My family and I regularly attend yum cha for brunch on a Sunday. Nothing beats a lazy start to the day and then grazing over a number of different steamed and fried dumplings as well as other various treats. Often we will choose a plate of cha sui (Cantonese BBQ pork) which is sliced and usually splashed with some soy sauce and can be scattered with peanuts. Steamed or baked cha sui bao (Cantonese BBQ pork buns) are also a regular item. My freezer always contains a six pack of frozen cha sui bao (not homemade) for steaming and a piece of cha sui is a regular purchase from the local Chinese BBQ shop.

Therefore what better way to challenge you guys and myself than having a go at making the Cantonese dish of char sui and then baking/steaming some cha sui bao.

 

Notes: Rising time of the dough will vary, depending on temperature. Here is Australia it is warm and dough raises quite quickly. When I was playing around with the dough in colder months it took a couple of hours.

Maltose

Maltose is also known as malt sugar. It adds a lovely shine to the char sui. It can be found in Asian grocery stores. If you don’t want to purchase Maltose you could substitute honey.

Shallots

When I refer to shallots I am referring to the French type which look like small brown onions.

Green Onions

These can also be known as spring onions, salad onions or green shallots.

Shaoxing Cooking Wine

Shaoxing is Chinese rice wine. If you cannot locate you can substitute sherry.

Flat/field & Swiss brown mushrooms

Flat/field mushrooms are the larger mushroom above. Swiss browns are the smaller ones. Basically they are like button mushrooms with a brown top not white. Please feel free to experiment with your favourite mushrooms.

Mandatory Items:
Prepare char sui and then make char sui bao.

Variations allowed:
If you don’t eat pork please play around with alternative meats, for example, chicken thigh or tofu to marinade. I have provided a vegetarian filling option using mushrooms for baked buns.

Preparation time:

  • Char sui, marinade – minimum 4 hours, best left overnight, cooking time 30 minutes.
  • Baked char sui bao – raising time 1 – 2 hours, bun construction 20 minutes, cooking time 15 minutes.
  • Steamed char sui bao – raising time of dough 1-2 hours, bun construction 20 minutes, additional raising 20 minutes (approx), cooking time 12 minutes.

Equipment required:

For the char sui
• Bowl for mixing marinade
• Ceramic or glass dish for the meat to marinade in
• Oven or BBQ

For the baked char sui bao
• Large bowl
• Baking tray
• Wok or fry pan

For the steamed char sui bao
• Large bowl
• Wok
• Bamboo steamers
• 20cm x 8cm (8” x 3”) square pieces of baking paper

Char Sui (Cantonese BBQ Pork)

Ingredients

1 pork fillet/tenderloin (roughly 1-1.5 pounds)
4 large cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon (3 gm) ginger, grated
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 ½ tablespoons maltose (you can substitute honey)
1 ½ tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon shaoxing cooking wine
½ teaspoon (2 gm) ground white pepper
pinch of salt
½ teaspoon (2 gm) five spice powder
½ teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon pillar box red food colouring
(1 tablespoon=15 ml, 1 teaspoon=5 ml)

Directions:

    1. Trim the pork loin to remove fat and tendon and slice lengthways so you have two long pieces, then cut in half. By cutting the pork in to smaller pieces to marinate you will end up with more flavoursome char sui. If you want to leave the pork in one piece you can do this as well. Place in container that you will be marinating them in.
    1. Combine all the other ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine. I placed my maltose in the microwave for a few seconds to make it easier to work with. Maltose is quite a solid hard sticky substance.
    1. Cover pork well with ⅔ of the marinade mixture. Marinate for a minimum of 4 hours, I find it is best left to marinate overnight. Place the reserved ⅓ portion of the marinade covered in the fridge. You will use this as a baste when cooking the pork.

Cooking Method 1 – Oven

This is the first way that I experimented with cooking the char sui.

    1. Pre-heat oven to moderate 180˚C/350°F/gas mark 4.
    2. Cover a baking tray with foil or baking paper. Place on top of this a rack on which to cook the pork.
  1. Place pork on the rack and place in oven.
  2. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, basting and turning.
  3. Turn the heat up to moderately hot 200˚C/400°F/gas mark 6 for the final 20 minutes as this will aid the charring. Cook until cooked through.

Cooking Method 2 – Seared in pan & then into the oven

On reading more I discovered this method, it was meant to give a better charred finish. Not sure that it did give a “better” result, but the pork was a lot more moist.

    1. Pre-heat oven to moderate 180˚C/350°F/gas mark 4.
    2. Cover a baking tray with foil or baking paper. Place on top of this a rack on which to cook the pork.
    3. Place pork in a hot frying pan or wok. Sear it quickly so it is well browned
  1. Remove from pan/wok and place pork on the rack and place in oven.
  2. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, basting and turning until cooked through.

Cooking Method 3 – BBQ

This method I feel gave the best result. If you have access to a BBQ use it. The pork had a better BBQ flavour and was also very moist.

    1. Place marinated pork loin on the grill of your BBQ
  1. Cook on a medium heat, approximately 15 minutes, until cooked through.
  2. Be careful to watch that you don’t burn the pork.

Char Sui (Cantonese BBQ Pork)
Alternative marinade without red food colouring or maltose

Ingredients

1 teaspoon (6 gm) salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon (3 gm) ground white pepper
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons (30 gm/1 oz) sugar
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon shaoxing cooking wine
1 teaspoon (3 gm) five spice
(1 tablespoon=15 ml, 1 teaspoon=5 ml)

Directions:

    1. Trim the pork loin to remove fat and tendon and slice lengthways so you have two long pieces, then cut in half. Place in container that you will be marinating them in.
    2. Combine all the other ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine.
  1. Cover pork well with ⅔ of the marinade mixture. Marinate for a minimum of 4 hours, I find it is best left to marinate overnight. Place the reserved ⅓ portion of the marinade covered in the fridge. You will use this as a baste when cooking the pork.
  2. Follow the desired cooking method from the previous recipe.

Baked Char Sui Bao (Cantonese BBQ Pork Bun)

Servings: 12Filling Ingredients

350 gm (12 oz) char sui (finely diced)
2 green onions/spring onions (finely sliced)
1 tablespoon hoisin
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
¼ cup (60 ml) chicken stock
1 teaspoon (2 gm) cornflour
½ tablespoon vegetable oil
(1 tablespoon=15 ml, 1 teaspoon=5 ml)

Dough Ingredients

2½ teaspoons (8 gm/1 satchel) of dried yeast
¼ cup (55 gm/2 oz) sugar
½ cup warm water
2 cups (280 gm/10 oz) plain flour
1 egg (medium size – slightly beaten)
3 tablespoons oil
½ teaspoon (3 gm) salt
Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with a dash of water
(1 cup=240 ml, 1 tablespoon=15 ml, 1 teaspoon=5 ml)

Filling Directions:

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or pan.
  2. Add diced char sui to the wok/pan and stir then add spring onions, cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add hoisin, dark soy sauce and sesame oil to the pork mixture, stir fry for one minute.
  4. Mix cornflour and stock together and then add to the pork mixture.
  5. Stir well and keep cooking until the mixture thickens, 1 or 2 minutes.
  6. Remove mixture from wok/pan and place in a bowl to cool. Set aside until ready to use.

Bun Directions:

    1. Place the sugar and warm water in a bowl, mix until the sugar has dissolved. Add yeast and leave it for 10 – 15 minutes until it becomes all frothy.
    2. Sift flour in to a large bowl.
    3. Add yeast mixture, egg, oil and salt and stir. Bring the flour mixture together with your hands.
    4. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and slightly elastic.
    5. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise until it is double in size. This will take from 1 – 2 hours depending on weather conditions.
    6. Once dough has doubled in size knock back and divide in to 12 portions and shape in to round balls.
    7. Use a rolling pin to roll out to approximately 5cm (2 inches) in diameter. Then pick the piece of dough up and gently pull the edges to enlarge to about 8cm (3 inches) in diameter.

By doing this it keeps the dough slightly thicker in the centre. This means when your buns are cooking they won’t split on the tops.

    1. Place a good sized tablespoon of filling on the dough circle. Then gather the edges and seal your bun.
    1. Place the bun seal side down on your baking tray. Continue with rest of dough.
    2. Once all buns are complete brush surface with egg wash.
    1. Place in a preheated oven of 200º C/392º F for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Steamed Char Sui Bao (Cantonese BBQ Pork Bun)

Servings: 20Filling Ingredients

350 gm (12 oz) char sui (finely diced)
2 shallots (finely diced)
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
¼ cup (60 ml) chicken stock
1 teaspoon (3 gm) cornflour
½ tablespoon vegetable oil

Bun Ingredients

1 cup milk, scalded
¼ cup (60 gm/2 oz) sugar
1 tablespoon oil
¼ teaspoon (2 gm) salt
2½ teaspoons (8 gm/1 satchel) of dried yeast
3 cups (420 gm/15 oz) plain flour
(1 cup=240 ml, 1 tablespoon=15 ml, 1 teaspoon=5 ml)

Filling Directions:

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or pan. Sauté the shallots for one or two minutes until soft.
  2. Add diced char sui to the wok/pan and stir.
  3. Add oyster sauce, dark soy sauce and sesame oil to the pork mixture, stir fry for one minute.
  4. Mix cornflour and stock together and then add to the pork mixture.
  5. Stir well and keep cooking until the mixture thickens, 1 or 2 minutes.
  6. Remove mixture from wok/pan and place in a bowl to cool. Set aside until ready to use.

Bun Directions:

    1. Scald milk and then stir in sugar, oil and salt, leave to cool until it is lukewarm. Once it is the right temperature add yeast, leave until yeast is activated and it becomes frothy, about 10 – 15 minutes.
    2. Sift flour in to a large bowl.
    3. Add milk/yeast mixture to the flour. Bring the flour mixture together with your hands.
    4. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and slightly elastic.
    5. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise until it is double in size. This will take from 1 – 2 hours depending on weather conditions.
    6. Punch down dough and divide in to 20 equal portions.
    7. Roll each dough portion in to a 7 – 8cm (2¾ – 3 ¼ inches) round.
    8. Place 1 tablespoon of filling in the centre of the round, gather the edges together at the top and place on a 8cm (3 inch) square of baking paper. Repeat until all dough has been used.
    9. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes.
    1. Place buns in bamboo steamer, leaving space between the buns.
    2. Heat water in a wok until it is simmering and place steamers one on top of each other in the wok.
  1. Place lid on top bamboo steamer and steam for approximately 12 minutes.

Mushroom Filling for Baked Buns

Ingredients

2 cups (170 gm/6 oz) Swiss brown mushrooms (finely diced) (alternatively button, Roman brown, Italian brown, Crimini)
1 cup (90 gm/3 oz) Shitake mushrooms (finely diced)
2½ cups (225 gm/8 oz) flat/field mushrooms (finely diced)
(alternatively Portabella mushrooms)
2 shallots (finely diced)
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin
1 teaspoon sesame oil
¼ cup vegetable stock
1 teaspoon (3 gm) cornflour
½ tablespoon vegetable oil
(1 cup=240 ml, 1 tablespoon=15 ml, 1 teaspoon=5 ml)

Directions:

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a wok or pan. Sauté the shallots for one or two minutes until soft
  2. Add the mushrooms to the onions in the wok/pan. Cook until mushrooms have rendered down and most of the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated.
  3. Add soy sauce, oyster sauce, hoisin and sesame oil, cook for another few minutes.
  4. Mix cornflour and stock together and then add to the mushroom mixture.
  5. Stir well and keep cooking until the mixture thickens, 1 or 2 minutes.
  6. Remove mixture from wok/pan and place in a bowl to cool. Set aside until ready to use.

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:

The baked char sui bao freezes very well. All you need to do is take them out of the freezer and place in the over to warm. The steamed ones should freeze okay as well. To warm them place in microwave for about 30 seconds until warm and defrosted

The term Charlotte actually refers to two different types of dish one cold and one hot. For this recipe we are making the chilled variety, which is sometimes referred to as an icebox cake. Chilled Charlottes are composed of a lined bowl or mold, which is then filled with a Bavarian cream or mousse which is firm enough to slice when chilled. The sweet Charlotte molds are typically lined with bread, cake or ladyfingers and the savory ones are lined with vegetables or bread.

The two classic types of chilled Charlottes are the Charlotte Royale and the Charlotte Russe. The French Chef Marie-Antoine Carême supposedly invented the Charlotte Russe in the 1800s, naming it partly for the daughter of his former employer (George IV), as well as his current Russian employer (Czar Alexander I ). The Charlotte Royale is a variation on the Charlotte Russe.

The Charlotte Russe is made in a loose bottomed cake pan lined with ladyfingers and is filled with one or more layers of Bavarian Cream or mousse.

6_charlotte_russe

The Charlotte Royale is typically made in a round bowl lined with slices of Swiss roll cake for a spiral effect.

0_Charlotte_Royale

Though less common, Charlottes may also be savory. These Charlottes come in many shapes and are filled with meat or vegetable mousses and the molds are lined with vegetables or bread.

0_zucchini_charlotte

This is a creation where it really helps to read the instructions a few times before you start and make a plan! J

Charlottes are ideal make-ahead desserts as they have several components and require several hours of chilling before serving. They keep very well for 3 or more days and can also be frozen after assembly. There are a lot of steps in making Charlottes, but if you break down the process into a couple of days it makes it a lot less intimidating. I found it easiest to make both the cake roll for the Charlotte Royale and ladyfingers for the Charlotte Russe ahead of time and freeze them until I was ready to continue with the recipe. You could also line the molds ahead and wrap them well so that they don’t dry out, refrigerating for a day or freezing them until you are ready to fill them.

The savory Charlotte doesn’t freeze or keep as well, but could be made one day ahead. It is very rich and best served as an appetizer with crackers.

