Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jul 30: My First Daring Bakers Challenge

I guess I'm a typical guy who's slow on the uptake and clueless to the obvious.

I enjoy blogs with pretty pictures (e.g. Tastespotting). For the past few months, there were occasional post entitled Daring Baker which I thought was simply someone's tagline. I finally realized it was a group of folks challenging themselves with baking challenges with all the members posting the results the same day. Duh!?!?

Being challenged, learning (and eating) something new, sharing the results with family and friends, I had to give this group a go. :-)

This is my first Daring Baker Challenge. My initial reaction upon seeing the recipe was excitement and fear, "Wow! What have I gotten myself into?" However, as with many large problems or jobs, you break it down into smaller easier to manage tasks to help accomplish the larger job. After reading through the recipe many, many times, I realized it was just a bunch of smaller recipes making the whole cake, so my fears eased.

Using the oven is nothing new to me, I bake breads, roast vegetables and meat. However, making a cake plus frosting from scratch is something new to me.

***** Start of Recipe *****
The July Challenge Recipe
Recipe provided by Daring Baker Mele Cotte

Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
From Great Cakes by Carol Walter

1 Filbert Genoise
1 recipe sugar syrup, flavored with dark rum
1 recipe Praline Buttercream
½ cup heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 recipe Apricot Glaze
1 recipe Ganache Glaze, prepared just before using
3 tablespoons filberts, toasted and coarsely chopped

Filbert Genoise

Because of the amount of nuts in the recipe, this preparation is different from a classic genoise.

1 ½ cups hazelnuts, toasted/skinned
2/3 cup cake flour, unsifted
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
7 large egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided ¼ & ¾ cups
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. grated lemon rind
5 lg. egg whites
¼ cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)

Position rack in the lower 3rd of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.

Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.

Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, and beat until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes on med-high speed. Slowly, add ¾ cup of sugar. It is best to do so by adding a tablespoon at a time, taking about 3 minutes for this step. When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Remove and set aside.

Place egg whites in a large, clean bowl of the electric mixer with the whisk attachment and beat on medium speed, until soft peaks. Increase to med-high speed and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup of sugar, over 15-20 seconds or so. Continue to beat for another ½ minute.
Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.

Pour the warm butter in a liquid measure cup (or a spouted container). * It must be a deep bottom bowl and work must be fast.* Put the nut meal in a mesh strainer (or use your hand – working quickly) and sprinkle it in about 2 tablespoons at a time – folding it carefully for about 40 folds. Be sure to exclude any large chunks/pieces of nuts. Again, work quickly and carefully as to not deflate the mixture. When all but about 2 Tbsp. of nut meal remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Then, with the remaining nut meal, fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 or so folds.

With a rubber spatula, transfer the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the surface with the spatula or back of a spoon. **If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter! It will impede the cake rising while baking.

Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Invert onto a cake rack sprayed with nonstick coating, removing the pan. Cook the cake completely.

*If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a plastic bag, then in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil, then the bag and use within 2-3 months.

Sugar Syrup
Makes 1 cup, good for one 10-inch cake – split into 3 layers

1 cup water
¼ cup sugar
2 Tbsp. dark rum or orange flavored liqueur

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. *Can be made in advance.

Praline Buttercream
1 recipe Swiss Buttercream
1/3 cup praline paste
1 ½ - 2 Tbsp. Jamaican rum (optional)

Blend ½ cup buttercream into the paste, then add to the remaining buttercream. Whip briefly on med-low speed to combine. Blend in rum.

Swiss Buttercream
4 lg. egg whites
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 ½ -2 Tbsp. Grand Marnier or liqueur of your choice
1 tsp. vanilla

Place the egg whites in a lg/ bowl of a electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Then, whisk in the sugar by adding 1-2 tablespoon of sugar at a time over a minutes time. Continue beating 2-3 minutes or until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Remove from pan and with either the paddle or whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and sugar on med-high until its a thick, cool meringue – about 5-7 minutes. *Do not overbeat*. Set aside.

