Archive for the ‘Daring Bakers Challenges’ Category

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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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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The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking. It was a perfect recipe for us because the basic elements were so simple, and the kids could be involved in every step! We just moved to a remote community nestled in a mountain valley in northern Washington, and getting fancy ingredients or equipment would be more of a challenge than the challenge itself!

The theme was September, which for me always means school, having spent the better part of my life as either a student or a teacher. This last year in Virginia, though, I experienced my first “real” autumn, so my cookies were decorated in honour of the gorgeous display of turning leaves in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Of course we had to include some letters for the school part and the middle cookie is the happy chaos that happens when you give a pastry bag to a four year old!

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The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.

When I showed my son some pictures of the assignment, he was overjoyed.  A tower made out of food!  We did the chocolate cream, chocolate glaze version, for which he willingly acted as the taste tester.  He also eagerly helped with piping the puffs, making some of them, how shall we say, less than uniform.  Despite the humidity, the final product retained some crunch, and all the recipes worked really well for us.   All in all, it was a decadently delicious way to spend a rainy day indoors.  Thanks, Cat!

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The April 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Esther of The Lilac Kitchen. She challenged everyone to make a traditional British pudding using, if possible, a very traditional British ingredient: suet.  Having tried a very traditional recipe from a Patrick O’Brien novel some years back (with less than appetizing results) I was a little leery of this particular challenge.  Esther very kindly gave us all lots of leeway on this one, however, and it was actually a lot of fun.

To start with, she didn’t make suet mandatory.  Although getting it was an adventure the last time I did this, it was significantly easier to just scoop some vegetable shortening out of a tub.  I used coconut milk instead as the liquid in the crust and I added lemon zest to it as well.

For the filling, I did a traditional “Lady” pudding (lemon, butter, and sugar), but I chopped up the lemon because I wanted to do individual puddings.

I rolled the pastry out thin, cut circles with the rim of the measuring cup and popped them into silicon muffin cups.  Filled each one with the filling, topped it with another little pastry circle, sealed it, covered the top with foil and arranged them in the steamer pot.

The recipes said steam for 3 to 5 hours, but these were such little puddings that we tested one after an hour or so.  It tasted good, but the pastry was light and crumbly and the butter in the filling was melted but not really “saucy”.

After about two hours, the consistency of the crust really changed; firmer on top, and kind of melt away, saucey, caramelized on the bottom, and the lemon pieces were soft and like marmalade.

Delicious, especially with a little bit of raspberry coulis!  The most exciting thing about this challenge, for me, was the possibilities for camping food.  With a pot, some tin foil, and some water, you can make things that taste like oven baked treats.  Now I really want to experiment with meat or veggie pies; think British pudding meets the samosa, and maybe chocolate cake or apple tartlets!  Thanks, Esther, for the walk outside my culinary box.

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