Saturday, November 29, 2008

Heavenly Caramel Cake With Caramel Sauce nectar from heaven.

We all imagine heaven and what it would be like; well the heaven I imagine in my mind has streets of gold and rivers of caramel running through chocolate capped mountains. There's something about eating Caramel that makes you feel like a kid again no matter what your age...I know I do. I always always lose all inhibition when getting my caramel fix. Whether it's caramel sauce or caramel milkshake or this decadent caramel cake, I ...

This is the challenge I've been waiting for ever since joining the Daring Bakers. Thumbs up to
Dolores, Alex (Brownie) and Jenny for a wonderfully sweet challenge.

I couldn't stop at the caramel cake so I decided to make the caramels as well as the caramel sauce. I love Brazil nut caramels so I added that to my caramels at the end of the recipe.

The cake turned out moist and dense. I was hoping for a lighter cake but was happy with the results. Next time I will double the recipe to make a nice layered cake since I found that I could only get a single layer from this cake.

The caramels...OMG...what can I say...These were turned out even better than what I expected even thought I didn't have a sugar thermometer to begin with. I used the cold water test and it worked out perfectly. I cooked the caramel to firm ball stage and they turned out just right. These were so good I had to make them a second time.

The buttercream was like eating caramel except that you knew it was buttercream. It had the same caramel taste you would expect from caramel sauce and the brown butter added a whole new dimension to this frosting.

Recipe from
bay area bites by Shuna Fish Lydon

10 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/4 Cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 Cup Caramel Syrup (see recipe below)
2 each eggs, at room temperature
splash vanilla extract
2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter one tall (2 – 2.5 inch deep) 9-inch cake pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter until smooth. Add sugar and salt & cream until light and fluffy.

Slowly pour room temperature caramel syrup into bowl. Scrape down bowl and increase speed. Add eggs/vanilla extract a little at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down bowl again, beat mixture until light and uniform.

Sift flour and baking powder.

Turn mixer to lowest speed, and add one third of the dry ingredients. When incorporated, add half of the milk, a little at a time. Add another third of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the milk and finish with the dry ingredients. {This is called the dry, wet, dry, wet, dry method in cake making. It is often employed when there is a high proportion of liquid in the batter.}

Take off mixer and by hand, use a spatula to do a few last folds, making sure batter is uniform. Turn batter into prepared cake pan.

Place cake pan on cookie sheet or 1/2 sheet pan. Set first timer for 30 minutes, rotate pan and set timer for another 15-20 minutes. Your own oven will set the pace. Bake until sides pull away from the pan and skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool cake completely before icing it.

Cake will keep for three days outside of the refrigerator.


2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 cup water (for "stopping" the caramelization process)
In a small stainless steel saucepan, with tall sides, mix water and sugar until mixture feels like wet sand. Brush down any stray sugar crystals with wet pastry brush. Turn on heat to highest flame. Cook until smoking slightly: dark amber.

When color is achieved, very carefully pour in one cup of water. Caramel will jump and sputter about! It is very dangerous, so have long sleeves on and be prepared to step back.

Whisk over medium heat until it has reduced slightly and feels sticky between two fingers. {Obviously wait for it to cool on a spoon before touching it.}

Note: For safety reasons, have ready a bowl of ice water to plunge your hands into if any caramel should land on your skin.


12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound confectioner’s sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons caramel syrup
Kosher or sea salt to taste

Cook butter until brown. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, set aside to cool.

Pour cooled brown butter into mixer bowl.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add confectioner's sugar a little at a time. When mixture looks too chunky to take any more, add a bit of cream and or caramel syrup. Repeat until mixture looks smooth and all confectioner's sugar has been incorporated. Add salt to taste.

Note: Caramelized butter frosting will keep in fridge for up to a month.
To smooth out from cold, microwave a bit, then mix with paddle attachment until smooth and light

(recipes above courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon)

Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels
- makes eighty-one 1-inch caramels -
recipe from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert

1 cup golden syrup
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons pure ground vanilla beans, purchased or ground in a coffee or spice grinders, or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks, softened

A 9-inch square baking pan
Candy thermometer


Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with aluminum foil and grease the foil. Combine the golden syrup, sugar, and salt in a heavy 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon, until the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. Wash the sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. (Meanwhile, rinse the spatula or spoon before using it again later.) Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more. Attach the candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook, uncovered (without stirring) until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, combine the cream and ground vanilla beans (not the extract) in a small saucepan and heat until tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pan. Turn off the heat and cover the pan to keep the cream hot.

