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  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on August 27, 2009 Permalink | Reply
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    Daring Bakers 22nd Challenge: 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 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. 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.

    I’m now used to multi-step recipes, thanks to nearly two years of monthly Daring Bakers challenges. Not much fazes me anymore. No matter how complex and long a recipe seems, it’s just a question of reading through a few times and tackling each component one at a time. I did have an additional challenge, however, with this recipe. The heat! We had been going through a two-week heat wave in Vancouver, and the thought of spending a day in a hot kitchen did not thrill me. But it was also a long weekend and what better time than a quiet Monday at home to bake? So, on with the show I went. My favorite part of this recipe was the technique used to make the layers of cake. Each was created separately, by spreading the batter on stenciled parchment paper. I was used to baking one cake and slicing the layers from that one cake. This technique brought back memories of working on Thomas Keller’s tuiles for the canapé competition for the Chef’s’ Table Society of BC a couple of years ago. The offset spatula remains one of my favorite all-purpose tool in the kitchen.

    It all came together alright, though it took longer as I had to put parts to cool down in the fridge at various stages due to the heat. The only problem, I think,  was my caramel. I don’t think I cooked it long enough. It was quite sticky and not brittle in the end. But, it was still a very nice and rich cake. I used a simple syrup flavoured with Frangelico to seal each cake layer. If you love hazelnuts, this is the cake for you. Thanks for the challenge, ladies!

    Dobos Torte


    • 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 (ultrafine or superfine white) 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 (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.

    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 flavour.

    • lauren 2:55 am on August 27, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      great job! your torte looks great 🙂

    • Angela @ A Spoonful of Sugar 4:00 am on August 27, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Ah yes, the heat!! When I first trialled this cake it was a freakish 32C in my kitchen so I thought that if it worked in that temperature, it would work just about anywhere! Still, despite the heatwave your Dobos looks fantastic! Well done!

    • maybelles mom (feeding maybelle) 5:04 am on August 27, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      the caramel was a bit of a pain, but it looks great. good job.

  • pixeltheatre 12:01 am on August 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: allioli cuttlefish, paella, rice   

    Daring Cooks 4th Challenge: Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes 

    Our hostess for this month’s challenge was Olga from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes. The recipe was a Spanish recipe, Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes by José Andrés. The recipe was from his US TV show Made in Spain.  I had never cooked cuttlefish before, but since I love calimari, I was more than up for this challenge.

    I had paella once before, made by a Spanish friend of mine, a long time ago. I remembered it as a spicy and homey dish. Unfortunately, I confess I found this particular version of paella, well, bland. 😦 (sorry, Olga…)

    I did use all the ingredients listed and used fresh artichokes, but there was definitely a need for some spices. I couldn’t find the real paella rice but, after reading around the web, settled on sushi rice. Seems to have worked ok. I made the allioli the traditional way, but I’m not sure I got it quite right, especially after reading Mark Bitten’s latest post on this key catalan ingredient. All in all, and interesting foray into spanish cuisine but next time I’ll definitely be throwing in a healthy dose of spicy chorizo.

    Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes
    Cooking time: 45 minutes

    • 1 Chopping Board
    • 1 knife
    • 1 medium saucepan
    • 1 Paella pan (30 cm/11” is enough for 4 people. If not available, you may use a simple pan that size)
    • 1 Saucepan

    Ingredients (serves 4):

    • 4 Artichokes (you can use jarred or freezed if fresh are not available)
    • 12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)
    • 1 or 2 Bay leaves (optional but highly recommended)
    • 1 glass of white wine
    • 2 Cuttlefish (you can use freezed cuttlefish or squid if you don’t find it fresh)
    • “Sofregit” (see recipe below)
    • 300 gr (2 cups) Short grain rice (Spanish types Calasparra or Montsant are preferred, but you can choose any other short grain. This kind of rice absorbs flavor very well) – about 75 gr per person ( ½ cup per person) Please read this for more info on suitable rices.
    • Water or Fish Stock (use 1 ½ cup of liquid per ½ cup of rice)
    • Saffron threads (if you can’t find it or afford to buy it, you can substitute it for turmeric or yellow coloring powder)
    • Allioli (olive oil and garlic sauce, similar to mayonnaise sauce) – optional


    1. Cut the cuttlefish in little strips.
    2. Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish in the pan.
    3. If you use fresh artichokes, clean them as shown in the video in tip #7. Cut artichokes in eights.
    4. Clean the mushrooms and cut them in fourths.
    5. Add a bay leaf to the cuttlefish and add also the artichokes and the mushrooms.
    6. Sauté until we get a golden color in the artichokes.
    7. Put a touch of white wine so all the solids in the bottom of the get mixed, getting a more flavorful dish.
    8. Add a couple or three tablespoons of sofregit and mix to make sure everything gets impregnated with the sofregit.
    9. Add all the liquid and bring it to boil.
    10. Add all the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes in heavy heat.
    11. Add some saffron thread to enrich the dish with its flavor and color. Stir a little bit so the rice and the other ingredients get the entire flavor. If you’re using turmeric or yellow coloring, use only 1/4 teaspoon.
    12. Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”)
    13. Put the pan away from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes.

