Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dobos Torta

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. (You may come across recipes which have anywhere between six and 12 layers of cake; there are numerous family variations!) It was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties. The recipe was a secret until Dobos retired in 1906 and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners' and Gingerbread Makers' Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.

I really did not feel like making doing this challenge. In fact, I didn't make finish making the cake until yesterday in the evening (hence the awful pictures and sloppy assembly). I'm not crazy about sponge cake, and the buttercream was just okay to me. I made the buttercream about a week ago, and the sponge cake two days ago. I did the caramel section and assembly yesterday. Also, I halved the recipe and shaped the cake into a square.

I'm not proud of this torta because I know I could have made it look better with more effort and motivation. But with the very little excitement I had for making this, I'm lucky I produced anything at all. For better looking tortas, go to the Daring Baker blogroll.

Learned from Challenge: I have made caramel many times, so that wasn't really anything new. I think the only new task I got to do was the egg-based buttercream. It was pretty easy, but it was very exciting to try it out.

Taste: The cake was okay. Like I said, I'm not crazy about sponge cake or cake without butter. It still tasted better than I had expected. I ate only a small piece, and I will be giving the rest of the cake to my neighbor today.

Thanks for the challenge, Nigella!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hot Fudge!

Yes. More chocolate. Obviously, my desire for chocolate did not desert (pun not intended!) me, as I had previously thought. I was craving vanilla ice cream. Since I am limiting the amount of sweets due to my diet, I convinced myself not to make my own ice cream. Instead, I purchased a pint of vanilla ice cream to eat over a few days.

In addition to ice cream, I wanted to make hot fudge. I looked over many recipes online, and some called for heavy cream. I didn't want the fudge to be too heavy in fat, and I was out of heavy cream, so I looked for a recipe that didn't ask for said ingredient. Consequently, I found a recipe on AllRecipes that looked promising. I made a third of the recipe, and it yielded more than enough fudge for one person. Per the comments and suggestions made on the site, I reduced the amount of evaporated milk to make it thicker. It was perfect. The photos do not do it justice as all. It was thick, smooth, chocolaty, and delicious. After sitting out for awhile, it becomes even thicker. So thick that it doesn't pour out without stirring it first. I stuck my finger in the chocolate goo, and tasted it again. Ahhhh, it's sooo freaking good!

I have posted the adapted and halved version of the fudge recipe below. Half the below recipe for a smaller version; it makes more than enough for one or two people.

Hot Fudge Sauce
adapted from AllRecipes

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup butter (1 stick or 8 oz)
2 cups confectioners' sugar
2/3 cups evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
  1. In a large saucepan, combine the chocolate chips and butter. Cook and stir over low heat until melted.
  2. Gradually mix in the powdered sugar and evaporated milk. Increase heat to a boil. Cook, stirring constantly, for 8 minutes. Remove from heat, and then stir in vanilla and salt. Serve warm. Store in refrigerator.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Browned Butter "Chewy"

I found this recipe, which was adapted from Alton Brown's "The Chewy", on RecipeGirl. I love her photos and almost all of her baked goods.

For some reason, her cookies came out bigger and flatter than mine. They also look darker. Next time, I will flatten the dough mounds before placing them in the oven, and I will darken the butter more. After doing brief research on browning butter, I read that the skillet should not have a black base because it will be hard to see how dark the butter is getting. In order to (attempt to) remedy that problem, I used my white rubber spatula to see how dark the butter was getting. It never became really dark, and I even put the heat on medium for about 5-10 minutes, so I just gave up and proceeded with the recipe.

Because I live alone and have started my diet AGAIN, I baked only 4 small cookies (the ones you see pictured) and froze the rest of the dough. I am an all-or-nothing dieter, meaning when I'm on a diet, I'm very strict with eating and exercise, and when I fall off the diet wagon, I fall off badly. I make up for all the deprivation and resistance to goodies that I did while on track. Consequently, I am trying to train myself to indulge more sensibly from time to time so that whenever I reach my goal, I will be better at maintaining instead of gaining all of the weight back.