When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter chunks. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Stir until any thickened syrup at the bottom of the pan is dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to about 245°F. Then cook, stirring constantly, to 260°f for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F; for firmer chewy caramels.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for 4 to 5 hours, or overnight until firm.

Lift the pan liner from the pan and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner. Cut the caramels with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.


Fleur de Sel Caramels: Extra salt, in the form of fleur de sel or another coarse flaked salt, brings out the flavor of the caramel and offers a little ying to the yang. Add an extra scant 1/4 teaspoon of coarse sea salt to the recipe. Or, to keep the salt crunchy, let the caramel cool and firm. Then sprinkle with two pinches of flaky salt and press it in. Invert, remove the pan liner, sprinkle with more salt. Then cut and wrap the caramels in wax paper or cellophane.

Nutmeg and Vanilla Bean Caramels: Add 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the cream before you heat it.

Cardamom Caramels: Omit the vanilla. Add 1/2 teaspoon slightly crushed cardamom seeds (from about 15 cardamom pods) to the cream before heating it. Strain the cream when you add it to the caramel; discard the seeds.

Caramel Sauce: Stop cooking any caramel recipe or variation when it reaches 225°F or, for a sauce that thickens like hot fudge over ice cream, 228°F. Pour it into a sauceboat to serve or into a heatproof jar for storage. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for ages and reheated gently in the microwave or a saucepan just until hot and flowing before use. You can stir in rum or brandy to taste. If the sauce is too thick or stiff to serve over ice cream, it can always be thinned with a little water or cream. Or, if you like a sauce that thickens more over ice cream, simmer it for a few minutes longer.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Pizza My Heart

Wow..what can I say about this pizza crust. It was more than what I expected it to be and then some. The crust baked up perfectly. Crisp on the outside but tender on the inside. It made me look (and feel) like a gourmet chef. Everyone that had the pizza raved about it.

Because of the nature of my blog I had initially decided to make a dessert pizza but then I thought that it would be such a waste of good dough since I love pizza so much and so does everybody else in my household.
I decided to make a chicken and mushroom pizza but when I realised that I forgot to buy mushrooms I used Hawaiian stir fry vegetables instead. I also found this recipe for a great sauce on the Internet which turned out to be really great.

The first time I read the challenge I somehow overlooked the part where we were required to toss the pizza dough instead of rolling it. I thought to myself I would never even considered this cause I would hate to waste whatever dough ended up on the kitchen floor. It wasn't until I found this great video on YouTube that inspired me to give it a go.

My great intentions of tossing the dough fell flat since my dough didn't seem elastic enough and was on the delicate side. I don't know if I didn't need it long enough or if I needed to add more was so delicate that I didn't even need to roll it. I just stretched to size and that worked perfect for me.

There were a few good things that I learned about making pizza. Like how it is necessary to brush the dough with a little olive oil (or vegetable oil I suppose) before adding the sauce and toppings as this helps prevent the dough from getting soggy while it bakes.

I also learned the correct order of adding toppings - I didn't even know there was an order. Oil first, then sauce (not too much otherwise your pizza will be soggy), then cheese, then toppings and then more cheese if you want. I also learned that you should use more of the milder cheeses like mozzarella or Gouda and less of the stronger sharper cheeses like cheddar.

This pizza turned out so great and the dough was excellent. After making this I realised that if you want to have a good pizza then you need to have a good crust.

I've fallen in love all over again.

Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.
Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).

