The Great British Bake Off: Schichttorte

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I don’t even recall how I found out about the Great British Bake Off (I think there was an advert for it before or after Downton or one of the Saturday cooking shows). I think it has been around for several seasons now, and either I was completely unaware of it being on American TV, or it is new to us.

In any event, I was hooked. There is even drama surrounding Baked Alaska, if you could believe it! In one of the recent weeks they did an episode on advanced pastry, and the Schichttorte was one of the cakes that the competitors were challenged to make. I thought, I have to try this. I think I had seen another food blogger make one several months ago and I had the same impulse when I saw their blog at that time. In fact, last night, before I made this cake, I dreamt about the process for the entire night.

Schichttorte is a 20 layer cake that is glazed with apricot and then chocolate. It’s not a terribly complicated cake, per se. However, it requires a lot of attention to detail, and an almost masochistic penchant for standing in front of your oven for an hour and a half. By itself the method for the batter is fairly straightforward and similar to most every other cake. However, you need to divide your batter into 20 equal portions so that your layers come out even (and to ensure you have enough batter for 20 layers!). This where having a digital kitchen scale is crucial… I was able to weigh out my batter as a whole and then calculated that each layer should have 1.71 oz of batter. And don’t think that Paul Hollywood didn’t count everyone’s cake layers to ensure they were all there!

So the process for building the cake is this:

Spread a layer of batter to make a thin layer

Put it under the broiler, watching it very carefully and quickly removing it when it browns lightly

Remove the tin to your scale, weigh out another layer

If you have a kitchen timer you can always time the duration of the cake under the broiler, or you can just keep your oven door ajar and watch it.

The cake is worth every moment of staring at it under the broiler. Delicate flavoring, and fantastic mouth feel. And of course super impressive when you cut into it.

If you are up to the challenge I would recommend this. It’s not complicated, but you have to want to put in the effort to making sure it turns out the way it ought to… and as Julia Child once said, “nothing is too much trouble that turns out the way it ought to”.

For the cake
  • 10 large free-range eggs, separated

  • 100g/3½oz unsalted butter

  • 150g/5½oz caster sugar (super fine sugar)

  • 1 large lemon, zest only

  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

  • 215g plain flour, sifted

  • oil, for greasing

  • 6 tbsp apricot jam

For the chocolate glaze
  • 50g/1¾oz unsalted butter

  • 1 tbsp golden syrup (I used corn syrup here, though if you can find it, use it)

  • 1 tbsp rum

  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

  • 75g/2½oz plain chocolate (36% cocoa solids), finely chopped

For the vanilla glaze
  • 250g/9oz icing sugar

  • 1 tbsp rum

  • ½ tsp vanilla bean paste

  • 1-2 tbsp milk

Preparation method

  1. Using a paddle attachment, beat your room temperature butter with your sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in  your egg yolks, the vanilla, and lemon zest until well combined. Scrape down the bowl and then give another quick whir to ensure everything is well incorporated.
  2. In a clean, grease-free bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form when the whisk is removed. Stir one-third of the egg whites into the batter to loosen the consistency. Then gently fold the remaining egg whites into the egg yolk mixture.
  3. Preheat the broiler to high.
  4. Grease a 20cm/8in round springform tin with oil and line the base with parchment paper.
  5. Spoon some of the batter into the base of the cake tin and spread evenly across the bottom. Give the tin a gentle side-to-side shake (or use a small offset spatula) to even out the top of the batter. Place on a shelf 10cm/4in below the grill and cook for two minutes, or until light golden-brown.
  6. Remove from the grill, add another spoonful of batter, spread out with a pastry brush, and place under the grill for three minutes, or until dark golden-brown. Continue layering and grilling until you have 20 layers alternating in color from light golden-brown to dark golden-brown. (Or continue until you have used all the batter.)
  7. Remove from the grill and leave to cool in the tin for five minutes. Carefully release from the tin and turn out onto a wire rack to cool.
  8. Melt the apricot jam in a small pan over a low heat. Pass through a fine sieve, then brush the top and sides of the cake with jam. This will help the glaze stick to the cake.
  9. For the chocolate glaze, melt the butter in a small pan with the golden syrup, rum and vanilla paste and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for five minutes. Stir in the chocolate until melted. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool to a coating consistency.
  10. Place a large piece of greaseproof paper under the wire rack holding the cake. Pour the glaze evenly over the cake to cover completely. Any excess glaze will be caught on the greaseproof paper and can be reused to fill in any unglazed areas of the cake.
  11. For the vanilla glaze, sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Add the rum, vanilla paste and milk, stirring until completely smooth. Drizzle over the chocolate glaze.
Posted in Baking, Dessert | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

WIP Wednesday

DSC_0083[1]I’m baaaaack!

I know. I disappeared for about a week and a half. There are just some times where I feel like being a hermit because I’ve exhausted my energy on work-stress related things. Plu sit seemed like one of those times where we seemed to have run out of everything at once, and had to run about replacing those things. Honestly the only reason I didn’t post in WIP Wednesday last week was because I was too lazy to take my Tradewinds off the Q Snaps to take a full picture of it.

