Thursday, August 27, 2009

Torte Memories

Zdrastvuitye, menya zavoot Clara. Vuie hotieti maya torta? Eta ochen fcusna. Okay, so that may not be grammatically correct...I DID only learn "apartment courtyard" Russian...but I had to throw a little Russian since this month's Daring Baker's Challenge reminded me of the time my family spent in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caff├ęs of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.
Everyday at the market, there was always a line of women standing there holding their masterpiece, a beautiful torte! These always had many layers and were filled with a light, mousse-like filling. Generally, they had nuts on them as well. We enjoyed many a torte but never learned how to make them. This torte was a bit different as the filling was a fairly rich chocolate buttercream. I did enjoy it but think I prefer the mousse-ish filling. As to the preparation of this torte...the cake layers gave me FITS! I actually measured out the batter to 3/4 cup as instructed. Then when it came to taking the layers OFF of the parchment paper...grrrr. I had to toss TWO layers from the get go and then ended up tossing another as I assembled the torte. How did I end up getting useable layers...I sprayed the paper, which wasn't instructed, and used a little more batter. Because of the two wasted layers, I didn't have enough layers to drench one in caramel and my torte ended up being a bit "squatty." When I made the icing I was SO worried that it was going to be like a ganache because it was very shiny and thin. However, after refrigerating it for a little while (all while watching Casablanca) it firmed up nicely. I forgot to cut nuts but used some raspberries for garnish, which I think turned out nicely. We thought that the taste was very much like the tortes we enjoyed in Bishkek and enjoyed a trip down memory lane. So, spasiba, Angela and Lorraine, for the challenging and memorable month. If you want to see more tortes, check out the blogroll.

Sponge cake layers

  • 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
  • 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)

Directions for the sponge layers:

(The sponge layers can be prepared in advance and stored interleaved with parchment and well-wrapped in the fridge overnight.)

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F (200C).

2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" (23cm) springform tin or circular baking pan as a template and a dark pencil or a pen, trace a circle on each of the papers, and turn them over (the circle should be visible from the other side, so that the graphite or ink doesn't touch the cake batter.)

3.Beat the egg yolks, 2/3 cup (81g) of the confectioner's (icing) sugar, and the vanilla in a medium bowl with a mixer on high speed until the mixture is thick, pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when the beaters are lifted a few inches above the batter, about 3 minutes. (You can do this step with a balloon whisk if you don't have a mixer.)

4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup (81g) of confectioner's (icing)sugar until the whites form stiff, shiny peaks. Using a large rubber spatula, stir about 1/4 of the beaten whites into the egg yolk mixture, then fold in the remainder, leaving a few wisps of white visible. Combine the flour and salt. Sift half the flour over the eggs, and fold in; repeat with the remaining flour.

5.Line one of the baking sheets with a circle-marked paper. Using a small offset spatula, spread about 3/4cup of the batter in an even layer, filling in the traced circle on one baking sheet. Bake on the top rack for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the centre and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet, placing it on the centre rack. When the first cake is done, move the second cake to the top rack. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers. Using an 8" springform pan bottom or plate as a template, trim each cake layer into a neat round. (A small serrated knife is best for this task.)

Chocolate Buttercream

  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar
  • 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.

Directions for the chocolate buttercream:

NB. This can be prepared in advance and kept chilled until required.

1.Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2.Meanwhile, whisk the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes. You can use a balloon whisk or electric hand mixer for this.
3.Fit bowl over the boiling water in the saucepan (water should not touch bowl) and lower the heat to a brisk simmer. Cook the egg mixture, whisking constantly, for 2-3 minutes until you see it starting to thicken a bit. Whisk in the finely chopped chocolate and cook, stirring, for a further 2-3 minutes.
4.Scrape the chocolate mixture into a medium bowl and leave to cool to room temperature. It should be quite thick and sticky in consistency.
5.When cool, beat in the soft butter, a small piece (about 2 tablespoons/30g) at a time. An electric hand mixer is great here, but it is possible to beat the butter in with a spatula if it is soft enough. You should end up with a thick, velvety chocolate buttercream. Chill while you make the caramel topping.

