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Challenge Recipes

Chocolate Éclairs

Daring Bakers

The August 2008 Daring Bakers' challenge was brought to us by Meeta of What's for Lunch, Honey? and Tony of Olive Juice

Chocolate Éclairs from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

To download the recipe in .pdf format, click HERE

Éclairs consist of 3 elements:

- Pâte à Choux, also known as Choux Pastry or Cream Puff Dough
- Pastry Cream
- Chocolate glaze

Yield: 20 - 24 éclairs
Preparation time: approx. 2 hours
Baking time: 20 minutes
Cooling & chilling time: several hours
Note: Recipe made be made in stages

Pierre Hermé’s Chocolate Éclairs

Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

Cream Puff Dough (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm

1) Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5. Divide the oven into thirds by positioning the racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with waxed or parchment paper.

2) Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 / 2cm plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in long, 4 to 4 1/2" / about 11cm chubby fingers. Leave about 2" / 5cm space in between each dough strip to allow them room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs.

3) Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After the 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep in ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for a further 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and firm. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes.

Note: The éclairs can be kept in a cool, dry place for several hours before filling.

Assembling the éclairs

Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)

1) Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.

2) The glaze should be barely warm to the touch (between 95 - 104°F / 35 - 40°C, as measured on an instant read thermometer). Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.

3) Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.

Note: If you have chilled your chocolate glaze, reheat by placing it in a bowl over simmering water, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon. Do not stir too vigorously as you do not want to create bubbles.

Note: The éclairs should be served as soon as they have been filled.

Pierre Hermé’s Cream Puff Dough

Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

1⁄2 cup / 125ml whole milk
1⁄2 cup / 125ml water
1 stick / 4 oz / 115g unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1⁄4 teaspoon sugar
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 cup, scooped / 140g all-purpose flour
5 large eggs, at room temperature

Directions

1) In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.

2) Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. Do not worry if a slight crust forms at the bottom of the pan, it’s supposed to. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.

3) Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using your hand-mixer or if you still have the energy, continue by hand. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough.

You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate, once again do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back all together again by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.

4) The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.

Note: Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately. You can pipe the dough and the freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets and slide the sheets into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.

Chocolate Pastry Cream

Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé

2 cups / 500ml whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 tbsp / 75g sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
7 oz / 200g bittersweet chocolate, preferably Velrhona Guanaja, melted
2 1⁄2 Tbsp / 1 1⁄4 oz / 40g unsalted butter, at room temperature

Directions

1) In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a boil. In the meantime, combine the yolks, sugar and cornstarch together and whisk in a heavy‐bottomed saucepan.

2) Once the milk has reached a boil, temper the yolks by whisking a couple spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk mixture. Continue whisking and slowly pour the rest of the milk into the tempered yolk mixture.

3) Strain the mixture back into the saucepan to remove any egg that may have scrambled. Place the pan over medium heat and whisk vigorously (without stop) until the mixture returns to a boil. Keep whisking vigorously for 1 to 2 more minutes (still over medium heat). Stir in the melted chocolate and then remove the pan from the heat.

4) Scrape the pastry cream into a small bowl and set it in an ice‐water bath to stop the cooking process. Make sure to continue stirring the mixture at this point so that it remains smooth.

5) Once the cream has reached a temperature of 140°F / 60°C remove from the ice‐water bath and stir in the butter in three or four installments. Return the cream to the ice‐water bath to continue cooling, stirring occasionally, until it has completely cooled. The cream is now ready to use or store in the fridge.

Note: The pastry cream can be made 2‐3 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. In order to avoid a skin forming on the pastry cream, cover with plastic wrap pressed onto the cream.

Chocolate Glaze

Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 cup or 300g)

1/3 cup / 80ml heavy cream
3 1⁄2 oz / 100g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
4 tsp / 20g unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
7 tbsp / 110g Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature

Directions

1) In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula.

2) Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.

Note: If the chocolate glaze is too cool (i.e. not liquid enough) you may heat it briefly in the microwave or over a double boiler. A double boiler is basically a bowl sitting over (not touching) simmering water.

Note: It is best to glaze the eclairs straight after the glaze is made, but if you are pressed for time, you can make the glaze a couple days ahead of time, store it in the fridge and bring it up to the proper temperature (95 to 104°F / 35 to 40°C) when ready to glaze.

Chocolate Sauce

Recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 1 1⁄2 cups or 525 g)

41⁄2 oz / 130g bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 cup / 250ml water
1⁄2 cup / 125ml crème fraîche, or heavy cream
1/3 cup / 70g granulated sugar

Directions

1) Place all the ingredients into a heavy‐bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.

2) It may take 10‐15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.

Note: You can make this sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator for two weeks. Reheat the sauce in a microwave oven or a double boiler before using. This sauce is also great for cakes, ice-cream and tarts.

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

Daring Bakers

The August 2008 Daring Bakers Challenge is brought to us by Chris of Mele Cotte

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

I have had Great Cakes by Carol Walter for a long, long time. Its one of those cookbooks I am a bit fearful of. Honestly. The cakes are so lovely and elegant, I am not worthy. Heee!! When the opportunity to host the DB challenge came along, I knew exactly where I would head to choose a recipe. This Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream is one cake that I have looked at with a raised eye brown because it looked perfect. Just look at the picture! So, I am excited to see what everyone comes up with for this month.

To download the recipe in .pdf format, click HERE

Elements

1 Filbert Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
1⁄2 cup / 120ml heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 recipe Apricot Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using 3 tablespoons filberts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Yield: 1 x 10" / 25cm layer cake
Preparation time: several hours
Baking time: 35 minutes
Cooling & chilling time: several hours
Recommended: preparing over 2 - 3 days

Filbert Genoise

Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.

1 1⁄2 cups / 215g / 7 1/2 oz hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
2/3 cup / 85g cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup / 200g granulated sugar, divided 1⁄4 & 3⁄4 cups / 50g & 150g
1 tsp vanilla extract
1⁄2 tsp grated lemon rind
5 large egg whites
1⁄4 cup / 56g / 2 oz warm, clarified butter (100 – 110°F / 38-43°C)

Directions

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350°F / 175°C Gas Mark 4. Grease and flour a 10 x 2” / 25 x 5cm inch round cake pan.

Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add 3⁄4 cup / 150g of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining 1⁄4 cup / 50g of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another 1⁄2 minute. Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon.

Note: If any separate butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cool the cake completely.

Note: If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup

Makes 1 cup / 240ml, good for one 10" / 25cm cake, split into 3 layers. Can be made in advance.

1 cup / 240ml water
1⁄4 cup / 50g granulated sugar
2 Tbsp dark rum or orange flavored liqueur

Directions

In a small, heavy-based saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake.

Praline Buttercream

1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup / 80ml praline paste
1 1⁄2 - 2 Tbsp Jamaican rum (optional)

Directions

Blend 1⁄2 cup / 120ml buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.

Swiss Buttercream

4 large egg whites
3⁄4 cup / 150g granulated sugar
1 1⁄2 cups / 3 sticks / 340g / 12 oz unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 1⁄2 -2 Tbsp Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Place the egg whites in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120°F / 49°C) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.

Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become too soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Note: If the buttercream won’t come together, reheat the buttercream briefly over simmering water for about 5 seconds, stirring with a wooden spoon. Be careful and do not overbeat. The mixture will look broken with some liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Return the bowl to the mixer and whip on medium speed just until the cream comes back together.

Note: If the buttercream is too soft, chill the buttercream in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes and rewhip. If that doesn’t work, cream an additional 2-4 Tbsp. of butter in a small bowl– making sure the butter is not as soft as the original amount, so make sure is cool and smooth. On low speed, quickly add the creamed butter to the buttercream, 1 Tbsp. at a time.

Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 x 16oz / 500ml plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste

1 cup / 5 oz / 140g hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
2/3 cup / 135g granulated sugar

Directions

Line a jelly roll pan / rimmed baking sheet with parchment and lightly butter.

Put the sugar in a heavy 10" / 25cm skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly.

When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters.

Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.**

Then pour onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle.

Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make past, process for several minutes.

Store in an airtight container and store in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Apricot Glaze

Good for one 10-inch cake

2/3 cup / 200g thick apricot preserves
1 Tbsp water

Directions

In a small, heavy-based saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2- 3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze

Makes about 1 cup / 240ml, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10" / 23 or 25cm layer cake

6 oz / 170g good quality semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
3⁄4 cup / 180ml heavy cream
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
3⁄4 tsp vanilla extract
1⁄2 - 1 tsp hot water, if needed

Directions

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1" / 2 1/2cm pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reaches a gentle boil. Immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream.

Carefully blend in vanilla mixture.

If the surface seems oily, add 1⁄2 - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold.

Assembling Cake

Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer upside down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup / 120ml of praline buttercream and set aside.

Spread the moistened layer with a 1⁄4" / about 1/2cm thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with 1⁄2 of the whipped cream, leaving 1⁄4" / about 1/2cm border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream.

Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp knife with an 8" / 20cm blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.

Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10" / 25cm above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.

To garnish the cake, fit a 12 - 14" / 30 - 35cm pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream. Starting 1⁄2" / 1 1/2cm from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake. As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting. Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake.

Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about 3⁄4" / 2cm closer to the center. The leaves should overlap. Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2" / 5cm space in the center for a chopped filbert garnish. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.

Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Danish Braid

Daring Bakers

The June 2008 Daring Bakers Challenge is brought to us by Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’?

Technique: Making and working with yeasted laminated dough
Recipe: “Danish Braid” from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking

To download the recipe in .pdf format, click HERE

Why Danish Braid?

Danish dough is in the family of butter-laminated or layered doughs with puff pastry being the ultimate. Danish dough is sweet and yeast-leavened, however, where as puff pastry is not.

The process of making Danish dough is less complex than that of puff pastry, but equally as important to achieve best results, and a great starting place to begin to learn about laminated doughs in general.

Danish dough is extremely versatile, and once made can be used for a variety of baked goods. The possibilities are endless.

Some History:

According to many sources, “Danish” was born when Danish bakers went on strike, and Viennese bakers were brought in to replace them, creating what is referred to as Vienna Bread.

Conversely, it is also said that Danish bakers went to Vienna to learn the techniques Viennese bakers employed, and Danish dough was created there.

In the early 1800’s, C.L. Olsen spent time in Germany, believing in the idea of gaining inspiration from bakers of other countries. He brought knowledge back to Denmark to introduce “foreign” breads to his country, also hiring people of other nationalities to bake in his family bakery.

Why Sherry Yard’s recipe?

The organization of recipes in the book is built upon the philosophy that if we learn basic techniques, many other recipes come from those techniques. This isn’t new information, but it’s the first time I’ve seen the information organized in such an accessible fashion.
Her Danish dough recipe included both cardamom and orange, and the combination sounded intriguing.

Terminology:

Laminated dough – is layered dough created by sandwiching butter between layers of dough

Detrempe – ball of dough

Beurrage – butter block

Turn – each “fold & roll” of the dough produces a single turn in a 3-step process where the dough is folded exactly like a business letter in 3 columns. Each single turn creates 3 layers with this method.

For Your Consideration:

Use well-chilled ingredients. This includes flour, if your kitchen temperature is above 70°F / 21°C.

It is recommended that long, continuous strokes be used to roll the dough rather than short, jerky strokes to make sure the butter block is evenly distributed.

The 30-minute rest/cooling period for the dough between turns is crucial to re-chill the butter and allow the gluten in the dough to relax.

Excess flour accumulated on the surface of the dough after turns should be brushed off as pockets of flour can interfere with the rise.

Yard calls for a “controlled 90°F / 32°C environment” for proofing the constructed braid. Please refer to this chart to assist you in this stage of the challenge:

Proofing Temperature

 photo proofing temps - danish_zpsezncrswt.jpg

When making cuts in the dough for the braid, make sure they are not too long and provide a solid base for the filling.

Additional Resources:

Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. There are a variety of filling recipes that work quite well for Danish Braid.

Danish Pastry technique on YouTube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yg- zXn_YpLI&feature=related Interesting general information on laminated dough (not specific to our recipe or Danish Braids).

PBS.org – Julia Child: Lessons with Master Chefs
http://www.pbs.org/juliachild/meet/ojakangas.html#

Video cut for a Danish Pastry Braid by Beatrice Ojakangas who is the featured baker of the Danish Braid recipe in Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. Great information.

Flickr.com
http://www.flickr.com/photos/basmatiheather/935273632/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/haniela/2381828293/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/sanverus/2112201250/ http:[email protected]/2141409184/ http:[email protected]/2414102571/

Yield: 2 large braids
Preparation time: approximately 3 hours for the dough
Chilling time: 5 hours to overnight
Proofing time: approximately 2 hours
Baking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)
For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

Directions

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20" / 38 x 50cm rectangle, 1⁄4" / almost 1cm thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.

2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5" / 12cm cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1" / 2 1/2cm apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.

3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash

Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking

1. Spray cooking oil onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90°F / 32°C environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.

2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400°F / 205°C / Gas Mark 6. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Decrease the oven temperature to 350°F / 175°C / Gas Mark 4, and bake about 15 - 20 minutes more, or until golden brown.

Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or frozen for 1 month.

Danish dough

Makes 2 1/2 pounds / 1.135kg dough

Ingredients

For the dough (Detrempe)

1 oz / 28g fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1⁄2 cup / 120ml whole milk
1/3 cup / 65g sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3⁄4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1⁄2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1⁄4 cup / 60ml fresh orange juice
3 1/4 cups (spooned & scraped) / 410g / 14 1/3 oz all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)

1⁄2 pound / 2 sticks / 225g cold unsalted butter
1⁄4 cup / 30g / 1 oz all-purpose flour

Dough

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed.

Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well.

Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated.

Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Butter block

1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.

2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13" / 45 x 33cm and 1⁄4" / almost 1cm thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour.

Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough.

Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed.

Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally.

Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left.