Charlottes can be shaped in any sort of mold/pan that you can unmold it from easily. I have made the two most common shapes, but use what you have on hand! The Charlotte Russe is particularly nice made in individual small molds.

A caution about cornstarch – if possible, use an organic non-GMO cornstarch when making the cake for the Charlotte Royale. I recently heard Rose Levy Beranbaum (recipe author) speak at an event. She stated that many of her older cake recipes had recently started coming out more like bread than cake in texture. She found that when she switched to an organic non-GMO cornstarch that her recipes worked again as they had when she first developed them. I tried the cake with both types of cornstarch and the cake will turn out either way. However, I do think that the one with the organic cornstarch had a more tender texture than the one with generic cornstarch.

A tip about folding egg whites into batters – the recipe author recommended using a balloon whisk or a slotted spoon as the ideal tool for folding the egg whites into the batter mixture of the cake and ladyfingers recipes. I tried both my usual rubber spatula and a balloon whisk and was astonished by how much better the balloon whisk worked to quickly and evenly fold the egg whites into the batter without losing volume.

The method for measuring volumes of flour – spoon from the flour bag into a measuring cup and cut it level with a knife.

Weighing: If using an analogue scale, use the finest weight divisions (usually 5 gm increments) on your scales when measuring weights.

Preparation time:

Varies greatly depending on your skill level and the Charlotte you decide to make. It will probably take an average of 3 to 4 hours of active time plus several hours of chilling for the dessert Charlottes. The savory Charlotte will take about 2 hours. The dessert recipes work well spread out over a couple of days.

Equipment required:

4 Cup (1 litre) Bowl (for the vegetable Charlotte)

6 Cup (1½ litre) bowl (for the Charlotte Royale)

8” (20 cm) spring-form or loose-bottom pan (for the Charlotte Russe)

17”x12” (43 x 30 cm) jellyroll or half sheet pan (for the Charlotte Royale cake component)

Balloon whisk/skimmer spoon/rubber spatula (see notes)

Candy Thermometer (optional, but nice to have for the Bavarian Cream recipe)

Dishtowels

Food Processor (optional, but nice to have for the savory Charlotte)

Handheld or stand mixer (optional, but nice to have)

Mesh strainer

Non-reactive Saucepans
Offset/angled spatula

Parchment paper/silicon liner/foil

Plastic wrap

Piping bag with 1/2”-3/4” (1¼ to 2 cm) tip or zip-top freezer bag with the corner cut for piping

Ribbon or other decorations as desired

Serrated knife

Wooden spoon

Raspberry Charlotte Royale:

Servings: 8

0_Charlotte_Royale

 

Ingredients

3/4 cup (180 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) seedless raspberry jam, divided

1 recipe Biscuit Roulade (below)

1 recipe Bavarian Cream, raspberry flavor (below)

Apricot jam, thinned and strained for glazing (optional)

Whipped cream, fresh fruit or sauce as desired for decoration

Directions:

Lightly oil a 6-cup (1½ litre) round bowl or mold (the smaller the diameter at the top the better) and line it as smoothly as possible with plastic wrap, leaving a small overhang. Measure the diameter of the bowl and make note of it. You will need a round cake base of this size for the bottom of the Charlotte. Note: If the diameter of the top of your 6 cup bowl is very wide, you may want to make an additional 1/2 recipe of the cake in a smaller pan to make sure there is enough for the roll as well as the base. Alternately, you can use a smaller bowl.

Make the Biscuit Roulade cake in a sheet pan as directed in the recipe. As soon as the cake has finished baking, slide it out of the pan onto a flat surface using the parchment to help move it. Flip the cake onto a clean dishtowel and carefully remove the parchment paper.

While the cake is still hot, you will need to set aside a piece for the base and roll the remainder in a towel as described below.

Cut off a piece from one of the ends just wide enough to cut the top from later as shown in the photo below. Set this piece aside to cool. After this piece has cooled, cut it with shears or a sharp knife into the circle for the Charlotte base.

2_Charlotte_Royale

While the cake is still hot, roll the remaining piece of cake up tightly in the dishtowel. Roll from the longest side with the darkest side of the cake on the inside. Cool the rolled cake/towel on a rack.

When ready to fill, gently unroll the cake and leave it on top of the towel. Spread up to ½ cup of raspberry jam in a thin layer on top of the cooled cake, leaving it on the towel (I spread my jam a little too thick the first time and the jam bled a bit after I cut the spirals. The jam should look like it’s barely covering the cake).

Roll up the cake as tightly as you can about 1/3 of the way and then use the towel to pull the roll towards you and press on the other side of the roll with a bench scraper or your hands to help make the roll tight as you continue to use the towel to help roll the cake all the way up. The completed roll should be about 2” (5 cm) in diameter. It is important to get this roll as tight as possible as you do not want gaps in the spirals.

3_Charlotte_Royale

Wrap the roll tightly in plastic wrap and then foil and freeze until firm enough to slice, at least a couple of hours. If desired, the roll and the base can be frozen for a few weeks before you make the rest of the Charlotte.

When the roll is firm, cut it into ¼ inch (5 mm) slices with a small, serrated knife. You want to get as many spirals as possible, so be careful to evenly cut the slices as close to ¼ inch (5 mm) as you can. Work quickly so the cake roll doesn’t thaw and soften too much.

To line the bowl, place 1 slice in the center and place other slices around it as tightly as possible to try to avoid gaps.

4_Charlotte_Royale

The width of your mold and the width of your slices will determine how far up the mold you can get. You may need to cut the slices in half or smaller to fit the last rows if your slices go all the way up the mold. My bowl was fairly wide, so my cake slices did not go all the way up to the top of the bowl with what I had left over after cutting the base circle. If your spirals do go all the way up, trim the last ones even with the edge of the bowl. If not, you can trim them when you put in the cream.

Adjust the spirals to eliminate gaps, but it may not be possible to make it fit perfectly. If there are any gaps between the spirals, plug them with a small amount of the remaining raspberry jam or some trimmings from unused spirals. If you are using a glass bowl, you can hold it up to the light and see where light comes through. You want to plug these spots to prevent the Bavarian Cream from leaking through.

Cover the lined bowl tightly and place it in the refrigerator until the filling is ready.

Make the Bavarian cream and spoon it into the lined bowl until it comes up to the top of the bowl or just to the place the top spirals last touch each other. Trim the top spirals even above the cream if necessary.

5_Charlotte_Royale

Place the cake round on top of the cream and touching the edge of the spirals. Press down gently on the edges of the cake circle so it makes contact with the edge of the spirals.

6_Charlotte_Royale

Cover tightly and refrigerate until set, at least 8 hours.

To unmold, invert onto a plate and lift away the bowl, tugging gently on the plastic wrap to release it. To prevent drying out, leave the plastic wrap in place until serving or glaze the cake with some apricot jam that has been heated, strained and thinned with a bit of water until it is thin enough to brush over the cake. If desired, decorate with whipped cream or fresh fruit. The cake may also be served with raspberry sauce.

7_Charlotte_Royale

Orange Chocolate Charlotte Russe:

Servings: 8-10

1_charlotte_russe

Ingredients

1 recipe Biscuit à la Cuillière (below), piped to make 2-dozen ladyfingers and an 8 ½” (21 cm) base.

Grand Marnier (if the ladyfingers are not freshly baked)

1 recipe Bavarian Cream, orange variation (below)

1/2 recipe Light Whipped Ganache (below)

Decorations as desired (ribbon, candied orange peel, fruit, flavored whip cream, etc.)

Directions:

Make the ladyfingers and base as directed in the recipes below.

If using a spring-form pan as a Charlotte mold, remove the bottom and set the outer ring on top of your serving plate or a cardboard cake circle. If using a loose-bottom pan, leave the disc in place but line the bottom with parchment . Very lightly oil the inside of the ring to prevent any sticking or line the sides with parchment.

If the ladyfingers have not been freshly baked, sprinkle them with a little Grand Marnier.

Trim one end of the ladyfinger strips to form a flat bottom edge. Use the ladyfinger strips to line the inside of the mold, placing the flat edge at the bottom of the pan and facing the nice side of the ladyfingers towards to outside. It is not necessary to cut the ladyfingers apart unless the height of the ladyfingers need adjustment. The Charlotte will look best if the top of all the ladyfingers is fairly even.

2_charlotte_russe

Place the base in the bottom of the pan, trimming it as necessary for a tight fit inside the ladyfinger walls.

3_charlotte_russe

Prepare the Orange Bavarian and scoop it into the lined mold.

4_charlotte_russe

Prepare the Light Whipped Ganache and scoop it on top of the Bavarian and gently smooth it out. It should be just below the edge of the ladyfingers.

5_charlotte_russe

Note: Depending on the size of the mold you are using you may or may not want to use all of the Bavarian and all of the whipped ganache. Use your judgment as you fill the mold.

Chill for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days before serving. The assembled Charlotte may also be frozen for up to 3 weeks.

Remove from the refrigerator 1 hour before serving. Remove the Charlotte from the mold and decorate as desired. A ribbon is often tied around the Charlotte Russe and some sort of decoration is put on top to indicate the flavors inside.

6_charlotte_russe

This recipe can easily be made in mini molds or ramekins for a fun individual dessert.

7_charlotte_russe

Biscuit Roulade:

Servings: (8) 1 cake

1_Biscuit_Roulade

Ingredients

1/3 cup (80 ml) (1.16oz/33gm) sifted cake flour, (see note above how to measure volumes of flour)

3 tablespoon (45 ml) (.8oz/23gm) unsifted cornstarch, preferably organic, non-GMO (see notes)

4 large eggs (8oz/227g weighed in the shell), room temperature

1 large egg yolk (3 ½ tsp/0.64oz/18g), room temperature

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 oz/113g) sugar, divided

¾ teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions:

Position the oven rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8. Grease the jellyroll/sheet pan and line it with parchment and then grease it again and flour it. You may use baking spray with flour included if desired.

In a small bowl, whisk together the cake flour and cornstarch.

Separate 2 of the eggs, placing the yolks in one large mixing bowl and the whites in another.

To the yolks, add the additional yolk, the 2 remaining eggs, and ½ cup of the sugar.

Beat the yolk mixture with the paddle attachment on high speed for 5 minutes or until thick, fluffy and tripled in volume. Beat in the vanilla.

Sift ½ the flour mixture over the egg mixture and fold it in gently but rapidly with a large balloon whisk (see notes), slotted skimmer spoon or rubber spatula until the flour has disappeared. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture.

Beat the egg whites with the whisk attachment until foamy, add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form when the beater is raised. Beat in the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly. Fold the whites into the batter and pour into the prepared pan, using an angled/offset metal spatula to level it.

Bake for 7 minutes or until golden brown, a cake tester comes out clean, and the cake is springy to the touch.

2_Biscuit_Roulade

While the cake is still hot, follow instructions in the Charlotte Royale recipe about cutting a base and rolling the cake.

Variations:

Chocolate Biscuit: Increase the sugar to 2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (5oz/145gm). Replace the cornstarch with an equal weight or ¼ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder. Dissolve the cocoa in 3 tablespoons of boiling water and cool. Stir in the vanilla and add to the beaten yolk mixture, beating a few seconds until incorporated.

Biscuit à la Cuillière:

Servings: 2 dozen 3” (7½ cm) ladyfingers and an 8” (20 cm) circular base

1_ladyfingers

Ingredients

6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature (yolks – 4oz/1152 g, whites – 6.25oz/180g)

¾ cup (180 ml) (5.25 oz/ 150gm) granulated sugar, divided

2½ teaspoons vanilla

1 tablespoon warm water

1½ cups (360 ml) (5.25oz/150gm) sifted cake flour, (see note above how to measure volumes of flour)

¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

Powdered sugar for dusting, approximately 1 cup

Directions:

Separate the eggs and set them aside to come to room temperature while preparing the rest of the ingredients and equipment.

Draw as many three-inch (7½ cm) wide strips as you can fit on a piece of parchment paper to use as a guideline for piping the ladyfingers. There should be at least ½” (1¼ cm) between the strips so that the top of the ladyfingers don’t run together. Trace an 8 1/2” (21½ cm) circle on a second sheet of parchment paper. (to fit the bottom of an 8”(20 cm) pan.

Turn each parchment sheet over onto baking sheets so that the ink is on the underside and won’t get on the batter. If you’d rather use a silicon liner, you can draw your lines with a marker on a paper bag and place that under the liner so it shows through. If you are using foil, use a skewer to trace guidelines onto the foil.

Preheat the oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the yolks and ½ cup of the sugar on high speed with a mixer with the paddle attachment for 5 minutes or until the mixture is very thick and ribbons when dropped from the beater.

2_ladyfingers

Lower the speed and mix in the vanilla and the water. Increase back to high speed and beat for another 30 seconds or until the mixture is thick again. Sift the flour over this mixture without mixing it in and set it aside while you beat the whites.

In another large mixing bowl, beat the whites until they are foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat to soft peak stage. Gradually beat in the remaining ¼ cup sugar, beating until very stiff peaks form when the beater is raised slowly (while off, of course!).

3_ladyfingers

Fold 1/3 of the beaten whites with a balloon whisk (see notes), skimmer spoon or rubber spatula into the batter to lighten it. Fold until all of the flour is incorporated. Gently fold in the remaining whites, making sure that no streaks remain but being very careful not to deflate the whites any more than necessary.

Working quickly so that the batter doesn’t lose volume, put about 4 cups of the batter into a piping bag fitted with a ½” or ¾” (1¼ to 2 cm) tip. If you don’t have piping bags and tips, spoon it into a freezer zip-top bag and clip one corner to ½” (12 mm) wide and use that to pipe the batter.

Holding the piping bag straight up over the baking sheet, pipe the batter into a circle shape following the guidelines drawn on the parchment paper. Pop this pan in the oven and to bake for 8-10 minutes until golden brown.

