Daring Bakers’ March 2014 Challenge: Nougat

Nougat Torrone

Nougat Torrone

chocolate_nougat

Chocolate Nougat

 

Blog Checking Lines:  The March 2014 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins.

That’s right, it was my great pleasure to host the Daring Bakers’ Challenge this month!   I’ve been baking since I was a kid, but I also have been making candy for years and it remains one of my personal challenges.  With that in mind, I decided to choose nougat as the Daring Bakers’ challenge for March.

A friend of mine who often makes it for Passover first introduced me to nougat.  I had never had it before and had only heard about the soft and fluffy kind of nougat that shows up inside candy bars. This nougat was completely different – chewy and filled with nuts and dried fruits. It’s addictive stuff!  Since then, I’ve been on a quest to become comfortable making it myself.

Nougat is an aerated candy made from sugar, honey, egg whites and nuts.  It’s closest cousins are the marshmallow and divinity, though the texture is much chewier than either of those candies.  This type of nougat has been around since the 16th century (according to Larousse Gastronomique). The most well known nougats are the French Montélimar nougat and the Italian Torrone nougat. Montélimar nougat contains at least 30% nuts and includes pistachios as well as almonds. Italian Torrone and Spanish Turrón are similar, typically containing almonds and sometimes other nuts. The cooking temperature and the quantity of sugar determines the texture of the finished product.  Nougat can be chewy, soft and tender to hard and brittle.

The flavors, textures and add-ins may vary, but the process of making nougat is fairly standard. Traditionally, nougat is made by adding cooked honey syrup to egg whites that have been whipped. Nuts are usually folded in and occasionally dried or candied fruits or citrus zest are added. The mixture is poured out onto edible wafer paper and smoothed into a block, which is allowed to set before cutting. Nougat is most commonly white, but can also be flavored. To really dress it up, it can be dipped in chocolate.

I had a lot of fun hosting this challenge and I hope everyone who participated had a great time too!

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Lamingtons (Australian Snack Cakes)

As a kid, I always wished I could have the enticing packaged snack cakes from the store in my lunch box. We didn’t have many store-bought treats as my mom was a perfectly wonderful baker and made us much healthier treats, so packaged desserts were not an option. When I did have an opportunity to try a snack cake from the store, I was sorely disappointed as the pretty little cakes did not deliver on flavor or texture.

When I came across a recipe for Lamingtons (Australian snack cakes) in Warm Bread and Honey Cake by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra, I was enchanted by the picture.  I had never heard of Lamington cakes, which are apparently an Austrailian favorite.  Since I am still suffering from childhood snack-cake deprivation,  I rolled up my sleeves and made a batch. Unlike their packaged counterparts, these lovely little cakes do deliver on flavor and are fun to eat. A moist plain sponge cake is sandwiched with raspberry jam, then cut into cubes which are dipped in a dark chocolate glaze and rolled in coconut. Pack up one of these and you will make any other kid or adult in the vicinity very jealous of your lunch!  Much like cupcakes, the flavor variations are endless.  In addition to the chocolate covered ones, I also made a variation in which the cake cubes are not sandwiched with jam, but dipped in fresh raspberry syrup and then tossed into the coconut.  The pink ones are especially beautiful, but the chocolate ones win my heart every time.

This recipe served me well in a couple ways this month.  First off, my book club (which I am hosting this month) is reading The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, which is set in Australia.  I needed a dessert to serve and Lamingtons seemed just the thing.  Secondly, the We Should Cocoa challenge this month is hosted by Laura at I’d Much Rather Bake than… and the theme is coconut.  Perfect!

