Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Daring Bakers January 2011 Challenge!!!

The January 2011 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert. The real task here is to making the joconde wrap properly in a beautiful molded dessert presentation.
What is a joconde, you ask? Basically, it is the outside cake wrapper of a dessert. I've seen it before, admired it on other blogs but, never really knew how to do it. So this was my perfect chance to try my hand at it. My version of this dessert consists of several components: the joconde sponge and decor paste, chiffon cake base, mocha bavarian cream filling, and chocolate ganache topping. Yes, this is not something you do when pressed for time.
The first up was the decor paste. I chose to make a vertical stripe with the chocolate decor paste (not too creative the first time around). The ingredient list consisted of butter, powdered sugar, egg whites, cake flour, cocoa powder. This very thick batter is spread paper thin on a silpat. I used a pastry comb to make the vertical stripes. You can make squiggles with your fingers, zig zags, wood grain, dots, letters, or words. You can do this in chocolate as I did or tint the yellow version of the batter whatever color you want. My imagination is running wild for the next time...back to the task. The silpat is placed in the freezer to chill.
Next up is the joconde sponge. This calls for almond flour or meal, powdered sugar, cake flour, whole eggs and whites, sugar, and butter. This sponge is very much like the cake I use when doing a roulade cake. This is the easy part and the batter comes out light and fluffy. It spreads easily over the chilled paste design, then baked. Not bad so far, right? The cake is cooled approximately 15 minutes and inverted onto a powdered sugar parchment paper. The silpat is gently removed and wow! The cake is cut into 2" strips and used to line molds. This is where you can again be as creative as you wish. I used 3" PVC pipe cut to 3" high so that I would have individual sized desserts. There is enough joconde to make about 8 this size.
Then I made a speckled chocolate chiffon cake for a base. I cut the cake into a 1" layer and then used a 2.25" round cutter to cut disks. I pressed the disks carefully into the bottom of the ring. Next I prepared a silky Mocha Bavarian Cream ( for the filling. The recipe is as follows:
6tbs cold water
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
2 cups milk chocolate-expresso creme anglaise, room temp
2 tsp coffee extract or instant expresso
3 cups heavy cream, whipped to medium peaks
Put the cold water into a heat proof bowl, and sprinkle with the gelatin. let soften 5 minutes.
Set bowl over a pan of simmering water, and whisk until dissolved. Add half the creme anglaise, and whisk to combine. Whisk in remaining creme anglaise, then coffee.
Chill until cooled over an ice bath or in the refrigerator until the mixture begins to thicken. Whisk in one-third of the whipped cream, then fold in the remaining cream in 2 batches. It is now ready to pipe or spoon into your molds. Please the molds into the refrigerator to set up completely.
Then I made a smooth chocolate ganache and poured it over the top of the dessert. Back in the refrigerator to set up.
This dessert is best served at room temperature. Don't let the number of steps scare you away. The nutty texture of the joconde is delightful. The look is simply elegant. Martha Stewart's bavarian cream is silky smooth delicious. The chocolate ganache melts in your mouth. This is a great dessert to test your skills and learn a new technique. Thank you Astheroshe for pushing me into something new.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Genoise Tres Cafe