    Sofregit (a well cooked and fragrant sauce made of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and onions, and may at times different vegetables such as peppers or mushrooms)-

    Cooking time: aprox. 1 hour


    • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
    • 5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped
    • 2 small onions, chopped
    • 1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
    • 4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 1 cup of button or Portobello mushrooms, chopped (optional)
    • 1 Bay leaf
    • Salt
    • Touch of ground cumin
    • Touch of dried oregano


    1. Put all the ingredients together in a frying pan and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft.
    2. Taste and salt if necessary (maybe it’s not!)

    Allioli is the optional part of the recipe. You must choose one of the two recipes given, even though I highly recommend you to try traditional one. Allioli is served together with the rice and it gives a very nice taste

    Allioli (Traditional recipe)
    Cooking time: 20 min aprox.

    • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
    • Pinch of salt
    • Fresh lemon juice (some drops)
    • Extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish preferred but not essential)


    1. Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
    2. Using a pestle, smash the garlic cloves to a smooth paste. (The salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar as you pound it down.)
    3. Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
    4. Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
    5. Keep turning your pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion in the mortar. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as you go.
    6. Keep adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add water to thin it out. This takes time—around 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar—to create a dense, rich sauce.

    José’s tips for traditional recipe: It’s hard to think that, when you start crushing the garlic, it will ever turn into something as dense and smooth as allioli. But don’t give up. It’s worth the extra time and effort to see the oil and garlic come together before your eyes. Just make sure you’re adding the olive oil slowly, drop by drop. Keep moving the pestle around the mortar in a circular motion and keep dreaming of the thick, creamy sauce at the end of it all.

    Allioli a la moderna (Modern recipe)

    Cooking time: 3-4 minutes

    • 1 small egg
    • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (as above, Spanish oil is highly recommended)
    • 1 garlic clove, peeled
    • 1 Tbs. Spanish Sherry vinegar or lemon juice (if Sherry vinegar is not available, use can use cider or white vinegar)
    • Salt to taste


    1. Break the egg into a mixing bowl.
    2. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the garlic cloves, along with the vinegar or lemon juice.
    3. Using a hand blender, start mixing at high speed until the garlic is fully pureed into a loose paste.
    4. Little by little, add what’s left of the olive oil as you continue blending.
    5. If the mixture appears too thick as you begin pouring the oil, add 1 teaspoon of water to loosen the sauce.
    6. Continue adding the oil and blending until you have a rich, creamy allioli.
    7. The sauce will be a lovely yellow color.
    8. Add salt to taste.

    José’s tips for modern recipe:
    (1) If you do not have access to a hand blender, you can use a hand mixer (the kind with the two beaters) or a food processor. If you use a food processor, you must double the recipe or the amount will be too little for the blades to catch and emulsify.
    (2) What happens if the oil and egg separate? Don’t throw it out. You can do two things. One is to whisk it and use it as a side sauce for a fish or vegetable. But if you want to rescue the allioli, take 1 tablespoon of lukewarm water in another beaker and start adding to the mix little by little. Blend it again until you create the creamy sauce you wanted.

    Olga’s Tips:
    (1) In Spain, rice is not stired as often as it is when cooking Italian risotto. You must stir it once or twice maximum. This tip is valid for all Spanish rice dishes like paella, arròs negre, arròs a banda…
    (2) When cooking the alternative style you can change the cuttlefish or squid for diced potato.
    (3) If you can’t find cuttlefish or squid, or you’re not able to eat them because of allergies, you can try to substitute them for chicken or vegetables at your choice.
    (4) Sofregit can be done in advance. You can keep it in the fridge or even freeze it.
    (5) For more information on how to clean and remove the heart of artichokes, please watch this video
    (6) To watch how Jose Andres cooks this dish click here.
    (7) For more information on how to clean and remove the heart of artichokes, please watch this video
    (8) To tone down the taste when you do it by hand in a mortar, then add an egg yolk. If you want to tone it down in the alternative way use milk or soy milk. Anyway, the best alternative way is the original oil and garlic alone.
    (9) Allioli must be consumed during the preparation day and preserved in the fridge before using it.
    (10) For help on conversion on metric to imperial, visit this page.

    • climbhighak 1:49 pm on August 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for the Bittman link. His perspective is usally very informed.

    • Lauren 3:54 pm on August 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this dish very much. However, the fact that you know exactly how you’re going to modify it shows such spirit =D. Wonderful job with the challenge, regardless of the outcome!

    • Simon 10:30 pm on August 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Blandness seems to be a common thread for a number of posts I’ve been reading about the challenge. I thought it was just me until I started reading around. I put chorizo into mine (only because I had half of one lying around).

