Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July Daring Baker's Challenge: Fraisiers

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

I decided to do a summery peach dessert. I just love peaches in the summer.

Basic Sponge Recipe
1 cup + 2 tablespoons (270 ml) (5½ oz/155 gm) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (4 gm) baking powder
3/4 cups (180 ml) (6 oz /170 gm) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) (1½ gm) salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
⅓ cup + 1 tablespoon (3.17 fl oz/95 ml) water
1 teaspoon (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon (3¾ ml) (3 gm) lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1 gm) cream of tartar


Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F (160°C/gas mark 3).
Line the bottom of an 8-inch (20 cm) spring form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan since the cake needs to adhere to the sides for lift.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons (45 ml.) of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.

In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly.

Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment on a medium speed, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Removed the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack.
To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days.

Pastry Cream

2 oz cornstarch
16 fl oz milk
4 oz sugar
1 egg
4 yolks
2 oz butter
1 Tablespoon Vanilla extract

  1. Put sugar and 7/8ths of the milk in a pot and boil till the sugar dissolves.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk cornstarch and remaining cold milk together (note, cornstarch only dissolves in cold liquids, not in hot.)

 3. Whisk the eggs and yolks together with the cornstarch mixture.

4. When the milk and sugar are boiling, pour into the egg- cornstarch mixture and whisk constantly. Bring entire mixture back to the pot over heat. Always stir, never stop stirring!

6. Allow the mixture to thicken and come to a boil (it will bubble lightly) but stir constantly!
7. Pour the cream into another bowl and add the cut up butter and vanilla, whisking till it incorporates.
8. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool. (put little wholes or cuts in the plastic wrap to allow steam to escape.)


Split the sponge cake in half.  I moistened it with the canned peach syrup since it added more peachy flavor to the layer.

In a prepared ring mould with plastic wrap, place a layer of the sponge, then spread a thick layer of vanilla pastry cream over the cake.

I topped the cream with sliced peaches all over. I placed another layer of sponge cake, and topped it with pastry cream.

Top the pastry cream with another layer of moistened sponge and a small thin layer of pastry cream, then  knead some almond paste and roll it out to a flat disk over a powdered sugared surface. I placed it on top of the pastry cream directly.
At this time you would freeze your cake so that you can disassemble it and it holds it's shape. I was pressed for time so I used acetate on the outside so that I could unmould the cake right away. The presentation looks nice and you don't have to worry about spilling over.

I then decorated the top with peaches, some sanding sugar, and buttercream.

And voila!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

July Daring Cook's Challenge: Handmade Pasta

Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks' July hostess.  Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine.  She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with!

My version was a whole wheat ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese and sun dried tomato, topped with caramelized onions and truffle pate. It was delicious! Despite it historically being a poor person's food I love the little surprise you find when you bite into a chunk of ravioll, with so many different fillings you never know what you'll find. So i have to hand it to the ingenious people who tried to re-use leftovers inside their pasta.
 So far as Italy is concerned, the earliest records of ravioli appear in the preserved letters of Francesco di Marco, a merchant of Prato in the 14th century. The pasta is described as being stuffed with pork, eggs, cheese, parsley and sugar, and during Lent a filling of herbs, cheese, and spices was used. There were both sweet and savory kinds. The city of Cremona claims to have created ravioli. But Genoa claims that too, insisting that the word ravioli comes from their dialect word for pasta, rabiole, which means "something of little value" and referred to the practice of poor sailors who suffered leftovers into pasta to be eaten for another meal.

Remember to make the filling and topping for the ravioli before the pasta dough.

One of my instructors in pastry school has her own cooking school specializing in Italian cuisine. She taught me that making pasta is really dead easy. It seems intimidating but it is just time consuming, not fought at all. There are only two ingredients to making pasta, flour and eggs.

I used 500g flour and 6 large eggs.
The ratio is typically 100g flour to 1 egg, but whole wheat flour is drier and needs the extra boost of egg. No matter what, the main ingredient is the flour, not the egg, so if your dough looks fine and you still have one egg to dump in, don't! The dough will look a little like bread dough if you've ever made it before.
Use the hook in a stand mixer and mix till elastic and shiny.

Separate the dough into 3 parts if you are using a pasta machine, handling too much dough at once will cause it to tear. And if you have someone to help you out, even better.

Clamp down the pasta machine and make sure it doesn't wiggle. If you don't have one, just use a rolling pin and roll the dough out very thinly over a flour dusted surface.

Dust a little flour on either side of the dough to prevent it from sticking inside the machine.
Stretch a few times and fold over itself until you get a smooth consistent dough. Only after should you start putting the dough through thinner settings.

Once you have the desired thickness (leave a little thicker for ravioli since it can tear with a filling) place the filling (recipe follows) in the centre of the dough. Fold the dough over sealing the edges with water. And cut.
At this time, either cook or freeze with parchment paper separating the different ravioli.

Boil water. Gently lower each ravioli in one at a time.
Cook till al dente. The time varies depending on the thickness of your dough. It could be anywhere from 2 minutes to Over 5.

Place raviolis onto a serving dish, top with caramelized onions and a teaspoon of truffle paste and dig in!

Hydrate 1 cup of sun dried tomatoes with hot water. Drain and chop into little pieces.

Mix with 1 cup of ricotta cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Stir together.

Variations: try a pumpkin ravioli by mixing ricotta, pumpkin puree and nutmeg for a filling. Then top with a béchamel or a light cheese sauce.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Underwater Barbie

Personality: Moist vanilla cake with silky vanilla frosting, coated with glittery fondant layers and embelishments. 

What's Baking?

Summer Birthdays are keeping us busy with many fun cakes, here are some of the latest.

Elegant Chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling. Covered with fondant and adorned with gumpaste flowers.

Super fun vanilla cake with chocolate fudge filling. Topped with a fondant octopus and sugar silver pearls.