Tuesday, 29 November 2011

When nothing seems to be working

The blog was initially published on Tuesday, 21 June 2011. As promised, I am adding more pictures and details to the existing content. Please note that the pictures display an 8" inch coffee sponge cake for which I have used only three eggs. The images are just to show you the different stages of sponge making, and the consistency of the cake mixture. Use the amounts as stated in the recipe below or adjust according to the size of your pan.

What do you do when nothing around you works the way you want it to??? Last Saturday was one of such days. A very close friend of mine with family was here to spend the weekend with us and nothing seemed like working in my favour.

It all started before they had even arrived. I couldnt manage to do my groceries in time, as a result to which we all had to compromise on junk for lunch. The dinner was served at 10:00 pm and was in my opinion utterly devastating as the new brand of noodles refused to soften up even after 35 minutes of boiling (you wont believe but they were so hard from inside that finally I had to pressure cook them. I know it sounds crazy but I have two witnesses to confirm this). Anyways, the dinner was somehow saved by the impaccable chicken stacks but the curse reappeared again the next day when my friend asked me to bake a cake for her.

Ive often encountered disasters in the kitchen but that day was really special. From cutting fingers to falling bowls, mistaking salt for sugar and forgetting to add water in the recipe, an overheated oven and a broken peeler - everything in the kitchen seemed jinxed no matter how careful I tried to be.

Nevertheless, I am grateful that there wasnt anything that we couldnt manage to fix in the end. Please ignore the flattened top of the cake, it was only because my cream and the beaters were not chilled properly before beating and I had no more nerves to try further.

Well, I must admit, without any red cherries on top and a flattened cream, this is one of the worst looking black forest tortes Ive made during this year but trust me, the taste was still amazingly good and impressive;)






Okay, I have just realised that its probably not a good start to a post on the best cake I have in my repertoire. Just try the recipe as stated below. It is the same famous most-wanted secret sponge cake that you all had been asking to share. I am extremely sorry for not being able to recall the original source of the recipe  (and I mean it!!! I am terribly sorry for not being able to give credit to the great mind who originally introduced this recipe. I just found it written in one of my diaries) but I have been following it for eons and am absolutely convinced that no other sponge could ever excel this.








Sponge Cake

Ingredients:

6 eggs
200 g icing sugar
6 tbs hot water
100 g plain flour
100 g cornflour
25 g cocoa powder for the darker sponge or 25 g of additional cornflour for the yellow one
1 tsp baking powder
few drops of vanilla


And the most important ingredient is PATIENCE...a lot of patience while beating the eggs. And I mean it!!

Take all the six (in the pictures you can see only three as I have used half the recipe) eggs in a big bowl. Add in sugar.



Using your electric beaters or mixer, beat for about 7 minutes.




I have mixed 1 tbs instant coffee in the water to make 8" coffee sponge


Keep adding water into this with the beaters still on. Also add vanilla essence and continue with the beating process until foamy. (Altogether, Itll take about 10-15 minutes). Check the different stages in the images below!




Continue beating...




beating...





and beating...






Look at the thickness and volume of the mixture!





Its light in colour, thick but fluffy in texture.




Sieve the flour, cornflour, baking powder and cocoa in a seperate bowl.






And start folding it lightly into the egg mixture with a spatula (in batches). Tip: Dont overmix and keep your strokes very soft.












Pour the mixture into the greased and lined 11 inches pan. For optimal results use the foil pack method as well.







Bake in a preheated oven at 175 C for 25-30 minutes. Or keep an eye, check with a wooden skewer after 20 minutes, if it comes out clean and dry, turn off the oven. If still moist and sticky, continue baking. Tip: Never overbake the sponge, it will only turn it into a dry foam. Carefully remove the butter paper and place on a wire rack to cool. Once the cake has completely cooled, cover with a kitchen towel to keep it moist until further use.






For the black forest, I cut the cake into three layers. Soaked each layer on both side with milk (I prefer milk over juice), spread cherry compote onto the base and stabilised whipped cream between the upper two layers. Covered the top and sides with stabilised whipped cream and decorated with grated chocolate (use your vegetable peeler for this), pearls and berries. Since there was already enough chaos in the kitchen, I didnt want to risk my camera and havent taken any pictures. Will update the post whenever I make it next (as promised, the pictures are up).






