Panini

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RECIPE: I like the recipes in the Bourke Street Bakery book because they provide a lot of detailed instructions. There’s three steps to making panini: preparing the ‘ferment’, making the olive oil dough, and then shaping the panini themselves.

COMPONENTS: I made the ferment the night before. Now that I’ve made the full recipe, I’ve reserved some of the dough in the freezer as the ferment for the next batch. I learnt something new about yeast. I have instant dried yeast in stock because that’s what you use in the bread maker. Bourke Street Bakery said their recipes won’t work with the instant yeast because it proves too quickly, but it did seem to work this time. I’ll have to look into sourcing active dried yeast. I also learnt how to ‘knock down’ the bread while it was proving (for this recipe you do it twice during the 1.5 hour prove). The method was to spread the dough out to a rectangle and fold a third in from each end twice – a bit like laminating puff pastry. I cut the panini larger than recommended. The recipe was meant to make 30 and I got 20. I actually wouldn’t make them smaller – even at the size I cut them they were a good dinner roll size. I was worried at the time of putting them into the oven that they had over-proved, because I stuck a finger in one and the dough didn’t spring back at all. After the final half hour prove they hadn’t puffed up at all. Somehow, after spraying water in the oven and leaving a tin with steaming water in the bottom, they puffed up perfectly.

IMPRESSIONS: I can’t believe I pulled this one off because there were so many points where I was sure it hadn’t worked. They sounded hollow when tapped on the bottom, had nice air holes inside and seemed to be the same texture as the ones we buy, so I’m very happy.

Recipe from Bourke Street Bakery

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Mini Tartes Tatins

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RECIPE: Actually three recipes in one (Mini Tartes Tatins, Delicate Sweet Pastry and Fruit Glaze), these tarts were fairly easy to follow, but you definitely need to be precise and follow the instructions. The recipe asked for a combination of Golden Delicious and Granny Smith apples, which at this time of year I was unable to get, so I had to use only Granny Smiths.

COMPONENTS: It’s very important to freeze the rolled pastry before cutting it. What the recipe doesn’t tell you is it’s best to let it sit for half a minute once you take it out of the freezer because if you cut straight away the pastry sheet cracks. The lightly floured circles of pastry lifted up with the cutter, which meant you could gently pop them out on to the baking tray. I cut them to 3mm thick but then they spread in the oven so ended up being more like 2mm, which was a bit thin. My heart always races when making caramel, which doesn’t help. I made a perfect caramel, then poured it onto the apples before adding the water and butter. It immediately set to toffee, which I then had to remove before starting the caramel again. It worked perfectly the second time with the water and butter added at the appropriate time. Keep hands away from the sugar as you add the warm water – it spits. I baked the apple in a shallow baking tray with the caramel, but what is important is that the apple is in a single layer so the liquid can reduce properly at the end of the bake (mine was more like a double layer). I pressed the apple in a fine sieve to remove the last of the liquid before placing it into the moulds. The fruit glaze was straightforward and doesn’t take long. I did realise halfway through grating the citrus peel (fortunately before I added it to the sugar mix) that the recipe had said to use a peeler so it was possible to strain it out at the end.

ASSEMBLY: The apple took longer than the suggested hour to become firm enough in the freezer to push out on to the moulds. Fully frozen is fine, and the glaze works beautifully spooned over a the apples on a rack before putting the apple on the pastry.

IMPRESSIONS: This tasted okay but they were more tart than I expected, which may have been because of my choice of apples. The apple texture wasn’t that exciting. Having said that, everyone at work raved about them, possibly because they weren’t overly sweet like tarts can be sometimes. It was a good exercise for practicing technique, but I probably wouldn’t bake this one again.

Recipe from Patisserie by Christophe Felder

Orange and chocolate checkerboard cake

RECIPE: I used the recipe for Moist Orange Cake and the Rich Chocolate Cake (both quick-mix cakes). I didn’t alter them in any way. I chose fairly well matched cakes, but if I try a checkerboard cake again I will use one recipe (say for a vanilla cake) that is then adapted for different flavours. The cakes need to be reasonably firm, as you’re cutting and manipulating the cooked cake, and it needs to have clear demarcation between the colours to achieve the effect.

