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This month’s challenge is hosted by Jason from Daily Candor who challenged us to bake a peculiar-looking and peculiarly named hrapouša (hrah-PO-choo-sha) cake (or Dolska torta, or “Dol cake”). Created by the villagers of the tiny town of Dol on the Dalmatian island of Bra, the cake seems to have been named for the rugged stones from the nearby caves, and is known locally to be a bit of an aphrodisiac. It has won considerable acclaim within Croatia, and every year the town of Dol hosts the Night of Hrapouša competition which draws over a thousand attendees.

The cake is very different from other cakes in terms of both texture and flavor. The bottom layer is a fragrant almond-based sponge with orange-vanilla notes, while the top is a lemon-scented fragile brittle made of walnuts. It is extremely rich, and even those of us with a major sweet tooth can handle only a thin slice or two. Fortunately, it keeps at room temperature for a good week, and for several months if frozen immediately after making.

HRAPOUSA

Ingredients:

250g / 9oz / 1 3/4 cups whole almonds (roasted or raw)

400g / 14oz / 3 1/2 cups walnuts (halves and pieces)

600g / 1 1/3lb / 3 cups granulated sugar

1 ½ tablespoon kirsch or other cherry-flavored liquor

1/2 orange and 1/2 lemon

6 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 480°F / 249°C / Gas Mark 9 1/2. Pulse the almonds in food processor to yield a meal.
  • Take the zest and juice from ½ orange, ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, cherry-flavored liquor and 200g sugar.

  • Mix gently until it is homogeneous. Separate the 6 eggs, adding the egg yolks directly into the mixer bowl.
  • Retain the whites separately: 4 whites in one large mixing bowl, the remaining 2 in another medium bowl.

  • Mix ingredients from step 2 with yolks until batter is uniform. Pour into another bowl if using stand mixer.
  • Clean out your standing mixer bowl and place the 2 egg whites in the bowl. Beat well until stiff peaks form.

  • Add half of the beaten egg whites and half of the almond meal to the batter. Fold it in gently to incorporate.
  • Add remaining almond meal and egg whites, stirring gently. Pour the batter into a 20 cm spring form pan.

  • Drop oven temperature to 392°F /200°C immediately after placing cake inside and bake as per scheduled:
    for 5 minutes at 392°F /200°C, then for 15 minutes at 350°F / 176°C and for 15 minutes at 320°F / 160°C.

  • Begin checking the cake approx. 5 minutes after lowering the temperature to 320°F / 160°C / Gas Mark 3.
  • When a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, remove cake from the oven and leave to cool.

  • If the center has swollen due to baking, press gently with the back of a wooden spoon to flatten its surface.
  • While the cake is baking, place remaining 4 egg whites, 400g / 2 cups sugar and the walnuts in a large pot.

  • Turn up the burner to medium-high heat and stir the mixture aggressively for approximately 15 minutes.
  • Make sure that the bottom of the pot does not scorch. Stop when the liquid takes on a beige/caramel color.

  • Add zest and juice of ½ lemon and remaining ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract to the walnut-caramel mixture.
  • Stir to spread uniformly throughout mixture. Pour resulting walnut mixture over bottom layer of the cake.

  • Make the top even with the back of the wooden spoon and place the cake back in the oven at 320°F /160°C.
  • Bake for an additional 15 minutes, until the top takes on a golden color. Allow cake to cool for 90 minutes.

  • Then gently remove cake from spring form pan, peel off the parchment paper. Servings: Makes 12-16 slices.
  • Cake can be stored at room temperature for 5-6 days or cover in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.

Pavlova is standard dessert fare at many Australian gatherings. The classic Pavlova is a dessert consisting of a crisp, light meringue base topped with fruit and cream. Most often the centre of the meringue is of a ‘marshmallowy’ consistency. However Pavlova can be stacked in layers, mini Pavlovas, or lightly baked and rolled with a filling.

The meringue can be flavoured with nuts, spices, chocolate, cocoa or coffee powder and filled with custard, mousse, Bavarian cream, mascarpone, fruit curd or yogurt. For my first attempt at making this famous Australian dessert, I made plain meringue with lemon curd filling, topped with fresh strawberries and chopped pistachios.

PAVLOVA

Ingredients:

For the Pavolva

4 egg whites, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup / 225g / superfine sugar

3 teaspoons / 8g cornstarch

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon white vinegar

For the Passion Fruit Curd

150ml strained passion fruit pulp

2 tablespoons of passion fruit seeds

20ml / 1 metric tablespoon lemon juice

170g / 3/4 cup unsalted butter, chopped

200g / 9/10 cup caster sugar

3 large eggs + 2 large egg yolks

For the Chantilly Cream

300ml / 1 1/4 cups / 10 fl oz full fat cream

16g / 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

5ml / 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Pavlova Assembly

2 green kiwi fruit + 2 gold kiwi fruit, sliced

1/3 cup shredded coconut, toasted

Method:

  • Preheat the oven 135°C / 275°F and prepare a large flat tray by lining it with non-stick baking paper.
  • Beat egg whites until they are foamy. Add the cream of tartar and beat egg whites till soft peaks form.

  • Continue beating while gradually adding sugar 1 tablespoon at a time till meringue is thick and glossy.
  • Rub a little meringue between fingers. If still gritty with sugar, continue to whisk until sugar dissolves.

  • Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and gently fold in the sifted cornstarch followed by the vanilla.
  • Add the vinegar and pile the mixture onto the baking paper lined flat tray into a 20cm/ 8-inch circle.

  • Hollow out the centre a little and bake the pavlova for about 1 1/4 hours. Cool in oven with door ajar.
  • If your oven runs hot and the pavlova is colouring, simply lower the temperature by 5 or 10 degrees.

