Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Posh Dobos; Daring Bakers Dobos Torta

I will confess, sometimes I'll eat anything chocolate and ask questions later. That was my first experience with an authentic Dobos Torta. I didn't learn the name of the multi-layered silky chocolate pastry that I had consumed in less than a minute, until long after my trip to Vienna. Who knew that I would actually be challenged to recreate that exquisite dessert with Daring Bakers.
My spin on this month's challenge was to add a rich bergamot Earl Grey Tea to the flavor profile, and to create mine as several small personal tortes.
Traditionally, a Dobos Torta has 5-8 layers of light spongy genoise cake rounds, beautifully hugging each other with buttery chocolate cream, then wrapped in more buttery chocolate cream and topped with golden caramel wedges. In more modern versions, it's also accessorized with crunchy jewels of hazelnuts.

This brilliant and delicious, addictive concoction was originally created by the confectioner, Jozsef C. Dobos in Hungary in 1885. Vienna, along with the rest of Europe, quickly adopted the pastry as it al
so matched their love of using crushed nuts, flaky layers, and creamy chocolates. In 1906, JC Dobos retired and revealed his recipe to the Budapest Confectioners' and Gingerbread Makers' Chamber of Industry with the stipulation that every member could use it freely.

When I first read this challenge, being only my second one with Daring Bakers - I had to close my lap-top and take a breath.
Wouldn't this take 3 days to make? Wouldn't this cost a thousand dollars? Wouldn't this take, well...magic? Actually, it looks a lot more complex than it is, doesn't cost as much to make as it does to buy in a nice pastry shop, and the magic happens with just a little patience. It was fun. It was challenging. It was completely gone in the same day it was made. One of the reasons Dobos created the buttercream and the caramel top was so this cake would stay moist and have a longer shelf life - no need at my house.

A big thank you
to the Daring Baker's hosts this time;

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 Desser
ts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Here is the recipe with my adaptations:

Sponge cake layers

  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
  • 1 tsp. ground Earl Grey Tea leaves
  • pinch of salt
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. 2. Cover two (2) 13" x 18" sheet pans in parchment paper. 3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.) 4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the 1 tsp. of ground Earl Grey Tea leaves and the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.
5. Pour the mixture evenly into the 2 prepared sheet pans and using a spatula, spread the batter out as evenly as possible.
6. Bake in the oven, middle rack, one at a time for about 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned.
7. Cool for a few minutes, then turn the layer out onto another piece of parchment and cover with a damp paper towel until you are ready to cut out the squares.
8. Cut out squares using a 3x3 inch mold, or measure and cut carefully with a serrated knife.

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
  • 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.
  • 1/2 tsp. ground Earl Grey Tea leaves

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. 2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this. 3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and the ground Earl Grey tea and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes. 4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency. 5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate/Earl Grey infused buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Caramel topping

  • 1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
  • 8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Choose several 3 inch cake squares to use for the caramel top. Using a 3 inch round cookie cutter, cut rounds from the squares. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the cake rounds on the paper.
2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
3. Using a spoon, pour caramel evenly over the round cake layers. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the round cookie cutter (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut around the circles to trim them neatly. Cool completely.
To Assemble:

Divide the square cake layers into groups of 5 or 6, and 1 cake round. Spread one cake square with the buttercream, and place another cake square layer on top. Continue with the layering until there is a stack of 5 or 6. When all the stacks are complete, use the buttercream to cover the outsides completely. Optionally: add chopped hazelnuts to the sides. (At this point, I chilled my cakes to set the buttercream.) Add the caramel circles to the top of each personal torta on a slant and lifted by a whole hazelnut beneath each circle.

It's amazing how many versions of this Dobos Torta were made by our members of Daring Bakers. I'd love to hear about yours...or send me a piece. MMmmmm.

Monday, August 17, 2009

FRIED GREEN FIGS (or the Tweet that turned into Figs)

I was browsing over Twitter and saw this tweet:

The fig tree in our yard is dropping so much fruit its like carnage out there!

w/ Wild Arugula, Feta and Honey Vinaigrette

Friday, August 14, 2009

Daring to Cook: Spanish Rice with Squid

I took the dare! Now, here's the truth. I had SO much fun! This was my first time cooking with the DARING KITCHEN folks-- a group of bloggers, started by Lisa and Ivonne in 2006 and still going, growing and cooking! Once a month a host chooses a recipe for the challenge and this month's host is Olga from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga's Recipes. The recipe is from Jose Andres and his original recipe uses Cuttlefish, but no luck finding that - so mine is SQUID with RICE.

