Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Autumn has rolled around yet again, bringing with it school, crisp nights, beautiful colours, and cool days that inspire baking!  One of our recent forays into the world of baking is the making of challah.  We used Peter Reinhart’s recipe.  I am a fan of Peter and challah; the latter since my introduction to it when my friend, Naomi, had me over for Shabbat.


Turns out that challah is a perfect activity for little hands.  The dough is soft and somewhat sweet.  It is easy to roll and all the little ones got to try their hand at braiding.  The braids “heal” all the mistakes and imperfections as they rise and bake, making for a very proud little bunch of bakers when the loaves finallly emerge from the oven.


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Which, of course, comes from the French word for strawberries.  This month’s dessert is made with fresh strawberries, pastry cream, lemon chiffon cake, and marzipan.  How could one go wrong?!  Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.  While it was delicious, I think I made an already involved dessert unnecessarily difficult by making it in many little petit fours sized cakes instead of one big round one.  Definitely worth doing if you have lots of time and someone to impress, but for my next attempt, I’ll be making one big round cake.  In case anyone wants to try the little ones, here’s what we did and a pdf version of the recipe.

We cut up cardboard boxes (mac and cheese type boxes) and molded it into shape by wrapping and folding it around the star shaped cookie cutter that we later used to cut out pieces of cake and marzipan.  The forms were lined on the inside with plastic wrap to keep the dessert from sticking.

First: one layer of cake.

Insert into molds and soak with lemon syrup.

Then the fruit; pretty ones against the sides and chopped up fruit filling the center.  Next, the remaining space was filled with the pastry cream.

One more layer of syrup soaked cake. (We did some circles as well as stars because I ran out of patience with making star molds!)

Then a layer of marzipan, et voila!  Well, almost.  Then the desserts have to sit in the fridge for a while and become firm enough to stand alone when the forms are removed.

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It’s a craft you can eat, and a very sneaky way to get green veggies into your kids if that is a challenge. We just went through the fridge and the freezer and found fruits and veggies that matched the colours of the rainbow. We topped it off with a white fluffy cloud of yogurt.

Zizzed it up, et voila!  Leftovers (if you have any) make great popsicles too!  Things like kale make a great green layer, but it helps to use small tender leaves so the taste isn’t too strong.



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Key Lime Pie

It began as a random craving brought on by an innocent bag of key limes on sale at the co-op. It turned into a three day baking odyssey that culminated in a pie which was, admittedly, tasty, but perhaps not worth that much effort.

To start with, I didn’t have graham wafers for the crust, so I decided that it would be simple to make them. Simple, and tasty, but somewhat time consuming and complicated when your coworkers decide that squares just don’t cut it; that some cookies must be airplane shaped, some gingerbread girls, etc. They are delicious, though, and I am enjoying the extras. I won’t go into detail as I have already talked about it here.  The recipe is from 101 cookbooks.

Then came the filling.  The pie recipe was from Cooks Illustrated.  It was called Key Lime Pie, but it became clear that they were thinking about much bigger limes; the recipe called for 1/2 cup of fresh lime juice, which they claimed could be harvested from 3 or 4 limes… 13 key limes later I was nearing the 1/2 cup mark!

The rest of the process was easy but I think next time I will see if it makes any difference to use regular limes and I’ll make those graham wafers ahead of time.  Up next, rhubarb pie!

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So I’m back in the daring baker saddle with a great challenge.  I have certainly eaten my share of baklava over the years but never made it, and learning how to make phyllo dough was exciting for me as I have lived in numerous places where my cravings for spanakopita could not be satisfied.  Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

Great instructions and a delicious recipe (adapted from these two sources:  “Kaffeehaus- exquisite desserts from the Classic Cafes of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers and Alton Brown’s Baklava recipe).

The only hitch I ran into was that my sheets of phyllo stuck together on one corner while they rested.  Next time, I will flour them excessively or put floured parchment between them.  They stretch a lot more after resting a bit; I was able to double their surface area after they sat rolled out for half an hour.  One tip from another daring baker  (Audax) was that the rolled out dough should be thin enough to read through.

It was a great recipe to make with my five year old.  He measured nuts and spices to grind in the food processor, brushed the phyllo sheets with butter, and helped layer the ingredients in the pan.  Delicious!  Thanks, Erica.

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This wasn’t meant to be a food blog, but this monthly deadline seems to keep me posting.  I guess that means I am not truly a blogger.  Oh well.

This month’s DB challenge was somewhat bizarre sounding on first glance, but it was delicious and quickly devoured.  The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.  It involved a brioche type dough rolled cinnamon bun log style around meringue, chocolate, nuts, and spices and then formed into a ring and baked.  Very tasty.  As one of my tasters said, just sweet enough to get you to eat more, and not sweet enough to get sick of it… dangerous!

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Well, I am finally back on the DB posting wagon.  I actually did the last month’s challenge as a birthday cake for my husband, but I was underwhelmed by my results (fatigue, morning sickness genuinely not great cake?) and not motivated to post.

This month, however, was delicious, easy, and I had friends to help make and eat it.  The only thing I don’t have is the fast computer, so photos will have to follow on Tuesday!  The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

Not only was it easy and seemingly foolproof (we didn’t have enough gelatin on hand and it still set up nicely), but both recipes together took under an hour in the kitchen from first hand wash to end of clean up!  To top it all off, it is a very fancy looking little dessert.

I made the vanilla panna cotta and topped it with a simple raspberry coulis, which was a delicious and easy way to cut the richness.  I have read about slightly different recipes which use part cream and part yogurt which I also plan to try out someday soon.

We used bittersweet chocolate with almonds a la Trader Joe’s for the florentine filling.  I chopped the chocolate fairly finely before melting it because we didn’t want to have the nuts hold the cookies apart, but they did anyway.  So next time, I will use just plain chocolate.  The recipe called for quick oats, which we didn’t have and couldn’t get quickly enough for the challenge, and I am looking forward to trying it again to see what difference it makes.  We used slow cooking oats and just zizzed them up in the food processor before adding them so that they were quite small (but still discrete little bits, not fine like flour).

All in all, a great challenge.  Thanks, Mallory!

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