11th Daring Bakers Challenge – Pizza & Toppings

29 October, 2008 at 3:59 pm | Posted in » Daring Bakers, » Fresh Breads & Buns, » Recipes | 5 Comments
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This month the Daring Bakers are going to be pizzaiolos!

Hosted by our dear vegan/gluten free baker: Rosa of Rosa’s Yummy Yums. For this challenge, she has chosen an easy to follow recipe for ‘Pizza Napoletana’ from ‘The Bread Baker’s Appretice’ , by Peter Reinhart, which yields a beautifully tasty, thin, crispy, yet chewy pizza crust.

I have always love to make my own pizzas, so this is definitely not something new to me… just that it will be using a different recipe and technique. I never have a home-made toss pizza crust before, this is sure to be challenge and I did not manage to get any photos on the tossing.

There is basically no restriction or rules to this month challenge, we are free to use any sauce and toppings, make it vegan or non-vegan. I choose to make the non-vegan version, and I have also half the recipe shown here. This crust recipe is definitely a keeping for me.

That being said, have a look at the following photos:

Have a look at what other DBers have created here.

Make 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30cm in diameter)

4-1/2 cups (20-1/4 ounces/607.5 grams) unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
1-3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup (2 ounces/60 grams) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)

1-3/4 cups (14 ounces/420 grams or 420 ml) water, ice cold (40° /4.5° C)

1 Tb sugar
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting



1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.

3. Flour a work surface or counter.  Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them.  Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven.  Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter – for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

9th Daring Bakers Challenge – Chocolate Élairs

31 August, 2008 at 12:36 am | Posted in » Daring Bakers, » Recipes, » Pastry | 4 Comments
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Hi All! It’s that time of the month again and this month we are going French!

Hosted by Tony of Tony Tahhan and Meeta of What’s for Lunch Honey?, they have chosen a recipe from Chocolate Desserts By Pierre Hermé, a cookbook written by Dorie Greenspan, Chocolate Éclairs by Pierre Hermé.

Some information on Éclair taken from Wikipedia. The Éclair is originated in France during the nineteenth century. The work is first attested both in English and in French in the 1860s. Some food historians speculate that the Éclairs were first made by Anotonin Carême (1784 – 1833), the famous French chef. The first known English-language recipe for Éclairs appears in the Boston Cooking School Cook Book by Mrs. D.A. Lincoln, published in 1884.

A Éclair is a long, thin pastry made with choux pastry or cream puff dough filled with a cream and topped with icing. The dough is piped into an oblong shape with a pastry bag and baked until it is crisp and hollow inside. Once cool, the pastry then is filled with a pastry cream, custard or whipped cream and topped with fondant icing of the same flavour as the filling.

For this month challenge, we are given alot of space to play around as long as we use the choux pastry recipe provided and keep one of the chocolate element, i.e the chocolate glaze and/or the chocolate pastry cream.

Being a chocoholic, I kept two of the chocolate elements but i omit the chocolate sauce that is supposed to be added into the chocolate glaze. And on top of that, I have added some chopped peanuts on top of the glaze. I simply love the taste of this recipe! It’s so chocolaty and yummy…

This recipe is relative simple, but I had some trouble making the chocolate glaze. When I added the butter in the glaze, there are alot of oil being produced and I have to pour away some and stir over low heat to combine them… thus I could not make a smooth glaze…

Remember to drop by other DBers’s blogs for their take on this here.

Cream Puff Dough

Makes 20 – 24 Éclairs

1/2 cup (125 grams) whole milk
1/2 cup (125 grams) water
1 stick (4 ounces; 115 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (140 grams) all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature


1. In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.

2. Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

3. Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your handmixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4. The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

1. Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.

2. You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Baking Éclairs

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

2. Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 4-1/2 inches (about 11 cm) chubby fingers. Leave about 2 inches (5 cm) space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3. Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.


1. The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs:

1. Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2. The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 – 104 degrees F or 35 – 40 degrees C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

3. Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.