Caramel topping

  • 1 cup (200g) caster (superfine or ultrafine white) sugar
  • 12 tablespoons (180 ml) water
  • 8 teaspoons (40 ml) lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. grapeseed, rice bran, sunflower)

Directions for the caramel topping:

1.Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel top. To make the caramel topping: Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Score the cake into 12 equal wedges. Lightly oil a thin, sharp knife and an offset metal spatula.
2.Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. Once dissolved into a smooth syrup, turn the heat up to high and boil without stirring, swirling the pan by the handle occasionally and washing down any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan with a wet brush until the syrup has turned into an amber-coloured caramel.
3.The top layer is perhaps the hardest part of the whole cake so make sure you have a oiled, hot offset spatula ready. I also find it helps if the cake layer hasn't just been taken out of the refrigerator. I made mine ahead of time and the cake layer was cold and the toffee set very, very quickly—too quickly for me to spread it. Immediately pour all of the hot caramel over the cake layer. You will have some leftover most probably but more is better than less and you can always make nice toffee pattern using the extra to decorate. Using the offset spatula, quickly spread the caramel evenly to the edge of the cake layer. Let cool until beginning to set, about 30 seconds. Using the tip of the hot oiled knife (keep re-oiling this with a pastry brush between cutting), cut through the scored marks to divide the caramel layer into 12 equal wedges. Cool another minute or so, then use the edge of the knife to completely cut and separate the wedges using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

Finishing touches

  • a 7” cardboard round
  • 12 whole hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
  • ½ cup (50g) peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts

Assembling the Dobos

1.Divide the buttercream into six equal parts.
2.Place a dab of chocolate buttercream on the middle of a 7 1/2” cardboard round and top with one cake layer. Spread the layer with one part of the chocolate icing. Repeat with 4 more cake layers. Spread the remaining icing on the sides of the cake.
3.Optional: press the finely chopped hazelnuts onto the sides of the cake.
4.Propping a hazelnut under each wedge so that it sits at an angle, arrange the wedges on top of the cake in a spoke pattern. If you have any leftover buttercream, you can pipe rosettes under each hazelnut or a large rosette in the centre of the cake. Refrigerate the cake under a cake dome until the icing is set, about 2 hours. Let slices come to room temperature for the best possible flavour.


Julie (Willow Bird Baking) said...

Lovely torte! The raspberries are a great addition!

Elle said...

Sucha pretty cake with the raspberries! Nice to have it evoke nice memories, too. :)

Jessica said...

It looks delicious! I've never made a torte, I think I might have to try it sometime,

Fahrenheit 350° said...

Looks wonderful! Raspberries make everything better!

Jill @ Jillicious Discoveries said...

I love that you added raspberries--always good with chocolate! :)

Sue said...

Your chocolate icing looks so gooey and delicious! Raspberries and chocolate are a good combination...I used some too:) GREAT job!!!

Aviva O'Byrne said...

Beautiful! What an incredibly romantic picture you painted. Just in a few words I could imagine your journey there and then to think of it while watching Casablanca and making your own torte! Absolutely beautiful. I love how a food can take us back to a place or a memory. Sometimes even a smell can do it. Great job.

Helene said...

I am all over the raspberries, yay! Your torte turned out beautiful Claire!

Emily said...

This looks incredible! I love the garnish of fresh raspberries.

Susan @ SGCC said...

Lovely! This one gave me fits too! I spread my batter out on a sheet pan and juct cut out the layers after it was baked. Much easier!

Anonymous said...

The raspberries look great with your torte!

The JR said...

Very nice. Looked like a lot of work.

isa said...

Your torte is lovely with the rasberries on top! Great job!

Maryanna said...

I bet the raspberries went perfectly with this cake. Yours is beautiful. i would have never guessed that the batter gave you fits. :)

Anonymous said...

I love the Russian intro. I'm of Russian descent, well half of me is, and I love the Russian language!

On another note, your first two cake layers sound like crepe making, the first one or two always go to the dog or Your torte came out beautiful, and the raspberries on top really add to that beauty! Great job as always, Doc!

Kitchenlander said...

Great choice with the raspberries!
Very capturing intro!