This month's Daring Bakers Challenge is the first challenge to be vegan and/or gluten free. Alternative Daring Bakers: Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and co-host Shel, of Musings from the Fishbowl, chose the savory recipe for Lavash Crackers from Peter Reinhardt's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.
The Challenge: Make Lavash Crackers and create a salsa/spread/dip or relish to accompany it.
The Rules: The Lavash Crackers can be made either with all-purpose wheat flour or gluten free, and can be topped with any variety of spices/seeds or salt. All salsas/spreads/dips or relishes must be vegan and gluten free.
What I Learned from the Challenge: I need to make these crackers regularly. They are easy, fast , taste delicious, and (a BIG and) cost so much less than the Lavash Crackers I have been buying at Whole Foods.
I served the crackers with the assigned "toppings of my choice". I made a spicy apple chutney from 128 Cafe in St. Paul, Minnesota, and served it as 128 does, with roasted whole heads of garlic and a mild goat cheese. Yes, the goat cheese is not vegan, but I need the cool blandness of the goat cheese along with the spicy chutney. It's a great combination... squeeze a sweet, roasted garlic clove onto the cracker and spread, then top with the chutney and goat cheese; a fantastic appetizer!
from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers
• 1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
• 1 tablespoon agave syrup or sugar
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (3 to 4 ounces) water, at room temperature
• Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings
1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, yeast, agave syrup or sugar, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.
2. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).
3. Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternation rows of pappy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt -- a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting first.
5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).
6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.
SPICY APPLE CHUTNEY
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 1/2 cup rice or white wine vinegar
• 1 stick cinnamon
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
• 1 tablespoon fresh garlic
• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 cup golden raisins
• 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled & diced
• 1 tablespoon fresh mint
• 2 cups Roma tomatoes, diced
1. In a 6-quart sauce pot over medium heat, combine the brown sugar and the rice or white wine vinegar and cook down until syrupy. Add cinnamon stick, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper and salt. Reduce for 5 more minutes, then add golden raisins.
2. Add the apples to the pot and cook for 8 minutes over medium heat until the apples are slightly tender. DO NOT overcook.
3. Carefully strain the apple raisin mixture and reserve the liquid. Once the apple raisin mixture has cooled, add the diced tomatoes.
4. Put the liquid back into the saucepot and reduce over medium heat for 5 minutes or until thick but not caramel-like. Remove cinnamon stick. Add this thickened liquid back into the apples, and stir in the fresh mint.
MAKES 5 CUPS
To Roast Garlic: Remove some of the papery covering of the garlic half-way down the bulb. Place garlic in a small oven-proof dish that is just large enough to hold the garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in a preheated 375 degree oven. Bake until, when tested, garlic is soft. Use immediately by squeezing each individual garlic clove from its papery exterior.
After a hectic summer I'm back for the August DARING BAKERS CHALLENGE; a challenge I really enjoyed making and eating! The assignment this month was Pierre Hermé's chocolate éclairs from the book Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé. Hermé is considered to be France's premier pastry chef. I find making any of Hermé's pastries to be a bit intimidating. If you have ever looked at his cookbooks or better yet, been to his shop on rue Bonaparte in Paris, you will understand. His creations are absolute perfection. And as I've said before, my baking style is more rustic. Although my éclairs do not have the exacting uniformity of Pierre Hermé's, I can't believe his could taste any better than mine did. My éclairs were delicious!
The guidelines for this challenge were 1) The dough used for the éclairs must be Pierre Hermé's recipe for pâte à choux 2) There were two chocolate elements in the recipe--a chocolate glaze and a chocolate pastry cream. Only one was required. I chose to substitue a vanilla pastry cream isntead, to avoid chocolate overload. I did, however, use Pierre Hermé's recipe for vanilla pastry cream. I had just recently roasted hazelnuts and sprinkled the chopped nuts on my freshly iced éclairs.
Pâte à choux has always been a favorite of mine. No matter how often I make it, it is still a delight to see it transform from a shiny, smooth dough to crisp, golden-brown puffs. The one thing I did change in my baking of Pierre Hermé's éclairs was to not wedge a wooden spoon inside the oven door after 7 minutes. I always end up baking choux pastry longer than a recipe calls for, and I saw no need to let hot air escape my oven. Also, I have never frozen piped choux dough before and doing this made last minute assembly extremely easy. I plan to make this again and keep the piped éclairs in my freezer for expected and unexpected house guests.
Pierre Hermé's Chocolate Eclairs
recipe from Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé
(makes 20-24 éclairs)
CREAM PUFF DOUGH (see below for recipe), fresh and still warm
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Divide the oven into thirds by positioning racks in the upper and lower half of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a 2/3 (2cm) plain tip nozzle with the warm cream puff dough. Pipe the dough onto the baking sheets in 4-inch lengths. Leave about 2 inches between each dough strip to allow room to puff. The dough should give you enough to pipe 20-24 éclairs (I got about 18).
3. Slide both the baking sheets into the oven and bake for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes, slip the handle of a wooden spoon into the door to keep it ajar. When the éclairs have been in the oven for a total of 12 minutes, rotate the sheets top to bottom and front to back. Continue baking for another 8 minutes or until the éclairs are puffed, golden and FIRM. The total baking time should be approximately 20 minutes (I did not open the door after 7 minutes, and after 20 minutes I turned my oven off, but left the éclairs in the oven for another 5 minutes. It's probably just my oven).