1. If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.

2. The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Chocolate Pastry Cream


2 cups (500 grams) whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp (75 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
7 oz (200 grams) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
2-1/2 tbsp (1-1/4 oz, 40 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature


1. In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2. Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture.Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3. Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat).Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4. Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5. Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140 F remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

1. The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator.

2. In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

3. Tempering the eggs raises the temperature of the eggs slowly so that they do not scramble.

Chocolate Glaze

Makes 1 cup or 300 grams

1/3 cup (80 grams) heavy cream
3-1/2 oz (100 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 tsp (20 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
7 tbsp (110 grams) Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature


1. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2. Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

1. If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

2. It is best to glaze the eclairs after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104 F) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce

Makes 1-1/2 cups or 525 grams

4-1/2 oz (130 grams) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup (250 grams) water
1/2 cup (125 grams) crème fraîche, or heavy cream
1/3 cup (70 grams) sugar


1. Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2. It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

1. You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using.
2. This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

8th Daring Bakers Challenge – Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

30 July, 2008 at 12:10 am | Posted in » Daring Bakers, » Recipes, » Yummy Cakes | 5 Comments
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This month challenge is Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream, adopted from Great Cakes by Carol Walter and hosted by Chris of Mele Cotte.

The recipe asked for a round cake, but I made mine into a few mini round cakes for easy distribution to friends & family.

I did not make any changes to the recipe this time as I find that this combination of flavors is very very rich and best of all… alot of RUM is being used, which brings out the flavors of the hazelnuts!! I could have done better decorations if not for the time constraints.

Take a look at other beautiful cakes done by other DBers here.


1 Filbert Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
1/2 cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 recipe Apricot Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
3 tablespoons filberts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Filbert Genoise:
Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.

1-1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted/skinned
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind
5 large egg whites
1/4 cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)


1.   Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.

2.   Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.

3.   Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add 3/4 cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.

4.   Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another 1/2 minute. Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

5.   Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

6.   With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.

7.   Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.

    *If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

    Sugar Syrup:
    Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers

    1 cup water
    1/4 cup sugar
    2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur


    In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.

    Praline Buttercream:
    1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
    1/3 cup praline paste
    1-1/2 – 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)


    Blend 1/2 cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.

    Swiss Buttercream:
    4 large egg whites
    3/4 cup sugar
    1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
    1-1/2 -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice
    1 tsp. vanilla


    1.   Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a elevtric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.

    2.   Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

    3.   Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*

    4.   On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

    5.   Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

      Wait! My buttercream won’t come together! Reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

      Wait! My buttercream is too soft! Chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

      Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

      Praline Paste:
      1 cup (4-1/2 oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless
      2/3 cup Sugar
      Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.


      Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

      Apricot Glaze:
      Good for one 10-inch cake

      2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
      1 Tbsp. water


      1.   In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

      2.   Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

        Ganache Glaze:
        Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

        **Ganache can take on many forms. While warm – great fudge sauce. While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled – can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid – the base of candied chocolate truffles.

        6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
        6 oz. (3/4 cup heavy cream)
        1 tbsp. light corn syrup
        1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreay, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
        3/4 tsp. vanilla
        1/2 – 1 tsp. hot water, if needed


        1.   Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

        2.   Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

        3.   Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add 1/2 – 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

          Assembling Cake:

          1.   Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.

          2.   Spread the bottom layer with a 1/4-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with 1/2 of the whipped cream, leaving 1/4-inch border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream.

          3.   Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.

          4.   Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-ich blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.

          5.   Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.

          6.   To garnish the cake, fit a 12 – 14-inch pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream. Stating 1/2 inch from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake. As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting. Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake.

          7.   Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about 3/4 inch closer to the center. The leaves should overlap. Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2-inch space in the center for a chopped filbert garnish. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.

          8.   Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

            6th Daring Baker’s Challenge – Opéra Cake

            28 May, 2008 at 6:53 pm | Posted in » Daring Bakers, » Recipes, » Yummy Cakes | 6 Comments
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            This month DB Challenge is an extremely elegant and polished French dessert that is believed to have been created around the beginning of the 1900s. Many people credit a gentleman by the name of Louis Clichy with inventing the cake and that’s why it’s sometimes referred to as Clichy Cake.

            This cake is made up of five components namely: a joconde (cake layer), syrup, buttercream, ganache or mousse and a final glaze.

