This month's Daring Bakers Challenge is the first challenge to be vegan and/or gluten free. Alternative Daring Bakers: Natalie from Gluten A Go Go, and co-host Shel, of Musings from the Fishbowl, chose the savory recipe for Lavash Crackers from Peter Reinhardt's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.
The Challenge: Make Lavash Crackers and create a salsa/spread/dip or relish to accompany it.
I served the crackers with the assigned "toppings of my choice". I made a spicy apple chutney from 128 Cafe in St. Paul, Minnesota, and served it as 128 does, with roasted whole heads of garlic and a mild goat cheese. Yes, the goat cheese is not vegan, but I need the cool blandness of the goat cheese along with the spicy chutney. It's a great combination... squeeze a sweet, roasted garlic clove onto the cracker and spread, then top with the chutney and goat cheese; a fantastic appetizer!
To Roast Garlic: Remove some of the papery covering of the garlic half-way down the bulb. Place garlic in a small oven-proof dish that is just large enough to hold the garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in a preheated 375 degree oven. Bake until, when tested, garlic is soft. Use immediately by squeezing each individual garlic clove from its papery exterior.
After a hectic summer I'm back for the August DARING BAKERS CHALLENGE; a challenge I really enjoyed making and eating! The assignment this month was Pierre Hermé's chocolate éclairs from the book Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé. Hermé is considered to be France's premier pastry chef. I find making any of Hermé's pastries to be a bit intimidating. If you have ever looked at his cookbooks or better yet, been to his shop on rue Bonaparte in Paris, you will understand. His creations are absolute perfection. And as I've said before, my baking style is more rustic. Although my éclairs do not have the exacting uniformity of Pierre Hermé's, I can't believe his could taste any better than mine did. My éclairs were delicious!
The guidelines for this challenge were 1) The dough used for the éclairs must be Pierre Hermé's recipe for pâte à choux 2) There were two chocolate elements in the recipe--a chocolate glaze and a chocolate pastry cream. Only one was required. I chose to substitue a vanilla pastry cream isntead, to avoid chocolate overload. I did, however, use Pierre Hermé's recipe for vanilla pastry cream. I had just recently roasted hazelnuts and sprinkled the chopped nuts on my freshly iced éclairs.
Pâte à choux has always been a favorite of mine. No matter how often I make it, it is still a delight to see it transform from a shiny, smooth dough to crisp, golden-brown puffs. The one thing I did change in my baking of Pierre Hermé's éclairs was to not wedge a wooden spoon inside the oven door after 7 minutes. I always end up baking choux pastry longer than a recipe calls for, and I saw no need to let hot air escape my oven. Also, I have never frozen piped choux dough before and doing this made last minute assembly extremely easy. I plan to make this again and keep the piped éclairs in my freezer for expected and unexpected house guests.
As of today's post, I guess I am officially a DARING BAKER, having taken on this month's challenge of the Opera Cake. And a challenge it was! As I've said before, I consider myself a rustic baker and an Opera Cake would not fall into the category of rustic baked goods. There are many steps in making this cake -- jocande layers, sugar syrup, buttercream, mousse and glaze, but most of these components can be made several days ahead of assembly. We were instructed to keep this Opera Cake "light in color", using white chocolate instead of the traditional darker chocolate. But everything else was basically up to us.
My version was decorated with sugared violets from Laduree and Fachon in Paris. Is there anything I would do differently if I were to make this cake again? Yes... absolutely. I would not color the buttercream that was spread between the jocande layers. I feel the end result was too busy. Because of the size, I had several seatings of friends over a couple of days to eat l' Opera Cake. The first serving had been setting at room temperature the recommended amount of time, but this is Minnesota. It was still a little too cold and I wasn't at all thrilled with it. The second time, however, the cake was at room temp much longer and I thought it was very, very good. It was extremely rich, but that's o.k. You don't eat an Opera Cake every day.