Daring Bakers August: Twice the Dobos, twice the fun

This has been the most challenging Daring Bakers mission for me so far. Today was a weird day, and not in a good way. I got some pretty bad news, so I was not in a good place to begin with. And I knew I had to make the challenge by myself, because as has been our MO lately, we put off making it to the very last day. Knowing how long it would take to do the challenge, I couldn't wait until Markus got home from work. Thus, I was on my own.

Anticipating a lot of stupid mistakes, eggs and sugar splashing all over the kitchen, and stuff burning to oblivion in the oven, I went baking. But rather than in the company of Murphy, I found myself in a very focused and relaxed place. Things went smoothly, stuff worked the way it was supposed it, there was flow.

Oh, I guess I am supposed to tell you what I was making, huh?
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.
I had never heard of a Dobos Torta before, but Angela and Lorraine provided us with a bit of neat background history:
The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. (You may come across recipes which have anywhere between six and 12 layers of cake; there are numerous family variations!) It was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties. The recipe was a secret until Dobos retired in 1906 and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners' and Gingerbread Makers' Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.
So, today I was going with the flow of the Dobos. There was no way I was going to make a big buttercream-filled cake just for the two of us, so I decided on miniature cake. And since I was doing this last minute, by myself, and with bad news whirling around my brain, I of course opted for two different kinds of miniature cakes. Can't just make one vesion of this kind of tricky, time-consuming cake you've never heard of before, now can you? Nope, obviously not. So, I made one regular chocolate Dobos, and one white chocolate and rasperry.

I halved the recipe, and got started on the sponge cake. I decided to spread the batter out and, using a glass, cut out little disks for cake layers after it was baked. It worked like a charm, and I got 17 disks - meaning 9 layers for one cake, and 8 for the other.

Then came the buttercream, which also went smoothly (as long as you didn't think about OMG, all that butter!!!). However, the white chocolate one was a lot runnier than the normal one. Maybe that has something to do with the properties of white chocolate (which isn't really chocolate)? I had not planned to mix the raspberries in with the buttercream (the idea was some kind of layering within the cake), but let's just say there was a glitch in the flow.

The finishing touch of a Dobos is the caramel decoration. To see how it should look, you can visit our lovely hosts Angela and Lorraine because they know their stuff. Me, I felt that caramel would be poking the flow to hard, risking its disappearance, so I skipped that, sorry to say. But I did stay within the spirit of the challenge, because I made raspberry caramel (toffee?) to decorate the white chocolate-raspberry Dobos with. I used another recipe which I was more comfortable with (and by this time Markus was home so I got help), and it turned out very yummy. Maybe not too practical to eat together with the cake, because it sticks to your teeth like crazy, but it looks nice. For the chocolate Dobos, we just decorated with some chopped up almonds. To add an extra layer of flavor, we also brushed the chocolate Dobos cake layers with Grand Marnier (triple orange) liqueur.

So, how did it taste? Well, very very rich, but also very delicious! At two o'clock this afternoon, I never thought I would have made two finished miniature Dobos Tortas by the end of the evening. This challenge turned what could have been a lousy and stressful day into something enjoyable and relaxing. Thank you Angela and Lorraine! To see the recipes as well as the other Daring Bakers' creations, visit the Daring Kitchen recipe archive and blogroll!

Raspberry caramel/toffee
(adapted from Godis by Maria Öhrn)

(about 30 pieces)

1 dl pureed raspberries, fresh or frozen and thawed
1 tbsp lemon juice
1½ dl cream
2½ dl sugar
1 tbsp light molasses

Line a small tin, no larger than 20*20 cm, with parchment paper. Run the berries through a fine mesh sieve - we skipped that part which meant caramel and raspberry seeds in the teeth. Mix with the lemon juice, and put together with the other ingredients in a pot. Let it boil slowly, stirring frequently, until it reaches the hard-ball stage (120°C). Pour into the pan and let it cool. Cut into squares. Store in a cool, dry place.


