Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July Daring Baker's Challenge

Its been another craaaaaaaazy month, and this month, the darlings at the Daring Bakers came up with just the perfect recipe to fight away the stress and the blues. Chris of Mele Cotte is our hostess this month, and she chose the Filbert [fancy word for Hazelnut] Gateau with Praline Buttercream. I have to say, this was a truly truly truly smashing cake, luxurious and rich, a light, flavorful gateau permeated with little bits of hazelnut and the sweetness of rum, coated in a thick layer of ganche.

So, first there was the praline buttercream, or in my case, the praline whipped cream. This turned out to be the single biggest disaster of this challenge, partly because I stupidly only checked the web for tips after I screwed up my whipped cream, and partly because its my first time whipping cream. Long story short, buttercream is NOT like whipped cream, and what applies to buttercream doesn't apply to whipped cream, such as whipping it some more when it cuddles, wahaha.

Anyhoo, my whipped cream died 5 seconds after I added the praline, and I whipped it some more, thinking it'll get better. It didn't. I whipped it so much it probably turned into praline butter. Not interested in repeating the whole process, I chucked it into the fridge until it was more or less firm, then slapped it onto the cake anyway.

Now for the cake, which is probably the singular most successful part of this recipe. Expecting a repeat performance of the non-rising cake of the May L'opera cake, since the recipe seemed pretty similar, I used a smaller but taller cake tin, in the hopes of forcing 3 layers out of the cake, by hook or by crook. Turned out, my plan backfired, because surprise surprise, the cake rose mile high, and overflowed out of my tin.

Still, I'm thrilled that it rose so much, and I got 3 layers out of it with no problems at all. A tip that I got off the Daring Bakers forum, to 'cut' the layers with a piece of dental floss, instead of trying to hack it with a knife, gave me beautiful layers. I was so proud of my sky high cake and its neat, even, un-crumbly layers that I couldn't stop staring at it =P

The cake, doused with the rum syrup, filled with the mutant whipped cream, and glazed with strawberry jam:

The rest of the challenge went without a hitch, and by the end of the day, I had a beautiful, gorgeous gateau in my fridge.

Having said all that, I also have to say that I won't be making this cake again unless it was for an uber uber uber special event. My greatest problem with this recipe is that it is simply too luxurious, bordering on decadence, and not in the good sense. I believe I can achieve a similar cake with half the ingredients used in this cake, such as reducing the nuts and increasing the flour, using plain buttercream/whipped cream instead of praline, so on and so forth.

In today's climate of world starvation and inflation of food prices, I really cannot justify, to myself, the spending of so much resources on a cake. Also, don't you think that its more of a challenge to create something delicious from limited resources? To me, when that much ingredients are thrown into a cake, it can't help but taste good, which is not much of a testament to my skills as a baker and a cook =)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Cinnamon Buns

Ever since the June Daring Baker's challenge [Danish Braid], I've been itching to try baking another bread, specifically, cinnamon buns. In all the years that I've been baking, I've always made a conscious effort to avoid bread, probably because of all the baked goods that I've tried during my early baking days, bread gave me the most trouble.

But, I'm happy to say, I'm now ready to venture into the amazing world of bread! I'm even beginning to like the smell of yeast, which I absolutely detested just a few years back.

I really must apologise again for my sluggish blog these past weeks. I've been unusually busy, and I'm only able to bake today because I came down with the flu and had a day off. Talk about silver linings!

So, the cinnamon bun recipe I used today is adapted from a Chelsea Bun recipe [I don't know what that is, or how its different from the cinnamon bun...worked well enough!] How many buns you get out of it depends on how big you cut your buns and how thickly you roll your buns, but I got around 10 buns out of it.

Great thing about this recipe: I made the whole thing with the bread hook attachment from my handheld mixer! Barely had to touch the dough. I know some people like to knead, but I'm not one of them.



7g Instant Yeast

1 tspn sugar

2 1/2 cups OR 310g plain flour

1/2 cup OR 125ml warmed milk

125g melted butter

1 tblspn sugar

1 egg


60g butter, room temperature

45g soft brown sugar

3 heap tblspn ground cinnamon

1/4 cup raisins


1 tblspn milk

2 tblspn sugar

1. Mix yeast, tspn of sugar, 1 tblspn of flour and milk in a bowl, and leave aside in a warm place until frothy. [If it doesn't froth, the yeast is dead, and you need a new packet.]

2. In a large bowl, mix flour and tblspn of sugar well. With a spoon make a well in the middle. Pour in the yeast mixture, egg and butter. Incorporate everything with the mixer, using the hook attachment, until it comes together in a ball and doen't stick anymore.

3. Cover with cling film and allow to rise for 1 hour.

4. Punch out the dough to get rid of the air, and with the electric mixer, mix until smooth again.

5. In a bowl, prepare the filling by mixing together the butter, sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle. Spread the filling over the whole area, leaving a 2 cm space at the length of dough further from you.

7. Sprinkle over with the raisins, then roll the dough from the lengthside closest to you.

8. Cut up the roll as you wish, and place the buns either on a tray or within a cake pan. Make sure the seams are INWARDS so that they don't spill open during baking. Let rest for 1/2 hour, covered with cling film.

9. Bake in a preheated 210 degree celcius oven until browned.

10. Just before the buns are done, combine the sugar and the milk for the glaze in a small saucepan, then brush over the buns immediately after they are removed from the oven.

11. Let cool a little, and they are ready to be eaten =D

Friday, July 11, 2008

I have to apologise for the rather lengthy lull in my blog these past weeks. While I'm certainly busy, the main reason is that my sister's been even more busy--which means she can't help me take photographs.

After all the gorgeous photos she took for me, I simply cannot bare to post the horrible photos I attempt to take of the things I bake. I guess there's another thing to put on the join the million other things on that inexhaustible list.

But I sense a break in my sister's schedule soon, and I hope to come up with a post soon, so hang in there!

P.S. I have not been idle, my friends, I made my first un-cracked baked Cheese cake the other day! Nevermind that it was a Milo monstrousity for a Milo obsessed friend. It was UN-CRACKED!!