One of the many reasons I had a great time with this challenge is because Jose Andres is one of the most important Spanish Chefs of today and is one of my favorites, along with the chef he trained under at El Bulli - Ferran Adria. I met Ferran at a book signing once in LA, and spoke my broken Spanish to him, and he politely nodded- (probably thinking - I hope she cooks better than she speaks.) This recipe is from the television show of Jose Andres, MADE IN SPAIN and in a video he graciously helps by showing the preparations. Jose has several restaurants, and I've been lucky enough to eat in the Los Angeles one called, Bazaar; unbelievably and oddly fabulous!

I created my meal of Rice, Squid, Mushrooms and Artichokes for a large gathering at my house, so served it family style.
There was not one piece of rice left on that platter. I highly recommend trying this recipe - don't be shy with the steps - they build the complex flavors and are so worth it. The sofregit (stewed tomatoes, onions, artichokes and mushrooms, etc..) as made in the recipe is more than enough which is wonderful so you can freeze for later and/or use as a base for other soups, egg dishes, meat sauces, bruschetta and your imagination.

Another aspect to this recipe is the Allioli (not Aioli which is a delicious garlicy mayonaise made with egg). The Catalan mixture (classically done in a pestal & mortar) is composed of simply fresh garlic, salt, a touch of lemon juice and slow drizzles of good olive oil. (I used an organic award winning Olive Oil from the beautiful family run Agriturismo Fiorano in Le Marche, Italy) This was a labor of love and again, well worth it. Not only does this creamy fragrant dollop make the Rice and Squid talk to you, it also can be used in other dishes (ie. the Ribbon Squash and Olives that I sauteed and added the Allioli as an earthy flavor booster.)

Would I make this again? Oh, AND again. When you have people, with their mouths still full, asking you to please cook more of this - you know you have a double dare!

Check out the other DARING COOKS for their versions on this recipe.

Rice and Cuttlefish:

* 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)
* Allioli (olive oil and garlic sauce, similar to mayonnaise sauce) - optional

1. Cut the cuttlefish in little strips.
2. Add 1 or 2 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and put the cuttlefish in the pan.
3. If you use fresh artichokes, clean them as shown in the video in tip #7. Cut artichokes in eights.
4. Clean the mushrooms and cut them in fourths.
5. Add a bay leaf to the cuttlefish and add also the artichokes and the mushrooms.
6. Sauté until we get a golden color in the artichokes.
7. Put a touch of white wine so all the solids in the bottom of the get mixed, getting a more flavorful dish.
8. Add a couple or three tablespoons of sofregit and mix to make sure everything gets impregnated with the sofregit.
9. Add all the liquid and bring it to boil.
10. Add all the rice. Let boil for about 5 minutes in heavy heat.
11. 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.
12. Turn to low heat and boil for another 8 minutes (or until rice is a little softer than “al dente”)
13. Put the pan away from heat and let the rice stand a couple of minutes.
Sofregit (a well cooked and fragrant sauce made of olive oil, tomatoes, garlic and onions, and may at times
different vegetables such as peppers or mushrooms)-

Cooking time: aprox. 1 hour

* 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
* Salt
* Touch of ground cumin
* Touch of dried oregano


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

Allioli is the optional part of the recipe. You must choose one of the two recipes given, even though I highly recommend you to try traditional one. Allioli is served together with the rice and it gives a very nice taste

Allioli (Traditional recipe)
Cooking time: 20 min aprox.

