Thursday, 27 August 2009

August Daring Bakers: Dobos Torte

Dobos Torte

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonfulof Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular DobosTorte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: ExquisiteDesserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. (You may come across recipes which have anywhere between six and 12 layers of cake; there are numerous family variations!) It was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties. The recipe was a secret until Dobos retired in 1906 and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners' and Gingerbread Makers' Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.

When my sister decided to come up and visit for a few days I decided that it would be a good opportunity for me to make this month's challenge. She could keep an eye on JT for an hour, if needed, and we could have the torte as dessert. My poor sister ended up looking after JT most of the afternoon and was still waiting on her dessert at 9pm! It took much longer than expected and I didn't get it finished until dark which is why I have only one decent photo to show for all my efforts.

Aside from time issues I found it to be a success. I'm not a cake person - a big lump of sponge just doesn't do it for me - but I found the whole layered cake thing very pleasing. It meant each forkful contained a blend of both buttercream and sponge. It wasn't a difficult project I was just juggling it with dinner and time at the park. I divided the sponge mixture into 6 and just poured each sixth into an 8" sandwich tin (lined with greaseproof paper) to give each layer a nice uniform shape. I hope to give it a go again only this time I would make mini dobos tortes by making one large sheet of sponge and cutting out rounds using a cookie cutter. I wouldn't bother with the caramel topping - nobody ate it and it was too hard and stuck in our teeth. I'm just waiting on the right guinea pig!


Sponge cake layers
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (162g) icing sugar, divided
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour sifted together)
pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream
4 large eggs, at room temperature
200g caster sugar
110g bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
250g unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping
1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches
a 7” cardboard round
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:
NB. The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).

2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.)

3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)

4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (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, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.

5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:
NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.

2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.

3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.

4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.

5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Note: Make sure the butter is of a very soft texture i.e. running a knife through it will provide little resistance, before you try to beat it into the chocolate mixture. Also, if you beat the butter in while the chocolate mixture is hot you'll end up with more of a ganache than a buttercream!

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.

2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.

3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Assembling the Dobos

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.

2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.

3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.

4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.
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Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Broccoli Slaw

Broccoli Slaw 16b

The first time I saw this recipe I knew I'd love it. In fact, since my two men don't eat broccoli, despite my best efforts, I made up a whole bowlful for myself. This is a great extra to bring to the table. It is delicious in sandwiches but most often I make a bowl of it for the table when I'm serving ham (and I have visitors). It keeps well for a few days and is very easily put together. I make it ahead of time and just keep it, covered in clingfilm, in the fridge until needed.


Broccoli Slaw
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1 head broccoli
50g flaked almonds*
50g dried cranberries*
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
*You can add more or less of these according to taste

60ml buttermilk
80ml mayonnaise
1 tblsp cider vinegar
1 tblsp maple syrup

Trim broccoli, cut into chunks then finely chop. I use a food processor and I throw in most of the stem.

Toss the chopped broccoli, almonds, cranberries, and red onion together in a large bowl.

Whisk the dressing ingredients in a small bowl with a pinch of salt.

Stir the dressing through the broccoli mixture. That's it!

Broccoli Slaw 19b
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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Think Pink!

Last week I promised my neice, Cousin Soph to JT, that she could come up a day to bake. Today, when I was out shopping, I noticed a jar of pink edible sprinkles and I immediately thought of Soph. Soph LOVES pink. Everything has to be pink. I threw them in the trolley and made a mental note to keep that promise a day soon. Later on when I was at home unpacking the groceries I lifted out the sprinkles and thought, "Why not now?" So I texted her mum and she arrived within the hour. We discussed the design brief, pink, and settled on watermelon lemonade and cupcakes with pink icing with pink sprinkles and she got to work with uncontained excitement.

Sophie Cupcakes Quad

And I mean she got to work. I am a firm believer in letting children have a go in the kitchen. So what if she weighs out a bit too little flour or a bit extra butter, what's the worst that can go wrong? I guarantee that no matter what's missing or what extras are in the mix it'll taste a million times better than anything else because she made them. I help and advise, of course. It's amazing the teaching opportunities that an hour of baking holds.

Sophies Cupcakes Duo

She weighed and beat and spooned and piped. You want to have seen the delight on that little girls face when I filled a piping bag up with pink icing and told her, "Here you do it yourself!" And she added the red food colouring to create the perfect shade of icing, which I think deserves the description 'shocking pink'.

Sophies Cupcakes (12)b

The watermelon lemonade was less exciting - just watermelon, sparkling water and a squeeze of lemon and sugar to taste but it was the fact that she was making a pink drink that pleased her.

