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Posts from the ‘Daring Baker Challenge’ Category

Mocha Chocolate Dobos Torta with the Daring Bakers

dobos

I was a little late with the Daring Bakers Challenge this month, things have been so busy since we got back from Europe and my work has taken me back and forth to Sydney several times that the end of August just seem to creep up on me. On top of that I also had the SPCA Cupcake fundraiser this week, making 50 little animal cupcakes to sell for charity which you will be able to see on my next post.

I’m glad I did decided to make the cake, it was really delicious even though I didn’t get around to making the caramel topping and I changed the original recipe to create a mocha coffee flavour ( it was the chocolate I had in the cupboard, as I said it was a bit of a rush!). I created the mini cake by baking the sponge in sheets and cutting the circles out with a mini cake mould.

I have also been practising with shutter speed and apertures, courtesy of Helen at Tartlette. My issue was always getting enough light into my photos so they didn’t look so flat or yellow, so thanks Helen for the tips. I know I have a lot more to practise and these first shot are not quite how I would like them but I think I now understand more about how to get the effect I am looking for and will keep trying.

The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. (You may come across recipes which have anywhere between six and 12 layers of cake; there are numerous family variations!) It was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties. The recipe was a secret until Dobos retired in 1906 and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners’ and Gingerbread Makers’ Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.

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)
  • pinch of salt

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.

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)

Finishing touches

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

Directions for the sponge layers:

NB. 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 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.)

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.

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.

Angela’s note: I recommend cutting, rather than scoring, the cake layer into wedges before covering in caramel (reform them into a round). If you have an 8” silicon round form, then I highly recommend placing the wedges in that for easy removal later and it also ensures that the caramel stays on the cake layer. Once set, use a very sharp knife to separate the wedges.

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.

Many thanks to Lorraine & Angela for their choice of challenge this month, be sure to check out their Blogs too and the other Daring Bakers.

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 Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Orange Blossom Milan Cookies

milanoI have missed baking in my own kitchen while  away for six weeks visiting the UK & France so I was pleased to get back into the swing of things this week and just in time for the Daring Bakers challenge for July. Unfortunately I missed the last one so I was determined to do this even though i had only been back in the country 5 days. I decided not to do both recipes and only the Milan cookies since I had another dessert to make this weekend too. 

The Milan cookies were really easy to make, thanks Nicole, and they tasted delicious. i took them into work for the girls since they had been deprived the past few weeks of my baking. I have added orange blossom to mine instead of lemon essence.

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network website

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons orange blossom water
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

Daring Baker Challenge – ‘Kaffeehause’ Strudel

strudelsweetblogPear, Walnut, Orange Blossom Strudel 

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book : ‘Kaffeehaus’ Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

The rules were that we had to make the strudel dough from scratch but had free reign on the filling. I left mine to the last minute and although I found it very easy to make after hours of contemplating the filling the weather didn’t cooperate so I struggled with the lighting to photograph them. Although I keep looking at studio lighting I have told myself I need to take a few lessons on how to operate my camera better before I invest in more gadgets!  

I chose to make a pear, walnut and orange strudel as well as a rocket, ricotta and goats cheese strudel.  Below is my filling together with the strudel dough recommended from Kaffeehaus.

Pear, Walnut & Orange Blossom Strudel Filling

  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) orange blossom water
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (80 g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick / 115 g) unsalted butter, melted, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) fresh bread crumbs
  • strudel dough (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml, about 60 g) coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 600 g pears, peeled, cored and cut into ¼ inch-thick slices 
  • 200g dried but moist figs
  • zest of one orange
  1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet over medium-high. Add the breadcrumbs and cook whilst stirring until golden and toasted. This will take about 3 minutes. Let it cool completely.
  2. Put the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large baking sheet with baking paper (parchment paper).
  3. Make the strudel dough as described below.
  4. Spread about 3 tablespoons of the remaining melted butter over the dough using your hands (a bristle brush could tear the dough, you could use a special feather pastry brush instead of your hands).
  5. Sprinkle the buttered dough with the bread crumbs.
  6. Spread the walnuts about 3 inches (8 cm) from the short edge of the dough in a 6-inch-(15cm)-wide strip.
  7. Mix the pear with the figs, orange rind and orange blossom.  Spread the mixture over the walnuts.
  8. Fold the short end of the dough onto the filling. Lift the tablecloth at the short end of the dough so that the strudel rolls onto itself. Transfer the strudel to the prepared baking sheet by lifting it. Curve it into a horseshoe to fit. Tuck the ends under the strudel. Brush the top with the remaining melted butter.
  9. Bake the strudel for about 30 minutes or until it is deep golden brown. Cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Use a serrated knife and serve either warm or at room temperature. It is best on the day it is baked.

