Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Daring Bakers: Filbert Gateau

DBfilbertgateau (4)

Finally.. my first challenge as a Daring Baker is completed! Ever since I started blogging, I've had the opportunity to try new desserts and learn new techniques, but this filbert gateau was at a whole other level. I actually didn't complete this until late July because I didn't really know where to start... praline paste? buttercream? the ever so delicate sponge?! Although there was a lot of recipe re-reading and not to mention, a whole day's worth and more dedicated to this gateau, it was totally worth it. The most frustrating part was trying to skin the hazelnuts, which was like a marathon spread over a couple days. Some of them were so stubborn that even after multiple toasts the skins still remained stuck on.


I started off with the praline brittle, thinking it would be easy.. haha. After patiently waiting 10, then 20 minutes for the sugar to caramelize and nothing happened, I spooned in some water (what was I thinking!). Rather than speeding up the process, there were random chunks of sugar everywhere. The only way this could be salvaged was by turning the 'brittle' into the sugar syrup that I flavoured with the Jamaican rum suggested by the recipe. For my second attempt, I cranked the heat up to medium and the sugar slowly melted into a beautiful caramel. This time, the sugar was ever so slightly burned, but it actually added a nice deep butterscotchy flavour.

DBfilbertgateau (2)

The cake part was not as scary as I anticipated, but how could I not be worried. The most crucial part was done by hand, no KA could do the folding component for me. I tried to be as light handed as possible and repeated the 'down through the middle, scrap up from the bottom, twist and up' until everything was incorporated. For the buttercream, I only made 1/4 of it because I didn't want any leftover. I can't stand all frosting except for cream cheese, whipped cream and 7 minute icing. This on the other hand was suprisingly delicious! It didn't taste like a stick of butter, but was smooth, silky and melt in your mouth with the occasional crunch from the praline brittle. By mistake, I added double the amount sugar because I forgot that I was making 1/4 of the recipe instead of 1/2. I'm actually glad I screwed up on that because it still had the perfect amount of sweetness. Since there was so little frosting, there was barely any left for decorating so I had to compromise by piping dots on the bottom instead of continuing with the stars.

DBfilbertgateau (4)

After all that work, I was a little hesitant to cut into it, but was tempted to taste it because I've never eaten a cake made with nuts before. Flavourwise, this has to be the best cake I've ever eaten. It was so nice to taste the hazelnuts, rum, buttercream and chocolate ganache all in one bite. The texture was a little coarse, but that was probably from underprocessing the nuts and because my mesh strainer didn't catch all the bits. For the bits that were leftover, I just topped it on my cake (I could not waste any hazelnuts, especially since I spent forever skinning them!) It might take a super special occassion for me to make this again, but the buttercream on the other hand.. I'm going to have to experiment with different flavours. Next time I'll definitely have to find already skinned hazelnuts!

DBfilbertgateau (8)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

TWD: Summer Fruit Galette

No TWD for me this week. In a few hours, I will be on my flight to England for 2 weeks.. any TWDer's in England? I feel so bad for not doing this week's TWD, but with all the packing and everything I had to do before leaving, it was just not possible. I hope everyone's galette turned out well.. with the blueberry pie crust as the base, I'm sure it's amazing!

By the way, I finally got a new camera just in time for my trip! No more blurry images and no more using cookie jars and ziploc/sour cream containers as camera stands. Shaky hands? No problem.. well at least I hope so!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies


The chocolate chip cookie entry... finally! It's been a month since I've started blogging and I can't believe I haven't made a single chocolate chip cookie. I've waited so long because along with the TWD challenges and baking in between, that's a lot of butter! Everytime I make chocolate chip cookies, I end up 'testing' way too many ie. straight out of the oven, still warm, completely cool, completely cool after a few hours. Then I end up nibbling on them everytime I walk past the cookie sheets, starting on the corners and eventually make my way to the center.

Cookies straight out of the oven are always delicious, but once cool, they tend to be hard. The ultimate chocolate cookie for me has to be crisp and crunchy on the outside and soft and chewy in the middle. When I was still in search of a chocolate chip recipe that actually tasted good cold, I noticed that most recipes are pretty much the same with a few variations. It killed me when the dough always tasted great raw and warm from the oven, but transformed into a hockey puck later.