Roll the dough into another approximately 18 x 13" / 45 x 33cm and 1⁄4" / almost 1cm thick rectangle.

Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns.

Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight.

The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Apple filling

Makes enough for two braids

Ingredients

4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1⁄4" / approx. 1cm pieces
1⁄2 cup / 100g granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1⁄4 cup / 60ml fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons / 56g / 2 oz unsalted butter

Directions

Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl.

Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 - 8 minutes.

Add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes.

If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape.

Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid.

If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.

After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.

Opéra Cake

Daring Bakers

The May 2008 Daring Bakers Challenge is brought to us by Ivonne of Creampuffs in Venice, Fran of Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie and Lisa of La Mia Cucina

A Taste of Light: The Daring Bakers Sing the Praises of Opéra Cake And One Lovely Woman – Barbara of Winos and Foodies – for all of the hard work she does for Lance Armstrong’s LIVEstrong organization AND for being a TRUE Daring Woman and Baker Smile

This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.

To download the recipe in .pdf format, click HERE

The Elements of an Opéra Cake:

Joconde: The base of an Opéra Cake is a thin sponge cake that is made using nut meal,
traditionally almond meal (finely ground blanched almonds).
Syrup: The joconde is flavored with a sugar syrup that can be flavored to suit your tastes.
Buttercream: The first two layers of the joconde are covered in a rich buttercream. This particular buttercream is made with a syrup, eggs and butter.
Ganache/Mousse (optional): In some recipes, the final layer of the joconde is covered in a ganache or mousse. While not hard to make, this makes the recipe quite involved.
Glaze: The final step to an Opéra Cake is the glaze that gives the cake a very finished and elegant appearance.

Yield: one 10" / 25cm square cake, approximately 20 servings.
Preparation time: 2 hours
Baking time: 9 minutes
Cooling/chilling time: up to 6 hours all together

For the joconde

Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperature.

What you’ll need:

Two 12 1⁄2 x 15 1⁄2" / 31 x 39cm jelly-roll pans (rimmed baking sheets)
a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pans)
parchment paper
a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer
two mixing bowls (you can make do with one but it’s preferable to have two)

Ingredients

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 Tbsp / 30g granulated sugar
2 cups / 225g ground blanched almonds
2 cups / 200g sifted icing sugar
6 large eggs
1⁄2 cup (scooped) / 70g all-purpose (plain) flour
3 Tbsp / 1 1⁄2 oz / 45g unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Directions

Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.

Preheat the oven to 425°F / 220°C / Gas Mark 7.

Line two 12 1⁄2 x 15 1⁄2" / 31 x 39cm jelly-roll pans (rimmed baking sheets) with parchment paper and brush with the extra melted butter.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy. If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.

If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.

Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to over mix).

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.

Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.

Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.

Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature.

For the syrup

Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.

What you’ll need:

a small saucepan

Ingredients

1⁄2 cup / 120ml water
1⁄3 cup / 65g granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavoring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)

Directions

Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.

Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the buttercream

Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.

What you’ll need
:

a small saucepan
a candy or instant-read thermometer
a stand mixer or handheld mixer
a bowl and a whisk attachment
rubber spatula

Ingredients

1 cup / 200g granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup / 60ml water
seeds of one vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 3⁄4 sticks / 7 oz / 200g unsalted butter, room temperature.
flavoring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)

Directions

Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.

Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225°F / 107°C on a candy or instant- read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.

While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.

When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!

Increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).

While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.

With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding butter in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, increase the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.

At this point add in your flavoring and beat for an additional minute or so.

Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

For the white chocolate ganache/mousse

Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.

What you’ll need:

a small saucepan
a mixer or handheld mixer

Ingredients

7 oz / 200g white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 Tbsp / 285ml heavy cream (35% cream)
1 Tbsp liqueur of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)

Directions

Melt the white chocolate and the 3 Tbsp / 45ml of heavy cream in a small saucepan.

Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur
to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup / 240ml of heavy cream until soft peaks form.

Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.

If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.

If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

For the glaze

Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.

What you’ll need:

a small saucepan or double boiler

Ingredients

14 oz / 400g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1⁄2 cup / 120ml heavy cream (35% cream)

Directions

Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.

Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula,
smooth out into an even layer.

Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Assembling the Opéra Cake

Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total: one 10" / 25cm square and one 10 x 5" / 25 x 12 1⁄2cm rectangle from each cake.

Version A (if using buttercream only and not making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavored syrup. Spread about one-third of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavored syrup.

Spread another third of the buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde.

Spread the remaining buttercream on top of the final layer of joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled.

Version B (if making the ganache/mousse):

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavored syrup. Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.

Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavored syrup.

Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).

Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.

Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.

Serve the cake slightly chilled.

Perfect Party Cake

Daring Bakers

The March 2008 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was brought to us by Morven of Food, Art and Random Thoughts

PERFECT PARTY CAKE
From Dorie Greenspan’s Baking from My Home to Yours (pages 250-252)

Words from Dorie
Stick a bright-coloured Post-it to this page, so you’ll always know where to turn for a just-right cake for any celebration. The original recipe was given to me by my great dear friend Nick Malgieri, of baking fame, and since getting it, I’ve found endless opportunities to make it – you will too. The cake is snow white, with an elegant tight crumb and an easygoing nature: it always bakes up perfectly; it is delicate on the tongue but sturdy in the kitchen...

To download the recipe in .pdf format, click HERE

Yield: 9" / 23cm layer cake, serves up to 18
Preparation time: 1 hour
Baking time: 35 minutes
Cooling time: 2 - 3 hours

For the Cake

2 1⁄4 cups, spooned and scraped / 280g / 10 oz cake flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1⁄2 tsp salt

1 1⁄4 cups / 300ml / 10 fl oz whole milk or buttermilk (I prefer buttermilk with the lemon)

4 large egg whites

1 1⁄2 cups / 300g granulated sugar

2 tsp grated lemon zest

1 stick / 8 Tbsp / 115g / 4 oz unsalted butter, room temperature

1⁄2 teaspoon pure lemon extract

For the Buttercream

1 cup / 200g granulated sugar

4 large egg whites

3 sticks / 1 1/2 cups / 340g / 12 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature

1⁄4 cup / 60ml / 2 fl oz fresh lemon juice (from 2 large lemons)

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

For Finishing

2/3 cup / 160ml / 200g seedless raspberry preserves stirred vigorously or warmed gently until spreadable
About 1 1⁄2 cups / 150g / 6 oz sweetened shredded coconut

Getting Ready

Centre a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C / Gas Mark 4. Butter two 9" / 23cm round cake pans and line the bottom of each pan with a round of buttered parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To Make the Cake

Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

Whisk together the milk and egg whites in a medium bowl.

Whisk together the sugar and lemon zest in a mixer bowl or another large bowl and rub them together with your fingers until the sugar is moist and fragrant.

Add the butter and working with the paddle or whisk attachment, or with a hand mixer, beat at medium speed for a full 3 minutes, until the butter and sugar are very light.

Beat in the extract, then add one third of the flour mixture, still beating on medium speed.

Beat in half of the milk-egg mixture, then beat in half of the remaining dry ingredients until incorporated.

