Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers May Challenge - Opera Cake

The lovely founders of the Daring Baker Empire, Ivonne and Lis, chose the challenge for the month of May along with two new members Fran and Shea. In true DB style, they decided on the Opera cake - a three layer almond jaconde, layered with buttercream, mousse and chocolate glaze. In true Canadian Baker style, I left this cake to the last two days before the clock struck midnight. Good thing I gave myself the extra day because I needed it.

After having completed the cake, I can say that if you tackle all the components one by one, you'll be fine. I had never baked a cake in a jelly roll pan before and was eager to see how it would turn out. I pulled it off without a hitch which was quite gratifying.

Assembling the cake is not difficult either. Each layer of cake is brushed with soaking liquid and covered with buttercream. Unfortunately I didn't buy enough white chocolate to complete the ganache/mousse layer so I topped my cake with strawberry buttercream and a white chocolate glaze. My glaze dripped down the sides of the cake whereas I have seen some cakes by uber-talented DBers with nary a drip in sight. I guess I need to practice!

Overall, I'm happy that I made this cake. It challenged me and when making a new type of dessert with different techniques I'm never sure if I'm doing it right until I'm finished. Well, its not the most polished cake but I'm pleased with how it turned out. Definitely edible and sweet, sweet sweet!

To see the complete recipe, visit Cream Puffs in Venice and to see all the amazing, different and imaginative cakes by the DB army, check out the blogroll.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Fruity Soda Bread

Soda bread is a type of quick bread that can easily be made in a matter of minutes. It is usually made as a large circle and scored on the top with a knife. What makes it quick is the use of baking soda as a leavening agent rather than yeast.

Soda bread can be made savoury or sweet as in the picture. It makes a great meal accompaniment and its texture is reminiscent of a scone. It is best eaten within a few days and can be toasted and slathered in butter or jam.

This recipe produced a bread that was soft on the inside and crusty on the outside. Once cooled it sliced really well, though the dough was too soft to be scored before baking. Soda bread could also be made in smaller portions but you have to remember to shorten the baking time accordingly. Making soda bread is also a great way to use up the mish-mash of supplies in your cupboard. Only have a few raisins, currants and candied fruit? No problem, make a soda bread and your odds and ends will make something spectacular.

Recipe: Fruity Soda Bread

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Almond Biscotti

Biscotti is a large coffeehouse chain staple. Everywhere you go, there are those huge glass jars layered with these perfectly identical Italian cookies ready to be dunked into hot beverages across Canada. I never really enjoy these commercial biscotti because I find them more rock-hard than crisp and dry as they should be. Perhaps because of this aversion, I don't make them very often at home but when asked by Mr. CB, I relent.

Biscotti is a double baked cookie. After making the dough (which is sticky) it has to be shaped into logs and then baked. Afterwards, they're taken out of the oven, cooled and sliced. From there, you pop them back in the oven to golden them up and get them crisp. I have tried different recipes, some of which brown more quickly than others, but I found with this Canadian Living recipe the biscotti turned out perfectly. They were nicely golden on the outside and, when cooled, were crunchy, dunkable and thoroughly enjoyable.

Recipe: Almond Biscotti