Place the butter in a separate clean mixing bowl and, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed for 40-60 seconds, or until smooth and creamy. *Do not overbeat or the butter will become toooooo soft.*

On med-low speed, blend the meringue into the butter, about 1-2 Tbsp. at a time, over 1 minute. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.

Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before using.

Storing: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or can be frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in 2 16-oz. plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.

Praline Paste
1 cup (4 ½ oz.) Hazelnuts, toasted/skinless
2/3 cup Sugar
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment and lightly butter.

Put the sugar in a heavy 10-inch skillet. Heat on low flame for about 10-20 min until the sugar melts around the edges. Do not stir the sugar. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals. If the sugar in the center does not melt, stir briefly. When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble. **Remember – extremely hot mixture.** Then onto the parchment lined sheet and spread as evenly as possible. As it cools, it will harden into brittle. Break the candied nuts into pieces and place them in the food processor. Pulse into a medium-fine crunch or process until the brittle turns into a powder. To make paste, process for several minutes. Store in an airtight container and store
in a cook dry place. Do not refrigerate.

Apricot Glaze
Good for one 10-inch cake

2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
1 Tbsp. water

In a small, yet heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed.

Remove from heat and, using a strainer, press the mixture through the mesh and discard any remnants. With a pastry brush, apply the glaze onto the cake while the cake is still warm. If the glaze is too thick, thin to a preferred consistency with drops of water.

Ganache Glaze
Makes about 1 cup, enough to cover the top and sides of a 9 or 10 inch layer or tube cake

**Ganache can take on many forms. While warm – great fudge sauce. While cool or lukewarm – semisweet glaze. Slightly chilled – can be whipped into a filling/frosting. Cold & solid – the base of candied chocolate truffles.

6 oz. (good) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, like Lindt
6 oz. (¾ cup heavy cream
1 tbsp. light corn syrup
1 Tbsp. Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or dark Jamaican rum (optional)
¾ tsp. vanilla
½ - 1 tsp. hot water, if needed

Blend vanilla and liqueur/rum together and set aside.

Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the basket of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer into a medium sized bowl and set aside.

Heat the cream and corn syrup in a saucepan, on low, until it reached a gentle boil. Once to the gently boil, immediately and carefully pour over the chocolate. Leave it alone for one minute, then slowly stir and mix the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Carefully blend in vanilla mixture. If the surface seems oily, add ½ - 1 tsp hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes, but make sure it doesn’t get too cold!

Assembling Cake

Cut a cardboard disk slightly smaller than the cake. Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top-side down on the disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 Tbsp. of warm sugar syrup. Measure out 1 cup of praline buttercream and set aside.

Spread the bottom layer with a ¼-inch thickness of the remaining buttercream. Cover with ½ of the whipped cream, leaving ¼-inch border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, spreading with buttercream. Cover with the remaining whipped cream.

Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently, press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate to chill for at least 30 minutes.

Lift the cake by sliding your palm under the cardboard. Holding a serrated or very sharp night with an 8-inch blade held parallel to the sides of the cake, trim the sides so that they are perfectly straight. Cut a slight bevel at the top to help the glaze drip over the edge. Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze, sealing the cut areas completely. Chill while you prepare the ganache.

Place a rack over a large shallow pan to catch the ganache drippings. Remove the gateau from the refrigerator and put it the rack. With a metal spatula in hand, and holding the saucepan about 10 inches above the cake, pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move the spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the ganache has been poured and is coating the cake, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before setting starts.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top after the “bang”. Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.

To garnish the cake, fit a 12 – 14-inch pastry bag with a #114 large leaf tip. Fill the bag with the reserved praline cream. Stating ½ inch from the outer edge of the cake, position the pastry tube at a 90 degree angle with the top almost touching the top of the cake. Apply pressure to the pastry bag, moving it slightly toward the center of the cake. As the buttercream flows on the cake, reverse the movement backward toward the edge of the cake and finish by pulling the bag again to the center. Stop applying pressure and press the bag downward, then quickly pull the tip up to break the flow of frosting. Repeat, making 12 leaves evenly spaced around the surface of the cake.