Happy caking!!

Monday, 28 November 2011

"Check" !!

"Chess is a good exercise for the brains. This might appear boring to you now but just give it a try. Itll improve your mental skills". Had I taken my fathers advice a bit more seriously years ago, I probably would have been a much logical and well-concentrated person today.

I really am not good at playing chess like my father but yes, I am fairly good at making chess- or checkerboards - or at least in my own style;)

Just "check" it out!!



Checkered Cake without special pans
Add caption



Making a checkered cake is actually no big science. Its bascially all about the pattern. There are special baking sets easily available at different baking stores that generally contain different cake pans and rings to seperate the cake mixes. But even if you dont want to invest on buying them, its no big deal. Just look around carefully and youll find everything within your own kitchen to perform the little trick. All you need is round plates, glasses, lids or any other round cutters to use as templates for cutting out the cake layers. Follow the instructions bellow and make your friends wow on the masterpiece:






Checkered Cake
:

2 round cakes of equal size but contrasting colours
Chocolate Ganache Icing / Buttercream Icing
Chocolate Glaze



Start by preparing the ganache icing first. Click here to view the step-by-step instructions on how to make chocolate ganache. ( Ive used 300 g of dark chocolate and 300 g heavy cream to prepare the icing here - should be enough to fill and coat the cake).






Bake the cakes according to the recipe youre following. Tip: You may like to use your favourite cake mix from the box. Make sure both cakes are equal in size but different in colour. Checkered cakes are often made in yellow and chocolate colours but you can use other shades of your choice as well.

You could also bake the cakes from scratch as I did. However, try and find recipes that use similar amounts of flour, sugar and eggs in order to yield same sized cakes. I have baked two 8 inches cakes using my regular cooking pan;) For optimal results, follow the baking instructions posted here.




Once the cakes are done, allow them to cool thoroughly. Slice each cake into three horizontal layers.




Tip: Youll cut each cake twice to get three layers and there will be six layers in total. Ive used my special cutting tool for that but here is a good link incase you want to do it with the normal cutting knife. Another famous method is the one using toothpicks. Just type in the search engine, youll find many links and videos on that as well. Make sure you cut the cake twice to get the three layers.


Checkered cake making process


Now comes the part where you need round templates to cut rings out of each cake layer. Ive used a round bowl (approx. 6") and a glass (approx. 4").




Carefully lift up the middle ring from all layers. Tip: Be gentle or ask someone to give you a hand.
Once the rings have been seperated, its time to reassemble them with alternate colours and layers.


Making checkered cake without pans


Put the first layer down on the cake plate and seal it with some icing.  Using a spoon or spatula, lightly spread the icing on the insides of the outer ring.





Now spread some cream/ganache on outside of middle rings as well. This helps in sticking the rings together and they wont fall apart while cutting the cake. Fix the ring again into the layer and spread a thin layer of icing on top of it.




Continue doing the same with the second layer, and then repeat with the third as well.





Once youve stacked all the layers on each other, its time to cover the sides and top of the cake with the icing. This requires a bit finess. Best is to place the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes. Itll help against crumbling. Apply the thickened yet spreadable ganache /butter cream icing on the sides first.





Fill in the gaps and smooth out roughly by moving the scrapper from down to upwards.

Now take a palette knife and run around the sides with it. Tip: If you dont have a palette knife, use your cake server instead. Incase the icing is a bit hard to work with, dip your knife in hot water and smooth out the ganache with it. Keep spreading and smoothing, even if you have to use more ganache on one side than the other. Keeping your knife stand straight and rotate the cake platter, moving the knife on the ganache.




Once the sides are done, apply a thick layer on the top. Be gentle with the icing. Incase you see crumbs mixing with the icing on your knife, clean it immediately. Take more icing and continue spreading until all sides and top are smoothly coated with ganache. Tip: Dip the knife in hot water and shake off the excess droplets and run over the icing. The heat will help you to smooth out the top and sides much easily.

Place aside to set. Put in the freezer for a while before coating it with a shinny glaze.