Add the rest of the milk and eggs beating until the batter is homogeneous, then add the last of the dry ingredients. Finally, give the batter a good 2- minute beating to ensure that it is thoroughly mixed and well aerated.

Divide the batter between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the cakes are well risen and springy to the touch – a thin knife inserted into the centers should come out clean

Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unfold them and peel off the paper liners.

Invert and cool to room temperature, right side up (the cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to two months).

To Make the Buttercream

Put the sugar and egg whites in a mixer bowl or another large heatproof bowl, fit the bowl over a plan of simmering water and whisk constantly, keeping the mixture over the heat, until it feels hot to the touch, about 3 minutes.

The sugar should be dissolved, and the mixture will look like shiny marshmallow cream.

Remove the bowl from the heat.

Working with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, beat the meringue on medium speed until it is cool, about 5 minutes.

Switch to the paddle attachment if you have one, and add the butter a third at a time, beating until smooth.

Once all the butter is in, beat in the buttercream on medium-high speed until it is thick and very smooth, 6-10 minutes. During this time the buttercream may curdle or separate – just keep beating and it will come together again.

On medium speed, gradually beat in more lemon juice, waiting until each addition is absorbed before adding more, and then the vanilla.

You should have a shiny smooth, velvety, pristine white buttercream. Press a piece of plastic against the surface of the buttercream and set aside briefly.

To Assemble the Cake

Using a sharp serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion, slice each layer horizontally in half.

Put one layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Spread it with one third of the preserves.

Cover the jam evenly with about one quarter of the buttercream.

Top with another layer, spread with preserves and buttercream and then do the same with a third layer (you’ll have used all the jam and have buttercream leftover).

Place the last layer cut side down on top of the cake and use the remaining buttercream to frost the sides and top. Press the coconut into the frosting, patting it gently all over the sides and top.

Serving

The cake is ready to serve as soon as it is assembled, but I think it’s best to let it sit and set for a couple of hours in a cool room – not the refrigerator. Whether you wait or slice and enjoy it immediately, the cake should be served at room temperature; it loses all its subtlety when it’s cold. Depending on your audience you can serve the cake with just about anything from milk to sweet or bubbly wine.

Storing

The cake is best the day it is made, but you can refrigerate it, well covered, for up to two days. Bring it to room temperature before serving. If you want to freeze the cake, slide it into the freezer to set, then wrap it really well – it will keep for up to 2 months in the freezer; defrost it, still wrapped overnight in the refrigerator.

Playing Around

Since lemon is such a friendly flavour, feel free to make changes in the preserves: other red preserves – cherry or strawberry – look especially nice, but you can even use plum or blueberry jam.

Fresh Berry Party Cake

If you will be serving the cake the day it is made, cover each layer of buttercream with fresh berries – use whole raspberries, sliced or halved strawberries or whole blackberries, and match the preserves to the fruit. You can replace the coconut on top of the cake with a crown of berries, or use both coconut and berries. You can also replace the buttercream between the layers with fairly firmly whipped sweetened cream and then either frost the cake with buttercream (the contrast between the lighter whipped cream and the firmer buttercream is nice) or finish it with more whipped cream. If you use whipped cream, you’ll have to store the cake the in the refrigerator – let it sit for about 20 minutes at room temperature before serving.

Pain Francais

Daring Bakers

The Daring Bakers’ February 2008 Challenge is brought to us by Breadchick Mary of The Sour Dough and Sara of i like to cook

Pain Francais (French Bread)
(From Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume Two by Julia Child and Simone Beck)
Daring Bakers Challenge #16: February 2008

Recipe Quantity:
3 - baguettes (24” x 2”) or batards (16” x 3”) or
6 – short loaves, ficelles, 12 – 16” x 2” or
3 – round loaves, boules, 7 – 8” in diameter or
12 – round or oval rolls, petits pains or
1 – large round or oval loaf, pain de menage or miche; pain boulot

Recipe Time: 7 – 9 hours

To download the recipe in .pdf format, click HERE

Flour: French bakers make plain French bread out of unbleached flour that has gluten strength of 8 to 9 per cent. Most American all-purpose flour is bleached and has slightly higher gluten content as well as being slightly finer in texture. It is easier to make bread with French flour than with American flour.

Bakers’ Oven Versus Home Ovens: Bakers’ ovens are so constructed that one slides the formed bread dough from a wooden panel right onto the hot, fire-brick oven floor, a steam injection system humidifies the oven for the first few minutes of baking. Steam allows the yeast to work a little longer in the dough and this, combined with the hot baking surface, produced an extra push of volume. In addition, steam coagulating the starch on the surface of the dough gives the crust its characteristic brown color. Although you can produce a good loaf of French bread without steam or a hot baking surface, you will a larger and handsomer loaf when you simulate professional conditions.

Stand Mixer Mixing and Kneading of French Bread Dough
: French bread dough is too soft to work in the electric food processor, but the heavy-duty mixer with dough hook works perfectly. The double-hook attachment that comes with some hand held mixers and the hand- cranking bread pails are slower and less efficient, to our mind, than hand kneading. In any case, when you are using electricity, follow the steps in the recipe as outlined, including the rests; do not over-knead and for the heavy duty mixer, do not go over a moderate speed of number 3 or 4, or you risk breaking down the gluten in the dough.

Equipment Needed: Unless you plan to go into the more elaborate simulation of a baker’s oven, you need no unusual equipment for the following recipe. Here are the requirements, some of which may sound odd but will explain themselves when you read the recipe.
4 to 5 quart mixing bowl with fairly vertical rather than outward slanting sides
a kneading surface of some sort, 1 1/2 to 2 square feet
a rubber spatula or either a metal scraper or a stiff wide metal spatula
1 to 2 unwrinkled canvas pastry cloths or stiff linen towels upon which the dough may rise
a stiff piece of cardboard or plywood 18 – 20 inches long and 6 – 8 inches wide, for unmolding dough from canvas to baking sheet
finely ground cornmeal or pasta pulverized in an electric blender to sprinkle on unmolding board so as to prevent dough from sticking
the largest baking sheet that will fit in your oven
a razor blade or extremely sharp knife for slashing the top of the dough
a soft pastry brush or fine spray atomizer for moistening dough before and during baking
a room thermometer to verify rising temperature
We also recommend the use of an oven thermometer

Making French Bread

Step 1: The Dough Mixture – le fraisage (or frasage)

1 cake / 0.6 oz / 20g fresh yeast or 1 package / 7g dry active yeast
1/3 cup / 80ml warm water, not over 100°F / 38°C in a glass measure
3 1/2 cups / about 1 lb / 490g all-purpose (plain) flour, measured using the scoop and sweep method
2 1/4 tsp / 12g salt
1 1/4 cups / 300ml tepid water @ 70 – 74°F / 21 - 23°C

Note: if you are using instant yeast, you may reduce the amount to 1 3/4 tsp or 7 gr but you will still want to "proof" it because that is important for taste development in this bread.