I love how this recipe from Cook's Illustrated uses melted butter because I always find it difficult to incorporate the flour into the creamed butter or sugar and adding in chocolate chips without having to struggle a bit. Usually I like to cut down on butter whenever I can (even if its one or two tablespoons... somehow it makes me feel better), but when it comes to the chocolate chip cookie, I want the whole thing.. not some spongy, cakey, weird ingredient filled version. By the way, this batch of cookies was inspired by the article posted by the New York Times, claiming that refrigerating the dough makes for better tasting cookies because it allows the dough and other ingredients to fully soak up the liquid. I decided to give it a try, but to keep it as controlled as possible, I only made one batch and baked half of it the day of and half on the next day. Although I didn't wait for the recommended 36 hours, my taste testers and I have to admit that the cookies actually did taste better after a day in the fridge. I was so excited about my first batch that I totally forgot to take pictures. 8 cookies does not take long to finish when you have 4 people in your family. I snapped some quick pictures of the second batch though before they got devoured.

cookiechocolatechip (3)

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wilton Decorating Course 1: Class 4


July has gone by way too fast! For my final class, we finally learned how to do the wilton rose. We were so slow with learning how to coordinate twisting the flower nail while squeezing the piping bag and moving the petal tip up and down that we didn't even get a chance to learn the leaves. Being the clumsy person I am, 4 of my roses didn't actually make it to the cake and landed on the table. By the time class was over, I only piped the center 7 roses onto my cake so again, I had to finish the rest at home.

Now the question is.. what to do with the cake? Everytime I get back from class, I can never bring myself to eat it, but feel like it's such a waste to throw out. Shortening freaks me out a little.. I don't know if it's the slimy feeling it leaves on your tongue or the pure whiteness of it. What makes it worse is I used noname transfats shortening so that the roses would pipe better. Apparently, we need those transfats to keep the frosting stabilized. As my instructor always says, desserts are not meant to be healthy...

wiltoncake4 (2)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

TWD: Strawberry-Blueberry Cobbler


I wanted so badly to make a cherry rhubarb cobbler because I've never eaten rhubarb before and because cherry + rhubarb sounded like a nice combination. Somehow, I never made it to the supermarket to pick up a bag of frozen rhubarb. Without the rhubarb, it just didn't feel worth it to pit a pound of cherries! Instead, I used a half a box of strawberries that were a little too ripe to be eaten, but would make a delicious filling and tossed in some blueberries so that there would be more filling.

Usually, I make my TWD recipes during the weekend, but it got so busy with birthday parties and work. To make clean up a lot faster and more convenient, I just rubbed the butter into the flour with my fingers and mixed the rest of the dough by hand. Somehow, I forgot about the whole wheat flour and added all purpose twice. I was afraid that the biscuit would be done before the fruit so I popped the filling in the oven first for 25 minutes as I prepared the dough (a trick I learned from Cook's Illustrated). Good thing the filling was precooked or the biscuit would have been way overdone... although that may not have been a bad thing as the filling made it a little soggy.

cobblermixedberry (2)

I didn't have a deep dish for baking and had to settle with my 8x1.5 inch cake pan. Thankfully the biscuit tasted so good because it was overtowering on top just a couple berries. This was the first time I've had cobbler, but I knew it wouldn't be the dessert for me. Sogginess has always been something that turns me away.. I can't even use mayo in my sandwiches because of the sogginess factor. I actually had to eat this hot before the juices soaked into the biscuit.

cobblermixedberry (3)

Thanks to Amanda of Like Sprinkles on a Cupcake for choosing this recipe, which can be found on her site and in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours. Don't forget to checkout the TWD Blogroll!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Wilton Decorating Course 1: Class 3

This week we decorated cupcakes in class. Since we were given the freedom to pipe whatever we wanted to, I couldn't finish and ended up only decorating 3/8. This is so typical of me.. I can never decide!

wiltoncake3wiltoncake3 (2)wiltoncake3 (3)

I finished the rest of the cupcakes at home...

wiltoncake3 (4)wiltoncake3 (6)wiltoncake3 (5)

Thanks to everyone for the encouraging words in my other post. I'm still confused, but I'm sure I don't want to be dietitian after speaking with a few of them. It defintiely wasn't the job I was expecting it to be, but at least I know I won't be spending the next 4 years in school for dietetics.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

