Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Chocolate Pavlovas and Mascarpone Mousse > Daring Bakers June 2010

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

I did it! It is up :). 

I know it's late, but it is here. My first Daring Bakers challenge. Chocolate pavlova with mascarpone mousse. It was supposed to have mascarpone cream on top as well, but I thought that it kinda looked like something naughty... I also didn't want to have to buy a whole extra tub of macarpone just for that, especially seeing as I don't actually like pavlova. I know. I live in Australia and I don't like pavlova. The travesty. While we're on the subject, you should know that I also dislike Vegemite...

I blanched when I read "pavlova" in the Daring Bakers forums, and seriously thought about not doing this one. I mean, why make a dessert that no one's going to eat? BUT! I did it anyway. Aren't you proud? I reasoned that the chocolate may cover up the inherent sweetness of a pavlova a little. And I also planned to make the mousse the star of the show, which is how I ended up with these mini pavlova nests with a massive pile of mousse of top.

However, despite the mousse being lovely and dark-chocolatey, the stupid thing was still too sweet. Damn you, pavlova! 

So here is the recipe, taken straight from the Daring Kitchen website. Unadulterated and unchanged. I made 2/3rds of the recipe, so if you also dislike pavlova (in which case you probably wouldn't be making this) feel free to do the same. It works fine.

Recipe 1: Chocolate Meringue (for the chocolate Pavlova):
3 large egg whites
½ cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
¼ cup (30 grams) confectioner’s (icing) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) cocoa powder
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200º F (95º C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.
  2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)
  3. Sift the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder over the egg whites and fold the dry ingredients into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)
  4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon. (Class made rounds, hearts, diamonds and an attempt at a clover was made!)
  5. Bake for 2-3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Recipe 2: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse (for the top of the Pavlova base):
1 ½ cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone 
(don't forget we made this a few months ago - get the printable .pdf HERE)
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)
  1. Put ½ cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.
  2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)
  3. Mix about ¼ of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Chocolate Macadamia Brownies

I was a teenager before I discovered brownies, there being no brownies in our home before then. My parents, my Dad especially, were not big fans of sweets. Eventually though, they met and befriended a baker, who began to bring all sorts of pastry to their mah-jong sessions. There were butterfly pastries, almond stick thingys, uncooked croissants to bake at home, and there were brownies. His brownies were dark, dark chocolate, with crunchy, rich macadamia nuts dotted throughout. Slightly cakey, with a crusty top. And oh so sweet.

It has now been at least a year since I last had a brownie, and that last one wasn't very good. It was uber-dense, which is not a bad thing, but it was also hard as rock... They might as well have called it a cookie.

So, faced with brownie cravings, and a largish gap in the blog, I decided to bake brownies. Chocolate ones with macadamia nuts, just like the ones I remember oh so fondly. The recipe is one I came up with after about an hour of pouring over many, many brownie recipes, and is a happy medium between them. It is mostly done in one bowl (except for measuring), so makes for easy cleanup as well.

Chocolate Macadamia Brownies

150g butter
170g dark chocolate
150g brown sugar
50g caster sugar (optional, if you want it sweeter)
2tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs
90g flour
30g cocoa powder
150g macadamia nuts, halved
Sifted icing sugar, to dust

Pre-heat oven to 160°C. Lightly grease and line a 20cm square tin.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, making sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. When it is smooth and shiny, remove from heat and let cool slightly before adding the sugar and vanilla extract, mixing well with a wooden spoon. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between additions.

Sift in the flour and cocoa powder. Fold in with the wooden spoon. Add the macadamia nuts and fold through. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top, pushing the batter into the corners of the pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until cooked when tested with a skewers (there may be some moist crumbs still sticking to the skewer, but no liquidy batter). Dust lightly with icing sugar and cut into 16 squares.

Note: I used 72% dark, bittersweet chocolate, but feel free to substitute milk chocolate if you prefer.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Vanilla Cupcakes and Royal Icing Flowers

Yes, my new piping tips have arrived. I am thrilled. Not having a cake to decorate on the day that they came, I decided to whip up come royal icing and make sugar drop flowers. The next day, not knowing what to do with a rather large pile of sugar flowers, I baked cupcakes.

I really like cupcakes. Perhaps now more than ever before. I know that they've been gaining popularity for some time now, and so I'm probably a little late in saying this. But I really like cupcakes.

They're the perfect size for a sweet treat that isn't crippling with guilt. The recipes are easy to double or halve as I see fit. They're wonderful for giving away to friends and family. They're very cute. And they're yummy.

The first twelve of mine went into the oven that was accidentally overheated to 220°C, and were promptly forgotten about, so they came out slightly darker than intended with strange, scary, lopsided domes. But my dogs enjoyed them immensely. 

Royal Icing

2 large egg whites
3 cups of icing sugar
1tsp lemon juice (optional)

Beat the eggwhites until frothy (with the lemon juice if using). Gradually add the icing sugar while beating, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl, until the icing is at the consistency you want it. It should barely be able hold a peak if you're using it to ice cookies, or a little stiffer if you're piping decorations. Cover the royal icing when not using as it can dry out very quickly.

