Friday, March 27, 2015

Pleasantly Surprising "Tarte Tatin"

This was the Baking JDs first attempt to bake together with a (1-month old!) baby in tow. And I'd call it a resounding success! I came over to Sara's house bearing baking ingredients and some other treats, and we got to work.

Sara -- our resident hater of cooked fruit -- chopped the veggies while we snacked on some Marcona almonds, manchego cheese, apricot jam, bread and strawberries. Then we roasted them to perfection.

We took a nice walk through Golden Gate Park with Baby C. mid-baking to enjoy the beautiful day and then got back to work.

I made the caramel on the stove and poured it over the root vegetables in a pan. Then I covered that with a layer of delicious, delicious cheese and some thyme, followed by puff pastry. Yes, don't judge us, we used store-bought puff pastry, but we've made laminate dough before and we'll bring back our A-game soon.

In any case, the cooking tarte smelled divine and came outlooking gorgeous.

We'd both been skeptical about the idea of root vegetables in this context, but this one was a huge success. I'm a big fan of the traditional tarte tatin (with apples) but I would absolutely make this again.

For the March Daring bakers’ challenge, Korena from Korena in the Kitchen taught us that some treats are best enjoyed upside down. She challenged us to make a tarte tatin from scratch.


Donna Hay’s Glazed Root Vegetable Tarte Tatin
Serves 8–10


2 medium carrots (240g), peeled
2 medium parsnips (500g), peeled
2 small sweet potatoes (kumara) (350g), peeled
2 turnips (450g), peeled
1⁄4 cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
1⁄3 cup (80ml) water
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
100g stracchino or taleggio cheese, sliced
4 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
6 sprigs lemon thyme, to serve


Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F. Cut the carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes and turnips into 1cm-thick slices. Divide between 2 large baking trays, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to combine and roast, turning half way, for 30 minutes, or until golden and tender.

While the vegetables are roasting, place the water and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to high and cook, without stirring, for 6–8 minutes or until light caramel in colour. Remove from the heat and carefully add the vinegar, stirring to combine. Working quickly, pour the caramel evenly onto a 37cm x 24cm baking tray. Arrange the vegetables on top of the caramel, overlapping if necessary, and top with the cheese. Place the 4 slices of pastry over the top of the vegetables (pastry will overlap) leaving a 2cm overhang around the edge of the tray.

Gently press the overlapping pastry to seal and tuck in the overhanging edges. Transfer the tart to the oven on an extra baking tray to catch any spills, reduce the heat to 200°C (400°F) and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat again to 180°C (350°F) and bake for a further 20 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and cooked. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before turning out onto a board. Cut into squares to serve.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Buns In and Out of the Oven

I've got some good news and I've got some bad news. The bad news is that I had to do this month's challenge all alone. The good news is that -- it's because Sara had a baby! Both Mom and Baby Boy are doing well, and I was delighted to bring them some fresh-baked siopao and spend some quality time with the one-week-old newborn.

Fortunately for me, these Asian buns were pretty easy to make. The dough was somewhat sticky but overall a simple, yeasted dough.

I made the squash and pecan filing, but I'd like to try these again with a meat filling.

After coating everything in flour, it was pretty easy to split the dough ball up into 12 parts.

Then it was just a matter of making a flat disk...

... plopping in some filling...

... rolling it up...

... and pinching it closed. I was a little nervous about my pinching skills but they turned out to be fine.

Here are the siapaos pre-egg wash and baking.

And here they are after 20 minutes or so in the oven. Beautiful!

And delicious!

This was a wonderful challenge and inspired me to explore making steamed buns, as well, since I love those so much.

Congratulations to Sara and her husband Will on the arrival of their baby bun out of the oven!

The February Daring Bakers’ challenge is hosted by Julie of One-Wall Kitchen. She challenged us to an easy, simple filled bun using no-knead dough.


Siopao Dough and Siopao
Servings: 12 large buns

1/4 ounce (7 gm) (2 teaspoons) active dry yeast (1 packet )
1-1/2 cups (360 ml) warm water
1 tablespoon (15 ml) sugar
2 tablespoons (30 ml) melted butter
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
4 to 5 cups (20 oz to 25 oz) (560 gm to 700 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 egg for egg-wash for the buns

1. Mix yeast, water, sugar, melted butter, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

2. Slowly mix in flour until it's fully incorporated and you have a shaggy, very tacky dough, but not wet and sticky.

3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for up to an hour in warm place until doubled. While dough is rising, you can make your filling if you haven't already pre-made it to let it cool (see recipe below).