Chocolate Glaze:


300 g chopped dark chocolate
370 g heavy cream
1 tbs corn syrup (optional)

Take heavy cream in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Pour over the chopped chocolate. Stir carefully,  add in the light corn syrup and mix until a smooth shiny glaze is obtained. If you find impurities, strain it.






Stirring carefully, allow to cool down.


Set a wire rack on a deep plate/ dish. Take out the cake from the freezer and place it on the prepared rack. Pour the glaze over and on sides of the cake.





Carefully shake the wire allowing the excess glaze to drip off, and level the cake top with a palette knife. Tip: The excess glaze can be strained, (after one hour) stored in the refrigerator or freezer and reused later.

Carefully tranfer the cake onto the serving plate. It is actually ready to serve. You may, however, decorate further if you want.






And this is how the cake looks from inside.




Slice of homemade checkered cake
Add caption


Isnt it cool???




Have a great chess time people!!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Glaze, pipe or whip

If there is an icing I am always ready to make, its the chocolate ganache:) Super easy, convenient and all packed with chocolate flavour, it is one of those sins I can always find an excuse to indulge in. And why shouldnt I, there is so much you can do with it...

Use it as a glaze, whipped cream, filling medium, sticking agent, decorative piping, or just lick it with your fingers - Its versatility answers almost all the needs of any chocolate lover seeking their life´s purpose.

Contrary to its fancy french name, Ganache is actually super easy to make. All you need is good quality cooking chocolate and heavy cream. I have already shared many recipes of ganache on the blog. Depending on its use (as icing, glaze or filling agent) and consistency requirements (thick, whipped or runny), there can be variations but the basic procedure remains the same in which you simply pour hot heavy cream over chopped chocolate and stir until a beautiful mixture is obtained. Please note that ganache can be prepared from any type of cooking chocolate. And the amount of heavy cream is dependent on the desired consistency and the type of chocolate you wish to use. Just follow the amounts as stated in the recipe.


Ganache 


Ingredients:
Semi sweet / bitter / white chocolate
Heavy cream


Break the chocolate into pieces or chop with a knife.You want the pieces to be thin as the bigger chunks are hard to melt. Tranfer the chopped chocolate into a bowl.






Heat heavy cream in a sauce pan on medium high until it comes to a boil.




Remove from heat and immediately pour cream over the chopped chocolate.



Wait for two three minutes.




Start stirring with a spoon or a whisk until completely mixed and glossy.








Allow to cool a bit. The ganache is ready to be used as glaze, i.e. if you want to coat your cake with a shiny smooth chocolate coating, this is the stage where you pour it over the prepared, well-chilled cake. Tip: Adding a tablespoon of corn syrup or glucose will add more gloss to your ganache.






Always place the cake on top of a cooling rack set over a deep dish or bowl. The excess glaze will drop off of the cake through the rack and can be saved and stored for later use.




Ganache used as glaze

Incase you want to use the ganache for anything other than a glaze, allow the mixture to thicken. For that, cover it with cling film so that a skin does not form on top.

Let the ganache either sit on the counter until it becomes thick (not firm) but that could take a couple of hours or you could put it in the refrigerator for about an hour and stir every 15 minutes or so until it sets. The icing is ready to be used as decorative piping when you are able to spoon it and it holds its texture. Tip: If you feel that the ganache has become too firm when taken out of the refrigerator, let it stand at room temperature and allow to warm up until it is easily spreadable or can be piped easily out of a piping bag.


Unwhipped but thick Ganache used as base for fondant/marzipan/other decorative stuff


Another use of ganache is to use it as whipped icing. For that, whip the custard-like ganache with an electric beater until fluffy in texture and light in colour. Tip: Never put your ganache in the freezer to achieve the thick consistency. It will not whip this way and will only end in a curdly like texture.You can, however, freeze the left-over ganache for upto three months ONCE IT HAS ALREADY ACHIEVED THE REQUIRED THICKNESS.




Light and fluffy whipped ganache

Incase you wish to freeze your prepared ganache icing for later use, be sure to take it out well ahead of time and allow to soften again before beating. Incase you find it too thick, add a tablespoon of heavy cream and mix again. If you want to use it to glaze the cake, reheat in a double boiler over hot water stirring gently with a spoon.

Enjoy!!!