Sunday, August 23, 2009

My first Dobos Torte

Alright.. In my attempt to broaden my baking repertoire and build my skills, I joined this wonderful group called the Daring Bakers.It's basically a group of bakers from around the world that bake a particular recipe every month as decided by a host picked randomly.

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.

My first Dobos Torte

Wikipedia has this to say about the Dobos Torte:

Dobosh or Dobos Torte (type of cake) was first introduced at the National General Exhibition of Budapest in 1885; Franz Joseph I and his Empress Elisabeth were among the first to taste it. The cake soon became popular throughout Europe as it was different from all others. It was simple but elegant, as opposed to the multi-storey, flaming cakes of the age. Its other secret was its use of fine buttercream, which was very little known at the time; cake fillings and frostings were usually made with cooked pastry cream or whipped cream. The chocolate buttercream and the batter of the cake were both invented by Jozsef C. Dobos.

Dobos travelled around Europe and introduced the cake wherever he went. For a long time he kept the exact recipe confidential, until 1906 when he retired and gave the original recipe to the Budapest Confectioners' and Gingerbread Makers' Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely. Dobos Torte is known everywhere in the world and there are more than one hundred recipe variations. It is a commonly made torte in the upscale hotels, restaurants and pastry shops of the world.

I've been reading the recipe provided for ages. I was so excited I even logged in during my holiday to find out what the recipe was. I was surprised and really quite intimidated by the recipe when I saw it. It was a full 8 pages long when I printed it out. I thought the best approach was to break it down and take my time building the cake.

The finished product

I somehow managed to mess up 2 of my layers when I peeled the baking paper off, and made the sponge layers one night a few days ago, and then blocked out some time on a sunny Saturday afternoon to finish the rest of the cake.

It's been a recipe with lots of first. It's the first time I've ever made a butter cream frosting, sponge layers and it's the first time I've ever dealt with caramel myself. I tried the end product last night and I have to say, it's not really my favourite cake. The caramel didn't seem like the right topping to have with the rest of the cake. It was a great learning cake and I did have lots of fun and came away with ideas though. All up, really enjoyed myself. I think I didn't do the cake enough justice though. Might try it again some time in the future.

Verdict: It took a lot of effort for a rather normal tasting cake. It is rather impressive looking but I need to practise more to do the cake more justice.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Oscillate wildly was good. As I like to call it, it was simple fine dining. nothing over-ly in your face, nothing to make you sit up, no huge POP!, just comfortable coasting along good food. Granted there were some interesting touches like the dehydrated spinach? and the blue puree and a bit of foam here and there, but overall, it was just good cooking with simple ingredients.

We started off with a lovely warm soup made from artichokes with chopped up walnut pieces and a drizzle of walnut oil. I really like soup as a first course because it just gives you a warm feeling and sets you up so well for the following courses. The soup was really silky smooth. I've read so many blogs and food reviews that talk about silky smooth, but this one really did strike me as silky smooth. The walnuts added just that little bit of crunch and texture to highlight the soup though.

This was followed by lovely seared scallops (cooked just right - and i really mean this!) with a fois gras puree that was a little too subtle. You had to really dollop on quite a bit to get that lovely liver-y hint to show up with the scallop and the drizzle of picada (crispy sourdough crust crumbs with hazelnut (i really need to start taking notes and rely on my blurry memory). Still, it was a well cooked balanced dish.

I was truly looking forward to the 3rd dish though, and it did not disappoint. It was a bantam egg (a bantam is a really small chicken, hence a smaller sized egg) that was cooked at very low temperatures, on top of a slice of toasted housemade brioche, topped with thin shavings of Manjimup truffles. I'm not quite sure what it is about truffle and runny egg yolk, but seriously.... i could eat that for breakfast everyday and i don't eat breakfast! The brioche was good and the toasted crunch was a nice balance to the runny egg and earthy truffle. I even picked off the little pieces stuck to my friend's knife so as not to waste it. :P

Moving into the more main course style part of the meal, we started with fish. Mulloway to be precise. This was nicely sous vide(d) and pan fried to crisp up the skin and served with fennel, fennel foam, a thin slice of speck (basically bacon) and top with little black pearls that look like caviar but are made from black sesame. Coming after the truffled egg, it wasn't as tasty as it should be to hold up against that. nonetheless, it was tasty, and enjoyable. I like the speck adding that little bit of saltiness against the slight bitterness of fennel.

