Sunday, June 27, 2010

Daring Baker's Challenge: Chocolate Pavlovas with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

I've always wanted to make a chocolate pavlova so this month's Daring Baker's Challenge was music to my ears. The recipe called for chocolate meringues topped with a mascarpone chocolate mousse and finished with a creme anglaise sauce, however I vetoed the sauce and instead opted to top my pavlovas with some fresh raspberries. Half the joy of a pavlova is the contrast between the sweet meringe, rich cream and tart fruit to finish it off so a fruitless pavlova was unthinkable.

The recipe also instructed baking the meringues until they were dried out and crumbly which to an Australian is a complete pavlova sin! So mine were crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle. The chewiness was a surprise, I expected a soft marshmallow texture but I think the addition of cocoa to the batter threw a spanner in the works.

Still, delicious all the same. I loved the end result and I'd definitely make chocolate pavlovas again. The recipe for the chocolate mascarpone mousse was particularly good and is available now on the Daring Kitchen website.

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

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A MasterChef Birthday

When Rahul and I were invited to Kiara's MasterChef birthday party we were happy, but when Rahul was asked to pose as guest judge Matt Preston for the event we were beyond excited. It was also a fantastic opportunity to practice my cake decorating skills so I volunteered to be the official birthday cake baker. With pleasing results I think. Kiara doesn't like chocolate so rather than following the usual Planet Cake method of chocolate mud plus chocolate ganache under the fondant I decided to make a vanilla sponge with vanilla buttercream. I was apprehensive initially having read many sad accounts of buttercream gone wrong, but I found that it worked beautifully and it was much easier than I anticipated to get the 'Planet Cake sharp edges.' I wouldn't try it in summer though as it would probably melt off the cake into a buttery puddle.

Kiara is six years old and a keen MasterChef viewer, hence the MasterChef birthday theme. Ajit, her dad, even stole a MasterChef sign from Redfern Coles, social rebel that he is! The thirty (!!) guests were split into red and blue teams, given gorgeous striped aprons sewn by Kiara's clever mum Shy, and each team made an entree (fruit kebabs), a main (pizza) and a dessert (cupcake decorating.)

The parents were competitive, resulting in pirate ships constructed from fruit kebabs. But when it came to the cupcakes the kids refused parental interference and really came into their own. They had evidently never heard of the motto 'more is less'.

Matt Preston was ever present, chatting to the kids (or should I say contestants) and tasting their creations. Frankly this was brave because some of the creations were a bit alarming.

Kids apparently love to make pizza faces.

They also like to poke their fingers into pretty cakes. By the time the cake was ready to be eaten it looked positively dimpled.

What a party! After two hours we were exhausted. And Matt Preston's scalp was overheated underneath his lovely wig. Good times.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

chocolate cinnamon babka

I am a total weakling when it comes to kneading. So when I received my KitchenAid in all it's glory and with a dough hook attachment I decided it was time to have a go at making some yeast baked goods. I've seen babka tackled on many blogs so it was first on my hit list. I figured inadequate brioche would be redeemed by swirls of chocolate and cinnamon. (This proved strangely prophetic because as it turns out I need a
lot more practice with yeast based baking! The babka did not rise as well as I'd hoped, nor was it as light as it should have been. Still very edible though, especially toasted.)

Chocolate Cinnamon Babka
(Recipe courtesy of Cooking Light)

Ingredients for dough

1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
3/4 cup warm 1% low-fat milk (105° to 110°)
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
7.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 2/3 cups), divided
5.85 ounces bread flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
5 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces and softened
Cooking spray

Ingredients for Filling

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Ingredients for streusel

2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter, softened


Dissolve 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and yeast in warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in 6 tablespoons granulated sugar, vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and egg yolk. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 6 ounces (about 1 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour and bread flour to milk mixture; beat with dough hook attachment at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes). Add 5 tablespoons butter, beating until well blended. Scrape dough out onto a floured surface (dough will be very sticky). Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add 1.5 ounces (about 1/3 cup) all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will be very soft).

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let dough rest 5 minutes.

Line the bottom of a 9 x 5?inch loaf pan with parchment paper; coat sides of pan with cooking spray.

To prepare filling, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, and chocolate in a medium bowl; set aside.

Place dough on a generously floured surface; roll dough out into a 16-inch square.

Sprinkle filling over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Roll up dough tightly, jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam and ends to seal. Holding dough by ends, twist dough 4 times as if wringing out a towel. Fit dough into prepared pan.
Cover and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled in size*.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

To prepare streusel, combine powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, and 1 tablespoon softened butter, stirring with a fork until mixture is crumbly; sprinkle streusel evenly over dough. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until loaf is browned on bottom and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool bread in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool bread completely on wire rack before slicing.

* Oh my God. I just realised why my babka didn't rise as beautifully as I'd hoped. I DIDN'T LET IT RISE AFTER I ROLLED IT. It just went straight in the oven. Thank goodness for this blog and it's ability to help me engage in reflective practice about my baking.