Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Daring Bakers June 2012: Battenberg Cake

So I feel like this could be the most ridiculous post ever, simply because there is so much to tell about! I got to break in the new kitchen with this awesome challenge recipe, we went to California for our honeymoon/anniversary trip. We got to do a wine tasting in this castle. Really. Probably the coolest thing we did on our trip! If you are ever in the Calistoga area, make sure you check out Castello di Amorosa.

We also checked out the sights of San Francisco and brought home enough wine that we won't need to buy more for quite a while. It was a really fantastic trip, I'm so glad we waited for a year to do our honeymoon and took a big trip! Then we came home to boxes to unpack. Every day the house looks more and more like people actually live here.

I feel like I'm always coming in under the wire on these challenges and making excuses for why the pictures suck and everything looks rushed. I think I just need to finally admit that I'm a procrastinator. These cakes were inspired by the Royal Jubilee, but I made mine with another anniversary in mind. One year ago I married the love of my life (insert sappy "aww" here) with my very best friends by my side. It was a really beautiful day and a year later I am still incredibly happy.

A traditional Battenberg is almond flavored with a marzipan covering and has pink and yellow squares. I'm a little wary of marzipan and wanted to try something a little different. In searching for different recipes I found a chocolate version and was immediately interested. As I've said before, when given the option to do a non-traditional recipe that involves chocolate, you add the chocolate! The chocolate plastique instead of the marzipan was just the... uh, icing on the cake?

Mandy of What the Fruitcake?! came to our rescue last minute to present us with the Battenberg Cake challenge! She highlighted Mary Berry's techniques and recipes to allow us to create this unique little cake with ease.

Dark Chocolate Plastique/Modelling Chocolate

200 gm/7oz good quality Dark Chocolate
¼ cup light corn syrup

1. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water, stir occasionally.

2. Once completely melted, remove from heat and allow to cool a bit.

3. Stir in corn syrup, it will seize up almost immediately, just keep stirring until mixed and it comes away from the sides of the bowl.

4. Transfer chocolate into a sealable bag, spread the chocolate out and then seal the bag.

5. Leave overnight or refrigerate for about 2 hours until completely firm.

6. Turn out from the bag and knead on a surface dusted with powdered sugar (or a silpat), at first it will just break, but as you knead, it will warm up and start to become pliable.

7. Knead until it's pliable enough to mould, 5-10 minutes. When ready to use, roll out on silpat to a 10x13 rectangle then use to cover the assembled cake.

Chocolate Battenberg (adapted from Jamie Oliver Magazine)
3 sticks butter, plus extra for greasing
1¾ cups granulated sugar
6 eggs
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk
2¼ cups self-rising flour
⅓ cup ground almonds
⅓ cup cocoa
raspberry jam 
1 recipe chocolate plastique (above)

1. Preheat oven to 350℉ and grease 2 small loaf tins.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs, one at a time until combined. Fold in the flour.

3. Divide the batter evenly into two bowls. In one bowl, fold in the vanilla and one tablespoon of the milk. In the other fold in the almonds, cocoa and remaining tablespoon of milk.

4. Spoon batter into each of the tins. Bake both for 30-40 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.

5. To assemble, warm the jam. Level off the tops and sides of the cakes with a knife so each cake is a rectangle and the same size. Cut in half lengthways  so you have two long strips of each.

6. Join the 4 cake strips with the jam between the layers so that you have a checkerboard pattern. Trim any uneven sides. Wrap with the chocolate plastique. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Daring Cooks June 2012: Cannelloni!

Manu from Manu's Menu was our Daring Cooks lovely June hostess and has challenged us to make traditional Italian cannelloni from scratch! We were taught how to make the pasta, filling, and sauces shared with us from her own and her family's treasured recipes!

You'll have to excuse the paper plate. I already packed the dishes.
My husband and I are now home owners!! We are so excited and slightly nervous about the reality of not having a landlord anymore. At the moment you are reading this, I am probably knee deep in boxes, trying to figure out where everything goes in our new house. I actually waited until sort of the last minute to make this month's challenge (that has been happening a lot lately...) because I was hoping to have this be the inaugural meal made in my new kitchen. Unfortunately that didn't happen. Instead, I held off packing anything in the kitchen until the day before the move so I could do this challenge as the last glorious send off of the old kitchen.