4_ladyfingers

While the base is baking, scoop the remaining batter into the piping bag and pipe ladyfingers onto the other baking sheet; they will be 3 inches long and about 1½ inches (3 cm) wide. Pipe the fingers ¼” (5 mm) apart, they will spread and join together at their sides while baking. The tops should be ½” (12 mm) apart as those should remain separate. This will create a continuous strip that you can line the pan with. Variation: You may also pipe the ladyfingers at an angle or in a design within the 3” (7½ cm) guidelines for a different look for the sides of your Charlotte.

before

Sift some powdered sugar evenly over the ladyfingers. After a few seconds the batter will absorb the sugar. For a pearled effect, sift another layer of sugar over the ladyfingers. Bake 8-10 minutes until light golden brown and springy to the touch.

Remove the sheets to racks and cool slightly. To prevent cracking, remove the ladyfinger strips from the sheets while still warm with a long, thin spatula. For the cake base, invert onto a rack covered with a paper towel or a dishtowel, peel off the liner, and invert onto another rack. Cool the base and ladyfingers on racks until completely cool. Ladyfingers go stale very quickly. If not using them right away, wrap in plastic wrap. They may be frozen at this point for up to 1 month.

Bavarian Cream:

Servings: enough to fill a 6-cup cake- lined mold

Ingredients

1/3 cup (80 ml) (2.25oz/65gm) sugar

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons/.333 oz/9.3gm) unflavored gelatin powder

3 large egg yolks (3.25oz/95gm)

1-2/3 cups (400 ml) milk

1 vanilla bean, split (you may also use extract/paste, but add it when the cream is cool)

1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream

1½ tablespoon (22 ml) kirsch or other liqueur, optional but helps mask the gelatin flavor

Additional flavoring ingredients as listed in the variations below

Note: As a general rule, two gelatine leaves is equivalent to one teaspoon of powdered gelatine.

Directions:

Refrigerate the mixing bowl for whipping the cream.

Have ready a fine strainer nearby, suspended over a small bowl.

In a small, heavy, noncorroding saucepan, stir together the sugar, salt, gelatin and yolks until well blended, using a wooden spoon.

In another small saucepan heat the milk and vanilla bean to just below a simmer (170°F/77°C – 180°F/82°C). There will be steam rising off the milk and there may be some small bubbles but it will not be at an active simmer yet. Stir a few tablespoons of hot milk into the yolk mixture to temper it. Gradually add the remaining hot milk and vanilla bean, stirring constantly.

Heat the egg and milk mixture, stirring constantly, to just below a simmer again (170°F/77°C – 180°F/82°C). Steam will begin to appear and the mixture will be slightly thicker than heavy cream. It will leave a well-defined track when a finger is run across the back of a spoon. If the mixture gets too hot (above 180°F/82°C), the cream can curdle. If this happens, immediately pour it into a blender and (with the vent open or a towel over the top) blend it to try to bring it back together smoothly.

1_Bavarian_Cream

Immediately remove from the heat and pour the mixture through the strainer (unless making the orange or lemon variations), scraping up the thickened cream that settles on the bottom of the pan. Remove the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the sauce. Stir until the seeds separate.

If time allows, chill the pastry cream in the refrigerator for about 1½ hours (checking frequently and stirring occasionally) until whisk marks barely begin to appear when stirred. For faster results, cool the sauce over an ice-water bath, stirring with a whisk, until whisk marks barely begin to appear. The mixture will start to set around the edges but will still be very liquid.

In the chilled bowl, whip the cream until it mounds softly when dropped from a spoon.

Whisk the optional kirsch or other liqueur into the pastry cream and then fold in the whipped cream just until incorporated. The mixture will be soupy, like melted ice cream. Pour into a cake-lined mold. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before unmolding. The flavor will improve as it sits, so letting it chill for 24 hours before serving will be even better.

Variations:

Raspberry Bavarian: Use raspberry liqueur in place of the kirsch. After folding in the whipped cream, fold in ½ cup of seedless raspberry jam. If the jam is stiff, you may need to loosen it a bit first with a tablespoon or two of warm water until it’s liquid enough to fold into the cream mixture.

Orange Bavarian: Use ½ cup sugar instead of 1/3 cup. Replace the kirsch with Grand Marnier. Add 2 tablespoons of fresh orange juice concentrate and 1 tablespoon of orange zest. To make the concentrate, start with ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice and reduce it to 2 tablespoons. Add the zest to the milk before heating and do not strain the custard. Add the concentrate when the mixture is cool.Note: This is a very lightly flavored Bavarian and the flavor is better after a day or two. If you want a stronger flavor, you may want to use some orange oil or orange extract in addition to the concentrate and zest.

Lemon Bavarian: Replace the kirsch with Limoncello. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon zest to the milk before heating and do not strain the custard. After folding in the whipped cream, fold in ½ cup of lemon curd.

Light Whipped Ganache:

Servings: 2 cups ganache

1_whipped_ganache

Ingredients

1 cup (240 ml) (4oz/115g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 cup (240 ml) heavy cream

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

Heat the cream just to a simmer. Pour it over the chopped chocolate in a large mixer bowl and let it sit for couple of minutes to melt the chocolate. Whisk until smooth.

Refrigerate until cold, stirring once or twice, for about 2 hours. Do not let the mixture get too cold or it won’t whip well.

Mix in the vanilla and beat the mixture using a mixer with the whisk attachment until very soft peaks form when the beater is raised. It will continue to thicken after whipping, so it’s best not to overbeat it. Use right away.

Note: You will only need half of this recipe to make the Charlotte Russe. However, it’s easier to make in the mixer in a larger batch. The remaining ganache keeps well in the refrigerator or freezer.

Vegetable and Cheese Charlotte:

Servings: 16

0_zucchini_charlotte

Ingredients

For the mold:

2 large zucchini, approximately 1 lb (½ kg)

¼ teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme (optional)

For the Cheese Mousse:

8 oz/250 gm cream cheese at room temperature (do not use whipped cream cheese)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup heavy cream

¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, drained

¼ cup finely chopped fresh herbs (use your favorites, I used Basil, thyme, chives and parsley)

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix the 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 clove of minced garlic, salt and thyme (if using). Slice the zucchini into 1/8-inch (3 mm) rounds and toss with the olive oil.

Heat a grill pan and cook the zucchini slices on both sides until they are pliable but not mushy. Set aside to cool.

Lightly grease a 4-cup (1 litre) bowl and line it with plastic wrap.

Mix the cream cheese, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper together in a food processor until smooth and creamy. With the food processor running, stream in the whipping cream and process for a minute or two until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and fold in the chopped herbs and sun-dried tomatoes. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasonings to your liking.

Place one zucchini round in the bottom center of the bowl. Start layering in the other zucchini rounds in a circular fashion along the bottom and sides of the bowl, overlapping each round slightly. Since the zucchini are floppier than cake or bread, it helps to fill the mold as you line it. Go up a few circles high and then spoon in some of the mousse. Layer in more zucchini circles and more mouse and continue until you run out of mousse.

1_zucchini_layer2_mousse_layer

Smooth out the top of the mousse into an even layer and fold over the top edges of the zucchini.

3_fold-zucchini

Line the top of the mousse with more zucchini circles.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight. Serve chilled. Note: This Charlotte is too rich to be served by the slice like the dessert Charlottes. It is best served spread on crackers or bread.

5_zucchini_sliced

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:

The Charlotte Royale must be assembled at least 8 hours ahead.

The Charlotte Russe must be assembled at least 4 hours ahead and must sit at room temperature 1 hour before serving.

Both dessert Charlottes may be prepared as much as 3 days ahead. They also keep very well in the refrigerator, and can also be frozen for up to 3 weeks. The flavors actually improve after 24 hours, so it is an ideal dessert to make ahead.

The Savory Charlotte does not keep as well. It can be made the night before but should be served within a day of assembling it.

Baumkuchen (German for tree cake). A commercial Baumkuchen is cooked layer on layer in a big spit above a large container containing the batter, with a broiler (grill) next to it. The batter is poured over the spit, and when cooked, the next layer gets poured and cooked, this is repeated; until you have 15, 20, or even 25 layers of cake.  The little brown lines between the layers of cake are the reason we call this cake “tree cake”.

Baumkuchen is very popular in Japan as well, where it is called baumukuhen it is served at weddings, because of its ring form. Isn’t that funny Smile

Now onto the challenge recipe, which is Schichttorte (layered cake, Schicht means layer). This is a simple version of Baumkuchen, with horizontal layers. The layers in Schichttorte are not dipped, but smeared, and the cake is not baked on a spit, but in a baking mould (tin) (pan) producing a flat multi-layered cake. It is Schichttorte that we will be baking for this month’s challenge.

Do yourself a favour and google images of baumkuchen. I promise you will enjoy yourself and be inspired by the many possibilities.

Recipe Source: The recipe provided is from the book “101 heerlijke recepten voor cake & gebak” (101 delicious recipes for cake and pastry), which is a translation of “Lieblingskuchen” (favourite pastries). The publisher asked me to add this specification:
© 2003 GRÄFE UND UNZER VERLAG GmbH
Originaltitel: Lieblingskuchen by Christa Schmedes
ISBN 3-7742-6073
The English translation is mine and includes my own comments

Mandatory Items: The challenge for January 2014 is to use the Baumkuchen (tree cake) and Schichttorte technique of smearing thin layers of batter on top of each other, and baking them one by one, so creating a layered cake structure.

Variations allowed: I will give you a basic recipe, but you are free to use any other recipe for layered cake, as long as it uses this technique. If you choose a different recipe, please share it with us, and share your source.

For inspiration you could search for “layered cake”, “spekkoek”, “baumkuchen”, “Schichttorte”, or any clever search phrase you can think of. You may use any color, flavor, any number of layers (as long as they are thin and many), any form or shape, alternating colors…. get creative!

Preparation time: 
Preparing your batter: 15 minutes
Baking: 60 minutes (depends on number of layers)
Glazing: 15 minutes

Equipment required:

  • 10-inch (25 cm) spring form pan / 8×10 inch (20×25 cm) cake tin
  • parchment paper
  • oil or butter for parchment paper and pan (tin)
  • whisk
  • bowls
  • beater (electric or hand-held)
  • spatula or thin wooden spoon
  • wired rack

TREE CAKE (BAUMKUCHEN):

For a 10-inch (25 cm) spring form pan or a 8×10-inch (20×25 cm) cake pan
Original recipe is in metric (grams) the volume measures are the nearest conversions.
Makes 12 pieces.

Ingredients
Batter:
6 large eggs (room temperature)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (150 ml) (4-1/4 oz) (120 gm) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (5-1/3 oz) (150 gm) marzipan
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons (1-3/4 sticks) (7 oz) (200 gm) softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup (180 ml) (3-1/2 oz) (100 gm) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (1 package) (8 grams) vanilla sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (3-1/2 oz) (100 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour (sifted)

Glaze:
1/3 cup (80 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) apricot jam
2 tablespoons (30 ml) orange liqueur (optional)
1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 gm) dark chocolate couverture chunks
1 tablespoon (15 ml) pure coconut oil

oil to grease your pan
parchment paper
10-inch (25 cm) spring form pan / 8×10 inch (20×25 cm) cake tin

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8.
2. Line your cake tin with parchment paper, grease both paper and tin.
3. Divide the eggs. Beat the egg whites with the salt until nearly stiff, add the sugar and beat until really stiff.
4. Crumble finely the marzipan. Beat it with the softened butter, confectioner’s (icing) sugar and vanilla sugar until soft and creamy. Add the egg yolks one by one and beat well between each addition. Add the stiff egg whites and flour and gently fold it into the batter. Trying not to lose too much air.



5. Smear 1/12th to 1/10th of the batter on the bottom of the pan, keep the sides of the pan clean, and bake for (about) 4 minutes in the oven, until it is cooked and brown. Take the pan out of the oven, smear the next portion of batter carefully over the first, and bake for another 4 minutes or until cooked and brown. Repeat until all batter is used. If you need to flatten a bubble insert a tooth pick or similar to deflate the bubble.
Let the cake cool down for a few minutes, take it out of the pan, remove the parchment paper and let the cake cool completely on a wired rack. Trim the edges.
6. Heat the jam a little, pass it through a sieve, and add the orange liqueur (optional). Cover the cake with the jam and let it cool.
7. Melt the couverture with the coconut oil in a bowl above warm water. Pour it over the cake to cover completely, move the cake to a cool place and wait until the glaze is dry.


Freezing and storage : The tree cake tastes better when you wait one day before eating it. Eat within a week. Store in an airtight container, but not in the fridge. Freezing is possible: cut into portions, wrap tightly in cling film and freeze up to two months.

 

Austrian Sachertorte

The Sachertorte is an elegant chocolate cake filled with tangy apricot jam, covered with a smooth, fudge-like chocolate glaze, and decorated with chocolate piping and the word “Sacher” written across the top. Each slice is served with a generous portion of schlag(unsweetened whipped cream), meant for dipping each bite of cake in to balance the sweetness and texture.

The Sachertorte was first created in Austria in 1832 when Prince Metternich requested a fancy dessert for his dinner guests. His pastry chef was ill that night, so the task fell to the apprentice, Franz Sacher, who came up with the now famous cake that bears his name. Franz built a career on that cake, and his son Eduard later opened the Sacher Hotel in Vienna where Franz’s cake, made according to the hotel’s original and closely-guarded secret recipe, is served to this day (and can also be ordered online and shipped worldwide). The cake is so popular in Vienna that it has become an integral part of the city’s kaffeehaus tradition, with local bakeries and cafés serving up their own versions along with a dollop of schlag and a cup of steaming hot coffee.

