February 28, 2010

February Daring Baker Challenge


The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

I've made tiramisu many times in the past, but I've always used store-bought mascarpone cheese and lady finger. This month's challenge required that we make both mascarpone cheese and lady finger from scratch. I never knew that it was possible to make cheese at home! 




Homemade Mascarpone Cheese
(from Baking Obsession)

Makes about 12 oz


Ingredients:
  • 500 ml whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Preparation:
Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.

Note: I had a bit of problem with the temperature of my cream, it never reached 190F. Many suggested that perhaps my bowl didn't conduct heat well enough, but I did use a regular stainless bowl. I don't have a real double boiler bow, so I improvised one by just holding the bowl over a pot of boiling water. Because the temperature never reached 190F, I let the cream continue cooking for almost an hour. When I finally removed the bowl from heat, I think a lot of moisture had been evaporated. Despite that, I still poured 1 tbs of lemon juice, so the end product tasted a little sour and nothing like the store-bought mascarpone cheese. I will definitely give it another try in the future.


Lady Fingers/Savioardi Biscuits
(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)

This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

Ingredients:
3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
  2. Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
  4. Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
  5. Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
  6. Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
  7. Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
  8. Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Note: Even though I didn't have much success with the mascarpone cheese, these lady fingers were fantastic. They smelled so delicious right out of the oven so I couldn't resist tasting one right away. They were cakelike, and just sweet enough to go with a good cup of cappuccino. They worked just as well as the store-bought lady fingers in the tiramisu.

 
 

For the tiramisu itself I decided to be creative, so instead of the usual coffee and liquor, I replaced them with earl grey tea for the dipping sauce. However, I still prefer the classic tiramisu with my own recipe.

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