Make a second row of leaves on the top of the first row, moving the pastry bag about ¾ inch closer to the center. The leaves should overlap. Make a 3rd row, moving closer and closer to the center. Add a 4th row if you have the room. But, leave a 2-inch space in the center for a chopped filbert garnish. Refrigerate uncovered for 3-4 hours to allow the cake to set. Remove the cake from the refrigerator at least 3 hours before serving.

Leftover cake can be covered with foil and kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
***** End of Recipe *****

Photos of my little adventure. :-)

Swiss Buttercream - beating the sugar into the egg whites over a double boiler. I thought buttercream was just butter and sugar, but this is a fancy buttercream using egg whites! lol...

After the sugar is incorporated and the egg whites reached the goal temperature, 120F - based upon my calibrated pinkie finger. :-)

The egg whites were taken off the heat and whipped to a thick meringue.
(Not shown is the incorporation of the butter and liqueur to complete the Swiss buttercream).
Completed Swiss buttercream - before the addition of the praline (hazelnut brittle) paste.

Making the Cake
Blending the egg yolks and sugar.

The egg yolk -sugar mixture after a few minutes of blending. Note the color change. Also, I stopped at what I thought was the ribbon stage. However, looking at photos of the ribbon stage, I'm probably 30 seconds to 1 minute away from a true ribbon. However, this didn't seem to effect the final results.

Since this cake does not use baking powder or baking soda as a leavening, egg whites whipped to soft peaks is used to give the cake some leavening.

Whew! I've made it this far! Hopefully, I didn't deflate the cake too much when I combined the egg whites and the batter, plus finishing with the addition of clarified butter. Off to a 350F oven for 30 minutes.

While the cake is baking... time to clean up.
Initially, I started this day with the intention of just skinning the hazelnuts. Even though, the forecast was for high-70's to low-80's, making it warmer inside I continued on making the full recipe.

Recipe at my side I continued beyond skinning the filberts.

Of course, being a guy, I have to use every gadget I can find.

Also, being a guy, I'm not familiar with the phrase, "Cleaning up as you go." Huh?

The cake was cooled inverted on a wire rack. (Note the grid pattern on the image.)
The height was about 1.5". I'm supposed to make get three layers out of this cake?
Toothpicks, a tape measure and a serrated knife were used to slice the cake into approximately 3 even layers.

Between the layers is praline buttercream and whipped cream.
I trimmed the sides to square off sides.

To seal the cake, for the ganache, a coating of apricot glaze was applied. I wasn't sure how thick of a coating so I went heavy. Afterwards, into the refrigerator for 30 minutes and more "cleaning as I go".

After 30 mintues, the cake was coated with warm ganache.
For the ganache, I used good ol' Nestles semi-sweet chocolate chips.
I think I let the ganache cool a little to much or I kept working it since the coating wasn't perfectly slick. Back to the refrigerator again to allow the chocolate set.

More cleaning as I go.

The chocolate covered ganache cake reminded me of a Hostess Ding Dong. lol :-)

Finally, after spending a long time in the kitchen, the end is in sight.
Frosting the cake. I had a difficult time finding the #114 leaf tip so I used what I had/what I could find.

The final product (of course, I had to use the big photo):
Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream

A top view of the frosting. (I need to work piping straight lines that go through the center of the cake. Somehow I ended up off center. lol!)

A slice of cake.

Overall, the cake tasted very good! It wasn't overly sweet and not too boozy. I'm not used to using liqueur so I was worried that the liqueur would overpower. The hazelnut buttercream was very good.