  • 4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled
  • 1 3/4 Tsp Salt
  • 1 Tsp Instant yeast
  • 1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
  • 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
  • 1 Tb sugar
  • Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


  1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).
  2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water. NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.
  3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.
  4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas). NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.
  5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball. NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.
  6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.
  7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespoons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


  8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.
  9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C). NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.
  10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss. NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and re-flour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping. In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn't as effective as the toss method.
  11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.
  12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.
  13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.
  14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.
NOTE ON SAUCE: Your sauce (any) should not be too thick as it will thicken in the hot oven. Less is more but make the less truly more by using quality ingredients.
SAUCE IDEAS: Pestos, white or brown sauce, tomato sauce, sour cream, thick cream, Bolognese sauce, etc…Check here for sauce recipes:
TOPPING IDEAS: Seafood, fish, meat (dry, cured, smoked or ground), cheeses (Gruyère, Gorgonzola, Mozzarella, Provolone, Ricotta, Maroille, Munster, etc…), nuts, tofu, veggies (tomatoes, bell peppers, artichokes, hearts of palm, zucchinis, pumpkin, red onions, etc…), herbs (mixes, fresh or dried), spices (garlic, gourmet salt, pepper, curry, berbere, ras-el-hanout, za’atar, etc…), nuts (pecans, walnuts, cashew nuts, Brasil nuts, macadamia nuts, etc…)….

All-Purpose Marinara Pizza Sauce

The flavors are fresher and brighter in this sauce than they are in any commercially bottled or canned pizza sauce. Dried herbs are preferable to fresh herbs here, but if you want to use fresh herbs, sprinkle them on the pizzas either just before you put them in the oven or as soon as they come out. Also, if you do not have thyme or marjoram, you can substitute additional oregano or basil to taste. Makes about 6 cups
  • 1 can (28 ounces) tomato purée
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons granulated garlic powder, or 10 cloves fresh garlic, minced or pressed, and lightly sautéed in the olive oil, above
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice, or a combination
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
In a bowl, stir together all the ingredients, starting with 1/2 teaspoon salt and adding more to taste. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Thanks to this months host Rosa for a great challenge. Hope you have as much fun as I did.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Tartine Brownies

Tartine Brownies
Originally uploaded by uqbar!
So I finally decided to make something from the Tartine recipe book which I purchased recently. There are so many good things in the book it was hard for me to choose what to make first.

I settled on the brownies cause I love chocolate and their require very little time to make compared to other things in the book. I have decided to leave the more complex and time consuming recipes for the weekends.

Understanding the recipe and putting all the ingredients was easy. The only problem I had was knowing what the browinies should look like once they're done.

First of all the recipe states that the brownies should be baked in a glass baking tray. I don't have one so I decided to use my normal baking tray. Secondly I wasn't sure how long to bake them for since it was my first time baking brownies of this nature. The recipe says 25 minutes but we all know - if you bake regularly that is - that this time can vary depending on your oven.

I checked mines after 20 minutes cause our oven gets quite hot. The brownies looked cooked around the edges but when I poked a knife in the centre it looked as if the centre hadn't cooked at all. Now I know that the recipe says that testing this batter this way doesn't work because of the high percentage of chocolate used in the recipe but I thought even still it shouldn't look that raw. So back into the oven it went.

I checked again 5 minutes later and then about 3 minutes later but because it started to burn around the edges I decided to remove them from the oven. I let it cool next to an open window while I took a bath. When I felt they were cool enough I decided to cut them into squares. They were nice and firm around the edges but when I got to the centre I found them too gooey to cut. It's the reason I don't have any pictures.

At first I wondered is it because I baked them in a metal baking tray instead of a glass one. It couldn't be because I had underbaked them since I left them in the oven so long. I was a bit disappointed but loved the ones that I could eat from around the edges.

The next morning the brownies had set nicely but were still fudgy and gooey. The next time I bake these I will definately give them enough time for the chocolate in the brownies to set nicely. Loved this recipe and I will be definately making these again.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


The first time I heard of Tartine Bakery, a high end pastry shop in San Francisco, was when I saw their book on

I was attracted to the Tartine book by its cover and decided to buy it after having searched inside the book.

When I received the book a few days ago I was so glad that I had chosen it from the many choices. I have yet to try a recipe only because I can't make up my mind which recipe to try first - kinda like a kid in a toy store. I will definitely be trying one later this week but I know it's going to hard try to decide which one to try first.