4. Punch down dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Depending on how much flour you added, it will be somewhat tacky to pretty tacky. Fold it over several times and shape it into a smooth ball, then divide into 12 equal pieces.

5. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten it into a disc about 6 inches (15 cm) wide.

6. Place a heaping tablespoonful of filling into the center of the disc, wrap the dough around the filling, and firmly pinch it closed over the top of the filling.

7. Place filled buns on a baking sheet and loosely cover them with plastic wrap. Let them rest for 1 hour. On the top sheet, you can see where a lot of my dough was too thin. Those were the first siopao I made, before I worked out the technique.

8. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4.

9. Beat 1 egg in a small bowl for egg wash and brush on top of each bun. In the photo, you can see that I decided not to risk baking the busted siopao as freestanding buns, so I put them in a small oven-safe dish to bake up as a loaf.

10. Bake buns for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm. In the photo, some of my pandan filling leaked out a small hole, but most stayed inside. That's a reminder to make sure there are no holes in your buns!

Winter Squash filling
[I had a fair amount left over, but it's delicious to eat on its own]

3 to 5 lbs (1-1/3 to 2-1/4 kg winter squash (I used acorn)
Olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped nuts of choice
1/4 cup (60 ml) grated hard cheese, such as Romano, cotija, or Parmesan

1. Preheat oven moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6.

2. Quarter your squash and rub cut edges with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt.

3. Roast the squash for 40 minutes until very soft, and use a sturdy spoon to scoop the flesh into a bowl. Discard the skins.

4. Mash the squash with a sturdy fork or potato masher. Allow the squash to cool. Sprinkle as much of the chopped nuts and cheese as you'd like into the mash and stir them in. Use 1 to 1-1/2 rounded tablespoons of filling for each siopao.

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
Store leftovers in the fridge for no more than 4 days and reheat for 30 seconds in the microwave. You can also store baked siopao in the freezer, individually wrapped airtight, and reheated in the microwave for 60 to 90 seconds. I'm not sure how well frozen, unbaked siopao will thaw because the filling is moist and might ruin the integrity of the dough as it goes through its long thaw and final rise.
Additional Information:
My mom taught me to just pinch the edges of the dough disc together to close the siopao, and then she'd steam it steam-side down, but many Filipinos use a Chinese style of pleating their siopao and steaming it pleat-side up, like this: at minute 12:12. I think seam-side down works well for baking, but you could experiment with baking your siopao pleat-side up.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Psychedelic Torte

We started off another year of daring baking just right -- with a yoga class, some delicious $4 toast, and a lovely hazelnut cake, called an Esterhazy Torte. I got started on the dacquoise layers on Friday night, which were pretty easy -- just a lot of egg whites, ground hazelnuts, a bit of flour and a bunch of sugar.


On Saturday, after enjoying our yoga and toast, we made the filling. We were commending ourselves on a job well done when I tasted it and... something was very much missing. Because it tasted... bad. Ah yes, we had forgotten to put the sugar in with the eggs. So we added it to the already mixed filling and tasted it, and it still tasted... pretty bad. So we added more sugar until it tasted good. Magical, wonderful, sugar.

Sara took on the task of layering together the cake -- 5 dacquoise layers plus filling in between each.

The dacquoise layers looked an awful lot like buckwheat pancakes. But they tasted deliciously of sugar and hazelnuts. Not that we were nibbling around the edges or anything.

They were dry out of the oven but a bit sticky the next day. I was worried that the parchment would stick and ruin them but it turned out fine.

I heated up the apricot jam and a little water in the microwave and glazed the top of the cake, and then spread some additional filling around the sides. 

Then came the icing... well, the attempt at the icing. The idea was to ice with white icing, make four concentric circles with melted chocolate, and then drag a knife along the chocolate to make the pretty Esterhazy web aka spider web design. We started off OK...

... but our overly liquidy white icing started to drip and drag the chocolate along with it.

And it just kept spreading and dripping, until our cake looked like a trippy version of the real thing. It reminded me of that famous Salvador Dali painting with a melting clock. At first we thought it maybe might look better -- or at least more interesting -- than what we were supposed to be doing.