No recipes today because everyone has a cupcake recipe somewhere and doesn't need another one.

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Saturday, 8 August 2009

Foodie Gifts

Choc-coated Honeycomb Box

Isn't this just so pretty? What do you think it might contain?

Chocolate-coated Honeycomb!

Choc-coated Honeycomb b

I love giving and I love receiving food gifts. They don't have to be home-made, I'm always delighted with a box of chocolate or a few buns lifted from the giver's local bakery. Home-made ones do have an edge, of course. But homemade or not I think it's the thought process that goes into food gifts that make them such a delight to receive.

Like the Raspberry and White Chocolate scones that my mum nearly always brings when she comes to visit because she knows I love them. Or the bag of coffee beans a friend brought a couple of months ago because she knows I'm fanatical about good coffee. Or the time my sister brought a pot of chilli because my baby had just been born and she knew that my OH isn't a great cook (sorry honey)! I could go on and on but you get the point, each of these gifts had a thought process behind them that conveyed the givers efforts to please.

I think my favourtie to date has been the box of macarons that my friend brought one Sunday we were having her and her husband for dinner. She knew I had been tackling macarons and that I was a bit obsessed with them. So she arrived with these:

Amandas Macarons

What a delight! And the box really finished it off. What a lovely way to present them. I'm always giving food away in tupperware boxes or tins and it kind of bugs me. They just don't do the food justice. And then there's the awkwardness of having to ask for your box back because you know if you don't you won't see them for months and it'll be forgotten about. So recently, I've made more effort in the presentation department. I went to my local bakery and they sold me a few plain white boxes which already look so much better. And then I started making boxes from some fancy papers I have in the house. As a Maths Teacher I've been making cube and cuboid nets for years but this is even less complicated than those. I literally cut out a square/rectangle (size determined by prospective contents) and score it 1" from each edge then fold the edges up and stick in place to form the base. Repeat with another piece of card to form the top and voila - a very pretty box. You can adorn it as you fancy (ribbon, diamante etc) or just leave it plain. Despite looking very fashionable and expensive it actually works out cheaper than buying a gift bag. Of course you don't need fancy papers you could just use two contrasting or complementary sheets of plain card (e.g. pink and brown). Or you could even just cover a box you have. And the next time you see some cheap tissue paper - buy it and throw a bit in your box before you put in the food.

Choc-coated Honeycomb c

Last night we were out at friends for tea. I knew that the host would go to a great deal of effort to make at least one (probably two) desserts and she wouldn't want to see me arriving with a third as there is only her and her husband to eat the leftovers (there's that thought process). So, I opted for chocolate-coated honeycomb that I knew they could nibble at over the next few days. And guess what? - I made a box to make it look special.

So go and glam up your foodie gifts!

P.S. Chocolate -coated Honeycomb is simply half the quantity of hokey-pokey dipped in 200g milk chocolate (use whatever chocolate you think the recipients will like).
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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Maple Pecan Muffins

Maple Pecan Muffins

I think I may just have found the muffin recipe I have been looking for. I love sweet bread (e.g. banana bread, wheaten bread etc) for breakfast and recently I have taken to making muffins to satisfy this craving. For a number of reasons (a) they are easy to make and bake fresh in the morning and (b) I generally have the wherewithal to make them in my cupboards.

Maple Pecan Muffins

Now while I have had some very pleasing results with the muffins I have baked of late, a lot of them have been too sweet for breakfast. But not this one. It is from Nigella Lawson's book 'Feast' adapted slightly, of course. She describes the maple pecan combination perfectly as having a 'smoky austerity'. I will re-iterate though - they are breakfast muffins. The maple syrup give them their sweetness and the wheatgerm and pecans gives them a sort of 'wholesome' taste. If you want something sweet as a dessert, it's not these.

And when I say bake fresh in the morning I mean I measure all the dry ingredients into a bowl and cover with cling film and similarly measure all the wet ingredient into a jug and leave, covered with cling film, in the fridge. I even put muffin cases into a tin. Then in the morning I mix the contents of the jug and the bowl, pour into the cases and stick in the oven. By the time I have my little one up and changed they're ready for us (yes, he's a fan too). I spread a little butter on mine but you don't have to or you could, of course, drizzle over a little maple syrup.

Maple Pecan Muffins



125g shelled pecans
275g plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
50g wheatgerm
pinch salt
125ml yoghurt
125ml maple syrup
125ml sunflower/vegetable oil
1 egg
1 tblsp dark brown sugar

Serves 12*


1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200oC. Line a 12-bun muffin tin.