cheesestruRocket, Ricotta & Goats Cheese with Pinenuts

Strudel dough
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

  • 1 1/3 cups (200 g) unbleached flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons (105 ml) water, plus more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) vegetable oil, plus additional for coating the dough
  • 1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
  1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  2. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup.
  3. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
  4. Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.
  5. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
  6. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).
  7. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
  8. Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.
  9. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it’s about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

Tips
– The tablecloth can be cotton or polyster;
– Before pulling and stretching the dough, remove your jewelry from hands and wrists, and wear short-sleeves;
– To make it easier to pull the dough, you can use your hip to secure the dough against the edge of the table;
– Few small holes in the dough is not a problem as the dough will be rolled, making (most of) the holes invisible.

Daring Baker Challenge – Turkish Delight Cheesecake

turkishblog

This recipe has been inspired by the April’s Daring Bakers Challenge. The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey’s Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

Jenny has offered a basic recipe but challenged us all to turn the recipe into something unique, as she said ‘make a show stopper of a dessert’ by adding our own flavour, sauce or decoration. 

The flavours I chose are from a recipe I used at a restaurant a few years ago, although it was the set variety then not baked, I had always intended to try and make a baked version but never got round to it. This was my chance, I had the Turkish Delight already (there is more often than not a supply in my cupboard!) and we were having visitors over for dinner on Saturday 25th. Yes a bit last minute I know particularly since I am travelling to Sydney on Monday 27th for work!  

The cheesecake was a hit with our guests and was really very easy to make. I halved the mixture which made 4 individual portions but the full mix would be enough for 8 people. 

Here’ the recipe with my additional flavours added to the basic mix

Base:

  • 2 cups / 180 g graham cracker crumbs (I used McVities Chocolate Digestives in mine)
  • 1 stick / 114g/4 oz butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp. / 24 g sugar

Cheesecake:

  • 24 oz/680g cream cheese 
  • 1 cup / 210 g sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup / 8 oz heavy cream (I used sour cream)
  • 4 tbsp rose water (my addition to basic recipe)
  • 200g rose Turkish delight (my addition to basic recipe)
  • 3 drops of red food colour (my addition to basic recipe)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (Gas Mark 4 = 180C = Moderate heat). Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath.
  2. Mix together the crust ingredients and press into your preferred pan. You can press the crust just into the bottom, or up the sides of the pan too – baker’s choice. Set crust aside. 
  3. If cheesecake pan is not airtight, cover bottom securely with foil before adding water.
  4. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand-mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand-mixer) and cream together until smooth. 
  5. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down the bowl in between each egg. 
  6. Add heavy cream and rose water until smooth and creamy.
  7. Divide mixture into two bowls and add the red food colouring to one half and mix until colour is fully incorporated.
  8. Chop the turkish delight up into small pieces and place  half over the crust base.
  9. Spoon batter onto the prepared crust alternating the colour to give a marble effect and tap the pan on the counter a few times to bring all air bubbles to the surface. Swirl a knife through it to make more texture on top but avoid moving the Turkish delight. (I actually swirled my two colours together in a bowl and then added them to the crust as this is how we used to make the set variety but of course that was quite thick and kept the colours separate. Unfortunately the colours mixed together too much therefore I recommend the marble technique instead). 
  10. Drop the rest of the Turkish delight into the batter, it should sink in slightly.
  11. Place pan into a larger pan and pour boiling water into the larger pan until halfway up the side of the cheesecake pan. 
  12. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until it is almost done – this can be hard to judge, but you’re looking for the cake to hold together, but still have a lot of jiggle to it in the center. You don’t want it to be completely firm at this stage. 
  13. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let rest in the cooling oven for one hour. This lets the cake finish cooking and cool down gently enough so that it won’t crack on the top. After one hour, remove cheesecake from oven and lift carefully out of water bath. 
  14. Let it finish cooling on the counter, and then cover and put in the fridge to chill. Once fully chilled, it is ready to serve.

Here are some other variations offered by Jenny and Abby but I haven’t tried any of these. Although if you head over to TheDaringKitchen website or Foodgawker.com you will find a lot more variations from the other Daring Bakers participating this month, well worth visiting.