Both Methods
: Stir the yeast in the 1/3 cup warm water and let liquefy completely while measuring flour into mixing bowl. When yeast has liquefied, pour it into the flour along with the salt and the rest of the water.

Hand Method: Stir and cut the liquids into the flour with a rubber spatula, pressing firmly to form a dough and making sure that all the bits of flour and unmassed pieces are gathered in. Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky.

Stand Mixer: Using the dough hook attachment on the speed the mixer manufacturer recommends for dough hook use or the lowest setting if there is no recommendation, slowly work all the ingredients together until a dough ball is formed, stopping the mixer and scraping the bits of flour and chunks of dough off the bottom of the bowl and pressing them into the dough ball. Continue to mix the dough on a low speed until all the bits of flour and loose chunks of dough have formed a solid dough ball.

Note for both methods: Depending the humidity and temperature of your kitchen and the type of AP flour your use, you may need to add additional flour or water to the dough. To decide if this is necessary, we recommend stopping during the mixing process and push at your dough ball. If the dough is super sticky, add additional flour one handful at a time until the dough is slightly sticky and tacky but not dry. If the dough is dry and feels hard, add 1 Tbsp of water a time until the dough is soft and slightly sticky.

Both Methods: Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky. Let the dough rest for 2 – 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl (and the dough hook if using a stand mixer).

Step 2: Kneading – petrissage

The flour will have absorbed the liquid during this short rest, and the dough will have a little more cohesion for the kneading that is about to begin. Use one hand only for kneading and keep the other clean to hold a pastry scraper, to dip out extra flour, to answer the telephone, and so forth. Your object in kneading is to render the dough perfectly smooth and to work it sufficiently so that all the gluten molecules are moistened and joined together into an interlocking web. You cannot see this happen, of course, but you can feel it because the dough will become elastic and will retract into shape when you push it out.

Hand Method: Start kneading by lifting the near edge of the dough, using a pastry scraper or stiff wide spatula to help you if necessary, and flipping the dough over onto itself. Scrape dough off the surface and slap it down; lift edge and flip it over again, repeating the movement rapidly.

In 2 -3 minutes the dough should have enough body so that you can give it a quick forward push with the heel of your hand as you flip it over. Continue to knead rapidly and vigorously in this way. If the dough remains too sticky, knead in a sprinkling of flour. The whole kneading process will take 5 – 10 minutes, depending on how expert you become.

Shortly after this point, the dough should have developed enough elasticity so it draws back into shape when pushed, indicating the gluten molecules have united and are under tension like a thin web of rubber; the dough should also begin to clean itself off the kneading surface, although it will stick to your fingers if you hold a pinch of dough for more than a second or two.

Stand Mixer: Place dough back into the bowl and using the dough hook attachment at the recommended speed (low), knead the dough for about 5 – 7 minutes. At about the 5 minute mark, stop the mixer and push at the dough with your fingertips. If it springs back quickly, you have kneaded the dough enough. If it doesn’t spring back continue to knead, stopping the mixer and retesting every 2 minutes. If the dough sticks to your fingers, toss a sprinkling of flour onto the dough and continue to knead. The dough should be light and springy when it is ready.

Both Methods: Let dough rest for 3 – 4 minutes. Knead by hand for a minute. The surface should now look smooth; the dough will be less sticky but will still remain soft. It is now ready for its first rise.

From here out in the recipe, there is no difference for the hand vs. stand method

Step 3: First Rising – pointage premier temps (3-5 hours at around 70°F / 21°C)

You now have approximately 3 cups of dough that is to rise to 3 1/2 times its original volume, or to about 10 1/2 cups.

Wash and fill the mixing bowl with 10 1/2 cups of tepid water and make a mark to indicate that level on the outside of the bowl. Note, that the bowl should have fairly upright sides; if they are too outward slanting, the dough will have difficulty in rising. Pour out the water, dry the bowl, very lightly grease the bowl with butter or kitchen spray and place the dough in it.

Slip the bowl into a large plastic bag or cover with plastic, and top with a folded towel. Set on a wooden surface - marble or stone are too cold - or on a folded towel or pillow, and let rise free from drafts anyplace where the temperature is around 70°F / 21°C. If the room is too hot, set bowl in water and keep renewing water to maintain the correct temperature. Dough should take at least 3 – 4 hours to rise. If temperature is lower, it will simply take longer. Always lightly grease the plastic wrap or bowl cover so if the risen dough touches it, the dough won’t stick.

When fully risen, the dough will be humped into a slight dome, showing that the yeast is still active; it will be light and spongy when pressed. There will usually be some big bubbly blisters on the surface, and if you are using a glass bowl you will see bubbles through the glass.

Step 4: Deflating and Second Rising – rupture; pointage deuxieme temps (1 1/2 to 2 hours at around 70°F / 21°C)

The dough is now ready to be deflated, which will release the yeast engendered gases and redistribute the yeast cells so that the dough will rise again and continue the fermentation process.

With a rubber spatula, dislodge dough from inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface, scraping bowl clean. If dough seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour.

Lightly flour the palms of your hands and flatten the dough firmly but not too roughly into a circle, deflating any gas bubbles by pinching them.

Lift a corner of the near side and flip it down on the far side. Do the same with the left side, then the right side. Finally, lift the near side and tuck it just under the edge of the far side. The mass of dough will look like a rounded cushion.

Slip the sides of your hands under the dough and return it to the bowl. Cover and let rise again, this time to not quite triple, but again until it is dome shaped and light and spongy when touched.

Note: You may need to lightly re-grease your bowl and plastic wrap for the second rise to prevent sticking.

Step 5: Cutting and resting dough before forming loaves

Loosen dough all around inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Because of its two long rises, the dough will have much more body. If it seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle lightly with flour.

Making clean, sure cuts with a large knife or a bench scraper, divide the dough into:
3 equal pieces for long loaves (baguettes or batards) or small round loaves (boules only)
5 – 6 equal pieces for long thin loaves (ficelles)
10 – 12 equal pieces for small oval rolls (petits pains, tire-bouchons) or small round rolls (petits pains, champignons)
2 equal pieces for medium round loaves (pain de menage or miche only)

If you are making one large round loaf (pain de menage, miche, or pain boulot), you will not cut the dough at all and just need to follow the directions below.

After you have cut each piece, lift one end and flip it over onto the opposite end to fold the dough into two; place dough at far side of kneading surface. Cover loosely with a sheet of plastic and let rest for 5 minutes before forming. This relaxes the gluten enough for shaping but not long enough for dough to begin rising again.

While the dough is resting, prepare the rising surface; smooth the canvas or linen towelling on a large tray or baking sheet, and rub flour thoroughly into the entire surface of the cloth to prevent the dough from sticking

Step 6: Forming the loaves
– la tourne; la mise en forme des patons

Because French bread stands free in the oven and is not baked in a pan, it has to be formed in such a way that the tension of the coagulated gluten cloak on the surface will hold the dough in shape.

For Long Loaves - The Batard: (Baguettes are typically much too long for home ovens but the shaping method is the same)

After the 3 pieces of dough have rested 5 minutes, form one piece at a time, keeping the remaining ones covered.