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


1. Place the garlic in a mortar along with the salt.
2. 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.)
3. Add the lemon juice to the garlic.
4. Drop by drop; pour the olive oil into the mortar slowly as you continue to crush the paste with your pestle.
5. 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.
6. 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's tips for traditional 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.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Nutella/Banana/Chipotle Paleta - Say That 3 Times Fast

I love Nutella, and I love a Challenge. Did I mention I love Nutella? Thanks to the inspired Paula at Bell'Alimento, I've been experimenting with that "hazelnutty", sweet, chocolate, semi-healthy addictive spread called Nutella. The coolest thing (literally) I've made so far is a PALETA.
The classic Mexican Popsicle, Paleta, differs from the traditional American Popsicle by using real fruit and less sugar. These frozen fruit bars can be made with a water base or a milk base, and they can be sweet or savory.The ringing bell of the Paletero's push cart and running out to pick out a favorite flavor from the rainbow of cellophane wrappers is a childhood memory for many people. And the popularity of these fruity filled Mexican Popsicles has launched several gourmet Paleterias around the country. Children love the flavors that include Strawberry, Mango, Coconut and Lime. Adults enjoy those and also the complex combos of Cucumber and Jalapeno, Pineapple and Avocado or Lime with pepper flakes.

I have to admit, it wasn't a chore to taste test these Nutella/Banana/Chipotle Paletas. Besides being a great refresher from the summer heat,
the Nutella addition made these pops a creamy dream to sink your teeth into. Then, the cold melts away to a jewel of fresh banana. After the sweet, a kick of heat from the chipotle hits the back of your throat and you're ready for your next bite. These are simple, inexpensive, fast, cold and a great way to use the bananas you already put away in the freezer. Make a lot of them because you will be hearing, "more Paleta, Paleez."


1 Cup Whole Milk
2 Frozen Bananas
1/2 cup Nutella
1 Chipotle Chile (From can of Chipotle Chiles in Adobe sauce)
Crushed Toasted Hazelnuts (optional)

In a blender, add the bananas, milk, nutella and chipotle chili together and blend for about 20 seconds. Banana pieces should be small chunks or less.

Pour mixture into Popsicle molds and place in freezer until firm.
(You can also use paper cups for the molds. Pour mixture into small cups and freeze for about 1 hour, then place popsicle sticks into the middle standing up. Return to the freezer til firm)

**Optional: Before pouring mixture in, put a sprinkling of toasted hazelnuts in the tip of the molds.

To see MANY other Nutella ideas from friends who are participating in this Nutella Challenge, or to join in the fun, CLICK HERE.

Friday, August 7, 2009


Today is the second in a series of Virtual-Friday-Lunches, started by the adorable and brilliant Cheryl at ATigerInTheKitchen. The #LetsLunch item this go round is BURGERS, so here's my spin on it ---

I know...I know...what the hell is TEMPEH, right? For a long time I only thought of it as the weird bumpy package that sat beside the Tofu in the market. But, maybe you're like me; have a vivacious curiosity and a giant desire to eat healthier. And, maybe like me you just need a little more info and a few minutes to experiment. If so, then you're gonna love this little TEMPEH BURGER.

Just to be factual, and use my new found knowledge: Tempeh is
a cultured cake of beans and/or grains originally from Indonesia (one of the only soyfoods not from China). It's fermented, and when cooked properly has a nutty, meat-like, earthy...I'm making myself hungry, again...hardy bite. Tempeh contains more protein than chicken or beef, and loaded with Riboflavin and Manganese (which helps our bodies utilize nutrients, keeps bones strong and provides good function to our thyroid and nerves.) You won't read that on a Happy Meal box.

It took the US until the late 1970's to really get on board with Tempeh
- but that was also the time we had the most growth in our national awareness for health, world hunger, fitness and childhood nutrition.

Class dismissed, time for Kitchen Playground.

The Tempeh I bought (although many actually make their own) came in a 6x8 slab. I used a small cookie cutter to first cut thick circles out,
and then cut those in half to make thinner rounds. Tempeh is a great flavor canvas, meaning that it takes on and needs your ideas for flavor. It's like tofu in that way. I MARINATED the Tempeh circle/burgers for 30 - 45 minutes in a mixture of:


1/2 cup Soy Sauce
Juice of 1 orange
2 Tbls. lemon juice
2 tsps. garlic powder
2 tsps. Garam Masala (Spice mixture: if you don't have it use a pinch of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and cumin)

1/4 cup Agave sweetener
2 tsp. red pepper flakes

Cover and turn over a few times while marinating to make sure all pieces are flavored.

When ready to saute, pat the tempeh burgers dry on a paper towel. Then, heat a saute pan with 1 tbls. olive oil and saute for a crispy outside (about 2 minutes on each side.)