Franz’s original Sachertorte recipe may be a secret, but according to this video showing the cake being made in the Sacher bakery, I think the recipe that I have chosen is fairly authentic. Unfortunately, I’m not planning a trip to Vienna any time soon, so it looks like the only way I might ever know for sure would be if I ordered an “Original Sachertorte” to compare. Wink

 

Notes:
As is typical with European-style cakes, this one is a little drier and sturdier than the American-style butter cakes that many of us may be familiar with. This is the reason that Sachertorte is served with whipped cream – for moisture! If you are concerned that your cake is going to be too dry, you can make a simple syrup (boil together equal parts by weight of water and sugar; let cool) to brush over the cake layers after you’ve split them. The apricot glaze also adds some moisture. That said, I personally didn’t find the cake dry.

The cake relies on egg whites for volume rather than chemical leavening such as baking powder or baking soda. For your egg whites to whip properly, you need to make sure that they and every bowl, spoon, or whisk that touches them are 100% free of any fat (ie, egg yolks) or grease. I like to wipe down my bowl and whisk with a vinegar-moistened paper towel to make sure they are totally grease-free. Be very careful when separating your whites and yolks: even a speck of yolk in the whites can prevent them from whipping up properly.

Use high quality bittersweet chocolate in this recipe – the ingredients are fairly simple, so quality makes a big difference! (I used Callebaut bittersweet callets, which look like chocolate chips but are pure chocolate with none of the additives that chocolate chips usually contain.)

Definitely use a cardboard cake round to assemble the cake on – it will make it much, much easier to move the cake after glazing it (I wish I’d used one).

Mandatory Items:
You must make all components of the Sachertorte: chocolate cake, apricot glaze, chocolate glaze, chocolate decoration.

Variations allowed:
Because this is a classic cake, I’d like everyone to stick to the recipe given. If you have allergies or can’t locate an ingredient locally, then please make substitutions as appropriate.

Preparation time:
This cake is best made in stages, as it needs time for the various components to set/chill before continuing:

  1. Cake: 30-60 minutes prep, 35-45 minutes baking, several hours cooling
  2. Apricot glaze: 10 minutes prep, 5 minutes assembly, 5-10 minutes to set
  3. Chocolate glaze and decoration: 10 minutes prep, 5-10 minutes assembly/decoration, 1 hour to set/chill
  4. Let the cake sit at room temperature for 1 hour before serving

Equipment required:

  • 9-inch (23 cm) spring-form or other high-sided pan
  • parchment paper
  • small heavy-bottomed saucepan
  • small/medium heat-proof bowl
  • spatula
  • stand mixer with whisk and paddle attachments, or hand-held electric mixer
  • 2 large bowls (stand mixer bowl + one other)
  • fine mesh sieve
  • heat-proof spoon
  • candy thermometer (optional but nice)
  • cooling rack
  • serrated knife
  • 8½-inch (22 cm) cardboard cake round
  • whisk
  • large metal offset spatula
  • plate or baking sheet
  • waxed paper

Sachertorte

Servings: 12-16

Cake Ingredients
¾ cup (180 gm) (4½ oz) (125 gm) good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
9 tablespoons (135 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1 cup (240 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) confectioners’ sugar (aka icing sugar or powdered sugar)
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature (see note above about egg whites)
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
½ cup (120 ml) (7 oz) (100 gm) granulated sugar
1 cup (120 ml) (4½ oz) (125 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour (for volume measurement, spoon gently into measuring cup and level top)
pinch fine grain salt

Assembly
Apricot Glaze (see recipe below)
Chocolate Glaze (see recipe below)
Writing Chocolate (see recipe below)
1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream, cold

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to moderately hot 375˚F/350°F fan/190˚C/gas mark 5 with a rack in the centre of the oven. Butter and flower the sides of a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan, then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper.
2. Place the bittersweet chocolate in a heat-proof bowl and heat over a small saucepan of barely simmering water (make sure that the bowl is not touching the simmering water) or in the microwave until just melted. Set aside to cool completely, stirring often.

3. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or electric mixer on medium speed until very light and creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar on low speed, then increase to medium speed and beat again until light and creamy.
4. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
5. Add the cooled chocolate and vanilla and beat until well-mixed and very light and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl.

6. In a scrupulously clean bowl using the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites with about one tablespoon of the granulated sugar on high speed until foamy. Gradually add in the rest of the granulated sugar and continue beating the whites until they form soft, shiny peaks – they should hold their shape but flop over on themselves.

7. Vigorously stir about 1/3 of the whipped egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten it, then gently fold the remaining egg whites into the chocolate mixture with a spatula until just a few wisps of egg white remain. Do this carefully so as not to deflate the egg whites.

8. Stir together the flour and salt and sift half of it over the chocolate mixture. Fold in with a spatula until almost incorporated. Sift over the remaining flour and fold to combine completely.

9. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared springform pan.
10. Bake in the preheated moderately hot 375˚F/350°F fan/190˚C/gas mark 5 oven for 35-45 minutes (mine took exactly 40 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. The cake will crack and dome in the middle as it bakes but will flatten out as it cools.

11. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen it from the pan and remove the sides. Carefully invert the cake onto a rack and remove the bottom of the pan and parchment paper, then turn the cake right-side up onto a rack and allow to cool completely.

12. Assembly: Turn the cake upside-down so that the perfectly flat bottom of the cake is now the top. Cut the cake horizontally into 2 even layers.
13. Place 1 cake layer on the 8½-inch (22 cm) cardboard cake round and spread it generously with about half of the apricot glaze. Allow it to soak in.
14. Place the second cake layer on top and spread the top and sides with the remaining apricot glaze. Work quickly before the glaze has a chance to set and use a metal offset spatula to smooth the top. Place the cake on a rack set over a plate or baking sheet lined with waxed paper and allow the apricot glaze to set.

15. Make the chocolate glaze (it must be used immediately, while still hot) and pour it over the top of the cake, first around the edge and then in the middle. Spread the excess glaze over any bare spots using a metal offset spatula. Before the glaze has a chance to set, move the cake to a serving platter.

16. With the writing chocolate, pipe the word “Sacher” in the middle of the cake and add any decorative flourishes you wish. Chill the cake until the glaze is completely set, at least 1 hour.

17. To serve: Let the cake come to room temperature for about 1 hour before serving. Whip the cream to soft peaks (this is best done in a cold bowl with cold beaters). If desired, sweeten it with icing sugar to taste.

18. Cut the Sachertorte into wedges with a large sharp knife dipped in hot water and wipe off the blade between cuts. Serve each wedge of cake with a large dollop of whipped cream.

Apricot Glaze

Servings: 1 quantity (about 1 cup)

Ingredients
1¼ cup (300 ml) (14 oz) (400 gm) apricot jam or preserves
2 tablespoons (30 ml) rum (or other liquor) or water

Directions:

1. Boil the jam and rum/water in a small saucepan over medium heat.
2. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture thickens and drips slowly from the spoon, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Strain through a wire mesh sieve, pressing firmly on the solids. You should have about 1 cup of glaze. Use warm.

Chocolate Glaze

Servings: 1 quantity

Ingredients
1 cup (240 ml) (7 oz) (200 g) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 ml) water
(4 oz) (115 gm) good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Directions:

1. Place the sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
2. Attach a candy thermometer and cook, stirring, until the mixture reaches 234˚F/112°C, about 5 minutes.
3. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the chocolate. It might thicken up quite a bit. If it does, return it to low heat and add a few drops of water if necessary to thin it out to a runny, pourable consistency. The glaze should be smooth and shiny.

4. Off the heat, stir the glaze for 30-60 seconds to cool it slightly, then immediately use it to glaze the cake.
5. Any excess glaze can be stored in a container in the fridge and added to a mug of hot milk to make hot chocolate.

Writing Chocolate

Servings: 1 quantity

Ingredients
¼ cup (60 ml) (1.8 oz) (50 gm) chopped good quality chocolate
½ – 1 teaspoons vegetable oil

Directions:

1. Heat the chocolate until just melted, then stir in enough vegetable oil to get a pipeable consistency. If necessary, let the chocolate mixture cool slightly to thicken so that it is not too runny.
2. Place the chocolate in a disposable piping bag or small Ziplock bag and snip off the tip to make a small hole. I recommend a practice run on waxed paper before writing on the cake.

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
The cake can be stored up to 2 days in an airtight container at room temperature.

Nougat is an aerated candy made from sugar, honey, egg whites and nuts. This type of nougat has been around since the 16th century (according to Larousse Gastronomique). The most well known nougats are the French Montélimar nougat and the Italian Torrone nougat. Montélimar nougat contains at least 30% nuts and includes pistachios as well as almonds. Italian Torrone and Spanish Turrón are similar, typically containing almonds and sometimes other nuts. The cooking temperature and the quantity of sugar determines the texture of the finished product. Nougat can be chewy, soft and tender to hard and brittle.

The flavors, textures and add-ins may vary, but the process of making nougat is fairly standard. Traditionally, nougat is made by adding cooked honey syrup to egg whites that have been whipped. Nuts are usually folded in and occasionally dried or candied fruits or citrus zest are added. The mixture is poured out onto edible wafer paper and smoothed into a block, which is allowed to set before cutting. Nougat is most commonly white, but can also be flavored. To really dress it up, it can be dipped in chocolate.

I hope you will have as much fun with this challenge as I did!

March 27, 2018

Notes:

Success in nougat (as with most candy-making) relies on an accurate thermometer, dry weather, no distractions, and preparing everything in advance so it’s ready to go when you need it.

My two favorite candy thermometers are digital and analog mercury thermometers made specifically for candy making, as they are more likely to be accurate. I have been amazed at the inaccuracy of all types of candy thermometers, so to be safe I recommend testing yours. Testing is important because even 2 degrees can make a difference in the finished texture of some candies. The candy thermometer should not be directly touching the bottom of the pot when you use it or you will be measuring the temperature of the pot, not its contents, and you run the risk of blowing out your thermometer.

I discovered that there is great variation in sugar syrup temperatures in nougat recipes, ranging from 252°F to 320°F (122°C to 160°C), but most commonly 270°F-300°F (132°C-149°C) (soft crack stage). The temperature listed in each recipe is the temperature that I used in testing. If your batch comes out harder or softer than you’d like, try adjusting the syrup temperature the next time.

Weather also plays a part in the outcome of nougat. Nougat is best made on a cool, dry day, as humidity can noticeably affect the texture of the nougat and its shelf life. Nougat made on a humid day may turn out softer than nougat made on a dry day even if you cook the sugar syrup to the same temperature each time. You may want to play with the temperature of the sugar syrup to work with your climate.

Cooking with hot sugar can be dangerous and requires full attention. I recommend not answering the phone and not walking away from the stove. Encourage children and pets to be elsewhere (easier said than done, I know!).

Most nougat recipes call for toasted nuts. To toast nuts, put them on a rimmed baking sheet in a preheated moderate oven 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 for 10-15 minutes until lightly colored, stirring them occasionally. This works for any kind of nut, however, pistachios will lose their green color when toasted so if you want pretty green ones in your nougat, don’t toast those. Nougat recipes also may call for the nuts to be kept warm prior to adding them to the nougat because cold nuts don’t cause the warm nougat to set up faster and they are easier to fold in when they’re warm.

Nougat sets up pretty quickly, so it’s important to work fast once the sugar syrup has been added. It’s a bit of a judgment call in whipping the nougat enough that it is well aerated and not so long that it stiffens up on you. It should look kind of like a thick cake batter. If your nougat gets too stiff to work with, you can try aiming a hair dryer on high heat at the nougat and the bowl for a few seconds to warm it up and make it more pliable.

The recipes I’ve provided both call for corn syrup. The corn syrup acts as a flavorless stabilizer and prevents crystallization. I haven’t tried substituting for it, but according to my candy books you should be able to use glucose syrup, invert syrup, molasses or more honey in its place. Be mindful of anything with flavor though as it will change the taste of the nougat.

Mandatory Items:

I have provided recipes for two basic nougats. However, you are welcome to use any other nougat recipe as long as it uses a technique similar to the recipes provided. If you choose a different recipe, please share it with us, and share your source.

Variations allowed:

Any add-ins or flavors you like! Add-ins should be dry, as any moisture will affect the texture of the finished nougat.

Preparation time:

Listed with each recipe

Equipment required:

• Stand mixer with a minimum size of 4.5 quarts (4.25 litres) with a whip attachment. I think nougat would be nearly impossible to make by hand, especially by just one person, but let me know if you try it!
• Candy thermometer. I don’t recommend trying to make candy without a candy thermometer. They are very affordable if you go for a basic one. However, if you’re really determined to do it without one, you can try using the cold water test method.
• 2 quart (2 litres) saucepan
• 1 – 1.5 quart (1-1.5 litres) saucepan
• Heat-proof spatulas
• Parchment paper OR edible wafer paper. Edible wafer paper for candy making may be found in some specialty stores or online at Sugarcraft or Amazon. Wafer paper is NOT the same thing as the rice paper used to make spring rolls.
• 9×9 inch (23×23 cm) or 9×13 inch (23×33 cm) baking pan, depending on which recipe you’re using. Flexible pans are nice as they are easier to get the nougat out of. Nougat can also be spread flat on a lined baking sheet.
• Measuring cups and spoons and/or a kitchen scale
• Pastry brush (optional)
• Sharp knife

Nougat Torrone:

Recipe Source: Chocolates and Confections by Peter P. Greweling
Servings: one 9×13 inch (23×33 cm) slab

Prep time: approximately 45 minutes
Cook time: approximately 30-45 minutes
Cool time: approximately 45 minutes

Ingredients

4 sheets edible wafer paper, 8×11 inches (20×28 cm) (optional, see Recipe Notes)

For the Meringue:

2 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ cup (60 ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon (3 gm) cream of tartar

For the Syrup:

1½ cups (360 ml) (500 gm) (18 oz) honey (preferably light in color and flavor)
3 cups (720 ml) (600 gm) (21 oz) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 ml) (170 gm) (6 oz) light corn syrup (see introductory Notes)
½ cup (120 ml) water
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped

Add-ins:

2 tablespoons (30 ml) (25 gm) (1 oz) cocoa butter, melted (see Recipe Notes)
5 cups (1.2 litre) (680 gm) (24 oz) toasted whole unblanched almonds

Recipe Notes:

Edible wafer paper is nice to have if you’re giving nougat as gifts as it helps with the stickiness issue. However, it’s not essential. If you can’t find it, grease the pan and then line it with parchment paper. Grease the parchment as well. You should probably wrap each cut piece individually to keep them from sticking together.