We forged ahead and rolled the outside in hazelnuts.

Then we transferred it to a plate and it continued to look weirder and weirder.

But you know what? As strange and misshapen as it ultimately looked, it tasted just divine.

And after a night in the fridge, it tasted even better.

For the month of January Jelena from A Kingdom for a Cake invited us to start this year with a dreamy celebration cake. She challenged us to make the Esterhazy cake a.k.a the Hungarian dream. What better way to start the year than with a sweet dream?



12 large egg whites
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (9 oz) (250 gm) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tablespoons (2/3 oz) (20 gm) vanilla sugar
2-1⁄2 cups (9 oz) (250 gm) ground hazelnuts
2/3 cup (23⁄4 oz) (80 gm) plain (all purpose) flour


12 large egg yolks
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (9 oz) (250 gm) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tablespoons (2/3 oz) (20 gm) vanilla sugar
1-1/3 cups (101⁄2 oz) (300 gm) butter at room temperature
1-1⁄2 cups (5-1/3 oz)(150 gm) toasted ground hazelnuts


around 3 tablespoons (45 ml) (1-2/3 oz) (45 gm) apricot jam
1 teaspoon (5 ml) water


21⁄2 to 31⁄4 cups (10-2/3 to 14 oz) (300-400 gm) icing (powdered) (confectioners') sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) sunflower oil
3-4 teaspoons (15-20 ml) lemon juice
around 4 tablespoons (60 ml) hot water


1⁄4 cup (13⁄4 oz) (50 gm) dark chocolate
1 teaspoon (5 ml) oil
3⁄4 cup (31⁄2 oz) (100 gm) roughly chopped hazelnuts



Place the hazelnuts on an oven tray in a cold oven, increase the temperature to moderate

180°C/350°F/gas mark 4, and bake until a nice aroma starts to come out of the oven and the nuts have become darker.

Continue until their skins almost turn black or dark brown and the hazelnut 'meat' becomes a caramel colour. You will need to watch the oven carefully since the nuts can easily burn. From time to time, just open the oven and carefully try one to see if the centre is nice and crispy, but be careful not to burn yourself. It should take about 15-25 minutes. This baking process brings out the aroma of the hazelnuts needed for the cake. (If you are using almonds instead of hazelnuts, they need to stay white. Hazelnuts are not good in this cake if their aroma is not present.)

Let them cool.

Set aside 3⁄4 cup (31⁄2 oz) (100 gm) toasted nuts and roughly chop them. These will go around the cake at the end.

The rest need to be ground. A grinding machine is best since a food processor might turn the hazelnuts into a creamy mush. If you are using a processor do it in short pulses so they do not have the consistency of peanut butter but of fine powder.

Divide the ground hazelnuts into 2 batches of 2-1⁄2 cups (9 oz) (250 gm) and 1-1⁄2 cups (5-1/3 oz) (150 gm) for the sponge layers and the filling respectively.

HAZELNUT LAYERS (Dacquoise layers)

With an electric mixer beat the egg whites while gradually adding the sugar and vanilla sugar for about 5 minutes until stiff peaks form.

Turn the mixer to the lowest speed and add in the hazelnuts mixed with the flour and beat until just combined.

Cut baking paper into five squares large enough to draw a circle of 10 inch (25cm) in diameter on the squares.

Turn the paper over and place one piece onto an up-side down oven tray and delicately spoon inside the circle one-fifth of the beaten egg white mixture.

Place the tray into an preheated moderate 325°F/160°C/gas mark 3 (no fan) oven and bake for 14 minutes. It will look soft but that is how we want them. Your finger should not stick to the layer when you touch it.

Take the layer out together with the paper and place on an even surface

Cool the oven tray and repeat with the next 4 layers. It is important that the up-side down oven tray is cool when you start to bake the layers.

If you have a 10 inch (25cm) diameter spring form pan with a removable bottom just cut out five pieces of baking paper to fit the bottom and spoon the mixture in the pan.

Make sure to cool the bottom of the pan after removing each layer and before placing the egg white mixture for the next layer into it.

Place all the layers next to each other.


The filling is cooked in a double boiler. If you do not have a double boiler just take two pots so that the smaller one fits perfectly in the larger one and there is no gap between them.

Fill the larger pot with about 1-inch (2 cm) water place on the stove and bring the water to a slow boil, the water should not touch the smaller pot bottom.

