Baking| Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake … Forever Nigella and Not Quite too!!

“Comedy just pokes at problems, rarely confronts them squarely. Drama is like a plate of meat and potatoes, comedy is rather the dessert, a bit like meringue.”
Woody Allen

Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer CakeIf you saw this post at Not Quite Nigella, one Lorraine posted ever so long ago, you’d fall at her feet and tell her to carry on with her heart shaped baking obsession forever. Forever NQN! I’ve been thinking of going a little red what with the Chinese New Year almost here and V Day round the corner. Nothing like some food for thought for the good folk out there who might be thinking of turning out something special for the day of love!

Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake & CNYKung Hei Fat ChoyHappy CNY. Today begins the Year of the Rabbit. Hope it brings good luck for all of you!

I return to NQN from time to time, turning virtual pages, getting inspired on many levels, and this time I stopped at this page yet again. Missed making it last year around Valentines because I had found myself obsessed with a Red Velvet Cake Roll , or a RVC Roulade which I made with strawberries and ricotta. This year I had Lorraines heart firmly in my plans.Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake‘We haven’t had dessert for 3 days’, he whined, ‘how is it possible that you haven’t made anything sweet for so many days?’ The teen isn’t asking because she is on a self proclaimed diet. I did notice her scraping an extra pat of butter on her bread yesterday, but my ‘eye’ turned blind. Teens will be teens. She also sneaked a truffle from the fridge after much self restraint 2 days ago.  As far as she isn’t starving herself, I’m good. Happy too that junk food is out,  and so are the fizzy drinks. Well almost, for now at least.Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer CakeWith the whining ringing in my head, a batch of home made quark to help the teen on a diet, I pushed the red date forward. It was time to get ‘Seduced by Chocolate‘ by both Nigella, as well as the Not Quite gal! I missed the first episode of Forever Nigella, and attempted to catch #2. The theme is ‘Seduced by Chocolate‘, so changes were introduced. This cake had connections, or rather, many cross connections.Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer CakeA strawberry meringue layer cake with a chocolate twist to Nigella Lawson’s recipe from Not Quite Nigella, the cake headed for Forever Nigella on Maison Cupcake. Bit of a tongue twister eh?  Some more ‘connect’… I used the last bit of  Valrhona from the lovely Shayma @ TheSpice Spoon in this gorgeous cake, and topped it off with slivered almonds from the sweet Madhulika in Nasik. All this love shared for St Valentine!I baked the cakes in a heart shaped Tefal baking tin, one that I had bought years and years ago at a ridiculously high price. It’s a non stick pan, and have learnt over the years that good quality lasts long, and gives great results. I didn’t line the sides with baking parchment, and expected to scrape the meringue off the sides, but JOY… the good tin let the meringue and the chocolate cake come free with minimal fuss!Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer CakeI had to slave harder than lucky Lorraine though. She had more than 1 heart tin for sure {which possibly explains her heart shaped baking obsession at the time}, but I had only one! That meant 2 cakes baked separately, more washing, more whining … but wonderful baking therapy the minute the first one came loose. More changes … I didn’t add slivered almonds to the bottom layer. I substituted the cornflour in Nigella’s recipe with cocoa powder. I also added an extra tbsp of milk to the cake batter after reading comments on Lorraine’s blog that the cake was a tad dry. Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer CakeIn addition, I gave the cakes a brushing of sugar strawberry syrup to keep it all moist. The filling of course had to be low fat keeping in mind the teen and her diet, so I used a combination of low fat cream and home made quark. The result was delicious, seductive and comparatively guilt free. In retrospect, I might have tried using oil instead of butter. I absolutely love  the charm meringue cakes offer. Made something very similar in the past, Chocolate Meringue Strawberry Cream Slice , and yet another -  Chocolate Coffee-Almond-Meringue Layer Cake {in the latter, the meringue was sandwiched within the cake}.Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer CakeVisually very appealing, the colours contrasting beautifully, and delicious in every bite. It took me a couple of hours to make both sponges & get the cake together, but you can do it quicker if you have 2 similar sized tins. The original recipe used round spring-form tins. I set my quark curd 2 days in advance, so it was ready for use the morning I baked the cakes. If you want, you can make the quark cheese, otherwise there’s always the indulgent alternative – whipping cream!Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer CakeThe cake batter is quite thick and needs to be pushed around to spread. Also, my meringue balooned up unevenly while baking, but that happened to me the last few times as well. Not sure it it’s the way it should be, but it deflated pretty soon and evened out after I took it out of the oven. It wasn’t a crisp meringue, but a pleasantly soft, chewy one, with wonderfully toasted almonds on top.