NOTES: The éclairs can be kept in a cook, dry place for several hours before filling.
Assembling the éclairs:
• Chocolate glaze (see below for recipe)
• Chocolate pastry cream (see below for recipe)
1. Slice the éclairs horizontally, using a serrated knife and a gently sawing motion. Set aside the bottoms and place the tops on a rack over a piece of parchment paper.
2. The glaze should be barely warm to the touch. Spread the glaze over the tops of the éclairs using a metal icing spatula. Allow the tops to set and in the meantime fill the bottoms with the pastry cream.
3. Pipe or spoon the pastry cream into the bottoms of the éclairs. Make sure you fill the bottoms with enough cream to mound above the pastry. Place the glazed tops onto the pastry cream and wriggle gently to settle them.
Pierre Hermé's Cream Puff Dough
• 1/2 cup whole milk
• 1/2 cup water
• 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter cut into 8 pieces
• 1/4 teaspoon sugar
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 5 large eggs, at room temperature
1. In a heavy bottomed medium saucepan, bring the milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to the boil.
2. Once the mixture is at a rolling boil, add all of the flour at once, reduce the heat to medium and start to stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon. The dough comes together very quickly. You need to carry on stirring for a further 2-3 minutes to dry the dough. After this time the dough will be very soft and smooth.
3. Transfer the dough into a bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each egg has been added to incorporate it into the dough. You will notice that after you have added the first egg, the dough will separate. Do not worry. As you keep working the dough, it will come back together by the time you have added the third egg. In the end the dough should be thick and shiny and when lifted it should fall back into the bowl in a ribbon.
4. The dough should be still warm. It is now ready to be used for the éclairs as directed above.
1. Once the dough is made you need to shape it immediately.
2. You can pipe the dough and then freeze it. Simply pipe the dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and slide the sheet into the freezer. Once the dough is completely frozen, transfer the piped shapes into freezer bags. They can be kept in the freezer for up to a month.
Vanilla Pastry Cream
• 2 cups whole milk
• 1 plump, moist vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
• 6 large egg yolks
• 1/2 cup (slightly rounded) sugar
• 1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
• 3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1. In a small saucepan, bring the milk and vanilla bean (pulp and pod) to a boil over medium heat. Cover the pan, remove from the heat, and allow the mixture to rest for 10 minutes, time enough for the liquids to be infused with the warm flavor of vanilla.
2. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and set aside a small bowl that can hold the finished cream and be placed in this ice bath.
3. Whisk the yolks, sugar, and cornstarch together in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Whisking all the while, very slowly drizzle a quarter of the ot milk into the yolks. Still whisking, add the rest of the liquid to the tempered yolks in a steady stream. Remove and discard the pod.
4. Place the saucepan over high heat and, whisking vigorously and without stop, bring the mixture to the boil. Keep at the boil, whisking energetically, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. Pour the cream into the reserved small bowl. Set the bowl in the ice bath (you can add some cold water to the cubes now) and, stirring frequently so that the mixture remains smooth, cool the cream to 140 degrees F, as measure on an instant-read thermometer. Stir in the butter in three or four additions. Keep the cream over ice, stirring occasionally, until it is completely cool. The cream can be used now or refrigerated.
• 1/3 cup heavy cream
• 3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature
• 7 tablespoons Chocolate Sauce (recipe below), warm or at room temperature
1. In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil. Remove from the heat and slowly begin to add the chocolate, stirring with a wooden spoon.
2. Stirring gently, stir in the butter, piece by piece followed by the chocolate sauce.
• 4 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 1 cup water
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 1/3 cup sugar
1. Place all the ingredients into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil, making sure to stir constantly. Then reduce the heat to low and continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens.
2. It may take 10-15 minutes for the sauce to thicken, but you will know when it is done when it coats the back of your spoon.
As of today's post, I guess I am officially a DARING BAKER, having taken on this month's challenge of the Opera Cake. And a challenge it was! As I've said before, I consider myself a rustic baker and an Opera Cake would not fall into the category of rustic baked goods. There are many steps in making this cake -- jocande layers, sugar syrup, buttercream, mousse and glaze, but most of these components can be made several days ahead of assembly. We were instructed to keep this Opera Cake "light in color", using white chocolate instead of the traditional darker chocolate. But everything else was basically up to us.
I chose to flavor the sugar syrup and the white chocolate buttercream with Liqueur Violette, a rather obscure French liqueur our friends in Germany bought for my sister after Susan found she needed it as an ingredient in a tiramisu recipe from a French cookbook. The assembly involved baking the jocande (almond sponge cake), making a sugar syrup with the Liqueur Violette that would be brushed onto the cake layers, a white chocolate buttercream, also with the Liqueur Violette added, was spread between the cake layers. A white chocolate mousse was spread atop the final layer and the last step was icing the top with a white chocolate glaze.
My version was decorated with sugared violets from Laduree and Fachon in Paris. Is there anything I would do differently if I were to make this cake again? Yes... absolutely. I would not color the buttercream that was spread between the jocande layers. I feel the end result was too busy. Because of the size, I had several seatings of friends over a couple of days to eat l' Opera Cake. The first serving had been setting at room temperature the recommended amount of time, but this is Minnesota. It was still a little too cold and I wasn't at all thrilled with it. The second time, however, the cake was at room temp much longer and I thought it was very, very good. It was extremely rich, but that's o.k. You don't eat an Opera Cake every day.