Beat the egg yolks and the sugar with an electric mixer in the smaller pot for 30 seconds. Place the smaller pot into the larger one and cook for 14-15 minutes. Stir every 2-3 minutes for a short while with a wooden spoon always scraping the sides and the bottom. Stir constantly, near the end.

Let the filling cool.

Beat the cooked yolks for 30 seconds with an electric mixer.

Beat the room temperature butter for 2 minutes until light and fluffy then beat into the cooked yolks.

Add in the ground hazelnuts and beat again until combined.

Set aside 2 tablespoons of the filling to spread around the torte at the end.

Divide the rest of the filling into 4 cups.

Line a large tray with some baking paper.

Remove the baking paper from one of the dacquoise and place it onto the tray, spread one quantity of filing evenly over the dacquoise, then place another layer on the top.

Repeat, making sure that the last layer is placed bottom-side-up (do not place filling on this surface) which will make it easier to obtain a smooth looking finish.

Place some baking paper over the torte. Press a bit with your hands to even it out, put another tray over the torte and now place something heavy on the top to allow the torte to level up. A pan half-filled with water will be fine.

Place the whole torte with the pot in the fridge for one hour.


Heat the apricot jam and water on the stove.

Remove the top baking paper from the torte and spread the jam on top of it. We want a very thin layer, just barely covering the torte.

Place the torte back in the fridge for 30 minutes for the jam to cool.

When the 30 minutes is up, spread the 2 tablespoons of reserved hazelnut filling around the cake.


By hand mix the powdered (icing) (confectioners') sugar, oil, lemon juice while adding teaspoon by teaspoon of hot water until the mixture is creamy, but not runny. Mix vigorously for a couple of minutes. The sugar should be lemony.

With a hot wet large knife quickly spread the icing over the apricot layer.

You will need around 21⁄2 to 31⁄4 cups of powdered sugar but it is better to have more than less, since when you start spreading you cannot go back. You will have some left over icing. If it is a bit uneven just turn on the hair dryer and heat the icing so it will smooth out a bit.


Before starting with the icing have the chocolate ready since it needs to go onto the soft icing in order to get the web.

Melt the chocolate with a teaspoon of oil, place in a pipping bag, or a plastic bag with a cut in the corner that will act as the tip.

Draw four (4) concentric circles onto the cake, then with a knife (not the sharp side) or a wooden skewer run six (6) lines at 30 degree angle to the cake to get the decoration (see pictures for more details). Each line should be in a different direction. One running away from you and the next one running to you.

Press the remaining crushed hazelnuts around the cake to complete the decoration.

Let rest in the fridge for at least 24 hours before tasting. This cake that gets better as times goes by. We usually enjoy ours for 7 days.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Paris-Brest to Celebrate a Harvard Victory

Loyal readers, you may not know it, but Erica and I have a deep-seated rivalry: 

We used the annual playing of the Harvard-Yale football game as the backdrop for our most recent challenge. Sadly, our local TV stations didn't think this the big match-up, so we could only get score updates via the internet. But we nevertheless donned our school colors to bake.

The Paris-Brest is actually quite easy -- an amalgam some of our previous challenges. We whipped up some pate a choux dough, and piped it into circles. We were actually quite proud of our pastry skills.

Next up, we attempted to carmelize some almonds and hazelnuts. Not sure what happened here, but the sugar crystalized, rather than browned. Maybe our heat was too low? But we figure that since we were just going throw this into a food processor, this would probably do just fine.

Erica doubted our ability to cut the pastry in half, but our knife skills seemed to have improved. 

The almond/hazelnut paste then gets folded into a cream, and piped into the halved pate a choux and topped with silvered almonds. The final product was delicious if a bit sloppy. For any of you that have ever had a Chocolate Hazelnut Croissant from La Boulange in the bay area, the innards tasted identical to that -- which was a bit of a revelation for me. So delicious. 

But the sweetest thing? A Harvard victory - 31 to 24. 