The texture was slightly gritty (to me), but I'm not familiar with using ground nuts in my batter. Also, I was screening the nut-flour mixture into the batter when I came to the last bits which was mostly sand grain sized bits of hazelnuts, about 1 or 2 tablespoons. After all the time skinning the nuts by hand, heck no, I'm not about to thrown any of the nut mixture away so I just added it all to the batter. I should have used the coffee grinder for that last bit... just to pulverize it some more and use another kitchen gadget.

As I mentioned earlier, I originally planned a hazelnut skinning experiment, but ended up completing the full challenge.

Time spent to complete the full recipe, including the hazelnut skinning experiment... 11 hours, but I am now a (slow) Daring Baker. :-) Cheers!

The Daring Baker Blogroll


Anonymous said...

Hi and great job on your 1st DB challenge. Looked like you had a blast with the cake and your kitchen as well!

Olga said...

This was my 1st challenge too! And I'm glad my kitchen was not the only one that looked like a total mess.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your first DB challenge! I love your step by step photos. I had to laugh when I saw the pic of your kitchen. Mine looked exactly the same! LOL!

Anonymous said...

Looks really terrific!

Barbara Bakes said...

Nice pics! Congrats on completing your first challenge.

Mama Mia said...

wow you did such an amazing job on your first challenge! This was actually my 2nd challenge, and boy was it challenging. hahah I laughed because I totally thought it looked like a ding dong at first too! :)

Dawn said...

Congratulations on completing your first challenge. Your cake turned out great!

Ruth said...

Great job your cake looks great!! I love reading your blog. 1st challenge down welcome to the group!!

Angie said...

HEY!! Your kitchen looked just like mine - LOL!! Great job on your 1st challenge!

Unknown said...

Your cake turned out great, love the way the layers look! Congrats on your 1st challenge!

Christina said...

LOL, great job! I love the comparison between your gateau and a Hostess snack cake!

Welcome to the Daring Bakers!

Christina ~ She Runs, She Eats

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...


I did the DB challenge for the very first time too! It was a big task but I think we both did pretty good! :-)

You cake looks wonderful!

Looking forward to AugustDB assignmnet :-)

Julie said...

Eleven hours is a long time to spend on a giant ding dong, but it does look fabulous! ;) I like that it's off center, too--it sort of gives it movement! =D Wonderful job!

Helene said...

Welcome to the DB! Great job on your challenge! I think we should start a gallery of kitchen pics after we complete the challenges!!

Lunch Buckets said...

What in the hell were you doing in my kitchen??? OH - and welcome to the group :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, John! Nice work with pictures and what an amazing cake!

Anonymous said...

Wooooow! You did unbelievably good, specially for being a first challenge (that makes two of us!)
Your cake looks awesome and the step by tep pictures are great.
Haha... it also took me quite a while to realize what DB was!

Christy said...

Wow, for your first challenge this is amazing!! Love the way you decorate the cake too!

Anonymous said...

As I guy, we must share the kitchen gadget thing in common. My kitchen looked much like yours. Nice looking cake, I like the decoration - score another one for the male DBer's. Thanks for stopping by my site.

Anonymous said...

The cake looks good John. I liked your piping too. Its quite good. Both of us can do with some more practice:).

silverrock said...

Wow! Your cake looks delicious. I love your step-by-step pics, especially the one with the Ding Dong box in the background... h-i-larious! Congrats on completing your first DB challenge... we're lucky to have you :)

Dana said...

This was a tough recipe for baking one's first cake, but you did a great job!

nikkita said...

Beautiful, simply beautiful. I wish my praline buttercream layers were as perfect as yours!

Lauren said...

Mmm your cake looks so nice. I love the decoration! Great first challenge!

Libby said...

That looks awesome! Your frosting is really cute... how did you not eat it right away? I couldn't stop from tasting mine. :)


Anonymous said...

Welcome to the Daring Bakers! Well done!

Anonymous said...

Your cake turned out beautiful! It was my first challenge too and it felt so good to complete it! Love your food photography.