** Lavender-scented cheesecake w/ blueberries – heat the cup of heavy cream in the microwave or a saucepan until hot but not boiling. Add 2 tbsp of lavender flowers and stir. Let lavender steep in the cream for about 10-15 minutes, then strain the flowers out. Add strained cream to cheesecake batter as normal. Top with fresh blueberries, or make a quick stovetop blueberry sauce (splash of orange juice, blueberries, a little bit of sugar, and a dash of cinnamon – cook until berries burst, then cool)

** Cafe au lait cheesecake with caramel – take 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and heat it in the microwave for a short amount of time until very hot. Add 1-2 tbsp. instant espresso or instant coffee; stir to dissolve. Add this to the remainder of cream and use as normal. Top cheesecake with homemade caramel sauce (I usually find one on the food network website – just make sure it has heavy cream in it. You can use store-bought in a pinch, but the flavor is just not the same since its usually just sugar and corn syrup with no dairy).

** Tropical – add about a half cup of chopped macadamias to the crust, then top the cake with a mango-raspberry-mandarin orange puree.

** Mexican Turtle – add a bar of melted dark chocolate (between 3 and 5 oz., to taste) to the batter, along with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper (about 1/8 tsp.). Top it with pecan halves and a homemade caramel sauce.

** Honey-cinnamon with port-pomegranate poached pears – replace 1/2 cup of the sugar with 1/2 cup of honey, add about a teaspoon or more (to taste) of cinnamon. Take 2 pears (any variety you like or whatever is in season), peeled and cored, and poach them in a boiling poaching liquid of port wine, pomegranate juice/seeds, a couple of “coins” of fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick, and about a 1/4 cup of sugar. Poach them until tender, then let cool. Strain the poaching liquid and simmer until reduced to a syrupy-glaze consistency, then cool. Thinly slice the cooled pears and fan them out atop the cooled cheesecake. Pour the cooled poaching syrup over the pears, then sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts and fresh pomegranate seeds.

Some variations from Jenny (from JennyBakes):

**Key lime – add zest from one lime to sugar before mixing with cream cheese. Substitute lemon juice, alcohol, and vanilla with key lime juice.

**Cheesecakelets – put in muffin tins, ramekins, or custard cups. Try baking 20-35 minutes, or until still a little jiggly, and cool as before.

Lasagne Verdi al Forno

I have joined the Daring Bakers Challenge group so I can try out new recipes with a group of like minded people. I was excited at the previous two months challenges, Chocolate Valentino Cake and Bouche Noel but this months challenge (my first one) really pushed me out of my comfort zone since it had neither sugar or chocolate in it! And as you all know I have a sweet tooth and there is rarely a savoury recipe on my Blog. P, my partner, thought my first challenge was highly funny and was particularly pleased since he loves  any pasta dish and is usually the one in our household who makes the pasta and pizza dough.

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna served with Salsa Verde

lasagna21

You will need to put at least four hours aside for making this recipe or like I did make it over 2 days. Day one I made the béchamel sauce and the meat ragu and day two I made the pasta. The original recipe recommends that you cook the pasta first in boiling water but I rolled mine very thin and used it fresh without any pre-cooking which certainly saved time and is what I would recommend. I served a fresh salsa verde with my lasagna to balance the richness of the meat and pasta.

Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna (Lasagne Verdi al Forno)
(Serves 6 as a main dish)

  • 9 litres salted water
  • 1 recipe Spinach Pasta cut for lasagna (recipe follows)#1
  • 1 recipe Bechamel Sauce (recipe follows)#2
  • 1 recipe Country Style Ragu (recipe follows)#3
  • 1 cup (4 ounces/125g) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Method

Working Ahead:
The ragu and the béchamel sauce can be made up to three days ahead. The ragu can also be frozen for up to one month. The pasta can be rolled out, cut and dried up to 24 hours before cooking. The assembled lasagne can wait at room temperature (20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit) about 1 hour before baking. Do not refrigerate it before baking, as the topping of béchamel and cheese will overcook by the time the center is hot.

#1 Spinach Egg Pasta (Pasta Verde)

Preparation: 45 minutes

Makes enough for 6 to 8 first course servings or 4 to 6 main course servings, equivalent to 1 pound (450g) dried boxed pasta.

  • 2 jumbo eggs (2 ounces/60g or more)
  • 10 ounces (300g) fresh spinach, rinsed dry, and finely chopped; or 6 ounces (170g) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 3&1/2 cups (14 ounces/400g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour (organic stone ground preferred)

Working by Hand:

Equipment

A roomy work surface, 24 to 30 inches deep by 30 to 36 inches (60cm to 77cm deep by 60cm to 92cm). Any smooth surface will do, but marble cools dough slightly, making it less flexible than desired.

