Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Dobos Torte

I know I promised more of our vacation stories today, but I forgot that it is the 27th, and that means it's Daring Baker's Challenge Reveal day. Woo Hoo! I promise that Day 5 of our East Coast trip will be up tomorrow. For now....let's bake.

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonfulof Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular DobosTorte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: ExquisiteDesserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

The Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. 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.

Not being familiar with Hungarian desserts, I of course had never heard of Jozsef C. Dobos or his torte, but I was ready to give it a try. In this challenge I made three things I had never made before: 1. sponge cake, 2. chocolate buttercream, 3. caramel and they all turned out amazingly well....almost.
Dobos Torte

Sponge Cake Layers

6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups confectioner's (icing) sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sifted cake flour
pinch of salt

1.Position the racks in the top and centre thirds of the oven and heat to 400F.

2.Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit the baking sheets. Using the bottom of a 9" 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 of the confectioner's 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.

4.In another bowl, using clean beaters, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the remaining 2/3 cup of confectioner's 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.

This step completely baffled me until I realized that you are not baking the sponge in a cake pan. You are baking it in the open on a piece of parchment paper that is laying on a cookie sheet. The traced circle is so that you will have a guide as to where to spread the thin layer of batter to make it relatively round. Why these layers can't be baked in 9 inch round pans I'm not sure, but I decided to follow the directions exactly.

Repeat process until all 6 layers have been baked. Invert cakes onto a flat, parchment covered surface and carefully peel off the paper. Let stand until cool. 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.)

Since the layers were not baked in a pan they need to be cut in to perfect circles. I didn't have an 8 inch pan to trace so I used one of my pot lids that was the right size.

The boys enjoyed eating the trimmings left behind.

Now on to the Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:

4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup caster (ultrafine or superfine white) sugar*
4oz bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature.

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.

I'll admit that I really couldn't tell when it was thickening or not. I just cooked it until I thought it was hot enough to melt the chocolate but not hot enough to turn in to scrambled eggs. I used the old "stick your finger in the pot" method to determine the perfect temperature.

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) 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.

Make sure that your butter is REALLY soft. It will whip up in to a beautiful frosting if everything is very soft and well melted.

Now it is time to make the Caramel Topping:

1 cup caster (superfine or ultra fine white) sugar *
12 tablespoons water
8 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon oil

Choose the best-looking cake layer for the caramel topping. Keep that cake layer at room temperature. If it is just out of the fridge it will cause the caramel to harden too quickly.

1. Line a jellyroll pan with parchment paper and butter the paper. Place the reserved cake layer on the paper. Cut 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.

The key here is "amber-coloured". I was talking on the phone while cooking my caramel and I let it get a little too brown. It poured and smoothed over my cake layer perfectly, but it had a bitter taste because it had cooked too long. If I would have pulled it off a minute earlier it would have been perfect. (Next time I'll just call my sister back.)

3. 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 around the edges of the wedges removing any caramel that has run over the sides, using one firm slice movement (rather than rocking back and forth which may produce toffee strands). Cool completely.

And now for the moment you've all been waiting for.....The Dobos Torte:

This is what it is supposed to look like (according to our hosts):

This is what mine looked like (minus the caramel layer and plus a little extra buttercream):
This torte was delicious but the chocolate buttercream stole the show. It is absolutely the best frosting I have ever eaten. We all ate spoonfuls of the leftover until we had stomach aches. I saved it in the fridge and spread it on graham crackers for a couple of days too. It is unbelievably smooth and rich and scrumptious. I will definitely make it again. No doubt. If you don't try anything else from this recipe you've got to try the Chocolate Buttercream. I may never make another kind of frosting again. A friend that I served the torte to said, "I'm resisting the urge to lick the rest of that frosting off of my plate."

Overall I would call the Dobos Torte a success. I can't wait to see what our next challenge will be. If you would like to be a Daring Baker you can sign up here. You can also check there in a few days to see pictures of all of the Dobos Tortes made by Daring Bakers from around the world. The creativity will blow you away.

*I just used plain old white sugar because I couldn't find caster and it turned out just fine.


Anula said...

Great lookng Dobos Torte! Very nice buttercream and caramel :) Cheers!

CZ said...

Looks fabulous!!!

Shirley said...

I love the piped rosettes! I tried to do the same but the shape wouldn't hold, and I was too impatient to chill it anymore.

Angela said...

Lovely torte! Liquid sugar definitely doesn't like phone calls.

Julie (Willow Bird Baking) said...

I LOVVVED the buttercream, too! Wish I had thought of slathering it on a graham cracker!

Great job!

Dips said...

Looks great...glad you had fun...and indeed, the chocolate buttercream is out of the world !

bonobocakes said...

The chocolate was the best part. You did an awesome job!

syrupandhoney said...

Your sponge cake looks nice and fluffy! Oooh that buttercream WOULD be good on graham crackers...

Lauren said...

Lovely job!! Your torte looks amazing =D.

Pru said...

Wow - this looks delicious. I'm kind of regretting not going with the original buttercream recipe. That up-close photo makes my mouth water!