Servings: 6 small Paris-Brest
Pâte à Choux
1/3 cup (80 ml) water
6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (100 ml) whole milk
1/3 teaspoon (2 gm) salt
1 teaspoon (4 gm) caster sugar
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2-2/3 oz) (75 gm) cold butter
¾ cup plus 4 teaspoons (200 ml) (3.5 oz) (100 gm) cake flour
3 medium eggs, beaten
two handfuls of slivered almonds
egg for the brushing
1. Preheat oven to moderate 350°F/180° C/gas mark 4 and sift the flour.
2. In a nonstick saucepan pour in the milk, water, sugar and salt. Add the butter in small pieces and put on medium heat. Stir with a wooden spoon and bring to a boil. Add the flour in one shot to the boiling liquid. Stir vigorously with a wooden spatula. Cook on the stove on a very low heat for a few minutes, until the dough becomes firm, smooth and homogeneous. The dough must be dry and detach from the bottom of the pan easily.
edium speed. Before adding the next egg make sure that everything is well blended. This way, the air will be incorporated into the dough and when baking it will make puff the Paris Brest which won’t deflate out of the oven.
4. If you don't have a standup mixer proceed mixing the eggs directly in the pan where you cooked the dough, after allowing it to cool down. Work the egg with the wooden spatula until all the egg is incorporated before adding the next one. The dough should be smooth, like a thick cream.
5. Cover the baking sheets with baking paper or a silpat mat. If you use baking paper you can trace some circles of 4¾ -inches (12 cm) to help you out piping the circles. I use a silpat mat that already is specially designed to help out piping, that could be helpful too. To pipe the Paris-Brest use a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch (10 mm) plain nozzle and pipe two circles, the outer one of the diameter of the circle you drew. Pipe a third circle on top, using the star-shaped nozzle. If you don't have one use a fork to trace some lines on its surface, this will help the choux pastry to rise properly. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with slivered almonds.
 6. Bake in a moderate oven 350°F/180° C/gas mark 4 for about 23-25 minutes, in a static oven. To get rid of any moisture in the oven you can keep the door slightly open. This way the dough will dry out completely during baking. The Paris-Brest should be golden brown, with a uniform color. Let cool completely on a rack before slicing and piping with the crème mousseline.

1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) whole almonds
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) whole hazelnuts
6 tablespoons (2¾ oz) (80 gm) caster sugar
1 tablespoon (15 ml) water
1. Put the sugar into a non-stick pan, over medium heat. Add water and bring to a boil.
2. When the sugar reaches 250°F/121° C (without thermometer you will need to reach the stage at which the sugar begins to boil and the syrup starts to become more and more dense), add the nuts all at once. Mix well with a wooden spoon to coat all the nuts in the sugar. At this point, the sugar will start to sand, i.e. crystallize again. Continue to stir. The sugar will melt a second time, this time caramelizing.
3. Once all the nuts caramelize, remove the pan from the heat. Pour the entire contents of the pan on a heat-resistant silicone mat or on a marble slab lightly oiled with vegetable oil.
4. Let cool completely. Break into smaller pieces and grind with a mixer until you have a thick paste.

Crème Mousseline
1 cup (250 ml) whole milk
2 egg yolks
¼ cup (60 ml) (2 oz) (55 gm) caster (superfine) sugar
3 tablespoon (45 ml) (2/3 oz) (20 gm) cake flour, sieved
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (135 ml) ( (4.4 oz) (125 gm) European-style butter, made from cream, with 83% fat content
3 oz (80 gm) praliné
1 vanilla pod, sliced open length wise
1. In a small saucepan bring the milk to a boil with the vanilla pod. Put aside and let cool for about 10 minutes. In a bowl whisk the eggs yolks and sugar until they become white.
2. Add the flour and whisk until all mixed through.
3. Mix half of the milk in the egg, until all uniform. Pout into a small pan and put on medium heat. Cook until the cream thickens, stirring the cream continuously. When thick transfer into a bowl and cover with cling film touching the cream. Let cool.
4. In a bowl mix the softened butter with the praliné. Add to the cooled cream until homogeneous.

The November Daring Baker’s challenge took us for a ride! Luisa from Rise of the Sourdough Preacher challenged us to make Paris-Brest, a beautiful pastry celebrating the Paris-Brest bicycle race.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Boo! Scaring up a Sachertorte

We were a bit late this month because we were waiting for a special guest to come visit and enjoy our baking with us. Sara baked the cake all by her lonesome in the morning -- and did a great job. We both remarked that it was more chocolately than sugary (a good thing in both our books), and much moister than other Sachertortes we've tasted. Then I and several friends joined her in the evening for an Austrian-themed vegetarian dinner, which was delicious.

