another daring challenege… mais en français!

I have something to confess… whenever I used to hear the word macaroons I always thought of those stiff meringue nests that people seem to really enjoy eating (I’m not one of those people). So when I saw that I was being asked to bake several dozen macaroons for the October DB Challenge my heart sorta sank… and then I realized how erroneous I had been.

These cookies aren’t hard and ridiculously sweet… they resemble more of a cookie sandwich – two light cookies bound together with a buttery filling. The best part of this challenge was that we were all encouraged to use whatever flavour profile we wanted.

I was divided… lemon cookies with a lemon cream cheese filling OR chocolate with a peanut butter filling. Oh what to do! Such a dilemma…

Since I had baked my 3 layered lemon cake over the weekend I decided to opt for the peanut butter. I don’t regret that choice at all. I ended up with some beautiful cookies and the creamest, buttery filling. Delish!

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macaroons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

Chocolate Macaroons
2 1/4 c. icing sugar
2 c. almond flour
3 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp white sugar
5 egg whites, they must be at room temperature

Preheat your oven to 200 F. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. If you don’t have any, do not grease your pan… the cookies need to be quite dry.

In a large bowl, combine the icing sugar, cocoa powder and the almond flour. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand-mixer start whisking the egg whites (with the whisk attachment). Start at a lower speed, increasing until about speed 8. At that point your egg whites should have formed soft peaks. Add the 2 tbsp of sugar and increase the speed to level 10. Continue whisking until you get to the stiff peak stage.

Take the mixer bowl off the stand-mixer and gently fold in 1/3 of the almond-icing sugar combo. Sift in the remaining almond flour in 2 batches. Be gentle and don’t overfold – just fully incorporate the ingrendients.

Place the batter into an icing bag (or ziplock bag). Use either a large tip or cut off the corner of the bag in order to pipe the batter onto the cookie sheet. You want to pipe them into one-inch mounds so that they form little circles.

Bake the macaroons for 5 minutes. Remove the pans from the oven and raise the temperature to 375 F.

Once the oven has reached that temperature, return the pans to the oven and continue to bake for another 7 minutes. Cool the cookies on a wire rack before filling them with the icing.

*I was able to get about 3 dozen cookies out of this batch – but I also didn’t have a proper piping bag (or ziplock bag) – so I ended up with some bigger macaroons that I would have otherwise.

A Sweet & Salty Peanut Butter Filling
125 g natural peanut butter
70 g icing sugar
25 g softened butter
25 g milk
5 g vanilla extract
3 g fine sea salt

In your mixing bowl (use a paddle attachment for the kitchenaid) cream together the butter and peanut putter at a medium speed. Add the icing sugar and salt and incorporate into the batter. Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla; finishing with the milk being incorporated, about a tbsp at a time.

Pipe the peanut butter onto the base of one of the macaroons and top with another. Store in an airtight container… if they even last that long!

Daring Bakers Challenge….Dobos Torta…sigh

Oh woe is me… if you know me, then you know I have a tendency to sigh – great, loud sighs. So imagine me typing this and sighing. Yep – this challenge left me shaking my head while I licked my spatula and wondered why I was unable to properly follow a recipe.

I’m late in posting my August Challenge. I just lost track of time and baked a whole bunch of other things on my list this past month… leaving this challenge on the sidelines. I will admit that I was so excited when I first received the challenge – a Hungarian speciality – baked in my little kitchen in Ottawa! Yay! Only, it didn’t work out as well as the recipe promised. I swear – I tried!!! But alas sometimes it doesn’t matter how good the intentions… sometimes, it just doesn’t work out :0(

Not to say the result doesn’t taste good… I mean, sugar, chocolate and butter combined – it still TASTES good, it’s just become a variation of what I had intended.

The August 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffes of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

This should have been simple enough – a 5 layer sponge-cake with a rich buttercream frosting and topped with thin wedges of caramel. 2 of my 5 layers didn’t bake properly. My caramel tasted of lemon. The only thing I was successful at was the buttercream frosting – I mean, whisking sugar and eggs, adding chocolate and then whisking in 2 sticks of butter – yep, rich chocolate frosting was made.. and licked… you have to taste the good rights?

So my end result was a 3 layered sponge cake, with buttercream frosting and pecans. No caramel. No special effects. This means I need to have another go at it another time…

I’ll provide you with what I did successfully complete though…

Sponge cake layers
6 eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 c. icing sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 c. + 2 tbsp sifted cake flour
pinch of salt

Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat the oven to 400F.

Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit an 9″ circle template.

Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 c. icing sugar and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer at high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and form thick ribbons with the beaters are lifted out of the batter (3 minutes).

In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 c. icing sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture. Fold in the remaining egg whites, leaving a few wisps of white visible.

Combine the flour and salt. Sift half of the flour over the eggs, fold in, and then repeat with the remaining flour.

Line a baking sheet with one piece of the parchment paper that has the circle template. Fill the circle with about 3/4 c. of the batter (fill in the traced circle with the batter using a spatula). Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes. Remove it from heat and place on a wire rack to cool. Meanwhile, bake the remaining layers, one at a time, 5 minutes each on the top rack. Allow all of the layers to cool completely.

