I am happy to announce that as of February 2009, I am a member of an incredible online baking community called "Daring Bakers". The Daring Bakers was born in 2006, when a couple of bloggers decided to bake pretzels using the same recipe and then post about it. Since then, the group has grown and grown again, but the premises are the same: each month, a recipe is presented that all participants have to follow exactly, except for specifically allowed alterations. On a given day at the end of the month, the Daring Bakers post their experiences, photos and thoughts of the challenge. It's a great opportunity to challenge yourself and try recipes that you otherwise would not have chosen, and to get to know loads of wonderful bakers and food bloggers from all over the world. You can see the blogroll here.
So, the challenge this month:
The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker and Chef. We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.The Chocolate Valentino is a flourless chocolate cake created by Malaysia's "most flamboyant food ambassador" Chef Wan. The recipe comes from his book "Sweet Treats", and contains three simple ingredients: chocolate, eggs and butter. We were given a totally free choice on what type of chocolate to use. It was said that the finished cake would taste exactly like the chocolate used - I will get back to that statement in a little while. I decided to go local (or at least national) and use Swedish Marabou milk chocolate. A lot of people get Sweden and Switzerland mixed up and say "oh, Sweden, that's where you have the cuckoo clocks and the chocolate, right?". Well, cuckoo clocks not so much, but chocolate - yes, we do have good chocolate in Sweden.
The other part of the challenge was to make our own ice cream - a first for the Daring Bakers. But not for me; I got an ice cream maker for my birthday a few years ago, and it has not been sitting unused in a cupboard since. So the challenge for me was not to make the actual ice cream, but to find a flavour that would go well with my chosen type of chocolate. We were given two different vanilla ice cream recipes, but we didn't have to use them and could go with other flavours than vanilla. After much thinking about what flavours go well with milk chooclate, I decided to make a caramel (burnt sugar) ice cream, using a recipe from our go-to-guy when it comes to anything pastry related: Jan Hedh. The idea was to play on the flavours of another Swedish candy, Dumle, which is a milk chocolate covered caramel toffee.
Now, the orginal recipe for the flourless chocolate cake is as follows:
Chocolate ValentinoI halved the recipe and decided to make individual cakes in muffin cups rather than to make one big cake (to make it a true Valentino it should be heart shaped but I don't have a heart shaped pan, so...). From the halved recipe I got 7 small individual cakes.
(from Sweet Treats by Chef Wan)
16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated
1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling: Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter.
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.
The only mistake we (Markus and I did this together) made was to whip the egg whites too early. I was on chocolate and butter melting duty while Markus was taking care of the eggs. When he had whipped the egg whites perfectly, the chocolate hadn't started to melt yet. Stiffly whipped egg whites does not hold their shape forever, so we were a bit worried about this, since we also had to let the chocolate cool a bit before adding the eggs. That's what you get for trying to be efficient, people! When we finally folded in the egg whites, the mixture got really grainy and had a weird consistency, so we were a bit worried about the end result and that the cake would get too dry. Other than that, everything was very straight-forward and easy.
We didn't use a thermometer but instead just set a timer to 20 minutes (our oven is a bit unreliable at times). When we got them out, the cakes that had been to the front in the oven were clearly done, while the ones in the back still looked too pale and undercooked. I chucked those back in the oven, went back to the computer and....... gaah, I totally forgot the cakes! Luckily, only about seven minutes had passed and they didn't look burnt at all, so, phew! I didn't notice any difference in taste between the 20-minute cakes and the 27-minute cakes so this seems to be a very forgiving recipe.
We let them cool for a while (they do sink quite a bit while cooling), got the caramel ice cream out of the freezer (don't worry, I'll give you the recipe below!) and plated. A small cake, a chunk of ice cream on top, a Dumle candy to decorate and then, to add a bit of tartness to complement all the sweet flavours, we sprinkled a few frozen lingonberries on the plate - lingonberries and caramel is a great flavour combo!
I said above that it was stated in the challenge that the cake would taste exactly like the chocolate used. We didn't find that to be the case at all. The cake tasted much more stronger and intense than milk chocolate does - as if baking had removed the mildness and milkyness and left a much more concentrated chocolate taste. We weren't saddened by this at all - it was still delicious and I am definitely making this again, and trying it out with different kinds of chocolate. Lindt has a Fleur de Sel chocolate that I love and I am very tempted to try that in this cake. The cake was fudgy and moist and it tasted even better the next day, and still good the day after that (I kept them in a well-sealed plastic bag in my pantry). Then the seven small cupcakes were gone!
This recipe is a keeper! Thanks Wendy and Dharm for a very tasty challenge!
Here's the caramel ice cream recipe. It comes from Jan Hedh's book Desserter (Deserts).
Time: 2 days
2 g gelatin (~1 leaf)
1/4 vanilla pod
2 ½ dl heavy cream
2 ½ dl milk
125 g sugar
120 g egg yolks (~6)
25 g honey
Soak the gelatin in cold water for 10 minutes.
Slice the vanilla pod open, scrape out the seeds and put them in a sauce pan with cream, milk and the opened vanilla pod. Bring to a boil.
Melt the sugar until it has a golden brown color. Get the vanilla pods out of the cream mixture and pour it over the caramel (be careful, there will be a lot of smoke and bubbles). Stir until the caramel has melted completely.
Whip the egg yolks light and airy together with the honey. Add them to the caramel cream mixture.
Stirring instantly, let the mixture reach 85 degrees C. If you don't have a thermometer, do the "rose test": dip a wooden spoon in the mixture. lift it up and blow at the mixture on the back of the spoon. When a rose-like pattern is formed, it is done.
Squeeze the excess water out of the gelatin. Put it in the mixture and stir until dissolved.
Transfer the mixture to another bowl that you place in a bath of ice-cold water to let it cool down fast. Cover with plastic and place in the fridge until next day.
Put the mixture in an ice cream maker for 30-45 minutes. Transfer to a plastic box and freeze until needed.