Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chocolate Bowls

Need a way to present your next dessert? Or simply want to add more chocolate. What could be more fun then dipping balloons into chocolate? How it's Done!

Daring Bakers February - Tiramisu

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Classic tiramisu is made of alternate layers of espresso soaked ladyfinger biscuits and a cream made from mascarpone cheese and zabaglione (an egg custard). The perfect Tiramisu is a balance of flavors of a sweet zabaglione, strong coffee, marsala wine, creamy mascarpone cheese and the dusting of unsweetened cocoa.

Tiramisu is made up of several components which can be made separately and ahead of time and put together the day before serving. Making tiramisu from scratch requires about 2 to 3 days (including refrigeration) from when you start making the mascarpone to the time the tiramisu is served. So this challenge requires some prior planning.
Please read the instructions as you need to begin making the mascarpone at least a day in advance. The zabaglione & pastry cream also need 4 hours to an overnight for chilling, as does the main dessert. The flavours mature after an overnight rest, and the dessert can be kept refrigerated for 2-3 days. Once assembled, the tiramisu can be frozen till you need to serve it, in case you are not serving it immediately.

I made all the components the night before, assembled in the morning and served that night. It honestly didn't take me that long. Maybe 2 hours prep start to finish.
I would have liked a stronger coffee taste and would probably have flavoured the crème. Everyone else disagreed with me though, they enjoyed the lightness. I don’t think the pastry cream adds much to this. Next time I would just make the mascarpone and zabaglione.

Wonderful new skills picked up, once again, I’d never made any of the elements of this challenge and am quite chuffed to have these recipes under my ever expanding belt.

Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder


For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.
Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese
474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours. Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.
3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,
Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Fluffy Mock Cream on Vanilla Birthday Cake

This is not the best tasting icing, not bad, just not something you have a moment with once it hits your taste buds. It is however the only one out of three, that stood up to the tropics. Nothing is quite so frustrating as creating beautiful, fluffy butter creams, only to watch them collapse 15 minutes later due to the heat. On the plus side, this is an amazing icing for decorating. It holds colour brilliantly, spreads well, and doesn’t move once you’ve got it on. I highly recommend it, for any occasion when your cake is going to be out and about. This cake is for a little boy's first birthday, with a jungle theme.

Fluffy Mock Cream

2 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup water
1cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon if gelatine
2 tablespoons water
250g butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
(If you’re using colouring add with the extract)

Mix gelatine with 2 tablespoons of water, until smooth, set aside.

Combine milk, water and sugar in a small saucepan stir over a low heat without boiling until sugar is dissolved. Take off heat and add gelatine. Allow to cool.

In a large bowl beat butter and extract until fluffy and white. Slowly pour in cold syrup, while beating. Beat until all syrup is incorporated, and mixture is light and fluffy.

I used this cake recipe, from SmittenKitchen with a few adaptations as I don’t have a stand mixer. I found it to be a very dense cake. It holds it shape very well and is great for this sort of thing.

Vanilla Buttermilk Cake

3 3/4 cups cake flour
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 sticks (10 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups plus 1/3 cup buttermilk
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment or waxed paper and butter the paper.
2. Combine the cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. With the mixer on low speed, blend for 30 seconds. Add the butter and 1 1/4 cup of the buttermilk. Mix on low speed briefly to blend; then raise the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and the remaining 1/3 cup buttermilk until well blended. Pour one-third of the egg mixture into the cake batter at a time, folding it in completely after each addition. There will be 9 cups of batter; our 3 cups batter into each pan.
4. Bake for 26 to 28 minutes, or until a cake tester or wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
5. Turn the layers out onto wire racks by placing a rack on top of a pan, inverting it, and lifting off the pan. Peel off the paper liners and let cool completely. When the layers have cooled, place a cardboard cake board on top of a layer, invert again, and lift off the rack. To make the layers easier to handle, wrap them on their boards completely in plastic, so they don’t dry out, and refrigerate them.