Grab an 8″ circle round to trim the layers so that they are all the same size and shape.

While they are cooling you can start on the frosting.

Chocolate Buttercream
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 c. white sugar
4 oz (110g) dark chocolate chips or chocolate finely chopped
2 sticks butter, at room temperature

Bring a large saucepan with an inch or so of water to a boil, bring it down to a simmer. Once the water is ready, combine the eggs and sugar in a large glass bowl. Place the bowl on top of the pot (without the water touching the bottom of it) and whisk the eggs and sugar together (I use my electric beaters for 3 minutes).

Add the chopped chocolate to the egg mixture and continue beating the batter for another 3 minutes (over the simmering water). Remove from the heat, pour into a clean bowl and allow the batter to cool down a little.

Once it’s reached room temperature, slowing start to whisk the mixture adding the butter about 2 tbsp at a time – you’ll notice that it will slowly thicken. Keep your beater going until all the butter has been incorporated. Place the frosting into the fridge to chill – it will thicken up (leave to sit for about an hour). When you’re ready to assemble the cake, remove the frosting from the fridge and allow it to sit for a little bit before using it.

Now this is where everything really fell apart for me (even though by this point I’d already lost 2 of my sponge layers)… I followed the recipe for the caramel and ended up with a sticky lemon syrup – really not the best way to highlight this dessert… so I dumped it and continued to assemble my layers…

I put some of the buttercream on the serving plate and spread it out a little. I then placed the bottom layer on top of it (the buttercream allowed the cake to adhere to the plate and not move). Spread more of the frosting between the layers – cake, frosting, cake, frosting, cake and then more frosting. You’ll want to spread some of the buttercream around the sides as well. I then grabbed some whole pecans and placed them on the sides and top of the cake.

Totally not how it was supposed to turn out… but like I said before, it still tasted rich and delicious… even through all the sighs :0)

Daring Bakers Challenge… whippets!

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.
(I only made the Chocolate Covered Marshmallow cookies – I’ll try out the Milan ones another time)

When I looked at the recipe challenge this month I got very excited… not only did it highlight cookies – which, as you know, I became obsessed with… but these are the cookies that my mother gushes about…

My mom grew up in a large family, and when she first moved out on her own she bought herself a box of whippets and ate the entire thing in one sitting – sugar overload to be sure, but who hasn’t done that once or twice in their lifetime?!

I was excited to be able to make something that I just knew my mom would enjoy… I baked my batch just before her week long camping trip – a little treat to enjoy while sitting next to the campfire.

Note: This recipe has a few stages – all fairly simple, but they still require a bit of premeditation – the cookie dough needs to chill a little in the fridge before being baked, and although I made my marshmallows in advance, next time I’ll make them the same day and pipe them onto the cookie base, allow to harden a little and then dip in the chocolate glaze.

My version of a Whippet
Mallows(Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website
3 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 eggs, whisked together

In your food processor, combine the dry ingredients. Slowly add in the butter and continue to combine until the dough is almost sandy. Add the eggs and mix well to combine.

Remove the dough from the bowl and form it into a disk. You want to wrap it up in plastic wrap and have it chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour – I let mine sit in there for 3 days.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375 F. Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out your dough (with your rolling pin) until it’s about 1/8-inch thick. I used a 1 1/2 inch round cookie cutter to cut out the rounds of dough.

Bake for 10 minutes – they will be slightly golden. Remove from the tray and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Note: My batch made 100 cookies!!! (I baked and froze all but 2 dozen of them). In order to keep that amount of dough from warming up too much, I cut out my rounds and then kept them in the fridge until it was time to bake them. But feel free to load these onto the trays – they don’t spread as they bake.

Let the real fun begin now that they have completely cooled :0)

Since I had already made my Marshmallows (see blog entry, July 16th)I cut them up into small cubes and spread a little blueberry jam on the top of the cookie and then topped them with the marshmallow. I placed the cookies on a parchment lined cookie tray and placed them in a 350 F oven to have them “slump” a little – pay attention! otherwise they completely melt. They only need about 1 – 2 minutes to slump.
**This is how to do it if you decide to use purchased marshmallows

If you’re going to make the marshmallows day of (follow the same recipe as before) – only once you have completed your batch, transfer the batter to a Ziploc bag that you have cut off a tip and pipe the marshmallow onto the cookie top. Allow to sit for a couple of hours while they firm up.

Chocolate Glaze:
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 ounces vegetable oil

Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a bowl set over barely simmering water.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze. Life it with a fork, allow the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl and place on the prepared pan. Allow them to set at room temperature (a couple of hours) – I then transferred the pans to my fridge and had them chill overnight.

Really really good – half of them had the blueberry jam, and half of them didn’t. Both were enjoyed by all – my mother, her friends, my co-workers… myself ;0) Give them a try – they might seem like a lot of work – but they are so worth it!

Happy baking!