28 May 2008

Daring Bakers: L'Opera

This month's Daring Baker's Challenge is hosted by Ivonne, of Creampuffs in Venice, Lisa of La Mia Cucina, and cohosted by Fran of apples peaches pumpkin pie and Shea of Whiskful, and they've chosen this delicious, amazingly wonderful and absolutely worth the time it takes to make it Opera Cake. This month's challenge is dedicate to Barbara of winosandfoodies.

As I mentioned, this cake is amazing. I'm extremely proud of how mine turned out. Traditionally, L'Opera is made with chocolate and coffee flavors, but we decided to stick with light colors in honor of Livestrong Month and Barbara. My cake was flavored with orange and vanilla. Other than that, the only change I made to the recipe was just to make four layers instead of three. Will I make it again? Absolutely. I'll probably try other flavors as well.

And don't you dare forget to check out the rest of the wonderful concoctions the Daring Bakers have come up with at the blogroll!

A Taste of Light: Opéra Cake

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

For the joconde

6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
1⁄2 cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (11⁄2 ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

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

2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).

3.Line two 121⁄2 x 151⁄2- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.

4.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.

5.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.

6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).

7.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.

8.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.

9.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.

10.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

1⁄2 cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
Zest of 1 orange
2 tablespoons Triple Sec

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

2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the buttercream

1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup (60 grams) water
1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
13⁄4 sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
Zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon orange extract

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

2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) [*Note: Original recipe indicates a temperature of 255◦F (124◦C), however, when testing the recipe I found that this was too high so we heated to 225◦F and it worked fine] on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.

3.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.

4.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!

5.Raise 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).

6.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.

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

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

9.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

7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. Triple Sec
Zest of 1 orange

1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.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.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

For the glaze

14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1⁄2 cup heavy cream (35% cream)
1 teaspoon orange zest

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.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-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 121⁄2-cm) rectangle.

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured 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 flavoured 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. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

26 May 2008

Cheese Puffs

Before I get into this (absolutely astoundingly amazing and delicious) recipe, I would like to apologize for my unannounced absence. I didn't think that exam week would hit me as hard as it did, but I was wrong. I do have a new job that has gotten me very much re-interested in cooking and baking, so I am now 100% back and ready to share my creations once again.

Now, onto the cheese puffs (or gougeres, if you prefer). You can certainly make these with any kind of cheese you like. I used Parrano Cheese, a Gouda with an Italian flavor, because I picked it up at Whole Foods and I really wanted to showcase it. The only consideration to take into account if using a different cheese would be to adjust your amount according. With something very strong, a Parmiggiano Reggiano or a blue, I would recommend using less cheese, and more with something very mild.

Cheese Puffs

1 cup water
1 stick butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
1 cup flour
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups finely shredded cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the water and butter to a simmer with the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

2. Add the flour and stir for a minute or two. The dough should pull away from the sides of the pan and be very thick and slightly shiny. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (you could do this by hand also, but the mixer is easier).

3. Mix the dough for a few minutes to cool it off. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing completely after each addition. Add the cheese and mix until combined.

4. Move the dough into a piping bag fitted with a large round or star tip (I used a star). Pipe onto a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet in little spiral mounds.

5. Bake for 20 minutes, until puffed and just barely golden.

6. Serve warm from the oven and enjoy!

Currently, I'm reading... The Known World, by Edward P. Jones.

07 May 2008

Shrimp and Broccoli Rabe Quiche

Monday nights are casserole nights in my apartment - I have a night class, so I come home in the afternoon and put something together, then throw it in the fridge and leave instructions for my boyfriend to cook it when he gets home. Most of these are very unpostable, Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup affairs. This one, on the other hand, was quite good and not at all trashy.

Shrimp and Broccoli Rabe Quiche

1 pie crust, blind-baked (I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen cut in half and minus sugar, but any will do)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
zest of 1 lemon
1 bunch broccoli rabe, roughly chopped
1 pound shrimp, peeled, deveined and roughly chopped
Salt and Pepper
1 cup cheddar cheese
3 eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half (or 1/4 cup each cream and milk)
pinch nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 375F. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and lemon zest and saute until the onion is soft.

2. Add the broccoli rabe and toss to coat with the oil. Cook, uncovered, for 3-5 minutes, stirring, until the greens are reduced to less than one quarter of their starting size.

3. Add the shrimp and season well. Cook until the shrimp are pink and opaque. Taste and re-season. Transfer the whole mixture to the pie crust.

4. Sprinkle the cheese over the filling.

5. Combine the eggs, half-and-half, and nutmeg. Season liberally with salt and pepper, then whisk.

6. Pour the egg mixture slowly over the filling, giving it some time to settle in. Stop just before it reaches the lowest point of the crust. The top of the filling may not be covered, but that's OK.

7. Bake the quiche, uncovered, in the 375F oven for 30-45 minutes, until the center is set. Remove from the oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes.

8. Serve and enjoy!

06 May 2008

Slow Roasted Duck

For my birthday dinner, I decided to go out for Tapas because I've been on a trying new things trip lately, and I thought that would be a fantastic way to try as many new things as possible. One of the new things was duck confit. I don't see duck much here in Maryland - I mean, we have a lot of ducks, but not much duck meat. Not to mention, no one that I know well enough to take food from hunts, so duck is kind of hard to come by. Anyway, to make a long story short, I loved it. So, at Whole Foods Market in Annapolis, this transpired:

Me: I wish they had duck.
BF: [Disappears for a while, then comes back] Like this duck? [Hold up a duck]
Me: Oh my god! Duck!
[Duck buying proceeds]
Me: I don't know how to cook duck.

