Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers May Challenge --- Opera Cake

I was excited to complete my first DB challenge! After seeing the length of the recipe, I have to admit I was a little nervous! But everything came together smoothly! The cake turned out great and tasted fabulous!

The flavors I chose to incorporate into the cake were almond & raspberry. I flavored the syrup with almond extract and the buttercream with fresh raspberries. I also used Ameretto in the mousse. I can't wait to try the recipe again with different flavor combinations.

Be sure to check out all the other DB Opera Cakes! Enjoy!

Opéra Cake

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


For the joconde(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperate)What you’ll need:•2 12½ x 15½-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans (Note: If you do not have jelly-roll pans this size, do not fear! You can use different-sized jelly-roll pans like 10 x 15-inches.)•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)


6 large egg whites, at room temperature2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds (Note: If you do not want to use almond meal, you can use another nut meal like hazelnut. You can buy almond meal in bulk food stores or health food stores, or you can make it at home by grinding almonds in the food processor with a tablespoon or two of the flour that you would use in the cake. The reason you need the flour is to prevent the almonds from turning oily or pasty in the processor. You will need about 2 cups of blanched almonds to create enough almond meal for this cake.)2 cups icing sugar, sifted6 large eggs½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour3 tbsp. (1½ 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 12½ x 15½- 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(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:½ cup (125 grams) water⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)

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

(The recipe for the buttercream that is listed here is based on the original. When testing the buttercream, we tested a slightly modified version that had 2 cups sugar, ½ cup water and 1¾ cups butter. The eggs remained the same. We ended up with a very creamy buttercream. But we don’t want anyone to be afraid of our modified version so you have the option of using the original above or the quantities we’ve listed here in this note):
1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar (Used to say 2 cups but should be 1 cup)¼ cup (60 grams) water (Used to say ½ cup but should say ¼ cup)seeds of one vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract1 large egg1 large egg yolk1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature (Used to say 1¾ cups of butter but it should be 1¾ sticks).flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)
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) (Note: The original recipe instructs to heat the syrup to 255◦F (124◦C). We heated it to 225◦F and it worked just fine. However, if you are concerned, then by all means heat your syrup to 255◦F.) 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!
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).
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 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.
At this point add in your flavouring 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 (this step is optional)

(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 mixerIngredients:7 ounces white chocolate1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)1 tbsp. liquer of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)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

(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 boilerIngredients:14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped ½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)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 12½-cm) rectangle.

Step 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 flavoured 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 flavoured 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. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.

Step B (if making the ganache/mousse):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.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

TWD -- Florida Pie

This week's recipe was chosen by Dianne's Dishes.

The pie came together very easily. I had no problems. I am usually not a big fan of key lime pie. However, I thought this pie was great! Very refreshing, tart and just the right amount of sweet. I thought the coconut balanced out the tartness of the limes. I will definately make this again.

Be sure to check out how everyone's pie came together at the TWD site. Enjoy!

Florida Pie (from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)
1 9-inch graham cracker crust (page 235), fully baked and cooled, or a store-bought crust1 1/3 cups heavy cream1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut4 large eggs, seperated1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk1/2 cup fresh Key (or regular) lime juice (from about 5 regular limes)1/4 cup of sugar
Getting Ready:Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the pie plate on a baking sheet lined with parchment of a silicone mat.
Put the cream and 1 cup of the coconut in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring almost constantly. Continue to cook and stir until the cream is reduced by half and the mixture is slightly thickened. Scrape the coconut cream into a bowl and set it aside while you prepare the lime filling.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl beat the egg yolks at high speed until thick and pale. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the condensed milk. Still on low, add half of the lime juice. When it is incorporated, add the reaming juice, again mixing until it is blended. Spread the coconut cream in the bottom of the graham cracker crust, and pour over the lime filling.
Bake the pie for 12 minutes. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes, then freeze the pie for at least 1 hour.
To Finish the Pie with Meringue:Put the 4 egg whites and the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, whisking all the while, until the whites are hot to the touch. Transfer the whites to a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, or use a hand mixer in a large bowl, and beat the whites at high speed until they reach room temperature and hold firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold the remaining 1/2 cup coconut into the meringue.Spread the meringue over the top of the pie, and run the pie under the broiler until the top of the meringue is golden brown. (Or, if you've got a blowtorch, you can use it to brown the meringue.) Return the pie to the freezer for another 30 minutes or for up to 3 hours befor
e serving.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