Working rapidly, turn the dough upside down on a lightly floured kneading surface and pat it firmly but not too roughly into an 8 to 10" / 20 to 25cm oval with the lightly floured palms of your hands. Deflate any gas bubbles in the dough by pinching them.

Fold the dough in half lengthwise by bringing the far edge down over the near edge.

Being sure that the working surface is always lightly floured so the dough will not stick and tear, which would break the lightly coagulated gluten cloak that is being formed, seal the edges of the dough together, your hands extended, thumbs out at right angles and touching.

Roll the dough a quarter turn forward so the seal is on top.

Flatten the dough again into an oval with the palms of your hands.

Press a trench along the central length of the oval with the side of one hand. Fold in half again lengthwise.

This time, seal the edges together with the heel of one hand, and roll the dough a quarter of a turn toward you so the seal is on the bottom.

Now, by rolling the dough back and forth with the palms of your hands, you will lengthen it into a sausage shape. Start in the middle, placing your right palm on the dough, and your left palm on top of your right hand.

Roll the dough forward and backward rapidly, gradually sliding your hands towards the two ends as the dough lengthens.

Deflate any gas blisters on the surface by pinching them. Repeat the rolling movement rapidly several times until the dough is 16" / 40cm long, or whatever length will fit on your baking sheet.

During the extension rolls, keep circumference of dough as even as possible and try to start each roll with the sealed side of the dough down, twisting the rope of dough to straighten the line of seal as necessary. If seal disappears, as it sometimes does with all purpose flour, do not worry.

Place the shaped piece of dough, sealed side up, at one end of the flour rubbed canvas, leaving a free end of canvas 3 to 4 inches wide. The top will crust slightly as the dough rises; it is turned over for baking so the soft, smooth underside will be uppermost.

Pinch a ridge 2 1/2 to 3" / 6 to 8cm high in the canvas to make a trough, and a place for the next piece. Cover dough with plastic while you are forming the rest of the loaves.

After all the pieces of dough are in place, brace the two sides of the canvas with long rolling pins, baking sheets, empty paper towel tubes or bottles of spices, if the dough seems very soft and wants to spread out.

Cover the dough loosely with flour rubbed dish towel or canvas, and a sheet of plastic. Proceed immediately to the final rising, next step.

For Long Thin Loaves – Fincelles: Follow the steps above but making thinner sausage shapes about 1/2" / 1 1/2cm in diameter. When they have risen, slash as with the Batard.

For Oval Rolls – Petits Pains, Tire-Bouchons
: Form like batards, but you will probably not have to lengthen them at all after the two foldings and sealings.

Place rolls on a floured canvas about 2 to 4” / 5 to 10cm apart and cover with plastic to rise. When they have risen, make either 2 parallel slashes or a single slash going from one end to the other.

For Small, Medium, or Large Round Loaves – Pain de Menage, Miches, Boules: The object here is to force the cloak of coagulated gluten to hold the ball of dough in shape: the first movement will make cushion; the second will seal and round the ball, establishing surface tension.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface.

Lift the left side of the dough with the side of your left hand and bring it down almost to the right side.

Scoop up the right side and push it back almost to the left side. Turn the dough a quarter turn clockwise and repeat the movement 8 – 10 times. The movement gradually smooths the bottom of the dough and establishes the necessary surface tension; think of the surface of the dough as if it were a fine sheet of rubber you were stretching in every direction.

Turn the dough smooth side up and begin rotating it between the palms of your hands, tucking a bit of the dough under the ball as you rotate it. In a dozen turns you should have a neatly shaped ball with a little pucker of dough, le cle, underneath where all the edges have joined together.

Place the dough pucker side up in a flour-rubbed canvas; seal the pucker by pinching with your fingers. Flour lightly, cover loosely and let rise to almost triple its size. After unmolding upside down on the baking sheet, slash with either a long central slash, two long central slashes that cross at right angles, or a semi-circular slash around half the circumference.

For Small Round Rolls – Petits Pains, Champignons
: The principles are the same here as for the preceding round loaves, but make the cushion shape with your fingers rather than the palms of your hands.

For the second stage, during which the ball of dough is rotated smooth side up, roll it under the palm of one hand, using your thumb and little finger to push the edges of the dough underneath and to form the pucker, where the edges join together

Place the formed ball of dough pucker side up on the flour rubbed canvas and cover loosely while forming the rest. Space the balls 2" / 5cm apart. When risen to almost triple its size, lift gently with lightly floured fingers and place pucker side down on baking sheet. Rolls are usually too small for a cross so make either one central slash or the semi-circular cut.

For Large Oval Loaf – Pain Boulot: Follow the directions for the round loaves except instead of rotating between the balms of your hands and tucking to form a round loaf, continue to turn the dough from the right to the left, tucking a bit of each end under the oblong loaf. In a dozen turns you should have a neatly shaped oval with two little puckers of dough, le cles, underneath where all the edges of have joined together.

Place the dough pucker sides up in a flour-rubbed canvas; seal the puckers by pinching with your fingers. Flour lightly, cover loosely and let rise to almost triple its size. After unmolding upside down on the baking sheet, slash with parallel slashes going diagonally across the top starting from the upper left and going to the lower right.

Step 7: Final Rise – l’appret - 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours at around 70°F / 21°C

The covered dough is now to rise until almost triple in volume; look carefully at its pre-risen size so that you will be able to judge correctly. It will be light and swollen when risen, but will still feel a little springy when pressed.

It is important that the final rise take place where it is dry; if your kitchen is damp, hot, and steamy, let the bread rise in another room or dough will stick to the canvas and you will have difficulty getting it off and onto another baking sheet. It will turn into bread in the oven whatever happens, but you will have an easier time and a better loaf if you aim for ideal conditions.

Preheat oven to 450°F / 230°C / Gas Mark 8 about 30 minutes before estimated baking time.

Step 8: Unmolding risen dough onto baking sheet
– le demoulage.

Note: we are only going to describe the unmolding of The Batard but the unmolding process is the same no matter the shape of your loaf or loaves. The key to unmolding without deflating your bread is slow and gentle!

The 3 pieces of risen dough are now to be unmolded from the canvas and arranged upside down on the baking sheet. The reason for this reversal is that the present top of the dough has crusted over during its rise; the smooth, soft underside should be uppermost in the oven so that the dough can expand and allow the loaf its final puff of volume. For the unmolding you will need a non-sticking intermediate surface such as a stiff piece of cardboard or plywood sprinkled with cornmeal or pulverized pasta.

Remove rolling pins or braces. Place the long side of the board at one side of the dough; pull the edge of the canvas to flatten it; then raise and flip the dough softly upside down onto the board.

Dough is now lying along one edge of the unmolding board: rest this edge on the right side of a lightly buttered baking sheet. Gently dislodge dough onto baking sheet, keeping same side of the dough uppermost: this is the soft smooth side, which was underneath while dough rose on canvas. If necessary run sides of hands lightly down the length of the dough to straighten it. Unmold the next piece of dough the same way, placing it to the left of the first, leaving a 3" / 8cm space. Unmold the final piece near the left side of the sheet.