TWD: Chocolate Pudding


This is only my third enty and I'm so glad that I joined TWD despite packing on all the pounds! It's been something that I look forward every week because I get to try and learn new things. Sometimes I wish the summer could last forever so I wouldn't have to think about school or the 'future'. I'm going into fourth year, but still feel so undecided with what to do next. Even when I graduate with my majors in nutrition and psychology, I don't think I'm actually employable. The only thing I can think of is entering a dietetics program, since that is accredited, but that would basically mean redoing at least 3 years of undergrad. I guess the other option would be to enter grad school, but I don't even know if my marks are good enough. I hate myself so much for being so undecisive the past three years and failed to make smarter decisions earlier. Now I feel like I've wasted time and money. Even if I were to become a dietitian, I don't even think I could find a job. It's so nice when I get to bake away and forget all about the scary things or important decisions I have to make. Sorry.. that was totally unrelated, but I so needed to get it off my back before I go crazy.

puddingchocolate (2)

Anyway.. back to TWD. The chocolate pudding was such a great pick.. not too much butter, but lots of chocolate! Before I started, I thought this would be a clean and quick challenge. While I was right about the quick, I was all wrong about the clean. Thank god for my 12 cup food processor or I'm sure I would've had pudding on my walls. I only made half the batch and it still approached the leak line. I felt like I was scrambling a lot, especially since I always put my book far away from potential damage so there was a lot of walking back and forth combined with the fear of overdrying the chocolate, overheating the milk and cooking the eggs. This was the first time my pudding didn't scramble! Now I think I'm confident enough to tackle pastry cream and make a boston cream pie. I was actually suprised how rich the pudding was considering it was made with milk, but there was a slight chalkiness to it.. although that could have been my fault for using Chipits instead of squares. Here, have a bite!

puddingchocolate (3)

Thanks to Melissa of It's Melissa's Kitchen for choosing this recipe, which can be found on her site and in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours. Don't forget to checkout the TWD Blogroll!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Wilton Decorating Course 1: Class 2


I woke up with a very sore arm after my second cake decorating class where we traced a couple of practise boards and piped a rainbow pattern. It must be the lack of muscle tone in my body... how embarassing! We were required to bring an 8 inch cake, but I wasn't planning on eating shortening/icing so I took out my cake mix from hmm.. 1999? only to discover that there were little black bugs everywhere! Having just made Dorie's devil's food cake, I decided to buy a devil's food cake mix for comparison. I have to admit that I'm pretty jealous of the fluffy texture that I can never achieve with homemade cakes. Tastewise, Dorie's cake wins hands down! The cake mix seemed a one dimensional and it was like eating a very sweet brown cake.

wiltoncake2 (2)

As easy as shortening + icing sugar frosting is to make, it is a huge mess to clean up. Hydrogenated oil does not seem to want to come off anything it touches. I didn't even bother to measure it out and just eyeballed it off the measurements on the box. Thankfully, I had lots of practise icing left. I love these classes and would recommend them to anyone who desperately needs to learn basic piping skills. Those who are more advanced may probably find it a little boring though.. espeically with all you amazing decorators out there! I'm excited that after one month of blogging, I've learned so much and piped frosting on a cake.

This icing is really good for practising, especially if you don't want to waste your precious butter!

Buttercream Icing

(Medium Consistency)

1 cup solid vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon Clear Vanilla Extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar (approx. 1 lb.)
2 tablespoons milk or water

In large bowl, cream shortening and butter with electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth until ready to use. For best results, keep icing bowl in refrigerator when not in use. Refrigerated in an airtight container, this icing can be stored 2 weeks. Rewhip before using.

YIELD: Makes about 3 cups.

For thin (spreading) consistency icing, add 2 tablespoons light corn syrup, water or milk.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

TWD: Blueberry Pie


This week's TWD was a little messy, but a lot of fun! I've never made a pie or a crust before (unless if graham cracker crumbs + butter counts) so I was really worried. It was especially nerve wracking since I was taking this to my cousin's birthday party and I had no idea how it would turn out. I didn't have a 9 inch pie plate so I made 2 8 inch pies by making 1.5 times of the filling, but using the same amount of dough.
An added bonus of making this pie was the big blueberry sale the supermarkets were having last week... 2 pints of blueberries for 3 dollars! Some TWDers mentioned that the filling was runny, but I wasn't going to add more flour considering there was already 1/2 cup. Instead, I used Cook's Illustrated tip and mashed and cooked 1/2 of the blueberries to make a wonderfully thickened blueberry sauce. This worked wonderfully and the filling was not runny at all. I also reduced the sugar so that the natural sweetness of the blueberries could come out.

pieblueberry (2)

Thank god I didn't forget to line the pies with the baking sheets because the filling was bubbling like crazy in the oven. Especially since I used one 9 inch pie dough recipe for 2 8 inch pies, I barely had enough crust so there was a lot of blueberry filling spillage onto the baking sheet. I also had to cut out 5 big holes in order to have enough crust for the top. Overall, the filling was ok, but luckily the crust was so good, it could have carried any type of filling. Everyone at the party liked it.. at least I hope!