Rice pudding

Autumn is approaching quickly now. We're still getting some nice and sunny days, but the air is getting crispier and the days shorter. Summer in Sweden means short nights - we're not getting midnight sun where we live, but around Midsummer there's only a couple of hours of darkness. As autumn approaches I always get surprised when the sun is starting to set before 10pm. But I know this is only the beginning - before long, it will be dark by four in the afternoon.

This desert is warm, sweet and comforting, and the smell and taste of coconut always brings me back to a faraway beach. Perfect for a chilly, dark autumn evening then.

Coconut rice pudding

2 servings

2 dl unsweetened coconut milk
3/4 dl milk
25 g brown sugar
1/5 vanilla pod
55 g glutinous (sticky) rice

Pour the coconut milk and milk in a sauce pan. Split open the vanilla pod, scrape out the seeds an put them in the pan. Throw in the scraped-out pod as well - it still has a lot of flavor in it. Add the sugar and the rice. Bring it to a slow simmer over very low heat. Let it simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring very frequently. Serve immediately.


Risotto Marinara

The original recipe for this risotto comes from Swedish chef Marcus Samuelsson who runs the restaurant Aquavit with branches in New York and Tokyo. In its original form, it is a tomato and crab risotto which is served together with pan fried zander and shiitake and truffle sauce. I made the whole dish a few years ago and it was delicious. Tomato, crab, tarragon, coconut milk, zander, truffle and shiitake sounds like a huge crash of conflicting flavors, but they work remarkably well together. When I make it again I will make sure to post the recipe. Swedish readers can find the recipe in Allt Om Vin 1/2007, p. 84. The version I made tonight is very tweaked, but the basic idea is the same.

This risotto is a bit more labor intensive than others, but it's well worth the extra effort. The addition of whipped cream, egg yolks and cheese may seem unnecessary, but believe me, it's not. Taste the risotto before adding it - it will still taste nice, but after that final touch the risotto gets a much more rounded and sophisticated flavor. It goes from "good" to "oh yum". If you happen to have some black truffle sea salt in your kitchen, like we do after my trip to Gotland, it is delicious to sprinkle the risotto with a few grains.

Risotto Marinara

4 servings

3 tbsp cream
3 3/4 dl tomato juice
1 3/4 dl water
1 3/4 dl unsweetened coconut milk
1 tbsp concentrated vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot
1 garlic clove
1 tsp dried tarragon
2 dl arborio rice
3 tbsp dry white wine
2 egg yolks
3/4 tbsp mushroom soy
1 tbsp finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese
200 g mixed seafood (we used a mix with squid, octopus, blue mussels, clams, and shrimp)

Whip the cream into soft peaks. Cover and put it in the fridge.
Mix tomato juice, water, coconut milk and concentrated vegetable stock in a pot. Bring to a simmer, and then leave it on very low heat. It should be barely simmering.
Peel and finely chop the shallot and garlic.
Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion, garlic and tarragon and sauté over medium heat until the onion is soft.
Add the rice and stir until all the grains are glazed with oil. Add the wine and stir until it has evaporated.
Stir in about one deciliter of the tomato liquid, stir, lower the heat and let it simmer slowly until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Then add an other deciliter of liquid, wait until it has absorbed and keep going until you have added all the liquid deciliter by deciliter. Stir occasionally. When it's done, he risotto is creamy and the rice slightly al dente. If you run out of liquid before the risotto is done, you can add some simmering water. Add the seafood mix together with the last tomato liquid. Let the risotto simmer slowly for about five minutes.
Get the whipped cream from the fridge and stir in egg yolks, soy and cheese. Remove the risotto from the heat and stir in the cream mixture.
Serve immediately.


Spinach pesto

We made the best hamburgers yesterday. First a slice of rustic Italian bread with pumpkin seeds, then a home-made hamburger patty with two slices of Brie cheese melted on top, then a big spoonful of this very tasty but somewhat unorthodox pesto, and then we topped it all with a beautiful red, ripe tomato slice. Very tasty, and very European!