            Traditionally, this cake is flavoured with darker flavours such as chocolate or coffee. But our hostesses of this month, Lis of La Mia Cucina, Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea of Whiskful,  decided to have this cake light in both color and flavour.

            We are allow to add any flavours to the cake as long as it stays light in color and flavour. I have added Rum to the syrup and some lemon extract to the buttercream… And I really love the combination of these flavours!

            Here are the pix… cant really see the buttercream layer, it was quite a challenge to spread it… 

            You can view the rest of the Daring Bakers’ Opéra Cakes here.

            For the joconde
            (Note:  The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)

            What you’ll need:
            –    2  12-1/2 x 15-1/2-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans (Note:  If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15-inches.)
            –    a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pans)
            –    parchment paper
            –    a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer
            –    two mixing bowls (you can make do with one but it’s preferable to have two)


            6 large egg whites, at room temperature
            2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
            2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds
            2 cups icing sugar, sifted
            6 large eggs
            1/2 cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
            3 tbsp. (1-1/2 ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled


            1.    Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.
            2.    Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C). 
            3.    Line two 12-1/2 x 15-1/2- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
            4.   In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.
            5.   If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
            6.    Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).
            7.    Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
            8.    Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.
            9.    Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.
            10.   Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

            For the syrup
            (Note:  The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)


            1/2 cup (125 grams) water
            1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
            1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)


            1.    Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.
            2.    Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

            For the buttercream
            (Note:  The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)


            1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
            1/4 cup (60 grams) water
            seeds of one vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract (Note:  If you are flavouring your buttercream and do not want to use the vanilla, you do not have to. Vanilla will often enhance other flavours but if you want an intense, one-flavoured buttercream, then by all means leave it out!)
            1 large egg
            1 large egg yolk
            1-3/4 cups (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
            flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)


            1.    Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
            2.    Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (124◦C) on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.
            3.    While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.
            4.    When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!
            5.    Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).
            6.    While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.
            7.    With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.
            8.    At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.
            9.    Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

            For the white chocolate ganache/mousse
            (Note:  The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)


            7 ounces white chocolate
            1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
            1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)


            1.    Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
            2.    Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
            3.    In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
            4.    Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
            5.    If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
            6.    If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

            For the glaze
            (Note:  It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)


            14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
            1/2 cup heavy cream (35% cream)


            1.    Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
            2.    Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake.  Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
            3.    Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

            Assembling the Opéra Cake
            (Note:  The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).

            1.    Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
            2.    Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total):  one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12-1/2-cm) rectangle.
            3.    Step A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):
            4.    Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.
            5.    Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.
            6.    Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.
            7.    Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde. Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).
            8.    Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.
            9.    Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.
            10.   Step B (if making the ganache/mousse):
            11.    Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.
            12.   Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.
            13.   Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.
            14.   Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).
            15.   Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.
            16.   Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.
            17.   Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

            5th Daring Baker’s Challenge – Cheesecake Pops

            27 April, 2008 at 12:01 am | Posted in » Daring Bakers, » Recipes, » Yummy Cakes | 7 Comments
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            Taking about Cheesecakes, I am no stranger to them… but I have never heard of Cheesecake Pops before… am I mountain tortoise or what??

            Cheesecake Pops are cute little bites of cheesecake held on a stick and dipped in chocolate and also decorated with different toppings. These are fun and great for parties!

            This month’s DB Challenge is hosted by Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms and Deborah of Taste and Tell, and they have choosen Cheesecake Pops adopted from ‘Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey’ by Jill O’Connor (looks like it’s going to be another recipe book on my wish list… hehehe). They have choosen this recipe as it allows us to put our creative juices and personal stamps on these cute little treats. This recipe also make use of the water bath method.

            We are given the options to add flavors to the basic cheesecake recipe as long as they stay white in color, is about 2 ounce in size each and have it on a lollipop stick. But the shapes, dippings, toppings and decorations all completely up to us, which gives us alot of options to play with.

            For me, I have added some golden rum to the basic cheesecake recipe, which gives them abit of liqour taste…

            I have spent about 2 days making these wonderful treats…

            1.   Day 1 to make the cheesecake, then put in the refrigerator to harder (I leave them in there for 2 days)
            2.   On the 2 nite after I have put them into the fridge, I scoop them into balls of pops. Then put them into the freeze to froze (I leave overnite).
            3.   Then Finally, on the next day morning, I did the finishing touch of dipping them into chocolate and added toppings/decorations to them.