A wooden dowel-style rolling pin. In Italy, pasta makers use one about 35 inches long and 2 inches thick (89cm long and 5cm thick). The shorter American-style pin with handles at either end can be used, but the longer it is, the easier it is to roll the pasta.
If you have a pasta maker (which we do) it is much easier and quicker and is likely to produce thinner pasta.

Method for Dough

  1. Mound the flour in the center of your work surface and make a well in the middle.
  2. Add the eggs and spinach. Use a wooden spoon to beat together the eggs and spinach.
  3. Then gradually start incorporating shallow scrapings of flour from the sides of the well into the liquid. As you work more and more flour into the liquid, the well’s sides may collapse.
  4. Use a pastry scraper to keep the liquids from running off and to incorporate the last bits of flour into the dough. Don’t worry if it looks like a hopelessly rough and messy lump.
  5. With the aid of the scraper to scoop up unruly pieces, start kneading the dough.
  6. Once it becomes a cohesive mass, use the scraper to remove any bits of hard flour on the work surface – these will make the dough lumpy.
  7. Knead the dough for about 3 minutes. Its consistency should be elastic and a little sticky. If it is too sticky to move easily, knead in a few more tablespoons of flour.
  8. Continue kneading about 10 minutes, or until the dough has become satiny, smooth, and very elastic.
  9. It will feel alive under your hands. Do not shortcut this step. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and let it relax at room temperature 30 minutes to 3 hours.
  10. If using an extra-long rolling pin work with half the dough at a time. With a regular-length rolling pin, roll out a quarter of the dough at a time and keep the rest of the dough wrapped.
  11. Lightly sprinkle a large work surface with flour. The idea is to stretch the dough rather than press down and push it.
  12. Shape it into a ball and begin rolling out to form a circle, frequently turning the disc of dough a quarter turn.
  13. As it thins outs, start rolling the disc back on the pin a quarter of the way toward the center and stretching it gently sideways by running the palms of your hands over the rolled-up dough from the center of the pin outward.
  14. Unroll, turn the disc a quarter turn, and repeat. Do twice more.
  15. Stretch and even out the center of the disc by rolling the dough a quarter of the way back on the pin. Then gently push the rolling pin away from you with one hand while holding the sheet in place on the work surface with the other hand. Repeat three more times, turning the dough a quarter turn each time.
  16. Repeat the two processes as the disc becomes larger and thinner. The goal is a sheet of even thickness. For lasagne, the sheet should be so thin that you can clearly see your hand through it and see colours. Cut into rectangles to fit your baking dish. Note: Enza says that transparency is a crucial element of lasagne pasta and the dough should be rolled as thinly as possible. She says this is why her housekeeper has such strong arms!
  17. If using a pasta machine, start on notch one (largest gap for pasta to go through) and roll pasta through.  Repeat process changing down one notch at a time, from two to three etc. I took mine pasta down to notch 6 which was almost paper thin.
  18. Dry the pasta at room temperature if you are not going to use it straight away and store in a sealed container or bag. I prefer to use mine fresh to eliminate pre cooking the pasta.

#2 Bechamel

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60g) all purpose unbleached (plain) flour, organic stone ground preferred
  • 2&2/3 cups (approx 570ml) hot milk
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Method for Bechamel

  1. Using a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low to medium heat.
  2. Sift flour into saucepan, whisk until smooth, and then stir (without stopping) for about 3 minutes.
  3. Whisk in the hot milk a little at a time and keep the mixture smooth.
  4. Bring to a slow simmer, and stir 3 to 4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.
  5. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper.
  6. Cover with greaseproof paper to prevent a skin forming and place in fridge till ready to use.

#3 Country Style Ragu’ (Ragu alla Contadina)

Preparation Time: Ingredient Preparation Time 30 minutes and Cooking time 2 hours

Makes enough sauce for 1 recipe fresh pasta or 1 pound/450g dried pasta)

  1. 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (45 mL)
  2. 2 ounces/60g pancetta, finely chopped
  3. 1 medium onion, minced
  4. 1 medium stalk celery with leaves, minced
  5. 1 small carrot, minced
  6. 4 ounces/125g boneless veal shoulder or round
  7. 4 ounces/125g pork loin, trimmed of fat, or 4 ounces/125g mild Italian sausage (made without fennel)
  8. 8 ounces/250g beef skirt steak, hanging tender, or boneless chuck blade or chuck center cut (in order of preference)
  9. 1 ounce/30g thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma
  10. 2/3 cup (5 ounces/160ml) dry red wine
  11. 1 &1/2 cups (12 ounces/375ml) chicken or beef stock (homemade if possible)
  12. 2 cups (16 ounces/500ml) milk
  13. 3 canned plum tomatoes, drained
  14. Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Working Ahead:
The ragu can be made 3 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. It also freezes well for up to 1 month. Skim the fat from the ragu’ before using it. if you can’t get hold of all of the above meats you can improvise by using other cuts, just ensure you stick to the same quantities.