COMPONENTS: When combining two recipes together to form one cake it’s important that they are a similar density and texture, otherwise they could react differently to the assembly process. These two cake recipes were very easy to prepare using a stand mixer, with very few steps for either of them. I split each cake mix in half and cooked it in a sponge tin. Alternatively you could bake one cake and use a long knife or cake wire to slice it in half.

ASSEMBLY: I spent time researching different ways to make checkerboard cake and settled on a method that took slightly more preparation but meant I didn’t need to purchase yet another specialised tin. I cut templates from paper to the circle sizes I needed, with a small circle for the centre, and a larger circle for the middle ring. Each ring needs to be an equal width, so the centre circle should be twice the width of the rings. After levelling off the tops, I then cut out my rings, keeping the alternate colour ring of the same size for the next layer. Each ring and layer was ‘glued’ together with a thin layer of buttercream (it shouldn’t be obvious unless you want clear lines between your checker squares). I covered the cake with a chocolate icing, but you could dress it with anything really.

IMPRESSION: The chocolate and orange was a perfect combination, and my family were delighted when we cut inside because it looked so impressive. It was easier to create this cake than I expected, and I’ll probably make it again.

Recipes from the Australian Women’s Weekly Cakes & Slices

Ice cream cones

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RECIPE: I’m a bit short on time this week so I wanted to make something quick that still tested me. I settled on making ice cream cones for dessert, and this recipe was perfect. It’s another recipe with US measurements, but thankfully the author has also provided weights in grams, which makes the whole process much easier. It was very easy to follow, with good results. I made a half quantity for four cones and it still worked fine. I added melted chocolate to the bottoms to stop the ice cream melting out the bottom.

COMPONENTS: I used a stand mixer to combine the egg whites, sugar etc. I stirred in the flour and melted butter by hand, and it all worked as described in the recipe. I found that I had to let the pan cool for a few minutes in between cones so that the batter didn’t set before I was able to roll the pan to spread the batter thinly. In a hot pan you end up with a thicker cone, which is trickier to roll. I melted about 40g of dark chocolate in the microwave in 10 second bursts, stirring until it was a good consistency.

ASSEMBLY: Don’t try this recipe if your fingers are super-sensitive to heat, because you have to roll the cone straight out of the pan – there is no time to wait. They roll easily, and then you hold it to the bench for a minute to seal the edge. I dropped a dollop of melted chocolate down the cone on the inside, and then dipped the outside of the bottom in the chocolate and smoothed it around the tip to get a good seal.

IMPRESSION: I love this! It was so easy and quick and a nice little treat to have after dinner!

Recipe from Gemma’s Bigger Bolder Baking

Chocolate Overload Cupcakes

DSC_2280aRECIPE: This is the second time I’ve made this recipe, and I was keen to experiment with the method to see if I could improve it. The first time I made it I followed the recipe and the cake turned out a bit grainy and dry. I didn’t adjust the quantities of ingredients this time, but instead of mixing all the dry then adding all the wet in one go, I used the more traditional method of creaming the butter and sugar first. I then added the egg and vanilla and the remaining wet ingredients before blending in the dry. I didn’t cream it for long, as I didn’t want to incorporate too much air and end up with a cake that was too fluffy and unable to carry the weight of the frosting. The outcome was a much better textured cake. I always use patty pan cake tins rather than muffin tins because in my experience a smaller cake is much more appealing to people. In the smaller size you will get 24 cupcakes. The recipe has US measurements that I had to convert to grams.

COMPONENTS: I adjusted the method for the cake, but didn’t change anything else. The ganache is straightforward but you are likely to have some left over. Either halve the recipe, or save spare ganache for other recipes (there’s lots of ways to use it) or as a chocolate topping for ice cream that sets in a firm shell. You will note that the chocolate frosting uses shortening as well as butter. I noted this as a benefit in a previous post about gingerbread cupcakes as it helps to stabilise the frosting. You’ll also have spare frosting, unless you like to pile it as high as your cake. I prefer more cake than frosting, and don’t forget there’s ganache as well, so it’s already quite sweet!

ASSEMBLY: I cooled the cakes to room temperature, cut out their tops then added a teaspoonful of warm ganache to each. I put them in a fridge to set the ganache before adding the frosting, which would melt otherwise. The other time I made these cupcakes, I added a malteser to the frosting as a topper, which added a nice bit of crunch. Chocolate sprinkles or some form of tempered chocolate would be good too.

