Thursday, May 29, 2008

Daring Bakers: L'Opera Cake

This is my first Daring Bakers Challenge. And oh my, was it a challenge. This was my first cake that had so many elements that became very time consuming. These past few days have been busy since my friend is in town for 2 months so I had to find time to finish this cake. Tonight I finally did.
First let me describe what a opera cake is. It is a layered cake with layers of buttercream, nutty flavored thin cake, ganache, and glaze. Usually the flavors are coffee and chocolate but since it is spring time the daring bakers decided that light colors would be more appropriate.
This is how the cake is set up (jaconade, syrup, buttercream, jaconade, syrup, buttercream, jaconade, ganache/mousse, glaze).
I made a jaconade using hazelnuts instead of almonds and vanilla extract. A jaconade is a cake that does not rise. it is very very thin. I decided to not make the syrup because the jaconade was already sweet enough and i didnt want to make it overly sweet with the syrup. It was also already very very moist. Even after 2 days it was incredibly moist.
I didn't use the Daring Baker's buttercream frosting recipe because of the issues with eggs and how I didn't think the syrup would actually be hot enough to get rid of the bacteria in the eggs. So I actually used the buttercream recipe in Dorie's book. Finally Dorie didn't let me down. Hah. The buttercream was really good. The only thing was it was more buttery then sweet so I added about 2 TBSP of icing sugar and a lot of fresh lemon juice and frozen blueberries in juice. It turned out great. Not too sweet, but still a great thick consistancy. This was a great buttercream to experiment with.

For the ganache I use Gharadhelli (hopefully I spelled that right) white chocolate I got from Trader Joes. Trader Joes is my new place to get baking chocolate. You get a big block of nearly 9 oz for pretty cheap. At grocery stores it can get really expensive which adds up. So, I learned that my mixer doesnt whip up egg whites or heavy cream that well because I halved the recipes so its about half a cup at a time since I dont like to make a lot. I whipped out my hand held mixer that I have had since I was little. The instructions to make a ganache is you have to melt chocolate over the stove with a few tablespoons of heavy cream. It turned out oily and i had to use a spoon to get rid of the oil that built up. After I put the ganache in the fridge and it turned out GREAT! So far everything turned out as great as I wanted.
For the glaze which I didn't end up using a lot of in the end was blueberry glaze. Not the white chocolate glaze like in the recipe. I used corn starch to thicken it up. A lot of people use agar agar or gelatin to make a glaze. I have yet to try those, I will in the future I am sure. It ended up so well and very blueberry tasting.
Finally everything came together after 3 days. Attempt the recipe for yourself!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TWD: Sticky Buns

This weeks challenge, I will call it, was a failure, to but it lightly. So far I have not been impressed by Dorie, hopefully that will change soon. For this challenge you are suppose to make a Brioche bread dough, which I did. I didnt want to make more then I needed so I halved the recipe like it said to. Maybe that is where I went wrong, but I am not sure. When I made it the night before it seemed alright. More butter then I would ever put into a bread but I thought hey I love butter this will taste great. Then today I make the gooey part and that turned out alright too. I thought wow this will come out amazing. Wow was I wrong. Maybe it was the paper I used or I did something wrong with the glaze or the bread. The dough did not roll out to 15 rolls like said. I got 9. I also don't think I added enough cinnamon for the filling, that was my fault. This turned out a disaster, when I baked it it looked great then when it came time to plate it, the stuff would not come off of the parchment paper I used. It was stuck on there, and wasted my pecans which I paid so much for. I didn't even want to take a picture of the end result I got, the words I used to describe it as I was sobbing in dissapointment was "hot mess"
I guess you can't win them all.