Step 9: Slashing top of the dough – la coupe.

Note: We will only describe the slashing for the Batard here. All other slashes for the other shapes are described in Step 6: Forming the Loaves

The top of each piece of dough is now to be slashed in several places. This opens the covering cloak of gluten and allows a bulge of dough underneath to swell up through the cuts during the first 10 minutes of baking, making decorative patterns in the crust. These are done with a blade that cuts almost horizontally into the dough to a depth of less than half an inch. Start the cut at the middle of the blade, drawing toward you in a swift clean sweep. This is not quite as easy as it sounds, and you will probably make ragged cuts at first; never mind, you will improve with practice. Use an ordinary razor blade and slide one side of it into a cork for safety; or buy a barbers straight razor at a cutlery store.

For a 16 to 18" / 40 to 45cm loaf make 3 slashes. Note that those at the two ends go straight down the loaf but are slightly off centre, while the middle slash is at a slight angle between the two. Make the first cut at the far end, then the middle cut, and finally the third. Remember that the blade should lie almost parallel to the surface of the dough.

Step 10: Baking – about 25 minutes; oven preheated to 450°F / 230°C / Gas Mark 8

As soon as the dough has been slashed, moisten the surface either by painting with a soft brush dipped in cold water, or with a fine spray atomizer, and slide the baking sheet onto rack in upper third of preheated oven. Rapidly paint or spray dough with cold water after 3 minutes, again in 3 minutes, and a final time 3 minutes later. Moistening the dough at this point helps the crust to brown and allows the yeast action to continue in the dough a little longer. The bread should be done in about 25 minutes; the crust will be crisp, and the bread will make a hollow sound when thumped.

If you want the crust to shine, paint lightly with a brush dipped in cold water as soon as you slide the baking sheet out of oven.

Step 11: Cooling – 2 to 3 hours.

Note: if you do not let the French bread cool, the bread will be doughy and the crust will be soft. If you want to have warm French bread, re-heat the bread after it has cooled, in a 400°F / 205°C / Gas Mark 6 oven, uncovered and directly on the oven rack for 10 – 12 minutes if it is unfrozen. If it has been frozen see the directions below.

Cool the bread on a rack or set it upright in a basket or large bowl so that air can circulate freely around each piece. Although bread is always exciting to eat fresh from the oven, it will have a much better taste when the inside is thoroughly cool and has composed itself.

Step 12: Storing French bread

Because it contains no fats or preservatives of any kind, French bread is at its best when eaten the day it is baked. It will keep for a day or two longer, wrapped airtight and refrigerated, but it will keep best if you freeze it – let the loaves cool first, then wrap airtight. To thaw, unwrap and place on a baking sheet in a cold oven; heat the oven to 400°F / 205°C / Gas Mark 6. In about 20 minutes the crust will be hot and crisp, and the bread thawed. The French, of course, never heat French bread except possibly on Monday, the baker’s holiday, when the bread is a day old.

Step 13: Canvas housekeeping

After each bread session, if you have used canvas, brush it thoroughly to remove all traces of flour and hang it out to dry before putting away. Otherwise the canvas could become mouldy and ruin your next batch of dough.

The Simulated Bakers’ Oven

Baking in the ordinary way, as described in the preceding recipe, produces an acceptable loaf of bread but does not nearly approach the glory you can achieve when you turn your home oven into a baker’s oven. Merely providing yourself with the proper amount of steam, if you can do nothing else, will vastly improve the crust, the color, the slash patterns, and the volume of your bread; steam is only a matter of plopping a heated brick or stone into a pan of water in the bottom of the oven. The second provision is a hot surface upon which the naked dough can bake; this gives that added push of volume that improves both the appearance and the slash patterns. When you have the hot baking surface, you will then also need a paddle or board upon which you can transfer dough from canvas to hot baking surface. For the complete set up here is you should have, and any building-supply store stocks these items.

For the hot baking surface: Metal will not do as a hot baking surface because it burns the bottom of the dough. The most practical and easily obtainable substance is ordinary red floor tiles 1/4” / 1/2cm thick. They come in various sizes, and you only need enough to line the surface of an oven rack. Look them up under Tiles in your Directory, and ask for unglazed quarry tiles. A large pizza stone will also work but make sure it is at least 1/4" / 1/2cm thick because the thinner ones can break when used at the high heats that baking bread requires. Make sure you never put wet tiles in the oven because they can shatter or worse as the oven heats up.

For unmolding the risen dough from its canvas
: A piece of plywood about 20" / 50cm wide.

For sliding the dough onto the hot tiles
: When you are doing 3 long loaves, you must slide them together onto the hot tiles; to do so you unmold them one at a time with one board and arrange them side by side on the second board, which takes place on the baker’s paddle, la pelle. Buy a piece of plywood slightly longer but 2" / 5cm narrower than your oven rack.

You can buy a real baker’s paddle easily online or at a restaurant supply store for about the same money as a piece of plywood and it will have a bevelled edge that will make sliding loaves in and out of the oven easier.

To prevent dough from sticking to unmolding and sliding boards
: White cornmeal or small dried pasta pulverized in the electric blender until it is the consistency of table salt. This is called fleurage.

The steam contraption
: Something that you can heat to sizzling hot on top of the stove and then slide into a pan of water in the oven to make a great burst of steam: a brick, a solid rock, piece of cast iron or other metal. A 9 x 12" / 23 x 30cm roasting pan 2" / 5cm deep to hold 1" / 2 1/2cm of water and the hot brick.

Other ways to get steam in the oven is pre-heat the oven and then to fill a pan with ice cubes put it on the lower rack and then pour warm water into the pan. The temperature difference between the ice cubes and the warm water will create steam. Also you can toss ice cubes on the bottom of the oven. Put a metal baking sheet on the bottom rack, pre-heat the oven with the baking sheet in the oven and right before you put your loaves in, spritz water onto the pan. Be very careful not to drop ice or cold water on the glass door of your hot oven - the thermal shock will cause it to crack.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Daring Bakers

The Daring Bakers’ January 2008 Challenge was brought to us by Jen of The Canadian Baker

Lemon Meringue Pie
(from "Wanda's Pie in the Sky" by Wanda Beaver)
Daring Bakers Challenge #15: January 2008

To download the recipe in .pdf format, click HERE

Yield: one 10" / 25cm pie
Preparation time: 1 1/2 hours + chilling
Baking time: 1 hour altogether

For the Crust

1 1/2 sticks / 3/4 cup / 170g / 6 oz cold butter; cut into 1⁄2" / roughly1cm pieces
2 cups / 250g / 8.8 oz all-purpose flour
1/4 cup / 50g / 1 3/4 oz granulated sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup / 80ml ice water

For the Filling

2 cups / 480ml water
1 cup / 200g / 7 oz granulated sugar
1/2 cup / 65 g / 2 1/4 oz cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
1/2 stick / 1/4 cup / 55g / 2 oz butter
3/4 cup / 180ml fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the Meringue

5 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup / 150g granulated sugar

To Make the Crust

Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible.

Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together.

Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of 1/8" / 1/3cm.

Cut a circle about 2" / 5cm larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about 1/2" / 1cm. Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C / Gas Mark 4. Line the crust with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

To Make the Filling

Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes.

Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together in a bowl. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated. Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick.

Add about 1 cup / 240ml of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil.

Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated.

Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined.

Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

To Make the Meringue

Preheat the oven to 375°F / 190°C / Gas Mark 5.

Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form.

Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks.

Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Free-Style Lemon Tartlets
(from "Ripe for Dessert" by David Lebovitz)

Prepare the recipe as above but complete the following steps:

To roll out tartlet dough, slice the dough into 6 pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll each circle of dough into a 5" / 12cm disk. Stack the disks, separated by pieces of plastic wrap, on a plate, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To bake the dough, position rack in oven to the centre of oven and preheat to 350°F / 180°C / Gas Mark 4. Place the disks of dough, evenly spaced, on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely.

To finish tartlets, first place oven rack in the upper third of the oven and increase heat to 425°F / 220°C / Gas Mark 7. Divide the lemon filling equally among the disks, mounding it in the centre and leaving a 1" / 2cm border all the way around. Spoon the meringue decoratively over each tartlet, right to the edges, in dramatic swirling peaks.

Return tartlets to oven and bake for about 5 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown.

Cheesecake Pops

Daring Bakers

The April 2008 Daring Bakers Challenge comes to us from Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms and Deborah from Taste and Tell

These cute little bites of cheesecake, held on a stick and dipped in chocolate and, if you like, decorations, are sure to make you smile. The cheesecake is New York style, the pops can be jazzed up with different toppings, and they are FUN…just right for a party. They are from Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor. Isn’t that an alluring title for a cookbook?

We wanted to pick something that had potential for putting your personal stamp on. We like them for a challenge because the recipe for the cheesecake part makes use of the concept of a water bath, an essential tool for bakers, plus there are many ways to personalize them. And they are cheesecake!! The photo in the book showed the lollipop sticks twined with pretty ribbons and bows, too.

To download the recipe in .pdf format, click HERE

Yield: 30 – 40 Pops
Preparation time: 1 hour all together
Baking time: 45 minutes
Cooling, chilling & freezing time: cooling approx. 2 hours, chilling 3 hours or overnight, freezing 2 hours

Ingredients

5 x 8 oz packages / 1.135kg cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups / 400g granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup / 30g / 1 oz all-purpose flour
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1⁄4 cup / 60ml heavy cream
Boiling water as needed

Thirty to forty 8" / 20cm lollipop sticks

1 pound / 450g chocolate, finely chopped – you can use all one kind or half and half of dark, milk, or white (Alternately, you can use 1 pound of flavored coatings, also known as summer coating, confectionary coating or wafer chocolate – candy supply stores carry colors, as well as the three kinds of chocolate.)
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening

Note: White chocolate is harder to use this way, but not impossible

Assorted decorations such as chopped nuts, colored jimmies, crushed peppermints, mini chocolate chips, sanding sugars, dragees - optional

Directions

Position oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325°F / 160°C / Gas Mark 3. Lightly grease a 10" / 25cm cake pan (not a springform pan).

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer set at low speed, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, flour and salt until smooth.

Add the whole eggs and the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well (but still at low speed) after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and cream.

Pour the cheesecake batter into the cake pan and place in a larger roasting pan. Fill the roasting pan with boiling water until it reaches halfway up the sides of the cake pan. Bake until the cheesecake is firm and slightly golden on top, 35 to 45 minutes.

Remove the cheesecake from the water bath and cool to room temperature. Cover the cheesecake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until very cold, at least 3 hours or up to overnight.

When cold and very firm, scoop the cheesecake into 2 oz / 56g balls and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Carefully insert a lollipop stick into each cheesecake ball. Freeze the pops, uncovered, until very hard, at least 1 – 2 hours.

When the cheesecake pops are frozen and ready for dipping, prepare the chocolate. In the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, or in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water, heat half the chocolate and half the shortening, stirring often, until chocolate is melted and chocolate and shortening are combined. Stir until completely smooth. Save the rest of the chocolate and shortening for later dipping, or use another type of chocolate for variety.

Alternately, you can microwave the same amount of chocolate coating pieces on high at 30 second intervals, stirring until smooth.

Quickly dip a frozen cheesecake pop in the melted chocolate, swirling quickly to coat it completely. Shake off any excess into the melted chocolate. If you like, you can now roll the pops quickly in optional decorations. You can also drizzle them with a contrasting color of melted chocolate (dark chocolate drizzled over milk chocolate or white chocolate over dark chocolate, etc.) Place the pop on a clean parchment paper-lined baking sheet to set. Repeat with remaining pops, melting more chocolate and shortening (or confectionery chocolate pieces) as needed.

Refrigerate the pops for up to 24 hours, until ready to serve.

November 2006 - Hot Buttered Pretzels

Daring Bakers

The very first Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lis of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice, the founders of The Daring Bakers.

To download a .pdf version of the recipe, click here.

The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook

Yield: 8 pretzels
Preparation time: 1 hour
Baking time: less than 10 minutes

Dough

2 1/2 cups / 315g / 11oz unbleached all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons regular instant yeast
7/8 to 1 cup / 210 to 240ml / 7 to 8 fl oz warm water*

Topping

1/2 cup / 120ml / 4 fl oz warm water
2 tablespoons / 28g / 1oz baking soda
coarse, kosher or pretzel salt
3 tablespoons / 43g / 1.5oz unsalted butter, melted

*Use the greater amount in the winter, the lesser amount in the summer, and somewhere in between in the spring and fall. Your goal is a soft dough.

Directions

Food Processor Method: Place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the work bowl of a food processor equipped with the steel blade. Process for 5 seconds. Add the water, and process for 7 to 10 seconds, until the dough starts to clear the sides of the bowl. Process a further 45 seconds. Place a handful of flour in a bowl, scoop the slack dough into the bowl, and shape the dough into a ball, coating it with the flour. Transfer the dough to a plastic bag, close the bag loosely, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Bread Machine Method: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine, program the machine for Dough or Manual, and press Start. Allow the dough to proceed through its two kneading cycles, then cancel the machine, flour the dough, and give it a rest in a plastic bag, as instructed above.

Manual/Mixer Method: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat till well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, till it's soft, smooth, and quite slack. Flour the dough and place it in a bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 500°F / 260°C / Gas Mark 10. Prepare two baking sheets by spraying them with vegetable oil spray, or lining them with parchment paper.

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces (about 70g, or 2 1/2 ounces, each). Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. While the dough is resting, combine the 1/2 cup / 120ml / 4 fl oz warm water and the baking soda, and place it in a shallow bowl. Make sure the baking soda is thoroughly dissolved; if it isn't, it'll make your pretzels splotchy.

Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28 to 30 inches long), and twist each rope into a pretzel, as illustrated. Dip each pretzel in the baking soda wash (this will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color), and place them on the baking sheets. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they're golden brown, reversing the baking sheets halfway through.

Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you've used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that's what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave.

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