            The cheesecake melts quite fast… I have some problems working with them… I have to consistanly return them to the freezer to froze them so that they are easier to work with…

            The ingredients used:

            For dipping, toppings/decorations… I did not use all the variety thou I initially wanted =P

            After the water bath and cooled, ready to go into the fridge…

            Balls of cheesecakes… although not in perfect rounds…

            Finally, the final product! Don’t them look like lollipops?!

            They taste like ice-cream to me…hehehe

            This is a great recipe to try especially for people who love cheesecakes… Never knew cheesecake can be eaten this way =). Thanks Elle & Deborah for choosing this wonderful recipe!!

            Check out how the rest of the fellow DB did here. I am going to enjoy my Cheesecake Pops! Till next time!! hehe… =P

            Makes 30 – 40 Pops

            5 packs of 8-oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
            2 cups sugar
            1/4 cup all-purpose flour
            1/4 teaspoon salt
            5 large eggs
            2 egg yolks
            2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
            1/4 cup heavy cream
            Boiling water as needed
            30 – 40 lollipop sticks

            For Dipping and Decorations:

            1 pound chocolate (any kind), finely chopped
            (Alternately, 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as confectionary coating or wafer chocolate)
            2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
            Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars (optional)


            1.    Position oven rack in the middel of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Set some water to boil.
            2.    In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour, and salt until smooth. If using a mixer, mix on low speed. Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.
            3.    Grease a 10-inch cake pan (not a springform pan), and pour the batter into the cake pan. Place the pan in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.
            4.    Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.
            5.    When the cheesecake is cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2-ounce balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the cheesecake pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.
            6.    When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Do not heat the chocolate too much or your chocolate will lose it’s shine after it hasdried. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety. Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.
            7.    Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate dizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.). Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionary chocolate pieces) as needed.
            8.    Regrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

            4th Daring Bakers Challenge – Dorie’s Perfect Party Cake

            31 March, 2008 at 10:26 am | Posted in » Daring Bakers, » Recipes, » Yummy Cakes | 16 Comments
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            This month’s DB Challenge is taken from the baking book, Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Hosted by lovely Morven of Food Art and Random Thoughts.

            This is how the writer describe this cake: “The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature: it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen – no fussing when it comes to slicing the layers in half or cutting tall, beautiful wedges for serving; and, it tastes just as you’d want a party cake to taste – special.”

            Doesn’t it sounds like just the kind of cake you wana have for any birthdays ? Well, at least it does to me.. =) But mine turns out to be otherwise… =(


            The messy layers…

            The cake didn’t rise much and have quite a dense texture… dunno if it suppose to be like that? I did not do a good job on the layering of the jam & buttercream and the final frosting. I have have substitute the shredded coconut with chopped almonds. This cake have alot of buttercream… I dun think I will be using this recipe again as I am never a fan of buttercream… it’s just too fattening and too buttery for me… 

            Sorry I’m a day late for this post, got back home very late yesterday from Malaysia. Check out how others did here.

            Here’s what I did using the left over egg yolks…. Leche Flan!! And I think I over boil the sugar… thus the dark color of the caramel… =(


            1 cup sugar
            1/3 cup water


            7-8 egg yolks
            1 can less 1/4 cup condensed milk (I used low fat)
            1 cup evaporated milk
            1/4 tsp lemon extract




            1.    Put sugar and water (A) in a pan. Let boil under moderate heat. Let sugar melt and water evaporate. When syrup is thick and amber colored pour into llaneras (oval flan molds) or ramekins will also do. Let cool.
            2.    Combine egg yolks, condensed milk and evaporated milk. Blend well. Add lemon extract. Mix until well combined.
            3.    Pour mixture into llaneras or baking tins (1 inch thick). (Make sure sugar syrup is completely cooled before pouring the mixture). Cover llaneras with foil so water doesn’t get into the custard mixture while steaming.
            4.    You can cook these either baine-marie style or you can simply steam it. I prefer to use the latter method since it’s a lot simpler. Use high heat initially until water boils then lower the heat to low. Cook for about 45 minutes to one hour depending how thick you made your custard.
            5.    When done, chill.
            6.    To serve – unmold leche flan by running a thin knife around the llanera. Put a serving plate on top of the llanera, up-side-down. Invert and remove llanera.