We_Should_Cocoa_V3

Lamingtons (Australian Snack Cakes)
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Australian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16
 
Snack cake made from a sponge and jam sandwich, coated in chocolate and rolled in coconut
Ingredients
  • Sponge Cake:
  • scant 1 Cup (8.5oz/140g) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (1oz/31g) cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup (5.25oz/ 150g) superfine sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1¾ oz. (49.5g) butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • Filling:
  • 2-3 Tbsp seedless raspberry jam
  • Chocolate Glaze:
  • 14 oz (397g) dark chocolate, chopped
  • scant 1 cup milk (8.5oz/242g)
  • Raspberry Glaze:
  • 10 oz (283g) frozen raspberries
  • 1 cup (7oz/198g) sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • Coating:
  • 1 cup (2.4oz/80g) fine shredded (dry, unsweetened) coconut
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F/185C. Grease a 8-inch square pan and dust with flour.
  2. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt and set it aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer, whisk the eggs, superfine sugar and vanilla until very thick and pale and the dough falls off the whisk in a ribbon.
  4. Gently fold in half of the flour mixture. Add the melted butter and the second batch of flour just until there are no streaks of flour or butter in the batter.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and level the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
  6. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack until room temperature. Remove carefully from the pan.
  7. Carefully cut the cooled cake in half horizontally and separate the halves. Sandwich the two layers with the raspberry jam. Place the layered cake in the refrigerator for an hour or two to firm up and set the jam and make it easier to cut the cake.
  8. Each glaze recipe makes enough to coat 16 cubes, so pick which glaze you are making or make half a recipe of each! The raspberry glaze takes a while to make as the raspberries need to thaw, so start it when you put your cake in the oven if that's the glaze you're using.
  9. For the raspberry glaze, combine the raspberries, sugar and lemon juice and place in a strainer over a bowl. Stir the berries occasionally and let them sit until the berries are thawed. Gently press as much juice and pulp through the strainer as you can without pressing any seeds into the liquid. If the liquid seems too thin, you can cook it over low heat to thicken it. Cut the cooled cake into 16 squares. Very quickly dip 5 sides of each cake cube (not the bottom) into the raspberry juice and immediately toss the cube in the coconut. Set it on wax paper to set up. Chill before serving.
  10. For the chocolate glaze, heat the chocolate and milk together in a saucepan over low heat, stirring gently. As soon as the mixture is combined and smooth, remove it from the heat and set it aside to cool slightly. The chocolate should still be fairly liquid. Cut the cooled cake into 16 squares. Using a fork to hold the cake cube, hold it over the glaze and use a spoon to pour more glaze over the cube until it's covered on the top and sides. Set on wax paper and continue with the next cube. When the glaze on the cubes has almost set, put the coconut on a plate. Lightly press the glazed sides and top of the cube into the coconut to coat.
Notes
The raspberry glaze tends to really soak into the cake, so don't make those too far in advance. Keep them in the refrigerator for longer life, but take them out about an hour before you want to serve them.

Variations:
Try subbing some of the flour for cocoa powder to make a chocolate cake or vary the flavors of jam in the filling. Lemon cake rolled in lemon curd is also delicious.

For extra fun, the coconut may be tinted or the cakes can be rolled in sprinkles instead of coconut.

 

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Sourdough Surprises: Za’atar Soda Bread

Za'atar-topped Soyrdough Soda Bread | BakeNQuilt.com

When Sourdough Surprises announced that we were making soda bread this month, I knew it would be an easy challenge for me.   Soda bread is one of my favorite ways of using up my discard when I feed my starter.  To make it, I start with my favorite recipe and subtract half of the weight of my starter from the liquid and flour in the recipe.  So, for example, if I have 4 oz of starter I subtract 2 oz from the flour and 2 oz from the buttermilk.

There isn’t a lot of sourdough flavor to this soda bread as it is a bread that is ordinarily leavened with baking soda and gets baked right away instead of fermenting and rising like ordinary bread.  However, it is a tasty and satisfying loaf.  To jazz it up a little this month, I added some za’atar seasoning to the top before baking.  Za’atar is a mixture of sumac, sesame seeds, salt and dried herbs.  The seasoning on the bread was good and it went really well with the spicy African Peanut Soup we were having for dinner.

