Dobos Torte

Cakes and Cupcakes

Yield: one 8-inch torte
Recipe: 120/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 168

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    This recipe is one that I have been avoiding for years. Every time I was looking for a beautiful and impressive dessert to make for a special occasion, I would look through the cookbook, come across the Dobos Torte and immediately think to myself that it looked way too complicated, so I would pass on it and do something else, something that was in my comfort zone. Again, looking for an elegant dessert, ideally a cake, to make for our New Year’s Eve party at friends’ place, I stumbled upon this recipe. This time, however, was different. I actually considered it. I pondered whether I could, this year, actually make the Dobos Torte. I read the recipe over twice, and decided that my accumulated skillset over the years should be sufficient to get me by. If not now, then when? The last day of the year, December 31st, 2019, was when I decided I was ready to finally make this beautiful cake.

   As Anna suggests for this recipe, definitely do leave yourself plenty of time to prepare, bake and assemble this cake. It takes much longer than you would think if you calculate how much time each component should take. Anna said it best: “As is the tradition with European tortes, they are as elaborate to make as they look.” I confess, this cake was not easy to do , but not impossible. It can be done! I had, however, a few obstacles and errors along the way, so I have added my own little faux-pas and tips to fix them in the recipe below. For example, you may notice that my cake has 7 layers instead of 9. That is essentially because I ran out of buttercream to coat the layers! And since the buttercream is more complex than a typical buttercream, I didn’t feel like and honestly did not have time to make another batch. Overall, the cake looked very pretty, except for the oversized caramel decorations that were too thick. The taste and textures of this cake were also very appealing: the chocolate and hazelnut blended together very well, and the fluffy and soft cake was a pleasure to eat, especially with the crunchy caramel hazelnut crumble. The buttercream was a little bit too salty in my opinion, but mixed in with the cake layers and the hazelnut crumble it was still very pleasant to eat. I am sure that using the Frangelico hazelnut liqueur would not only add a great hazelnut flavour, but also balance out the saltiness a bit better. I recommend this cake for special occasions, if and only if you have many hours ahead of you so that you do not feel rushed and make mistakes. I suggest reading the recipe a couple of times beforehand to make sure that you have everything you need and you can plan accordingly. Good luck, and enjoy!

Ingredients for cake:

Ingredients for caramel garnish:

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour the underside of three 8-inch cake pans, tapping off any excess flour.
    • I tried doing this for my first three layers and it did not work at all for me. Even though I greased and floured the pans very well, the cake layers stuck to the bottom of the pan and broke into several pieces when I tried to remove them. I found it easier to grease the bottom of the pan, add a piece of parchment paper cut into a circle the diameter of the pan, then grease and flour the parchment paper circle as you would normally. This resulted in thin cake layers that were easily removed from the pan without breaking. You can reuse the parchment paper for the other layers, simply grease it and flour it again.
  2. In a large bowl, whip the egg yolks with ½ cup of the sugar at high speed until they have doubled in volume and are thick and pale, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  3. Sift in the flour and salt, then fold into the egg mixture. The batter will be thick.
  4. In a clean bowl and with a clean whip, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until they are foamy, then slowly pour in the remaining 5 tablespoons of sugar. Continue whipping at high speed until the whites hold a medium peak when the beaters are lifted. Fold in the egg whites into the yolk mixture in two additions.
  5. Spoon a bit less than ½ cup of batter onto the bottom of each cake pan and  gently spread it to the edges, spreading it evenly as you do. Bake these layers for 7-10 minutes, until they turn a light golden brown. Let the cakes cool for about 5 minutes, then very gently remove them from the pan by carefully running a palette knife under the entire surface of the cake, working from the outside in. It’s okay if they have a few rough edges or a slight tear or crack, as they will all be covered in buttercream.
  6. Grease and re-flour the cake pans, and repeat Step 5 two more times for a total of 9 layers. Store the cake layers on a parchment-lined baking tray, separating them with parchment paper.
  7. To prepare the caramel garnish, place all but 8 of the hazelnuts onto a parchment-lined baking tray. Lightly grease a 6- or 8-inch cookie cutter (or the outside ring of an 8-inch fluted pan) and place on a second parchment-lined baking tray. Bring the sugar, lemon juice and water to a boil over high heat and boil, uncovered and occasionally brushing down the sides of the pot, until the mixture caramelizes, about 7 minutes. Carefully pour about half of the hot sugar into the centre of the cookie cutter, then pour the remaining sugar over the hazelnuts, and stir them to coat. Let the cookie-cutter ring set until almost cool, about 8 minutes, then remove the ring and with a greased chef’s knife, score the disc of sugar into 8 wedges. Cool completely. After the caramelized hazelnuts have cooled, pulse them into a food processor into a coarse crumble.
    • Make sure to use a cookie-cutter or fluted tart pan of a proper size. I think 6 inches would be better than 8, as it might be easier to create the fan pattern without all the pieces overlapping in the middle. I made a mistake and used a 9-inch fluted tart pan, thinking that it was 8 inches, and so the pieces were too big and I had difficulty creating the pattern.
    • Removing the cookie cutter or fluted tart outer ring from the almost-cooled caramel was easier to do than I anticipated. To score the caramel garnish, simply press down the knife to make an indentation, but not so deep that you cut the caramel. You must score it before it has cooled down completely, or it will break. I found the suggested 8 minutes to be a perfect time to do this.
  8. To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on a platter and cover it with a thin layer of buttercream, then top it with a second layer. Repeat this process until all 9 cake layers are used. Frost the top and sides of the cake, and press the caramelized hazelnut crumble onto the side of the cake. Arrange the 8 hazelnuts in a circle around the outside edge of the top of the cake, equally spaced apart. Carefully break apart the 8 scored caramel wedges, and rest each wedge on a hazelnut, angling them in the same direction so as to create a fan pattern. Chill the cake completely before slicing to serve.
    • I sadly ran out of buttercream for the assembly. I spread what I thought was a thin layer of buttercream between each layer, but at my 7th layer I had barely any left, so I stopped adding layers and instead attempted to cover the sides of the cake with buttercream as best I could to make sure that the crumble would adhere. I had to really scrape the last bit of buttercream to make sure that I had enough. To prevent this, I would advise making 1.5x the Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream recipe so that you don’t have to struggle with it. It is sometimes hard to see how thick of a layer of buttercream you are spreading, so this would give you more wiggle room.

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* Tips from Anna:

  • To be considered a Dobos torte, a Hungarian dessert, it must have a minimum of 5 layers, a chocolate buttercream and a layer of caramelized sugar on top.
  • Give yourself ample time to make this torte. More than you think you need.

* Notes:

  • I really did not have enough buttercream, even though I don’t think I slathered it on too thick between the layers. I had to reduce my cake to 7 layers because I did not have enough buttercream for the final two layers. Even doing so, I barely had enough to cover the sides of the cake to press the caramel hazelnut crumble into. To make sure you don’t run out of frosting for the very last steps of assembly after having spent hours making this cake, I would definitely multiply the Chocolate Hazelnut Buttercream recipe by 1.5x.
  • I prepared 1½ cups of toasted and peeled hazelnuts and had a large quantity leftover after decorating the cake. I suspect that 1 cup would be more than enough.

Valerie

Green Tea Ginger Crème Caramel

Custards, Puddings and Soufflés

Yield: 6 individual crème caramels
Recipe: 116/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 197

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     Last weekend I had several egg yolks leftover from making Swiss buttercream for a birthday cake, so I decided to take the opportunity to make this crème caramel recipe to use them up. It was an interesting dessert to make and not too complicated. I really enjoyed making the caramel, letting it harden and topping it with the egg and green tea-infused milk mixture. These little green tea ginger crème caramel were pretty and very flavourful. The green tea flavour really came through and was just perfect, and I suspect that the strength of this flavour could really be dampened or heightened based on how long the green tea soaks in the milk. My mixture was set to medium-low so it took longer to get to a simmer and thus infused for longer. I did not detect the ginger flavour that much, but that is probably because I forgot to buy fresh ginger and used ground ginger instead. I used ¼ teaspoon to substitute the 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger, but I guess it was not sufficient. I would thus strongly advise to use fresh ginger for this recipe, if you have it!