I had the opportunity to bake with the Heavenly Cake Bakers this week and the project was Genoise Tres Cafe! Coffee isn't my most favorite of flavors but my hubby likes it and I didn't want to fall too far behind besides we were having guests so it was a good opportunity. The last time I attempted a genoise I found it to be a bit dry. Some of my fellow bloggers suggested that perhaps I didn't use enough of the simple syrup to moisten the cake. So I listened this time (see...sometimes I really do listen) and well......let's start from the top!
The genoise for this project called for beurre noisette (remember, that's browned butter..yum!!!) which is really why I didn't hesitate. Also in attendance was vanilla, eggs, superfine sugar and Wondra flour (I substituted cake flour). Rose suggested adding coffee extract or instant expresso which will eventually give you the "Tres" in "Tres Cafe". But, I decided to skip that part thus allowing the beurre noisette to stand out.
The next component was to be coffee syrup. This of course I did with sugar, water and instant expresso powder. I followed Rose's directions this time and soaked the bottom of the cake and the top of the cake with all of the syrup. If you look closely at the next photo you can see the syrup line.
The third component was a Mocha Whipped Ganache with chocolate, instant coffee powder, heavy cream and vanilla. This took me three tries to get and I still don't think it was perfect. Here is the directions: In a food processor, process the chopped chocolate with the coffee powder, until very fine. Scald the cream. With the processor running add the cream through the feed tube. Process until smooth. Scrape the mixture into the bowl of the mixer and chill 50-60 minutes. Stir the bowl 3 or 4 times, it will start to thicken as it chills. Do not allow the mixture to get too cold or it will thicken too much to whip. Well, of course this was try one- too thick to whip. So I warmed it again and chilled it again (much less time but I was making a smaller amount so that makes sense). Next using the whisk attachment whip the ganache on medium speed until it lightens...don't over beat or it will become grainy. Ok this was try #2, it was grainy. So again I warmed it and chilled it. This time I was very careful. I still don't think it was perfect. In any case I frosted the cake, chilled and served.
This genoise was definitly better than my last attempt. I do believe the beurre noisette AND using the proper amount of syrup made all the difference. The ganache just melted in your mouth.
And the coffee flavor wasn't over-powering. As you can see I made a smaller cake cutting everything in half. In spite of the size, amount of coffee flavor, failed attemps at making the whipped ganache, it was a very nice cake enjoyed by all.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Bread Baking and the Biscuit

It used to be that I was terrified of yeast. I would veer as far from it as I possible could but, I realized that I was truly missing something special. So I started to dabble, using it here and there in sweet and savory applications. I'm not alway successful so I know I still have a long way to go. Yet, how will I ever become confident if I don't jump in, right?!
First let me take you back a bit. Several years ago like 8 (!!!), I purchased Rose Levy Beranbaum's "The Bread Bible". My intensions were to jump in and start baking bread on a regular basis. But, upon receipt I was further humbled. This book is sooo big and has sooo much detail that along with my lack of yeast confidence I was intimidated. Thus the book remained on my shelf unopened and unappreciated. Over the holiday I reached for it again. It was time.
The first recipe I chose was a simple one (no yeast yet) but a start. Butter biscuits, the ingredient list is short but the results are delicious! Butter (cold of course), flour (a combination of all-purpose and cake), sugar (just a little), hard cooked eggs (can you see the yellow speckles?), and heavy cream. I worked it all by hand and was very pleased with the batter. The rolling, cutting and baking procedure was typical. Rose uses this recipe for strawberry shortcake but I used it as a side with a slow cooked beef stew (of course I didn't think to get a picture of everything together, geez!). The biscuits were tender and very flavorful. Thes biscuits are a very delicious first step in a series of many into the world of bread baking.
Anyone wanting to join in this adventure just let me know!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"The" Cake!

Phew....what a holiday season! I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did. So many dishes and platers of yummy sweets. So, where are the photos? Well......only "the" cake made it into my camera.
Before going out on holiday I teased you with a picture of the topper now you can see the rest. As I mentioned in my previous post this cake was for my niece who graduated from the Police Academy. Hence the hat, duh! I wanted to contrast the seriousness and dedication that the hat implies with her girly side.
The hat is made of rice krispie treats covered with fondant and embellished with gum paste details.The texture on the fondant ribbon achieved with a small textured roller. I just love that detail. The white of the box was created with a mixture of pearl luster and vodka. The flowers, my first attempt, are made from gum paste. Oh yeah I need to practice more!
Although there are many imperfections which I am sure you can see, I learned more.
But, the bottom line is.........she loved it and I had fun!