Because I fell in love with the book so much I decided to look the bakery up on the Internet. From what I've read the restaurant seems rather popular.

Everything in their bakery looks so divine. I've never been to Tartine so I had borrow a few pics from Flickr.

The death by chocolate cake I will be making for my sisters birthday end of the month.

Lemon Meringue Cake...I cant wait to try this cake. I love lemon meringue and I know I'm going to love this cake.

Chocolate Hazelnut tart...Ooh chocolate and nuts what more can I say. This one I will make for my SIL who loves chocolate and nuts.

Chocolate Souffle cake...Now this one is for me (and Kristy who can't eat nuts). I just love the little gold leaf.

The morning bun loved by many. From what I've gathered this bun is a favourite of many who have visited Tartine. It's not in their recipe book but the bun is basically a cinnamon and orange bun baked in muffin trays. Looks delicious though.

An array of decadence. Next to Pierre Hermes pastry shops this one is my next favourite and I've made that decision merely by what they have to offer and the obvious talent and creativeness that goes into making these beautiful desserts. I haven't had the pleasure of visiting any of these pastry shops.

I've always wanted to visit New York but I think I will be visiting San Francisco first.

Monday, October 13, 2008

"qu'ils mangent de la brioche"

Let them eat cake...the words spoken by a queen of France, commonly associated with the legendary Marie Antoinette, upon hearing that the peasants complained that there wasn't enough bread to go around. I recently discovered that the "cake" she was referring to was in fact brioche - "S’ils n’ont plus de pain, qu’ils mangent de la brioche" which is translated to "If they have no bread, let them eat cake".

I have always shied away from bread or anything yeast related until recently. Not because I don't like yeast products but because I've always thought that yeast was difficult to work with. I recent watched an episode of French Food At Home in which Laura Calder was making a brioche. It seemed easy enough so I decided to make mine.

I used a recipe from foodbeam because the recipe that Fanny used was one by Pierre Herme and by now most of my friends would know that I'm a Pierre Herme fan.

I enjoyed making the brioche but was rather impatient having to wait long to bake it - the dough has to rise twice.

It turned out great, a bit rich, which makes me wonder how it is that French women are able to maintain their weight so well.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Mmmm Cinnabon...

...Well not actually.

Hands up if you love Cinnabon. It was love of at first bite for me. I fell in love with the delicate bun, the sweet spicy cinnamon filling and the decadent cream cheese that enrobes every delicious cinnabon.

After having tasted every single variant I asked the sales lady at our local (the one and only) Cinnabon store if she could add chocolate sauce to the Caramel Pecanbon which I had just purchased. She politely replied, "sorry we don't do that".

Either way I was determined to have my cinnamon roll with chocolate sauce, caramel sauce and roasted pecans...just the way I normally like my desserts. The next day I searched for cinnamon roll recipes and found a cinnabon clone recipe. I gave it a try and was quite impressed with the results. I wouldn't call it a cinnabon but the roll had all the sweet cinnamon goodness that I love about Cinnabon cinnamon rolls.

For those of you who haven't been to cinnabon. You need to go, you won't be disappointed...and they keep their promises too. You will always find them fresh out of the oven.

Pure Cinnabon decadence...

Classic Cinnabon and Caramel Pecanbon

The recipe is easy and the results are great. If you're intimidated by working with yeasted doughs, don't be. I found the dough easy to work with and quite forgiving. I made a few mistakes with it (that's what happens when you trying to fit baking into a busy schedule) and it still turned out good.

Here goes....

First I poured added the warm milk and yeast into a large bowl and gave it a quick stir.

Next I added the sugar, margarine, salt and eggs and gave that a quick stir to combine.

I then added the flour one cup at a time and mixed with my hand mixer using the dough attachment until all the ingredients were well combined.

The dough turned out a bit too sticky so I added about half a cup flour to the dough. It was still slightly sticky and elastic but I didn't want to add anymore flour.

I left the dough in the oven, which I had warmed slightly, to rise until double. The dough was still too soft and a tad bit sticky for me to roll so I kneaded it gently on a well floured surface until it formed a soft dough.

