Saturday, January 29, 2011

January 2011 Daring Baker's Challenge - Biscuit Joconde Imprime

The January 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Astheroshe of the blog accro. She chose to challenge everyone to make a Biscuit Joconde Imprime to wrap around an Entremets dessert.

This month's challenge proved to be a challenge in many ways! To start with I had never heard of "Biscuit Joconde Imprime" or "Entremets". The only recognisable word was "biscuit" which in Australia is a cookie but there didn't seem to be any of those in this challenge! So it was a little lesson in French with the help of a fellow Daring Baker, Audax Artifex, that helped me figure out exactly what we were baking this month!

 According to Audax, the three elements of this challenge are:-

1. The decorative paste in this challenge is called Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste this is the mixture that you make into a pattern on the silicone mat and freeze.
2.The sponge in this challenge is called Joconde Sponge this is the mixture that you spread over the frozen décor paste and then bake.
3. When you have baked the patterned paste and the sponge it is called a joconde imprime (sometimes called joconde or décor; imprime means prints) this terms means a decorative design baked into a light sponge cake providing an elegant finish to your product.
4. An entremet is a dessert with a joconde (imprime) outside filled with layers of various mousses, purées, sponges, cakes and biscuits etc.
5. The art of making joconde imprime is called décor skills in many place also.

So after all this I realised the challenge recipe only made the decorative external layer of the finished dessert, it was up to us how to fill and complete the dessert or entremet.

For the printable PDF of the challenge recipe click here.

As I had two special family birthdays to celebrate during the month of January, I decided this would make a wonderful birthday cake if the birthday message was written into the cake.  I could then fill it however I wanted.

To begin I coloured and flavour the Patterned Joconde-Décor Paste with cocoa and wrote my message on baking parchment. Then flipped the parchment over and piped the paste on backwards before proceeding with the recipe.

As you can see, once baked and  flipped over the message read correctly. This cake was then cut to fit a 23cm springform pan which I had lined with cling film.

The first cake was to celebrate my father's 80th birthday. In honour of my late mother whose specialty dessert was the Italian classic "Zuppa Inglese", I recreated a Zuppa Inglese-style Entremet.


The layers were cherry brandy soaked savoiardi biscuit (ladyfingers), chocolate bavarian, more cherry brandy soaked savoiardi, vanilla bavarian and black cherry gelee.

The second cake was to celebrate my daughter's 16th birthday. She chose a black forrest style Entremet. 

First layer is a thin chocolate mude cake, chocolate bavarian, cherry bavarian topped with fresh whipped cream and fresh cherries. It was meant to have a layer of cherry gelee but that didn't set properly so I removed it before topping with whipped cream. Oh well! Not everything works out! 

Vanilla Bavarian
recipe provided by our host Astheroshe

250 g milk
60g yolks
75 grams white sugar
8 grams gelatin ( bloomed in cold water)
250 grams heavy cream whipped to soft peaks
vanilla to taste (can also use a bean)

Combine milk, and vanilla and bring to boil
Whisk egg yolks and sugar until combined.
Temper milk into eggs.
Return to heat cooking slowly until it is nappe ( coats the back of a spoon)
Add bloomed gelatin , Strain, and stir over ice bath to cool quickly.
Fold in heavy heavy cream when mixture reaches 80F/ 26 C

For chocolate bavarian:- add 100g dark chocolate.
For Cherry bavarian: add 400g tin drained, black cherries - half pureed and half whole
                                 and also a little pink food colouring.

Cherry gelee
recipe provided by our host Astheroshe

This makes a shiny glazed top. A beautiful finish!

125 grams dark cherry purée
35 grams sucrose (sugar)
4.5 grams gelatin (bloomed, i.e. soaked in some water for a few minutes)
Mix the sugar with the purée, warm slightly. Add soaked gelatin. Cool . Pour over entremet in one pour. Use off spatula set to make even on top.

Many thanks to our host Astheroshe of accro for an amazing challenge that I would never have done on my own or even dreamed of!  Take a look at what these clever Daring Bakers created in January - Testado, Provadoe, Aprovado, Bake in Paris and CakeWalk!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Move over Nigella - New Domestic Goddesses have arrived!