Fat (cocoa butter in this case) is added to nougat to give it a shorter texture and cleaner bite. I’ve tried the recipe without it and it still comes out tasting good, it’s just chewier. I haven’t tried any other fat in the mixture, but let me know if you do! Any fat added to nougat should be one that is solid at room temperature.

Directions:

1. Place the toasted almonds in a heat safe bowl and put in an oven at 250°F/121°C until needed.
2. Line the bottom of a 9×13 inch (23×33 cm) pan with wafer paper, cutting it to fit. I like to put plastic wrap or parchment under the wafer paper just for extra insurance that I’ll be able to get the nougat out of the pan.
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3. Combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar for the meringue in a 4.5 or 5 quart (about 5 litre) mixer bowl fitted with a whip attachment but do not begin whipping.
4. Heat the honey in a small saucepan or in the microwave until nearly boiling
5. Combine the remaining ingredients for the syrup (sugar, corn syrup, water and vanilla bean) in a 2 quart (2 litre) saucepan.
6. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil and then lower the heat and boil for 3 minutes, covered.
7. Remove the lid and attach the candy thermometer. Continue to cook uncovered on high heat without stirring until the syrup reaches 290°F/143°C.

8. When the sugar mixture reaches 290°F/143°C, start whipping the egg whites on high speed and move the sugar mixture off the heat and slowly pour the heated honey into the sugar mixture. The mixture will foam up initially.
9. Put the pan back on the heat and continue cooking until the mixture again reaches 290°F/143°C.
10. Remove from the heat and use tongs to take out the vanilla bean pods.
11. Slowly pour the hot syrup into the whipping whites by letting it run down the inside of the mixer bowl. Don’t pour it directly on the whites or they may collapse.

12. Whip on high speed for 3 minutes.

13. Add the cocoa butter and whip JUST until the mixture is smooth again. Do not over mix. If you have a 4.5 quart (4.5 litre) mixer like I do, you may need to initially lower the speed of the mixer while pouring in the cocoa butter as it will try to slop out.
14. Remove the bowl from the mixer and dump in the hot nuts from the oven. Mix quickly with a heat-safe spatula until the almonds are evenly distributed.

15. Immediately pour the hot nougat into the prepared pan, on top of the wafer paper. Cover the top of the nougat with more wafer paper and press to smooth and even out the nougat.

16. Let the nougat cool at room temperature until just warm to the touch, about 45 minutes. Don’t let it go too long or it will be very difficult to get out of the pan and difficult to cut. You want it to still be a little flexible when you remove it but not so soft that it loses its shape.
17. Pry the nougat out of the pan with a spatula and dump it out onto a cutting board. Trim the edges and cut the nougat with an oiled knife into the size pieces you want.

18. Wrap the nougat individually or store at room temperature in an airtight container. The texture of the nougat will soften a bit after a few days, especially if you have added dried fruits in with the nuts.

Chocolate Nougat:

Recipe Source: Adapted from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard
Servings: one 9×9 inch (23×23 cm) slab

Prep time: approximately 45 minutes
Cook time: approximately 30 – 45 minutes
Cool time: 24 hours

Ingredients:

Vegetable cooking spray, for the pan

For the syrup:

2 ½ cups (600 ml) (500 gm) (18 oz) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 ml) water
¼ cup (60 ml) (85 gm) (3 oz) light corn syrup (see introductory Notes)

For the Meringue:

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon (200 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) clover honey
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (45 gm) (1½ oz) corn syrup (see introductory Notes)

Add-ins:

3 oz (80 gm) 100% chocolate, very finely chopped
7 oz (200 gm) 72% chocolate, very finely chopped
About ¾ cup (180 ml) (80 gm) (3 oz) dried fruits, such as cranberries, raisins or chopped apricots
½ cup (120 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) pistachios, toasted
1 ½ cups (360 ml) (200 gm) (7 oz) almonds, toasted
1-1/3 cups (320 ml) (175 gm) (6 oz) hazelnuts, toasted

Recipe Notes:

This recipe makes very thick nougat if you use the 9×9 inch (23×23 cm) pan. If you prefer thinner nougat, use a bigger pan or spread the nougat out on a lined baking sheet.

The original recipe called for a cooking temperature of 320°F/160°C. However, my climate is dry and the first batch I made came out was hard to cut, so I lowered the temperature to get a texture I was happy with. If you live in a humid climate or like harder nougat, feel free to use the original temperature.

Directions:

1. Spray a 9×9 inch (23×23 cm) baking pan with vegetable spray and line it with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper as well. Set aside.

2. Place the toasted nuts in a heat safe bowl and put in a preheated very slow oven at 250°F/121°C/gas mark ½ until needed.
3. Combine the sugar and ¼ cup (85 gm) (3 oz) of corn syrup with the water in a 2 quart (2 litre) saucepan and set it aside.
4. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whip attachment. Do not start to mix yet.
5. Combine the honey and 2 tablespoon (40 gm) (1½ oz) of corn syrup in a small saucepan (the honey mixture will foam up and grow to about 3 times the starting size so make sure your pot isn’t so small that it will overflow) on medium-high heat. Attach a candy thermometer. Start beating the egg whites on low speed.

6. When the honey reaches 240°F/115°C, raise the speed of the mixer to high and beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks, watching the honey mixture until it reaches 248°F/120°C. As soon as the honey reaches 248°F/120°C, put the pan with the sugar mixture on medium-high heat as you remove the honey from the heat.
7. While beating the whites on high, slowly stream the hot honey mixture down the inside of the mixing bowl and into the whites. Do not pour it directly on the whites or they may collapse. Keep beating on medium-high speed.
8. As the sugar mixture starts to bubble, dip a pastry brush in water and brush the sides to remove any sugar crystals. Alternately, you can put on a lid on the pot for a couple of minutes once it’s bubbling and let steam do the job for you.
9. Attach the candy thermometer. When the sugar mixture reaches 310°F/154°C, turn the mixer back up to high and slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites in a slow stream down the inside of the bowl. Do not pour the syrup directly on the whites or they may collapse.

10. Once the sugar syrup is incorporated, continue beating for 3-5 minutes until the whites feel warm, not piping hot (if your mixer bowl is metal, the bowl will still be hot even when the whites have cooled some).
11. Add both chocolates to the bowl and beat on high until the chocolate is combined. The heat from the egg mixture will melt the chocolate.
12. With a spatula, fold in the dried fruits and warm nuts.

13. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it in an even layer.
14. Let it sit for 24 hours at room temperature, uncovered.
15. Invert the nougat onto a cutting board and remove the parchment paper. Cut as desired.

16. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks. The texture of the nougat will soften a little after a couple of days.

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:

Most Nougat improves in texture after a day or two and will keep up to two weeks at room temperature in an airtight container. Covered in chocolate, it will probably keep longer. However, if you live in a damp climate it may not last very long as humidity can make the nougat sticky and lose its shape. Nougat will stick to itself; so make sure to wrap the slices if you are not using wafer paper. Even nougat with wafer paper should be stacked in layers with parchment in between to prevent sticking on the cut edges.

Neapolitan pastry, sfogliatelle (pronounced, “sfoel ya telli” and sometimes called “lobster tails”).

You might recognize them as the clam-shaped pastry with hundreds of layers. They are filled with a semolina and ricotta mixture with added candied orange peel and a touch of cinnamon. These pastries are served hot straight out of the oven (although I have eaten my fair share of room temperature ones).

Keep in mind that you must chill the dough at various points before baking. 

There are two main Italian versions of sfogliatelle. The first is sfogliatelle ricci (or Napoletane) and this is the crispy multilayered version. The second is sfogliatelle frolle, a tender almost cakey version covered in a soft pie crust-like shell.

The American version goes by the name “lobster tail” and is a larger shell filled with a creme diplomat (pastry cream mixed with whipped cream) after it is baked. The dough is the same as Ricci but a dollop of pate a choux pastry is placed in the center of the shell before baking. This puffs up the core of the shell so that you can pipe in the creamy filling afterwards. It is in one word, divine. I hope you enjoy these. Bake On my friends!

Mandatory Items: I am providing recipes for; homemade ricotta cheese (so easy and so delicious), candied orange peel, sfogliatelle ricci and frolle dough. You must make the homemade cheese or the candied peel and at least one version of the sfogliatelle.

Variations allowed: Please experiment with filling flavors. I think chocolate ricotta with finely chopped pears would be lovely…The filling provided for the American Lobster Tail is a diplomat cream but I personally love marscapone mixed with whipped cream. Again, amaze and inspire me. While I believe that the ricci version can only be made using a pasta roller, I hope that many out there will prove me wrong! Just roll it out as thin as possible before stretching the dough.

Preparation time: Ricotta cheese: about 20 minutes in the pot (this includes just bringing it to a boil) and about one hour to drain
Semolina filling: 5 minutes to make plus about 2 hours to chill
Ricci Dough: 4 minutes to make the dough, 10 minutes to condition the dough in the pasta roller (or kneading), 2 hours chilling, 35 minutes to roll the dough, 2 hours additional chilling
Frolle dough: 5 minutes to make, 1 hour to chill
Pastry cream: 10 minutes to make, 2 hours to chill
Lobster tail: same dough as ricci but you will need another 10 minutes to prepare the pate a choux

Equipment required:

  • Pasta machine to roll out the dough (this is for the Ricce and Lobster Tail.*Please prove me wrong!
  • Stand mixer with paddle and whisk attachments or hand held mixer. You can make the dough in a bowl with a wooden spoon. If you choose to make the French Cream for the lobster tail you can whip the heavy cream by hand with a whisk
  • Food processor (optional)
  • Whisk
  • Rolling pin
  • Grater for lemon and orange zest
  • Large pot to make the cheese
  • Large glass or ceramic bowl
  • Large strainer/colander
  • Cheesecloth (I have used paper coffee liners as well)
  • Medium saucepan for semolina
  • Small bowl for butter/shortening mixture
  • Saucepan for pastry cream
  • Bowl for Pastry cream
  • Pastry Brush
  • Plastic wrap/cling film
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheets
  • Cutting board
  • Rolling pin
  • 1/2-inch (15 mm) round pastry tip
  • Cooling rack

Fresh Ricotta Cheese (makes 2 cups)DSC_3361

Servings: Makes 2 cups

Ingredients:
8 cups (2 litres) whole milk (or goats milk)
1 cup (250 ml) heavy whipping cream (about 35%)
1/2 teaspoon (3 gm) salt
3 tablespoons (45 ml) fresh lemon juice

1. Line a large colander or strainer with 2 layers of lightly dampened cheesecloth over a large glass; set aside.

2. Pour the whole milk, heavy cream and salt into a large pot and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking occasionally.

Reduce the heat, add the fresh lemon juice and stir/whisk continuously for 2-3 minutes. The mixture will curdle, which is exactly what you want it to do. Pour this into the cheesecloth lined strainer and let it drain for about 1 hour or until it comes to room temperature. At this point you can scrape the ricotta from the cheesecloth into a container and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
3. The liquid in the bowl is the whey, a very nutritious and tasty leftover byproduct from making cheese. It is excellent to use instead of water when baking bread, or added to soup stock.

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Semolina-Ricotta Filling 
This recipe is used for both the Ricci and the Frolle versions

Ingredients
1 cup (250 ml) milk
1/2 cup (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (160 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) fine semolina or cream of wheat (I have tried both and personally like the semolina version)
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) (13-1/4 oz) (375 gm) whole milk ricotta, preferably fresh (see above)
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract (or the seeds of one pod and 1 teaspoon of extract)
1/4 teaspoon (1 gm) ground cinnamon
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2 oz) (60 gm) candied orange peel (commercial or home-made)
zest of 1 lemon

Combine the milk and the sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and slowly add the semolina (or cream of wheat), whisking quickly as to avoid any lumps. Cook, stirring often, until the mixture is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Spread the mixture onto a lined baking sheet, about 1/2 inch (15 mm), to cool. When cool, break into pieces and place into the bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment (or a food processor), and add the ricotta cheese, egg yolks, vanilla and cinnamon. Beat until very smooth and creamy. Stir in the candied orange peel and lemon zest. (Maybe even some mini chocolate chips? Or pistachios?? mmmm…I can’t wait to see what you come up with)
Scrape into a container, place plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate until needed (up to 3 days).

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Sfogliatelle Ricci 
Servings: 14-18 pastries

You will need a large/long workspace for this. I used my dining room table for this though I am sure someone will be more creative with limited space!