As a consequence of gobbling up these cookies, I ate a healthy salad with Naked Juice (WARNING: a video starts up immediately on this site) for lunch/dinner. I plan to eat something else light later on. I also don't allow myself to eat after 9pm. However, if my stomach is really aching for something, I will eat a small plum or another piece of fruit. Later, I will do some serious cardio and strength training to burn off these yummy cookies. Ah, the price we have to pay to have our cake and eat it, too...and stay fit in the process...

On another topic, I finally got over my anxiety and stepped outside to take these pictures on my patio. I think they look much better than my previous pics, which I usually had taken inside and in the evening (yeah, bad combination, I know). I used the same camera and just added more of God's light and used my purple scarf as a backdrop, which yielded much better pictures. Right after I was done taking over 100 photos(!), I picked up the plate of cookies to bring them back inside when one of them fell to the ground (look below)! The cookie just smiled back at me (see the face?), I wiped it off, and gobbled it up gleefully and guiltlessly haha. Hey! You live only once! If I die over a fallen - a fallen, delicious cookie, then so be it! I will just die happy :).

Haha! Do you see the tongue sticking out on the right? Weird!

These cookies were so good. They were very soft. In fact, one of them wanted to fall apart, and I had to be very careful with it. My oven tends to overheat, so I always have to half the time indicated on a recipe. I also like my cookies to be really soft and not fully cooked, so I baked it for 5 minutes instead of 6.

You should definitely make these cookies. They really are good. I'm not able to say if I think they are better than the original "Chewy" because I forgot how the originals tasted, and I didn't brown my butter long enough. Nevertheless, they were very good, and I will make them again.

Adapted from Alton Brown and RecipeGirl

2 1/4 cups bread flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar (packed)
1 Tbs half and half cream (or milk)
1 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 cups chocolate chips (I used a combination of Guittard and Ghiradelli semisweet chips)

1. Sift together flour, salt and baking soda; set aside.

2. Melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat. Continue to cook on low heat, stirring often, until butter is browned. Turn off heat and stir in white and brown sugars.

3. Scrape into a medium mixing bowl and use electric mixer to cream the butter and sugars together. Add half & half, lemon juice, vanilla extract and eggs. Mix in until well combined. Add half of the flour mixture and incorporate into the batter with electric mixer. Add the rest and mix until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. The cookie dough will be very soft and buttery. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill until firm for an hour or two (I left my dough in the refrigerator overnight, and it was fine. Just let it sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes before scooping out dough).

4. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop up heaping Tablespoonfuls of cookie dough and use your hands to roll into balls. Place 12 balls on a sheet, keeping about an inch and a half between each ball.

5. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, depending on how large you’ve rolled your balls (mine took 11 minutes).

Yield: About 2 1/2 dozen

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chocolate Milk

I thought that my cravings for chocolate were waning, but I was pining chocolate milk for the longest time. After a depressing and disappointing weekend, I decided to work on a chocolate milk recipe I had found on Yahoo Answers.

The "by the glass" version is really good, even with skim milk. It looks like dirty water with the skim milk, but it tasted really good and satisfying. You could make it even healthier by adding Splenda or any other sugar substitute (or Equal, which my mother loves...a little too much)!

The dry mix version, however, left something to be desired, so I had to modify it. After looking over the two recipes, I realized what was wrong. The cocoa to sugar ratio was different than that of the "by the glass" version. Consequently, I increased the amount of sugar in the mix version and reduced the amount of non-fat dry milk because I think there's too much in this recipe. As you can see in the photo below, most of the mix just collects at the top of the glass, so I decided to microwave the mixture with 1 ounce of liquid as is done in the "by the glass" version. Lastly, it tasted better with 7 oz of milk instead of water. I'm sure it would be even richer with whole milk.

Well, the changes worked! I think I'm satisfied with this version. I could have made chocolate milk with chocolate chips or bars, but I wanted a cheaper version that didn't require melting chocolate. Enjoy!

Homemade Chocolate Milk

heavily adapted from Yahoo Answers

By the glass... (double or triple the recipe to your liking):
1 ounce water
1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa
2 tablespoons sugar (Splenda, Equal, or half sugar or half substitute)
dash of salt
11 ounces milk (skim, reduced, or whole)

Put sugar, cocoa, and water in microwavable 12 oz glass. Microwave for 30 seconds. Add cold milk and stir.

