Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August Daring Baker's Challenge-- Dobos Torte

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.

When I printed out the recipe, I sat down with a cup of tea and read through it carefully. "Sounds harmless", I thought to myself. Not really any crazy ingredients that needed to be mail-ordered from another region or country... nothing that needed to be made with a special piece of equipment that I didn't have (nor could afford to buy)... nothing that needed to be made days in advance to allow for proper consistency/temperature/rising/setting and/or fermenting. It was just a nice simple recipe that would be a bit putzy at worst. Putzy recipes have never fazed me. I find putzy to be relaxing.

I chose a nice, cozy, chilly rainy day to dig into this month's challenge. Who doesn't love to bake in those weather conditions? Apparently that was my mistake.

I scanned the recipe one last time before preheating the oven to 400° and figured that the suggested 20 minutes prep time would be about right for me. It didn't seem that difficult. I got the parchment paper cut, the egg yolks, sugar and vanilla going in one bowl while the egg whites and sugar was going in another bowl and then I heard it; the distinguishable sound of the tornado sirens.

I turned the oven off and corralled the children (not necessarily in that order) down into the basement and we sat for about 20 minutes (geared with a weather radio, flashlight and snacks), waiting until the sirens stopped. Back up the stairs we went. I turned the oven back on to 400°.

With that, I heard the sound again; tornado sirens. Off went the oven and down to the basement went the children. I turned the TV on to watch the weather warnings. Tornado's were popping up in several locations but were not able to be tracked easily since it had been down pouring all day long (and cool temperatures- not exactly tornado weather). There was one tornado that had touched down in Minneapolis and was heading directly north-- towards my area.

About another hour passed, while my sponge cake batter sat patiently on the counter, until we were finally able to come back up. I turned the oven on to 400° once again, set out my parchment paper and prepared to begin the task of spreading the batter onto the circles. You'll never guess what happened.

The sirens.

This was not relaxing.

I eventually was able to make the sponge cakes (and fortunately missed the tornado that took off the rooftop of the elementary school about 10 miles from here), but it most certainly took longer than the suggested 20 minutes prep, 40 minutes baking time. *giggle*

By the time I completed the challenge, it was dark. A time lapse of approximately 11 hours had occured. Fortunately, the actual recipe went by without a hitch, sans weather problems. The cakes were delicious; tasted like a "Chinese cracker" to my son. I think he means a Fortune Cookie; in which he is right! The frosting was rich, velvety and perfected.

I didn't care at all for the lemon in the caramel. I know I would have loved those top pieces had there not been the citrus twang to it. Instead, I set those pieces aside while eating the other components of this tasty treat! Also, I used almonds instead of hazelnuts (and semi-sweet chocolate instead of dark).

Finally... here is the recipe and my results! Be sure to check your weather forecast before attempting to bake it!

Prep times

Sponge layers 20 mins prep, 40 mins cooking total if baking each layer individually.
Buttercream: 20 mins cooking. Cooling time for buttercream: about 1 hour plus 10 minutes after this to beat and divide.
Caramel layer: 10-15 minutes.
Assembly of whole cake: 20 minutes

Sponge cake layers
6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour (substitute 1 cup plain flour + 2 tbsp cornstarch sifted together)
pinch of salt

Chocolate Buttercream
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup caster (ultra fine or superfine white) sugar
4oz bakers chocolate or your favorite dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Caramel topping
1 cup caster (superfine or ultra fine white) sugar
12 tablespoons water
8 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grape seed, rice bran, sunflower)

Finishing touches
a 7” cardboard round
12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
½ cup peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions for the sponge layers:

The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.

1. Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F

2. Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" springform tin as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.)

3. Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup of the confectioner's sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)

4. In another bowl, using clean beaters beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup of confectioner's (icing) sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, and then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.

5. Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1. Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.

3. Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.

4. Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.

5. When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Directions for the caramel topping:

1. Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.

2. Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-colored caramel.

3. The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have an oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate.

Using the offset spatula quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cuttings), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Angela's note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

Assembling the Dobos

1. Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.

2. Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.

3. Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.

4. Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern.

If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavor.

Be sure to check out the blog roll to see other Daring Baker's Creations!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hot Fudge Cake.... Brownie Pudding

This is one of my all-time favorite desserts from childhood. My mom made it quite often and she and I were recently even talking about it and the ease of this recipe. Tonight I realized that I don't even have her actual recipe, but I had ripped this one out of the pages of a magazine and had it tucked in my recipe cupboard. It tasted like my moms, so I'll be eager to see how it compares to her recipe!