I rolled the dough into a large rectangle - I didn't measure and spread the soft butter evenly over the dough leaving...... I left about 1 inch from the bottom edge (this should be the longer side of your rectangle) clean so that the rolls can seal nicely.

Next I sprinkled the sugar/cinnamon mixture evenly over the surface of the dough leaving a 1 inch space at the bottom edge of the dough clean.

Starting at the far edge of the dough, I began to roll it up tightly towards me. I then trimmed the left and right edges of the dough and cut it into 1 1/2 inches (3.8 cm) pieces.

I placed the rolls in a rectangular pan. I didn't use parchment/greaseproof paper. Instead I used my silicon baking mat.

I baked the rolls for about 17 minutes until golden brown and then spread a generous amount of cream cheese icing over the rolls while they were still warm. I also drizzled caramel and sprinkled them with roughly chopped roasted pecans.

Cinnabon Clone Recipe

  • Don't be afraid to use margarine in this recipe. I made these twice, first using butter (I tend to snub margarine in recipes like this) and a second time using margarine. Both turned out great. Cinnabon actually uses margarine in their rolls.
  • In South Africa our instant dry yeast comes in 10g packages. I used all of it in my rolls.
  • Add a teaspoon of vanilla when adding the wet ingredient for the dough. It tastes better for me.
  • For those of you who have ever been confused about "packed brown sugar", it's not a type of sugar. The "packed" refers to the way in which you measure the sugar - you need to pack it tightly into the cup when measuring. Use soft brown sugar.
  • Line and grease the pans with parchment/greaseproof paper. Use an 8'' (20cm) square baking pan or 9"x13" (23cm x 33cm) rectangular baking pan. I try to steer clear from dark pans since they tend to burn or brown whatever's been baked in them too quickly. Leave a 1 inch space between each roll.
  • Leave the rolls to stand for about 30 minutes in a warm place before baking. I warmed the oven slightly, turned it off and placed the rolls in there for about 30 to 40 minutes. I removed the rolls, pre-heated the oven and then put them back in to back.
  • I baked the rolls at 350 degrees F / 180 degrees C until light golden brown. They took a little more than 15 minutes to bake. I actually didn't time then, I just gauged.

1 (1/4 ounce / 7 g) package dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup margarine
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
4 cups flour

1 cup packed brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/3 cup margarine, softened

8 tablespoons margarine
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt


First step - Rolls:
  1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large bowl.

  2. Add sugar, margarine salt, eggs, and flour, mix well.

  3. Knead the dough into a large ball, using your hands dusted lightly with flour.

  4. Put in a bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

  5. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface, until it is approx 21 inches long by 16 inches wide.

  6. It should be approx 1/4 thick.
  7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Second step - Filling:
  1. Combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.

  2. Spread the softened margarine over the surface of the dough, then sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon evenly over the surface.

  3. Working carefully, from the long edge, roll the dough down to the bottom edge.

  4. Cut the dough into 1 3/4 inch slices, and place in a lightly greased baking pan.

  5. Bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown.
Third step Icing:
Make the icing while the rolls are baking.

  1. Mix the margarine and cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy
  2. Add vanilla and mix to combine.
  3. Add the icing sugar and continue beating for about 5 minutes
  4. Spread the rolls generously with icing whilst still warm from the oven.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Croissants - My First Attempt

I've been wanting to try croissants for a long time now but have always been afraid to try. I searched and found a recipe on La Cerise. I was even more excited try these when I noticed that it was a recipe by Pierre Herme. I decided to give it a try and they didn't quite turn out the way I expected I was happy with the outcome.

Mixing the dough was easier than I expected. My dough was a tad bit sticky. I wasn't sure whether to add more flour or not but decided to leave it.

The first problem I encountered was with the butter which was too cold to work with. The recipe called for cold butter so I was afraid that if I worked it too much it would become too warm and soft. The butter was difficult to spread and it was pulling the dough as I tried to get it to cover all two thirds of the dough. I wished then that I had worked the butter some more to make spreading it easy.

Because the butter was a bit chunky I had problems with it when rolling the dough. It kept falling out. I wanted to give up at this point but considered the costs of the butter that would be wasted.

