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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Daring Bakers - Dobos Torte

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful
of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos
Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite
Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

This multi-layer sponge cake, filled with dark chocolate buttercream & topped with thin wedges of caramel, was rather time consuming to put together. Actually, assembly went pretty quickly; getting everything ready took longer than I'd planned. However, the result was a decadent dessert. I probably won't be making it again, at least not without some shortcuts. I liked the delicate sponge cake layers, but I could definitely do without the caramel on top. The citrus just didn't do it for me. In place of the buttercream, I think Nutella would be a fine (& much speedier- and perhaps healthier?) substitute. :)

So, on to the recipe(s) and assembly instructions. (By the way, I weighed out my ingredients instead of using volumetric measurements. My caramel still ended up being somewhat soft, but it was a really humid day.)

Sponge cake layers

6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's sugar, divided
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour
pinch of salt

Directions for the sponge layers: (can be made in advance & stored b/w parchment in sealed container in the fridge overnight)

Position the racks in the top and center thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C). Trace six 9" circles (using a cake pan as a template) onto parchment paper, and turn them over so the ink is underneath. Lightly spray the pan with cooking spray and gently press on a parchment template.
Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's 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.
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 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. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4 cup 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 center and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the center 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. (I made 7, but I accidentally burned one, so it worked in the end.) Completely cool the layers. You can trim the layers into even circles, but I skipped this step.

Chocolate Buttercream

4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
4oz (110g) Baker's chocolate, finely chopped
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

Directions for the chocolate buttercream: (can also be made in advance and stored in fridge until needed)

Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. 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. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency. When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece at a time, using an electric hand mixer. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Caramel topping

1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
Optional: 1 tablespoon neutral oil (I used canola)

Directions for the caramel topping:

Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. Cut the cake into 12 equal wedges and form back into a circle.
Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula. 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. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. (You will likely have some leftover.) 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 between cutting), cut through the caramel to separate the layer into wedges. Cool completely.

Assembling the Torte

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 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. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. The cake cuts more cleanly when cold, but let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavor.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Italian Dressing

A while back, I found myself in need of some Italian dressing, but I didn't have any in the house. So, I searched for a version I could make myself. What a great find - I don't think I'll ever buy Italian dressing again! I keep the dry mix with my other spices and just mix up whatever I need. It's so much better than anything I could buy, and I have all the ingredients on hand anyway. Yum. This one is highly recommended. :)

Italian Dressing (Dry Mix)

1 Tbsp. garlic salt
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. white sugar
2 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1/4 tsp. celery salt
1 Tbsp. salt

In a small bowl, mix together the garlic salt, onion powder, sugar, oregano, pepper, thyme, basil, parsley, celery salt and regular salt. Store in a tightly sealed container.

To prepare dressing, whisk together 1/4 cup white vinegar, 2/3 cup canola or olive oil (or a combination), 2 Tbsp. water, 2 Tbsp. of the dry mix, and 2 Tbsp. grated parmasean cheese.

Recipe adapted from AllRecipes