Dough 
3 cups (750 ml) (15 oz) (420 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
teaspoon (6 gm) salt
3/4 cup (180 ml) warm water (about 100°F/38°C)
4 oz (115 gm) lard (I used Crisco butter flavored shortening)
1/2 cup (1 stick/4 oz) (115 gm) unsalted butter, softened

Semolina-ricotta filling (see above)

1. Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and stir in the water, or use your standing mixer with the paddle attachment. The dough will be very dry. If you feel absolutely compelled, add an extra teaspoon of water but it is supposed to be very dry. Turn this out onto a clean work surface and knead the dough together, bringing in all the dry bits. At this point get your pasta roller out and ready. Roll out the dough to about 1/3 inch (10 mm) and pass through your pasta machine at the widest setting. I find it much easier to cut my dough in half and work 1/2 at a time for this step. Fold the dough in half after each pass also change the direction of the dough occasionally. After about 15 passes the dough should be very smooth. Knead the dough back into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate and rest the dough for at 2 hours, or overnight.
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2. Beat the lard/shortening and butter together in your mixing bowl until very fluffy. Make sure it is thoroughly combined. Place into a bowl and set on the workspace in easy reaching distance.
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3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it into 4 equal pieces. Working with one piece of dough at a time (cover the other pieces with a towel or plastic wrap), lightly flour a piece pass it through the pasta roller set at the widest setting. Try to get the dough as even as possible, your goal is an even rectangle strip, about 4 inches (10 cm) in width. If needed, fold it over on itself a few times until you get an even strip. Once even, pass the dough through every setting, ending with the highest (mine is 7)

4. You should end up with a long 4 inch (10 cm) wide strip. Repeat with the other three remaining pieces of dough.
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5. *For my own ease of use I made my own rolling pin contraption like you can see on many instructional videos. I turned 2 bowls upside down and placed them on my table where I was planning to work. I then took a rolling pin (with handles, not French) and taped the handles to the bowls. Every time that a piece of dough is finished and ready I lightly floured the dough and rolled it up onto the rolling pin. When all 4 pieces of dough were finished it made it much easier to pull out a section at a time to stretch the dough. If you are clumsy like me you might like to try this too!
6. Place one piece of a strip on you clean work surface and paint (or smear) it liberally with the lard/butter mixture. I do about a 8 inch (20 cm) section at a time. Gently pull the sides of the dough and stretch it, starting from the middle and going out, until it is about 8 or 9 inches (20 or 23 cm) in width. Begin from the short end and start rolling the dough into a very tight roll. When you start to reach the end of your stretched section, stop and liberally grease up another section, stretching and rolling until all the dough is finished. When one strip of dough is finished, overlap the end of one to the beginning of the other; continue to pull, stretch and roll up.
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7. Spread the lard/butter mixture over the entire finished log and starting in the middle gently run the hands down the length to extend the length another inch (30 mm) or so. This will release any air pockets and tighten the roll. Your finished roll should be approximately 10 or 11 inches (25 or 28 cm). .DSC_3288

8. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. The dough may be frozen for up to 3 months, at this time. Defrost it in the refrigerator overnight before using.

9. Preheat your oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6
10. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.
11. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap, and place on a cutting board. Slice off about an inch (30 mm) from each end so that they are straight and even. Cut the roll into 1/2 inch (15 mm) slices. Put the semolina-ricotta mixture into a pastry bag with a 3/4 inch (20 mm) opening (A disposable pastry bag or even a ziploc bag with the corner cut off is fine). DSC_3313

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12. Take one slice of dough and place it on your workplace. With the heel of your hand, push out from the center in one direction. Rotate the dough and do this in all four directions. This forms the dough and opens up the layers. Pick up the piece and insert your thumbs on the inside with your forefingers on the outside meanwhile gently stretch the center to make it more into the shape of a cone. You don’t want the layers to actually separate. Holding the cone in one hand, squeeze some of the filling into the cavity so it is full. Lightly push the opening closed. You do not have to seal the opening as the filling is too thick to ooze out during baking..DSC_3321
13. Place onto the prepared baking sheet and very lightly brush the outside of each completed pastry with the lard/butter mixture. Bake them in a preheated moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or until they are a deep golden brown.
14. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. These are best served warm with a sprinkling of confectioners’ sugar on the day they are made. To reheat them, just place them in a moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 oven for about 5 minutes.

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Sfogliatelle Frolle 
Servings: 12 pastries

This is a tender pastries, made with dough similar to pie crust |(and much easier to make). Some of my friends preferred these to the crispy sfogliatelle.

Dough
2 1/3 cups (560 ml) (11-1/2 oz) (325 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
1/3 cup (80 ml) (2-2/3 oz)(75 gm) granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon (3/4 gm) salt
8 tablespoons (4 oz) (115 gm) unsalted butter, cold
2 large eggs, beaten

Filling
See sfogliatelle ricci

Egg Wash 
1 large egg yolk
1 large egg
pinch salt
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1. By hand: combine the flour, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Remove the butter from the fridge and pound it a few times with a rolling pin to make it pliable. Add it to the flour and start rubbing it into the flour mixture with your fingertips, working from the bottom of the bowl upwards. Work quickly so the butter doesn’t get warm from your hands. This only takes a minute or two to complete. Add the eggs and stir into the dough with a fork until it starts to hold together. Empty it out onto your workspace and knead it a few times. Shape into a disc, wrap in plastic and chill until firm. The dough can be made up to 3 days in advance.New York summer 20134

2. Prepare the filling and chill it. Whisk the egg yolk, egg and salt together for the egg wash.
3. Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 5 inch (12-1/2 cm) rectangle . Place a hefty tablespoon amount of filling on the lower half of the dough and pull the top half over this. Use your hands to press down around the filling and seal the edges together (like making ravioli). Use a 3 inch (75 mm) round cookie cutter (or glass) and cut away any excess dough.Recently Updated

4. Place the formed frolle on a prepared baking sheet and chill for 2 hours
5. Preheat your oven to moderately hot 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5
6. Brush the frolle with the egg wash and bake approximately 20 minutes, just until the frolle are baked through.
7. Cool briefly on a rack.

And finally, last but not least…..

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American Lobster Tails 
Servings: 12 pastries

You need to prepare (and roll) a batch of the Sfogliatelle Ricci dough. Refrigerate until firm.
DSC_3381

Pastry Cream
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
1/2 cup (120 ml) (4 oz) (115 gm) granulate sugar, divided
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
1/8 teaspoon (3/4 gm) salt
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup (60 ml) (1 oz) (30 gm) corn starch
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (1 oz) (30 gm) butter

1. In a medium saucepan, combine milk, 1/4 cup sugar, vanilla bean and seeds, and salt. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Whisking constantly, slowly pour about 1/2 cup of the hot-milk mixture into the egg-yolk mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until it has been incorporated. Pour mixture back into saucepan, and cook over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until it thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 2 minutes. Remove and discard vanilla bean. Remove from the heat and add the butter, whisking constantly until the butter melts completely and is thoroughly blended into the mixture. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the pastry cream to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

2. Preheat your oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper

3. When you are ready to bake, prepare the pate a choux:

Pate a Choux (this a HALF batch )

3/8 cup (90 ml) water (this is half of a 3/4 cup)
3 tablespoons (45 m) (1-1/2 oz) (45 gm) unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon (3/4 gm) salt
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (1/3 oz) (10 gm) sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) (2-1/2 oz) (70 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour
2 large eggs

1. Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. When it comes to a boil, remove from heat and add the flour, stirring to combine completely.
2. Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan (this will happen very quickly).
3. Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly.
4. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes.
5. At this point add the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the egg. I use my KitchenAide standing mixer for this, but it’s just as easy to do this by hand (I’m just lazy).

6. Spoon into a disposable pastry bag. You do not a tip for this, you can just cut a 1/2 inch (15 mm) opening across the bottom when you are ready to fill your lobster tail pastry.

7. Watch this little video….

8. Take your prepared sfogliatelle Ricci dough out of the fridge and cut it into 1-inch (25 mm) thick slices. Press down on all four sides just like you were making sfogliatelle ricci (you are, just making a bigger version). Pipe in the pate a choux paste until it is about three quarters full. Gently close the opening (there is no need to seal it shut) and place it on your prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all of your Ricci dough is finished (You should get about 11 or 12 pastries). Lightly brush the outside of the lobster tail with the lard/butter mixture and bake in a preheated oven moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 for about 20-25 minutes or until a deep golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

DSC_3380

Diplomat cream
1 batch pastry cream
1 cup heavy cream, whipped

I like a 2:1 ratio of pastry cream to whipped cream but you might like a 1:1 ratio. I would whip 1 cup of heavy cream and start by only adding half of it to the pastry cream. Do you like the texture? Maybe you want it a little lighter… Either way, you decide what you like.

href=”http://crumbsoflove.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/dsc_3384.jpg”>DSC_3384
1. Fold the whipped cream into the cold pastry cream. Transfer it into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch (15 mm) round tip and insert it into the wide end of a lobster tail. Squeeze in as much filling as you can get into it (the more the better!). These should be eaten the day they are filled (this won’t be a problem I assure you).

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Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
The rolled dough for the Ricci and Lobster tails can be frozen for up to a month. When ready to use thaw overnight it in the refrigerator and then proceed with the recipe. The baked lobster tail shell can be frozen for up to one month before thawing and filling with the diplomat cream . While all three versions are best eaten on the day they are made, I can safely say that the ricci and frollo versions can be stored for a day in the fridge and then reheated in the oven before serving. the lobster tails should be filled the day they are served.

 

Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Bourguignon in English) was born in Bourgogne (Burgundy), where beef and wine are its most important products. It’s a traditional Sunday’s dish, to share with the family.

If you’re in for this very special French treat, please roll up your sleeves and let the fun begin!

Recipe Source: Mastering the art of French Cooking – Julia Child

Blog-checking lines: Our May 2012 Daring Cooks’ hostess was Fabi of fabsfood. Fabi challenged us to make Boeuf Bourguignon, a classic French stew originating from the Burgundy region of France.

Posting Date: 14 May 2012

Mandatory Items: You have to make traditional or vegetarian version (Or both, if you’re so inclined) of Boeuf Bourguignon.

Variations allowed:

Preparation time: 5 hours for the traditional version (Including 3-4 hours cooking time in the oven) Much less for the veggie version (1 ½ hour)

Equipment required:

  • 1 large Dutch oven/Cocotte/Cast iron casserole, or an oven proof dish, possibly lidded, otherwise a double piece of aluminium foil will do the trick.
  • 1 sauce pan
  • 1 cutting board
  • Knives
  • Measuring cups and spoons

BOEUF BOURGUIGNON

Ingredients for 6 people:

Ingredients
1 x 6 oz (200 gm) chunk of streaky bacon
Olive oil
3 pounds (1⅓ kg) stewing beef cut into 2 inches (5 cm) cubes
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt
½ teaspoon (5 ml) (2 gm) pepper
3 tablespoons (45 ml) (1 oz/30 gm) flour
3 cups (1½ pint/720 ml) of young red wine. Suggestions: Bourgogne, of course, but also Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti, Rioja etc., depending on your country and your taste. Being Spanish, my choice this time was a good Rioja. It really has to be a good one but it hasn’t necessarily to be a very expensive one, you know, il ne faut pas exagérer Smile
1 carrot, sliced (I prefer to cut it into chunks, but that’s just my taste)
1 onion, sliced in julienne
1 ½ to 2 cups (¾ to 1 pint/355 to 475 ml) of beef stock or beef bouillon
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (½ oz/15 gm) tomato paste or tomato puree
2 cloves mashed garlic
½ teaspoon (2½ ml) (1 gm) thyme leaves
1 bay leave (Julia says it has to be crushed, I prefer not to crush it so that I can remove it at the end of the process)
The blanched bacon rind
18-24 small onions, brown-braised in stock
1 pound (½ kg) mushrooms sautéed in butter (Champignons are perfect for this purpose)
Fresh parsley sprigs to serve

Directions:

1.Prepare the bacon: Remove the rind. Cut the bacon into lardons (Sticks, ¼ inch thick and ½ inch (5 mm x 15 mm) long) and simmer everything in 4 cups (1 litre) of water for 10 minutes. Drain and dry carefully with paper towels.

2.Dry the meat cubes carefully with paper towels.

3.Preheat oven to hot 450ºF/230ºC/gas mark 8

4.In a fireproof casserole or a frying pan, sauté the lardons in a tablespoon of olive oil for 2-3 minutes until they’re lightly brown. Remove them to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

5.In the same casserole/pan, sauté the beef until it’s golden brown. Remove it to the side dish where you keep the bacon and set aside.

6.Still in the same casserole/pan, sauté the carrot and the onion.

7.Return the bacon and the beef to the casserole. Sprinkle it with salt and pepper, then add the flour and toss.

8.Place the casserole/dish uncovered in the middle position of the oven for 4 minutes. This gives the meat a lovely crust.

9.Remove the casserole/dish from the oven. Stir in the wine, stock, tomato paste, mashed garlic cloves, thyme, bay and the blanched bacon rind.

10.Bring it to simmering point on the stove. Now, if you were using a frying pan, discard it and put the stew in an oven proof dish.

11.Cover the casserole/dish (If your dish doesn’t have a lid, use aluminum foil and stretch it to the edges of the dish in order to minimize the loss of juices) and place it low in the oven. Adjust the heat so that the liquid simmers very slowly, it has to go on for 3-4 hours.

12.While the stew is cooking, prepare onions and mushrooms. For the onions: Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a frying pan and sauté the peeled onions until golden brown. Add beef stock until they’re almost covered and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until almost all the liquid disappears and they’re tender but keep their shape. Set aside.

13.Prepare the mushrooms as well: Wash quarter and sauté them in 2 tablespoons butter. Keep on stirring until they’re nicely brown. Set aside.

14.When meat is tender, put the stew into a sieve over a saucepan, wash out the casserole and return the stew to it. Put onions and mushrooms over the meat.

15.Skim the fat off the sauce. Put the saucepan on the stove and simmer it for 2-3 minutes. Skim additional fat if it rises. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon. If not, boil it until it thickens. If it’s too thick, stir in some stock or bouillon to make it lighter.

16.Pour the sauce over the stew. Put the casserole on the stove or in the oven and reheat for 2-3 minutes. Serve it in the casserole with some sprigs of fresh parsley. Some goods sides are potatoes, noodles or rice.

Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: You can keep leftovers in the fridge for 2-3 days. If you want to freeze it, it lasts up to 3 months.