Spinach Pesto

50 g fresh spinach
30 g pine nuts
15 g Grana Padano cheese*
20 g olive oil
Pinch of salt

Rinse the spinach and put it together with the pine nuts in a food processor. Give it a good spin, scraping down the sides a few times. You could also use a mortar and pestle to bash this up, if you wanna be old fashioned. Grate the cheese and mix it in together with the olive oil. The cheese can be more or less salty, and olive oil can have very different flavors (ours tasted like fresh grass) so make sure to taste the pesto before adding the salt. You might want more olive oil or some more cheese as well - taste your way forward. Serve with the burgers explained above, or with pasta.

*This is very similar to Parmigiano Reggiano. Actually the only significant difference seems to be that it is made on the other side of a river - although I'm sure there are some Italians out there ready to correct me on that one... :)


Feeling coco-nutty

One of the joys of working from home is that you can dig around in the pantry to find something to snack on, come across a bag of coconut flakes, realize that coconut-lemon cookies would be great right about now, and then you can make them!!! And they don't require a long cookie-making break either, 'cause these sweeties come together like a breeze. They remind me of the Caribbean, which feels nice now, when summer is making a last effort outside while I'm stuck indoors in front of the computer. And the smell of coconut, lemon and butter makes for a pretty nice working environment!

Coconut-lemon cookies

makes about 25 cookies

75 g butter
2 eggs
1 dl sugar
250 g coconut flakes
1 lemon (lime works too)

Melt the butter and let it cool. Mix together the eggs and sugar. Zest and juice the lemon. Add the cooled butter, coconut flakes, lemon zest and juice to the egg-sugar mix. Let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes. Drop spoonfuls of batter onto a parchment-clad cookies sheet; use your fingers to push it together in little heaps. Bake at 150°C for about 25 minutes; they should have a light golden color. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack.


Daring Cooks August: Viva España!

After last month's daring excursion into the field of molecular gastronomy, the Daring Cooks went back to basics this month with a rustic Spanish dish: Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes by José Andrés. Our host is Olga from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga's Recipes.

José Andrés is one of the most important Spanish chefs at the moment, and has trained under Ferran Andria at El Bulli, named the world's best restaurant. He now lives in Washington DC where he owns several restaurants. The recipe Olga chose for us comes from his US TV show Made in Spain. You can watch André make the dish here.

We made a few changes to the recipe. We couldn't find cuttlefish, so we exchanged that for a frozen seafood mix which had squid, octopus, blue mussels, clams, and shrimp. We didn't have the patience for boiling and cleaning fresh artichokes, so we got canned artichoke hearts. Also, no Spanish rice to be found in Uppsala, so we used Italian arborio rice. It's commonly used in risotto and is very good at soaking up flavors, so it was a good substitute. We halved the recipe, except for the sofregit, which will be used in some future concoction.

The optional part of the challenge was allioli, which I guess is a Spanish version of aioli. We were given two recipes, a traditional one with only garlic, olive oil, salt and lemon juice, and a modern one which also has an egg and uses a different method. We made the traditional recipe, using a mortar and pestle to bash the garlic and then slowly mushing in the oil, drop by drop- it's very cool that you can get something akin to mayonnaise from bashed garlic and olive oil. The allioli was very garlic-y! We are playing our yearly croquet championship with a group of friends tomorrow, and joked that we will only have to breathe on the balls and they will roll off! I liked the allioli and nearly finished the spoonful I put on my plate, but putting only a tiny amount of allioli on each bite. Markus found it way too sharp and didn't finish it.

The dish was easy to make, and we will definitely be making some variation of this in the future - I can see a lot of creativity in terms of ingredients: fish and seafood, chicken, vegetarian or Spanish sausage. We sometimes make paella, normally with a combination of seafood, chicken and chorizo, and we will probably adopt this method of cooking for future paella experiments. To make the vegetables separately as a sofregit was really nice - the flavor was better and the dish didn't get watery from the tomatoes. It was very tasty, and since we for some reason made this at the very last minute (just like last month's Daring Baker's challenge) we were very glad that it was easy and straightforward to make. Thank you Olga for a great challenge!

Wanna see the other Daring Cooks creations (or maybe become a Daring Cook or Baker yourself?!)? Go to the Daring Kitchen and the recipe archive! Our lovely host Olga blogs about the challenge in English and in Spanish.