Sticky Buns Recipe

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

TWD: Berry Cheese Cake

Recently I joined 2 group baking blogs. TWD (Tuesdays with Dorie) is a group of bloggers who use the book "Baking: From my home to yours" by Dorie Greenspan and bake something weekly then post it on Tuesdays. This weeks challenge was Mandelines but unfortunately I do not have the right pan for it and I have yet to buy it, maybe sometime in the future but not now. So, we were allowed to do past challenges. Since this is my first challenge I got to choose from many. Everyone in my family has been craving cheese cake and this one seemed like a great one to do.

This cheese cake definitely needed to be eaten cold to taste good. It wasn't a great tasting one and I will probably try finding another recipe that taste better. Along with cream cheese this also had cottage cheese which my family and I are not a fan of. The texture of the cottage cheese really came through but luckily the taste of it didn't. It wasnt as creamy as I would have liked. The crust was great and I will use that recipe again for sure. I also liked the idea of having a layer of jam in it, I used Raspberry Jam.

Hidden Berry Cream Cheese Torte

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Oooey Goooey Brownies

These brownies came out so much better then i thought they would. Taste great with ice cream. I made them with bittersweet chocolate baking chips which was my first time using chocolate baking chips. I have heard horrid stories about them, about how they dont melt right and stuff but these were at this cake decorating store I found a while ago and I thought if Ina Garten (i think thats how you spell her name, whatever the barefoot contessa) uses them I should do. I wish the store was closer so i can buy more. They melted great and the brownies turned out so moist and not too rich like the chocolate cookies I made. I cut down the chocolate the recipe asked for. I also added walnuts cause they always go great in brownies.

I dont know if I already mentioned this, but if anyone is in the market for a new baking book I totally recommend William Sonoma Baking book and Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. I recently bought them and they are fantastic. They have helped me out so much.

The Best Gift to Give.

Graduation time is around and I thought instead of spending tons of money on gifts for friends that are graduating that I dont even think they need I could bake them something. Because one its from the heart and because its practice for me.
I decided to make 3 or 4 things for each person. I had 3 people to bake for which meant a lot of organizing to get this right. Its one thing to have your family eat something that you made but its on a whole other level if you have someone not related to you eat something you made. It's just more pressure.
This took 2 days of baking, because there is only a certain amount of day I get to use the kitchen all by myself without people coming in and out complaining about the mess I am making.
Also this was a great time for me to use my new Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer I just got in a great Red color.
So I decided to make stuff that would be small and wont go bad when mail. I made Raspberry Crumb Bars, Blondies, Banana Nut Bread, Sweet Cinnamon Bread, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Pumpkin (chocolate chip) Muffins. This was the most I've baked since Senior year I had to make close to 200 cookies for a school event. That was a little more hectic then this though.

Cinnamon Bread:
(Sweet Bread that is cake like and the bread is made of basically vanilla cake and then in the middle and top has cinnamon butter, sort of like cinnamon roll.)

Brown Sugar Blondies:

Raspberry Crumb Bars:
(The Crust and Topping had the best smell, I mixed in some cinnamon and nutmeg for taste and smell, those have become my 2 favorite ingredients they aways kick up anything you are baking to a new level)

Banana Nut Bread (with walnuts):

My awesome moist and crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies:
(I must have made nearly 50 cookies for mom's coworkers, family, and then freinds)
I made Pumpkin Muffins but Ive already posted on here and I have got to say that those muffins are probably the first recipe I actually invented and has secret ingredients. Hah.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Cream Cheese Blueberry Bars

The crust for these bars are made of hazelnut, what a wonderful wonderful smell to have your house filled with. The nutty flavor of the crust goes great with the cream cheese & blueberries.
I had to use frozen blueberries so the blueberries didnt spread out as much as i would have liked.
I think this could also make a great cheesecake recipe or the crust could be used in a pie.
Sorry for the bad picture, the lights in my house are dim and dont make for great picture taking especially since i dont know how the flash on my camera phone works.

If anyone is in the market for a new book I highly recommend the William Sonoma Baking book. It is probably the best one I have and use it often. Also I just got the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook and can't wait to try some of the recipes out. I will making so much this month with graduations, mothers day, and daring bakers!