Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Daring Bakers July '08 - Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

So I've joined ranks with the Daring Bakers. July's challenge, my first attempt, was this frightening gateau (er, cake) with multiple components (a genoise, buttercream, praline paste, sugar syrup, apricot glaze, and a ganache glaze). The recipe was chosen and hosted by Chris at Mele Cotte.

This is a lengthy project. I made the buttercream, sugar syrup and praline paste in the three days prior, and spent five hours for the cake baking/assembly and piping. I do suggest planning ahead unless you have an entire day to devote to this gateau.

This is a very sweet cake, but quite good overall. The texture of the cake is somewhat crumbly but doesn't fall to pieces when sliced. The praline buttercream is evil. Evil meaning if I hadn't been so nervous about not being able to complete the challenge I would have eaten it up with a spoon. Or my fingers. The apricot glaze wasn't noticeable to my inexperienced palate and I was somewhat disappointed in that; I had been looking forward to the apricot-chocolate combination.

I'm looking forward to next month with a bit of trepidation but my thoughts are, if I can make a cake like this, I should be able to conquer the next challenge!

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
Great Cakes by Carol Walter

1 Filbert Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
1/2 cup 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

Filbert Genoise
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 tablespoons cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided 1/4 and 3/4 cups
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
5 large egg whites
1/4 cup warm, clarified butter

Position rack in the lower part of the oven and preheat to 350F. Grease and flour a 10x2 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 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. Remove and 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 of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another half a minute. Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). Use deep bottomed bowl and work quickly! 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 tablespoons 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. If collected 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. 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, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers

1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum or orange flavored liqueur

In a small, yet heavy 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. Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup praline paste
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons rum (optional)

Blend 1/2 cup 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 sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place the egg whites in a large bowl of a electric 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 degrees) 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 tablespoons 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. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 - 16 ounce plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinless
2/3 cup sugar

Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter. Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch 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. Extremely hot mixture!

Then 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 paste, 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 thick apricot preserves
1 tabelspoon water

In a small, yet heavy 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, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

Ganache can take on many forms. While warm – great fudge sauce. While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled – can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid – the base of candied chocolate truffles.

6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
6 ounces heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 - 1 teaspoon hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside. Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket 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 reached a gentle boil.

Once to the gently 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 teaspoon 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 top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 tablespoons of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside. Spread the bottom layer with a 1/4 inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with 1/2 of the whipped cream, leaving 1/4 inch 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 at least 30 minutes.

Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-inch 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 inches 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 inch pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream. Starting ½ inch 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 inch 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 inch 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.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How To Make Your Own Pita Bread

We've been eating a lot of pita bread on the ChangeOne plan. It's a great flatbread; perfect for dipping, stuffing, wrapping and more. If you've been following our weight loss journey, you are by now well aware that one of our favorite snacks is pita with tzatziki (click for homemade recipe!). Mmmm.

Buying pitas in the store can get expensive - we've been paying around $4
(depending on the brand) for a bag of 4-6 pitas. Yikes! Making my own seemed only the reasonable and financially savvy way to go, not to mention how much better they'd taste, freshly made.

Deb at Smitten Kitchen posted about making your own pita bread using a recipe she adapted from The Bread Bible, and her pictures looked so fabulous that I knew I'd have to give them a try. I bookmarked the recipe and haven't, until now, made it.

Pita Bread

-from Smitten Kitchen adapted from The Bread Bible-

3 cups plus a scant 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour

2 tsp salt

2 tsp instant yeast

2 tbsp olive oil

1 1/4 cups water, room temperature

About 1 1/2 hours before shaping, or for best flavor development, 8 hours to 3 days ahead, mix the dough.

