Wish I was there . .
My passport is ready and I can be packed in minutes.

27 August 2009

Daring Baker - Dobos Torta or the Damn 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 Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: ExquisiteDesserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague. This month's Daring Baker creation is a Dobos Torta or as it became known in my house - the Damn Torte. Having now survived its creation, I can say with hindsight that the recipe is not overly difficult, mostly just time consuming. Eight layers (recipe called for six but I made a smaller cake so more layers), caramel over a layer, and butter cream frosting. Yes, that is butter cream in the Florida heat and humidity - two minutes out of the frig and the damn stuff was melting. I would frost a couple layers, stick a couple strands of spaghetti through the layers to keep them from sliding around and refrigerator for a couple hours. Then pull it out and repeat until I had seven layers stacked. The caramelized cake layer had to be refrigerated too. The humidity made it tacky so into the frig with that too. I tried to throw the extra caramel on the macadamia nuts but I couldn't get them covered that why you see random splotches of caramel on the nuts. I think it is fair to say I cussed my way through this cake and swore up and down, I'd never make it again.

And then I tasted it - damned if the cake wasn't really good! As my five year old said "Mmmmmmm! Mmmmmmmm! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!" The lemon juice in the caramel was a tart contrast to the rich, sweet butter cream. And as long as I kept the cake in the frig, it stayed together for serving. And it is so rich that a small piece takes care of a chocolate craving easily. So I am eating cake, er . . . crow , I will use this recipe again once the weather has cooled a bit. Thanks Angela and Lorraine!

Dobos Torta
2 baking sheets
9” (23cm) springform tin and 8” cake tin, for templates
mixing bowls (1 medium, 1 large)
a sieve
a double boiler (a large saucepan plus a large heat-proof mixing bowl which fits snugly over the top of the pan)
a small saucepan
a whisk (you could use a balloon whisk for the entire cake, but an electric hand whisk or
stand mixer will make life much easier)
metal offset spatula
sharp knife
a 7 1/2” cardboard cake round, or just build cake on the base of a sprinfrom tin.
piping bag and tip, optional

Prep times
Sponge layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes
Sponge cake layers
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) caster sugar
4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping
1 cup (200g) caster 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.

Lorraine's note: If you're in Winter just now your butter might not soften enough at room temperature, which leads to lumps forming in the buttercream. Male 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.

Angela's note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.
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 flavor.

19 August 2009

Bathroom Update

I am no idea how those home make over shows manage to make over a room in 48 hours or build a house in a week. And they do it with their perfectly done hair and make up. Not so much here.

We are into week two. I don't think I've bothered to style my hair in all that time. While demolishing the bathroom was quick, albeit dirty (I am still finding wall plaster throughout the house), reconstruction is taking time. Hubby finished filling the holes in the wall and plastered the ceiling where the ugly florescent light used to be in part of the bathroom. I have sanded the baseboards and trim, washed them, taped off and painted them in another part of the bathroom. Today I move onto the walls in my part of the bathroom, and then I sand, wash and paint the baseboards and trim in Hubby's part of the bathroom. I also need to paint the plastered ceiling. I hope to move onto the walls by Friday. All this painting must be done and dried by this weekend when the counter top is to be installed (by Hubby and me sometime after the mini-triathlon he is doing and the five dozen cookies I need to make for a neighborhood back to school party have been baked). I've started stripping, sanding, and re-varnishing the wood cupboards (this including mixing my own wood finish to get the color "we" think "we" want!), but frankly that is going to have to wait until next week to be completed. I still need to find a new medicine cabinet, the fixtures for the sink, and a towel rack. Again, push that off to next week. Yes, we will be working on this well into week three. Where is the Design Crew when I need them?

11 August 2009

First Day of School

Today my baby started kindergarten and my oldest second grade. After much discussion and thinking, they went back to the private school. We know the kindergarten teacher and Hew will have a fantastic year. It's my job to make sure KK gets a challenge this year. I have to say for all my worrying, today went well. First day, best behavior, reconnecting with friends - no tears or regrets. We've made the best decision for this year, and next year I'll worry about later!

In case you are thinking I'll be bored now that the kids are in school, have no fear as I have made some plans. First, I signed up for a photography class at an art school - don't expect much as it is once a week, but it will force me to finally finish that 400 page manual. Second, I demolished part of the kid's bathroom and am currently stripping and staining cupboards, spackling, priming, and painting walls and ceilings, and putting in a new counter top (of course PH has to help with some it!). Once that is done, PH and I have discussed doing the same to the cupboards and walls in our bathroom and then possibly the walls in the family room as they are beginning to crack under the strain of doubling as the play area. And finally, I am desperately trying to get signed up for a German I class just because I want to learn it. And with the normal laundry, cooking, and cleaning, I should be busy until December. I know none of this is directed at finding a job or getting us out of Florida. We are still looking, but it was decided I needed to do some things just because I enjoy them. I also decided that I need to find things that make me happy here (thanks to Frau M. in Austria for reminded me that my happiness is my responsibility). In this economy, we may be here awhile and life is too short to always be looking forward. And I am lucky to have the time to do these things.

For us summer is over (yes it is still is hot as Hades but I am trying to remain ignore it) and it is back to "work" but that doesn't mean I won't share some of my pictures from this summer! These were all taken wandering through Vienna. I should have paid attention to where we were, but we were having too much fun just walking.

10 August 2009

24 hours . . .

. . . until then, just smell the roses.

03 August 2009

Eight Days

Eight days until I am able to write a full post.

Eight days until the kids go back to school.