen, which seems to be some kind of old-world equivalent of King Arthur Flour. :) So maybe I should order some of their flour and see if it makes a difference.


Rustic potatoe bread
Source: Petras Brotkasten
Original Source: Leslie Mackie in
Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan

680 g Potatoes,starchy kind (Russet-Potatoes)
4 tsp. salt
125 ml water, warm (from the boiling process)
1 Tblsp. dry yeast
2 Tblsp. olive oil
665 g wheat flour type 550, (or all purpose flour)

Yields 2 breads.

Scrub and quarter the potatoes. Transfer to a pot, cover with water and add half the salt. Boil until soft. Drain in a colander, hereby catching 125 ml of the cooking water (about half a cup). Let dry and cool. Mash the potatoes (peel them first, if you want). Add the yeast to the water (if water has gone cold, warm in microwave) and let stand for 5 min. Mix the mashed potatoes, yeast mixture and olive oil until reaching a homogenous stage, using an electric hand mixer or food processor at low speed. Add the flour and salt, continoue mixing for 2-3 min. Now switch to medium speed and mix for about 11 min. The dough may be very firm and crumbly at the outset, but he will come become smooth and soft during kneading.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let rise for about 30 min at room temperature. Put a bread baking stone in the oven, if you have one, and preheat to 190°C. On a floured work space half the dough and form two loafs. Wrap each in a floured kitchen towel and let rise for about 30 min. Immediately prior to baking, sprinkle the oven walls with water, put the bread in the oven, sprinkle the oven some more and close hte door. Bake for 45 to 50 min until the bread has turned brown and sounds hollow when you knock on the bottom side.

2.11.2009

Lemon poppyseed cake


I took a small break from blogging in January, partly due to standard, unblogworthy food. Partly due to laziness, which I rationalised as "building up a backlog of posts for hard times". ;) But as there are some intriguing blog events looming in the near future and to shorten the time till the next DB Challenge, I will post this little cake here, which you can easily make on a lazy Sunday afternoon. (That is, if you like poppyseeds. I only recently learned, that there are people, who actually don't. Quite a surprise there.)


Lemon poppyseed cake

Source: Das Handbuch der Gewürze, which is the German edition of The Spice Ingredients Cookbook


Ingredients:

50g blue poppyseeds
125g soft butter
200g confectioners sugar
2 eggs, scrambled
lemon zest
200g all-purpose flour
1 Tblsp backing powder

Icing:
juice of 1 lemon
125g sugar
zest for garnishing

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease a cake pan (about 25 x 20 cm/ 10 X 8 inch) and line with parchment paper. Grind the poppyseeds in a clean coffee grinder, or crush with a rolling pin between two sheets of cling film.

2) Whisk butter and confectioners sugar until foamy. Add the eggs and zest. Alternatingly add flour and milk. Fold in the poppyseeds.

3) Distribute the dough evenly in the cake pan. Bake for 45 min until golden brown.

4) While the cake is in the oven, mix lemon juice and sugar. When baking is finished, leave the cake in the cake pan and drizzle evenly with the syrup. Let cool and cut into squares or diamond shapes.

I substituted oranges for the lemons, because I had some at hand. And I halved the sugar for the icing. The cake is yummy and moist. It will keep for a couple of days.