I enjoyed rolling these up cause they made me feel like I'd accomplished something huge even though the dough didn't turn out as great as I expected. You can see how the chunks of butter were falling out of the dough.

My idea of a perfect croissant is light, flaky, crisp on the outside. Mines didn't turn out that way. They were crisp but not flaky and a bit dense on the inside.

I will not give up though. I wasn't too disappointed since I didn't think that they they turned out all that bad for a first try. I will try these again and include more details and pictures. I will have to wait a while though otherwise my hips won't forgive me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Tart for Tiana

Ever since my niece's mom bought her the first set in the strawberry shortcake collection I have been promising to bake with her but never got the time. Finally I decided to make time with her this past weekend.

Her set included a plate, mini tart pan and a mini rolling pin all of which she wanted to use. It was tough deciding what tart to make since I didn't want to choose one that would be too difficult or one that she wouldn't eat.

The only tart that they've ever enjoyed is the peppermint fridge tart that is a dessert staple with my family. At first I didn't consider this tart since it's made with a biscuit base which meant that she wouldn't get to use her rolling pin. After much deliberation I decided to make the tart but with a crust that would allow her to use her rolling pin.

I wasn't sure how it would turn out since I've never done it before. I decided to use the caramel/mint chocolate cream topping from the peppermint fridge tart and add a ganache layer at the bottom of the tart.

Because I was baking with Tiana I had to really go slowly doing one thing at a time. For the crust we used a sweet tart dough. I forgot to pack my kitchen scale so I had to do a lot of estimations. I decided to make the dough myself while the kids were out so that I wouldn't be left with a great mess to clean up afterwards.

The dough turned out really soft but I decided to leave it that way so that it could be more crumbly once baked.

We rolled the dough between two sheets of greaseproof paper but because the dough was so soft we had to just break off pieces and line the mini tart pans using our fingers. Surprisingly the crust turned out quite well.

Dontae, her older brother wanted a piece of the action too...

...Meanwhile on the other side of the house little brother Ezekiel was ransacking their rooms and playing dress up. Here he is wearing Tiana's boots.

Tiana was so excited to use her little tart pan.

After we had baked all the crusts we went on to make the ganache. Since it was a peppermint tart I decided to use a combination of dark and mint chocolate for the ganache.

We then whipped the fresh cream. Because it was quite warm in the kitchen I decided to whip the cream in an ice water bath to keep the cream cool. We whipped the cream until it was just a little stiff. I was too afraid to mix it any further - I've had bad experiences with fresh cream.

Once the cream was whipped we grated about 140 grams of mint chocolate over the cream. We used a little garlic/zest grater but Tiana thought that it was part of her baking set so I let her have it.

Next we added a can of caramel treat which is basically caramalised condensed milk. If you can't get your hands on caramel treat then just follow the instructions in my previous peppermint fridge tart post to make your own.

We gently folded the chocolate and caramel into the whipped cream until it was well combined.

By the time we were done with the cream the tart shells were already cool so we assembled the tarts immediately after that. Tiana enjoyed this part but I had to watch her otherwise she would have filled the entire tart with just the ganache since she loves chocolate so much.

We made some for the adult folk as well.

After filling the base with ganache I topped the tart with lots of the caramel/peppermint whipped cream. By the time the tarts were completed I was so tired that i forgot to take pictures of the finished tarts.

Go here for the recipe.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Glorious Apple Cake

I've been wanting to try an apple cake for a very long time. I like the taste of apple pie but always find myself picking out the chunks of apple since I'm not a fan of cooked apples. Because you can't make apple pie without apples I thought that making an apple cake would be the next best thing for me to try.

With hundreds of recipes to choose from I settled on the Double Apple Cake from the book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. I chose this recipe because Dorie Greenspan has a good reputation and also because it calls for grated apples instead of apple chunks. I have never come across apple butter here in South Africa so I made my own using a recipe that I found on the myrecipes website.

Although I found the cake rather pleasant I don't think that apple cake is something I would reach for very often - I'm a chocoholic can you blame me.