When I read about this month's challenge I texted my husband immediately and told him about it. He is (as I have mentioned before) Italian and his family has their own tried and true recipes for delicious sauce and Italian dishes. I was excited to try making pasta from scratch, even though I knew that without a pasta maker I was in for a lot of rolling pin work.

Fast forward to this past Sunday. The school year finished on Friday, we had just found out that we would in fact be closing on the house on the 12th, and oh yeah, we are leaving for our honeymoon trip to Napa, Sonoma, and San Francisco on the 17th. I had just finished packing up about 50% of what needs to be packed, moved lots of heavy boxes and now I'm rolling out egg noodles. Stress levels in our house were high, but the smell of sautéing onions, and homemade tomato sauce helps with that. So does wine :)

I'll just say one more thing: homemade pasta is worth it. Yes it is slightly time consuming, but not too bad. My mom always told me that a pasta maker is just an appliance that takes up room in your cabinet, but I am beginning to think that I need one. Until then, I'll continue rolling it out by hand.

Fresh Egg Pasta
What you need to know about egg pasta is that it is simple. All you need: a proportional amount of egg to flour, one egg to every 100 grams of flour.

Ingredients (to make 4 servings of cannelloni)
100 grams (⅔ cup plus 2 teaspoons) all purpose flour
1 large egg

Directions (for rolling by hand)
1. Put the flour and egg into a food processor and mix. When the dough looks like crumbs, pour it onto a countertop sprinkled with flour. Knead well by hand until you obtain a smooth dough. Make it into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.

2. Cut out a piece of egg pasta dough and flatten it into a rectangular shape with your hands. Roll dough flat and thin, about 1mm thick. Cut into rectangular sheets for cannelloni (4"x6").

Béchamel Sauce
Ingredients (enough for the 4 serving Cannelloni dish)
2 cups milk, hot
3½ tablespoons butter
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1 pinch salt
1 pinch nutmeg

1. Put the butter in a non-stick pot and let it melt. Add the flour and whisk constantly until well incorporated: this is the "roux". Let it cook for a minute or two.

2. Now start adding hot milk little by little, while mixing continuously until the milk is well incorporated. Do not add more milk unless it is well incorporated. Keep doing so until all the milk is incorporated.

3. Add salt and nutmeg and cook on a low flame for 10 minutes or until it thickens.

4. When ready, cover it to prevent a film to appear on the surface.

Cannelloni di carne

Meat filling ingredients
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 onion, chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
5 tablespoons white wine
1½ cups Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
¾ cups of the béchamel sauce
salt and pepper to taste

Tomato sauce
1 small onion, chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2¾ cups tomato purée
a few basil leaves
salt and pepper to taste

To assemble
The remaining béchamel sauce
½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated

1. Start by cooking the meat for the filling. Put the 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a pan with the chopped onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Now add the meat and bay leaf and stir well with a wooden spoon making sure you remove all the lumps. Brown the meat well. Add the white wine and raise the fire to burn off the alcohol. Cook for 10 minutes on medium heat and then keep it aside to cool down. (At this point, I actually drained the meat even though it wasn't in the recipe.)

2. Now prepare the tomato sauce. Place the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pot with the chopped onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Now add the tomato purée, salt, pepper and basil. Cover and cook on low for 20 minutes. Then keep it aside to cool down.

3. To make the filling, mix the cooked meat with ¾ cup of béchamel sauce and 1½ cups of Parmigiano Reggiano. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

4. Put a large pot with salty water on the stove and bring to a boil. I used a large shallow pan to make the noodles more manageable. Cook the pasta sheets in the water for 1 minute. Do in batches and place on a clean tea towel to cool.

5. Now take one sheet of cooked pasta and put 1/8 of the filling along the long side of the rectangle. Roll it over to make a cannellone. Do so for the remaining rectangles of pasta.

6. Take a big enough dish to fit all our cannelloni tightly. Spray it with some cooking oil (or melted butter) and pour some tomato sauce on the bottom. Spread it well, especially in the corners. Put the cannelloni in the oven dish on 1 layer.

7. Cover the cannelloni with the remaining tomato sauce and 1¼ cup béchamel sauce and sprinkle with the remaining ½ cup Parmigiano Reggiano.

8. Bake in a pre-heated 350℉ oven for 20 minutes. Then broil them at 400℉ for another 5 minutes. Serve immediately.