{Note to self: Must ask Lorraine about the meringue, as hers looks rather firm and crisp in her pictures}

Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake

Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake
adapted from Not Quite Nigella
125g plain flour
25g cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
100g very soft unsalted butter
300g caster sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 tbsp milk
25g flaked almonds
Filling:
200ml low fat cream
2-3 tbsps powdered sugar (adjust according to sweeteness of strawberries}
200gm quark,
200g strawberries, chopped
Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake
Method:
For the meringue cake:
Preheat oven to 200C. Line, butter and flour two 22cm spring-form tins, or heart tins. {I lined the bottoms}|
Weigh out the flour, cocoa and baking powder into a bowl.
Cream the butter and 100g of the caster sugar in another bowl until light and fluffy.
Separate the eggs and beat the yolks into the butter and sugar, saving the whites to whisk later. Gently fold in the weighed-out dry ingredients, add the vanilla, then sir in the milk to thin the batter. Divide the mixture between the two prepared springform tins.
Whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, then gradually add the remaining 200g caster sugar. Spread a layer of meringue on top of the sponge batter in each tin and sprinkle the almonds evenly over.
Bake for 30-35 mins, by which time the top of the almond-scattered meringues will be a dark gold. (I turned down the temperate to 180C as my oven is fan forced and the top was a little too cooked so perhaps turning it down even further would be better)
Filling:
Whip the cream with sugar to soft/medium peaks. Reserve.
Beat the quark until creamy and smooth. Fold the whipped cream through it.
Assemble:
Paint a sugar syrup to the chocolate sides of the sponge if desired. Lay one cake on the serving platter, chocolate side up, top with the quark filling. Sprinkle over with chopped strawberries, and top with the other cake, chocolate side down. Chill until ready to serve.

Strawberry Meringue Chocolate Layer Cake♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

MALLOWS ANYONE? It’s the DARING BAKER time of the month!

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.”
Cecil Beaton

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.

In Nicoles words, “I’m a huge fan of Gale Gand, I have tried a lot of her recipes and they are such a huge success. For July’s challenge though I wanted to try something different and I wanted to do Gand’s version on my favorite store bought cookies which are the Peppridge Farm Milano Cookies and the Mallows (Chocolate covered Cookies). I’ve been wanting to try this recipes but just haven’t have the chance to do so or to be honest haven’t have the courage to tackle homemade marshmallow yet, until now.” Mallows (Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies) recipe courtesy Gale Gand, from Food Network. Cookie heaven, and that’s just what this months challenge was all about. Pleasure packed into a fabulous cookie! Dessert bites, light as air, and ever so indulgent!! Do stop by at Nicole’s blog @Sweet Tooth for the recipe.Procrastination never got the better of anyone, least of all me, as far as typing the post goes. Got the mallows ready in the 2nd week of July, & was quite prepared to try the Milanos. Fate had other plans for me; it always does! Schools had barely opened after a 2 month long summer vacation, & this Friday had been bookmarked for the Milano. Unfortunately, the school had to be shut down again for sanitization due to a number of H1N1 cases among students. Sigh, sorry Milanos… With the kids at home, nothing in my life moves. It’s been an extended short break for them, & I wonder why I waited so long to get typing the post. With D-day tomorrow, here I am trying to type my thoughts as July sweeps by us. What happened to the month? Life has actually been reduced to a blur! Days merging into one another, and as always, so much to do, & so little time. Being on twitter doesn’t help, so I’ve torn myself away from it for the past 2 days! FOCUS!!