Dinner is ready! Don't you just love our kitteh table table runner?!

Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes (Arroz marinero con setas, sepia y alcachofas)

4 servings

4 Artichokes (you can use jarred or freezed if fresh are not available)
12 Mushrooms (button or Portobello)
1 or 2 Bay leaves (optional but highly recommended)
1 glass of white wine
2 Cuttlefish (you can use freezed cuttlefish or squid if you don’t find it fresh)
“Sofregit” (see recipe below)
300 gr (2 cups) Short grain rice (Spanish types Calasparra or Montsant are preferred, but you can choose any other short grain. This kind of rice absorbs flavor very well) – about 75 gr per person ( ½ cup per person) Please read this for more info on suitable rices.
Water or Fish Stock (use 1 ½ cup of liquid per ½ cup of rice)
Saffron threads (if you can’t find it or afford to buy it, you can substitute it for turmeric or yellow coloring powder)

Cut the cuttlefish in little strips.
Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish in the pan.
If you use fresh artichokes, clean them as shown in the video in tip #7. Cut artichokes in eights.
Clean the mushrooms and cut them in fourths.
Add a bay leaf to the cuttlefish and add also the artichokes and the mushrooms.
Sauté until we get a golden color in the artichokes.
Put a touch of white wine so all the solids in the bottom of the get mixed, getting a more flavorful dish.
Add a couple or three tablespoons of sofregit and mix to make sure everything gets impregnated with the sofregit.
Add all the liquid and bring it to boil.
Add all the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes in heavy heat.
Add some saffron thread to enrich the dish with its flavor and color. Stir a little bit so the rice and the other ingredients get the entire flavor. If you’re using turmeric or yellow coloring, use only 1/4 teaspoon.
Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”)
Put the pan away from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes.
Serve with allioli (see below).

Tentacled goodness!


2 tablespoons of olive oil
5 big red ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 small onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped (optional)
4 or 5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup of button or Portobello mushrooms, chopped (optional)
1 Bay leaf
Touch of ground cumin
Touch of dried oregano

Put all the ingredients together in a frying pan and sauté slowly until all vegetables are soft.
Taste and salt if necessary (maybe it’s not!)

Allioli - traditional recipe

4 garlic cloves, peeled
Pinch of salt
Fresh lemon juice (some drops)
Extra-virgin olive oil (Spanish preferred but not essential)

Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
Using a pestle, smash the garlic cloves to a smooth paste. (The salt stops the garlic from slipping at the bottom of the mortar as you pound it down.)
Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
Keep turning your pestle in a slow, continuous circular motion in the mortar. The drip needs to be slow and steady. Make sure the paste soaks up the olive oil as you go.
Keep adding the oil, drop by drop, until you have the consistency of a very thick mayonnaise. If your allioli gets too dense, add water to thin it out. This takes time—around 20 minutes of slow motion around the mortar—to create a dense, rich sauce.

José on the allioli recipe:

It's hard to think that, when you start crushing the garlic, it will ever turn into something as dense and smooth as allioli. But don't give up. It's worth the extra time and effort to see the oil and garlic come together before your eyes. Just make sure you're adding the olive oil slowly, drop by drop. Keep moving the pestle around the mortar in a circular motion and keep dreaming of the thick, creamy sauce at the end of it all.

Previously completed challenges:
July 2009: Skate, traditional flavors powdered
June 2009: Chinese dumplings (part one and two)
May 2009: Zuni's Ricotta Gnocchi


Honeydew soup

So, I'm back at work, i.e. ten feet from the kitchen, which means that I once again have to supply myself with lunch. This was today's little invention, which took like five minutes to make and about the same time to eat. Which means I should be working right now, if I wasn't writing here. Ah, the joys of procrastination...!

If you don't have prosciutto, I imagine shrimp tossed with some lemon and dill would be tasty too, or maybe some cucumber and feta cheese cut in cubes.

This made a fair sized lunch portion for me; if you serve it as a starter this would make two portions.