Thanks to Amy of South in Your Mouth for choosing this recipe, which can be found on her site and in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours. Don't forget to checkout the TWD Blogroll!

Sunday, July 6, 2008


pizza (3)

When my brother and I were younger, the closest we ever got to cooking was making pizza. We would pile the storebought dough with so many toppings that it never cooked through, leaving us with a soggy and rawish crust. A fork would be absolutely necessary to eat our so called pizza turned salad. Since my last two yeasted recipes worked out so well, I decided to give pizza dough a try. This time I wanted to test out the food processor, which is a lot faster than the standing mixer, but also easier to overwork or overheat the dough. I figured that even if the crust was ruined, the toppings would be there to hopefully cover it up.

The recipe said that the dough was going to be tacky, but I had a feeling mine was a little too wet. It was actually so incredibly wet that I literally had to knead a cup of flour into the dough. After that, the dough transformed into a tough and lumpy mess that was difficult to roll out and stretch.

pizza (2)

This time around, I put too few toppings. The crust was a little tough, but better than I imagined. Thank god for the toppings or this would have gone into the garbage.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

TWD Rewind: Brown Sugar Pecan Shortbread Cookies

cookiesbrownsugarpecanshortbread (2)

The goal of TWD was to bake through the entire book and of course to try new recipes and have a lot of fun on the way! I joined late so there are about 23 recipes to catch up for, but I would still like to go back and complete older TWDs from the beginning. I can't say I was overly excited when I saw that I would have to make shortbread, but after those scones I was sure I wouldn't be disappointed. As usual, the first thing I noticed was the high amount of butter. Even though I wanted to stick to the recipe, 2 sticks of butter for just 1 1/2 cups of flour seemed a little too much so I reduced it to 1.5 sticks. As they were baking, I was starting to see the beautifully cut squares slowly melt into a puddle. Most of the cookies spread so much that they had spiky edges except for the 3 up at the top that best retained their shape.

My cookies didn't end up looking pale as they should have, but I think it worked out better that way. The carmelization of the brown sugar added a nice butterscotchy flavour and when combined with the ground up pecans made a flavourful and amazingly textured cookie. They were really crisp on the outside from all the spreading and slightly chewy in the center. The best part was probably how flaky they ended up being. I may not be a shortbread fan, but I will definitely try these again!

This recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan's
Baking: From my Home to Yours

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

TWD: Apple Cheddar Scones


I was so excited when Dorie's book finally arrived so I could participate in my first TWD baking event. To be honest, I wasn't overly excited about this recipe because I've never really liked scones. I was even tempted to make only half the recipe in case nobody would eat them, but decided to just stick to the original. My experiences with them have usually been tough, hard and a little crumbly. These on the other hand were really tender and soft! I really liked the addition of cornmeal because it added just enough crunch without being rough. I wasn't too sure about the apple + cheddar combination so I made half the batch with apples only and the second batch with apple + cheese. Next time I make these, I think I'll load them up with more dried apples + cheese and maybe 1/2 tsp more salt. Sweet and salty is quite the delicious combination!

The dough was so sticky I wasn't exactly sure how to knead it, but it all came together nicely after a very generous dusting. There was actually a little sticking so I used the edge of my Chinese rectangular knife to scrap the dough off the counter. I must get myself a pastry scraper, those food network chefs make it look so much fun whenever they're scrapping away at their counter. Anway, after 10 minutes in the oven, there was significant browning on the bottom and pale tops. There was also some smoke coming out (my fault for using old parchment) so I finished the rest of the baking at 350. Next time I'm going to use my insulated cookie sheets, since those always manage to leave my chocolate chip cookies nice and pale.. haha. Overall, making scones was kind of fun because of its simplicity and of course, all the squishing of butter into flour with your fingers. Luckily I didn't freeze any because the scones disappeared quicker than I expected.

sconesapplecheddar (2)
sconesapplecheddar (3)

Thanks to Karina of The Floured Apron for choosing this recipe, which can be found in Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From my Home to Yours. Don't forget to checkout the TWD Blogroll!

By the way, the devil's food white-out cake was such a hit that I was asked to make another one for a birthday party. I love Dorie's recipes!!

cakedevilsfoodwhiteout2 (2)


Related Posts with Thumbnails