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Sourdough Surprises: Za'atar Soda Bread
Author: 
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
A simple bread made with flour, salt, buttermilk, salt and the discard from feeding a sourdough starter. The bread is topped with Za'atar seasoning for extra flavor.
Ingredients
  • 4 oz (113g) sourdough starter (unfed)
  • 14 oz (397g) unbleached all-purpose flour; more as needed
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. table salt
  • 1-1/4 - 1½ cups (10.6 oz/302g - 12.75oz/363g ) buttermilk
  • 2 Tbsp. Za'atar seasoning
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F. line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. Mix together the flour, soda and salt.
  3. Stir in the sourdough starter and 1¼ cup of the buttermilk and stir just until combined. If it needs more moisture, add more buttermilk 1 Tbsp. at a time.
  4. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and pat into a round about 6¾" wide and 1½" tall. Press the Za'atar mix gently and evenly into the top.
  5. Transfer the bread to the lined baking sheet.
  6. With a thin, sharp knife, score a cross on the dough about ¼ inch deep and extending fully from one side to the other.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 400°F and bake until the bread is browned and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, another 20 to 30 minutes.
  8. Cool to room temperature on a rack, about 2 hours, before slicing and serving.

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Mint Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Treats

I was trying to think of something green to make to celebrate March, St. Patrick’s Day and the imminent arrival of spring when I remembered a cooking program I watched recently that featured gourmet Rice Krispie Treats.  I can eat peppermint all year long and  thought a green colored treat would be nice for this month and also a lot more interesting than the plain and traditional treat.

To make these treats, I added some peppermint oil and green coloring (lots, but I could have used more) to melted marshmallows and butter which I used to stick together several cups of crispy brown rice cereal.  Just before pressing the mixture into a pan, I folded in mini chocolate chips.   I then mixed up a decadent ganache of cream and dark chocolate to spread over the top and decorated with some mint candies.  The results were delicious!  I think it’s been 20 years or more since I had one of these marshmallow treats, but I don’t think it will be that long again now that I know that I can add flavoring to them to make them more interesting.

I’m submitting this to the Biscuit Barrel Challenge for the March theme which is Spring.

Mint Chocolate Chip Marshmallow Treats
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 16
 
Marshmallow and crispy rice cereal treats flavored with mint and chocolate.
Ingredients
  • 2 T. butter
  • 3 C. (150g) mini marshmallows
  • 4 C. (120g) Crispy Rice Cereal (I used Barbara's Brown Rice Crisps)
  • ⅛ tsp. peppermint oil (try ½ tsp. if you are using extract instead)
  • green food coloring, 6 or more drops
  • 4 T. mini chocolate chips
  • 8 oz. (227g) dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ C. (1/4 pint) heavy whipping cream
  • 16 mint candies
Instructions
  1. Line an 8"x8" baking pan with foil and grease it well.
  2. In a large bowl, microwave the butter for 30 seconds on high to melt it. Add the marshmallows and heat on high another 30-45 seconds to melt the marshmallows. Stir and heat another 10 seconds if the marshmallows are not fully melted.
  3. Add the peppermint oil and green coloring and stir. The color needs to be pretty dark to show up in the finished treat. I used 6 drops, but could have used more.
  4. Fold in the mini chocolate chips, stirring just 2 or 3 times as they will melt a little in the warm mixture and get muddy looking if you stir too much.
  5. Evenly press the mixture into the pan with greased hands and set aside to cool.
  6. Heat up the cream in a small saucepan until it is just simmering. Pour it over the finely chopped chocolate in a small bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes. Stir well until the mixture is smooth. If necessary, heat in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time until all the chocolate has melted. Spread the chocolate over the crispy rice and decorate with the mint candies. Refrigerate for 2 hours until the chocolate has set.
  7. Cut into 16 squares.

 

 

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