1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons baking cocoa, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup brown sugar
1-3/4 cups hot water
Whipped Cream or ice cream (optional)


In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa, baking powder and salt.

Stir in milk, oil and vanilla until smooth.

Spread in an ungreased 9-in. square baking pan.

Combine brown sugar and remaining cocoa; sprinkle over batter.

Pour hot water over all; do not stir.

Bake at 350° for 35-40 minutes. Serve warm. Top with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Homemade Butter

Oh. My. Stars. I may never buy butter again. You will never taste a more creamy, perfect tasting pure butter than this. Okay, I will probably keep buying butter because I'll be frank-- it was a lot of work to make this butter. It looks easy when reading it; you just pour the cream into a jar and shake. But you have to shake it for 20 minutes. My arms are now numb.

I stumbled upon the recipe here and instantly got up and went to my fridge and grabbed some heavy whipping cream and a jar and shook for 25 minutes while watching America's Got Talent (they think they have talent? I don't see anyone whipping up their own butter on that show!). Thank goodness I had something to watch while I shook and shook and shook and shook and shook and shook and shook and shook, because that would have been a loooong 20-25 minutes! And just a hint... when you feel your tooshie cheeks shaking and jiggling, you know you are shaking it hard enough!



1. Fill about half of a large mason jar or other sealed container with heavy whipping cream and then tightly close the lid.

2. After sealing the container, shake it for 10 to 20 minutes (mine took 20-25 minutes). You'll notice that the cream accumulates bubbles and gradually becomes less viscous. The cream will separate into a ball of butter and thin buttermilk, at which point the contents of the jar will be easy to shake back and forth again (this was at about 23 minutes for me...I thought it would never happen!)

3. Once the butter clump forms, you will see it separate from the buttermilk.

Strain the buttermilk into another sealed container for a yummy baked treat of your choice later.

4. Add salt to the butter as desired and refrigerate the buttermilk. Buttermilk left in with the butter will cause the butter to go rancid quickly, so pat dry the butter, within reason. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Easy Cinnamon Twists

My husband can't stop eating these. He literally stands over the sink eating 3 at a time; and wanting to eat a fourth (and by the looks of the container I am storing them in, it looks as if he took that fourth fifth twist after I went up to bed last night). My children are following in his footsteps and have already asked for another one as soon as they woke up this morning. I have a feeling this may be a recipe that is made regularly around here. Try it... and you'll see why.


1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 sheets (1 package) Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry
1/2 cup sliced almonds (optional)
powdered sugar


Mix together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons of the butter until thoroughly combined.

Roll out the puff pastry sheets on a floured work surface from a 10 x 10 inch square into a 14 x 10 inch rectangle. (You only need to roll in one direction)

(mine are speckled brown because I used whole wheat flour)

Brush each lightly with one tablespoon of butter.

Evenly distribute the cinnamon sugar mixture over the rectangles as well as the almonds, if using.

Fold the rectangles into thirds, crosswise, and roll again into 10 x 6 rectangles. (Again, you just have to roll gently in one direction)

Pinch the seams together, and place both slabs in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to rest.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Cut each slab of dough crosswise evenly into 8 pieces.

Twist each piece taking care not to stretch the dough too much, and place onto parchment lined sheet pans 2 inches a part.

Bake for 16-18 minutes until they become a firm and have a deep golden hue. Remove after letting cool, and break off any pieces of melted sugar that are stuck around the twists. (I removed mine right away so that the yummy melted sugar that oozed out didn't harden onto the pretty twists)

Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Beer Can Chicken

This is one of my husbands favorite chicken recipes. For Father's Day, I purchased him a "beer can chicken stand" that makes the preparation of this meal so much easier! You can still make it even without the neat little gadget. I've only ever made this with a gas grill so you may have to adjust the grilling time accordingly if you use a charcoal grill.


1 whole chicken
1 can of beer (with about 1/4 of the can poured out (into your mouth or the drain... you choose)
2 tbsp Paprika
1 ½ tsp. Dark Brown Sugar
1 ½ tsp. Sugar
1 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
½ tsp. Celery Salt
½ tsp Ground Pepper
½ tsp Garlic Powder
½ tsp Onion Powder
½ tsp Dry Mustard


1. Wash your chicken.

2. Mix all ingredients except the chicken and the beer (You may store the rub in an airtight container for up to six months. Make sure to shake the rub thoroughly before using.)