"Chicken, celeriac, puffed grains"

Finally, the chicken roulade from all those shots in magazines. It was cooked sous vide as well (must be a popular technique with the chef) and pan fried to give it a nice crispy skin. This was served on top of braised celeraic and puffed grains (buckwheat, quinoa and i can't remember the last one). Oh.. and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic. I was hoping to like this dish and I kinda did actually. The chicken was just plain simple chicken that we often forget is pretty good simply by itself. It was a good backdrop for the slightly burnt pop corn-y taste of the grains. Luckily for the sprinkle of salt on the chicken to give a mouthful of everything just that little kick it needed.

By now I am getting quite full (should've skipped the 2nd bread roll which they bake in the morning and has a lovely crust!) and this might have affected my judgement of the pork belly. it was served with a dumpling (the menu lists it as kartoffel knodel which i think is a bavarian potato dumpling) and spinach 4 ways. there was a slice of dehydrated green, and purple leave, a braised kale ball and some sort of spinach puree that had turned blue - though this was not evident to me in the dim light until the waitress pointed it out and the camera flash showed how blue it actually was. i liked this dish andi don't want to sound snobby and ungrateful (cos i really do love pork belly) but it's just another pork belly dish amongst the myriad of pork belly dishes around. i still liked it and i supposed, for what i was paying, it was still pretty good.

The desserts. I liked the custard with calvados and hint of jasmine tea, topped with pink lady apple jelly. The thing that bugged me though was half the table couldn't taste the jasmine tea, the other half couldn't taste the calvados. I caught the hint of tea in my first 2 mouthfuls, but after that, it was totally overwhelmed by the brandy. still good though and one of my favourite dishes from the night.

The last dish looked really interesting and managed to divide the table on whether they liked celery sorbet or not. it was a slice of poached pear served with a chocolate tuile-like biscuit, chocolate chantilly cream, and the controversial celery sorbet. I thought the sorbet perfectly offset the dark chocolate bitterness and added a really light refreshing touch to the dish. Happily accepted the offer of my friend's sorbet. never thought i would like celery sorbet. might try basil next.

We finished off with tea and coffee (i got the ginger and lemongrass tea which was really nice and soothing) and petit fours in the form of 1. chocolate and sarsaparilla lollypop - did not taste the sarsaparilla which really got me excited for a moment 2. soft nougat with pistachios and cherry - tasty well made nougat that needed a bit more cherry and 3. blood orange gelee - this i really liked. it was like a shot of concentrated blood orange juice and it's got just enough sour to make you cringe a bit but still so so good.

All up, I enjoyed my meal. It was good cooking in a modern way but wasn't overly fussy or complicated. I like that. I think there are so many restaurants that try to create zing and pop in every dish, they forget that something so simple like a well cooked egg or plain chicken can be so tasty. I highly recommend this place to all those people that prefer everything in their meal to be cooked, who consider themselves good solid food people. Actually, come to think about it, the food is a bit like the inner west. Solid people with touches of creativity. :)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Oscillate Wildly - 21 July 2009 7pm

I guess there's no better time to start this even though I am a couple of years late...

Next destination (didn't say first because we've been doing this a few times already but i just never got round to posting them)......


So far, it's just a bunch of us heading there on a Tuesday night to try out the degustation. I think it would be fun if we have a mystery guest at the table. Should be an interesting conversation... So, if anyone is interested, leave a comment and I'll get back to you :)