First off, THANK YOU to all for the votes and the support in the first round of the Project Food Blog challenge!! I am so thrilled to be moving on the next round. It’s been so great discovering new blogs and making new friends. Thank you everyone! Best of luck to all in Round 2!
The challenge this time is recreate an authentic recipe from another culture we are not familiar with. That means by passing the standard Italian and French fare for something outside our comfort zone.
If I’m to make a recipe from another culture I’m not familiar with, how am I supposed to know for sure it’s authentic?! The Interwebs may tell me a recipe is authentic, but the Interwebs also tell me if I don’t forward an email someone close to me will die! Clearly, the Interwebs cannot be trusted.
After tossing and turning in an insomnia-induced fit earlier this week, it finally hit me. I can’t believe what I read on the internet but I can believe what I read in BOOKS! To the Library, Batman!
Oh, how I love the library. Sitting on the floor in front of the cookbook shelf, I marveled over Mediterranean street food. Drooled over the colors and textures of the cuisines of India, Thailand, China and beyond. I learned about South African cookies and the flavors of Brazil, Peru and Venezuela. How am I supposed to decide?!
And then I saw it. The One. Flipping through an unassuming book featuring recipes from Eastern Europe, I came across the Dobos Torte – a classic Hungarian dessert featuring layers of sponge cake, chocolate buttercream and crunchy caramel. It was the chocolate and caramel that lured me in, but it was the story behind the recipe that sealed the deal.
Invented in Budapest by Hungarian baker József C. Dobos in 1885, the cake quickly became revered all across Europe not only for it’s taste, but also because it kept so well. It was shipped all over the continent during his professional career. Dobos kept the recipe a guarded secret until he retired in 1906 when he presented it to the Budapest Confectioners’ and Gingerbread Makers’ Chamber of Industry, providing that every member could use it how they saw fit.
Perfect. Why? Because if ever there was a recipe that embodied the spirit of the food blogging world, it’s this one. We all have recipes that are near and dear to our hearts, but when we share them in our blogs, we open them up to hosts of others and allow them to add their own interpretation. Tweak this, twist that until a recipe becomes their own. That’s how recipes stand the test of time.
In my research, I found many variations of the Dobos Torte. Expected, given the recipe’s origins. The number of layers varied from 5 to 12. Some featured nuts, some didn’t. Some had a solid sheet of caramel on top, some had broken shards. I combined a couple different sources to make the one that was right for me.
This recipe…is not for the faint of heart. The parts themselves are not difficult to make, but the entire process is time consuming. I found the most difficult part to be trying to make my layers as even as possible. The recipe below makes a enough for six layers of cake. My finished product ended up being seven. I actually lost two of my layers due to operator error (oops) so I made half the recipe a second time around and got three more. Even though the layers are thin, they are light, spongy and not too sweet. The cooked chocolate buttercream is one of the creamiest, dreamiest, richest frostings I’ve ever made. It’s a sin. Really. You’ve been warned. But WOW! And the caramel adds great crunch and texture. This is a special occasion dessert worthy of a special person.
I always find myself humbled and honored to try a recipe from another culture. It makes the world feel a bit a smaller, like we’re all connected through each others food and traditions. I am so glad I got to try this and I hope you will too. Enjoy.
DOBOS TORTE (Based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers’ cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague as seen at The Daring Kitchen. Topping from allrecipes.com).
Sponge cake layers
- 6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
- 1 1/3 cups (162g) confectioner’s (icing) sugar, divided
- 1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (112g) sifted cake flour (SUBSTITUTE 95g plain flour + 17g cornflour (cornstarch) sifted together)
- pinch of salt
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup (200g) caster sugar
- 4oz (110g) bakers chocolate or your favourite dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons (250g) unsalted butter, at room temperature.
- 1 cup (200g) caster sugar
For the sponge cake layers:
1. Position the racks in the top and center thirds of the oven and heat to 400F.
2. Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit two cookie sheets. Using the bottom of a 9″ springform pan as a template, 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 (81g) 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 (81g) 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 for 5 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed gently in the center and the edges are lightly browned. While this cake bakes, repeat the process on the other baking sheet. When the first cake is done, put in the second cake and repeat. Invert the first cake onto a flat surface and carefully peel off the paper. Slide the cake layer back onto the paper and let stand until cool. Rinse the baking sheet under cold running water to cool, and dry it before lining with another parchment. Continue with the remaining papers and batter to make a total of six layers. Completely cool the layers.
6. 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.)
For the chocolate buttercream:
1. Prepare a double-boiler: quarter-fill a large saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, beat the eggs with the sugar until pale and thickened, about five minutes.
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.
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.
For the caramel topping:
1. Line a cookie sheet with a piece of parchment paper or silpat. Have an offset spatula or large metal spoon standing by.
2. In a non stick skillet over medium heat, begin heating the sugar without stirring. Watch closely for slight melting and golden brown around the edge. Then begin stirring. Stir constantly until smooth and a deep amber color, taking care not to burn the sugar.
3. Pour the sugar onto the lined baking and immediately spread into a thin layer. Allow to cool and harden. Break into small pieces with your hands and sprinkle over frosted torte.
4. Chill torte until ready to serve.