Almond Puff Loaf Bakealong

Quite possibly this is one of the nicest things I’ve ever eaten. Choux pastry is one of those desserts that is never overly sweet, given the lack of sugar in the dough, and it’s very versatile and also very moreish. So no surprise that my first bite of this I was transported into dessert heaven. At first glance I wasn’t took thrilled with this month’s Bakealong challenge as I thought I was looking at puff pastry, and quite frankly, I’m sick of the flaky texture of it. And then when I noticed that it was choux on top of what looked to be shortcrust pastry, and that it didn’t take all day to make, I got out my mixer and my saucepans and set to work.

So like I said, the pastry is comprised of a shortcrust pastry that is topped with a choux pastry and they box take minutes to put together. The shortcrust is flour, water, butter and salt and you split it into two and shape it with wet fingers into a rough 10×3 inch log. Then you make the choux of virtually the same ingredients, but this time the salt, butter and water are brought to a boil, the flour is added and cooked until it congeals into a ball and starts to steam, then you cool it off in the mixer while adding 3 eggs and some almond extract. You spoon this over the top of the shortcrust and then using the wet fingers again you spread it evenly over the top of the first layer. Chuck it in the oven for about an hour and Bob’s your uncle.

You top the puff with some jam of your choosing (I had an open raspberry jam to use up so that’s what we have used) and then some toasted almonds and a simple icing made from icing sugar, milk and either vanilla or more almond extract (which I opted for). Slice it up and most definitely serve it with a cup of tea. I reckon the almonds would pair really nicely with some cherry jam and I’m keen to buy a jar just to try this again.

This is another dessert that I think would sit nicely on a high tea platter…maybe for the mothers in your life on a holiday that is coming up next month…hear that Aaron?!!

Cheese-Stuffed Crusty Loaves Bakealong

Full Disclosure: Aaron helped me with this Bakealong. My hands are super dry from brioche baking the other day and I wanted to avoid bread dough as much as I possibly could. Is it just me who has a problem with flour drying out their skin?!

I’m finding bread really easy and enjoyable to make these days. After spending months last year helping our eldest with a sourdough science project, it’s like I’ve hit a groove and I just know how to make it work. Still…Aaron did the first couple steps for me. But I whittled it down to very simple instructions for him. I never sent him the recipe, which can be found here.

The first thing you need to do is make a stiff starter and leave it overnight. It’s just flour, salt, yeast and water. Stir it together and put it in a covered container to get the magic started.

The next day you take the starter, more flour, salt, yeast and water and you put them in your stand mixer with your dough hook attached and you knead it until it becomes a smooth dough. Put it back in the covered container until it’s doubled.

That’s when I took over for Aaron. I rolled out the dough on a lightly floured surface, into a rectangle about the size of a baking sheet. Then I brushed it with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and and sprinkled over 1 tablespoon of garlic seasoning and 2 1/2 cups of pizza cheese (a combination of mozzarella, cheddar and parmesan). I know I’ve made some changes here but I didn’t have garlic oil or pizza seasoning so I improvised. And we didn’t have Gruyere but I over bought pizza cheese at Costco so I figured it would work and would help with my oversupply. The recipe says that you can use mozzarella or cheddar instead so it just made sense!

Then I rolled it into a log and placed it on a baking paper lined baking sheet seam side down and started to preheat our oven with the dough on a stool in front of it to help it rise again. Once the oven was preheated and the dough had puffed up again, we cut it into four scrolls and placed them cut side up and I spread them open a bit and reworked them into rounds. Then I brushed some water over the top in lieu of a spray bottle and popped them in the oven for 25 minutes.

The result: they smell incredible and are perfect cheesy garlic rolls. Unfortunately we didn’t get them baked til bedtime so we sampled one together as a family. I think we might eat the rest when we do cheese night this weekend. I’d be interested in making it as two big loaves next time and seeing how they slice. And yes, there will be a next time.

Chocolate Mousse Cake Bakealong

For the longest time chocolate cake was my baking nemesis. I could never seem to get it right. Either the cake would be too dry or the icing wouldn’t work, and after many attempts I remember years ago making a vow that I would never try to bake a chocolate cake again.

Well, then my daughter declared chocolate cake to be her favorite so I knew I had to make amends. Thanks to Tessa Huff (Style Sweet CA/The Cake Blog) and this Ghirardelli devils food cake that I have made so many times now I probably could bake it without the recipe, I have found that I can in fact make a good chocolate cake, so when King Arthur Flour posted the 18th Bakealong challenge – Chocolate Mousse Cake – I was super keen to give it a whirl.

Technically the challenge is Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries, but you can plainly see I’ve used strawberries – they are just so much cheaper at the moment, and I didn’t have a birthday or guests coming over to excuse spending $12 on raspberries for this cake. I actually made it as sort of a celebration of the finishing the first week back at school. Hey, any excuse for cake, right?!!

It was a very straight forward bake really – only changes I made to the cake were I used three 8 inch pans and the batter divided into 2 cups each and I added 2 teaspoons of espresso powder to the boiling water. I also used Greek yogurt over buttermilk, because I had more of it to spare.

For the mousse I didn’t use the Instant ClearJel stuff as I’m not sure where I’d find it in Australia – I did refrigerate the mousse before I filled the cake for a couple hours though. The frosting is full butter rather than half shortening because it is horrendously expensive here.

It was a hot day and I still managed to get everything together without it melting apart as I went, so I was pretty impressed given the recipe left me fearing the worst.

Aaron’s comment was that it’s one of the best chocolate cakes I’ve ever made. The cake itself was great and I loved the mousse filling, but I must admit that I found the frosting too rich. Think I’ve become so used to Tessa Huff’s Swiss Meringue Buttercream or Ghirardelli’s Sour Cream Chocolate Ganache that it’s weakened my chocolate frosting tolerance levels.

The strawberries were nice, but I wish I could’ve gotten ahold of raspberries cheaper or had the foresight to go foraging for some wild blackberries instead, because I’ve been really into blackberries lately.

Not that I’m complaining though…this was the perfect way to end a big week!

Classic Challah Bakealong

Once a month, King Arthur Flour hosts a Bakealong encouraging their readers to have a go at a common recipe and post it to Instagram. This month marks their 17th challenge, I’ve participated in well over half of them, and it is challah!

I’ve made challah a few times as part of the Food52 Baking Club, but this recipe was a lot different, definitely easier, with the added challenge of braiding the dough as six strands. So of course, I had to do it.

Basically, you put all the dough ingredients into your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment and knead into a ball.

Then remove it and knead it into a smoother ball and place it in a greased covered container until almost doubled (it took mine twice as long to rise than the recipe suggested).

Then you weigh it into six equal portions, roll them into long ropes and braid them using the technique provided. I watched the video and had to work upside down in order to follow along, but now that I’ve done it once it seems so much simpler than the pictures made it seem.

Brush on the egg wash and bake. And here’s where it took my bread almost 2 hours to cook because one of the elements in our oven died. *crying* It is still yum, still edible of course, but the crumb is nowhere near as nice as it should be and I’m really not happy that I’ve now got to work out what to do without a working oven for the near future. HELP!