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs1 cup store-bought apple butter – spiced or plain
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 cup pecans chopped or walnuts
½ cup plump, moist golden or dark raisins
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat oven to 350º F. Butter and flour a 9-10 inch bundt pan. Don’t place pan on a baking sheet; you want the oven’s heat to circulate through the bundt’s inner tube.

Whisk together the dry ingredients, flour through salt.

Working with stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, or hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed, scraping the bowl as needed, for 3 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth, thick, and pale.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each addition; you’ll have a light, fluffy batter.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the apple butter – don’t worry if it curdles the batter.

Still on low, add the grated apples and mix to completely blend.

Add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the batter. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the nuts and raisins.

Turn the batter into the bundt pan and smooth the top of the batter with the spatula.

Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Transfer the cake to a rack to cool for 5 minutes. Unmould and cool to room temperature.

Allow the cake to stand overnight to improve the flavour of the cake. Wrap well in cling wrap and leave to stand at room temperature.

Dust with confectioners sugar or drizzle with glaze.

To make glaze:

½ confectioners sugar
Enough freshly squeezed lemon juice to make a smooth glaze.

Mix the confectioners sugar and lemon juice together in a small bowl. Add the juice a little at a time until the desired consistency is reached. Mix until smooth and satiny.

Apple Butter

The first time I heard of apple butter was a few days ago when looking through some recipes. I remember wondering if it was an apple flavoured butter sought of like garlic butter. I was about to put the recipe away when I decided to google apple butter and discovered that I could in fact make it myself.
I was surprised to see that it look more like jam (jelly) rather than butter. Once I found a suitable recipe I decided to go ahead and give it a try but was later put off when I realised just how time consuming it is. A friend of mine helped me search through recipes until we discovered one that didn't require much time.
The recipe we found was from the myrecipes website. It was easy to understand and didn't require me to use any special pots.

I used starking apples because they are my favourite. I found the apple butter very pleasant but a taste that I would need to get used to especially since I'm not a fan of cooked apples. From what I've read apple butter can also be enjoyed on toast but I decided to make an apple cake. I halved the recipe since I only needed a cup. I also used apple juice instead of the apple cider called for in the recipe and ground cinnamon instead of cinnamon sticks.

Apple Butter

Yield: 4 cups (serving size: 1/4 cup)


4 pounds (1.8kg) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
1 cup apple cider
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of ground cloves
2 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
1 star anise


Combine apples and cider in a large stockpot; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, 30 minutes or until apples are tender.

Place apple mixture in a food processor; pulse 6 times or until chunky. Return to pan.
Stir in sugar and remaining ingredients. Cook over low heat 1 hour or until thick, stirring occasionally. Discard cinnamon and star anise. Cover and chill.

Note: Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 month.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Decadent Chocolate Eclairs...

...from the great man himself

I was excited to become a member of the Daring Bakers and couldn't wait to start my first challenge.

When I finally saw what the challenge was, I was a bit disappointed because I have made eclairs so many times before and was looking forward to trying something new. My disappointment quickly changed though when I saw that the recipe was one of Pierre Hermé's. I love everything that Pierre Hermé stands for and am looking forward to trying more of his recipes.

I thoroughly enjoyed making these. The choux pastry was easy to work with and turned out quite well. I found that I had to bake mines slightly longer.

The pastry cream....OMG...what can I say about it other than I absolutely loved it. It was the first time that I made chocolate pastry cream and have discovered something else to crave. The chocolate really came through in this recipe so you want to make sure that you use good quality chocolate. It was smooth, silky, chocolate decadence. I'm going to use this as a base for lots of other recipes.

I wasn't too crazy about the glaze since I found the chocolate sauce unnecessary(and a waste for me since I just threw away the leftovers because I didn't know what to do with it). While I think it tasted great I thought that the chocolate sauce weakened the glaze somewhat - maybe it was something that I did wrong. I find a simple chocolate ganache (without the addition of the sauce) perfect for eclairs. I made two batches of these and for the second batch I used the glaze recipe without the sauce.

Overall I enjoyed making these and found them absolutely delicious and quite indulgent. Thanks Tony and Meeta for a lovely challenge. I can't wait until I can get a copy of the book so that I can try other recipes by Pierre Hermé.

Looking forward to the next challenge.