Before dinner, I made an apricot-strawberry glaze and coated the cake with it. I had less success with the chocolate glaze. It got seriously clumpy and thick after I added the chocolate to the simple syrup. I tried to thin it out with water and,while it was shiny, it did not pour as needed, so the end product didn't have the beautiful sheen of a true Sachertorte. We ran out of chocolate before we could attempt to write "Sacher" on it... probably for the best given past adventures in cake decorating.


Nonetheless, it was very, very tasty and enjoyed by all.

Happy Halloween!

The October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Korena of Korena in the Kitchen. She took us to Austria and introduced us to the wonders of the Sachertorte.

Servings: 12-16

Preparation time: 

This cake is best made in stages, as it needs time for the various components to set/chill before 

1. Cake: 30-60 minutes prep, 35-45 minutes baking, several hours cooling

2. Apricot glaze: 10 minutes prep, 5 minutes assembly, 5-10 minutes to set

3. Chocolate glaze and decoration: 10 minutes prep, 5-10 minutes assembly/decoration, 1 hour to set/chill

4. Let the cake sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving

Equipment required:
  • 9-inch (23 cm) spring-form or other high-sided pan
  • parchment paper
  • small heavy-bottomed saucepan
  • small/medium heat-proof bowl
  • spatula
  • stand mixer with whisk and paddle attachments, or hand-held electric mixer
  • 2 large bowls (stand mixer bowl + one other)
  • fine mesh sieve
  • heat-proof spoon
  • candy thermometer (optional but nice)
  • cooling rack
  • serrated knife
  • 8½-inch (22 cm) cardboard cake round
  • whisk
  • large metal offset spatula
  • plate or baking sheet
  • waxed paper

  • ¾ cup (180 gm) (4½ oz) (125 gm) good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 9 tablespoons (135 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup (240 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) confectioners’ sugar (aka icing sugar or powdered sugar)
  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature (see note above about egg whites)
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (120 ml) (7 oz) (100 gm) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (120 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour (for volume measurement, spoon gently into 
  • measuring cup and level top)
  • pinch fine grain saltAssembly
  • Apricot Glaze (see recipe below)
  • Chocolate Glaze (see recipe below)
  • Writing Chocolate (see recipe below)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream, cold

1. Preheat oven to moderately hot 375˚F/350°F fan/190˚C/gas mark 5 with a rack in the centre of the oven. Butter and flower the sides of a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. 

2. Place the bittersweet chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and heat over a small saucepan of barely simmering water (make sure that the bowl is not touching the simmering water) or in the microwave until just melted. Set aside to cool completely, stirring often.

3. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or electric mixer on medium speed until very light and creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar on low speed, then increase to medium speed and beat again until light and creamy.

4. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

5. Add the cooled chocolate and vanilla and beat until well-mixed and very light and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl.6. In a scrupulously clean bowl using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with about one tablespoon of the granulated sugar on high speed until foamy. Gradually add in the rest of the granulated sugar and continue beating the whites until they form soft, shiny peaks - they should hold their shape but flop over on themselves.

7. Vigorously stir about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then gently fold the remaining egg whites into the chocolate mixture with a spatula until just a few wisps of egg white remain. Do this carefully so as not to deflate the egg whites.

8. Stir together the flour and salt and sift half of it over the chocolate mixture. Fold in with a spatula until almost incorporated. Sift over the remaining flour and fold to combine completely. 

9. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared springform pan.

10. Bake in the preheated moderately hot 375˚F/350°F fan/190˚C/gas mark 5 oven for 35-45 minutes (mine took exactly 40 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. The cake will crack and dome in the middle as it bakes but will flatten out as it cools.

11. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan and remove the sides. Carefully invert the cake onto a rack and remove the bottom of the pan and parchment paper, then turn the cake right-side up onto a rack and allow to cool completely.

12. Assembly: Turn the cake upside-down so that the perfectly flat bottom of the cake is now the top. Cut the cake horizontally into 2 even layers.

13. Place 1 cake layer on the 8½-inch (22 cm) cardboard cake round and spread it generously with about half of the apricot glaze. Allow it to soak in.

14. Place the second cake layer on top and spread the top and sides with the remaining apricot glaze. Work quickly before the glaze has a chance to set and use a metal offset spatula to smooth the top. Place the cake on a rack set over a plate or baking sheet lined with waxed paper and allow the apricot glaze to set.

