Friday, February 27, 2009

Decadent Flourless Chocolate Cake and Earl Grey Ice Cream

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & 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 Daring Bakers celebrate Valentine's Day. This was a great challenge for our household as we are tried and true flourless chocolate cake lovers - not to mention, homemade ice cream lovers as well. Plus, this type of cake is not too difficult, and as things have been fairly busy lately, it was nice to not be blown away by the challenge. That said (and assuming we either fix our broken oven, or get a new one) I am ready to tackle another DB doozy - bring it on.

I could eat chocolate cake all the time. Seriously. Daily. I really like cake. MMMmmmm cake!

This cake definitely sated my yearnings. It's rich, chocolaty, and wonderful. Be sure to use a good chocolate as this cake is really mostly just that. For the ice cream, I found a great recipe for Earl Grey ice cream that I thought would pair wonderfully with the intense chocolate. It worked out well and I will be making other tea infused ice creams in the future - maybe chai ice cream with a cinnamon bread pudding?

We made and served this cake for my mom's birthday. As a fellow chocolate lover she really enjoyed it too. It topped off a great meal of homemade rye bread, and fresh ricotta gnocchi with homemade ricotta - stay tuned, I'll be blogging that meal later in the week.

Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time: 20 minutes

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. {link of folding demonstration}

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.

Earl Grey Tea Ice Cream

from Mac & Cheese
makes about 1 quart

1 cup whole milk

2 cups half and half (can use heavy cream for a richer ice cream)
¾ cup sugar

5-6 Earl Grey tea bags

5 egg yolks

Warm the milk, half and half, and sugar in a saucepan.

Remove from heat, place tea bags in the pan, cover and steep at room temperature for an hour.
Remove tea bags.
Rewarm tea-infused milk.
Whisk egg yolks together in a separate bowl.

Slowly pour the milk mixture into the bowl with egg yolks, whisking constantly.

Return the milk and egg mixture to the saucepan, and cook over medium heat, stirring and scrapping the bottom of the pan constantly until the mixture thickens to a custard and coats the spatula.

Cool the mixture, and freeze in your ice cream maker.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Whole Wheat Ciabatta

We wanted some fresh bread to have with dinner the other night. I planned to make a batch of Quick Ciabatta to go with a roast, but realized quite late in the day that we only had whole wheat bread flour in the house. We decided to go ahead with it and give it a shot. I added a touch more water because I understand that whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid. It ended up tasting great. Ciabattay with a nice whole wheat finish.

Quick Whole Wheat Ciabatta

350g whole wheat bread flour
150g unbleached AP flour
475 to 500g (~2 cups) water
2 tsp. yeast
15g salt

Follow the instructions for the Jason's Quick Ciabatta in the previous post.

If you are looking to get more whole wheat in your diet but still want a nice, light bread, this is a great option.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Personal Ciabatta Throwdown

I challenged myself to a one man Throwdown::Ciabatta. I have been wanting to experiment with breads beyond the realm of Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day. Don't get me wrong, we still love ABi5MaD, and have a loaf of semolina in the fridge right now. I did want to try some more traditional methods however, and expand my bread baking arsenal.

I decided I would dive right into a really wet dough bread - Ciabatta. Because it has such a high water to flour ratio (hydration level) Ciabatta can be difficult to work with and doesn't take to the standard knead-the-heck-out-of-it that a bagel or sandwich dough will.

I've had Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Assistant for some time now, and I have made the bagel and pizza dough out of it, and I will admit, they didn't come out great for me. But because it is such a revered bread baking resource, I wanted to give it another shot. I decided I would make the Ciabatta out of BBA and also a "quick" version I found on one of my favorite bread resource sites, The Fresh Loaf.

I followed both recipes exactly, weighing my ingredients and timing my rests, fermentations etc. I made the quick version first and the results were fantastic. Great flavor, perfect crumb with large, shiny, irregular air pockets, and just the right amount of moistness. I was feeling good about my Ciabatta skills after that. The whole thing comes together in a few hours all in one day.

Great crumb, great bread, using Jason's quick version

So when I moved on to the BBA recipe that start by building a poolish that ferments and then cold retards overnight, I'm thinking - man, this thing is going to be awesome. After following the directions quite faithfully as far as I can tell, the result - eh. It tasted okay, texture was fine for a basic soft white bread, no irregular holes, no moist, saturated crumb. On the one hand, I was definitely disappointed, on the other hand, yay! the quick version rocks!

The less successful Ciabatta from BBA

I may yet give the BBA version another shot, making some modifications along the way. After all, bread baking is not about faithfully following printed instructions, but understanding a method, an idea, and understanding the nature of the dough and working with it and modifying as necessary.

But for those of you who have put off making a ciabatta or high hydration baguette, I say give Jason's Quick Ciabatta recipe a try and I think you will be very pleased.

Jason's Quick Ciabbata

Variaton 1
500g bread flour
475g (~2 cups) water
2 tsp. yeast
15g salt

Varation 2 (Semolina)350g bread flour
150g semolina flour
475-485g (~2cups) water
2tsp. yeast
15g salt

In Kitchen Aid style mixer: Mix all ingredients roughly till combined with paddle, let it rest for 10 minutes.

With the paddle (I prefer the hook to prevent the dough from crawling into the guts of the mixer), beat the living hell out of the batter, it will start out like pancake batter but in anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes it will set up and work like a very sticky dough. if it starts climbing too soon, then switch to the hook. You'll know it's done when it separates from the side of the bowl and starts to climb up your hook/paddle and just coming off the bottom of the bowl. I mean this literally about the climbing, i once didn't pay attention and it climbed up my paddle into the greasy inner workings of the mixer. It was not pretty! Anyway, it will definitely pass the windowpane test.

Place into a well oiled container and let it triple! it must triple! For me this takes about 2.5 hours

Empty on to a floured counter (scrape if you must, however you gotta get the gloop out), cut into 3 or 4 pieces. Spray with oil and dust with lots o' flour. Let them proof for about 45 minutes, which gives you enough time to crank that oven up to 500F.

After 45 minutes or so the loaves should be puffy and wobbly, now it's iron fist, velvet glove time. Pick up and stretch into your final ciabatta shape (~10" oblong rectangle) and flip them upside down (this redistributes the bubbles, so you get even bubbles throughout), and onto parchment or a heavily floured peel. Try to do it in one motion and be gentle, it might look like you've ruined them completely, but the oven spring is immense on these things.

Bake at 500F until they are 205F in the center (about 15-20 minutes), rotating 180 degrees half way through. Some people like to turn the oven down to 450F after 10 minutes, but whatever floats your boat. I usually bake in 2 batches.