2. Chop the pecans roughly, reserving about a quarter of them to use later to strew on top. Combine the rest of them with the flour, baking powder, wheatgerm and salt in a large bowl.

3. In a measuring jug (or another bowl), whisk together the yoghurt, maple syrup, oil and egg.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix to combine but do not overmix. The mixture will still be lumpy. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin.

5. Chop the reserved nuts a bit finer and mix with the brown sugar and then sprinkle a little on to the top of each muffin. Don't skip this step as it just completes each muffin beautifully. Bake for 20 mins. They will have risen but will not be very brown apart from the sugary topping.

6. Remove from the tin to a cooling rack and eat while they are still warm (with butter or maple syrup)!

*I halved this recipe without any difficulty or ill-effects. I just added what I thought to be half of the beaten egg (and used the other half to dip my little ones bread in for lunch)!
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Saturday, 1 August 2009

Blueberry & White Chocolate Cheesecakes

I was so delighted at how good these were. I can never get enough cheesecake and being so small I ate far too many of them!


These were an attempt to make the most of some lovely ripe blueberries and some leftover pastry. I had made Nigella's Chocolate and Raspberry Tarts from 'How to Eat' last week for visitors. However, there was only four of us and half of the chocolate pastry was enough so I made little 'tartlettes' out of the leftover pastry, baked and then froze them to be filled at a later date for a handy dessert.

My chance to use them came this week when we had more guests for tea. I came across some wonderful ripe blueberries in the supermarket at the start of the week and since my little one loves them I bought 8(!) punnets. I knew my little pastry cases would make the perfect containers for some white chocolate cheesecake topped with blueberry compote. The blueberry compote doesn't come easier - literally throw the blueberries in a pan with 1/2 tblsp sugar and boil. I added the topping at the last minute, not knowing if it would run down over the cases but I could actually have done it in advance.

The recipe can obviously be made with other berries such as raspberries without much adaption or you could even just top each case with uncooked fruit.

NOTE: The pastry makes 24 'tartlettes' but the filling is only enough for 12. This is because the pastry recipe requires 1 egg yolk so it is difficult to halve. But make up the full recipe, divide it into two and put half in the freezer for another time. Or do as I did and actually make and bake 24 tartlettes and freeze 12 for a quick dessert another day.

BlueBerry and White Chocolate Cheesecakes


For the blueberry compote
1 punnet (about 150g) blueberries
1/2 tblsp caster sugar (you may need slighly more than this depending on how sweet your bluberries are)

For the white choc cheesecake filling
125g cream cheese
125ml double cream
1 tbslp icing sugar
75g white chocolate

For the chocolate tarts
175g plain flour
30g cocoa powder
50g caster sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
125g unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
1 tblsp iced water


To make the pastry:
1. Put the flour, cocoa, sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse to blend. Cut the butter into small pieces and pulse with the flour mixture until it looks crumbly. Beat the yolk and iced water together and add, down the funnel, to bind the pastry. When it starts to clump together, turn it out of the processor and work it together with your hands into two discs. Wrap them in clingfilm and rest the pastry in the fridge for at least 30 mins (put one disc in the freezer at this stage if you wish).

2. Grease a 12-hole bun tin.

3. Roll out one of the dough discs. Cut out 12 circles using a round 3" diameter pastry cutter (I used a fluted one). Ease each pastry disc into the bun tin. Prick the base of each case with a fork. Place the tray of uncooked pastry cases in the freezer for 30mins.

4. Pre-heat the oven to 180oC/gas 4. Bake the pastry cases in the oven for 10-15 mins until the pastry feels cooked and dry. Leave to cool in the bun tin.

5. When the pastry cases are cool, slip them out of the bun tray and store in an airtight container until needed.

To make the cheesecake filling:
1. Put the cream cheese in a bowl and beat with a fork for a minute.

2. Add the cream to the cream cheese and whisk until combined.

3. Melt the white chocolate and add to the cheese and cream mixture, stirring as you add it so that it is swirled through the mix before it sets. Taste the mix and add 1 tbslp of icing sugar if you would like it slightly sweeter.

4. Store in a bowl, covered with cling film in the fridge until needed.

To make the compote:
1. Place the blueberries and tablespoon of sugar (if using) in a small saucepan. Heat gently until the blueberries burst and release their liquid.

2. Increase the heat and simmer for a few mins.

3. Pour into a bowl and leave to cool. Store in the fridge, covered with clingfilm until needed.

Food Post 01.08

Pipe some cheesecake filling into each case (or just use a teaspoon) and top each one with blurberry compote.


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