Dry mix (8 ounces per serving) you could easily half this recipe, especially if you're using a sugar substitute:
1 c. cocoa
2 c. sugar (or 1 cup of Splenda, Equal, or half sugar and half substitute)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. non-fat dry milk

Combine ingredients until thoroughly mixed. Put mix in jar and store for handy use.
Use 2-3 tablespoons of mix with 1 ounce of cold water. Microwave for 30 seconds or until sugar and cocoa dissolve. Add 7 ounces of cold water or milk (I prefer to use milk) and stir. For hot chocolate, add 8 ounces of hot milk to the mixture.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Peanut Butter Brownies (or Fudge?)

I'm tired of the point that I don't like the stuff very much anymore. It's weird. I guess as I get older, my love for chocolate wanes. Oh well, I thought I had had a hankering for chocolate and peanut butter once I saw the tempting photos and recipe about three days ago, and once I tasted the soft, gooey, chocolaty concoction, I surprisingly did not get overly excited. I'm certain that it's not the recipe's or ingredients' fault; I blame it all on my taste buds. For instance, almost all the Daring Bakers loved the Chocolate-Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milano Cookies from last month's challenge, and I didn't. So, I know it's just me.

Despite my negative and unusual reaction, I do suggest you make these if you still love chocolate, especially when paired with peanut butter. My brownies were more like fudge than a brownie. I highly suggest you drink cold milk (add a bit of ice to make it colder) or homemade vanilla ice cream.

As always, I halved the recipe, and I still have some more left in the refrigerator, and I made these a couple of days ago! Because I halved it, there was very little brownie batter. So little that I placed the batter in a bread pan, and it was still very thin. As you can see in the photo, the brownie layer doesn't look very thin once cooked, though. The peanut butter filling and second chocolate layer make the brownies/fudge thicker. If you're a chocolate/peanut butter lover, I am certain that you will enjoy these. They tasted like
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in fudge/brownie form. This similarity in taste could also be because I used Reese's Creamy Peanut Butter!

Peanut Butter Brownies (full recipe below)
adapted from Blog Chef

Brownie layer-
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
½ ounce semisweet chocolate (I used Guittard Extra Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips)
½ cup (1 stick) butter
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup AP flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peanut Butter Frosting-
1 ½ cups powdered (icing) sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup butter (softened)
2-3 tablespoons heavy/whipping cream

Chocolate Glaze-
1 ounce semisweet baking chocolate (I used the same chocolate chips mentioned above)
1 tablespoon butter (or margarine)

  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small sauce pan melt semisweet and unsweetened chocolates and butter over low heat. Cook until mixture is smooth. Set aside and allow the mixture to slightly cool.
  • In a medium bowl beat eggs and sugar until light and fluffy and pale colored. Mix in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add flour, salt and melted chocolate mixture. Stir to mix well.
  • Pour batter into a greased 9 x 13” baking dish (Use 8x8", if you want thicker brownies). Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes (do not overbake). You will want to bake into a toothpick comes out almost clean (the toothpick should come out with some crumbs on it). Remove from the oven, and allow the brownies to cool.
  • While cooling, make the frosting: In a mixing bowl, add peanut butter and butter, and beat until combined and smooth. Slowly add powdered sugar (1/2 cup at a time). The mixture will become crumbly. Blend in cream until the mixture is fluffy and has reached your desired spreading consistency. Evenly spread and chill until firm.
  • To make the glaze: melt semisweet baking chocolate and butter in a sauce pan until smooth (I microwaved the two ingredients in a bowl for 30 seconds, stirred, and then microwaved the mixture 30 seconds more. Stir again until creamy). Drizzle (or spread) over the brownies. Allow the brownies to chill for awhile before cutting.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Double-Crust Pecanless Pie

Pecanless Pie? With a double-crust? Yes. And yes. I don't like nuts. I detest them, but I love Pecan Pie. Whenever I eat it, I have to spend 30 minutes picking all the pecans out of my slice, but it's all worth it. I love the sugary filling and the flaky crust. YUM! So, I had been craving pecan pie for the longest time and kept putting off making it because there have been too many sweets in this house. Then I saw the Sour Cherry Slab Pie on Smitten Kitchen (SK), and my brain started reeling. I thought of making the exact same thing she made with the same cherry filling, but I wasn't craving a fruity dessert; I wanted pecan pie sans pecans! So, once I gave away all of the cookies to my friend, I decided to make this pie.