Onto the challenge. Hosted by Nicole, the call was to make one, or both, of the cookies on offer – Milanos and/or Mallows (Chocolate covered cookies). I had good intentions of trying both, but grabbed the mallows first. WOW…marshmallows have been on my list of things-to-do for ever. Courage to try them always missing, which is why I’m a HAPPY DB today, with a satisfied sweet tooth. Thank you Nicole!! Some things just get moved up in queue from want to do, to have to do! Making Mallows has been the best cookie experience I’ve had, & by far the most involved & exciting. DELICIOUS & IMPRESSIVE for homed-baked cookies, we couldn’t get over them. Got huge thumbs up from the whole family, & for once, even from myself.
A huge issue however was the heat & humidity! Summer months in North India are by far the worst in the year, where power outages rule our life, butter flows merrily at room temperature, & chocolate almost doesn’t need a double boiler to melt!! Get the point? OK, so that’s what I was up against this month, with temperatures running into the 40C’s & humidity at an all time high of almost 87-90%. Had to turn to fabulous pastry chef & DB Helene @Tartlette on good ole Twitter to seek advice on the chocolate coating. A few tweets later, with my doubts cleared and a fan in action, I got set, & enjoyed making these beauties. Mallows are a fabulous cookie to make, & only once they come together under the chocolate coating, do you realise the magic you’ve created. The cookie base is crisp & light as air (I had my doubts about the base cookie, & was proved a 100% wrong). The marshmallows were FUN to make, almost uncertain again that I would manage, so I worked with them a little gingerly. I didn’t pipe on big glops of marshmallow on the cookie because I thought they would slide right off & spread uncontrollably due to the heat, but surprise, surprise! They held their ground, & beautifully. The chocolate coating was fun & very satisfying. I thought everything would fall apart once in the melted chocolate, but this part was a breeze! The other challenge of course was getting the chocolate to set, which it did only in the fridge, & then trying to get some good ‘unbloomed‘ shots. Not altogether possible, because the coating melted & gathered condensation as soon as it was out of the fridge. The mallows TASTED FABULOUS though, & am so glad I made these. Could never imagine I would something as delightful as these from scratch one day! YUM! The other problem was that I got way too many cookies out of the batch, almost 1-2 dozens still sitting in the box. The marshmallow & melted chocolate weren’t sufficient for the whole batch of cookies, which were almost 8 dozen! Maybe I rolled them too thin, but it was 1/8″ alright. I got a few mallows sans the chocolate coating, so did them up with different toppings. Drizzled scraped melted chocolate coating over a few, with chocolate shavings. Sprinkled some citrus sugar over others etc.The citrus sugar idea came from Audax Artifex’s post on the forum at DB. Was a pleasure to make it. I make lime juice for the kids everyday when they return from school. So as a routine now, I microplane the zest off & run the zest the microwave for 2-3 minutes till dry. Rub the zest into the sugar well with your fingertips, & voila, you have some good citrus sugar. Thank you Audax…I love it! The marshmallows and chocolate coating ran out pretty soon. So something had to be done with the base cookies that got left over. Crumbs leftover from a Chocolate Bundt Cake that I make often, mixed in with some thick chocolate ganache, gave birth to some Chocolate Sandwich Leftover Cookies! What’s not to love about left-overs? I ♥ them!!
Another good challenge completed & enjoyed. Thank you also to Lis & Ivonne, our founders, for this daringly fun kitchen. Life being a DB is certainly exciting. Do check out what the other Daring Bakers have been mallowing around with HERE!

SAVOURY BUCKWHEAT VEGETABLE TART…ATOM!