Notes:

•This recipe gives its best when prepared in a Dutch oven (Aka cocotte, cast iron casserole, or simply casserole). It’s not mandatory to have one, I know it’s an expensive thing but if you really love to cook, it is an excellent investment. Otherwise, an oven proof dish with a lid, or sealed with aluminum foil, will do the trick.

•I confess sometimes I skip the skimming process. If you don’t use too much oil or butter and you remove all the fat from the meat, it is not mandatory at all (this is just my opinion)

•Some people add, 10 minutes before serving, a couple of spoonfuls of beurre manié (A paste made of 50% flour and 50% butter) in order to thicken the sauce and make it look more brilliant. I don’t add it cause I like the sauce just the way it is, but if you heard about it and want to try, please feel free to do it.

•I know some people hate mushrooms. If this is your case, just don’t add them. And have no sense of guilt at all.

VEGETARIAN BOEUF BOURGUIGNON

Ingredients for six servings:

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots, cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 18-24 small onions
  • 1 pound (450 gm) fresh fresh mushrooms, quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • ½ kg/1 pound Tofu (You can substitute Seitan or beefless tips), diced
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) (1 oz/30 gm) flour
  • 1 cup (240 ml) young red wine (See suggestions above)
  • 2 cups (480 ml) vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) (½ oz/15 gm) tomato paste or puree
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) (2 gm) fresh thyme
  • 1-2 sprigs fresh thyme to decorate

Directions:
1.Sauté the Tofu in the casserole with some drops of olive oil until is nicely brown. Put on a side dish. Set aside.

2.Prepare the small onions: Sauté the peeled onions in the same casserole with a tablespoon of olive oil until golden brown. Add vegetable stock (about ¾ cup) until they’re almost covered and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until almost all the liquid disappears and they’re tender but keep their shape. Put on a side dish. Set aside.

3.Prepare the mushrooms as well: Wash, quarter and sauté them with a tablespoon of olive oil in the same casserole. Keep on stirring until they’re nicely brown. Put on a side dish. Set aside.

4.Still using the same casserole, sauté onion an carrot. When everything is golden brown, stir in the flour and keep on stirring 3-4 minutes, until vegetables are golden brown and a nice crust appears.

5.Add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, black pepper, stock and wine. Give it a good stir, bring to simmer point and cook for 20 minutes, or until the sauce begins to thicken.

6.Add the small onions, the mushrooms and the Tofu to the casserole and stir carefully. Cook for another couple of minutes.

7.Serve with some fresh parsley sprigs on top.

Freezing/Storage Instructions/Tips: You can store leftovers in the fridge for 3-4 days. Is possible to freeze it but my advise is: Better don’t freeze it since tofu looses its texture and properties.

I have to thank my neighbour (she is called Mrs Maria) for the recipe. The combination of four kinds of onions with dill and the simple preparation process makes for a wonderful spinach pie. A number of different onions are used to counter the acidity of the spinach, the four types of onions add sweetness and a fresh taste to the filling. The filling ingredients are not cooked just massaged well with your hands, this is the traditional method unlike nearly all modern recipes which cook the spinach and the onions first and then add these to the filling. Only a small amount of feta is used unlike modern recipes which use a large amount of cheeses (usually feta, ricotta and sometimes parmesan cheese). This recipe uses breadcrumbs (or cous cous or cracked wheat) to absorb the excess moisture that is given off during the cooking process.

I hope you enjoy this recipe it was a lot of fun researching Greek sites and cooking with Mrs Maria.

Recipe Source(s):
The recipe is a very old family recipe from a friend of mine Mrs Maria.

Blog-checking lines: The February Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Audax of Audax Artifex. The challenge brought us to Greece with a delicious, flaky spanakopita – a spinach pie in a phyllo pastry shell.

Notes:
1.spanakopita is all about the spinach, traditionally wild spinach is used, but baby spinach can be substituted, I used frozen spinach which seemed to work out fine. Frozen spinach gives out more liquid than fresh spinach. Swiss chard, silverbeet or beet(root) leaves or any other soft green leaves can be used. Watercress gives a very peppery taste while kale (which needs to be wilted by steaming first since the leaves are so tough) can be slightly tart.
2.only a small amount of feta is used to cut the slightly acid flavour of the spinach.
the phyllo (philo) pastry can be store-bought or you can make your own. I like the “thicker” style of phyllo it seems to suit the robust flavours of this spanakopita, also the thicker style sheets are much easier to handle
3.remember to cover your phyllo sheets with a damp tea towel to stop the sheets from drying out. Work quickly when working with phyllo pastry sheets. Use chilled phyllo if possible I find the frozen versions are usually of lower quality than the chilled varieties.
4.only butter/oil every second sheet of pastry this will encourage a light airy baked pastry shell in the final pie
5.Since the various forms of onions are called different names all over the world I have photos so you can identify each form for this recipe
6.leeks are used to bring some sweetness, the white and pale green parts of spring (green) onion (scallions) are used to give some mild sweet heat, red onions and shallots are added for their fresh sweet onion flavour
7.dill is essential for its herby, grassy flavour you can substitute with parsley or similar if you wish
8.butter gives a good colour and flavour to the pastry shell, I use pure butter for the final top sheets and a mixture of olive oil and softened butter for the sides and bottom of the pastry shell
9.also slice the spanakopita into serving-sized pieces before baking this will give clean edges to the pastry and the slices.
10.good extra virgin olive oil needs to be used in the filling

 

Mandatory Items: Prepare spanakopita in the traditional method that is use uncooked chopped spinach, chopped fresh onions (at least two types), fresh herbs, a small amount of feta cheese with breadcrumbs (or similar) to keep the phyllo pastry shell dry during baking.

Variations allowed: Any traditional recipe can be used so long as the filling is not cooked before baking the spanakopita and an ingredient (breadcrumbs or similar) is used to absorb the excess moisture given out by the filling during baking. It goes without saying that people with dietary requirements may substitute the “traditional” ingredients in favour of ingredients that are appropriate for them. Similarly, substitutions may be made where suggested ingredients are not readily available, or are cost prohibitive.

Preparation time:
Preparing spinach 15 mins
Preparing onions 15 mins
Preparing phyllo pastry shell 15 mins
Baking spanakopita 30mins-1 hour depending on depth of baking dish

Equipment required:

  • One pair of clean hands, ready to work!
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Two or three median mixing bowls
  • Knives for chopping spinach, onions and herbs
  • Scissors to cut phyllo sheets (if baking dish is an odd shape)
  • pastry brush to butter/oil the phyllo sheets
  • Baking dish (about 8 cups (2 quarts) in volume)

Recipe: Spanakopita
6- 8 Servings
Ingredients
2-3 very large bunches (1 kg) (about 2 pounds) fresh (or thawed frozen) spinach
1 packet (375 gm) (13 oz) chilled phyllo (phillo) pastry sheets, (or thawed frozen phyllo sheets), I used half the packet for this recipe, about 12 “thicker-style” sheets or about 20 “thin-style” sheets
2 cups (300 gm) (about 10 oz) good quality feta cheese, crumbled
1 bunch (30 gm) (1 oz) dill, soft stems and fronds finely chopped
1 red (Spanish) onion, chopped
2-3 shallot onions, chopped
1 bunch spring (green) (eshallots) onions, white and pale green parts chopped
1 large leek, well washed, white part chopped
Optional crushed garlic clove (only use one)
One half nutmeg, freshly grated (optional but highly recommended)
1 to 2 large eggs
4 tablespoons of good quality extra virgin olive oil
large handful breadcrumbs (or cous cous, cracked wheat) to absorb excess liquid
½ cup (120 ml) softened butter or olive oil (or a combination) for the phyllo sheets
Salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to moderately hot 375°F/190°C/gas mark 5
2. Wash the spinach and dry thoroughly, discard the tough stems, chop or tear the leaves into pieces, place into a large bowl. (If using thawed chopped frozen spinach just place into a large bowl).

3. Add the chopped onions, chopped leek, finely chopped dill, four tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, the crumbled feta cheese and the optional garlic and nutmeg.

4. Using your hands vigorously massage the filling ingredients until the mixture loses about half to three-quarters its original volume.

5. Over a bowl or a large plate squeeze large handfuls of the mixture till they feel dry, continue until you have done all of the filling mixture, and you have collected all the excess liquid.
6. Cover the excess liquid with enough breadcrumbs, cous cous or cracked wheat (or similar) to absorb the liquid. The breadcrumbs should be moist. I used ¾ cup of cous cous and it took about 5 mins to absorb nearly all of the liquid.

7. Return the moisture-laden breadcrumbs back into the filling mixture.
8. Add an egg (or two depending on how dry the mixture is) and mix well using your hands. Taste, season with some salt (careful feta contains lots of salt) and plenty of pepper. Set aside. The filling can be stored in the fridge for a day or two if well covered.
9. Butter (or oil spray) the baking dish.
10. Cover the phyllo sheets with a damp tea towel.
11. Cut (with a knife or with scissors) the phyllo sheets to the correct shape for your baking dish. Cover the cut sheets with the damp tea towel until needed.
12. Butter (or oil) every second sheet, cover the base and sides of your baking dish making sure that the sheets overhang the edges of the baking dish. Use about ten “thin-style” phyllo sheets or about six “thicker-stye” phyllo sheets for the base and sides

13. Spoon the filling into the phyllo pastry case.

14. Fold the overhanging sheets over the filling

15. Use four to six more “thicker-style” phyllo sheets or about eight “thin-style” phyllo sheets to cover the top, butter each layer. Use a spoon or similar to neaten the edges of the pastry case.

16. Cut into slices before baking. (At this stage you can freeze the unbaked spanakopita to be baked for later, add 30 mins extra to baking time.)

17. Bake in a preheated moderately hot oven for 30 mins up to one hour (depending on the depth of your baking dish). Cover with foil if over-browning. Mine took one hour and my dish was almost 6-inch (15 cm) high. Check for doneness by using a thin knife, insert it into the spanakopita for 30 secs, the filling should feel set and the knife should feel hot to the touch

18. Cool for 30 minutes. Can be eaten hot or cold.

Kale and Watercress Greek Pie

I made a version using one large bunch of kale and watercress with ricotta cheese. It has a wonderful peppery/tart taste best for adults, if serving for children I would add some honey or maple syrup to the filling. Use the challenge recipe, replace the spinach with kale and watercress and the feta cheese with ricotta cheese.

Storage and freezing:

The unbaked sliced spanakopita can be frozen and then baked when needed add 30 mins to baking time. The spanakopita can be stored for 3 days in the refrigerator it can be reheated in a moderate oven or can be eaten cold.

So, exactly what is a Ballotine? The definition of Ballotine, according to Larousse Gastronomique is ; Meat, fowl, game or fish which is boned, stuffed and rolled into a bundle.

Here’s the fun and unique part of this challenge. It’s a challenge by video. The video is by Jacques Pepin, whom I’ve admired and learned most everything I know from. The man is a demigod in the kitchen and a wonderful teacher as well. He makes it easy and uncomplicated – it’s truly art the way he skillfully makes his way through the chicken with smooth, surgical precision. I’m still in awe every time I watch this video. You will be too.

I think this is the best method for deboning a chicken because outside of the scraping of the leg bones, it involves minimal cutting. You cut, then pull the chicken from the carcass and bones as you go along, but you must use a very sharp knife. I use a VERY sharp paring knife because I’m more comfortable with the size and it works wonderfully. In fact, I highly recommend using a small knife, even a little smaller than the one he uses in the video since you have more control, and it’s safer. Since most of us are women, it’s ideal for our dainty hands ;D.

Since you will be following the video step-by-step, you will end up rewinding each step several times, as I did the first time I tried it. However, when I first did it, years ago, I was watching it on my Jacques Pepin Complete Techniques DVD set, so I kept running back and forth from the table to the TV, washing my hands each time. Considering that you’ll be watching it online…I recommend placing your laptop or Ipad, or whatever you use, on the table you’re doing the deboning. When you need to rewind, wrap your fingers/hand in a clean towel to do so. You can wash your hands every time you need to rewind, but trust me, unless you already have experience boning out a whole chicken, it can get tedious because you may be rewinding a lot!

The first time I deboned a chicken, it took me about an hour. Don’t worry about the time it takes to do this since not many, outside of Jacques (and Martin Yan) can bone out a whole chicken in one minute, so don’t try to achieve that. Like with everything in life, the more you do it, the better you get at it. I’m down to 10-15 minutes after doing it 7 times!

Putting aside all the technical aspects of this challenge for a moment.. do you know what it’s like to bite into a whole drumstick filled with luscious stuffing, not worrying about the bone? It’s my favorite part to eat – BUT, you need to cut off the drumstick holding the knuckle at the end, since it melds into the chicken ballotine. However, it’s lovely sliced within the roll, too – a mix of dark and white meat with the stuffing. Butchers charge anywhere from $40.00 to even $80.00 to debone a whole chicken, so learning this skill saves you money. Make this for your Easter or Passover Seder dinner (choose a stuffing without bread for Passover)! You will impress the heck out of your family and/or guests. Everyone I’ve ever served it to went nuts over it and they always request it from that moment on.

That said, I did not change anything in any of these recipes since, in my experience, I’ve never had a Jacques Pepin recipe, including this one, not turn out perfect in every aspect.

Both stuffing recipes were created for this Chicken Ballotine recipe, so both are the perfect amount of stuffing to stuff and roll a 3 ¾ to 4 lb chicken.

Finally, I did not take photos of each step of deboning the chicken because; 1) There would be like 50 messy photos that would confuse all of you, and 2) When you’re boning out a chicken, you’re in a zone – stopping to wash your hands and take a photo of each cut and each pull would be tedious and crazy! I also didn’t want to contaminate my camera (if you have someone to shoot photos while you’re doing it, by all means, go for it!) , and 3) The video shows you every single step clearly. You need nothing but the video.

