Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers - Opera Cake

Cake Love.

What a wonderful month this was - apart from the bliss of being in Japan, this has been my favorite Daring Baker`s challenge so far!  It was hosted by our wonderful co-founders, Lis and Ivonne, as well as Fran of Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea of Whiskful, and they chose to have us make Opera Cake!  This is a cake that is traditionally made with chocolate and coffee, but the hosts specified that we keep the cakes light in color and flavor.  Apart from that, the flavors and decorations and all that were up to us!  And oh... what that led to... a ton of amazing and very unique cakes!  

I was so excited to make this that I couldn`t decide on what flavors to use, so I kind of just gave in to my indecisiveness and made two.  And what a delicious indecision it was...

I made the first cake with a pistachio jaconde, a vanilla and lemon buttercream, a strawberry lemon syrup, a strawberry glaze, fresh strawberries in the layers, and chopped pistachios on top.   

The syrup for the buttercream looked so cool when it was boiling that I had to take a picture...

I had been wanting to try pistachios and strawberries together for a long time, and thought this was a perfect opportunity because of the nut based cake and... strawberry season!  Also, I wanted to use a fruit glaze instead of white chocolate because my mom is one of those white chocolate haters, and I was actually at home and baking for my parents when I made this.  

But of course, I love white chocolate, and of course, there was another flavor combination that I have been wanting to try forever that works so perfectly with this cake.  Yes, it's green tea and white chocolate...  I think a ton of other people have done this, too... as well they should, because it is seriously amazing.  And what can I say, I made this the day before I left for Japan, so it was probably the Japan excitement that made me do it.  (mmm Japan excitement is a glorious thing!)

I did an almond and green tea jaconde, a white chocolate and green tea buttercream, a vanilla and jasmine syrup, and the white chocolate mousse and glaze. I actually finished this cake 2 minutes before bolting out of the door to catch my flight to Japan, so I was only able to taste one bite of it, but it was an amazing bite! The green tea went perfectly with the white chocolate, and the jasmine gave the whole thing a wonderful flowery essence underneath the big flavors.

mmmm green tea buttercream.... amazing.  

I said that this was my favorite Daring Baker's challenge to date, and that's because I feel like I have accomplished so much with it!  I made both cakes without any problems, they tasted amazing, and I think they are pretty much the most aesthetically pleasing things to ever come out of my kitchen (I'm always so bad at making stuff pretty...).   

Plus, I had never even heard of an opera cake before this challenge, so it opened my eyes to a piece of pastry I had never before known, and I always love it when that happens!  It's happening every day I'm here in Japan, by the way. =)

So thank you, wonderful hosts, for another fantastic Daring Baker's challenge!  I loved it, and I look forward to seeing everyone's cakes!

If you want to try your hand at opera cake, see here for the recipe!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Spicy Sorbet and Goodbye for Now!

I have some really good news, some mildly bad news, and some ridiculously delicious sorbet to share with you today...

Let's start with the good news - in two days, I'll be going to Tokyo where I'll be living for two months to intern at a TV station! Wooohooo!! I'm going to eat so much sushi that I may actually turn into a fish! A cute fish. A salmon, probably. But not for eating.

The mildly bad news is that I won't have a kitchen to bake in while I'm in Japan! Sadface... This means that while I'll probably do a few blog updates about the amazing food in Japan, this blog won't see any of my own baking projects until August.

Sorry to all the people who love desserts... but I promise I will make up for it by sharing some of the amazing Japanese foodage I encounter! And I'll still post my May Daring Baker's challenge on the post date - I've already baked my challenge and set blogger to post it at the appropriate time. Go me!

And now for some deliciousness!!!

It started because I wanted to make something delicious for my mom for mother's day. I ran through a lot of options... and shot down all of them because not only is my mom pretty picky about desserts, she's also lactose intolerant and a health freak. Then I remembered having seen the same thing on multiple blogs a while back - a few people all raving about dark chocolate sorbet. And when I say raving, I mean raving - Joy the Baker even said she wanted to bathe in hers! And then I thought about the sweet things that I know my mom really loves, and realized that two of her favorite things ever are any kind of fresh fruit and good dark chocolate.

So I went and bought a ton of fresh fruit, and then raided our chocolate stash to find that my mom hadn't touched the bar of spicy chili and cinnamon dark chocolate that I had bought last time I was in town. She proceeded to tell me that I should use it in the sorbet... so I said, "OK!" and the result was magic. I used regular dark chocolate for 3/4 of the chocolate called for in the recipe, and replaced the other 1/4 with the spicy stuff. I ended up with a sorbet that didn't taste spicy, or hot, but that was pleasantly warm. If warm isn't a term that makes sense to you when talking about sorbet... then just trust me that it was perfection. Everything I thought it would be and more. My mom even went so far as to say, "there's nothing better than this!" as she was licking the removable part of the ice cream maker! She especially loved the complexity I got from mixing two different chocolates, and I loved it too!

Here is the recipe I used - its a David Lebovitz recipe and I found it on Chocolate & Zucchini.

Spicy Dark Chocolate Sorbet

1 cup plus 2 tbsp water
1/3 cup packed cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
2 1/4 oz dark chocolate, finely chopped*
3/4 oz chili and cinnamon spicy dark chocolate, finely chopped*
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
fresh fruit (I used blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, and kiwis)
*you can change the ratio of chocolates for a sorbet that is more or less spicy, or you can just use 3 oz of the same chocolate. have fun!

Whisk together the water, cocoa powder, and sugar in a saucepan.
Heat the mixture while continuing to whisk.
Once it comes to a boil, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate.
Add the vanilla and salt.
Whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Let cool, and then refrigerate until chilled.
Whisk the mixture once more right before using, and then churn using your ice cream maker.
Once the sorbet is ready, serve with the fresh fruit and enjoy!

And with that, Allison's kitchen says "Bye for now, and I'll see you again in August!"

But don't worry, I'll still be around, even if my kitchen isn't. And don't forget to check back on May 28th for my Daring Baker's challenge!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Baking Montage? Oh yeah...

So, the end of the semester has been crazy, and I haven't had much time to bake. And unfortunately, I get sad when I don't bake. I can't help it, my kitchen makes me happy, and when I'm not in it, I miss it.

I'm a film student, and I took a class this semester in which I had to make 5 short films, doing all the pre-production, shooting, and post production on my own for each one of them. While making movies is awesome and fun, there's a lot that goes into making a movie, hence the long list of people credited in even the simplest seeming films. Doing everything on your own is a huge bitch. So I was pretty burnt out when it came time to start planning my 5th project. I kept saying to myself, "what do I want to make a movie about?" Eventually I answered, "baking, of course!" and ran back into the kitchen for happy times.

I generally hate pre-production, but when "pre-production" involves baking cake layers, making dulce de leche, and measuring sugar and flour... well, I am so there. I wish I could show you the finished product, but alas, I go to a snobby film school and legally they own the rights to all the work I create there as a student, so I'm not allowed to publicly post it on the internet.

But please enjoy the stills I've posted of the baked goods as they appeared in the movie. And if you're curious, the movie was 8 minutes long, total, and 4 of those minutes were nothing but a baking montage of a man making brownies and cake while dancing to Michael Jackson's "Beat It" Yeah, I went there. And it was awesome.