“Light, refined, learned and noble, harmonious and orderly, clear and logical, the cooking of France is, in some strange manner, intimately linked to the genius of her greatest men.”
Rouff Marcel
Salut! There’s a new event at Antonio Tahan’s blog that has had me inspired ever since I read about it. A Taste of the Mediterranean… “The premise of this culinary excursion is to virtually travel to the different regions of the Mediterranean through food and our blogs. Hold on, it gets better. Each month a traditional dish of the region we are visiting will be presented.” “The first challenge for A Taste of the Mediterranean is a stop-over at France this January, where you create your own tart, sweet or savory.” January has been a devilishly busy month & time is flying by at an astonishing speed. It’s never been so hurried before, but this is one post that has to be put out. Here is my twist to the classic French pastry dough, pate brisée. I desperately wanted to use my new rectangular tart pan that I bought from Sydney in November, & savoury was on my mind. January has been sugar high until now, & this tart seems to be just what the doc ordered!! C’était délicieux!
Buckwheat made an entry back into my life just at the end of last year… here, when we returned from Sydney. It’s been a fun journey experimenting & baking with this nutty flour. The texture of this flour is slightly sandy, & adds a characteristic crunch to baked goods. Healthy too, as I tread carefully, trying to incorporate it in Savoury Herb Creame Cheese Crackers here, in Nibbly Buckwheat Chocolate-chip Cookies here, & now in the pastry dough for this savoury tart. The tart shell came out nice & crisp…nibbly & delicious. It’s a wonderful pastry base if you are looking at weaning off plain flour, & exploring alternative grains.
My romance with balsamic vinegar also began sometime last year when I found this yummy Balsamic Tomato Bruischetta at Nic @ Cherrapeno & some fabulous Balsamic & Herb Grilled Chicken @ Proud Italian Cook that Marie posted. The aged vinegar adds a good punch to food. I love the flavours it draws out. A marriage of buckwheat tart & balsamic marinated roasted bell peppers & mushrooms made this tart delicious? Tres Bien!
The tart can be made in advance, like a quiche. Sliced & served as finger food, packed in the picnic basket, or included in the snack box…it’s good!! I made 2 variants. The very veggie laden one for us with sliced zucchinis in the base, & then everything mixed together sans zucchini one for the kids. The hub loved both, but I preferred the kids version where the creamy mix was flavoured with the marinated & cooked peppers & mushrooms. The pastry can also be made in advance, & the shell frozen too for future use. I prefer a thin pastry so I rolled out 2 shells.
SAVOURY BUCKWHEAT VEGETABLE TART
My own recipe…
Pastry for tart shell
Makes 2 thin crust rectangular pastry shells
Ingredients:
Buckwheat flour – 1 cup
Flour – 1 cup
Butter – 1/2 cup; chilled
Salt – 1 tsp
Freshly ground Pepper
2-3 tbsps of chilled water
Method:
  • Put the flours + salt + pepper with chilled butter into food processor. Pulse short durations till breadcrumbs mixture forms.
  • Add chilled water gradually & pull together to form a firm dough. Don’t over knead, or the crust will become tough. Divide into 2 patties, cling wrap & chill for 15 minutes & roll out thin to line the tart pan.
  • Preheat the oven to 200C.
  • Bake blind for 15 minutes, & then remove pie weights / beans & bake for another 10 minutes to allow pastry to dry out & become crisp.
  • The pastry was really good enough to nibble away on its own…light & oh-s0-crisp!!

Filling:
Enough for 2 thin crust savoury tarts
Ingredients:
Curd cheese – Made from 1 kg of curd hung for 24 hours, (or you can use cream cheese)
Low fat cream – 150ml
Eggs – 2
Cheese – 100-150 gms; grated
Red bell pepper – 1
Yellow bell pepper -1
Button mushrooms – 200gms; finely sliced
Balsamic vinegar – 2 tsps
Splash of red wine (optional)
Olive oil – 2 tsps
Demerera sugar – 1 tsp
Garlic – 1 head (roasted)
Salt & pepper to taste
Method:

  • Roast the bell peppers & garlic in the oven for 30 minutes a 180C. Turn the peppers over 2-3 times to ensure even char-grilling. Remove from oven, & shut the peppers in a baggie till cool. Then remove outer skin & seeds, & chop up.
  • Squeeze all the garlic out, with whatever juices. (I usually keep a small tub of roasted garlic with olive oil & freshly ground black pepper in the fridge.)
  • Toss the roasted garlic, bell peppers & mushrooms into a pan. Add 1 tsp of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar & a splash of red wine (about 1/4 cup).
  • Stir well on high heat till all the juices have been absorbed & the mushrooms are cooked through & wilted. Season with salt & freshly ground pepper. (This can be made in advance)

Version 1:

  • Slice 1 zucchini & line the base of 1 of the tart shells. Top with half the bell pepper/mushroom mix. Top with half the cheese/egg mix, grate a little cheddar over it.
  • Bake at 180C for 30-40 minutes till set. Rest for 30 minutes before slicing.

Version 2:

  • Take the remaining bell pepper/mushroom mix & mix it well into the cheese/egg mixture. (I added some extra cheese, sweetcorn & oregano for the kids.)
  • Fill into the pastry shell, top with thickly sliced tomatoes, grate cheese over the top. Bake at 180C for 30-40 minutes till set. Rest at least 30 minutes before slicing up. (I made this 3 hours before the kids ate it for dinner)

Bon appetit! This is also headed for Original Recipes @ Culinarty for Lore’s event.