IMPRESSION: Great recipe, especially with the more traditional method for the cake that I described above. Went down a treat at work!

Recipe from Life Love and Sugar by Lindsay

Bagels

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RECIPE: I decided to try homemade bagels after buying a disappointing packet of bagels from the supermarket over the weekend. When we travelled in Alaska a while back, we fell in love with fresh bagels, but they’re not common in Australia. Yes, I stuffed up and somehow ended up with flat bagels even though the dough rose beautifully, but this is a nice easy recipe that someone (me) could bake, when they really have no skill with anything involving yeast. It’s also nice to be able to cook a bread-equivalent in only two hours.

COMPONENTS: Preparing the dough all went exactly as the recipe said it would. The yeast bubbled up nicely and the dough doubled in size just as it was meant to. When creating the rings, the recipe said to leave a two-inch hole in the middle, so I was expecting it to close up a little, but it didn’t, so some of my bagels have a large hole. I’d seen a trick on TV of spinning the bagel on your finger to get an even hole, and this worked pretty well. I followed all the recommended times, so I’m not sure how you get nice plump bagels like you see in the shops. I suspect I didn’t knead the dough for long enough or vigorously enough.

ASSEMBLY: The dough is sticky, so they stuck to my fingers a bit when I was trying to drop them in the boiling water. I ended up flouring my hands generously so that wouldn’t happen. They transferred easily to the baking tray and baked well.

IMPRESSION: Even though they looked a bit flat and lumpy, my bagels tasted yummy and weren’t dense or dry – way better than the bought ones available in the supermarket. I liked how quick and easy they were to make. Another one I’m going to have to try again to see if I can get it right.

Recipe from Genius Kitchen

Choux au Craquelin

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RECIPE: My aim was to attempt choux pastry, which meant that I dissected the pear and apple choux recipe for the parts I wanted, namely the choux buns and the crackle finish. I filled it with a basic crème pâtissiére from the croquembouche recipe in the same book. I didn’t have gel colour, so substituted liquid colour. This added more liquid to the recipe, but it didn’t seem to ruin it. I used leftover banana creme to assemble the little lady 🙂

COMPONENTS: First job is the crème pâtissiére, as it needs to cool for a few hours before use. Having curdled custard many times, I stirred this like crazy, not stopping for a second. I didn’t cook it as long as the recipe required because it became thick very fast and I was scared of overcooking it, as it had SOOO many egg yolks in it. I froze the egg whites, as they can still be used in meringues after being frozen. It was a big relief to store my perfect custard in the fridge, ready to add later. The trick with the craquelin is to roll it to the thickness you need at the end before putting it in the fridge to cool. It doesn’t hold together too well when you’re assembling the buns but it didn’t seem to matter that I wasn’t applying perfect discs of even thickness.

I’m not sure how, but my choux pastry worked first time. I liked the tip that it was ready when a spoon will stand in the mix. I piped the choux dough onto the tray and used the method of cooking at high heat initially then reducing the heat of the oven to finish. Baking the choux didn’t go quite so well. There is a reason recipes tell you NOT to open the oven door while the pastry is cooking. I couldn’t resist on one batch because I was worried my old dysfunctional oven was burning the ones at the back. The result can be seen below. The bun on the left was cooked according to instructions; the one on the right was when I opened the oven during the bake!

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Rather than spend a lot of time explaining how to perfect your choux pastry, I suggest you read this page by Dini the Flavor Bender – she does an excellent job.

ASSEMBLY: About three-quarters of my choux buns weren’t flat and were suitable for filling. The craquelin worked well. I put the crème pâtissiére in a piping bag but didn’t have a good-sized nozzle. The one I used put a bigger hole in the bottom than ideal. It piped perfectly, with the custard helping to fill out some of the buns that had collapsed. I used the banana cream to stick the two buns together and then used a star nozzle to pipe some as decoration around the join.

IMPRESSION: I’ve still got work to do with choux pastry, but I’m pretty happy with how most of these turned out. I only had enough suitable buns to make about four little ladies, the rest had visual faults of some sort. They still tasted marvellous.

Recipe from Zumbo by Adriano Zumbo