Mixer method: In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients. With the paddle attachment, mix on low speed (#2 if using a KitchenAid) just until all the flour is moistened, about 20 seconds. Change to the dough hook, raise the speed to medium (#4 KitchenAid), and knead for 10 minutes. The dough should clean the bowl and be very soft and smooth and just a little sticky to the touch. Add a little flour or water if necessary. (the dough will weigh about 27.75 oz./793 grams.)
Hand method: In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except for a scant 1/4 cup of the flour. With a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until all the flour is moistened. Knead the dough in the bowl until it comes together.
Sprinkle a little of the reserved flour onto the counter and scrape the dough onto it. Knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding as little of the reserved flour as possible. Use a bench scraper to scrape the dough and gather it together as you knead it. At this point it will be very sticky. Cover it with the inverted bowl and allow it to rest for 5 to 20 minutes. (This rest will make the dough less sticky and easier to work with.)
Knead the dough for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it is soft and smooth and just a little sticky to the touch. Add a little flour or water if necessary. (The dough will weigh about 27.75 oz./793 grams.)
Let the dough rise: Using an oiled spatula or dough scraper, scrape the dough into a 2-quart or larger dough-rising container or bowl, lightly greased with cooking spray or oil. Press the dough down and lightly spray or oil the top of it. Cover the container with a lid or plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container at approximately where double the height of the dough would be. Refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 3 days), checking every hour for the first 4 hours and pressing it down if it starts to rise.
Preheat the oven: Preheat the oven to 475°F one hour before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone, cast-iron skillet, or baking sheet on it before preheating.
Shape the dough: Cut the dough into 8 or 12 pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the rest covered with a damp cloth. On a lightly floured counter, with lightly floured hands, shape each piece into a ball and then flatten it into a disk. Cover the dough with oiled plastic and allow it to rest for 20 minutes at room temperature.
Roll each disk into a circle a little under 1/4 inch thick. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes before baking.
Bake the pita: Quickly place 1 piece of dough directly on the stone or in the skillet or on the baking sheet, and bake for 3 minutes. The pita should be completely puffed but not beginning to brown. The dough will not puff well if it is not moist enough. See how the pita puffs, then, if necessary, spray and knead each remaining piece with water until the dough is soft and moist; allow to rest again and reroll as before.* (However, those that do not puff well are still delicious to eat.)
Proceed with the remaining dough, baking 3 or 4 pieces at a time if using a stone or baking sheet. using a pancake turner, transfer the pita breads to a clean towel, to stay soft and warm. Allow the oven to reheat for 5 minutes between batches. The pitas can be reheated for about 30 seconds in a hot oven before serving.
To cook the pitas on the stove top: Preheat a griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Lightly grease the surface and cook the pitas one at a time. Cook for about 20 seconds, then turn the dough and continue cooking for 1 minute or until big bubbles appear. Turn the dough again and cook until the dough balloons. If the dough begins to brown, lower the heat. The entire cooking process for each pita should be about 3 minutes.
Whole wheat variation: For a whole wheat version, use half whole wheat and half white flour. If using regular whole wheat flour, for best results, grind it very fine or process it in a food processor for 5 minutes to break the bran into smaller particles. Finely ground 100% whole wheat flour (atta), available in Middle Eastern food markets, is the finest grind available. Or, for a milder but wheatier flavor and golden color, try 100% white whole wheat flour. You will need to add 1/4 cup more water, for a total of 1 1/2 cups (12.4 oz./354 grams).
I followed Deb's instructions to the letter. There was no way I was going to stray until I had tried her recipe exactly - I could tweak later if I felt it necessary.
Baby Bear helped with some of the kneading; I passed the dough under his nose and he immediately reached out and pressed his fingers into it. Shauna of Gluten-Free Girl gave me the idea of allowing Baby Bear to smell the things I'm working on in the kitchen - her Little Bean fell in love with ginger!
I decided that I would make the dough earlier in the day, allow it to rest and develop it's flavors overnight then bake them up the next day.
Surprisingly, this dough came together so easily and so very beautifully! Don't laugh, but I probably could have gone on kneading it for a while and not have minded a bit.
As it turned out, the dough was smelling so good that I decided to let it develop one more day, and baked them up this afternoon.
The whole process was so easy!! I will never again buy pitas from the store - the flavor and freshness from pitas out of my own kitchen is un matchable. I admit that I ate one right out of the oven, all puffy and steaming and hot - and it was amazing.
If you've ever thought about making your own pita bread - start with this recipe.

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