      Was there no final shot of the dish?

    • Audax Artifex 11:48 pm on August 14, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Sorry to hear it wasn’t spicy enough mine was very good though I added spicy chorizo with the very strong fish stock. I liked the pix in the forums you didn’t post them in this post??? Cheers from Audax in Australia

  • pixeltheatre 4:52 pm on August 1, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , cookout, Foodists BBQ Bootcamp, grilling,   

    BBQ nirvana 

    For the past year and a half, since I met my honey, we’ve been getting deeper and deeper into the art and science of grilling. We both had gas grills and used them year-round (this being the west coast), but had little experience with charcoal grilling. We invested a whopping $19.95 last year and bought a small kettle charcoal bbq from Superstore. Reminiscent of sputnik, this little guy helped us experiment throughout the summer and fall and convinced us that grilling with charcoal is the way to go. Along the way we also experimented with smoking, thanks to the “loan” of  a Little Chief Smoker from my hun’s brother (Will, you’re never seeing this smoker again… 😉 ). Salmon, salt, almonds, cheese, pork, turkey, bacon explosion, vegetables, we were game to try it, playing with various wood chips and rubs along the way.

    The winter was a particular trying one this year. Gas grilling is more convenient when it’s cold and rainy, but we were looking forward to going back to charcoal. The size of our sputnick didn’t allow much in terms of direct vs indirect heat — an inverted aluminum pie plate on top of the charcoal was the best we could really do. So, when the weather finally turned, hun splurged on a true Weber charcoal grill. Let the games begin!

    We hosted my mother and hun’s family for a bbq, cedar planked some halibut cheeks (our discovery of the year, recommended by our fishmonger at Granville Island. Cheaper than the steak, with wonderful moist texture), had fun with huge beef ribs, and the usual chicken and pork loins. Always on the lookout for good recipes and tips, I had RRS’d foodists.ca‘s blog a while back. Three weeks ago the following post fell into my inbox:

    Foodists brings you Barbecue Bootcamp

    Rockin’ Ronnie Shewchuck is running a special version of his acclaimed BBQ Workshop for Foodists. Whether you are already well seasoned on the grill or afraid of fire, this is an amazing opportunity and great value. We are rather excited to be sharing this with you. Here are all the details:

    Barbecue Bootcamp

    Join international barbecue champion Rockin’ Ronnie Shewchuk for this outdoor cooking extravaganza featuring the essentials of grilling and southern-style barbecue. The three-hour cooking and eating demonstration will include an overview of tools and equipment, rubs, sauces and marinades, techniques for quick and easy grilling and slow-smoking, plus tall tales and legends from the world of competitive barbecue. You’ll learn from and enjoy cooking demonstrations and samplings of great dishes from Ronnie’s bestselling new book, Barbecue Secrets DELUXE!, including:

    • Grilled Asparagus with Chipotle and Roasted Garlic Aioli
    • Grilled Quesadillas
    • Seared Calamari with Tomato Basil Salsa
    • Rack of Lamb with Balsamic Reduction
    • Classic North Carolina Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Tidewater Coleslaw and Baked Beans
    • Grilled Beef Tenderloin Steak with Gorgonzola Butter
    • Real Barbecued Pork Ribs
    • Cedar-planked Salmon with Whiskey-maple Glaze
    • Planked Grapefruit with Grand Marnier and Honey

    Not only is this incredible value on its own, we will be including wine tastings, pairing each of the dishes with wines courtesy of Ravenswood California Zinfandel.

    Barbeque Bootcamp promises to be a celebration of gourmet backyard cooking. If you want to seriously upgrade your grilling and barbecue skills, don’t miss this.

    My jaw dropped as I started salivating, reading the menu. In two clicks I had forwarded the email/post to hun with a simple note of: “!?”. To my joy he responded with: “!! Eating demonstrations!! I’m in! I’ll order tickets if you wanna go.” Ah, yeah!… Thanks hun!! 🙂

    And so there we were, on a hot Saturday morning in Burnaby, in a gorgeous private garden (thanks again to the hosts of this bbq demo), with 36 other bbq fans for a 4-1/2 hours tour of bbq tips, dishes, and stories on the competition circuit. It was a perfect day. Ronnie was a great guide. If you have a chance to see him in action, don’t hesitate to go. He’s well worth the price of admission. We left that afternoon with full stomachs, an autographed copy of Ronnie’s latest book and a smile on our face. Thank you to foodists.ca, Johnstone Barbecues & Parts and Ravenswood for sponsoring this event. Pictures available on this slideshow.

    • lisamichele 6:33 pm on August 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I love your BBQ menu, especially the halibut cheeks. I did some uhhh, BBQ myself, but the ‘shortcut’ way..lol Definitely NOT authentic, albeit tasty! That said, I saw your photos of this month’s DC challange at the DK Kitchen, and can I saw, wow? Looking forward to your whole post!

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