   Although I did like the flavour a lot, the texture of a crème caramel or flan is something that I do not enjoy. It is for the same reason that I do not like jello. It is not quite liquid but not solid either, and the mushy feeling as I eat it does not sit well with me. But that is more of a personal preference rather than something negative about the dessert. My boyfriend who has no such problem over textures really enjoyed this dessert. I must also say that I really struggled to get the crème caramel out of the ramekin, especially the caramel part, so I would advise making sure that you grease the sides of the ramekin really well. I still don’t know what the best trick would be to unmold the hardened caramel. If you like caramel, green tea, or both, I strongly suggest making this lovely dessert, especially if you find yourself with an excess of egg yolks to use up.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons water
  • ¾ cup + ⅓ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • 2 bags green tea or 1 tablespoon loose green tea
  • 2 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. In a saucepot, bring the water, ¾ cup of the sugar and cream of tartar up to a boil. Boil over high heat without stirring, but occasionally brushing the sides of the pot with water until the sugar caramelizes and becomes a nice amber colour, about 3 minutes.
  3. Carefully pour the hot sugar into six 6-ounce (180 mL) ramekins and swirl to coat the bottom of the dishes. After the sugar has cooled, lightly grease the surface of the ramekins that is not coated with the caramel and place them into a larger pan that has sides that come up to at least the height of the ramekins.

  4. Heat the milk with the green tea and ginger until just below a simmer. Remove the tea bags, or, if using loose tea,  strain out the tea.
  5. In a bowl, whisk together the whole eggs, yolks, remaining ⅓ cup of sugar and the vanilla extract. While still whisking, slowly pour in the hot milk. Ladle this mixture into the ramekins.
  6. Pour boiling water around the ramekins and bake for 25-30 minutes, until the custards are set but still have a little jiggle in the centre. Remove the ramekins from the water after they have cooled for 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature, then chill until set, about 3 hours.
  7. To serve, run a knife or palette knife around the inside of each dish, place a plate over each and invert, watching out for the caramel syrup that may run out. Serve on their own or with fresh berries. The custards will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Valerie

Two-Crust Caramel Apple Pie

Pies and Tarts

Yield: one 9-inch pie
Recipe: 96/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 86

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     For my birthday we went apple picking as per my request since it is my favorite fall activity, and thus we had a ton of apples chilling in the fridge. The most normal thing to do with so many apples was to make an apple pie. My boyfriend loves caramel even more than he does apples I think, so I decided to try making this caramel apple pie recipe. It is a traditional apple pie but with a caramel flavor. However, I think that I did not let the sugar caramelize long enough because the caramel flavor was more subtle than I would have like. I guess I was worried that the caramel would burn, since the line between a perfect amber caramel and burnt caramel is very fine. Nonetheless, the pie was good, caramel was oozing out of the pie and we destroyed it in a matter of days.

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe Double-Crust Pie Dough, chilled
  • 3 tablespoons rolled oats
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 6 cups peeled and sliced apples, such as Mutsu or Granny Smith
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Ingredients for brushing:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Turbinado or granulated sugar for sprinkling

Directions:

  1. Pulled the chilled pie dough out of the fridge 30 minutes before rolling. Lightly dust the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate with flour, and place it on a parchment- or foil-lined baking tray.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one disc of the pastry to just under ¼ inch thick. Lift the rolled dough, line the pie plate with it and sprinkle the pastry with the oats. Roll out the second disc of pastry to ¼ inch thick and cut a one-inch hole in the centre of the pastry so that the steam can escape as the pie bakes. Chill both the line pie plate and rolled top crust while preparing the filling.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepot, bring the water, sugar and lemon juice to a boil without stirring. Continue to boil the sugar without stirring, ocassionnally brushing the sides of the pot with water, until the sugar caramelizes, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the apples all at once at stir to coat.
  5. Add the butter and cinnamon to the caramel-apple mixture and stir. Once the juices return the a simmer, remove the pot from the heat and cool for 5 minutes.
  6. Pull the chilled pie shell from the fridge and pour the apples and all the juices into it. Do not worry about the excess liquid, the juices will be absorbed into the apples as the pie bakes.
  7. Top the fruit with the second rolled piece of pie pastry. Trim the excess dough and pinch the edges of the pastries into a decorative pattern, if you so desire.
  8. Whisk the egg with the water, and brush the pie dough with the mixture to obtain a golden brown color as it bakes. Sprinkle with sugar.
  9. One the prepared baking tray, bake the pie for 15 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 375°F and bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the crust is an even golden brown. Let the pie cool at least 3 hours before slicing, or chill to serve cold.

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Valerie

Caramel Walnut Shortbread Squares

Cookies, Bars and Biscotti

Yield: one 8-inch square pan, about 25 squares
Recipe: 83/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 62

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     These past two weeks have been very tough for me. My friends and I made a (very stupid, in retrospect) bet about who could go on the longest without their favorite food. Mine, of course, was chocolate. Why did I agree to this ridiculous bet? I still wonder… daily. In any case, I have had no form of chocolate in over two weeks! That includes hot chocolate, chocolate milk, chocolate bars, chocolate desserts and even cocoa powder. It hurts. All that to say that last night I desperately needed to bake something that did not contain chocolate and could satisfy my sweet tooth.

      I thus present to you – caramel walnut shortbread squares. These little bars of heavenly gooeyness were an instant hit at work. They received an “honorable mention” from a few colleagues and definitely goes on my list of top desserts I have made from this cookbook (or ever, for that matter). The bite of the shortbread base actually makes the whole bar perfect. It supports the scrumptious gooey caramel and walnut topping. At first I thought that the walnut to surface area ratio was going to be too high. It is, I mean, there are a lot of walnuts on these bars, but they are best that way. If you want a sweet, gooey and satisfying dessert, definitely try these bars.

Ingredients for base:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup cool unsalted butter, cut in pieces

Ingredients for filling:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ¼ cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar*
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups walnut halves**

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper so that the paper comes up the sides.
  2. Stir the flour, sugar and salt together.
  3. Cut in the butter until the mixture is a rough, crumbly texture. It should not come together as a dough. Press this mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 15 minutes, just until the edges begin to brown. Cool while preparing the filling.
  4. Place the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepot and bring to a boil over high heat, uncovered and without stirring, occasionally brushing the sides of the pot with water until the sugar caramelizes to a rich amber color, about 4 minutes.
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the cream and butter until it is blended and looks like caramel. Watch out for the steam! Note: if the sugar sticks to the whisk or pot, return the pot to low heat and stir evenly until evenly melted. Allow the caramel to cool for 10 minutes.
  6. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, then whisk in the brown sugar and vanilla extract.
  7. Gently whisk in the caramel, then stir in the walnut pieces. Pour this mixture into the prepared pan over the base and spread the walnut pieces evenly. Bake for 20 minutes, until the edges are bubbling. Cool the squares to room temperature before slicing.

Notes from Valerie:

  • *  I had no more light brown sugar, so used dark brown sugar instead. Tasted great!
  • ** I used walnut pieces instead of walnut halves, since I had those on hand and evidently the taste        would not be altered.