For piping flowers, scoop out as you need and colour it as you like. Fill a piping bag fitted with a drop flower tip. Pipe onto baking paper with the pastry tip literally touching the paper. Hold the piping bag at a 90° angle to the surface you're piping on and twist as you squeeze. Lift only when the flower is complete. If you like, you can then go over all your flowers and pipe a center onto all of them.

Vanilla Cupcakes
Makes about 45 mini cupcakes.

100g butter
185g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla bean paste (or the seeds scraped from one vanilla bean)
2 large eggs
200g self raising flour
1/2cup milk

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each. Add the flour and milk in alternate batches and fold in with a spoon.

Spoon mixture into mini cupcake tin lined with paper cupcake cases. Fill them only about half full, as the cake will rise during baking. Bake at 180°C for 10-15 minutes or until cooked (test with skewer) and slightly golden on top.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

90g egg whites (about 3)
160-180g white sugar, depending on how sweet you want it
250g butter, or thereabouts, softened

Boil a small amount of water in a smallish saucepan and turn down to a simmer. Place the egg whites with the sugar in a large bowl and put it on top of the simmering water. Whisk the egg whites and sugar over the heat until the sugar is melted, and the mixture feels smooth when you rub it between your fingers.

Take off the heat, and beat with an electric mixer until soft peaks form and the mixture is cooled. At this stage begin to add the butter, a little at a time, until all of it has been added. Your buttercream may appear to curdle, but keep beating and it will come together.

I piped my cupcakes with a closed star tip and a leaf tip. Feel free to pipe whatever you want onto yours.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Double Chocolate Cookies

My parents, as many of you may have gathered, have a lot of friends. Maybe more than me... One of them is obsessed with my white chocolate macadamia cookies. In fact any time that I bake any cookie, she wants to take a big stack home. Which is fine. I don't mind. Except that they cost me to make! Anything with nuts in it will cost me at about $8-10 to produce (I'm generous with my nuts you see). Anything involving chocolate, and the price shoots up as well. Macarons cost a small fortune to make what with almond meal being so expensive (I've taken to ordering kilo bags of the stuff to cut down the cost).

It turns out that baking is an expensive hobby. Who knew?

So, naturally, I don't like to waste things. Which in turn leads to the creation of these double chocolate cookies.

I had a large bowl of melted chocolate and butter left over from dipping my eclairs into. I thought chocolate cookies might be a good way to use it up. And I was not disappointed. Now excuse me as I go enjoy a cookie with a nutty sort of smile on my face.

Double Chocolate Cookies (adapted from the Donna Hay Chocolate book)
Makes about 35 cookies or so, depending on the size of each.

150g dark chocolate
100g butter
3/4cup brown sugar (tightly packed)
1 egg
1tsp vanilla extract
1cup (150g) plain/all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4cup (30g) cocoa powder, sifted
1tsp baking soda
1 1/2cups dark chocolate chips, or plain dark chocolate, roughly chopped

Melt together the butter and the dark chocolate, until smooth and glossy.

Mix together the sugar, egg and vanilla extract. Add the chocolate and butter mixture, mixing well. Stir in the flour, cocoa and baking soda. Add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.

Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls. Place on baking sheets and flatten slightly, spacing them out to allow for spreading. Bake at 160°C for 10-12 minutes, or until cracks begin to appear on the surface of the cookie. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Butter Cookies

I remember when I was little we'd often go around to my parent's friend's houses for public holidays. There'd always be sumptuous feasts, games (for both kids and adults), hours of TV and Royal Dansk Butter Cookies in a big blue round tin. My parents aren't big on the sweets, so we never bought these cookies ourselves, which only made those at other people's homes extra special. The piped ones always went first. And then the pretzel ones. And then nobody would have any room left for the crappy ones (another reason why we didn't buy any: the tins never get finished). 

It had been a long time since I last had one of these cookies from a tin. And I missed them. So like any food blogger worth her sugar, I baked some. 

They were really good. 

And then my Mother gave them all away. I only had 4! 4!

Oh well...an excuse to make another batch I suppose.

Danish Butter Cookies
125g butter*
45g icing sugar
135g plain/all purpose flour
1tsp vanilla essence
1/2tsp baking powder**

*I always like to use salted butter, simply because I like the hit of saltiness among the sweet, but by all means use unsalted if you prefer.
**The baking powder is optional. Most butter cookie recipes are without it, but I like to give my cookies a bit extra crisp fluffiness.

These have got to be the easiest cookies I've ever made. All done in one bowl, with a hand mixer. Simply cream together the butter and icing sugar until light and creamy. Add the sifted flour and baking powder and mix in. Add the vanilla essence and beat in. And the batter is done!

