Wednesday, August 26, 2009
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.
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!
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
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.
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)
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!