Thursday, 27 November 2014


The November Daring Baker’s challenge took us for a ride! Luisa from Rise of the Sourdough Preacher challenged us to make Paris-Brest, a beautiful pastry celebrating the Paris-Brest bicycle race.

This has been in my baking to do list for a very long time so I was glad this challenge came up in the Daring Bakers. It's supposed to represent a bicycle wheel to commemorate the Paris to Brest bicycle race. Well my pastry certainly isn't very round. It's more like oval. But I did have problems in the baking of the choux pastry. After watching it rise wonderfully in the oven it deflated when I took it out. Maybe the oven temperature was too low, maybe the baking time was too short, or I took it out too soon. But it doesn't matter, instead of slicing each of it horizontally for the filling, I just put it on top of the other and I think it's as good as any. :)



*For the Choux Pastry:
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup + 2 tsp [100ml] whole milk
1/3 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1/3 cup [85 g] butter
100 g  [3/4 cup] plain flour
3 medium eggs - slightly beaten
slivered almonds
extra egg for brushing on top
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F.
  2. In a saucepan, combine milk, water, butter, sugar, and salt. Bring to a gentle boil on medium heat while stirring with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add the flour in one go and stir vigorously. Bring the heat to low and stir continously until the mixture come together into a firm, smooth dough. It must be dry and should come away from the bottom of the saucepan easily.
  4. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
  5. Using an electric mixer, add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. The dough will be smooth like a very thick cream.
  6. Line a baking sheet with baking paper. Draw 4 1/2-inch circles on the underside of the baking paper to help in piping the circles.
  7. Use a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch (10 mm) nozzle to pipe the pastry. Pipe the pastry dough into two concentric circles tracing the guide you drew previously. Pipe a third circle on top.
  8. Brush all over with the extra beaten egg and sprinkle the slivered almonds.
  9. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool inside the oven with the door slightly ajar.
*Note to self: Next time try baking with high heat initially and/or increase baking time.

*For the Praline:
60 g  [1/3 cup] whole almonds
60 g  [1/3 cup] whole hazelnuts
80 g   caster sugar
1 Tbsp water
  1. Gently caramelise the caster sugar in a non-stick pan over medium heat.
  2. Add water and bring to boil.
  3. Add the nuts and stir to coat the nuts with the syrup. At this point the sugar will crystallize again. Continue stirring until the sugar caramelize again.
  4. Immediately transfer the nuts onto a baking sheet grease with oil. Cool completely.
  5. Break up into smaller pieces and grind in a food processor until you have a thick paste.

*For the Creme Mouselline:
1 cup whole milk
1 vanilla pod or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup caster sugar
3 Tbsp plain flour
85 g  [1/3 cup] unsalted butter - softened
80 g  praline
  1. In a heatproof bowl whisk the egg yolks and flour until combined.
  2. Bring the milk to boil in a saucepan on medium heat.
  3. Pour half of the hot milk in the egg yolk-flour mixture while whisking vigorously. Once mixture is well combined, pour it back to the saucepan with the rest of the milk and cook on medium heat while stirring continously.
  4. When mixture is thick and smooth, remove from heat and transfer to another heatproof bowl and cover the cream with cling film touching the cream. This is to prevent a crust to form on top. Let cool completely.
  5. In a bowl, combine the softened butter with the praline until smooth.
  6. Add the cooled pastry cream and mix until well combined.

*To assemble:
  • Slice the baked pastry horizontally.
  • Spread or pipe the creme mouselline on the lower half and then carefully put the top half on.
  • [Optional] Dust with some icing sugar on top.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Rainbow Cake

Rainbow Cake
Last week was my youngest daughter's and my birthday. As by tradition, we had to have a cake and what a cake we made! I was supposed to do this as an entry to the Daring Baker's challenge for July 2014 but I ran out of time. So I was making it up for that by baking this for our birthday.

It was indeed a challenge for me. Seriously, I thought it's one of those experiments that would end up in the rubbish bin. I decided to adapt the recipe of Kerry's fabulous rainbow cake from her blog Kerry Cooks since it is based in a Victoria sponge which I know would guarantee deliciousness. And here was where the first of near misses happened - I said I 'adapted' the recipe which means I used an 8-inch cake pan versus her 6-inch ones. Well, the batter were quite thin when I spread it in the pan and naively I though they would rise evenly. Ha! It rose in the middle and tapered to nothingness towards the edges. They look like small hills complete with bulging boulders on the sides!

Rainbow Cake
The the icing would cover all that up, says moi. But then when I reached for the icing sugar in my pantry there was hardly any in the bag. Drat! Okay, I had to think quickly otherwise my youngest would be really disappointed. What I had in abundance was eggs, sugar, and butter so my light bulb idea was to adapt Corinne's Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting. Gosh I was nervous because it was the very first time I did that. Nevertheless, glorious billowy white buttercream emerged. This one was delicious and not too sweet - definitely my kind of frosting.

The frosting came out all right but as I was slathering it between layers I realised I hardly have enough to cover it well! Oh darn, it must be mercury retrograde since nothing's going right. I had to use every bit of the icing and as precisely as I could to spread on all the cracks and crannies. Thank goodness there was just enough to cover the whole cake.

Those were not my only firsts in this exploit. The lettering on the cake was a first as well. Looking at it now, I guess there's no other alternative for me but to improve. Despite all my trials, the best part was cutting the cake. It was an unexpected delight to see that it had all come together in all its colourful glory. Really fab! Best of all, the cake with the meringue icing combination tasted great - that was according to my daughter. Mission accomplished!

Rainbow Cake

Rainbow Cake

*Batter: (x2)

250 g  self raising flour
250 g  butter - softened
250 g  granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk

gel paste colourings (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple)

Note: Mix two batches of this batter and divide each of them into 3 thereby creating 6 layers.
  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/350°F. Grease three 8-inch round pans.
  2. Cream butter and sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
  3. Add in vanilla and eggs one at a time; mixing well after each addition.
  4. Add flour and then milk into the butter mixture just enough to mix it in.
  5. Divide equally into three smaller bowls and tint each one with a different colour. Mix the gel colour well in the batter.
  6. Spread batter evenly in the three prepared baking pans.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  8. Cool 5 minutes in pan and then remove. Cool completely on a wire rack.
  9. [Optional] Wrap the cooled cake layers in cling film and chill in the fridge for several hours. It is easier to assemble it if the cake layers are chilled or even frozen.

*Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing:

5 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
250 g  unsalted butter - softened but not melting
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of fine salt
  1. In a bowl set on a simmering saucepan of water (bottom not touching the water), whisk egg whites and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. You can test this by feeling a little of the mixture between your fingers. If you can't feel any grittiness then it is done.
  2. Remove the bowl from the saucepan and whip the egg white mixture with an electric mixer and beat until stiff peaks stage.
  3. While still beating, add the softened butter a spoonful at a time.
  4. Once all the butter has been incorporated, add the vanilla and salt.
  5. Mix on high speed until the icing is light and fluffy.

*To assemble:
  • On a cake board or plate, put a thin layer of icing in between cake layers while stacking it on top of each other.
  • Put icing on top and all along the sides of the cake. Decorate as you please.