Remove burgers and place on mini-rolls with condiments of your choosing.

For my Tempeh Sliders: I used Vegan Mayonaise, roasted Yellow Beet, Roma tomato, Baby Romaine lettuces and placed them on a Green Tea/Black Sesame hand-made roll. I developed those rolls for "Fete du The" by ALGABAR.

These would make great appetizers, small plates or just cut them bigger and serve for a full burger meal.

ALSO, the scraps, from the tempeh not cut out, can be marinaded along with the burgers and also sauteed. I held them in the fridge and sprinkled them over a salad the next day. OMG, very deep, nutty and delicious topping for greens with red onions and roasted curry cauliflower. Try it, impress your friends...impress your body. Attempt Tempeh!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Chillin' It With Herbs

I'm HOT. I wish that was my self confidence showing up, but it's more about this summer's temperatures. Herbs are my air-conditioner for the soul. FRUIT and HERB SALSA

The farmer's market is teeming with the colors and fragrance of chocolate mint, lavender, sweet basil, wild oregano, and field chives. Sometimes I'll put a shallow wide-mouthed vase of those natural room atomizers in the window just to give the hot air a lift. And when I say "hot air" it's not coincidence that the window is near my husband's chair (I'm kidding, he's a doll.) At this time of year, I can't help but think of food combos that are simple, fresh, and give my inside the feeling that a run-in-the-sprinklers can do for the outside of me. HERBS can give that quality to almost any course, but especially to melons. There are so many varieties of melons out there. I hope you'll try this Fruit and Herb Salsa with several different kinds of melons; each one gives it a slightly different flavor profile. Also, you can vary the herbs for fun and convenience. I served this Fruit and Herb Salsa as a side to a light sandwich lunch, and also as a balancing act to a hot rice entree for a dinner. Herbs have been used since time began and documented since 3000BC. Their origins are listed from China, India, Greece, Rome, Egypt and Africa. Over the centuries, they have been used for luck, to ward off diseases, heal sores, keep away ghosts, clear up thunderstorms, stay awake during day-long church sermons, improve fidelity, and for bathing in before going into battle. For myself, I appreciate them as a food that also works as preventative medicine: an all natural way of cleansing and keeping our bodies in tune with nature. Before it starts to sound like I've been smoking them instead of eating them, here are a few fun facts about herbs, and a few ways to use them with other foods. Also, a good book on herbs that I've enjoyed is by Maida Silverman, A City Herbal.

Coriander is the seed of the plant, whose leaves are called Cilantro
Oregano is Wild Marjoram

Bay leaves were what the Regular Folks in Ancient Rome
bathed in. Roses are what the Rich Folks in Ancient Rome bathed in - thus the term "came out smelling like roses".

Arugula is a nutty herb that gives salads a woodsy taste and is also a great addition for pesto.
Mint can be blended into smoothies, chopped and sprinkled over rice, or crushed and added to drinks.
Rosemary sprigs can be added to a pan of potatoes for roasting, or stuffed inside cuts on a lamb roast before roasting or added to a vinegar or oil for flavor infusions.
Dill is excellent in egg dishes, including a great way to add some zip to your egg salad.
Mints, Thyme, Tarragon, Lavender, Rosemary, Basil, Lemongrass, and Parsley are nice herbs to use in water infusions with citrus fruits, cucumbers, or melons. HERBAL and LEMON WATER

Herbal Water is a quick and really inexpensive way to give yourself a Spa-quality refreshment right out of your own refrigerator. Use a glass bottle for the best chill. Wash your own selection of herbs and add a few citrus slices. Add water and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour, but will keep for days. Makes a beautiful decanter on your table or picnic, and the kids will love pulling this out for a chilled drink. Refill as it goes and you'll always have this on hand for your guests, but especially for yourself.
After-all, YOU are hot.


1 cup of cubed Melon
1/2 cup halved seedless grapes
1 Tbls. of each herb: (ie... parsley, dill, tarragon, chives, cilantro, basil, mint.) to taste
1 tsp. honey (optional)

Mix together in a bowl, chill well.
For serving, scoop mixture into a ramekin, press lightly with a spoon and turn over onto serving plate. Lift ramekin off carefully.
Garnish with sprigs of herbs used in salsa.