            3rd Daring Bakers Challenge – Julia Child’s French Bread

            29 February, 2008 at 4:11 pm | Posted in » Daring Bakers, » Fresh Breads & Buns | 11 Comments
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            It’s been sometime since I have baked any breads… and I had a strong feeling that this month challenge will be on breads and boy how right could I get ! I was stressed out when I saw this month’s DB Challenge recipe… it was like 11 – 12 pages long!!! Really can faint! I have to read it a few times, dig out all my bread books to research on the technics, and then think of how to do it before I can get myself started on it….

            But thanks to our sweet hosts for this month, Breadchick Mary of The Sour Dough and Sara of I Like to Cook, I was able to have a go at this lovely Julia Child’s French Bread, which again I have never done before… Since young, I have been very fond of French Bread and never would I have thought of myself baking it until now…

            The recipe is actually very simple, just Yeast, Water (warm & tepid), Salt and of course All-Purpose Flour. So how difficult can this be right? Just add all the ingredients together and mix lah…. if it’s really so simple, the recipe will not be so long and I would not have been so stressed… Yes, the ingredients are very basic… but the steps/technics are not…. I never known that making French Bread could be sooooo tedious!! And the waiting time for the dough to raise and to be totally cool down after baking is really long…. the total time stated from start to end for this recipe is 7 – 9 hours…

            We are given the options to make the bread into several shapes and size shown below:breadshapes.jpg

            I  have chosen to make mine into tire-bouchons for easy consumption and save the hassle of cutting the bread. It is required to make 1 loaf of plain bread without any toppings, as for the rest of the remaining loaves, I have added roasted white sesame seeds, shredded pasley, chopped garlic and powder cheddar cheese respectively on the top for different type of savoury flavours…

            All is well until the first raise… it was suppose to raise up to about triple the original size… but after 3 hours plus, it’s still at it’s doubled size… so I just went ahead with the next step… the second raise & the final proving seems ok…

            This is how it looks like after I took it out from the oven, it’s looks quite deciving from the outside…

            but inside…. =( 

            My bread crust turns out to be crispy…. but it’s too hard… and the inside is quite dense… unlike those I bought from those bread shops… =(

            Nevertheless, hubby says the taste is not bad… but the crust too hard… For me, I think the yeast smell is too strong, dunno why…

            Even though it did not turn out quite well for me, I would say this month is a very good challenge for me… all thanks to the hosts Breadchick Mary and Sara for coming up with such a wonderful recipe.

            I would definitely try to make french bread again… but most likely not with this recipe… it’s too tedious. I will try using my other Bread Books for this.

            You can read how the rest of my fellow Daring Bakers did here.

            P.S. I’m not going to post the recipe for this month as it’s too long, however you can get the recipe here.

            2nd Daring Bakers Challenge

            28 January, 2008 at 10:39 am | Posted in » Bite-size Tarts, » Daring Bakers, » Recipes | 17 Comments
            Tags: , , ,

            It’s that time of the month again… yup! It’s time for the DB Challenge! This month’s challenge is Lemon Meringue Pie hosted by Jen of Canadian Baker. I have never tasted any of these pies/tarts before… not to mention to bake one so I was looking forward to taste these lovely tangy pies.

            The pie requires three components: crust, curd filling and a fluffy meringue. We were given the option to make one single big pie or a couple of tartlets… I made my in the tartlet form cos I feel that it will be more convenient and easiler to eat in the tartlet form.

            Hubby says it looked like little porcupines…

            Overall, I really like the taste of it, although the lemon curd is abit too sour but, with the combination of the sweet meringue top it blends nicely… not too sweet & not too sour. Even my hubby says it’s nice…  Goofy 

            … maybe next time I try using different flavour for the curd… heehee

            Check out how the rest of the Daring bakers did here.