Note: Take your time with the wishbone, the first bone you will be cutting out. It tends to crack easily, and it can puncture your finger. Use towels for gripping the chicken when you cut and/or pull, if need be, since you know how slippery chicken can be. Most important – keep a clean area! Make sure everything is washed thoroughly before proceeding. After you’ve boned out the chicken – wash and sterilize everything – from the table to the cutting board, towels, knives etc. Finally, save the carcass and bones to make stock! Freeze in a freezer bag if you’re not going to make stock immediately – up to 1 year.

Mandatory Items: You must bone out a whole chicken, stuff it, roll it and tie it. The method of cooking it is your choice. If you absolutely cannot do a whole chicken, buy some whole chicken legs and debone the thigh and drumstick like he does in the video, then stuff and tie them. The sauce and chicken lollipops are not mandatory. I threw the wings into a stock I made afterwards.

Variations allowed: As mentioned above, if a whole chicken is too much, bone out and stuff some whole chicken legs. I’ve provided two recipes for stuffing from Jacques Pepin, specifically made for this Chicken Ballotine, but you can prepare and use any kind of stuffing you want. I’ve also given you the recipe for his sauce that goes with the Chicken Ballotine, but use any sauce you like, although it doesn’t need a sauce. It’s your choice whether to make one or not, it’s not a requirement. You may also poach your stuffed, tied chicken if you like, for a Chicken Galantine or Galantine of Chicken. in which I’ve provided a link for at the end of this post. You can find and use your own Chicken Galantine recipe, if you’d like.

If you’d like to use anouther poultry, such as duck, go right ahead. A friend once made some lovely Cornish game hen ballotines that were out of this world!

ALTERNATIVE COOKS – I’ve wracked my brain trying to come up with something as challenging for you all, but could not. So, stuff and roast a vegetable of your choice – do something we’ve almost never seen before!

Preparation time: The time it takes to debone a whole chicken is different for everyone. Take your time.. learn as you go, and be careful.
Red Rice Stuffing – 1 hour and 5 minutes plus cooling time.
Spinach, Cheese and Bread Stuffing – About 5 – 10 minutes plus cooling time.
Sauce – 5-10 minutes
Whole Stuffed Chicken – 1 hour roasting time

Equipment required:
● A very sharp knife to cut off the wings (recommended – a chef’s knife)
● A very sharp knife that fits your hand comfortably, to debone the chicken. (recommended – a boning or paring knife)
● Clean, sterile cutting board
● Lots of kitchen towels
● Cotton kitchen twine
● Roasting pan

Ballotine of Chicken
Servings: 4 -6

Ingredients
1 chicken (about 3-3/4 pounds) (1-3/4 kg), boned
1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) (1¼ gm) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) (½ gm) freshly ground black pepper
Red Rice Stuffing or Spinach, Cheese, and Bread Stuffing (see recipes below)

Sauce

Ingredients
1/3 cup (80 ml) water
1/2 cup (120 ml) dry red wine (you can substitute chicken or vegetable stock or fruit juice, such as grape)
1 celery stalk (2 oz) (60 gm), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch (1¼ cm) dice (1/2 cup) (120 ml)
1 small onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 carrot (2 oz) (60 gm), peeled and cut into 1/4-inch (1¼ cm) dice (1/3 cup) (80 ml)
1/2 teaspoon (2½ ml) potato starch OR cornstarch (4 gm), dissolved in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water
1 tablespoon (15 ml) dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon (15 ml) (4 gm) chopped fresh parsley

Directions:

1 Preheat the oven to moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6.
2 Lay the chicken skin side down on the work surface and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Spread the cool rice or spinach mixture evenly over the chicken – stuffing the legs too. If using the spinach stuffing, sprinkle the cheese and bread cubes on top of the spinach. Roll the chicken up, tie it with kitchen string, and place it in a roasting pan.
3 Roast the ballotine for about 1 hour or until the temperature is 160-165 degrees F in the center of the ballotine. I took mine out after 50 minutes and let it sit until it reached 165. Lift it from the pan and place it on a platter.

NOTES – My chicken didn’t brown very well as you can see in the photo below. even though I rubbed it with olive oil before seasoning it. I guess it’s just the luck of the draw. Try rubbing it with butter..or brushing it with melted butter, which has worked out well for me in the past as far as browning goes. A glaze of your choice, brushed on for the last 10 to 15 minutes of roasting will probably give you good color too. Also, I pounded the chicken prior to stuffing it to make for easier rolling. Place some plastic wrap over your deboned, open chicken and flatten as best you can with a mallet or rolling pin.

For the sauce:
4 Skim off and discard most of the fat from the drippings in the pan. Add the water and wine to the drippings to deglaze the pan, and heat over medium heat, stirring to loosen and melt the solidified juices.
5 Strain the juices into a saucepan. Add the celery, onion, and carrot and bring to a boil over high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and boil gently for 5 minutes. Stir in the dissolved potato starch and soy sauce and bring the mixture back to a boil, stirring, to thicken it. Remove from the heat.
6 Transfer the ballotine to a cutting board and remove the string. Cut half of it into 4 or 5 slices, each about 1 inch thick. Return the uncut half of the ballotine to the serving platter and arrange the cut slices in front of it. Pour the sauce over and around the ballotine, garnish with the parsley, and serve. Cut additional slices of ballotine as needed at the table.

Red Rice Stuffing

Ingredients
1/2 cup (120 ml) (115 gm) (4 oz) Wehani rice
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) chicken or vegetable stock or low-salt canned chicken broth or vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon (1 ¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
1/2 ounce (15 gm) (about 1/2 cup) dried mushrooms, such as cèpes (porcini), rinsed and broken into pieces
1/2 large leek, trimmed (leaving some green), split, washed, and sliced (1 cup)
1 onion (4 ounces/120 gm), chopped (3/4 cup) (180 ml)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) water

Directions:

1 Combine the rice, stock, salt, and dried mushrooms in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 1 hour, or until the rice is tender. Set the rice aside in the pan, uncovered.
2 Meanwhile, combine the leek, onion, oil, and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then cover, reduce the heat, and cook at a gentle boil for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until all the water is gone. Add to the rice, mix well, and let cool to room temperature.
3 Place step by step photos accordingly, or leave note where you want photos to go.

Spinach, Cheese, and Bread Stuffing

Ingredients
1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) finely chopped garlic
5 ounces (140 gm) baby spinach leaves
1/4 teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1¼ ml) (½ gm) freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (240 ml) grated Gruyère or mozzarella cheese (about 4 ounces/115 gm)
1 1/2 cups cubed (1/2-inch) (1¼ cm) bread

Directions:

1 Heat the oil in a large saucepan or skillet. Add the garlic, spinach, salt, and pepper and cook for 1 minute to soften the garlic and wilt the spinach.
2 Transfer to a bowl and let cool to room temperature.

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips: Wrap up any leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. If not using bones, scraps and carcass from chicken for a stock or any other preparations, immediately, seal tightly in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 year.

This month, we will be exploring the wonderful world of pierogi, those versatile little dumplings, in name and fillings. Almost every culture has one on its menu. They can be made from potato or bread or, in our case, flour.

Notes:

  • 99% of your dumplings will freeze well so don’t be worried and make more if you want, you can freeze them either before or after boiling (if freezing after boiling, boil them ‘al dente’ not like for immediate consumption)
  • when boiling pierogi from freezer put them straight into boiling, salted water – do not thaw them before or you’ll be left with one big ball of mixed dough and filling!
  • most of your boiled but already cold pierogi may be fried (in some cases it will actually make them taste better then only boiling)
  • it’s a good idea to make double batch of pierogi dough and a few kinds of fillings at the same time (saves a lot of work and you can serve dinner and dessert at the same time)
  • when boiling your pierogi try to boil each type of filling separately, sometimes your dumplings can fall apart and you really don’t want a mix of strawberries with bacon…
  • when sealing pierogi don’t allow any filling to go between the edges as it won’t seal properly and your pierogi will fall apart when boiling, you don’t have to seal the edges using water, egg whites etc. it should seal by itself very tight
  • if your dumplings stick to each other during boiling add a tablespoon of oil into the water

Blog-checking lines:
The August 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by LizG of Bits n’ Bites and Anula of Anula’s Kitchen. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make pierogi from scratch and an optional challenge to provide one filling that best represents their locale.

Posting Date:

August 14, 2010

Equipment list

  • Measuring cups/spoons
  • Scale
  • Knives, utensils
  • Bowls to mix ingredients
  • Pans, pots to cook fillings and pierogi
  • Pierogi forms (really not necessary, you can get them easily in Polish or ethnic shops, they are very(!) cheap and handy too) if you don’t have these forms don’t worry! your hands and a fork will do


Pierogi forms


Cottage Cheese Wareneki (pierogi)

Dough:
½ cup (125 ml) milk (can be whole milk, 2% or skim milk)
½ cup (125 ml) whipping cream
3 large egg whites
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
3 cups (450 gm) all-purpose flour

1. Mix flour and salt, add other ingredients, and knead dough until you have a smooth dough. (I kneaded this dough quite a bit, and it yielded a nice, pliable dough).
2. On a floured surface roll out fairly thin (1/8” or about 3 millimeters), cut into 2” (5 cm) squares, and fill with 1 tsp (5ml) cottage cheese filling (see below).

Filling:
Traditional
1 lb (455 g) dry cottage cheese (this is usually found beside the “wet” cottage cheese in the supermarket’s dairy aisle. If you can’t find it, please see below for how to proceed with the “wet” cottage cheese.)
3 large egg yolks
Salt to taste

1. Mix well all the ingredients for the filling.
2. Put 1 rounded teaspoon (5 ml) of the filling in each square, fold corners to form a triangle, seal edges well using your fingers or a fork
3. Cook in salted, boiling water for 5 minutes.

Boiled pierogi can also be fried after boiling for a nice crunchy dumpling.

If you can’t find dry cottage cheese, simply drain normal cottage cheese by nesting the cottage in a few layers of cheese cloth or a fine sieve over a bowl.

Adapted from The Mennonite Cookbook


Sweet version of Warenki – cottage cheese and strawberries served with Greek yogurt


* You can very easy make a sweet version of Warenki – just add some fruits and sugar to the cheese filling and mix well together (strawberries or blueberries are great idea!).

Russian style pierogi (makes 4 generous servings, around 30 dumplings)
(Traditional Polish recipe, although each family will have their own version, this is Anula’s family recipe)

Dough:
2 to 2 1/2 cups (300 to 375 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt
About 1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water

Filling:
3 big potatoes, cooked & mashed (1 1/2 cup instant or leftover mashed potatoes is fine too)
1 cup (225 g) cottage cheese, drained
1 onion, diced & sauteed in butter until clear
3 slices of streaky bacon, diced and fried till crispy (you can add more bacon if you like or omit that part completely if you’re vegetarian)
1 egg yolk (from medium egg)
1 tablespoon (15 g) butter, melted
1/4 (1.25 ml) teaspoon salt
pinch of pepper to taste

1. Combine all the ingredients for the filling (it’s best to use one’s hands to do that) put into the bowl, cover and set aside in the fridge until you have to use it.

2. Place 2 cups flour in a large bowl or on a work surface and make a well in the center. Break the egg into it, add the salt and a little lukewarm at a time (in my situation 1/2 cup was enough). Bring the dough together, kneading well and adding more flour or water as necessary. Cover the dough with a bowl or towel. You’re aiming for soft dough. Let it rest 20 minutes.

3. On a floured work surface, roll the dough out thinly (1/8” or about 3 millimeters) cut with a 2-inch (5 cm) round or glass (personally I used 4-inch/10 cm cutter as it makes nice size pierogi – this way I got around 30 of them and 1 full, heaped teaspoon of filling is perfect for that size). Spoon a portion (teaspoon will be the best) of the filling into the middle of each circle. Fold dough in half and pinch edges together. Gather scraps, re-roll and fill. Repeat with remaining dough.

Pierogi made using the form


Pierogi made by hand

4. Bring a large, low saucepan of salted water to boil. Drop in the pierogi, not too many, only single layer in the pan! Return to the boil and reduce heat. When the pierogi rise to the surface, continue to simmer a few minutes more ( usually about 5 minutes). Remove one dumpling with a slotted spoon and taste if ready. When satisfied, remove remaining pierogi from the water.

5. Serve immediately preferably with creme fraiche or fry. Cold pierogi can be fried. Boiled Russian pierogi can be easily frozen and boiled taken out straight from the freezer.

 

Other types of fillings:

Potato and cheese
4 – 5 boiled potatoes
4 table spoons butter (60 g) or olive oil (60 ml)
50 ml (3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon) milk
1 egg white (from medium egg)
about 120 ml (½ cup) farmers’ cheese (any unripened cheese like Indian Paneer)
salt and pepper

Meat and cabbage 
200 g (7 oz) cooked meat (minced or cut very finely)
500 g white cabbage (chopped and simmered in a little bit of water, until soft)
1 onion (diced and fried)
1 whole medium egg
1 tablespoon (15g) butter
dry breadcrumbs (add as much to hold the filling together, about 2 tablespoons)
salt and pepper

Soy bean filling
350 g soy beans (canned, drained and minced)
2 medium eggs
1 onion (diced and fired)
100 g (2/3 cup) dry breadcrumbs
salt and pepper

Sauerkraut filling
2 cups (500 g) sauerkraut
1 big carrot, grated
1 shallot, chopped and fried with a tablespoon of butter
few (about 3) wild mushrooms (I used dry ones, you can use fresh but chop them and fry on some butter before adding to the sauerkraut cabbage)
salt, pepper and cumin
– Saute all the ingredients together until soft, cool before filling pierogi.

Sauerkraut pierogi

You can also fill pierogi with whole seasonal fruits for example- strawberries, blueberries, morels, grated apples etc. To prevent the fruits from ‘sogging’ just add a little bit of potato flour inside with the fruit and sweeten them after the boiling on the plate rather than putting sugar inside.