Method for Ragu

  1. Heat the olive oil in a 12 inch (30cm) skillet (frying pan) over medium-high heat. Have a large saucepan handy to use once browning is complete.
  2. Add the pancetta and minced vegetables and sauté, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, 10 minutes, or until the onions barely begin to color.
  3. Coarsely grind all the meats together, including the prosciutto, in a food processor or meat grinder.
  4. Stir into the pan and slowly brown over medium heat. First the meats will give off a liquid and turn dull grey but, as the liquid evaporates, browning will begin.
  5. Stir often, scooping under the meats with the wooden spatula.
  6. Protect the brown glaze forming on the bottom of the pan by turning the heat down. Cook 15 minutes, or until the meats are a deep brown.
  7. Turn the contents of the skillet into a strainer and shake out the fat. Turn them into the saucepan and set over medium heat.
  8. Reducing and Simmering: Add the wine to the skillet, lowering the heat so the sauce bubbles quietly. Stir occasionally until the wine has reduced by half, about 3 minutes.
  9. Scrape up the brown glaze as the wine bubbles. Then pour the reduced wine into the saucepan and set the skillet aside.
  10. Stir ½ cup stock into the saucepan and let it bubble slowly, 10 minutes, or until totally evaporated.
  11. Repeat with another ½ cup stock. Stir in the last 1/2 cup stock along with the milk.
  12. Adjust heat so the liquid bubbles very slowly.
  13. Partially cover the pot, and cook 1 hour. Stir frequently to check for sticking.
  14. Add the tomatoes, crushing them as they go into the pot. Cook uncovered, at a very slow bubble for another 45 minutes, or until the sauce resembles a thick, meaty stew.
  15. Season with salt and pepper.

Assembling the Ingredients:

  1. Have all the sauces, rewarmed gently over a medium heat, and the pasta at hand.
  2. If you are using dried pasta have a large perforated skimmer and a large bowl of cold water next to the stove. Spread a double thickness of paper towels over a large counter space. If you are using your pasta fresh you will not need to worry about this.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Oil or butter approx 3 litre shallow baking dish.

Cooking the Pasta:

  1. Only if using dried pasta. Bring the salted water to a boil.
  2. Drop about four pieces of pasta in the water at a time. Cook about 4 minutes, taste, and cook longer if necessary.
  3. The pasta will continue cooking during baking, so make sure it is only barely tender.
  4. Lift the lasagne from the water with a skimmer, drain, and then slip into the bowl of cold water to stop cooking.
  5. When cool, lift out and dry on the paper towels. Repeat until all the pasta is cooked.
  6. If using the pasta fresh without having dried it, there is no need to pre-cook it as above just use it as is.

Assembling the Lasagne:

  1. Spread a thin layer of béchamel over the bottom of the baking dish.
  2. Arrange a layer of about four overlapping sheets of pasta over the béchamel.
  3. Spread a thin layer of béchamel (about 3 or 4 spoonfuls) over the pasta, and then an equally thin layer of the ragu.
  4. Sprinkle with about 1&1/2 tablespoons of the béchamel and about 1/3 cup of the cheese.
  5. Repeat the layers until all ingredients are used, finishing with béchamel sauce and topping with a generous dusting of cheese.
  6. Cover the baking dish lightly with foil, taking care not to let it touch the top of the lasagne.
  7. Bake 40 minutes, or until almost heated through.
  8. Remove the foil and bake another 10 minutes, or until hot in the center (test by inserting a knife – if it comes out very warm, the dish is ready).
  9. Take care not to brown the cheese topping. It should be melted, creamy looking and barely tinged with a little gold.
  10. Turn off the oven, leave the door ajar and let the lasagne rest for about 10 minutes. Then serve. This is not a solid lasagne, but a moist one that slips a bit when it is cut and served. Mine looks set in the photo because I made an additional mini lasagna purely for photographing and removed the mould when cold. The one we ate from the baking dish was very moist and unattractive but very delicious!

Salsa Verde to accompany the lasagna

  • Tablespoon capers
  • Large handful of Italian parsley (flat leaf)
  • Large handful of basil
  • 4 Medium tomatoes
  • Tablespoon olive oil
  • Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper to season

Method

Blend all ingredients in a food processor to desired texture, this can be smooth or slightly rough.


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