            Makes one 10-inch (25cm) pie

            For the Crust:
            3/4 cup (175 grams) cold butter; cut into 1/2 inch (1.2 cm) pieces
            2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour
            1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
            1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
            1/3 cup (80 mL) ice water

            For the Filling:
            2 cups (475 mL) water
            1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
            1/2 cup (30 grams) cornstarch
            5 egg yolks, beaten
            1/4 cup (58 grams) butter
            3/4 cup (180 mL) fresh lemon juice
            1 tbsp (15 mL) lemon zest
            1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract

            For the Meringue:
            5 egg whites, room temperature
            1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) cream of tartar
            1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) salt
            1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) vanilla extract

            3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar


            For the Crust:
            1.        Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible.
            2.       Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together.
            3.       Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl.
            4.       Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.
            5.       Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8 inch (0.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about 1/2 inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

            6.       Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. 
            7.       Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

            For the Filling:
            1.        Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.
            2.       Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.
            3.       Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated.
            4.       Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined.
            5.       Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

            For the Meringue:
            1.        Preheat the oven to 190ºC.
            2.       Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form.
            3.       Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks.
            4.       Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden.
            5. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

            Free-Style Lemon Tartlets
            1.        Prepare the recipe as above but complete the following steps:
            2.       To roll out tartlet dough, slice the dough into 6 pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll each circle of dough into a 5 inch disk. Stack the disks, separated by pieces of plastic wrap, on a plate, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
            3.       To bake the dough, position rack in oven to the centre of oven and preheat to 180ºC. Place the disks of dough, evenly spaced, on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely.
            4.       To finish tartlets, first place oven rack in the upper third of the oven and increase heat to 220ºC.
            5.       Divide the lemon filling equally among the disks, mounding it in the centre and leaving a 1-inch border all the way around.
            6.       Spoon the meringue decoratively over each tartlet, right to the edges, in dramatic swirling peaks.
            7.       Return tartlets to oven and bake for about 5 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown.

            1st Daring Bakers’ Challenge !!

            22 December, 2007 at 3:23 am | Posted in » Daring Bakers, » Recipes | 14 Comments
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            Around this time every month, a group of talented and passionate bakers around the world will engaged themselves in a baking challenge using the exact same recipe, they are known as The Daring Bakers!

            I have being reading about this group for awhile now, and decided bring myself to a higher level and to challenge myself by joining them. Being a new member of the group, I am really excited of what my 1st ever Daring Bakers Challenge would be… And since it happens to be in december, the challenge given is the X’mas Yule Log, which is hosted by Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice and Lisa of La Mia Cucina. When the challenge was announce, I was so excited…. I went to look for decorative ideas online and magazines…. I even did some cut outs… This is also my 1st attempt on making a Yule log and I’m so soooo satisfied with the results !

            The Yule Log challenge consists of three parts: a genoise cake, a coffee buttercream frosting and Meringue or Marzipan mushrooms. Me having an allergy to coffee, I have to change the coffee flavour to chocolate and being such a chocolate addict, I have also added chocolate flavour to my genoise, so instead of a plain genoise which was given in the original recipe…. I have a chocolate genoise. And of course, if you remember my previous post on the Meringue mushrooms, it’s made for this challenge…

            Genoise Cake

            Chocolate Buttercream

            Filling And Rolling of the genoise cake

            Icing of the Yule Log

            And….. the final product !! Looked Pro ?? heehee…

            Sources: Perfect Cakesby Nick Malgieri and The Williams-Sonoma Collection: Dessert
            Serves 12

            Cake should be stored in a cool, dry place. Leftovers should be refrigerated

            Chocolate Genoise:

            3 large eggs
            3 large egg yolks
            pinch of salt
            3/4 cup of sugar
            1/3 cup cake flour
            1/3 cup cornstarch
            1/4 cup cocoa add to flour mixture

            one 10 x 15 inch sheet/flat pan that has been buttered and lined with parchment paper and then buttered again