  • Store the cooled pavlova in an air-tight container. Meanwhile prepare the passion fruit curd filling.
  • For passion fruit curd, in a medium saucepan place passion fruit pulp, lemon juice, butter and sugar.

  • Cook the mixture over medium heat till the butter has melted and the sugar is completely dissolved.
  • In a bowl place eggs and additional egg yolks and whisk eggs until combined. Whisk the eggs slowly.

  • Pour whisked eggs into the passion fruit mixture. It is important to keep whisking while you do this.
  • Strain the passion fruit curd mixture through a sieve back into the saucepan to remove any ‘eggy’ bits.

  • Add passion fruit seeds and continue to cook over a low to medium heat until mixture has thickened.
  • It should coat the back of a spoon. Once mixture has cooled, place in a sterilized jar and store in fridge.

  • The curd will last for a couple of weeks in the fridge. For the Chantilly cream, combine all ingredients.
  • Using a hand whisk or electric whisk, beat the whipping cream in a stainless steel, glass or china bowl.

  • It is whipped properly when it is still soft and billowy but holds its shape when the whisk is withdrawn.
  • Once the cream is whipped, cover it and store in the fridge until you are ready to assemble the pavlova.

  • Remove baking paper from pavlova and place on a serving tray.  Spread the Chantilly cream over top.
  • Drizzle with as much of the curd as you like, decorate with kiwi fruit and sprinkle with toasted coconut.

  • Cut the pavlova into wedges and serve with extra passion fruit curd if desired. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
  • Pavlova cannot be frozen. Assemble right before serving and if you have any leftovers, store in fridge.

Daring Bakers August Challenge

This month’s challenge is hosted by Sara from Sassy Suppers who challenged us to make pirozhki, little hand-sized pies filled with meat or vegetables. According to Anne Volokh in her book The Art of Russian Cuisine, pirozhki have been sold as street food since Peter the Great’s time. They have also been served during elaborate banquets both in Russia and Paris. The hand-held fried pies would be stuffed with meat, mushrooms, rice, eggs, cheese or jam.

The yeast dough recipe is the dough to use if you choose to fry your pirozhki. It is very sticky and tender. It will make you frustrated. When Sara tried to rush filling and pinching them, she ended up throwing a few out. Be patient; do not rush. Flour your work surface well and only work with one pirozhok at a time. Take your time and you will succeed.

DEEP FRIED PIROZHKI/ ZHARENYE PIROZHKI

Ingredients:

For the Meat Filling/ Myasnaya Nachinka

15ml / 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 small onions, finely chopped

455g / 1 pound lean ground meat

2 hard-cooked eggs, finely chopped

30ml / 2 tablespoons chicken broth

30ml / 2 tablespoons sour cream

8g / 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Salt and black pepper, to taste

For the Yeast Dough/Drozhzhevoe Testo

7g / 1/4oz / 1 package active dry yeast

1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar

45ml / 3 tablespoons warm water

455g / 1 pound / 3 2/3 cups instant-blending flour

415ml / 1 3/4 cups warm milk (35°C / 95°F)

2 egg yolks, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon kitchen salt

45g / 3 tablespoons softened butter

Vegetable oil, for frying

Method:

  • Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté onions, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes till browned.
  • Add ground meat to skillet and cook until browned, breaking up clumps with a spatula. Transfer to a bowl.

  • Stir in the remaining ingredients. Let cool completely before using. Store in refrigerator until ready to use.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, combine the yeast, 1/2 teaspoon sugar and warm water.

  • Proof yeast for five minutes. Add 190g/1 1/2 cups of the flour and all of the warm milk to the yeast mixture.
  • Beat on low speed with a blender or by hand for two minutes, scraping down sides, until it is well-blended.

  • Cover with plastic wrap or a cloth, set in a warm place for about 2 hours. The dough should be very bubbly.
  • You can hear bubbles forming and popping actively. In separate bowl beat egg yolks with remaining sugar.

  • Add salt and beat for three minutes by hand/ 30 seconds with an electric beater. Add the egg yolk mixture.
  • Then add the remaining flour to the dough. Using the dough hook, beat the dough at moderate low speed.

  • Alternately, beat with a wooden spoon, for 2 minutes. Add the softened butter and beat for a minute more.
  • Switch to medium-high and beat dough for 12 minutes. Final dough will be very wet, almost like gum-like.

  • It should pull away in strings when you take the beater out. Scrape dough into a generously greased bowl.
  • Grease the top of the dough by spraying it with cooking spray or brush with oil. Cover it with plastic wrap.

  • Set dough in a warm place for 1 hour or until the dough is doubled in bulk. The dough is now ready to use.
  • Refrigerate until ready to form pirozhki. To assemble, roll out half of the dough on a well-floured surface.

  • Roll the dough out to about 1/2 cm or 1/4″ thickness and use a 8 – 10 cm or 3 – 4″ cutter to cut out circles.
  • Place 1 heaping tablespoon of filling in the center of a circle of dough and bring up the sides of the dough.

  • Pinch them together to seal the filling. Gently form the turnover into an oval, rounding out pointed ends.
  • Place on a greased cookie sheet or plate and allow the pirozhki to rise for about 30 minutes before frying.

  • They will not double but will look very puffy. Fill a pot or deep-frying with vegetable oil to depth of 10cm.
  • Heat to 190°C / 375°F. Line a plate with paper towels or use a cooling rack set over a pan to drain pastries.

  • Carefully lower 3 or 4 pirozhki into the hot oil and cook for 2 minutes on each side or until golden brown.
  • Remove the pirozhki from the oil and drain on the paper towels or the rack. Serve immediately. Makes 24.

Daring Bakers July Challenge

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PrerrnaMirchi
Mauritius

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