So, I went to Food Blog Search and found this fantastic looking recipe from Amuse Bouche, which I used as my inspiration. My technique is about the same, but my flavors are different. And let me tell you, this duck was amazing. The skin was crispy, the meat was moist but not at all greasy, and the flavor was heavenly. Not to mention, the smell during the whole five hours of cooking was unbelievable.

Slow Roasted Duck

1 duck, giblets and any flaps of fat removed, rinsed
1/2 onion, peeled
4 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1/2 orange, in four pieces
1 tablespoon salt
1-2 teaspoons pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 300F.

2. Season the cavity liberally with salt and pepper. Stuff it with the onion, garlic, and orange. Rub the skin with more salt and pepper, and prick with a paring knife, being careful not to pierce the skin (this works best if you do it at an angle).

3. Put the duck in a pan just large enough to hold it so the fat doesn't burn with the breast side down. Roast for one hour.

4. At the end of the hour, pull the duck out of the oven and transfer it to a baking sheet, large plate, cutting board - just something to hold it. Carefully pour the accumulated fat out of the roasting pan. Don't throw it away! Flip the duck over and put it back in the roasting pan. Roast again.

5. Every hour, pull the duck out of the oven, drain the fat, and flip the duck. If there are any pockets of fat towards the last two hours, prick them again with the knife.

6. After the duck has cooked for five hours total (more or less if your duck is very large or very small - this is very forgiving), pull it from the oven for the last time. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes, then carve it the same way you would a chicken. One duck should serve 2 people very comfortably, but probably not more than that.

7. Serve and enjoy! The duck fat, in my opinion, is too good to throw away. Mine is in a mason jar in the fridge, until I can accumulate enough to make confit. It's also supposed to be amazing with potatoes. Food Blog Search has a wealth of ideas for it. I also froze the bones to make stock in the future.

04 May 2008

Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies

I have a confession to make: I'm a bit of a show-off. So, when I found out that my classmates and I would be taking turns bringing snacks for a particularly long class, I knew that I would have to bring something fantastic. Luckily, for my birthday a few weeks ago, I was given Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours, which turned out to be a treasure trove of recipes. There are, quite literally, fewer than five that I would not make.

So I decided to make these double-chocolate shortbread cookies, and they were a hit. I was thrilled with the results (and with the leftovers!). So, here is the recipe, with a few slight modifications.

Dorie Greenspan's World Peace Cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick plus 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cups packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (or fleur de sel)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces (about 3/4 cup) chopped chocolate (I used milk, the recipe calls for bittersweet) or mini chips

1. Sift the flour, cocoa, and baking powder.

2. Beat the butter with the paddle attachment of a stand mixer (or a hand mixer) until light and fluffy. Add the sugars, salt, and vanilla and cream together, again until light and fluffy.

3. Turn off the mixer and add the flour mixture all at once. Cover the mixer with a towel and pulse about 5 times. Check to see if the flour has been incorporated at all. If it hasn't, pulse a few more times. If it has, mix just until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Add the chopped chocolate and mix quickly.

4. Turn the dough out of the mixer and use your hands to form it into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap well and chill for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days (it can be frozen for up to 2 months, just add a minute to the cooking time - no need to thaw).

5. Preheat the oven to 325F. Unwrap the log of dough (if you like, roll it in about 1/4 cup of sugar) and cut it into 1/2 inch rounds. Place on a baking sheet 1 inch apart. If they crack, just press them back together. Bake for 12 minutes. Dorie notes that they won't look done or be firm, they that's how they should be. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and let rest until just warm or room temperature. Makes about 36 cookies.

01 May 2008

Dressed-Up Mac and Cheese

A while ago, I decided to go check out the organic market near the apartment. I found an 8 ounce block of beautiful, creamy white raw milk sharp cheddar cheese. It's been sitting in the fridge for a bit, patiently waiting for me to get the inspiration of what to do with it - and it hasn't been easy, trying to find something that would really show off the flavor of the cheese. Now that I've cooked with half of it, the rest will probably be snacked on with crackers.

This pasta is kind of a dressed-up mac and cheese. I used homemade pasta, but you could certainly use store-bought, in any shape that you like. It is fantastically creamy and surprisingly easy to make.

Pasta with Cheddar Sauce

1 recipe homemade pasta, or 1 pound dry
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 small onion, thinly sliced
Salt and Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup milk
Pinch nutmeg
4 ounces grated sharp white cheddar (best quality you can find!)

1. Cook the pasta until al dente and preheat the oven to 350F.

2. In a large saucepan, melt the butter with the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, but not brown. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes so it doesn't taste raw. Stirring constantly, slowly add the milk.

4. Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until thickened, 3-5 minutes.

5. Add the shredded cheese to the pot.

6. Stir the cheese into the sauce until it is smooth and velvety.

7. Add the drained pasta to the sauce and stir until it is well-coated. Transfer to a buttered baking dish.

8. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until the tops of the pasta are golden brown. Serve and enjoy!

Currently, I'm reading... In Persuasion Nation, by George Saunders.