How does a girl celebrate her 16th birthday? A barbecue with friends? An all girls sleepover? Well, not my daughter! Always one to think of something different, my daughter decided she would like to invite a group of friends to a Masterchef-style challenge to celebrate her recent 16th birthday. 
"Sure, honey!"
I just wondered how we would manage this one!
So, the invitations were sent but the actual challenge remained a mystery. All the girls accepted the challenge and although most had little experience in the kitchen, all were fanatical followers of the TV reality show.

A cupcake challenge would be the easiest in many ways. We decided on a basic muffin recipe because it is easily made without an electric mixer but can still be flavoured in many ways and iced and decorated creatively. The recipe cards were printed and some crazy, fun rules were made up. Ingredients were bought - spices, nuts, dried fruit, spreads, syrups and various forms of chocolate and sweets along with food colourings and assorted sprinkles- and displayed on the day of the big event.


The eight contestants were paired to make 4 teams and each received purpose made aprons in their team colour along with a wooden spoon and a measuring cup to help complete the challenge. Once the challenge was announced and the quite ridiculous list of rules read, the ingredients were unveiled. The teams were given 3 minutes to check out the ingredients and 2 minutes to brainstorm with their partner before the one hour challenge began in earnest. This is when the flour began to fly and the eggs and milk poured from the table onto the floor! 

Cupcakes (muffins) were baked and carefully checked!

And then the decorating began....



...and concentration was required!

Finally the proud result but the judging was still to come! My husband paraded as George Colombaris while my son became Matt Preston. But wait there was more... Maggie arrived! My sister threw herself fully into her roll as Maggie Beer discussing with her fellow judges the attributes of each entry, the crumb, the texture and the presentation. Matt threw his plate to the floor saying "That is disgusting......disgustingly good!"

Certificates were given in various categories - Best Plating, Most Creative Cupcake, Most Likely to Succeed and The Grand Prize which also took out the coveted trophy!

Everyone had a fun day and more food colouring, butter and chocolate was used in one single batch of cakes and icing than I thought possible!

Most Likely to Succeed - "Chocolate Insomnia"
espresso and chocolate)

Best Plating - "Contagious Choc Cherry Cupcake Creations"
(Chocolate and Cherry Ripe)

Most Creative - "Heaven Delight"
(white chocolate and butter)

Grand Prize - "Chocolate Extravaganza"
(Mars bar and chocolate fudge)

Basic Muffins

2 cups self raising flour (or all purpose flour plus 4 teaspoons baking powder)
3/4 cup fine white sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup canola oil

Sift flour and mix with sugar. Combine egg, milk, oil and vanilla and add to dry ingredients. Spoon into large cupcake trays. Bake at 200C for 15 minutes.
Variations are totally your discretion!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chilli Mud Crab

At the moment the southern part of Queensland is cleaning up and recovering from the most devasting floods for many years. An area said to be the size of France and Germany put together has been affected. Lives have been lost and still more are missing.We watched our television in horror as cars were overturned and swept away by the flash flood, trees bent and twisted as if they were toothpicks and steel and concrete structures destroyed. A flood relief appeal was immediately set up to help the many Queenslanders left homeless by the force of Mother Nature.  The bad weather and floods have now moved  further south and are now affecting New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania while bush fires have raged in Western Australia. Such is the land "down under" that we call home, Australia. A land of extreme diversities.

Many dear friends have asked about mine and my family's welfare and for that I thank you for your care and concern. But even though I live in Queensland, we are over 1000km north of the disasterous floods and are enjoying our tropical North Queensland lifestyle. 
Relaxing on the beach, fishing and eating good food are what our lifestyle is all about. Recently my husband and son brought home a wonderful catch of three, glorious mudcrabs. Mudcrabs (scylla serrata)  have a wonderful, delicate, sweet meat. Usually, we simply boil or steam the crabs and pick out the meat to be enjoyed with an olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing.  But this time I tried this recipe with great results!  