TWD: Peanut Butter Torte

This week's recipe, Peanut Butter Torte, was chosen by Elizabeth of Ugg Smell Food. This was one of the recipes I have had my eye on since I first looked at the book!
This recipe came together nicely. The torte tastes fabulous! I love the combination of peanut butter and chocolate and the extra crunch of the nuts make it even better! I did end up using semi-sweet chocolate instead of bittersweet as the recipe called for. I'm excited to share this with friends & family! I know it will be a hit!

Be sure to check out the other Peanut Butter Tortes on the TWD site. Enjoy!

Peanut Butter Torte
1 ¼ c. finely chopped salted peanuts (for the filling, crunch and topping)
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon instant espresso powder (or finely ground instant coffee)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
½ c. mini chocolate chips (or finely chopped semi sweet chocolate)
24 Oreo cookies, finely crumbed or ground in a food processor or blender
½ stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt
2 ½ c. heavy cream
1 ¼ c confectioners’ sugar, sifted
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 ½ c salted peanut butter - crunchy or smooth (not natural; I use Skippy)
2 tablespoons whole milk
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate finely chopped (Iused semi-sweet)
Getting ready: center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch Springform pan and place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
Toss ½ cup of the chopped peanuts, the sugar, espresso powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and chocolate chops together in a small bowl. Set aside.
Put the Oreo crumbs, melted butter and salt in another small bowl and stir with a fork just until crumbs are moistened. Press the crumbs evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the spring form pan (they should go up about 2 inches on the sides). Freeze the crust for 10 minutes.
Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then transfer it to a rack and let it cool completely before filling.
Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, whip 2 cups of the cream until it holds medium peaks. Beat in ¼ cup of the confectioners’ sugar and whip until the cream holds medium-firm peaks. Crape the cream into a bowl and refrigerate until needed.
Wipe out (do not wash) the bowl, fit the stand mixer with the paddle attachment if you have one, or continue with the hand mixer, and beat the cream cheese with the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar on medium speed until the cream cheese is satiny smooth. Beat in the peanut butter, ¼ cup of the chopped peanuts and the milk.
Using a large rubber spatula, gently stir in about one quarter of the whipped cream, just to lighten the mousse. Still working with the spatula, stir in the crunchy peanut mixture, then gingerly fold in the remaining whipped cream.
Scrape the mouse into the crust, mounding and smoothing the top. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight; cover with plastic wrap as soon as the mousse firms.
To Finish The Torte: put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Leave the bowl over the water just until the chocolate softens and starts to melt, about 3 minutes; remove the bowl from the saucepan.
Bring the remaining ½ cup cream to a full boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate and , working with a a rubber spatula, very gently stir together until the ganache is completely blended and glossy.
Pour the ganache over the torte, smoothing it with a metal icing spatula. Scatter the remaining ½ cup peanuts over the top and chill to set the topping, about 20 minutes.
When the ganache is firm, remove the sides of the Springform pan; it’s easiest to warm the pan with a hairdryer, and then remove the sides, but you can also wrap a kitchen towel damped with hot water around the pan and leave it there for 10 seconds. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Stay tuned next week ... Florida Pie chosen by Dianne's Dishes!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Corn & Black Bean Salad

When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it. This is a fast and simple recipe that also has wonderful taste! It is great eaten alone as a salad or as a salsa with tortilla chips. The dressing has the right amount of sweet. This is defiantely a keeper! Delicious!

Corn and Black Bean Salad
Source: Healthy Cooking
1 can (15 1/4 oz) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, rinsed and drained
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1 large red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 tsp. lime juice
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. pepper
In a large bowl, combine the first six ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients; pour over the corn mixture and toss to coat. Cover & refrigerate at least 1 hour. Stir before serving. Serve with a slotted spoon.