            1. Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 204 degrees C (400 degrees F).
            2. Half-fill a medium saucepan with water and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat so the water is simmering.
            3. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, salt and sugar together in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer. Place over the pan of simmering water and whisk gently until the mixture is just lukewarm, about 100 degrees if you have a thermometer (or test with your finger – it should be warm to the touch).
            4. Attach the bowl to the mixer and, with the whisk attachment, whip on medium-high speed until the egg mixture is cooled (touch the outside of the bowl to tell) and tripled in volume. The egg foam will be thick and will form a slowly dissolving ribbon falling back onto the bowl of whipped eggs when the whisk is lifted.
            5. While the eggs are whipping, stir together the flour and cornstarch.
            6. Sift one-third of the flour mixture over the beaten eggs. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the flour mixture, making sure to scrape all the way to the bottom of the bowl on every pass through the batter to prevent the flour mixture from accumulating there and making lumps. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture and finally with the remainder.
            7. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.
            8. Bake the genoise for about 10 to 12 minutes. Make sure the cake doesn’t overbake and become too dry or it will not roll properly.
            9. While the cake is baking, begin making the buttercream.
            10. Once the cake is done (a tester will come out clean and if you press the cake lightly it will spring back), remove it from the oven and let it cool on a rack.

            Chocolate Buttercream:

            4 large egg whites
            1 cup sugar
            24 tablespoons (340.2 grams or 1-1/2 cups) unsalted butter, softened
            1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of melted and cooled chocolate
            2 tablespoons rum or brandy

            1. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set the bowl over simmering water and whisk gently until the sugar is dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
            2. Attach the bowl to the mixer and whip with the whisk on medium speed until cooled. Switch to the paddle and beat in the softened butter and continue beating until the buttercream is smooth.
            3. Beat in the melted chocolate and add liquor 1 tablespoon at a time

            Filling and frosting the log:

            1. Run a sharp knife around the edges of the genoise to loosen it from the pan.
            2. Turn the genoise layer over (unmolding it from the sheet pan onto a flat surface) and peel away the paper.
            3. Carefully invert your genoise onto a fresh piece of parchment paper.
            4. Spread with half the coffee buttercream (or whatever filling you’re using).
            5. Use the parchment paper to help you roll the cake into a tight cylinder.
            6. Transfer back to the baking sheet and refrigerate for several hours.
            7. Unwrap the cake. Trim the ends on the diagonal, starting the cuts about 2 inches away from each end.
            8. Position the larger cut piece on each log about 2/3 across the top.
            9. Cover the log with the reserved buttercream, making sure to curve around the protruding stump.
            10. Streak the buttercream with a fork or decorating comb to resemble bark.
            11. Transfer the log to a platter and decorate with your mushrooms and whatever other decorations you’ve chosen.

            Meringue Mushrooms:

            3 large egg whites, at room temperature
            1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
            1/2 cup (105 gram) granulated sugar
            1/3 cup (40 gram) icing sugar
            Unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting

            1. Preheat the oven to 107 degrees C (225 degrees F). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Have ready a pastry bag fitted with a small (no. 6) plain tip. In a bowl, using a mixer on medium-low speed, beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar until very foamy. Slowly add the granulated sugar while beating. Increase the speed to high and beat until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Continue until the whites hold stiff, shiny peaks. Sift the icing sugar over the whites and, using a rubber spatula, fold in until well blended.
            2. Scoop the mixture into the bag. On one baking sheet, pipe 48 stems, each 1/2 inch (12 mm.) wide at the base and tapering off to a point at the top, 3/4 inch (2 cm.) tall, and spaced about 1/2 inch (12 mm.) apart. On the other sheet, pipe 48 mounds for the tops, each about 1-1/4 inches (3 cm.) wide and 3/4 inch (2 cm.) high, also spaced 1/2 inch (12 mm.) apart. With a damp fingertip, gently smooth any pointy tips. 
            3. Dust with cocoa. Reserve the remaining meringue.
            4. Bake until dry and firm enough to lift off the paper, 50-55 minutes. Set the pans on the counter and turn the mounds flat side up. With the tip of a knife, carefully make a small hole in the flat side of each mound. Pipe small dabs of the remaining meringue into the holes and insert the stems tip first. Return to the oven until completely dry, about 15 minutes longer. Let cool completely on the sheets.
            5. Garnish your Yule Log with the mushrooms.

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