IMG_4997 by you.


The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE’s blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.  We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.   I thought last month’s challenge was simple, but this month wins for the most minimalist of all recipes attempted for Daring Bakers Challenge thus far.  When there are only three ingredients, the quality of the three is paramount.  I used E. Guittard dark chocolate and as I was forwarned, the cake tasted exactly like the chocolate used. 

This month I had a slight cake disaster, and as I completed the challenge the day before the posting date, I had neither the time nor the inclination to make another cake.  Here’s what I learned:

  •  Use an 8″ (or larger) pan.  I thought that the recipe called for an 8″ heart pan, which seemed to me to translate to a 7″ pan.  I even scoured my local kitchenware store for the non-standard sized 7″ spring form cake pan.  It made the cooking time longer to have such a deep cake, not to mention the cake’s precariously rising above the edge of the pan.

IMG_4982 by you.

  • Do not unmold the pan after 10 minutes, as the recipe calls for.  My cake oozed out immediately after being freed from its form.  And like toothpaste, you can’t put it back in the tube.  It would have been fine it I had simply let it cool completely in the pan.


IMG_4986 by you.

Oh dear.


Chocolate Valentino
Preparation Time:  20 minutes
16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

1. Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often.

IMG_4970 by you.
2. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.
3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls.
4. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry).
5. With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
6. Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.
7. Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. {link of folding demonstration}
8. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C
9. Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet.
10. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.


IMG_4977 by you.

My son, the chocoholic,  thought the cake smelled heavenly.


 Dharm’s Ice Cream Recipe
Classic Vanilla Ice Cream
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Recipe comes from the Ice Cream Book by Joanna Farrow and Sara Lewis (tested modifications and notes in parentheses by Dharm)


1 Vanilla Pod (or substitute with vanilla extract)
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Semi Skimmed Milk – in the U.S. this is 2% fat (or use fresh full fat milk that is pasteurised and homogenised {as opposed to canned or powdered}). Dharm used whole milk.
4 large egg yolks
75g / 3oz / 6 tbsp caster sugar {superfine sugar can be achieved in a food processor or use regular granulated sugar}
5ml / 1 tsp corn flour {cornstarch}
300ml / ½ pint / 1 ¼ cups Double Cream (48% butter fat) {in the U.S. heavy cream is 37% fat)
{you can easily increase your cream’s fat content by heating 1/4 cup of heavy cream with 3 Tbs of butter until melted – cool to room temperature and add to the heavy cream as soon as whisk marks appear in the cream, in a slow steady stream, with the mixer on low speed.  Raise speed and continue whipping the cream) or use heavy cream the difference will be in the creaminess of the ice cream.

1. Using a small knife slit the vanilla pod lengthways.  Pour the milk into a heavy based saucepan, add the vanilla pod and bring to the boil.  Remove from heat and leave for 15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse
Lift the vanilla pod up.  Holding it over the pan, scrape the black seeds out of the pod with a small knife so that they fall back into the milk. SET the vanilla pod aside and bring the milk back to the boil.
2. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar and corn-flour in a bowl until the mixture is thick and foamy.  3. Gradually pour in the hot milk, whisking constantly.  Return the mixture to the pan and cook over a gentle hear, stirring all the time
4. When the custard thickens and is smooth, pour it back into the bowl.  Cool it then chill.
5. By Hand: Whip the cream until it has thickened but still falls from a spoon.  Fold it into the custard and pour into a plastic tub or similar freeze-proof container.  Freeze for 6 hours or until firm enough to scoop, beating it twice (during the freezing process – to get smoother ice cream or else the ice cream will be icy and coarse)
By Using and Ice Cream Maker: Stir the cream into the custard and churn the mixture until thick (follow instructions on your ice cream maker)

IMG_5001 by you.

We were required to make an ice cream to accompany the dense cake, and I opted for a classic vanilla bean recipe, using organic cream and milk.   The verdict?  Decadently rich, a sliver of this cake goes a long way, even for self-admitted chocoholics.  Thanks to this month’s hosts for a wonderful challenge!



I’ve recently become the proud owner of a chocolate tempering machine, along with chocolate molds and other chocolate-making accoutrement, thanks to the chocolate hostess party I threw a couple of months ago. IMG_9128I had never made chocolates before because it was messy and frankly,  candy thermometers frighten me.  The chocolate consultant (and my friend) swore to me this machine was going to change my life, and damned if she wasn’t telling the truth. If you call yourself a foodie and you have ever melted chocolate on a double boiler before – you need to get yourself one of these.  Just put that untouched bread machine on Craigs List and make room for this.  (Psst… while this machine retails for $350+, I paid $99.  Yeah, I pimped out my friends, but after biting into perfectly tempered chocolate-covered strawberries, I’d do it again in a New York minute.)

I decided to make fleur de sel caramels, since I keep seeing them everywhere (Trader Joes, gourmet chocolate shops, food blogs). But I wanted to make mine a little different, as everyone cut theirs into little squares and dipped those squares into chocolate.  I did have those snazzy new round candy molds … hmm.


Fleur de sel caramels  (from Gourmet)

1 C. heavy cream
5 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp. fleur de sel
1 1/2 C. sugar
1/4 C. light corn syrup
1/4 C. water

Some complained that they couldn’t really taste the salt in this recipe, so I used a heaping teaspoon of the fleur de sel.

Bring cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.

Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3 to 4 quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel. This can take about 15 minutes (at least it did for me).

Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes.  I cooked it until 246°F since I wanted a soft and oozy caramel.  I’ve read reviews of this recipe and some people complain that their caramels were rock hard.  I have no idea what made my caramels so soft – maybe it’s because I cooked it at a slower boil? 

For those without a candy mold:  Line bottom and sides of an 8″ square pan with parchment paper, then lightly oil parchment.   Pour the caramel after it reaches 248°F into the baking pan and cool 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch pieces, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.


For those with a candy mold:  well before you even start the caramel, temper the chocolate (my machine takes about 28 minutes).  Take a paintbrush and “paint” the bottom and sides with the tempered chocolate, coating well.  Allow to harden completely.


After caramel reaches 246°F, remove from heat and let cool slightly.  Drop caramel with a small spoon into the molds and fill 3/4 full.


Let cool for 10 minutes or so.  Top with tempered chocolate, scrape smooth and let set fully.  Shake (or slam usually) chocolates out.


After all this work, hubby said they looked like Rolos.  Wah.

As you can see, I placed fleur de sel on top of the chocolates, but that was just for the photo (and to eat).  The tops of the caramels were the first to be “painted” and are perfectly hard, so I have yet to figure out a way to have the salt stick to the chocolate.  The caramel is just the right consistency  as evidenced by the oozing from the first photo to the last.  And the taste?  The rich buttery caramel enrobed in dark chocolate melding with salty sweetness – a perfect combination.


What to do with the leftover caramel and chocolate…