Mudcrabs are large crabs with a found in the northern tropical to temperate waters of Australia. They inhabit sheltered estuaries, tidal reaches of some rivers mud flats and mangrove forests. Crabs favour the soft muddy bottom. Their  two hind legs are flattened for swimming. But the two front nippers are large and strong for crushing and cutting their prey.

Now onto the recipe! It may seems a lot of work but I promise you it's worth it! 

Once you have your live mudcrabs  (2 or 3 crabs for four people is about right) you will need to clean and prepare them for cooking. Kill them by placing in the freezer for an hour or two. Then you are ready to clean them. 

1.Clean the outside of the mud crab with a brush under running water.

2.If you want to keep the top shell to place back on the crab when you plate it up, lift the flap on it's belly and pull the top shell from the back of the crab forward, then halve the crab with a knife.
(You can cook the top shell in with the rest of the crab)

4.Remove the guts and feathery lungs from the body.

5.Brush out any muck from the inside of the crab.

6.Crack the shells of each portion before cooking to let the flavors in (one tap on each with a knife sharpening steel will do the trick). You can cut each half in half again quartering the crab - if that makes sense!

 Now the fun stuff! Warm up a wok with a few spoonfuls of canola oil,  2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic, 2 teaspoons grated ginger and chilli. The chilli is up to you, your taste and the strength of your chilli. I used 8 of my home grown, dried chillis, ground up finely. When the aromatics are letting you know how great they smell, toss in the portioned crab.  Stir fry until the crab is starting to change colour but don't allow the garlic is burn.

Toss through 1 finely sliced, red capsicum.

At this point it is time to add in the ingredients which will become the sauce.
 Puree a 400g tin tomatoes, mix with 3 tablespoons black bean sauce, 4 tablespoons soy sauce and 4 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce. Pour over the crab and stir through.

Add 2 tablespoons sherry, 2 tablespoon white vinegar and 2 tablespoons grated palm sugar. ( You can also use brown sugar)

Stir through 140ml coconut cream and allow to simmer absorbing the flavourful sauce until the crab has completely changed colour and is tender and cooked.  Toss through a handful of sliced, spring onions.

Arrange on a deep platter of steamed jasmine rice placing the pieces in the appropriate position to reassemble the crab crowning it with the top shell! Sprinkle with another handful on sliced, spring onions.
Provide plenty of napkins and enjoy with a salad!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Coffee, Walnut and Amaretto Cake

Marcellina in Cucina welcomes 2011! This is going to be a great year! I haven't made any New Year's resolutions as I usually do but I know I don't need to. I have many goals that I know will be achieved this year. Have you made a New Year's resolution? If you have, I really hope it works for you. Goals and ambitions are what motivates us to be better people.
Here in Australia we are in holiday mode. This is our summer holidays. School is out for at least 6 weeks. Families take annual vacations. Factories and workshops take annual leave so not much can be done on the work front. Australia slows down a little and enjoys the sun, sea and surf.

It's times like this that we might have an impromtu get together to share a meal maybe a glass of wine or a icy cold beer. I still like to bake but something simple and delicious. This cake ticks all the boxes. I particularly love the topping of Amaretto flavoured mascarpone. So easy!

Coffee, Walnut and Amaretto Cake

1 cup (100g) walnuts
1/4 cup (20g) ground espresso coffee
150g butter
3/4 cup (165g) caster sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup (60ml) Amaretto
3/4 cup (110g) self raising flour
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons Amaretto, extra
250g mascarpone
extra walnuts and/or coffee beans to decorate

Heat the over 180C. Grease a 20cm round pan and line the base with baking paper.
Process the walnuts and the coffee until finely ground.
Beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the Amaretto. Mix in the walnut and coffee mixture. Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder. Add to the butter mixture and mix until just combined.
Spoon into prepare pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes.  Remove from the oven and drizzle over 1 tablespoon Amaretto. Cool in pan. When cool remove from pan and place on serving plate. Mix remaining Amaretto with mascarpone and spread over the top of the cake. Decorate as desired. Chill the cake for 30 minutes before serving.