I’ve recently been taught about crumb coats. May seem obvious, but I’ve managed to be completely oblivious to how people got those excellent icing results. It all comes down to the ‘crumb coat’. It’s a very thin layer of icing of syrup that you coat the cakes with. You then let them sit in the fridge for 20 minutes, before you ice. This means that when you start you have a smooth surface. It also helps the colour stay untainted. Be Informed!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Daring Cooks February - Mezze

The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make Mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

Pita Bread

Pita Bread

Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

4 teaspoons regular dry yeast
2 cups lukewarm water
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon table salt
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar


Place flour in large bowl and make a well in the centre. In the centre mix yeast and warm water, then add oil. Fold flour over the yeast and then add salt and sugar, mix until well. Turn out and kneed well for roughly ten minutes, until the dough is soft, elastic and smooth. Place in a large buttered bowl, cover with a moist tea towel. Leave in a warm place for 40 minutes until doubled in size. Knock down and kneed gently, before allowing to rise for a second time.

Divide into 16 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and roughly 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.

Preheat your oven to 200

Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.


Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden

Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste

Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Beetroot Tatzici

2 cups plain Greek-style yoghurt
2 beets peeled and halved
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 tbs finely chopped fresh mint
2 tbs olive oil
1 1/2 tbs fresh lemon juice
Salt, to taste

Roast beets in a 200 degree oven, for roughly 30 minutes, or until soft. Allow to cool completely and then roughly chop.

In a bowl mix well, all ingredients. Add beets and mix gently. Keep chilled

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Greek Baklava

I'm surprised I've never made baklava before. It contains all my favorite things, cinnamon, butter and nuts. Recipe from:

1 lbs. walnuts (add a couple handfuls more if you want it nuttier)
1.5 heaping tsp. cinnamon
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. ground cloves (I tend to go toward the higher end, but it’s about what you want)
1 (16 oz.) package phyllo dough, thawed
1 cup unsalted butter, melted

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick (optional)
strip of lemon peel, or a couple tsp. fresh lemon juice

Toast the walnuts, either in a dry skillet or a 300 degree oven, until fragrant. Place in a food processor along with the cinnamon and cloves, and buzz until walnuts are pretty finely crushed (obviously you don’t want a powder, but no huge chunks, either).

Preheat the oven to 350.

Grease a 9×13 pan, and place one layer of phyllo at the bottom. Brush the phyllo with the melted butter, and then add another layer of phyllo, and brush with more butter. Continue this process until you have layered about 7 sheets of phyllo.

Spoon 1/4 of the nut mixture evenly over the top. Repeat the process of the phyllo/butter layering again, but this time only use about 5 sheets of phyllo. Continue the layering of the 5 sheets of phyllo and 1/4 of the mixture of walnuts. Finish off with 7 layers of buttered phyllo (and don’t forget to brush butter on the top layer, too).

Using a sharp knife, cut your baklava into diamonds or triangles (at this point, you can also trim any ragged ends or phyllo that sticks out). I used to do diamonds but mine were always a little funky shaped so now I just do triangles. Place in the oven, and bake for about 50 minutes, until golden brown.

To make your syrup, combine all the ingredients and bring to a low boil. Turn the heat to simmer and simmer about 10-15 minutes. Allow the syrup to cool before pouring over the hot-from-the-oven-baklava. Alternatively, you can pour hot syrup over a cooled baklava. It’s your choice, just remember one has to be hot and the other shouldn’t be.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Chickpea Salad

I thought I had posted this before. But I was asked for the recipe and couldn't find it. It's so good, I make it quite often. It goes well with everything.

Chickpea Salad

Cloves of garlic – pop in the microwave for 60 seconds, and then crush.
Salt and pepper freshly cracked
Juice of one lemon
A handful of fresh chopped – Mint, coriander and parsley
150grms of feta crumbled
½ a Spanish onion diced
A dash of olive oil
2 cups of chickpeas

Mix all ingredients together and serve.

I used canned chickpeas this time, something I’ve avoided in the past. They were actually really nice. Just rinse well and allow to sit in the lemon juice and salt for awhile to ensure there’s no ‘canned’ taste

Friday, February 5, 2010


Somehow, I've managed to overlook blogging about brownies. These are my fall-back dessert, when you need something quick and don't have many ingredients in the pantry. Moist, dense and chocolaty they've been a family favorite for years.

200g butter
1 cup cocoa powder
2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup of flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts or chocolate chips or both.

Melt butter and sugar over a medium heat until all the sugar is dissolved. Stirring regularly allow to come to the boil. Take off heat and beat in cocoa and flour. Add eggs. Beat until glossy and smooth.

Pour into a well greased baking tray. Press nuts or chocolate into the surface.

Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
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