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Valerie

Baileys Chocolate Soufflés

Custards, Puddings and Soufflés

Yield: 6 individual soufflés
Recipe: 81/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 198

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    What is one to do with a large amount of egg whites leftover from making crème brûlées? Make soufflés, of course! Now I had never made a soufflé as I, like the majority of people I think, have always been intimidated by soufflés. Nonetheless, I decided that I would give it a shot by making this Baileys chocolate soufflé. It was not too complicated to make, but I was still nervous about messing it up. The first moment that gave me doubt was when the “thick paste” that I was supposed to obtain from combining the melted chocolate and the milk mixture was not so thick. Actually, is was more liquid that paste-like. I also struggled quite a bit with improvising soufflé dishes by putting a collar of parchment paper on my small ramekins. Those things would not stay put! Lastly, when the soufflés were finally in the oven, I kind of forgot that I was making soufflés. I closed the oven door quite harshly, I was moving around fast and washing the dishes with a lot of energy. All these things, combined with the fact that I perhaps did not fill my ramekins and mugs enough with the mixture, resulted in soufflés that did not rise a lot. Granted, they were at least 2 centimeters taller when they were straight out of the oven, but by the time I took the picture they had deflated dramatically. I was a bit disappointed since they no longer looked like the beautiful soufflés that we all strive for, but I tasted it nonetheless.

     Albeit its shrunken appearance, these little soufflés, served with Bailey’s creamy caramel sauce, were so scrumptious that I could hardly believe it. How appearances can be misleading sometimes! I may or may not have eaten two of these little guys (I did). The addition of the creamy caramel sauce flavored with Baileys in the centre of the soufflé was truly a gift from the baking gods. I recommend this recipe to all that love chocolate and heavenly light desserts.

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup + 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 oz (150 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup Baileys Irish Cream liqueur
  • 10 egg whites, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 recipe Creamy Caramel Sauce (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease six 1-cup soufflé dishes or other 1-cup baking dishes. Sprinkle the inside of the cups with sugar and tap out any excess. Place the dishes onto a baking tray.
  2. Whisk the milk, ¼ cup of the sugar, cornstarch and vanilla extract in a small dish. Set aside.
  3. Melt the chocolate and butter in a small saucepot over low heat. Alternatively, you can melt it in the microwave in a large bowl.
  4. Stir the milk mixture in the melted chocolate in two additions, whisking until evenly blended. The mixture will be a thick paste and may look a little grainy – this is normal.
  5. Stir in the Baileys. Keep the chocolate paste warm over low heat, stirring occasionally.
  6. Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until they are foamy, then slowly pour in the remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar. Continue to whip until the whites hold a medium peak when the beaters are lifted.
  7. Quickly but gently fold a third of the whites into the warm chocolate paste. They will deflate quite a bit, but this is to be expected. Fold in the remaining two-thirds of the batter until incorporated, then pour this into the prepared soufflé dishes.
  8. Bake the soufflés for 10-13 minutes, until the tops take on a dull look, but the inside still looks shiny and soft where a crack may have formed. Serve immediately!
  9. The soufflés are tastiest served with caramel Baileys sauce poured into the centre. Simply stir 3 tablespoons of Baileys into the creamy caramel sauce. The caramel sauce should be served at room temperature.

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Notes from Anna:

  • If you do not have 1-cup soufflé dishes but you have 6-ounce ramekins, tie a collar of parchment paper around each ramekin with strings so that the parchment rises 2 inches above the top of the ramekin. Once the soufflés come out of the oven, you simply have to untie the strings and carefully peel away the parchment.
  • An accurate oven temperature is critical for a successful soufflé. The only way to accurately know the real temperature is to use a thermometer inside your oven.
  • When baking a soufflé, be certain not to slam the oven door. For an evenly risen soufflé, make sure that the convection fan is off when baking.
  • If you need to make this dessert in advance, you can fully prepare steps 2-4 and chill the chocolate base until ready to bake. When ready to assemble, simply warm the chocolate base over low heat, ensure that your egg whites are at room temperature before whipping and then continue the recipe from there.
  • Omit the Baileys for a gluten-free version of this dessert!

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Valerie