Cold honeydew soup

½ honeydew melon
2 tbsp plain thick yoghurt (I used Turkish cause that's what we had in the fridge)
Pinch of salt
Pinch of harissa (or sambal oelek)
1 slice prosciutto ham

Peel the melon, cut it in smaller pieces and toss them in the blender. Puree the melon, add the yoghurt, salt and harissa and blend again. Taste to see if you want more of anything. Pour into a bowl and top with prosciutto cut in small pieces. Done!

I added some flat-leaf parsley too, mostly because I wanted to make the photo look nicer. Ok, only because I wanted to make the photo look nicer, the parsley didn't really add anything flavor-wise.


Paper Chef 43: Trifle of caramelized couscous and baked peaches

After missing last month's challenge, the deer eaters are back in the Paper Chef business! In July it was Sijeleng of Javaholic who did the best cook-up of the ingredients chicken, almonds, corn and fish sauce, and now got to pick the ingredients for Paper Chef #43: couscous, fresh chilies, peaches and rosemary.

Lovely picks! We decided to go sweet this month, and make a desert couscous dish. This took on many transformations in our brain before we settled on this version. First, the idea was to just make sweet couscous (using fruit juice instead of water as liquid for the couscous) to be served with peaches poached with rosemary, chili and maybe some vanilla. But the peaches were too hard for poaching and there was no suitable poaching liquid in the house (simple suryp = too boring), so I decided to bake them instead, and use the chili and rosemary in a honey glaze.

While pondering the creation over loads of laundry, I thought that it could need some sort of added tang and freshness to balance the heat and sweetness. My mind went to plain Turkish yoghurt, and the idea of a trifle was born. A normal trifle has sponge cake, custard, whipped cream and fruit, this one would have sweet couscous, yoghurt and baked peaches - hey, we've taken liberties with falafel before, so why not with trifle now?

Markus came up with the quite brilliant idea of caramelizing the couscous in order to make it less grainy and more crunchy. The end result turned out more yummy than we had hoped for. The caramelized couscous especially was a big hit that I can see us making again. The crunchy, caramel flavored couscous, the smooth and creamy yoghurt and the soft, honey-sweet peaches, still warm from the oven, with the punch of the hot chili and the fresh forest flavor of rosemary. Delicious!

Trifle of Caramelized Couscous &
Baked Peaches with Chili-Rosemary Honey Glaze

For the caramelized couscous:
1 dl peach-raspberry juice*
1 dl couscous
1 tbsp butter
1 dl brown sugar

Bring the juice to a boil. Stir in the couscous grains, cover with a lid and remove from heat. Let it stand until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. You can do this part well in advance. For the caramelization, heat up a frying pan, add the butter and let it melt. Add the sugar and give it a good stir. It won't melt like white sugar does (and won't splatter either), you will get more of a soft brown butter mixture. There might be some lumps, but that's no biggie. Add the couscous and stir constantly for a minute or two. Watch carefully so it doesn't burn. Spread the couscous out on a plate (this way it will get more crunchy) and set aside until you are ready to serve.

*The only decent peachy juice the store had was a peach and raspberry blend. If you have plain peach juice, that's what you want to use.

For the baked peaches:
2 peaches
1 tsp butter
1 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
½ tsp fresh red chili, finely chopped
2 tbsp honey

Halve the peaches and remove the pits. Place them in an oven proof dish, and top each peach half with a a quarter of a teaspoon of butter. Bake in a 225°C oven for about 15 minutes, or until the peaches are going soft. In the meantime, mix the honey with the chopped fresh chili and rosemary. Drizzle the honey over the peaches, and bake for five more minutes.

To assemble:
6 tbsp plain thick Turkish yoghurt

You can get two big deserts out of this (one peach/person) or four smaller ones. Serve in individual transparent bowls or glasses - you want to be able to see the different layers. Layer the trifle starting with couscous in the bottom, then yoghurt and top with a peach half. Repeat if you're making two big deserts. Garnish with a small sprig of rosemary.

Note: the chili made this quite hot, so another idea would be to infuse the honey with a whole piece of chili and a whole rosemary sprig that you fish out before pouring it over the peaches.