3. Dry your chicken and then coat the chicken with the spice mixture. I usually peel back the skin and rub some on the under side of the skin, too. If the skin rips, just use a toothpick to sew it back together before grilling (notice mine in my picture).

4. Empty about 1/4 of the beer from the can. Place the cavity of the chicken over the beer can and adjust the chickie's legs so that it is standing like a tripod.

Here is the little beer holder for the chicken, but you can just use a plain ole can, too! It's just a little more tippy that way.

* I usually shove a potato (with holes poked in it) or an onion (without holes poked in it) on the top of the chicken to cover the..... gulp...... neck hole (seriously, is it any wonder I'm a vegetarian?). That way, the insides get nice and steamed.

5. Preheat your grill. (you probably could have did this before preparing the chicken)

6. You will not want to place the chicken directly on the grill grates; I usually make a little platter with aluminum foil and roll up the sides to keep all juices in (notice my picture.

7. Place your aluminum foil on the preheated grill and then place the chicken on that.

8. Be sure the wings are tucked up and in so that they don't burn easily.

Poor guy... it looks like he's saying "Hey! What's the big idea!"

9. Grill for one and a half to two hours, on indirect heat. My grill is usually hovering around 400-450 as it cooks. I check it every 30 minutes to make sure it's not burning or to make sure the liquid hasn't spilled over from the aluminum foil tray. Be sure to test it with a thermometer and don't pull it until it reaches 180°F.

10. Getting it off the grill is tricky! Have a platter nearby; I usually just have oven mitts on and grab the entire thing and place it on the platter and carry it in. I also just carve it with a knife straight from the position it's in.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Microwave Caramel Popcorn

One of my first jobs was at KarmelKorn when I was 16 years old. It was the perfect mall-job for a teenager; allowing us to eat and drink as much as we wanted while working. Often times we traded food with other food shops in the mall. Treats from my store was the most sought after.

Working there allowed me to learn the secret ingredient in caramel popcorn. Okay, okay... there is no secret ingredient... but it sounded good, didn't it? Maybe no secret ingredient is the secret! The recipe that follows use the same ingredients that we used at KarmelKorn, just in a different ratio. Oh, and we didn't use a microwave and a brown paper bag; we used a huge copper kettle!

The rich buttery flavor of this easy-to-make caramel popcorn is outstanding and will leave you reaching for more.


4 quarts popped popcorn
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
paper grocery bag


Place the popped popcorn into a large brown paper bag. Set aside.

In a 2 quart casserole dish, or other heat-proof glass dish, combine the brown sugar, margarine, corn syrup, salt and vanilla. Heat for 3 minutes in the microwave, then take out and stir until well blended.

Return to the microwave, and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from microwave, and stir in the baking soda. It will get lighter in color and sort of foamy and fluffy.

Pour syrup over the popcorn in the bag. Roll down the top once or twice to close the bag, and shake to coat the corn. Place bag into the microwave, and cook for 1 minute and 10 seconds. Remove, shake, flip the bag over, and return it to the microwave.

Cook for another 1 minute and 10 seconds. Dump the popcorn out onto waxed paper, and let cool until coating is set. Store in an airtight container. *You could also add a few cups of peanuts in with the popped popcorn to have Caramel Nut Popcorn*

Monday, August 3, 2009

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

I almost didn't put these on my blog because I thought they came out ugly due to the cracks and I didn't love the taste of them. They were a too dry and crunchy for my liking. My husband ended up loving them and standing there popping one in his mouth after another, so I figured there may be others out there that love dry, crunchy cookies as much as he does, hehe.

Cookie dough:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/4teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2oz semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used milk chocolate)
1 teaspoon light corn syrup

Preheat the oven to 350ºF; line two baking sheets with baking paper.

Start by making the dough:
in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Beat in flour, beginning on low speed and increasing to medium high, until a dough forms – it won’t be sticky.

Roll dough by teaspoonfuls into balls, and place 1in apart onto prepared sheets.

Bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven, and press thumb (I used the bottom of a measuring spoon) into tops of cookies to make indentations. Return to oven, and bake until light brown on the edges, 7 to 9 minutes more.

Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Make the filling:
combine chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a small heatproof bowl. Set over a pot of simmering water; stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Allow to cool slightly.

When cookies are cool, fill the thumbprints with the chocolate mixture.

Makes 2 dozen