As you may have noticed, I didn’t even bake this weekend! Aside from errand running, I spent a significant amount of time stitching and getting caught up on tv/movies (these things are done concurrently). I am not sure that next weekend will be much better because Season 3 of House of Cards launches on Friday on Netflix, so I *know* that I will be binge watching that. Sometimes you just need that down time, ya know? And I am sure that baking will be back on the agenda.

So – quite a bit of progress on Tradewinds. I finished the left alphabet block, and finished a significant amount of the left mermaid. At the rate I am going, I think I may wind up finishing that mermaid by next WIP Wednesday. And true to form, I pretty much work in whatever order I feel like working. I am really enjoying this stitch — it’s hard to put it down to work on anything else.

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Momofuku Milk Bar – Chocolate Malt Layer Cake

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This is not the first foray I have taken into the Momofuku Milk Bar cookbook. I did make Crack Pie for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but didn’t really know where to begin with choosing other recipes. There are a lot of things I would love to make, so I’m going to work through this book as I am Baking Chez Moi.

As a word of preface, this is not the cake that you just whip together. The book’s recipes employ more arcane tools and harder to find ingredients. Some things are common to grocery stores, and others require a little ingenuity to find. Luckily the fantastic folks at Orson Gygi have been phenomenal about sourcing many of these things for me. For example, Passion Fruit Puree. While not used in this recipe, I will be using it in the Chocolate Chip Layer Cake from this book (I think in about two weeks). I was reading other baker’s suggestions about sourcing this item from Mexican/South American grocery stores, but in spending half a day with my husband visiting all such stores, I was rebuffed with questioning looks. Gygi saved the day by special ordering it for me. Maybe you will be more lucky. Corn powder? Rather than order it from Milk Bar, find freeze dried corn from a food storage supplier and pulverize it in your food processor yourself. Also, once you have the ingredients, they are readily available for other recipes that require similar techniques and ingredients.

Making any of the layer cakes from the book requires creating several elements ahead of time. In the book it details how long you can store these items if you make them ahead. My recommendation (if you have the time) is to make one element each day in the lead up to the day you wish to serve your cake. Or you can just be a “hard body” (to quote Tosi), and make the whole thing in one fell swoop. Which I did, and in all honesty isn’t too bad once the techniques become more familiar. It only took me as long as it did because I was reading and re-reading the techniques and timing to ensure I “got it right”.

Notes on the recipe:

  • My resolve was definitely tested with the charred marshmallows. They were so sticky that working with them was challenging at best. I was  alternately cajoling them into place and cursing at them. I should have fridged them as recommended, but had no room. As a side note, I used the broiler to char my marshmallows. I left the oven open a crack so I could watch them as they went, and as soon as they were dark brown I pulled them out. While it is not the forest fire that Tosi describes in her book, I found them adequately tasty, albeit difficult to cut the cake through that layer (suggestions anyone?)
  • With the Malted Milk Crumbs, Tosi calls for an entire recipe of the Milk Crumbs, then coated in the Ovaltine, and then with white chocolate. However, I think what was intended was to make the milk crumbs up to the point that you finish baking them, then switch over to the Malted Milk crumb recipe. After the point of baking the milk crumbs, I then tossed them in Ovaltine, followed by the white chocolate. Otherwise the process becomes bake, toss in milk powder, coat in milk chocolate, toss in Ovaltine, coat in milk chocolate.
  • Speaking of Ovaltine, the book doesn’t call out which Malt Ovaltine to buy. Malted Chocolate or just Original Malt flavor? I used the original Malt flavor, but if anyone out there has made this cake with the Malted Chocolate, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.
  • The fudge sauce that you create for the batter – of course the batter doesn’t use all of it. But damn. I am definitely guilty of eating the leftovers with a spoon while I baked off the cake and read up on the next components of the cake.

At the end of the day, many people would ask if it is even worth the time and effort, and I answer with a resounding YES. The various elements lend such depth of flavor that you are unlikely to find elsewhere. When I tasted the cake by itself I thought it might be very rich, but it’s incredibly balanced in texture and flavor. Plus it’s a great way to challenge yourself with new techniques and ingredients, which I love to do. If you would like to try your hand at this, you can find the recipe adapted on Bon Appetit. A few of the difference that I have spotted between the book and the online recipe are:

  • Bakes each layer of the cake in a separate cake pan, rather than the whole thing in a quarter sheet pan, and then layers cut with a cake ring
  • The online recipe uses corn syrup rather than glucose (which the book calls for)
  • The cake batter doesn’t incorporate the use of fudge sauce
  • The online recipe does not build the cake in a 6″ cake ring with a column of acetate sheets, but rather stacks the ingredients, creating a different visual. This doesn’t affect the taste though.
Posted in Baking, Dessert, Momofuku Milk Bar | Christina Tosi | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

WIP Wednesday

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I just couldn’t stand it. I’ve been so excited to get back to Tradewinds since I swapped it out to start the Clouds Factory Zodiac SAL. I love the variation and challenge in Teresa Wentzler’s pieces, and, at least with the pieces I have chosen to work on, they never get boring.