Line a cookie sheet with baking paper. Spoon everything into a piping bag fitted with a star tip and pipe into circles, or whatever shape you want. I found that the batter was a bit too stiff for piping, so I gave it a couple seconds in the microwave until it was pipable. Take care not to nuke it for more than 5-10 seconds at a time though, or you might end up with a melted butter soup. Bake at 150°C for 12-15 minutes until lightly browned.

Try to refrain from eating all of them withing the hour.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Chocolate Eclairs > à la Masterchef


Remember the coffee eclairs Gary and George made in series 1 of Masterchef Australia? Here they are! My attempt, except with chocolate instead of coffee fondant. I've been thinking about making these eclairs ever since they appeared on TV about a year ago. I don't really know why it's taken me so long, seeing as their actually pretty simple to make. The fiddly bit is putting them together I think.

I did have a couple of issues though. I wanted to have that really glossy dipped fondant topping, but tried to achieve this using marshmallow fondant, which was ok, but wasn't glossy, and tasted overwhelmingly of marshmallow (which Nooboy assured me was still delicious). I quickly switched to chocolate. Also, the first batch I baked came out rather tiny, so I then proceeded to pipe the remaining choux batter without a tip, using the coupler by itself. All in all, not a bad attempt, if I may say so myself.

Chocolate Eclairs (adapted from the Masterchef kitchen)

Choux Pastry
265ml milk
210ml water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
150g butter
265g flour (plain/allpurpose, sifted)
8 large eggs (59g)

For the choux pastry, place the milk, water, sugar, salt and butter into a medium-large saucepan. Bring this mixture to the boil. When the milk is boiling, butter is melted and salt and sugar has dissolved, add the flour. No need to be delicate here, just dump the whole lot in and beat the heck out of it with a wooden spoon. You need to cook this mixture until it is a cohesive, springy 'dough'. You need to wait until the mixture is coming together and away from the sides of the pan when as you mix. The 'dough' will take on a slight gleam on the smooth surfaces as well. 

At this stage, tip it all into a bowl and beat it a little to knock out some of the heat. This step isn't included in all choux recipes, but it makes it less frantic when you start to add the eggs. If you beat some of the heat out of the batter before adding the eggs, they are far less likely to scramble. 

Add the eggs two at a time, beating to incorporate completely before the next addition (here's some arm exercise for you, perfect for working off a little of the calories soon to be consumed). Once all the eggs have been added, piped onto lined baking trays, spacing them out as they will puff up to at least twice their size. I used a non-stick cookie sheet and didn't even bother to line it - they turned out fine. 

Baked in a hot oven preheated to 210-220°C for about ten minutes to puff up then turn the oven down to 180°C to dry a little. This is not really exact, just wait until the eclairs are puffed before turning down the oven. They should have a total oven time of about 20-25 minutes. Try not to open the oven while they are in there, as this can affect the puffing.

Cool completely on wire racks before filling.

Vanilla Cream Filling

600ml whipping cream (35-40% milk fat)
1/3cup icing sugar
1tsp vanilla paste, or the seeds scraped from one vanilla pod (add the leftover pod to a jar of caster sugar to make vanilla sugar)

Whipped the cream with the sugar and vanilla until firm peaks. 

Poke a hole in the end of each cooled eclair with a pastry tip (I, Asian that I am, used a chopstick for this). Pipe the cream into it. You can feel the weight of the cream go through the eclair as you pipe. I found that for a couple of them I had to poke a hole in both ends of the eclair, or use my chopstick or finger to make sure that there were no obstructions in the center cavity in order for the cream to fill the entire eclair. Use whichever method you are comfortable with.

Chocolate Topping

100g chocolate
50g butter
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler until smooth and glossy. Alternatively just give it short bursts in the microwave, stirring each time it comes out, until it reached that smooth consistency. Dip each filled eclair into the chocolate and let set. If you want, pipe something pretty onto it with some melted white chocolate.

The recipe is not actually published in the recipe section of the Masterchef website. However, the video of the making of them can still be found in the video section (Videos > Relive Masterchef Series 1 > Recipes Series 1). I found the video to be quite helpful, especially with showing how much you need to cook the choux before it comes off the stove. The video also shows you how to create the original coffee fondant topping. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chocolate Cup Cakes!

I really love cupcakes. I don't really care about the taste (not much different from normal sized cakes), but they're just so cute! And they're easy to decorate too. You can make them all fancy with buttercream roses, dip them in fondant, add cute little flags, or, if you're not really bothered, they can look incredibly charming with just a dollop of plain old buttercream on top. Also, if you don't want to eat them all (heaven knows why), they're easy to push onto friends and family, especially when kids are involved.

Recently, baking has become my go-to method of procrastination (uni work...pfft), and since I had a big bowl of Swiss meringue buttercream left over from a chocolate cake a couple days ago, I decided to make cupcakes. Chocolate cupcakes :D.

The recipe for the buttercream can be found within the chocolate cake link above. The recipe for the cake itself come from Donna Hay's chocolate book. I love Donna Hay, and this is a great chocolate book. I am, however reluctant to post the recipes here on the blog (copyright and such and such). I apologize, but am sure you understand.


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