15. Make the chocolate glaze (it must be used immediately, while still hot) and pour it over the top of the cake, first around the edge and then in the middle. Spread the excess glaze over any bare spots using a metal offset spatula. Before the glaze has a chance to set, move the cake to a serving platter.

16. With the writing chocolate, pipe the word “Sacher” in the middle of the cake and add any decorative flourishes you wish. Chill the cake until the glaze is completely set, at least 1 hour.

17. To serve: Let the cake come to room temperature for about 1 hour before serving. Whip the cream to soft peaks (this is best done in a cold bowl with cold beaters). If desired, sweeten it with icing sugar to taste.

18. Cut the Sachertorte into wedges with a large sharp knife dipped in hot water and wipe off the blade between cuts. Serve each wedge of cake with a large dollop of whipped cream. 

Apricot Glaze
Servings: 1 quantity (about 1 cup)

  • 1¼ cup (300 ml) (14 oz) (400 gm) apricot jam or preserves
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) rum (or other liquor) or water

1. Boil the jam and rum/water in a small saucepan over medium heat.

2. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and drips slowly from the spoon, about 2-3 minutes.

3. Strain through a wire mesh sieve, pressing firmly on the solids. You should have about 1 cup of glaze. Use warm.

Chocolate Glaze
Servings: 1 quantity

  • 1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 g) granulated sugar½ cup (120 ml) water
  • (4 oz) (115 gm) good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1. Place the sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.

2. Attach a candy thermometer and cook, stirring, until the mixture reaches 234˚F/112°C, about 5 minutes. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, use the method explained in this video.

3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate. It might thicken up quite a bit. If it does, return it to low heat and add a few drops of water if necessary to thin it out to a runny, pourable consistency. The glaze should be smooth and shiny.

4. Off the heat, stir the glaze for 30-60 seconds to cool it slightly, then immediately use it to glaze the cake.

5. Any excess glaze can be stored in a container in the fridge and added to a mug of hot milk to make hot chocolate.

Writing Chocolate
Servings: 1 quantity

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) (1.8 oz) (50 gm) chopped good quality chocolate
  • ½ - 1 teaspoons vegetable oil

1. Heat the chocolate until just melted, then stir in enough vegetable oil to get a pipeable consistency. If necessary, let the chocolate mixture cool slightly to thicken so that it is not too runny.

2. Place the chocolate in a disposable piping bag or small Ziplock bag and snip off the tip to make a small hole. I recommend a practice run on waxed paper before writing on the cake.

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips
The cake can be stored up to 2 days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Chodské koláče, or when cheese didn't make something better

We were tasked this month with making Chodské koláče, or a Czech circular pastry with fresh cheese and poppy seeds. Erica and I started the day working up our appetites by taking a nice bike ride over the golden gate bridge. We were certainly loving the late September "summer" of SF. 

Next, Erica whipped up some pretty tasty dough, while I took a walk through the eastern european markets in my new neighborhood looking for "quark" -- a type of fresh, creamy cheese. The internets assured me that Russian tvorog or farmer's cheese would be close enough, so I picked up the brand we usually use for pierogis.

The pastries were easily assembled after the dough finished its rise -- you mix the cheese with butter, sugar, egg whites and seasonings (rum, vanilla and lemon), to top a circular pastry, and then make a poppy-seed paste to decorate the final product.

Despite our post-ride hunger, the final products were unfortunately not our favorite result. The pastry dough remained tasty, though relatively minor, and the poppy seeds provided an interesting kick. But the cheese was simply too cheesy when mixed together with the other sweet flavors -- none of us had more than a few bites.

As always, our artistic skills were quite impressive.

 a spiral
 some lines
 a very fancy star
oh, and a bicycle! Well done us.

I will report that a few hours later, we brought home one of the pastries to my husband, who has spent significant time in the czech republic and eastern europe. He rather liked the final product, and assured us that it tasted just like some of the pastries he'd had abroad. So perhaps it was our baking skills that lacked, but our palettes....

Until next time!

The September Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Lucie from ChezLucie. She challenged us to make a true Czech treat –Kolaches!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Kürtőskalács, for real

This challenge marks the first use of Sara's new kitchen by the Baking JDs and we are excited for many more to come. Sara had had these pastries before but they were new to me. I think they would be the perfect complement to coffee, although we had them after a delicious summery lunch.