That being said, you can see I didn’t get that much done on it. I loaded it back onto the snaps on Friday, I think. I had a three day weekend (I had a lieu day from a previous week), and thought I would get a lot more stitching in than I actually did. The kitchen needed tidying, and it was just one of those times where it seems that we had run out of pretty much everything (plus the washing machine died), so we were running a lot of errands. With the ongoing (and unseasonable) lovely weather, we threw the windows open and got a little spring cleaning done. To top that off, it seemed like all of my cooking/baking challenges converged, so I was doing everything I could to keep up. I think I got about 2-3ish hours of stitching time in on Sunday. Total for the entire weekend.

Anyway, I dropped most of the baking challenges — I am keeping Tuesdays with Dorie. I just have a lot of things I want to try, and as with stitching, the minute it becomes obligation ANYTHING, it isn’t fun anymore. Plus I haven’t had the chance to dig into the things I want to try because they don’t fit into the challenge schedules. I have to keep up with my schedule at work — I shouldn’t have to keep a schedule at home. Plus that will give me more time to work on Tradewinds. :-)

Now the washing machine is replaced (and the laundry piles may once again diminish), and I have another three day weekend coming up (hurray!). I do have one baking project (MY choice) that I am excited to dig into (no pun intended), but other than that, I look forward to my stitching time this upcoming weekend!

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Tuesdays With Dorie – Marquise au Chocolat

DSC_0078[1]This week’s challenge is Marquise au Chocolate, from “Baking Chez Moi”. When Dorie says that it is essentially a frozen chocolate mousse, that is a true representation. An amazingly delicious frozen chocolate mousse! And perfect for our upcoming Valentine’s Day.

The entire weekend that I planned to make this, all I heard from my husband was hemming and hawing about how he preferred baked goods, and how he thought it would be too rich, and “do you think I can have it with coffee” (really??). I knew it would be amazing, and his moaning was obnoxious. “Fine”, I said. “I’ll just take it to my team at work.”

I used Dorie’s “Bonne Idee”, and pulverized six Biscoff cookies, pressing them into the top of the mousse. I meant to make the chunks bigger and fold them into the mousse itself, but I forgot until I was pouring it into the mold. Oops. This was a great idea though — I loved the extra contrast in both flavor and texture.

Of course the first thing I heard from my husband’s mouth after he had his first bite was “mmmm…” followed by “looks like this won’t be making it to your office after all”.

I love being right.

Posted in Baking Chez Moi | Dorie Greenspan, Dessert | Tagged , , , , | 23 Comments

Double Chocolate Marble Cake

{Double-Chocolate Marble Cake}

I know. I am almost two weeks behind on this post! Stress just gets me so far behind on life. For National Chocolate Cake Day on January 27th (see, I told you so), Dorie encouraged us all to bake her Double Chocolate Marble Cake from her latest book Baking Chez Moi to celebrate. She was even kind enough to post the recipe on her blog which you can find here.

I liked it well enough — the flavor is quite delicate. My only qualm is that I wish the white chocolate cake were more white chocolate-y. Is that even a thing? When you eat the dark chocolate marble, you can definitely taste the dark chocolate, but not as much with the reverse. It’s more white cake-y. I guess this is to say that I liked it so much that I wish there were more of that flavor to balance out the dark chocolate.

Again, though, another lovely cake. Go make it! I don’t think it will last too long in your house.

Posted in Baking, Baking Chez Moi | Dorie Greenspan, Dessert | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Wipocalypse – February 2015

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Well, tomorrow is my Friday, and thank goodness for it. It has been a emotionally difficult week, as my company laid off 2400 individuals. Although we are a big company, it is safe to say that we were all pretty tight knit. It was sad to see so many friends leave. At the same time I am grateful to continue my initiatives as things continue to restructure in the coming months. In all honesty, though I was pretty sure I would be “safe”, I couldn’t help but worry, having been on the receiving end of restructuring lay-offs in the past. Because we had known for a few weeks that this was coming, it was difficult to avoid the ensuing subconscious stress (even if there was a handsome severance package involved) and when that happens I am usually unable to do much else in my personal life aside from lay like a lump on the sofa.

Anyway, here I am, relieved on the other end of the layoffs, with the next section of the Clouds Factory Zodiac SAL completed! In fact I pulled out of my funk so fast after the layoffs that I skipped the gym last night and stitched this in one fell swoop (definitely staying up past my bedtime…oy)!

Also, it is our monthly Wipocalypse entry, and the question is “How do you overcome that feeling when you are in a rut with a particular project?”

Maybe my answer is too simplistic, but I put it away.

I know that so many stitchers work on planned rotations, but I have always been more of a “I’ll stitch what I want, when I want to” sort of gal. Granted, that results in having some WIPs languishing for long periods of time, but it also results in my having much more time spent enjoying exactly what I am doing. Personally, I have enough obligations in my life to bring that necessity into my hobbies!

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