Saturday, September 22, 2007

In need of something soul-warming

Now that the weather has cooled down quite significantly, I find I need to cook something to warm me up all the time. I've made several quick soups and hot stews recently, but of course what really warms me up (literally, too!) is baking. And for that matter, baking with yeast, because yeasted cakes give you that feeling of cosyness and fill your home with a smell that says "You're home, you're safe and warm now" (even if in fact you are not, because the heating season has not yet begun).
I've been coquetting with the idea of making Tessa's cinnamon-cardamom buns ever since I got the book - or even earlier, sinceI've seen many a foodie make this and drooled over the pictures - , but somehow it always got put off.

I was almost put off this time, too, after reading the recipe, because the description of forming the spectacular shape of the buns was intimidating slightly. On second reading, however, it was all clear and I decided to proceed and was rewarded with that soul-warming effect I was longing for - no to mention the gorgeous smell that invaded the whole flat, mmmmmm!

Cinnamon cardamom buns
(makes about 35 buns)

For the dough
250 ml tepid milk
100 g caster sugar
25 g fresh yeast
1 egg, beaten
125 g butter, softened
2 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. salt
650 g flour

For the cinnamon butter :
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
50g sugar
80 g butter, softened

for brushing and decorating
1 egg, beaten
sugar or sanding sugar

Put the milk and sugar in a bowl and crumble in the yeast. Leave for 10 minutes, or until the yeast begins to activate. Add the egg, butter, cardamom and salt and mix in. Add the flour, bit by bit, mixing it in with a wooden spoon until you need to use your hands, and then turn it out onto the work surface to knead. (I simply used my KA to do this). The dough turns out beautifully elastic. Cover it with a clean cloth, and leave in a warm place for about 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

Mix together the cinnamon and sugar (I prefer using brown sugar with cinnamon, I think it works better, it gives an extra depth to the cinnamon flavour). Divide the butter into four portions.
After the dough has risen, put it on a floured work surface and divide it into four portions. Begin with one portion, covering the others with a cloth so they don't dry out. Using a rolling pin, roll out a rectangle, roughly about 30 x 25 cm and 2-3 mm thick. Spread one portion of butter over it. Sprinkle it generously with about 3 tsp cinnamon mix (I'd actually use 1.5 x amount of cinnamon sugar next time to make it more comforting).

Roll up to make a long dough sausage. Repeat with the rest of the dough.
Line up the dough sausages in front of you and cut them slightly on the diagonal, alternating up and down, so that the slices are fat 'v' shapes, with the point of the 'v' about 2 cm and the base about 5 cm. Turn them so they are all the right way up, sitting on their fatter bases. Press down on the top of each one with two fingers until you think you will almost go through to your work surface.

Put the buns on the baking trays lined with baking parchment, leaving space for them to puff and rise while they bake. Brush lightly with beaten egg and sprinkle a little sugar over the top.
Leave the buns to rise for half an hour and preheat your oven to 180C. Bake them for about 20 minutes, or until they are golden.

Keep them in an airtight container so they don't harden. They freeze nicely.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Dobos torta

I was a bit upset and at a loss recently when I read about a quest of Hungarian confectioners to create the "cake of the country" for the commemoration of the founding of our state (20 August). I was at a loss because I thought we had one already: surely Dobos torta is Hungarian enough!? They came up with a cake based on the traditional dessert all Hungarians like (and like to claim as Hungarian but I'm not so sure about that) which the French call ile flottante. I'm not saying it cannot be good but I find no reason for creating such a new cake when we have something to be proud of already. You can read about the history of Dobos cake here.

Perhaps I got upset only because it was at this time that my husband "placed his order" for a cake for his nameday, and it was Dobos torta :)
I'm far from claiming it is a cake you want to whip up for unexpected guests. In fact, this is one of the cakes that only people as crazy as me attempt, the rest walk to a good confectioner's and buy it. And I don't think you can find many people in Hungary who don't like it :)

The cake is usually round, though you can find it in roulade and triangle shape as well at better places - no way I'm attempting those! But hubby ordered a rectangular one, because his granny always made it that way (only he forgot to mention it was a long loaf shape, not like mine, and I almost threw it in his face when he came in as I was making the caramel topping and he said it did not look good...)

I've made this cake before, but I had no real problem because the recipe called for round springform tins, but now I had to fuss about adjusting the recipe to a rectangular tin. I failed quite miserably and the last layer turned out too thin and burnt almost completely and I had to whip up another batch and up the amounts - I don't want to confuse you with all this, I'll give the recipe with modified amounts. (Also, I only got 5 layers instead of six because I didn't have enough cream). However, the drawback turned out to be an advantage, as it is much less time consuming to make three rectangular layers and halve them (either horizontally or diagonally) than make six round layers.

Dobos cake
( for a roughly 25x20 cm cake)

For the sponge:
10 eggs, separated
50g butter, melted and cooled
200g icing sugar
200g flour

For the chocolate cream
8 eggs
200g icing sugar
130g dark chocolate, chopped
260g butter
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp sugar

For the caramel topping:
1 tsp butter
150g sugar
a few drops of lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 220 Celsius and line a 25x35 cm rectangular tin (or three if you have so many).

Whisk the egg whites until firm peaks form. Cream the egg yolks with the sugar until the mixture turns pale yellow and add the flour and egg whites alternately, adding the whites very carefully so as not to "break" them. Finally, add the butter.

Spread 1/3 of the batter in the tin as evenly as possible and bake in the hot oven until light golden. Repeat twice with the rest of the batter (or use a fan oven and three tins to do it at the same time). Leave to cool.

For the chocolate cream whisk the eggs with the icing sugar. Put the bowl over a pan with boiling water and add the chopped chocolate. Continue whisking until the cream starts to thicken. This takes some time, around 15 min. Let it cool completely. This is essential, because if it is just a tiny bit warm, you won't get a smooth cream! Leave it in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours after it has cooled.
Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla and add the cooled chocolate cream bit by bit, beating it in.

Halve each layers of sponge and choose the nicest one - you need the bottom side of it. For the caramel topping melt the butter in a heavy-based pan, add the sugar and drops of lemon juice and burn until it gets a nice goldenbrown colour. Spread it on the nicest layer of sponge with a buttered knife (a wide one) and make horizontal and diagonal cuts on the surface (you don't need to cut through the sponge but you might want to do it), buttering the knife before each cut. You should get around 16 slices.

Layer the sponges with the cream and place the caramel-topped one on top. Spread cream on the sides and scatter with ground nuts or ground sponge fingers and decorate the edges if you want.