Sara made the dough before we went to a yoga class, so it was easy to complete this challenge after we got back from class and enjoyed lunch with friends. First we rolled out the dough and then cut it in a spiral shape.

Very pretty.

After wrapping a rolling pin in aluminum foil, I spun it around and as Sara wrapped the dough. Teamwork!

We (incorrectly) assumed that my silicon rolling pin (the pink one above) would be OK in the oven without being wrapped. Whoops. This was our casualty this time around -- pieces of it were apparently plastic and melted. Still appears to work, at least!

Anyway, we baked the pastries, rotating them partway through, and they came out beautifully. Our only possible mistake was that we may have rolled the dough a bit too thin. Also while our cinnamon-sugar coating stuck well to the outside, our nuts did not. More finely chopped? More butter?

Regardless, the kürtőskalács slipped right off the pins and were so tasty. They also smelled divine.

Thanks for another fun and delicious challenge, Daring Bakers!

The August Daring Bakers' Challenge took us for a spin! Swathi of Zesty South Indian Kitchen taught us to make rolled pastries inspired by Kurtoskalacs, a traditional Hungarian wedding pastry. These tasty yeasted delights gave us lots to celebrate!

Recipe: Kürtőskalács (Chimney cake)
Servings: 4

Preparation time
Preparing dough 15 minutes, first rise: about an 1 hour
Cook time: 20 minutes in oven if you using roast function. Baking at 25 minutes

Equipment required
measuring cup
weighing balance
roasting pan
2 baking sheet
4 rolling pins [we only used 2]


For the dough:
1¾ cups (8½ oz) (240 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) (7 gm) active dry yeast OR 2 teaspoons instant yeast OR 14 gm (½ oz) fresh yeast
2 tablespoons (1 oz)(30 gm) sugar
1/8 teaspoon (3/4 gm) salt
1 large egg, room temperature
3 tablespoons (1½ oz) (45 gm) melted butter
1/2 cup (120 ml) milk, lukewarm temperature

For baking/grilling:
melted butter

For the topping:
Approximately ½ cup (3½ oz) (100gm) sugar
For walnut sugar topping
About 1 cup (4 oz) (115 gm) ground walnuts, mixed with about 1/2 cup (3½ oz) (100 gm) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (1/4 oz) (6 gm) cinnamon

If you are using active dry yeast, add ½ teaspoon sugar to lukewarm milk and set aside for 5-10 minutes until it proofs (becomes foamy).

After proofing: 

You can use the other yeast types directly along with the flour.
In a large bowl combine, flour, sugar and salt. To this add egg, milk, melted butter, and yeast.

Stir the mixture until it comes together to form a dough, and then knead for about five minutes.

It will be sticky. Don’t be tempted to add any flour. Grease your hand if needed.

Transfer to a well greased container

Allow the dough to rise for 60 minutes at room temperature until doubled in volume
Prepare the rolling pins by covering them with aluminum foil, do at least two or three layers, to protect the pins from burning in the oven.

Make sure to cover the rolling pins very well. Brush them with melted butter.

Punch down the dough and divide into 4 equal parts about 4 oz (115 gm) of each.

On a well floured surface spread one portion of the dough

Shape into 1/6 inch (4 mm) thick square-shaped sheet.

Using a pizza cutter [or a sharp knife!] cut the dough into a long ribbons of about 1/2 inch (13 mm) wide.

Wrap one end of the dough strip around the spit/rolling pin, tucking in the end so the dough doesn’t unwind.

Keep the dough very thin (under ¼ inch (6 mm)) as you stretch and wind it on the rolling pun. Then roll the whole thing slightly on the counter top to flatten it/press it together.

Brush with melted butter

Roll in sugar

Place in roasting pan and bake in a preheated moderately hot oven 375°F/190⁰C/gas mark 5 for 25 minutes.

If using roast function (375⁰F/190⁰C) in the oven it will take about 20 minutes.

If you are grilling (broiling) over the fire cooking time is about six minutes, until it starts to take on a dark golden color. Turn the rolling pin at once least once (or more) throughout baking time to ensure uniform cooking.

When cake is done roll it in sugar again

If you are using other toppings brush more butter, then roll the finished cake in the toppings of your choice.

Tap the mold on a table top to release the cake and set it up right to cool.

It will release easily like this.