Ahh, the advantage of baking and cooking your own stuff; you can customize your dishes to your liking (even if the rest of the world may disagree with your preferences). :)

I made the crust on SK's site, and then I used the filling posted on this website. Now, pie crusts have never been difficult for me, but I thought I'd try to make it in my stand mixer. Big mistake! I remedied the problem enough to make a flaky crust, but there were big globs of butter in the dough when it was cold, and it kept breaking apart. Also, I forgot to add an egg wash or cream to the top of the pie. So, while the crust didn't come out looking as good as my crust usually looks, it tasted great.

I really like the idea of doing a double crust with this pecanless pie because it offset the sugary flavor more than the standard type of pie. Without the pecans, one would think that the pie would be cloyingly sweet, but I like my pecanless pies either way. I think I will make my pecanless pies like this from now on, though. YUM!

Butter Pie Dough
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 cup cold water (you can drop in a few ice cubes or place cold water in the freezer while uou work on the other steps. That way you can avoid bits of ice cubes.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

Two sticks (or 8 ounces or 1 cup) of very cold, unsalted butter cubed into 1/2-inch pieces.

Sprinkle the butter cubes over the flour and begin working them in with the pastry blender or fork, using it to scoop and redistribute the mixture as needed so all parts are worked evenly. When all of the butter pieces are approximately the size of peas — this won’t take long — stop.

Take the cold water out of the freezer. Start drizzling 1/2 cup of the ice-cold water (not the cubes, if you chose that method) over the butter and flour mixture. Using a rubber or silicon spatula, gather the dough together. You’ll probably need an additional 1/4 cup of cold water to bring it together, but add it a tablespoon as a time. Once you’re pulling large clumps with the spatula, take it out and get your hands in there. Gather the disparate damp clumps together into one mound, patting it together.

Divide the dough in half, and place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap (You will use one and a half portions of this dough). I like to use the the plastic wrap to pull in the dough and shape it into a disk. Let the dough chill in the fridge for one to two hours before rolling it out.

Do ahead: Dough will keep in the fridge for about a week, and in the freezer longer. If not using it that day, wrap it in additional layers of plastic wrap to protect it from fridge/freezer smells.

Pecanless Pie Filling
adapted from My Home Cooking

1 Cup White Corn Syrup
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1/3 Teaspoon Salt
1/3 Cup minus 1 Tbsp of Melted Butter
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
3 Eggs
(add 2 cups of pecans if you want a traditional pecan pie)

Put the butter in the microwave until it is completely melted. During this step, preheat your regular oven to 350.

In a medium to large bowl, mix or slightly beat eggs with a whisk. Then mix in the rest of the ingredients (if adding pecans, add them after you pour the filling in the pie crust).

Take one portion of the pie dough out of the refrigerator, and roll it out to about 1/8 of an inch in thickness. Then, apply more flour to the rolling pin. Wrap the dough around the rolling pin, and unroll it onto your pie pan. Allow the excess crust to hang over the pie plate or 8x8" pan so that the crust hangs 1 inch.

Place the pie shell (rolled-out dough) and plate/pan in the refrigerator as you roll out the second portion of the dough. Once you roll out the second portion, take out the pie plate/pan, and then pour in the pie filling. Place the second portion of dough on top of the filling and then fold the edges of the bottom pie dough over the second one. Make a few incisions on top of the dough before placing it in the oven.

Now, put your pie in a preheated oven set to 350F for 1 hour (with my hot oven, it took 40 minutes). After the pie has been in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, take it out, and put strips of tinfoil around the edge to keep the pie crust from burning. Be careful not to spill you pie! The filling is runny and quite hot. Then, put the pie back in the oven.

After you put the pie back in the oven, it will need another 20 to 30 minutes. After about 30 minutes (a total of 40 mins to 1 hour in the oven), test the pie to see if it is done. You can test the pie by sticking a knife in the middle. If the knife comes out clean, the pie is done; if it comes out dirty, it needs about 10 more minutes in the oven. It will also no longer jiggle.